Tuesday, June 28, 2011

One Big Life




I have not grieved much in my life so this past week was unfamiliar ground for me.  I’ve been sad over losses before but the heaviness and ache I felt this week was a stranger.  Throat closing, eyes stinging, tears spilling, words not coming, couldn’t come......filled my week.  As I sorted through all I was feeling, I realized I wanted to be with two groups of people.  First- those who were grieving this sudden death and second- those I loved who were still here.

On his third trip downstairs after being tucked Saturday night, Brighton said, “He can’t be dead, Mom.”  He stared at me for a bit because I said nothing.  Tears stung quickly. B had been with us all day~ early morning graveside and the funeral and “Aunt Nini’s” house. He had the obituary in his hand that he had found earlier on the kitchen counter.  He turned to head back up and resigned, “But he is though, isn’t he, Mom?”  I nodded.  Tears fell and, thankfully, he didn’t notice.  He went to bed, quiet.

Phones ringing or vibrating after midnight are about as scary as my life gets.  Insane things go through my mind in the eternal seconds of the unknown.  At 11:06 pm Tuesday night, June 21st, “insane” was trumped and Jeff and I and an army of others experienced a great loss for Scott led one big life.  There is a massive, gaping hole in Fort Worth.

I was 29 and a first time pastor’s wife when I met Scott.  Our seminary friends had moved away and Jeff and I felt a bit isolated in our roles.  We were praying through infertility and pastoring challenges and we longed for friends with which to experience life and ministry.  Our church was hosting~via satellite~a prayer and fasting conference when a stately couple, Scott and Janina, showed up from a completely different side of town {which makes perfect sense to me now that I know them}.  Jeff called me at work to make sure I would stop by on my way home because he really wanted me to meet this “neat couple”.  I had no idea ~ NO IDEA ~ what was going on that night, but as Christa Wells sings so beautifully,

 “A thousand things are happening in this one thing;  Like a thousand fields nourished by a single drop of rain.”

In 1999, a thousand things were happening that night in our small church plant’s sanctuary.



Because of their vibrant love for the Savior, we felt an instant attachment to this couple and tried to be with them any chance we could.  Unreservedly, they welcomed us in to their lives, prayed for us and with us, introduced us to all their dearest friends, counseled us and most importantly, loved on us.  The fifteen year age difference didn’t seem to bother anyone.

Scott loved to tease me about my “Southern-ness” -especially my accent which was much more pronounced~and annoying~ ten years ago.  When he found out my mom had attended an all girl’s college, Tift, and part of their motto was to train “polished cornerstones” (Psalm 144:12), that became another point of teasing.  And I loved it.  I remember calling their home right after 9 pm one night profusely apologizing when he answered the phone, and you can imagine, he ran with it and scolded me for calling “at such an ungodly hour”.  A month or two later they came over for dinner and he handed me a little box.  I opened it and found a small gold heart.  Inside the heart were three polished stones.  He didn’t say much when I rolled them around and fingered them in my palm but his smile and hug were enough.  The stones sit in a piece of their perfect “hand me down” furniture he painted and placed in my foyer one afternoon after we moved into our new home six years ago.



As God began to shape a ministry vision in my husband’s heart, He had already sprouted the seeds in the Walker’s heart.  It was a unique vision ~ one that still, after ten years, takes a few sentences to explain.  It takes a different mindset, a broader view of the Church and someone who was willing to take the risk. When, at 30, Jeff shared with Scott what he felt like the Lord was calling him to do, Scott, wholeheartedly, blew wind in Jeff’s sail with his words, his time, his profession, his prayers, his friendship and his checkbook. Even though I trusted Jeff’s decision, Scott’s enthusiasm, support and affirmation brought comfort to me, the “play it safe” one in the marriage, because I knew by then, Scott had a cautious compartment as well.  From the very beginning of Tarrant NET, Scott and Janina and many others we met through the Walkers, gave, prayed, GAVE, hosted dinners for us, GAVE and again loved us and included us in their lives.  They all went out on a limb with us.


Because of the Walkers, we have some of the most amazing friends on the planet.  They introduced us to a whole slew of believers that has blessed our family over and over again.  Because of the Walkers, my Julia was prayed for and celebrated greatly when she arrived in our home.  Because of this couple, we have a son because I prayed with his great aunt every Wednesday with Janina for several years. Because of the Walker’s endorsement in those first couple of years, Tarrant Net got off to a healthy start and is now a valuable network of churches, pastors, intercessors and ministry and community leaders.  In Scott, Jeff had a committed board member, a sounding board, an accountant, a prayer partner, a mentor and most importantly, a faithful friend.

When I turned thirty, with Janina and a few other’s help, Jeff threw a surprise party for me.  It was country and Southern and all about me.  It was in the Walker’s back yard and when I saw Scott that night, I was reminded of why I thought he was so great.  He had on overalls like my Daddy wore sometimes and he was quite comfortable.  I knew then he understood “country” like I did.


A few years later he turned fifty.  His party was much different than mine because it wasn’t all about him.  After dinner was served, he got up and went around to each person, stood behind them, put his hands on their shoulders and told the small group what that person meant to him.  I knew then that I’d never forget that and I told myself that I would do that one day.  It was a special, significant night because Scott had expressed his love for his friends.


Fast forward several years and many sweet memories.... Tarrant NET planned and executed a pastor’s conference.  With our small staff, it was an enormous endeavor.  Twenty four hours in, we broke for dinner and before Jeff and I could think of the details we needed to cover next, Scott and Janina had us in their car headed to a “surprise”.  We drove, we parked, we got into an elevator and we were promptly seated in a beautiful, quiet restaurant at a table set for four.  That hour and a half felt like a weekend~a reprieve from a sea of lists, a respite with dear friends, a place of rest.  They sensed a need and they ministered to us with food, peace and an easy friendship.  It’s who they are.  It’s who Scott was.



His closest friends would call him “Scottie” from time to time.  It’s endearing and intimate and familiar.  I always felt too young to call him that and I looked forward to the day when I felt old enough to do it.  Who knows if I ever really would?  But now that he is not here and because it is so endearing, I will do it.

Your one big life has nourished thousands.  We all thank you.
I will miss you, Scottie. I am glad you are home.

{Read obituary here. And my friend, TJ’s thoughts here.}

515.  hearing phone vibrate in a deep sleep

516.  seeing the body at work functioning beautifully, in the middle of the night

517.  God carrying a brand new widow

518.  grieving with those who grieve

519.  friends not having time, but MAKING time to be together

520.  friends in ministry, the best kind of friends

521.  4 year old’s freedom with those they adore, even lying still in a casket

522.  borrowed blazers

523.  men not ashamed to speak their love and admiration for a truly great man

524.  Jeff having the privilege of being a part of the services

525.  the blessing of spiritual community

526.  Janina, praising her Savior, all the day long

527.  calling Scott Templeton Walker my friend




Monday, June 20, 2011

This is How Emptiness Sings



How much easier it would be to write about Brighton’s Iowa Basic Skills Test results and how I could have saved them a lot of trouble if they had just told me they were actually going to take the time to test his LISTENING skills.  Or I could gush over Camp Calico where Julia spent the last part of her week or even tell you how figuring out carpool last week has challenged me in a way that college physics never did.  I am just thanking God for really smart, flexible, just tell-me-what-to-do friends.  I also feel compelled to write about how my so-called reservedness is undermined by my uncanny ability to spout out, unreservedly, very stupid things.  Mostly to my husband.  Sigh.  All that for other days because I won’t be settled in my spirit until I can get my thoughts out ~ and down~ about my twenty four hours in Sophia, North Carolina.

How some people put their thoughts together so quickly baffles me.  It must be so handy to just know where the message hits you and what the message actually was.  {There were posts flying all over the cyber-planet before I could even get back to Texas!}  After being there about 18 hours, I began to realize that if I didn’t know or understand what definition Ann Voskamp and Christa Wells were artfully tacking on to “emptiness”, I would leave missing the point of the weekend. The word was stitched through the 24 hours like the thread that was holding the eclectic time slot together.  I knew significance from the retreat would completely unravel if I didn’t find a knot in the meaning to hold it fast.

Here are a few sentences/phrases I heard or read about emptiness in the last several days:

~An open emptiness to receive a greater fullness.  A space of willingness.  Emptiness can sing.  Beauty comes from our emptiness.   Channels, conduits, carved out places.  
Christ hears my emptiness. He longs to make music of it.  That emptiness can help me hear Him better.  And if we are empty, that means somewhere at some time we have been broken.  Self-fulfillment, filling with self, it’s what leaves us full of emptiness.~



The first thing I jotted down Friday night was “made in the Image to MAKE in His Image”.  Ann referred to us as “makers”.  The way that is most familiar for me to identify is that I am a homemaker.  I “make” a home in a myriad of ways and it’s certainly my most important “making”.  It provides footing for simple things and transforming, life-changing things.  Full-time, this is what I do.  Meals, memories, order, learning, comfort, schedules, cookies, beauty, traditions, trips, payments, activities and once in a blue moon, fun- this is what I make.  And this is my favorite.  This making is a gift from Him and I need to celebrate it, giving it all I’ve got.






So, am I home-making “in His Image”?  Can I say that I “do it with joy, with humility, and all for His glory”?  Absolutely not, not always ~ and thinking I don’t want to go into the ugliness of picking that apart.  For me, JOY is often lacking.  I can crank out some great stuff as I “make” at home but it can all be MARRED by my lack of JOY in the process of making.  UG--LY.  And once marred, it’s difficult to infuse it with life again. Joy is the secret ingredient I want to douse all of my making in-- especially that of my home.  My family needs it, desperately.  And I do, too.


Emptiness? I think creating a home requires emptiness- emptiness interpreted in these ways:  I could fill my time, my children’s time with all sorts of good things, fun things, beneficial things, but Jeff and I discovered early on that if no one was ever home to experience home, why have one?  So we carve out emptiness ~ places in the calendar to experience our home ~ to be filled with peace, intimacy, beauty, and hopefully, lots of fun:  time at night for reading, watching, playing or talking, sharing meals together, time for resting, time for working as a family, welcoming in the Sabbath, time for creating {making messes, drawing, piddling on the piano, playing} and time for life to just happen.  I also want my kids to be able to rest in their beds at night~in that empty space of time~ and have time to think about their day and possibly allow God to speak to their hearts in the quietness of their rooms.  Pockets of time, early risings and early bedtimes, hardly ever just APPEAR on the white squares of a calendar.  They must be made. In some ways, emptiness must be made.  And then it can sing.

 “That emptiness can help me hear Him better.”

Fifteen years ago, I knew emptiness of a different sort.  My womb was a cavern.  That emptiness became very familiar as I carried it for years.   But because He led me to choose to keep it empty, He filled it in His own perfect way and His way is still singing today all over my house, in all my prayers, in my car, in my writing and in almost every thought I have.  The emptiness proved to be one of my greatest gifts.  He carved out sorrow to make room for the JOY He wanted to give abundantly.  {Thank you, Streams in the Desert for giving me the words for that 9 years ago.}  I gave into the emptiness because He assured me through His Word, He had it all under control and the emptiness would sing a melody I had never heard.  Praise be to God!

“He writes my story into His song, my life for the glory of God.”




~An open emptiness to receive a greater fullness.  A space of willingness.  Emptiness can sing.  Beauty comes from our emptiness.   Channels, conduits, carved out places.~ 

Always, I want to have a “space of willingness”.  It may be to create sense from thoughts, tackle a project that will benefit my family, to “make” for our home,  but the pinnacle of emptiness is to always be seeking for God to fill it~ with His work, His ideas, with His song, His beauty, His creativity.  Then and only then comes the “greater fullness”.  Overflowing... to be given to others.





(Thanks, Ann and Christa for giving us such a beautiful picture with words to sort out in our hearts and minds.  We are blessed by the carved out places within you-- conduits for the glory of God.)

Here is what TJ had to say about the 24 hours.
496.  9 year old girls play acting great original stories



497.  first molar missing - team work



498.  Carload of excited girls



499.  prayed for conversation finally happening

500.  Camp Calico





501.  carpools

502.  mexican with B



503.  Brighton stories from other people

504.  her list



505.  a boat

506.  friends who will do this with my kids



507.  talking with Daddy

508.  ministry friends who have blessed us more than they will ever know (Austin, TX, I am so jealous!)



509.  mole sauce for my enchiladas

510.  time for this



511.  letters to Dannesy



512.  baseball camp enthusiasm!  Everyday.


513. Daddys and daughters dancing



514.  being made a “maker”




Wednesday, June 15, 2011

475.  the blessing of “permission" to leave home

476.  stewardesses that repeat themselves- twice {equals getting off the wrong airplane and on the right airplane}

477.  small airports

478.  serenading stewardess

479.  pita chips and ginger ale

480.  Soperton hospitality transplanted in North Carolina



481.  childhood friends........and their beautiful children

482.  Paula, running for my Momma



483.  deer, still at dusk

484.  warm pound cake at bedtime

485.  Jesus lovin’ country girl with a violin

486.  gal named Christa whose lyrics and melodies captivate



487.  quiet farmer’s wife from Canada who who writes and speaks words to ponder

488.  experiencing it with her

489.  voices and instruments by the lake



490.  a friend who can carry the conversation when I cannot

491.  sore stomach muscles from laughing

492.  Dramamine {my new best recommendation}

493.  son in my lap before I knew the car door had opened

494.  daughter lighting all candles to welcome me home

495. “[His writing] my story into His song, my life for the glory of God

{I still find myself a bit muddled in my thoughts about the weekend-- and days pass without time to clear them.  Soon, I hope, I can “frame the clouds” moving and morphing through fingers and keys.)


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Expectations



When this posts I will be on a plane headed to North Carolina for a retreat.  I sit here just hours before I leave thinking, “What in the world am I doing?”  Leaving my family, being absent on Sunday morning, flying east without seeing my extended family, spending hard earned money.... all because I couldn’t shake the idea of going!  In February, when I read only a short paragraph describing the small {75 people} twenty-four hour retreat, I immediately felt pulled and at the same time, my enduring practicality revved its engine and told me all the reasons why it would never happen~ mainly, that I wouldn’t take the jump to click on the “register now” button.  Of course, Jeff didn’t blink.  He encouraged me from the first mention.  A gift.  Truly.

Here’s the short description I read:

“Women who make with paint and cameras and music and words, with books and babies and textiles and food and all things of everyday, uncommon beauty... 


For every woman praying she will "live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might." (Colossians 1:10)


We have this in common and look forward to sharing a few hours together as sisters, encouraging each other, singing truth, reflecting on what it means to follow our Creator God into a creative life.  


How do we watch for beauty in ordinary?  How do we make music from emptiness? How do we carve space for creativity when we barely have time to brush our hair?   


Will you come and be part of the conversation?”


See why I felt the pull??  I feel it now after reading it again.  I don’t consider myself creative.  I am a great copier.  If I were of a criminal mind, I could forge just about anything and be very successful. (except decorative lamp shades- just keeping it honest)  But since I am married to a preacher, I copy things like a great menu, some furniture arrangement I saw somewhere, some wall grouping in so and so’s house or a display I saw in a store front.  So that was a hurdle I had to clear before signing up.  How am I creative?  Will they let me in?  I took expansive license in the definition of creativity and clicked on the button.] “register now”.

She will be leading worship {Buy all of her music!!} and she will be speaking {Buy her book!!} and she made the leap and is on the plane with me!

And now I am flying with expectations for Him to meet me there in a unique way.  Pray it may be so if you feel so inclined.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

From the Backseat #17 Chromosomes

Like a brick.  Expected at some point but still, a brick.

 “Mom, so did I get all 46 chromosomes from my birth mother?”



There are a couple of reasons her question made me grip the steering wheel a little tighter~ one, as I have said before, these significant questions come at the oddest moments like when I am thinking about the car in front of me or the condition of my homemade pedicure.  Two, I am in the beginning of researching exactly how I want to tell her about the traditional way a family is formed.  Birthfathers have not come up yet in our conversations about adoption.  I always wondered when she would figure it out-- if it would be when we talked about how babies are conceived or if she would just innately know that if she had a birthmother, she must have a birthfather.



For days before the question was posed to me, she had been thinking.  Our wonderful children’s museum had set her wheels in motion.  The genetic exhibit had drawn her in and left her wondering alone in her thoughts.  And weeks later, she asks me a big question from the backseat.

Mere seconds pass while I think, “How do I answer that when we’ve not talked about conception?”, “Lord, do we have the talk right here and now as I pass under the 183 bridge on Bryant Irvin following a black car with really obnoxious stickers on it?”, “How will realizing there is a birthfather affect her heart?”, and “God, is Brighton ready for all this too? He’s sitting right beside her!”

Even as I regurgitate the story here, I feel the same frustration Jeff does when I try to retell any story to him.  It all goes fuzzy-- not remembering what I actually said versus all that ran through my head.

Trying to make meaningful eye contact and focus the road, I told her that she and Brighton both have a birthfather- that it always takes a man and a woman to have a baby.  So in her understanding of pregnancy, she said, “So my birthmother was married?”  I shake my head no. “Oh, Mom.....it’s ‘that’ again, that divorce thing.  It makes me so sad.”  In her innocence she assumed her birthparents were married at one time in order to have her.  I neither countered nor agreed.  I just let it be.  For a second.



And the question of the ages, the one that has been pondered patiently and argued harshly for centuries-- wrapped up in a nine year old girl’s curiosity of her genesis,

“She made a bad choice, didn’t she?”  ~undercurrent this momma heard, “Am I the result of a bad choice?"

Where is James Dobson when you need him?  Or Tim Keller?  Or even good ol’ Charles Stanley?   How can the origin of all these chromosomes get so complicated?

But more than that, without really knowing, she pondered the mystery of Romans 8:28~  God’s sovereign ability to work all things together for our good.

So here is what I said heading east on 20, “Her choice may not have been a good one, but God knew before He created the universe what her choice would be and, so, He made a beautiful plan for you.”

I wanted to go on......."and for your Mom and for your Dad, and for your grandparents, and cousins and friends" that BECAUSE He brought her, we all experience the blessing, the grace... of her.

Everyday.



Her middle name is grace.  Karis {charis}.  The definition on her birth announcement reads, “the absolutely free expression of the lovingkindness of God.”

I love Phillip Yancey’s writing and I will never forget this example he used. I think one day, I’d like for her to understand it like this. He spoke of laying aside his chess game for 20 years and picking it up again to play a “truly fine chess player”.

“When we played a few matches, I learned what it is like to play against a master. Any classic offense I tried, he countered with a classic defense. If I turned to more risky, unorthodox techniques, he incorporated my bold forays into his winning strategies. Although I had complete freedom to make any move I wished, I soon reached the conclusion that none of my strategies mattered very much. His superior skill guaranteed that my purposes inevitably ended up serving his own.  Perhaps God engages our universe, his own creation, in much the same way. He grants us freedom to rebel against its original design, but even as we do so we end up ironically serving his eventual goal of restoration. If I accept that blueprint-- a huge step of faith, I confess—it transforms how I view both good and bad things that happen. Good things, such as health, talent, and money, I can present to God as offerings to serve his purposes. And bad things, too—disability, poverty, family dysfunction, failures—can be redeemed as the very instruments that drive me to God. A skeptic might accuse me of flagrant rationalization, arguing backwards to make evidence fit a prior conclusion. Yes, exactly. A Christian begins with the conclusion that a good God will restore creation to its original design, and sees all history as proceeding toward that end. When a Grand Master plays a chess amateur, victory is assured no matter how the board may look at any given moment. In a miracle of grace, even our personal failures can become tools in God's hands.”

Winning strategies.  Complete freedom.  His goal of restoration.  Victory is assured.  A miracle of grace.

So as grace covers me, I pray to be able to lay a foundation of grace in her life that she may be able to walk in it and live in it.  I pray for that day she will see clearly that by His lovingkindness, He knew the origin of her chromosomes before.....

Before.

I pray that as grace covers her genesis, as grace brings it out to the light~ dancing and shimmering only as a miracle of grace can, she can rest knowing she, no matter where her chromosomes originated,  is perfectly put together and perfectly adored.  All of her, all of us... tools in God’s hands.

458.  Rachel... third summer in a row

459.  Gazpacho

460.  car full with friends

461.  emails from North Carolina

462.  movies that stir the heart

463.  kids’ grins jumping off dock

464.  a pool to swim in lined with friends

465.  rice krispie treats soft from the sun

466.  a date with Jeff

467.  pictures from my Daddy’s phone of three of my favorite men (RJ, did I just call you a man??)



468.  trip anticipation

469.  birthday lunches

470.  laughter from the bedroom

471.  bedside fireflies

472.  kids who can “hang” with meetings

473.  puppet shows in my den




474.  chromosomes