Above the Crowd

crowdsAfter my son’s graduation ceremony this past weekend we quickly exited the building to meet up with him outside, hug and congratulate him and get some pictures with the family. Thousands of other people left the ceremony with the same intention. The cheering sections of parents and extended family all left one way out the building and the students who graduated all left through another, on the complete opposite side of the building. And to add to the numbers, the next graduation was minutes away and those families were filing in to get seats in the midst of all the chaos. For us who were leaving, there were a few obvious meet up locations – a large statue of a bull, and a flagpole — each stood above the crowd in clear view. It quickly became obvious we parents gave our graduating kids the same connecting point, and two crowds of people collided in one tiny area outside the arena the ceremony took place in.

A half wall separated that area from the street where everything opened up. As I headed to the bull, packed in like a sardine with the stop and go crowd of people, I heard my brother-in-law call out, “Amy, let’s turn around and head toward the opening. If we can get through there we can see the crowd still, call for Russel and he can meet us there.” To which I replied, “Rob, you are going to have to lead me out of here because all I see is butts and backs.” That’s a very real viewpoint for a five foot nothing girl in a crowd. My sister-in-law says it another way, “all you see is elbows and …”…. well, probably best not to put that here. But if you’ve heard the rest of that saying you’re probably having a good chuckle right about now.

So with my hand in Kylie’s, and her’s in my brother-in-laws, we wove in and out through the crowd like a small train. Once through, I saw my gathering family and eventually we all made it out, except…. where was Ethan? We did a count. We were ALL there, without him. Who had he been with, did he hear our instructions, these questions quickly flashed through my mind until a minute or two later, I saw a boy lift himself out of the crowd and onto the half wall closing it in. Not just any boy — but my boy. Looking completely unruffled. He knew if he got himself above the crowd we’d find him and he was staying put. We called out to him en mass and he hopped down and ran over to us.

I was proud of him. He handled a crisis that could have terrified him with calm and ease. He’d been apart from us longer than we thought. He’d looked back inside, looked outside, then just decided to sit and wait and get where we could see him. Good call, Ethan!

It’s in moments like those that I see my kids are growing up. I see their level-headed thinking lead them through the crowds that could lead them off track. Instead of getting lost in them they rise above them. And I know he wasn’t alone in that moment – God was with him, and He saw him through. Was it Ethan, or a little whisper that told him where to go, to stay calm, to rise above the crowd? As a mom whose kids are God’s kids too, I know he is with them and leading them even when I can’t be. I count on it.

It’s that same thought that brings me peace as I prepare to send my oldest out. He is not alone. God is with him. And as God is with him, he is already leading him. A verse that keeps getting passed on to him in many forms now is Proverbs 3:5-6, ” Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.” I have two life verses God’s given me at key times and they’ve stayed with me as steady constants through many storms and battles and moments I’ve wanted to quit and walk away from the path of destiny God has me on. I am thankful to see a verse emerging in this season for him. I know the Holy Spirit will quicken in his mind the awareness that this verse is repeatedly being given to him and quoted to him because it’s God’s word FOR HIM at this stage of life.

There are many things he is reconciling with-in himself — graduating early, what he wants to do with his life, stepping out into the world to make his mark. The only way to do that well is to surrender to and trust God every step of the way.

I’m thankful for the way God leads my kids through life. I love the way he gives them wisdom to rise above what they see around them to get a higher view as he did with Ethan. And I’m forever grateful for the peace it brings my heart to know God’s already steering them in visible ways and with words of guidance they can hold on to.

They are mine for a season. Entrusted to my care. But they are really God’s. And he’s got them in the palm of his hand.

One thankful momma,

Amy O’Donnell

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My Issue with Valentines

BeMyValentine_TAF-421We are in a series in Sisterhood right now on our issues. We call it ‘The Dirty-Dirty’. It’s a great theme that gives us a chance to be real about the hurts, habits and hang-ups that can hold us back or have held us back in life. Last night, I had a chance to share in the two-minute pre-segment we call ‘Take Two’.

In light of the theme, and Valentines week, I thought it’d be fitting to talk about my issue with Valentines Day. Surprisingly, when I mentioned I had had an issue with the infamous day of love, many other girls raised their hands in agreement. I thought I’d be in the minority, but found that at least half the room did currently, or had at some point, agree with me.

Our reasons behind our issue with the day probably vary as much as all of us. For me, mine wasn’t so much with the holiday, but what it represented…. LOVE. I grew up in a home where love wasn’t really celebrated, and I didn’t really feel celebrated. On top of that, I experienced a lot of inconsistency, instability, un-availability, abuse, and other issues from those around me in my formative years. Those who should have loved me well, really weren’t able to in that season. And so, I grew up walled off from love. It didn’t have a high value to me, and I didn’t cognitively realize or think about it how much I needed it or how dysfunctional I was in it. I set out in college to conquer the world, with little thought on family, or warm fuzzy friendships… I thought I was good with my goals and all I could do.

My junior year, the most amazing men swept me off my feet and arrested my heart; my husband David, and Jesus. I wish I could say change happened completely over night. I did experience a sudden transformation, but heart healing takes time. So as David and I set out dating and then after we were married, I trained him not to celebrate me on Valentines Day. As soon as it would roll around, I’d be on my soapbox calling it a racket. I’d say it was just a holiday invented by Hallmark and Florists to make money off the people.

Fast forward about ten years later – the love of my husband, who loves me like Jesus, and the love of Jesus and His people in my most amazing church, really changed me. I began to love, LOVE. I got good at celebrating it, and when Valentines Day rolled around, I wanted to be celebrated. Poor David, he had to play catch up… He was pretty OK not making a big deal out of it, and then had to feel out, how big of a deal does Amy want me to make of it. 🙂 The things we put our men through! LOL!

In light of that, and in having an opportunity to share last night at Sisterhood, I decided to set the tone this year by writing David a Dirty-Dirty (w/ some of our issues) Valentines poem to read aloud to him in front of the girls… It was a hit! He loved it. It’s not often I render him speechless. I am not really a poet, but thought I’d share it here as well, just for fun in celebrating today.

David,

You are the yin to my yang;

The bread to my butter.

I am thankful we didn’t come from the same mother…

Well, because that would make you, my brother.

You are the salt to my pepper;

the cookie to my cream.

You are neat and tidy, And I am not so clean…

Thanks for the grace for our home not having to be pristeen.

You are the light to my darkness;

The rhythm to my song.

We get along well except when we fight, for…

I am always right and you are never wrong.

You are the milk to my cereal;

The icing on my cake.

Speaking of food – I love you…

Despite the eating sounds you make.. scrape, scrape, scrape.

In the famous words of Jerry Maguire;

Next to Jesus, You complete me.

Thanks for loving me despite myself…

And buying me things on Valentines Day now, ever so freely.

Love big today! It’s worth it. Praying you feel celebrated in every way. And remember, the God of the Universe is head over heals in love with you. He is your forever Valentine! xo Amy