Sunday, December 23, 2012

Remember

As many of you know, our family heads south to Arlington, TX every  year the week before Christmas.  For the last several years, we've taken a group from Pauls Valley and we spend the week helping out at Mission Arlington.  You can read a little about what they do here (and please do - their stories are phenomenal).  And while they are doing some amazing things there to minister in the margins, it is nothing that any of us can't be doing where we are (at least on a smaller scale) if we'll just look around and be willing to get our hands dirty.

We are so blessed each time we go and it always sets the stage for really "getting" what it is we're celebrating this time of year.  It resets my perspective back to where it should be (on the others that Jesus loves) and off of where it shouldn't be (stuff and the drama we create).  It creates a thankfulness in me that I'm not sure we can get any other way, other than giving up ourselves for a few hours/days/weeks/years and "leaking Jesus" (as Bob Goff would say) onto others.  I need the occasional "reset" and am always so encouraged and blessed while we're there.

I am, once again, encouraged to keep looking around me for where needs are - and they truly are everywhere, if we're willing to see them.  God has opened a lot of doors for us around Pauls Valley to begin ministering and I pray that I will see with His eyes where He wants that to continue growing, new ways to reach out, to bring His light into the darkness.  I pray that He continues to strip the selfishness from me and that I'll be willing to give up my stuff, my time, my pride, my feelings and get out there.  I know we occasionally get hurt or taken advantage of when we do it, but Jesus said give a cup of cold water, feed, clothe, visit - and He didn't place parameters on that.  He just said do it.  That's hard for me to remember.

I loved working alongside the adults that went with us.  I love getting to know people better - and you really get to know someone in the muck and grime of sorting through other people's cast off stuff.  :)  If you're one of the parents that entrusted your children to us for this week, you need to know that your kids are amazing.  I know they can all be normal, hormonal, drive-you-crazy teenagers, but they can also step up and serve, love, work harder than you can imagine and be a team too (and they're really funny :) ).  We saw that this week.  I am always so proud of this group of kids when they show up to make a difference.  They were/are awesome - really.  And I don't use "awesome"  lightly.

So - my encouragement to you - and to me - this Christmas season is to remember.  Remember that God stepped out of Heaven, into this dark world so we could know Him.  He has changed my life completely, and I know He's changed many of yours as well.  So, how can we step out of our comfort zones and into the darkness so that others can know Him?  What can we let go of or give up so that others can live?  Because that's what Christmas is - really.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A King and a Kingdom

There is much that I love about facebook.  It allows me to stay connected with people that I am not able to see often.  It allows me to watch my friends' kids grow up, even when we no longer live near each other.  It gives us a way to connect and encourage one another from day to day.  It allows me to connect with others that have like interests, to encourage, and hold one another accountable.  

But one of the things I really HATE about facebook is all the drama.  And it's not just from the teenagers.  Right now, much of it - probably most of it, at least that I see - is coming from the adults and their various opinions about the upcoming election.  

I generally don't find facebook to be a good forum for discussion.  It occasionally works well and I'm thrilled when I see it done successfully, but most of the time, it descends into a whirling vortex of catty remarks and ugliness - saying things about and to people that they would never speak to their face.  So I rarely voice my opinions in such a public setting - especially if I know they're likely to be controversial.  I'll save them for face-to-face discussion.  

But today, I just can't stop myself.  I have to step into the political discussion on this one point...

Tuesday night - Wednesday morning.  Let's remember who's in really in charge here.  It's not Obama.  It's not Romney.  Some of you are going to go to bed  Tuesday night looking forward to the hope that is rising because of who won the election.  Some of you will go to bed ready to pack your bags and move - (but move where exactly?), all hope lost, because of who won.  And it won't matter who won.  It'll just flip-flop on who's dealing with which feelings.  

And I'll probably have to turn facebook off for a few days lest my head explode.  Because I know that no matter who wins, I'll be barraged with all manner of horrible things being said about the winner - no matter which one it is.  Barraged with all manner of gushy, wonderful things being said about the winner - again, no matter which one it is.

When did politics become more important than being the hands and feet of Jesus?  More important than loving our neighbor?  More important than the gospel?  Or more important that remembering that that man, running for the highest office in our nation, is made in the image and likeness of God, and Jesus loves him - and He called us to love him?

I have friends that love Jesus, follow Him with abandon, and they're voting for Obama.  I have friends that love Jesus, follow Him with abandon, and they're voting for Romney.  I have friends that love Jesus, follow Him with abandon, and aren't even sure they can bring themselves to mark their ballot because they're so sickened by the state of our nation and the two weak options we have to choose from.  And I get all their arguments.  I disagree with some of them, but all of them have some valid points.

Who's right?

God is.  He's not a Democrat.  He's not a Republican.  He's not a Libertarian.  He's not an American.

So, here's my encouragement:

No matter who wins - let's keep loving each other.  Let's respect our constitution-given right to voice our opinions with passion and conviction - to disagree with one another, but to love each other.  Let's speak of and live what we believe instead of bashing the ideologies and hating the people we disagree with.  Let's not speak as if someone's spiritual walk hinges on whether they agree with our political ideologies.  Let's agree to pray for the guy that wins - even if we'd rather swallow our own tongue than watch them be sworn in as our President for the next four years.

"I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior..."

If Paul can write these words when Nero sits as king - when Christians are being tortured and killed by their governing authorities, surely I can pray for Obama or Romney.

My allegiance lies with a King and His Kingdom.  Let me live like that is truth.





Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Raisin' the White Flag



                            Stick a fork in it...


The fat lady is singin'...


                            Raisin' the white flag...



However you want to say it, this girl has to stop.

I've spent the last eighteen weeks doing my dead-level best to be able to run this marathon Nov. 18.  The last three weeks have been giving everything to trying to recover from an injury that is keeping me from running without extreme pain.  My chiropractor, Dr. Lanny Stanley, (who I absolutely cannot say enough good things about), has worked even harder than I have, I think, to get me back on the road.  And it will happen - but not on Nov. 18.

I have to take care of this injury and apparently, I can't do it and keep trying to run at the same time.

I am focusing on active recovery, core training, and picking another marathon for some time next spring - and we'll try this again.  I'm not willing to give up the dream, but I have to put it on hold.


I'm disappointed, I'm sad, I'm frustrated, at moments I'm angry, but today -- this I know --

I'm done.

Here's another thing I know - even more so:  This is very much a first-world-middle-class problem.  I'll get over it.  I'll get better - I'll move on.

It has enabled me to raise awareness for a problem that is not a first-world-middle-class problem - human trafficking.  That, I will not be raising any white flags on.  And I hope you won't either.  We have to care for the marginalized and the forgotten.  We cannot let people forget.  Your niche may not be human trafficking - it may be fostering, or adoption, or homelessness, or clean water, or extreme poverty, (unfortunately, the list is endless) but we cannot forget those that society wants to turn their eyes from.

So if you still want to give to help OATH for the miles I ran, here it is:  276 miles.

And here's the link to give.  My body giving out on running is no reason for us to give out on being part of a change, right?

If you're just now hearing any of this, you can look here for info on OATH, read stories, see what they do and how you can help in other ways besides giving money.

God calls us to "act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God."

I can't stop doing that - we can't stop doing that - no matter how much it hurts.


======================================

And one other thing I want to say - thank you, thank you, thank you, to those of you that have encouraged me, cheered me on, and especially prayed for me and over me (literally, in some cases) both from the beginning of this journey and especially over the last three weeks.  Y'all are awesome. 






Friday, October 19, 2012

Granny & Green Beans

I picked the first of our green bean harvest today.  I'm so excited about this.  We haven't had a garden at all in several years, and we've never planted green beans.  
It brings back so many memories for me.  It's probably the reason I like them, more than the actual beans themselves.  They're pintos, which I've never seen at a farmer's market or the produce department, but they have always been my favorite green beans.

My grandparents had a huge garden on their farm when I was a kid (and forever before that as well) and all the kids and grandkids would come in together when it was time to harvest corn or green beans and work together to get the job done and everything stored.  I have so many good memories of those days.  I know we (the grandkids) did lots of complaining about the work of it, and I'm sure we were often more of a hindrance than a help to our parents, but I'm glad we all did it together - I'm glad for the memories - I'm glad for the things it taught me.

One of my strongest memories of my grandmother is her sitting at the dining room table with her chair turned sideways, feet propped up, looking out the window right next to her, as she snapped beans.  She spent hours and hours there in her lifetime.  I so wish I had a picture of her doing that.  

She was one of the hardest working, most patient homemakers I've ever seen.    She spent her whole life caring for her family, her kids, her grandkids, friends, their farm hands.  She cooked more food in her lifetime than most of us would cook in a multitude of lifetimes.  She farmed, harvested, cleaned, canned, froze, washed, cooked, and cleaned again - and I do not have one memory of her complaining.  She had to have at some point - because she was human - but she certainly was not characterized by it.

I've really got nothing profound to say, except I just wanted to share that with y'all.  Picking that little dab of the first of our crop brought back so many memories - a little bit of that  just needed to be shared.  :)  

If you're in our LifeGroup, you may just get to eat some green beans in the next few weeks!

What are some of your favorite childhood memories?




Monday, October 8, 2012

I Choose Joy.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.


I have a husband that couldn't be special-ordered to be any better fit for me.

My children are amazing - each one makes me prouder than I can even express.

We have a home, where people are welcomed and enjoyed.

Our extended families are all close by, and I couldn't be happier about that.

I have some of the dearest, best friends I could ask for.

We have a loving community of believers to live life with.

We just re-shaped our LifeGroup, and it looks like it's going to be amazing.

All my children sing like angels, and I get to hear them sing all the time!

Our bills are paid and there is food in our fridge.

I have two goofy dogs, that make me laugh.

I feel safe, loved, and cared for.

God has put others around me to minister both with and to.

I am healthy.

I have a job that I enjoy and that helps our family reach their goals.


I have a car to get me to that job.

I have been able to home educate each of our children and would not trade that for anything.


++++++++++++++++++


This list could go on forever, because our God is so good to us.  

Nearly everything on that list I can also flip around and find a negative on days that I'm so inclined to look for the negative. 


But, today --


I'm going to choose thankfulness.  

I'm going to choose blessing.

Today, I'm going to choose joy.  



What are you choosing to consider joy today?













Friday, October 5, 2012

When I Grow Up

What do you want to be when you grow up?

We ask little kids that question all the time.  I asked my teenagers this as they've prepared to leave our nest and head into the world.

Pushing really close to the half way mark of a century, I'm still wondering about the answer to that question for myself.  Not sure I have the answer yet, but a few things I do know:

- I want to challenge myself.  I don't want to settle in and sit in a rocker on the front porch and watch life happen.  How do I do that?  Practically, here's part of it:

I run.  I was never athletic growing up - quite the opposite, but I've learned I'm capable of much more than I ever dreamed, if I'll push.  I want to keep finding ways to better myself, get stronger, accept more challenges.  So I'll keep pushing - hopefully, until someone digs a hole and y'all push me in it. :)

I read.  A lot.  And while I read all kinds of books, I like to occasionally push myself with something a little harder.  -- Right now I'm reading Les Miserables - pretty sure that's what I'll still be doing when y'all dig that hole I mentioned earlier :) --  I want to keep learning.  I want to better myself professionally.  I want to pursue national certification - as daunting a task as that seems right now.

I interact.  My personality says to be a hermit, but I know, from first-hand experience, that's a bad route to take.  So I force myself to keep developing friendships, building bridges.  I've made some amazing friends pushing myself in this area.

- I want to make a difference.  I want to know that people's lives are better because I was here.

I want to know I've made a difference in the lives of my family and I know without a doubt that's the biggest reason we're here- there is no greater calling than to invest wisely and well into the lives of our children.  But as huge and important as that task is for us as parents, I believe there's more.   I want my kids to see that it's also about reaching out beyond our family unit and helping to be part of bigger change.  I want them to take risks, so I must take risks.

We have friends that have adopted, and started all over, when they're right on the verge of an empty nest.  We have friends that foster and experience the heartbreak that brings over and over and over again.  We have friends that invest all that they are in the poor and the homeless.  We have friends that have given up the luxuries of America to reach a people group that may not be reached otherwise.  Because they want to make a difference - they love - they take risks.

If you've read anything I've written, you know my heart is broken over human trafficking, so I continue to seek where God can use me in that area.  Right now, it's with fund raising.  Once again, I beg you to consider joining me in my marathon to raise money for O.A.T.H.  Look them up.  Read the stories on their page.  Let it break your heart - and be part of the change.

Andy Stanley says, "Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone."  That's my heart right now - my very specific prayer.  That God would lead me to one that I could invest in - pour into and help bring change to their individual life and to the generations that will follow them.

++++++++++++++++


Now at this point I'd like to offer a disclaimer, lest those who don't know me well think I have it all together. There are days when I never get out of my pajamas, refuse to answer the phone, alternating between NCIS marathon and chick flicks, and eating chocolate and potato chips;  when my family has to step over my lump of a body to fend for themselves in the kitchen.

But I want the trajectory of my life to be moving forward - to be telling a story...

++++++++++++++++


- I want to write a good story.  I want my life to tell a story that only God could have written.

This one's up to Him.  I want to keep my heart open, my courage high, my life flexible to whatever He says do.  I know His story will be way better than mine.

I want His story.


What are you doing to write a good story? (And I'd really like to hear from you on the answer to that question - when we challenge each other, we all write a better story.)



BTW - here's a freebie - If you haven't read A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  Find it somewhere and read it.  If that doesn't light a fire under you to let your life tell a good story, nuthin' will. :)






Sunday, September 2, 2012

Half Way There

This morning I completed week nine of my training for my first marathon.  Half way there.  

This morning I ran further than I have ever run before.  A little over half the distance of the marathon.  This pic?  That was my view when my feet took their first steps toward crossing into the furthest this girl has ever run.

It was a beautiful morning.  I started well before the sun came up - thankfully, with the Blue Moon, it was almost like running with the sun. :)

This pic, btw, IS after the sun came up - it wasn't quite that bright. :)



Running has always offered me a lot of time for reflection and prayer - it's one of the reasons I've grown to enjoy it so much.  And training for this marathon has given me LOTS of time to reflect and pray.

Here's one of the things I've learned...

Failure or victory in running for distance is almost entirely fought in my mind.  Yes, I have to run.  Yes, it is really hard, physically, at times.  But that's not where I'm going to find victory in it, I don't believe.

When I'm planning a long run there are a lot of factors I have to consider. 

-  I try to never run back past my starting/ending point until I am actually finished.  When I see my car, or my house, my whole body starts shutting down - it's done.  So I plan - I plan to finish.

- I do the best I can to run at least a portion of my longest runs with someone else.  It is amazing what one other person can lend to your endurance and your will to fight through.  It's better when you're not alone.

- I listen to music.  Fast, inspiring, pick-up-your-pace-you-can-do-this-thing kind of stuff.  I don't know if that helps everyone, but it makes a huge difference for me.  There are times I'm ready to take my last running stride and walk back to the end, and just the right song will get me moving again.  Nothing changed physically - everything changed mentally.

- I give myself mini-goals.  Shorter loops within the longer run; some part of town where I really enjoy the view; I'll pick a faster pace to keep "until that next light pole"  or "until I reach the Pie Kitchen".  Something to work for besides the very end.

This has begun to translate into other areas of my life as well.  The victories I want to see in other areas are mostly fought for, and won, in my mind - in my heart.  I've lost lots of battles because I set myself up for failure by the smaller, everyday, decisions I was making.

Do I put myself in positions where I know I'll be tempted to give up?  Do I stay out there and fight alone when I know others would come alongside if I'd just be honest about my needs?  Do I surround myself with books, music, media that encourage me to keep going?  Are there smaller things I could be doing to help me reach the bigger goal?

I'm looking forward to the practical things God is going to show me in answering those questions.  

What about you?  Do you set yourself up for failure, or for victory?


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++


BTW, since I am half way through, I'd like to remind y'all of my challenge for you.  I would LOVE for you to join me!  You don't have to run, but if you could pledge to support my run by giving toward Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans as I run my training miles and the marathon, we can both find a great victory at the end!  Here are a couple of links:


Here you can see the problem that I believe we all have some responsibility to fight against, what they're doing to fight this battle, other ways you can get involved, etc.


Here you can connect with giving toward OATH in connection with my training.  You can give as we go - and I update my miles (Ex: $.10 per mile that I run), or you can give at the end when it's all said and done (in November).  I'd love for you to let me know if you're going to try and help.  It gets me outta bed on the harder mornings just picturing those that have already told me they are giving with each mile I complete. :)

Pressing On...








Monday, August 27, 2012

He Makes Beautiful Things

"A farmer went out to sow his seed.  

As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."  ~Jesus

Does your heart ever feel like this?  




Mine does.

It's what most of the ground around here looks like too.  But yesterday morning when I woke up, it was raining... just a slow, gentle rain.  You could almost hear the ground sighing in relief.

Then we looked out the window at our garden, and saw this:


and this:

Look at that little bean still hangin' on! :)

We were so excited!  I love fresh-from-the-garden green beans.

Then we went to our Sunday gathering at Cornerstone.  One of the songs we sang was about letting God's mercy rain on us.  I can't remember the song - it was new to me, but the words washed over me like the rain I could hear hitting the roof as we worshipped.  

What I could picture was the dry cracked ground around our house, the dry, wrinkly beans Brian had just recently stuck into that dry ground.  I thought about the work he'd done to soften the soil, to remove the weeds, to allow the nourishing water the reach down in there.  And the new growth that we had just seen that morning.

That bean did not work for that growth.  It rested in the soil, and let the water, the sun and the nutrients from the soil to do their job.  

I thought of Jesus' story about the sower and the seed.  One of my favorites of Jesus' stories.  I thought of how many times I fret and worry about where I am, how I'm doing, where I'm going.  If I could just prepare my heart to hear, weed out the junk that gets in the way, and receive the rain as it falls, the growth would just happen.

And it would be beautiful.

Brian's tobasco peppers.  Aren't they beautiful?




Beautiful song here ^^^^  Give it a listen. :)






Friday, August 10, 2012

The Lie

"Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened...they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images...the truth of God for a lie."




I read these words this morning.  They slammed me in a way they haven't before, so who am I not to share the moments that God uses to knock me around a bit? :)

This chapter is like the "go to" chapter to slam others for their sins that we don't have...a great chapter for pointing fingers at others, but today, it was sure pointing at me.

I so often become consumed with the tedious emergencies of this life that I fail to see God in it.  I rush through day after day after day and don't stop to glorify God --

- My heart is beating, my lungs are pumping
-  My family is healthy
- The morning air was crisp and cool for the first time in weeks
- I have a husband that loves me and happily provides for us
- There's food in our house
- I adore my children
-  The sunset in this desolate wasteland is stunning
-  I can run
- I can work
-  My dogs love me no matter what
-  I have friends that I know always have my back



The list is really endless.  But I often - very often - fail to see it.  Because I have to cook, or go to work, or teach my kid, or clean my house, or feed my dogs, or run an errand for a friend... oh, wait.  Those were the things I'm thankful for...  How easily I lose my focus.

So instead of glorifying Him,


 I become futile in my thinking. 

The dictionary definition  for "futile" - "incapable of producing any result; ineffective; useless; not successful".  -- NOT what I want.



My foolish heart is darkened.

I exchange the glory of God for some worthless image.

I exchange the truth of  God for a lie.


*******************


God help me, I want more than that.

I don't want futility, I don't want worthless, I don't want the lie.

I want Him - His truth -  His glory.










Thursday, June 28, 2012

Passion

This post is kinda long, so please persevere with me.


Okay, here goes...  


I started running (and I use that word VERY loosely) about six or seven years ago.  I lose track, so I'm not positive.  I'd never run in my life, other than to get away from something I was afraid of, but I was feeling a need to make some changes to take care of myself and to be consistent with it.  For the price of a good pair of running shoes, I could be ready to go and running seemed like it could work around our crazy-life schedule.  


When I started, it looked like this:  run a block, walk a block, run a block, walk a block.  Then, run two, walk one...you get the picture.  It was ugly, but I persevered and after three or four months, I actually began to enjoy it.  It has helped me in a multitude of ways.  Among other things, I've lost weight, I feel much healthier, it deals with the stress in my life better than any meds I could be taking,  I've met some great people that also enjoy this love of running, and I've learned that I'm capable of WAY more than I ever thought I was.


Last Fall I completed my first Half Marathon (details here).  Something I never thought I would be able to do, but with much work, support from friends and family, and more taking care of myself, it was done. :)  


Since this love of running began, I have looked with amazement at people that accomplished Triathlons, or Marathons and could not imagine even attempting it...


But now I have to imagine it.  Beginning July 1, I'm going to begin training for my first Marathon.  26.2 miles. Freakish.  I have a few friends in The Valley that are also going to work toward the same goal and I think I'm getting really excited about it.  I'm trying to be realistic, train slowly and wisely, listen to my nearly 49- year-old body, but I really want to do this thing, if God will hold all these old parts together for it.


Okay - little bit of gapping now... (hang in there, we're almost done!)


I started this blog a little over a year ago and my first post (here) was, among other things, about my desire to contribute to making a difference in the lives of those enslaved around the world, in our country, in our state. I have struggled with how that looks living in a rural area, somewhat removed from where most of the volunteer activity takes place, working part time, homeschooling, parenting, very involved in our local faith community, being a support to my pastor/firefighter husband, etc.  I still don't have very clear answers in this regard, but I do feel like God is beginning to bring at least a little clarity - a first step, maybe.


I'd like to combine these two passions, and drag you along with me. :)  


A couple of nights ago, I added up how many miles I will run throughout the course of this 20-week training, culminating with the marathon in November.  If I do everything they suggest, I will run between 420 and 430 miles over the course of those 20 weeks.  Figuring that up may have been a mistake.  I lost the ability to breath for just a few minutes afterward.  Here's where you come in...


I'd like to ask you to join me, prayerfully and financially, in combining these two passions.  I've spoken with the director of OATH (Read about 'em here) about how this idea can work.  He is developing a webpage where you can donate toward my training miles.  So, for example, you could donate $.10, (or $10.00!) for every mile that I fulfill during this 20-week training.  If you donated $.10, then at the completion of my marathon, you would donate approximately $42.00 to OATH.  The mornings I don't drag my butt out of bed and train, you would donate nothing.  The mornings I do, you would.  



While the training and marathon mean a great deal to me personally, I would like the time I spend training and running to mean something for others.  This would make it mean so much more!  The mornings I don’t want to get up and train, I can think about the girls that will be helped at the end of this through the money donated – that will get me out of bed when nothing else will. 



So be watching - in the next week or so, I'll post a link where you can join me in this journey.




Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pouring Jesus

A few things I don't like about some churches and their youth groups (brace yourself, I'm likely to offend some with this) -

I don't like that parents are excluded - made to feel like they need to just drop their kids off and leave them alone to do their job.  Or that parents drop their kids off and expect the youth workers to fix what was already broken when they dropped them off there.  Or that parents drop them off because they are tired of how hard teenagers are and want someone else to do the hard work of raising their kids.  Or that it is all about fun and games and not much about ministry and service.  Or that the kids are isolated from the rest of the Body and once they're grown, they have no idea how to be a part of the Body and so they end up leaving the Church.

A few things I love about some churches and their youth groups -

Parents are encouraged to be involved in every aspect of their kids' lives.  Everyone jumps in to invest in the lives of the broken and show them the way to God's healing.  Parents allow others to step in and invest in the lives of their kids where they are unable to do so.  The Church teaches kids that fun and service often go hand-in-hand (and when it's not fun, it's still good and it's even better when we do it together),  kids and adults work side-by-side in every aspect of Body life, so when the kids are grown, they just keep doing what they've always done.

When I was younger, and knew everything, my view of youth groups was almost exclusively of the first description I gave.  It was unfair, filled with pride (on my part), but honestly, sometimes true.  I've seen those groups and I never wanted my kids to be part of that.  I came very close to "throwing the baby out with the bath water" and writing off all youth groups.

Then I had teenagers.  And  realized I knew nothing.  I saw they had needs that I was unable to meet.  Either out a lack of the right gifts, or they were unwilling to listen to me at the time, or I was too close to the situation, or ignorance on my part, or God just had someone else in mind for that particular issue.  And God brought people that could meet me where I was - could meet my kids where they were.  I am so grateful.

Luke and I went to visit at Super Summer last night.  Super Summer is a youth leadership camp that my kids have gone to through their junior high and high school years, and Brian and Dylan are there this week.  It brought lots of memories back for me as they've come back over the years and shared what they learned - as I've watched them incorporate it into their lives.

Last week Brian and Dylan worked at Summit Camp.  A camp my kids have gone to every year of their teenage lives, and now Dylan staffs a week as well as attending.  My kids are better for this.  They love Jesus more.  They know how to work harder, serve better, love deeper.

(Dylan - pouring out Jesus)
Every year, we go on mission trips with families we've known for 20+ years and we work harder than we've ever worked, have more fun than we've ever had, and pour Jesus into people - because of the faithfulness of a couple we met over 20 years ago to keep teaching with their lives, and pouring into the lives of countless teenagers, that faith without works is dead.

Every week for the last nine years, people have come alongside Brian and I, and have invested in the lives of my teenagers and I will be forever grateful.

As I was running this morning, names kept running  through my head  - names of people that have poured Jesus into my kids - and I thanked God for each of them.  Some of them entered my kids' lives early on and have never left, some have been for a season, but left impressions that will last forever.  In ways we could not have done alone.

I think this is why God left us all the "one another"s in scripture.  He knew we were going to need each other.  He knew we'd be tempted to think we could do it alone and we'd need to be reminded that we can't.

So to each of you that have poured Jesus into our kids ---

Their lives are better for having you in it.

Thank you.












Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Still Trying To Get It Right

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom."


James - half brother of Jesus - said that.  


I'm studying James right now with a small group of women.  It's always a killer for me - James is, but God just keeps bringing me back to it.  Apparently He has some things for me to learn - and it's taking me a while to get it down.


In our study this week, I read a quote that was a little (and by "a little", I mean "a lot") convicting.  And not wanting you to feel left out, I'm gonna share it.


The Greek word, in the original language of the book of James, for humility means "the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one's self-importance".  


Ouch.


Here's the quote:


"In my woundedness and in my flesh, I delude myself into thinking that harshness and severity are worth it if another person is fortunate enough to gain my superior perspective.  


Wrong.  


The gentleness that is linked to wisdom in this context means living out of the knowledge that I am not the priority here."


This is a particularly hard word for me.  My personality is prone to telling you a couple of times, with kindness and gentleness, how things should be.  And then if you're not smart enough to see it my way after that, I lose patience.  I lose mercy.  I lose humility.


And God gently, with mercy, keeps reminding me - it's not about me.  


And even more than that - I am not always right.  I always think I'm right.  We all do.  If we knew we were wrong, we'd change, right?


I'm learning - slowly, and sometimes with much faltering, that I need to be quiet more often.  And when I do feel prompted to speak, to speak gently, with humility, with love.  And if they don't change, if they won't see things my way, I can still speak gently, with humility, with love.  Because it's not about me.  


It's about God.  Change in any of us is between Him and the individual in need of change.  


So, I can let it go.


I'm not God - and aren't we all very, very, happy about that?  









Monday, May 21, 2012

Remember to Not Forget

I have a friend that chides me for telling my kids, "Don't forget...such-and-so."  She says I should use the positive statement - "Remember...such-and-so."  That speaking in the positive will encourage them and make them more likely to actually remember.  I see her point, and I do try to do that often, but as I read Deuteronomy, I see God using both with great frequency.  


"Remember" and "Do not forget".  


God says this over, and over, and over again throughout the book.  Remember - do not forget. 


Why do you think that is?


I think it's because we are prone to forgetting - prone to not remember.  And because God values remembering.  Not forgetting what He's done for us - what He's brought us through - where He's taking us - the blessings He's given - the disasters He has either saved us from, or helped us through.  He wants us to remember.







The engagement and wedding of our daughter to the only man she's ever loved has been an emotional roller coaster ride for me.  I think because, in part, it has caused me to remember.  To not forget...


When they are babies and we aren't sleeping, we are prone to forget that we are called to this ministry of parenting.


When they are in their terrible twos and only-precious-when-they-sleep threes, we do not remember that what we pour into them matters.


When they are 8 and 9 and the weirdest little creatures to grace the planet, we forget that they have a calling and we are helping to shape that calling.


When they are 11 and 12 and independence is beginning to assert itself, we do not remember that God loves us (while still disciplining) through our own tantrums and we need to model that for them.


When they are 15 and 16, we forget everything -- just everything.


But every once in a while, God blesses us with milestones.  Birthdays, father-daughter dances, graduations, recitals, simple graces (like watching a 3-year-old sleep), great successes, (or sometimes, colossal failures), celebrations.  He slows us down and reminds us of what matters.  This engagement and wedding has been that for me.  


Going through the process of engagement and wedding planning with Erin and Jeff has had a profound impact on me, bringing so many things into perspective.  Watching the two of them beginning to make grown up decisions:  planning their future, marriage counseling, financial planning, work choices, finding a home, and the list goes on and on.  I've been so proud of them.  

Obviously we've know Erin her whole life, and we've known Jeff since he was 13 years old.  We've watched them together from goofy teenagers, to young adults, to now, married.  The journey has been at times trying and frustrating, we've all had joy and tears along the way  There were times that we forgot - we did not remember God's purposes in this journey.  Other times, He would remind us, and we would continue on.  It's been a good journey.

The thing I've thought on over and over, as we've been planning, is how many people are truly a part of who they are today - so many people that God placed in our lives to shape us - to shape them.  


There were a lot of people at the wedding celebration.  I was just in awe as I walked through the groups of people - stopping to hug, love, and visit with people that came to celebrate with us.  People that influenced their childhood - babysitting, loving, playing.  People that influenced their adolescence - teaching, praying, friendships.  People that influenced their teen years - mentors, friends, teachers.  People that influenced them indirectly by investing in the lives of Brian and I, of Jim and Mindy, to help us in being better parents, better teachers, better people.  So many memories, so much impact, so much love.  We are not in this game alone. 

It was truly humbling to me.  As I looked into so many faces and thought about the impact they had in the lives of our children - their part in the journey to where they stand today - I was humbled at how big our God is and how many He uses to work out His plan.  

The friends that stepped up to help us make this a fairy tale wedding for our princess and her prince have been amazing.  They planned, created, held accountable, glued, cut, hung, stitched, loaned, gave,  prayed, laughed, cried, cooked, served, sang, spoke, took pictures, fixed hair, ironed table cloths, carried chairs and tables, they stood up with Erin and kept her laughing through the stressful moments, stood up with Jeff (and did whatever boys do - I'm not exactly sure what that is...), got up early, stayed up late.  They gave their talents, their skills, their time, their love.  We weren't changing the world - we weren't changing history, exactly.  But we were stopping to celebrate - to remember.


 It appears to me that celebrations were important in scripture - God called His people to times of great celebration - and these people, these friends, wanted to help create a day to celebrate what God had done and it was beautiful.  They went far and above the call of duty - the call of friendship.  They were - they are - family.  

And I am grateful.  I am blessed.  
.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I'm a Little Teapot

"I'm a little teapot, 
short and stout,
here is my handle,
here is my spout.


When I get all steamed up,
here me shout.
Just tip me over,
and pour me out."

Here's just some of what's pouring out right now:

All my kids are home.

1. Content.  I love that we are all sleeping under the same roof again for at least this one week.  Luke is home for the summer.  Erin has moved out of her Ada house and is staying here until the wedding.  So for one glorious week, I have all my little chicks home again.

2.  Exhausted.  In #1, I mentioned "sleeping under the same roof".  I have to use this term loosely.  Teenagers and young adults, especially when all together for the first time in a while, do not sleep much.  The noise level is much higher; the boys pick on their sister as if it is their last day alive and their last chance to do so; and they tend to throw themselves over the foot of my bed just about the time I'm fading from consciousness and want to talk about their days.  This is not a complaint - I love all of this - but I'm old - and exhausted. :)

My daughter is getting married Saturday.

3.  Thrilled.  We love our daughter.  We love this young man.    We are excited to celebrate with them and create a day they will hopefully remember with joy for the rest of their lives.

4.  Overwhelmed.  I'm not a planner.  I'm not creative.  I'm not a people-person.  All of these things are helpful when planning a party for 200+ people.  So -- I'm overwhelmed.

5.  Melancholy.  Everything changes after Saturday.  I know it's a good change.  I'm watching my baby girl morph into a wife and it's a little freaky.   I know I'll adapt and love all of it.  But change brings out the melancholy in this girl.

6.  Grateful.  So many have come alongside me to help me through this season.  I cannot say enough and will likely devote a post to them at some point when I have more time to process.  But for now, I am forever grateful for good friends.  Friends that are planners, creative, energy-filled, encouraging.  -- Everything that I am not, and all that I need right now.

I'm sure there's more, but the little steam-whistle on my "to-do-list teapot" is screaming at me, so I'm off.







Thursday, April 19, 2012

One Month From Today

Look at them...

Aren't they the cutest couple you've ever seen?

One month from today,  this young lady - my daughter - my baby - my first born - will change her name and become Mrs. Erin Cawthon.  One month from today, this young man will become our newest son.  I am thrilled for this day to come.  We have all waited a long time for it and can't wait to celebrate with them.  But...

Wow.  It's so weird.  They're grown!  We knew it was coming, but it's HERE!  

There's lots to do in preparation for this day of celebration and I could not feel  more inadequate to the task.  

Thankfully, I have amazing friends that surround me and keep me on task.  But that is not stopping the mini-panic attacks...  I think of all the tiny details:  food, chairs, music, decorations, clothes, flowers, table cloths, candles,...  Maybe I need to assign one of them to just making sure I don't completely lose focus on what's important here. 

                           A celebration of this beautiful thing God has done!  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Dangerous Game

I may never hit publish on this one, but I'm needing to process some thoughts - so here goes... (and obviously, I did hit publish, so really, here goes...)

If you've read many of my blogs at all, you know that I've struggled greatly with letting go of my illusions of control over my children as they are growing up.  Well, I still am, so I won't go into that much - you can read previous posts to refresh yourself in that regard.

I'm not even sure how to express what I'm thinking right now, so it will likely sound pretty jumbled and will likely offend some of you.

I love my kids - I even like my kids most of the time and that makes me really happy.  I haven't always liked them.  We have definitely gone through seasons of raging hormones, teenage I-know-everything syndrome, blah, blah, blah, where, even though I've always, always loved them,  it was a chore to like them.  But now?  Right now, I really like them.

Our family lives in kind of a weird vortex of conflicting opinions - I'm sure everyone does, and I'd love to hear yours, but here's ours:

We have always homeschooled our children.  From day one, all the way through high school.  We come from a VERY conservative background, in all respects.  In our children's younger years, we pretty well surrounded ourselves with people just like us, so it was easy to be very judgmental of anyone that did/ believed differently that we did.  God has made our world a little bigger in the last ten or so years, and I've had to reflect on, and regret, a lot of that judgment and criticism.  I've also gotten the pleasure of being on the receiving end of some of it too. :)

What I've found most interesting is, after you've moved to center, you catch it from both sides. -- You're too strict; you're too permissive.  You're too sheltering; you're letting too much of the world in.  You're letting them read that?!;  You're not letting them read that?!  You're letting them date?!; You're not letting them date?!  It's maddening.  I've learned to let much of it roll right off, but there have been times that I really just wanted to punch somebody.

But, I think the most frustrating part of getting to the age where I, and my peers, have grown and semi-grown children, is the comparison game we begin to play at this stage of  "how they turned out".  I get caught up in this myself - have caught myself playing, with the best of intentions, this misguided game.  If they make all the right decisions, do exactly what we wanted them to do when we were writing their futures at six and seven years old, then we've been great parents.  If they make some poor decisions (or even decisions that we just don't particularly prefer), some down-right stupid choices, or God forbid, walk away from our faith for a season, then we were awful parents.  This is maddening.

At this point in time, I'm not freaked about most of my kids choices.  I'm sure some people are freaked about some of them, because they measure differently than I do, but I'm not.  So obviously, we're great parents, right?

I have friends who are struggling, really struggling right now.  They have kids making some poor decisions, down-right stupid choices.  So obviously they're bad parents, right?

Wrong.

I've walked right next to some of these people as they've raised their children.  I know their hearts.  I know what they've poured in.  Some, I haven't.  Some I've only known a short time.  But I know they love their kids more than life itself.  I know their hearts are broken.  I know they love and follow Jesus.  I know they did and are doing the best job they know to do.

We all make mistakes, so if our kids turn out reasonably well adjusted, praise God that He was bigger than our stupid mistakes.  And if they make some stupid choices along the way, praise God that He is big enough to redeem it - just as He did for us and our stupid choices along the way.

This in no way excuses us from doing our best as parents - from pursuing God with all our hearts and teaching our children to do the same.  But it should release us from the never-ending, craze-inducing burden of feeling like we are in control of everything - that all the answers and good outcomes are up to us.

My kids were born in the image and likeness of our great God, just as I was.  They were born with a wretched, sinful nature, just like I was.  They have a God-given free will, just as I do.  They will make some great choices - they will make some really bad choices, just as I did, and still do.

God is big enough to handle this.

I'd love for us to stop judging one another's performance as parents, and love one another.  Rejoice with each other when great things are happening.  Surround with love and support when not-so-great things are happening (instead of judgment, and secret, "well, I knew that was coming" discussions around our dinner tables).  Let's stop judging every decision others make along the way.  It may not be the decision we would make, but we're not walking in their shoes, so we don't really know what we'd do in their situation.

Judge a little less.  Love a little more.  Lighten up.