The last one finally arrived today, Athina Maria Markos, all 8 pounds 5.2 ounces of her. As Briana said, "Today looks like a good day to have a baby".
The last of the 3 in the past few months in our family, Remi, Tristan and now the beautiful Athina.
And, here I am a grown man writing with tears coming down my face thinking how God has so wonderfully blessed a family, that despite much dysfunction caused by me over the earlier years, has prospered and grown. Not only have we been blessed, but we have been blessed when we didn't deserve to be, when we never expected to be and now that the sounds of little people laughter and baby cries will resound in my house (fortunately I'll be traveling alot ), the amazing gift of grace has fully hit home in my heart.
You can read all the Bible stories and listen to everyone else's testimonies, but until you are directly affected by this incredible thing God has given us called Grace, we can't fully comprehend. Last night I ate dinner with my oldest daughter, her husband and 3 children, and I had a ball hanging out with them. As many of you who know my story are familiar with, she didn't even speak to me for 7 years she was so hurt and mad at me for breaking up our family. Rightfully so, I have had to re-earn her trust over the last 15 years or so. God's grace once again had healing power between her and me, what was once lost has now been found.
There are now 24 members of our family, begun from the roots of an only child. When I think of this, it amazes me that we have come this far and how much joy is in my heart now, as well as pride for all of these fabulous kids who have grown into equally fabulous adults. And pride for the great and grand children who make me laugh, make me want to be a better man and who remind me that God said to "come to him as little children" when they say grace in their own sweet style as little 2 year old Chase did last night.
Makes you wonder how God feels about His family, us. Maybe he sheds a tear every now and then thinking how far we have come to be in relationship with Him. Maybe, just maybe, he can't wait to forgive us, to help us make amends, and allow us to experience the pure joy of how life perpetuates itself through our offspring, his offspring. He must be looking for the good in us instead of those times we have gone astray, lest His grace be in vain.
I feel so thankful, and even more so that you have also received that same grace day in and day out from the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who I hope will always guide my 3 Amigos, Remi, Tristan and Athina.
Having 6 children is a blessing beyond belief. Having watched women go through pregnancy and give birth is an enormous experience and brings with it tales of the magnitude of fish stories, they get funnier and better each new year!
Take for example the night my middle daughter's mother broke her water when we lived far off in Woodstock, Ga which was then considered country (1982). It was raining heavily (no pun intended) and the bridge along the road on 140 into Roswell was in danger of flooding. I looked at her and said "I'll go get the car and we better get going.” To my surprise she said "no" for a reason I can't remember but must have certainly made sense to her at the time. But it sprung my instant message of wisdom into action as I said, "You better get ready or I'm leaving without you".
They both love to relive that story, and it gets more hilarious when told again, but the greater part of that is that 3 months prior, my wife had dislocated her hip in a car accident and we not only had to pry her out of the car, but the doctor needed my assistance at the hospital to help put it back into place. She vowed to me, being an absolute woman of courage, to walk into that hospital to deliver without a cane or wheelchair, and despite our brief delay on that night, she did.
From that event and the other births, I truly believe women who are about to deliver are the most beautiful women in the world. They glow with an aura that is beyond natural beauty and when you are privileged to see that look, you see a woman at her finest moment.
Maybe that's why Jesus put such a value on women when those around him considered them second class. And maybe we as men don't look deep enough inside a woman's soul to see what a great gift God has given us. I have definitely been guilty of overlooking the depth of a woman's soul for her more visual compelling assets, but being around pregnant women the past few months has brought me back into that realm of greater understanding. What beauty exists at those moments of completing the beginning cycle of conception to birth.
It is then that we men can appreciate what a woman has to go through to have our children. On that night, Valaree gave birth to Natalee without drugs in a most amazing natural childbirth while I held the camera in one hand and an oxygen mask in the other. On that table, between shouts of words I can't repeat, she became the most beautiful girl in the world to me.
I can't say I have put into practice all the appreciation I had that night into all my relationships with women, but I can say that I have learned why God created Eve, and why Jesus said to his mother Mary as he was about to die on the cross, "Dear woman, here is your son." and to John, "Here is your mother." For not only is there no greater honor than to be a mother, but there is no more beautiful woman than one about to become a mother.
And no greater treasure for a man than to behold that beauty firsthand!
PS. Let's hear your comment about your "birth" story on www.acrossthebridge.weebly.com
Today marks my 12th day on the road, 11 different hotels and 11 different auctions. To say that it has taken all the energy I have to make this journey is an understatement. But the number of vehicles bought (52), the new family I have acquired here in Florida/Alabama, and the pleasure of seeing so many beautiful places has helped make it a happy journey.
What I find though, is that being away from my spiritual and blood family is a challenge. No matter how great your faith is, having a separation from those who encourage and love you can cause you to wake up one day and realize that you have not read your Bible in several days, only prayed when convenient, and have generally not paid as much attention to your soul as you have paid to your business goal. Not a disaster, but a wake up call.
Can you imagine what it was like for Jesus to be away from his father for 33 years? Can you hear the anxiety in Paul's voice as he talks about "despairing of life"? Is it any wonder he wrote so many letters to his spiritual family and enjoyed their support as he traveled on his journey? Obviously mine is not the same journey as theirs, but wherever I go I talk about God, I think about his grace and love, and I often am called upon to help someone with a spiritual pep talk. Even so, when that trusted support and friendly hugs of human beings are not present, the journey becomes more difficult and takes discipline of faith to get on track.
Jesus surrounded himself with a family of people even when his greatest support came from His father. Paul often talks about his joy of seeing his church family and how it encouraged him. So we must agree that anyone trying to take this journey of life without a cast of friends, mentors and family, may be in trouble despite what they may say. When we isolate and watch preachers on TV for more than a Sunday or two, we don't get the human connection we need. When we say I can read my Bible without adding others to our study, we are a train wreck waiting to happen. Married couples who study alone instead of together, are a divorce waiting to be happen.
Never can we be so arrogant that we think we have got this. None of us is a tower that can't fall over without support. As I travel, watch various programs that lift me up, I still greatly miss you and my blood family constantly because you are the ones who have made my journey possible. Your constant words and prayers always gratify my soul, and I hope my words would encourage you as well. A simple thing like Ralph calling me on the phone yesterday to tell me how proud he was to lead a prayer at a funeral made my day knowing he's okay.
So, as you take your own journey this week, please make it a point to call, go see or just talk to someone when you see them and share some love and faith. They may need it more than you, and it may make your day as well. Ralph certainly made my journey a little easier to take.
Ever feel like you are treading water? Stuck in the mire of situations that have virtually paralyzed you?
Feel like what is in front of you is the greatest obstacle you have ever faced? 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for you are with me."
Virtually every time we are faced with adversity, we can pull out a scripture and it is a help in getting us through those dire moments when
fear takes its hold on us. In addition there are songs, words of others, books and inspirational programs that can aid us in positive thinking.
How about God's Holy Spirit that is in us when we accept his son as our savior, can he inspire us to get through it?
We often ignore the fact that Jesus left us with a comforter, a counselor, a guide and a mountain climber that has never seen a mountain
high enough that couldn't be climbed. "Say to this mountain move...and it shall be moved." No doubt on our own power we can move nothing
of importance, but with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, we can move mountains. For us, the biggest challenge is to call on this power that
exists within us as children of God to inspire us, to lift us above mere mountains and help us "soar on the wings of eagles" when we are too
tired to even walk.
Words can influence us in great ways, but the action of a living part of God puts words into action. What I think God expects of me is to soar
even when the clouds of doubt dominate the landscape of life, to believe that He is with me and that if I put my trust in Him as my pilot, we can navigate the mountain top without crashing into it. "Oh ye of little faith...", and how often do I doubt, only to be reminded that I am redeemed and reborn to fly.
What is your mountain today? Guess who really knows how to climb it, move it, and make you feel really good inside about overcoming it?
Hint: It's not Dr. Phil, Oprah or Tony Robbins. They might help find the mountain you need to climb, but they won't climb it with you!
Let's sing it...."Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no river deep enough....to keep me away from you" Oh wait, that's actually God singing that to us through His Holy Spirit!
First of all, let me tell you this is my favorite saying. Not sure who authored it, but these words describe those feelings you have when there is nothing else left to say about a situation. Comparatively the Bible says, Selah!
For example while on my way down to Orlando this week my TP (tire pressure) light came on and I had to stop for air. Like you, this had happened many times before, but for some reason the sign "Air $1" made me think. Then going inside, I got change and got a bottle of "water" for $1.50 and it made me think again. I just spent $2.50 for God's free commodities just because somebody got creative enough to figure out how to market it. It is what it is!
Then naturally I began to think of this coming week’s wrap up on our series on Grace, and it made me thankful that I had enough money to put air in my tire and drink clean water. As we know, this world has folks who not only can't afford either, but can die for lack of it. Why am I a fortunate one who should focus on the positive not the negative? It Is What It Is!
Every day I walk on this earth I realize how blessed I am. There is no way I should be forgiven for my past, no way I should be headed to eternal joy. And there is no way I should even be alive based on past close calls. But somehow, a king with compassion pardoned me, as he has hopefully also pardoned you. It Is What It Is because He is what He is!
As you spend this day living and enjoying these benefits of air and water whatever they cost, think of how much it cost God to give you that freedom. Think of the men and women who died preserving that freedom as well, and how much grace we have been given that we never deserved.
Those thoughts will probably overwhelm you as they did me. All that is left to be said is.......
It Is What It Is! And thank God for that.
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.