Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Moon

A Word. An Invitation. Hope. It was exactly what I needed. There are seasons in my life that I keep plugging along putting my feet in the familiar tracks of faith without the intimate interaction that I long for from the Lord. I press on because of His amazing track record in my life, because I committed to when I was eleven, because I am convinced it is worth it and because I have two pair of miniature eyes watching who, unknowingly, are desperate for me to. So, there are the times when my “plugging” gets awfully tiresome, making sloppy tracks and He sees. He sees. The great thing is that He knows exactly what I need and brings it in like a soaking rain on cracked ground. In this case, He brought it to a bedside late at night while, parched, I watched a little boy sleep.

Having regret for my words directed to the kids earlier that day, I went upstairs to see them-- watch them sleep, kneel by their beds and pray. It had been one of those days I felt as if a heavy cloak had been draped across my shoulders and with it came a perpetually furrowed brow, an irritated tone, the inability to answer another question and an empty laugh tank when it came to silliness. Nothing I did could shove it off. Beside Brighton’s bed, confessing that I didn't want to parent the way I had been and wondering what was it going to take to get even one step closer towards being the Mom I wanted to be, I felt the Lord telling me to just "ask for the moon”. “Ask for all you want when you dream of parenting.” The phrase "above and beyond" kept coming to mind as well which then pulled from memory Ephesians 4:20, "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!" Now, God’s word is precious to me and I am in utter awe by how He can give it a heartbeat while it is sitting in my lap, coming through my Ipod, resounding from a pulpit or dancing through my memory. However, this particular verse reminds me of when the song “Shout to the Lord” hit the music scene. It was what I like to call the “trump” song. Sing this one and it is sure to get your congregation “on fire” for the Lord or experience some “moving” worship time. Honestly, there were times I just couldn’t sing it. I feel this verse went through a time similar to this. It was everywhere I turned—on the front of bulletins, on church marquees, on walls painted as a mural, on sale in frames, on mugs, mouse pads, and placemats in every Christian bookstore. So, chalk it up to my stubbornness………I never committed it to memory. Well, that night, as it purposefully marched through mind, He not only let me hear the heartbeat, but He breathed life into it as well.

He was asking, no, urging me to ask for the above and beyond, to ask with freedom and confidence (vs. 12) "for the moon" and for the "immeasurably more" that I yearn for in my life and in my parenting. He would delight in my asking because it was ALL His to give. He gave me a simple invitation. He gave me hope and I grabbed hold. Kind of.

Part 2- a few days later……

I had one of those great conversations with a friend that when I look back on it, I think, how did that happen when all of our kids were there? We were not interrupted to play referee umpteen dozen times and were able to get some significant thoughts out. It wasn’t planned. It just happened. Even the part of the conversation that came over the loud speaker to my heart was not even addressed to me. She used the word “retrain” in the context of someone trying to retrain the way she thought about a certain subject. I thought about that word a lot. Retrain. Valuable word. So, of course, the next morning when I opened Andrew Murray’s Daily in His Presence devotional, the scripture reference was Ephesians 4:20. Of course. So as I read, I realized that “asking for the moon” wasn’t really my normal mode of operation. Tentativeness would describe my demeanor when asking for anything. I even feel bad when my Starbucks order gets too complicated—and then to ask for ice water on top of that?? My tendency is not to ask for much from anyone. One, so I won't be any trouble and two, so I won't be disappointed. The first seems noble. The second is more of a protection. Retraining was sounding critical.

So after that revelation, I had a little review session. I CANNOT ask too much of the Almighty God of the universe and He will never ultimately disappoint. I will never be too much trouble for Him. He will never grow weary of all of my requests, all of my quirks, all of my regrets, or all of my needs. He wants all of it. He will ALWAYS come through and the amazing part is, He WANTS to. He really could give me the moon if He wanted to or if He thought that would be best for me. ANYTHING, He can give me. If I truly believe this, I will place all of my apples in His basket and He will not drop a one. (He might ask me to, but He won’t lose a one.) All I am and all I have are safe with Him and His character will not allow Him to get impatient or to disappoint. He is incapable.

So here it is -- my “moon” request-- RETRAIN my thought process when it comes to the way I think about asking from You. Let me ask with abandon--- with my seemingly unreachable dreams. (Andrew Murray used the description "cultivated large thoughts".) I want to ask without apology what I know You want me to have--living at home in the Spirit in the way I relate to Jeff and the kids, the way I parent the children, and the attitude in which I serve my family “making” my home. The “immeasurably more”. And when I feel this shroud wrapping around me, help me to spread wide my arms to You so it cannot find a resting place on my shoulders. Help me to put my family above my own petty irritations and extend to them grace after grace after grace. You have purposes for me as a parent, as a wife, as a person that I have not even thought of yet, so I ask for that which I know nothing about.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

From the Backseat # 6 A Key

I decided to turn off the T.V*. about a year ago for my kids. With much remorse, I even gave up our popcorn, cheese and apple lunch on Fridays in front of “Little Einsteins” and “Charlie and Lola” with hopes of increasing the “I love books” quotient in our home. The result? Julia has faired better than Brighton. She will sit and listen until I grow hoarse from reading. Brighton? Well, let’s just say his ears are still in training. He’s one that will get on eye level with the edge of the right hand side of the book to gauge how many pages are left. He has found books more useful for things like holding his Hot Wheels track at an incline or being a foundation for building "New York City" or the "Texas Rangers Stadium" out of dominoes or for securing forts made of blankets. However, he is beginning to request his favorites and his book list happens to be growing. For this I am thankful because I can recite “Curious George Gets a Medal” (or “Goes Camping”, “Makes a Pizza”, “Goes to the Airport”) in my sleep. I bet he can too.

Almost everyday, we all pick some books off of the shelf for our own little story time. Julia is always in for the long haul contentedly melting into my side and never fails to ask for “one more”. B is good for as long as his goldfish last and sometimes longer depending on what we are reading. (At times, I have even resorted to suckers. Starburst suckers last the longest.) Even if he doesn't last long, he still loves the thought of it. Because of Julia’s enthusiasm for books, I was so excited when she began learning to read. I kept thinking about how great it was going to be for her to pick a book up that we brought home from the library and not have to wait, impatiently, for me to read it to her. As we rounded the half way mark into the school year, I knew she could read but I wasn’t seeing the reward of her pursuing it. As her mother, I was confused, but as her teacher, I was irritated. Thankfully, I knew not to push it, so I waited.

A month or so ago, we just happened to hit a garage sale of a former elementary school teacher who was selling most of her books. For me, it was better than being at a serious clearance sale at Half Price Books. I picked up some early readers that were on our first grade reading list and had Julia carry them to the car. As I watched her in the rear view mirror, I noticed she was flipping through them looking at the pictures - early readers are not known for Caldecott worthy illustrations- so I said, “Hey, pumpkin, you can READ those books. That is why I bought them because I knew you could.” “No, that’s okay. I just want to look at the pictures.” Mother. Teacher. Confusion. Irritation. Then a story I had read zipped through my mind and I thought, it was worth a shot. So making as much eye contact as I could with her driving through Tanglewood I said, “Hey, Julia, I just want you to know that I love to read to you and that we will always snuggle up on the couch and read books together even when you read as well as I do. It is just something our family is going to do. You know, we will even read together until you get married and move away if you want to.” Her eyes never left the rear view mirror. Her face was content but she still had a question waiting. “Well, Mommy, what about when I have children and come home for a visit? Will you read to me then?” I don’t have to tell you what I said but I dream of the day when I get to read some of these same books to my grandchildren and have my daughter listen in and remember. Well, that day, she read two books before we got home and, now, a couple of months later, we don’t have a book at home on her level that she hasn’t read… a few times.

The story that came to mind was from a book in which the author explained how she pretended forever that she could not read because it was the only time during her young life that she had her mother all to herself, physically close to her, so close that she could smell the cold cream on her face. This was something she was not willing to give up, so she pretended she could not read. I don’t know for sure if this was a fear of Julia’s that I needed to expose and chase away, but a key fit the lock somewhere in our conversation. I underestimate the value and necessity of closeness and physical touch with my kids. This revelation from the backseat is in big bold letters for me and won’t soon be forgotten.

*Turning off the T.V.-- I had to do it for a while to break the habit. I definitely replaced it with more reading time together and they figured out fun things to do with each other. Once they went a couple months without even asking for it, we decided to make watching a very special treat and something we did WITH them, for the most part. Sometimes it is inevitable and the best choice for certain situations.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Something Extra

500 backpacks, 1500 school supply kits, 1500 school uniforms, 150 volunteers and about 2000 people. Last spring, under the leadership of the Project Unite team of Tarrant NET, children from 24 schools in the southeast area of Tarrant county were offered free school supplies and uniforms. Cards were sent home with the kids asking parents what their needs were and on those cards that flooded back into the office, they let us know. Great needs. Great opportunities. Today was the second Back to School Extravaganza.
I was able to go for most of the morning and just like any other time I experience one of these events put on by multiple churches of different races and denominations, I left inspired and amazed by the body of Christ. I think when God's work is carried out this way, there is always a little something extra I experience. I can hope that it is the blessing of unity that Jesus talks about in John chapter 17. With wide eyes, I watched most of the morning through my camera and what I saw were sweet children, grateful families and the body of Christ at its best. I think they experienced a little something "extra" too.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Making the Connection

This one’s from Jeff. He writes once a month for the Tarrant NET newsletter—not his favorite thing on his to-do list. I don’t think he minds the writing. I think it's just the time it takes, the seemingly frequent deadline and a preference for the other things on his work list. This particular article captured my attention more than usual because he included Brighton, so I decided to post it. Jeff is a great communicator and has always been more “well read” than I, so it doesn’t surprise me that he records his thoughts well.
Kids down, cup of coffee in hand, talking to Jeff is my most favorite part of the day. If only I could remember every great conversation after eight. This is where a "blog by Jeff" would come in handy-- for me anyway. Not going to happen. When I read this, I couldn’t help but think of Julia and Brighton and how much easier and fuller (used in the best sense of the word) my days would be if I would just resolve to “enter in” their world more times than not. Since relationships permeate every part of our lives, you'll have no problem hearing this one with your heart.

Making the Connection

My son sat in the middle of the carpet in Tinkertoy chaos, crying in a way that you know is not crying but instead chanting, “I can’t do it!” The truth is, he could do it and had done it on several occasions, but on this sad Saturday, he was suddenly incapacitated. With the wisdom of many years and a few Tinkertoy experiences myself, I said, “just start connecting them.” “I can’t dooooooooo iiiiiiiiiiit!” was the response. With some reservation, I resolved myself to a relatively short interruption to my Saturday task list and sat down to make some familiar wooden connections. An amazing transformation took place that was just short of a miracle. In the twinkling of an eye, my boy began to make the connections that were just moments before impossible. In fact, he could make them so well that he was now telling me how to “dooooooo iiiiiiiiiiit”! As I sat with the Tinkertoy task almost completed, I made the connection. Relationships make all the difference in the world.
In our adult world, where for many, tasks are king and relationships are the pawns in pursuit, we try to build without making real connections. When we do this, in the end it will all come crashing down. Sadly, then, when we are in the midst of the chaos, we will regress to, “I can’t do it.”
In relation to the task of making “disciples of all nations”, which the Lord Jesus Himself gave us as followers, we must realize that without making real connections with other believers, churches, and Bible believing denominations, we will continue to find ourselves in chaos, chanting, “I can’t do it.”

Monday, August 4, 2008

Making Pictures

It is no surprise to anyone that I like to “make” pictures. “Ma- king” pictures must be a colloquialism from Small Town Georgia in which I grew up. I never realized it didn’t quite make sense until someone decided to tease me about the expression in her best Southern accent. (Coming from a Yankee, it sounded more like…………….well, like a Yankee trying to sound Southern.) Before I hit double digits, I began snapping pictures from a genuine bulky Polaroid able to produce a whopping 10 pictures per cartridge right before my eyes-- a true wonder to watch at just eight years old. With the color just a little “off”, the images were of Buffy, my Siamese cat, my favorite dolls or my brother, Blake, playing Atari or watching TV. Then I graduated to the point and shoot camera that was much like the first generation of what we now know as “disposable cameras”. (C-110, maybe?) There were more pictures of my cat, pictures of my room, pictures of spend-the-night company, pictures of my parents who always looked surprised or irritated (and rightly so), and my brother doing “amazing” things, my favorite of which is when we set up the ladder on the basketball goal so I could take pictures of him “slam dunking” the ball. For my first C-110, I had to buy the flashes (flash bulbs) separately, know when to use them and, the hardest part, have them with me when I needed them. My second one, the deluxe model, had a built-in flash which, again, I had to know when to flip the switch and wait for the orange light to flicker the signal indicating it was ready to illuminate one of my all important subjects. Fortunately for me, Daddy’s drugstore had a developing service—you know, the kind where you fill out the information on the envelope, slip in your film cartridge to send it off and actually wait a couple of days or so to see your special images. The best days were those I had pictures to be picked up after school—delayed gratification at its best. I cringe thinking how much my parents must have spent on developing my really bad pictures.

When I entered 9th grade, our little church hired a new youth minister, who also LOVED to “make” pictures, but his were different than mine. Much better and in a whole different category. I began listening to him as he took pictures and watching him use his camera trying to figure out why his pictures were so much more eye-catching and interesting than mine. Just as I have learned to do a lot of other things, I started copying him. I quickly decided I needed a new camera. During my junior year of high school, after lots of wishing and hoping, I unwrapped a small black 35 mm Pentax with an automatic zoom AND flash for Christmas. It was by far my favorite gift and it served me well. I finished high school clicking away with that little boxy camera right on through my years at the University of Georgia from my “welcome party” given by my roommate to the traditional graduation pictures taken “under the arches” on Broad Street. That hard working Pentax took pictures of mine and Jeff's honeymoon and beyond ushering me right into the digital age of picture taking.

Enter children followed by a gazillion photos. I HAVE to say, thank goodness for digital photography. I OUGHT to be the best there is, considering how many times I have peered through the lens and pressed my right index finger down on the “magic” button. Magic? Yes—in every way. Like nothing else can, the camera can capture a moment squeezed in between making beds and pb&j's that otherwise would be forgotten
, or a place no one wants to leave or an expression that tells the whole story or a certain someone that we wish we could stand next to with arm around more often or a season of our children that makes us want to glue the calendar pages down. Definitely magic.

I know my limitations. I have seen great photography and mine is not. I just happen to be somebody who likes to take pictures, to look through a lens and see the kids who walk down our stairs every morning or something else that makes me happy. I am not one that minds watching an entire morning or afternoon through the lens of a camera if it means getting a really great picture. Most of my pictures, no one will ever see except Jeff, me and the kids. However, every now and then, I capture something special with which to adorn the walls and surfaces of our home giving you no choice but to look at them. Most likely, in December, I send one to your house, but 99% of the results of my snapping habits are just for us and oh, what joy they bring to me!

For this novice, the secret is in the quantity. When I said a “gazillion” I meant it. My genius philosophy is that if you press the magic button enough times, you are bound to pull something really wonderful out of the hat.