Thursday, August 23, 2012

Let's Have Tea

Yesterday afternoon, while Kadence was napping and Jaedyn went to the office with Daddy, I had a "mommy date".   It was a simple hour of heartfelt, comfortable conversation in my living room over a cup of peppermint patty tea with a friend.  Although short, it gave us time to just be women, sharing life challenges without being interrupted.  The hour was over far too quickly, but what a nice break in the day!  

After my friend left, my thoughts started to fill with the amazing tapestry God weaves through the many seasons of our lives.   In my mind, I journeyed back 13 years.  It was a warm day in May and I stood outside the home Kevin and I had built together.  On one side of me was the front door to the house that held a heartful of memories collected over 5 years, on the other side of me was the moving truck that was carrying all of our possessions into a new beginning. 

I was excited about embarking on a new adventure with this man I loved so much, but my heart was ripping in pieces at what I was leaving behind.  Three years prior, we had entered full time youth & music ministry.  We were young, without children, and ministry totally consumed our lives.  Our home was always open and became a haven for the students.  We finished our basement as an oversized teenage "playroom".  The rooms echoed with laughter.   It was LOUD. :)  We shared our lives.   Sometimes we shared tears as we tackled life's problems together.  We grew together through bible studies, afterglows, and discipleship classes within those walls.  Every one of them held my heart in their hands.   They were the only "kids" I had at the time and I loved them as if they were my own. 

I remember a conversation that nearly ripped my heart to shreds, overheard in the basement after we announced we were leaving.  Together, as they wrestled through the coming change, they questioned if there was a way they could pool their resources to buy the house...because it was THEIR house..and where would they go now?   Ugghh.  I felt like a mother giving her children up for adoption. And yet, I knew God had called and we must follow Him.  No matter how much we wanted to stay, it was time for change. 

There have been many changes on our journey since then. I'm really not a fan of change.  I still hate packing up my memories. I still feel conflicted when I see a moving truck outside the front door.   I still hate to say goodbye, no matter how exciting the adventure ahead.  These days, goodbye has a whole new set of complications since my children have a heart full of emotions all their own that I must help them navigate.  But yesterday, I was reminded that sometimes our journey comes full circle.  Often at the other end, there is a whole new set of blessings and a view we didn't have the last time around.  That view that is gained from life experiences, and may never be realized if we always stayed at one place and always gazed in the same direction.  Life is about growth.  Often, it takes change to facilitate that growth.  At least that's how it has played out on my own personal journey.

Yesterday, my "mommy" friend was one of those "kids" I viewed as my own.  In an unexpected twist that landed us just 60 miles from where we began full time ministry all those years ago, our journey to Cumberland has placed us living in the same town again.  Now a woman with children of her own, we are at parallel life seasons and relate to each other in a whole new way.  Now serving in ministry herself, we share a burden to give hope through Jesus to the same community through our individual churches.  In this new season of life, we share memories and  a common belief system that unites us, but our individual journeys have caused our friendship to be even richer this time around.   Our lives are busier, and we can't get together daily or even weekly, but when we do it is a heartwarming hour - an hour of escape that returns us to the simplicity of 13 years ago.  

This full circle journey has held many unexpected blessings.  That's just how God is.  He fills our life with little joys we could've never seen coming.  Sometimes, His plan is filled with irony.  You just can't plan or make this stuff up on your own.  Only He is wise enough to intersect our lives in such a beautiful way. I'm loving seeing His plan unveiled, day by day. 

If you were a Strong Tower girl (you know who you are),  my freezer is no longer filled with Schwann's delicacies waiting for your arrival.  My floors are now sometimes littered with toys and my attention is often drawn away by our two little mini-mes.  But you remain in my heart.  I would love to reconnect.  My tea leaf 
selection is amazing.  There is a cup with with your name on it.  And you are always welcome.  :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Holding on, Letting go

This week, I've noticed that the days are growing cooler.  Facebook is filled with back to school pictures. Summer days are coming to an end. Fall is in the air.

I've been living in a state of denial.  We continued homeschooling in a few subjects throughout the summer on a minimal level, trying to regain some sense of normalcy after all the transition that took place in our lives this year.   For us, the coolness in the air doesn't make sense.  After all, our beach vacation is not for two more weeks! 

I've been looking ahead trying to determine what this year's school year will look like for us.   There are curriculum choices, organization, Co-op opportunities, extra curricular activities, and field trips to consider.  We have been homeschooling Jaedyn since Kindergarten, and every moment has been an adventure. He has thrived in the homeschool enviornment and would not trade it for the world.  Now entering 4th grade, he is content to stay by my side and feel secure and satisfied there.  He loves our daily interaction and learning schedule at home.  Although he has never had trouble making friends and functioning socially with any age group, he doesn't feel the need to be socially stimulated in a school environment.  Church, playdates, soccer team, and co-op opportunities have been enough for him.  In fact, at age three, he profoundly announced one day "I don't want to go to college".  When I asked why, he replied "because I never want to leave you guys!".   I hope that changes over time, and I believe that as I learn to give him wings, he will learn to fly.  But, for now, he is content. 

I firmly believe that the Lord has called me to homeschool for this season, maybe forever.  I'm still praying about that and taking it one year at a time.  However,  we have a second child. :)  A child whose personality is totally different than the firstborn, she is full of an adventure all her own.  When she is tired or scared or hungry, she runs to me with arms wide open.  Otherwise, she is content to explore the world on her own.  While Jaedyn needs someone to be his activity coordinator, Kadence will fill hours with independent play.  While he waits for me to take the lead, she paves a path all her own.  Jaedyn is most content at home, quietly functioning as a family.  Kadence is happiest surrounded by friends and family, in the middle of lots of people and chatter, in a busy social setting.  (Each child clearly takes after one of their parents, but I'll let you decide which one!)  

Kadence is 3, but already she has a deep desire to learn and is a sponge soaking up the enviornment around her.  This has been interesting to watch.  She is clearly enamored with all things pink and princess themed - some days she even refuses to get dressed if her clothes for the day are not pink.  However, having an older brother who is immersed in all things action themed, my little princess has developed quite a Star Wars and Lego Ninjago vocabulary.  Sometimes, it's funny.  Other times, I cringe.

In an effort to allow her to spend some more time in age appropriate activities and satisfy her incredible desire to learn, we have decided to venture into unchartered territory a bit this year.  We are blessed to have a preschool, daycare, and school at our church.  After much discussion and prayer, we have decided to enroll her in preschool for a few hours a week.  It will give her some freedom to learn in wonderful enviornment with the same values we would teach at home, while it gives Jaedyn some one on one time to focus without distractions.  I love her teacher and couldn't be more excited for her to pour into Kadence's life.  I love that, since Kadence won't attend every day of the week, she will support our learning at home by supplying us with supplemental materials.  The situation couldn't be more perfect.  So why do I have a tinge of sadness?

Last night I took her to Open House at the preschool.  She was able to spend time with her teacher, see her classroom, and learn about what to expect.  She was so excited.  I was excited watching her even as my heart filled with emotion.  She does not like to be referred to as a little girl anymore, and I was witnessing the transformation before my eyes.  

Little by little, as our children grow, they develop less of a need for our 24:7 attention and assistance.  I know this, because this is my second round.  Yet, this time is different, and I'm learning all over again.  (God help me when they become teenagers!)  Maybe it's my life season, and starting this parenthood thing late in the game that causes this to be so emotional for me.  Maybe it's watching all my friends that are of age equality :) sending their children off to high school, college, and even marriage that has made me want to hold on so tightly as time speeds up and slips away.  Maybe it is knowing that pregnancy, infants, and sleepless nights are a thing of the past in our house (not all of that is bad, by the way!).  Whatever it is, it has caused me to want to savor - and capture - every  precious moment, even as it is slipping through my fingers like sand.  

I don't want to fill my life with things that take up so much of my attention and energy that I lose sight of life's most precious blessings.  Even though things may seem to have value at the moment, my family is God's greatest gift.  I could have a lifetime of accomplishments, but it wouldn't matter if they kept me so caught up that I couldn't get down on my knees to look into the eyes of my child and give them my undivided attention.  So today, as I HOLD ON and LET GO,  I have the words of an old school song running through my head.  Funny, I remember my mom humming these words when I was a child. I'm pretty sure today that I know exactly how she was feeling as those lyrics went through her mind. :)

Hold tight to the sound of the music of living,
Happy songs from the laughter of children at play;
Hold my hand as we run through the sweet fragrant meadows,
Making memories of what was today.

Chorus: We have this moment to hold in our hands
and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand;
Yesterday's gone and tomorrow may never come,
But we have this moment today.

Tiny voice that I hear is my little girl calling,
For Daddy to hear just what she has to say;
And my little son running there by the hillside,
May never be quite like today.

Tender words, gentle touch and a good cup of coffee,
And someone who loves me and wants me to stay;
Hold them near while they're here and don't wait for tomorrow,
To look back and wish for today.

Take the blue of the sky and the green of the forest,
And the gold and the brown of the freshly mown hay;
Add the pale shades of spring and the circus of autumn,
And weave you a lovely today.

-We Have This Moment (Bill & Gloria Gaither)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Drink from this Water

Summertime.  As the weather gets warmer, my thoughts are filled with one thing…water.  Water quenches my thirst on hot days.  The refreshment of a pool beckons me.  My dreams are filled with images of sinking my toes into warm sand in the salty sea air, while watching the kids build sandcastles that will soon be washed away by the tide.  Ahhh…cool, refreshing water.

A few weeks ago, the subject of water impacted our home in a different way.  Recently, a missionary visited Central to talk about digging wells.  She showed a moving video about the absence of clean drinking water and the need for wells in Africa.  She spoke in the main sanctuary after making a similar presentation in kids church.

Two days later, we were at home sitting at the dining table when Jaedyn, my 9 year old, disappeared abruptly.  A few minutes later, he bounded down the steps with a sealed envelope in his hand.  He plopped it on the table without a word.   When asked what it was, he shrugged and said “There are kids who need clean water to drink.  Their water is dirty and disgusting.   The lady asked us to pick an envelope, and I picked this one because I knew I had $2 in my bank I could give. “  His words pierced my heart.  It was a proud Mom moment - one that dreams are made of.  Without urging from us, he had made a decision on his own to give of his own money to meet a need. 

However, that’s not the end of the story.  The envelope laid on our table for a few days, waiting for Sunday.  Two days later, I noticed it was torn.  Fearing that he had changed his mind at the thought of his toy savings being depleted, I asked Jaedyn why it had been opened.  He casually replied  “I decided it wasn’t enough and I needed to put more money in”.  As he answered, I saw a crisp $5 bill peeking out of the envelope. 

I tried to keep the tears from coming at the realization of his selfless giving. I understood that something had captured his heart.  Whether it had to do with the visual of the dirty water, or with Jaedyn’s life experiences, I wasn’t sure.  All I knew was there was passion burning in him that caused him to empty himself..and his pockets.

During our tenure at the church where we served prior to Central, we experienced vast multicultural growth in our congregation.  There were many nationalities represented, one of those being a large number of Burundi families. They came to us from a refugee camp in Tanzania after being driven from Burundi, Africa due to political unrest.  Being a part of their lives taught us many things, and stretched us in many ways (one of which was learning worship songs in Swahili – just one of the four languages they spoke - in an effort to make worship relevant for them J).  We laughed, cried, played, prayed, and worshipped together.  Jaedyn simply saw them as his friends.  Regardless of skin color, language, customs, or background, we were family.

Perhaps it was those relationships that he identified with that caused his heart to be captured by the faces of the children in the video.  Whatever the reason, every time we passed the display in the foyer, he would stop for a second glance at the bottle of dirty water.   We attended District Council and saw a dramatized presentation during the evening service on the same subject matter.  During the presentation, he excitedly narrated the project for us, in spite of our efforts to quiet him.  Secretly, I had to smile. 

As a church we’ve been studying and talking about what it means to Act Normal over the past few months.  At the heart of this study is learning to let compassion for others become second nature.   In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about the sorting of the sheep and the goats.  Inviting the sheep to their eternal reward, He says: “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me…Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me.” (v. 34-40 the Message)    

Jesus’ heart beats for the broken, the hungry, the forgotten.  He came to meet needs. And when He left, He commanded us to walk in His footsteps.  Those are big shoes to fill.  But the expectation is clear. To be like Jesus, we must love like Jesus.  We must serve like Jesus.  We must see the need – and meet the need.  Israel Houghton, in his song “Deeper”, says it this way:  God give us a heart - give us YOUR heart...break my heart with the things that break Your heart.” 
Something about the object lesson my son unknowingly gave me has caused me to pray that prayer on a deeper level.  I want to be moved to compassion, and then action, with the things that break His heart.  A portion of the song “Hosanna” from Hillsong sums it up so beautifully.  Won’t you join me in making this your prayer today? 

“Open up my eyes to the things unseen - show me how to love like You have loved me.  Break my heart from what breaks Yours - Everything I am for Your kingdoms cause....”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are

Recently, I had a hair disaster.   You know, the kind where you just squint your eyes, clench your teeth, square your shoulders and wait for it to grow before you can even think about fixing it.   Yes, it was uneven, but worse than that it was SHORT.    On the morning after, I got out of the shower, dried my hair, and looked in the mirror.  Horrified by what I saw, I realized (fighting back the tears) that it wasn’t just the bad haircut that was getting under my skin.   I felt exposed. 

It was at that moment that I realized that months of hectic traveling schedules, drive thru windows, and a newfound love of cupcake shops had caught up with me.  I was staring at a face that I tried to hide, behind the one thing that made me feel confident…hair.   Now, with the hair gone (and an uneven, bad style to boot), I could no longer hide, disguise, or justify my faults.   It was time for a long hard look in the mirror.  And I didn’t like what I saw.

You see, the reflection staring back at me reminded me of one word…failure.  Let me explain.  

In 2005 the Lord stopped my course and helped me make a U-turn that transformed me spiritually, physically, and emotionally.  He set me free from a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and riding emotional roller coasters related to the weight-loss saga.  He took me on a journey of health…and taught me that His yoke is easy and His burden is light when I learn the beauty of discipline that comes from following Him in mind, body, and soul.   That is another story for another time, but in short, I found myself 106 lbs lighter and completely free. It was not a short term crash diet.  With results that could still be seen 3, 4, and 5 years later, it was a lifetime transformation.  Or so I thought.

Then came that morning in the mirror.  The nagging thought that had been hounding me for months, as my exercise grew lighter and my clothes grew tighter,  was now reality. I could no longer deny the heart-wrenching failure I felt inside.  I had pushed aside the things I knew to be true in a quest for survival during a season of upheaval and change.   In trying to define a new normal for my family, I had lost myself.  I had strayed far from the formula I had found to follow Him in obedience.  I had hidden my fears and failures, covering them up with things that allowed me to justify them away.   My life had fallen out of balance, and my exposed face carried the proof.

Suddenly, as I came to grips with my hair drama and begin to face the truth, the Lord begin to whisper quietly to me.  I began to think about how, as a woman, I hide behind other things in my life. 

How many times have I hidden behind my children, my husband, my roles and responsibilities, my fears?   How often have I ignored the Holy Spirit’s leading to explore a new avenue of service because I am convinced it doesn’t fit my skill set or simply because it makes me uncomfortable?  How often have I lost myself in the name of taking care of my husband and children, convincing myself that my own needs were unimportant in this season of life?  How often have I not taken the time to reach out to someone because I’m afraid of rejection?  How often have I not tried something new because I was sure it would lead to failure?  How often do I, in my quest for perfection, refuse to tackle a task because I think its  impossible to meet my own unrealistic expectations?   How often have I not let my true self be exposed because I am afraid of judgment or disapproval from others?

It was time for some serious introspection.  Like the pieces of a puzzle coming together, I quickly realized that hiding can always be traced back to fear.  

Fear is crippling.  It paralyzes.  It places limits on us and causes us to plateau and give up when we should be climbing to higher heights.  It is one of the enemy’s greatest tools to defeat us and prevent us from birthing the dreams God has placed inside of us.

I thought about the disciples in John 6.  The Bible tells us they were sailing through rough waters and they were terrified.   Then Jesus showed up in a supernatural way, walking on the water, to calm their fears.  After He reassured them that He was there, He told them not to fear.  At that moment, they had a choice to make.  Verse 21 says “Then they were willing to take him into the boat”.  They had to be willing to invite him into their stormy, windy mess.  He didn’t force His way in.   The passage doesn’t say that the sea automatically grew still, even though we know He had the power to make it stop.  What it does say is this “and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading”.  When Jesus showed up and they were willing to invite Him in, He immediately helped them chart the course through their mess and they were able to reach their destination without delay. 

1 John 4 reassures us that God is love.   Love comes from Him.  He defines it.  He lives it.  He gives it.  And He calls us to love - Him, others, and ourselves - the way He loves.  Interestingly, verse 18 states “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear”.  When we invite Jesus into our stormy mess to ride out the waves with us, His love washes away all fear.  In His love, we find freedom and there’s no longer a reason to hide.  When we take hold of His hand, we are quickly able to safely and securely reach our destination.

As I’ve sailed through this year, He’s been whispering to me about the depths of His grace.  He doesn’t call me to be perfect.  He just calls me to be the best me I can be....without fear.  And that requires no more hiding. I’m running after Him with heart exposed and arms wide open to embrace everything He has for me.  

Now if I can just decide what to do with this hair!   J