Friday, September 13, 2013

THE Seat...

Getting me to this spot, on these keys, has been a week long event.  I knew at the start of the week that I wanted to write something (a lot from the encouragement of my honey to write with intention), but I just didn't have anything making my heart beat enough to spill out of my fingers~until now.  I like to write about a lot of things and hopefully those 'other things' will be blog worthy at some point, but currently it really has to be about my kids...HIS kids.  If you read my last entry you got a little introduction to my Hallie-girl...oh man she lights me up and makes me melt almost simultaneously!  Soon I will introduce you to my Parker-man too, he is literally (it's sappy and corny) my heart walking around outside my body!'s just them...together....making me a me an opportunity......and me taking it.

I have said all week that my 'mama-heart' was super tender for no reason that I could pin down.  It occurred to me that all those non-pinable moments are for that very purpose in and of themselves~to be experienced, not to be explained. I am not sure if you have heard of Ann Voskamp, but she is my new best friend (she just may or may not actually know that) she lives in Canada, with her Farmer husband and 6 children and she writes.....amazing spirit inspired words that speak always to the precise non-pinable moments of my own heart.  I recently finished her book "One Thousand Gifts, A dare to life fully right where you are" and it redirected me in a AH-HA moment way!  It's a must if you love words, want to learn how to live Echaristically, or just need a jolt.  She also has a blog called aholyexperience that I would recommend in a knock-down-your-door-tie-you-to-your-computer sort of way!  This week she is writing about her oldest leaving for college and the process of holding tight, letting go, and being brave all at once.  It is so worth your life to read her September 6th, and 11th entries (although all of them are good,these are the ones that ripped me open this week).

It could be that I am for the first time in my mommy-hood, alone at home during school hours that my heart is extra tender in reflection these days.  With my Hallie-girl starting Kindergarten this year it is the first time in 8 years that I get to walk back in the door alone.  I walk into silence, poor a cup of coffee, sit down either in my so comfy chaise or on my patio equipped with a crisp breeze and enjoy uninterrupted completely glorious time alone with my Bible and my Creator (that was the longest run-on sentence of my life, but just go with it).  Can you tell I didn't have a clue what to do with myself??!!!  Oh whoa is me, I know.  Whatever it is, I have sat with my own tenderness this week.  I have soaked up every word read from Ann's blog, or my Bible, and heard words that pierced me from one of my Pastors just yesterday and asked, 'What is it, God, that you want me to experience in this?"  

It's a seat.  THE seat.  God has pulled up a chair that fits no one else but me in the lives of my littles.  I have spent 8 years 'making' things good for them, protecting them, sheltering them from harm or 'bad people' and molding them into tiny little versions of crazy adults.  BUT, have I ever sat in the THE seat?  The seat that says, "I love you deep...even when you mess up" OR "I will cheer you on when you do something that is different than how I would do it" OR "You are worth every bit of fight I have in me to always point you to the Cross"  I think there are LOTS of times that I bumped into the seat and  made a valiant effort of trying to sit down, but I am not sure I have owned it for it's purpose.  Mama's we have a front row seat of INFLUENCE with our kids.  As my Pastor said yesterday, 

"the hardest part of parenting is the part when taking away the TV (behavior modification) is replaced with bruises on your knees (spiritual modification) because of how much you get to beg Jesus to do only what he can do in the lives of your children."  ~Pastor Helen Musik

She was referring to parenting 'Adult Children', but I was hit square in the nose with what she said.  Boy I can behavior modify until I turn purple, but why aren't I bruising my knees??  My littles are 8 and 5; even though I panicked this week about having ONLY 10 more years with my Parker-man (Lord willing), I can start bruising my knees NOW.  Hard work creates callouses, Girls!!  

One of my Hot-Mama friends who is the Queen of her castle of 4 men-in-the-making, said it so sweetly this morning.  I was telling her how I couldn't believe how everything that my heart had been hearing through my Ann-friend and my Pastor Helen-friend this week were so connected and spot on. She said this (well she posted it in response to my facebook post because cool moms talk to each other through postings~ha!) 

"It is Grace that our hearts are so in tune with this while there is still time."  

Wow!  That's it.  We don't have to wait until they are packing for college or even until they start to face 'real world issues' before we sit in the seat! If we do, it could be full of regret and we will beat ourselves up with worry about did we do enough? are they prepared? please just let them be 8 and 5 again!!   WE HAVE NOW!!!! 

'So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you.  We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit.  All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.' Colossians 1:9-10

The seat is being saved for you, Mamas!  Own it!  Occupy it!  Sit that pretty little behind in it and REFUSE to give it up!  Be present in letting your eyes soak up what needs to be stored in your heart! We have to stop being consumed with the unimportant tasks and start being intentional with the purpose of a lifetime. We haven't missed our chance to come alongside God in his will for their lives. Something I pray all the time is "Lord, don't let me get in the way of what YOU want to do in Parker/Hallie's lives".  I am so so thankful that my tender, non-pinable heart has direction today with a  new eye-opening, seat-owning, opportunity with my littles.  Here is ONE of my favorite lines from Ann's Sept 6th entry:

'Be brave. In all your crazy, be brave, boys(or girls~added by me). And I’ll be there, in heart or in body, to witness the first dates and the failed dreams and it’s okay to cry, boys, your tears are safe with me.

Because the truth is: Life’s a trial and everyone needs a witness — someone on your front row, someone on your sidelines, someone to clap you across the finish line when everyone else has gone home.
Everyone needs a witness — and I’ll be yours.'  ~Ann Voskamp

Get comfy in The Seat....will you?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

He gave me a GIRL

"What in the world just happened?" Is the question I have been asking myself lately.  You see, it's like this; God in his infinite wisdom chose to make me the MOM of two perfectly beautiful children~yay!!  I love being a mom, pj days, popcorn for breakfast days, no rules days, breakfast for dinner days, and my favorite~snuggle in bed days.....and then there are other days.  Like today for example (or any day this week to be honest).  Those days when after you have, only by the grace and protection of God, dropped them off at school dressed, with clean teeth, and at the very least hair that is a step down from the witch hazel look they got up with, that you ask the question, 'WHAT in the WORLD just happened?!"  

Back to the infinite wisdom of God.  He gave me a girl.  I am not sure why HE thought I could handle this, or how He thinks I will emerge after 18 years with all of my sanity (and maybe that's not His plan at all).  Nonetheless, He gave me a girl.  Not just any girl!  Nope because He has unexplained, never to be understood reasoning and knowledge about my level of tolerance that I am not privy to.  This girl is gorgeous with huge brown eyes that daddy shared with her, long eyelashes (also thanks to daddy), a creative imagination that blows me off my feet, and a red-button connection with her CREATOR that this mom stands in awe of...AND  EMOTIONS (which are 150% derived from the genetic swimming pool of her mother).  This being said, I have no idea why He picked me to steward His girl.  Her daddy has a way with her that is like a warm knife cutting through butter.  She ADORES him and the feelings are mutual.  I can watch him talk her into wearing tennis shoes for gym day before she even knows what has happened; while green envious smoke starts shooting from my ears.  Just moments before there was a five star fit with me about combing her hair (I'm not talking about 'let mommy make it adorably cute with curls, and braids, and a big giant bow on top' combing), literally just combing the hair no accessories involved...nope, just a combing.  This five star fit is complete with shaking, screaming, flinging the head back and forth in an effort to give me "hair-combing" target practice; and I still have to tell her she has to brush her teeth....CALGON take me AWAY.  

Somewhere during the combing fit, teeth brushing, and the tennis shoe bliss we are 4 minutes late.  FOUR!  So don't get all, "seriously, Summer it's four minutes" on me.  You know what happens when you are FOUR minutes behind schedule at the exit ramp to school...instead of being number 2 to turn left across two lanes of traffic you are automatically number 4,325!  That's right and then there's the line to wait for the nice police officer who risks his life every morning in crazy school traffic to tell me I can turn into the school.  Said line is now stretching back over the over pass when FOUR minutes earlier I could have been the next in line.  AND don't even get me started on the line that actually leads to the drop off doors of the school....seriously!!  

FOUR minutes earlier she would have already been walking in the doors on her way to her class where she would be putting away her Hello Kitty backpack, sitting nicely at her desk with a coloring page ready to start her day...
FOUR minutes later, she is walking in the doors on her way to her class where she will be putting away her Hello Kitty book bag and sitting nicely at her desk with a coloring page ready to start her day.

  Well, okay so FOUR minutes doesn't make a hill of beans difference, but the point is to a mom who has had an EMOTIONALLY charged better believe that it does!  I am sitting in that car in that line wondering how many times I could actually bang my head against a wall before I was out cold, and begging Jesus to teach me how to be her mom because I am clueless.  I can feel tears stinging my eyes (you remember the percentage of emotions my girl got from me don't you) the grip on the steering wheel is getting tighter as I replay all the events of the morning~every last star in the five star fit....and I have labeled yet another morning with this girl as a Mommy-Fail.  She sees my ugly face more than she see my loving one, and she sees selfishness more than she see Jesus shining through her mama sometimes.

And then as we are in the line waiting to approach the doors to her school, you know that one where FOUR minutes didn't really matter.  This gorgeous girl, unfastens her seat belt, leans forward from the back seat with elbows on the armrest, looking at me with those daddy-inspired brown eyes and says "Mommy, I can't wait for tomorrow, it's P.J. day in my class".  

REALLY?  Just like that, when I took the 10+ minutes of driving time from home to school to let my emotions infuriate me more (and just when I was about to give the MOMMY is in charge speech) this girl, the one HE GAVE ME is over it and not only over it, but over it with a heart exploding with the excitement of wearing pj's to school tomorrow!  

Immediately, I have peace.  Peace that Jesus gave her to speak to me.  A permission to "just get over it".  She gave me grace in the way she called me "Mommy" with a sweetness in her voice and the way she wanted to share with me the most exciting thing in her little 5 year old life~It's p.j. day at school tomorrow....

I won't admit that my mind is already orchestrating tomorrow mornings combing event as I try to convince her that wearing PJ's to school doesn't really mean you can also sport the bed-head hair do.  I will admit that asking the question, 'What in the world just happened?' was one of the best ones I could have asked myself.  I still don't know what HE was thinking when He gave me a girl, but he surely knew I needed her.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's a Gift....and it can be yours.

I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don't be troubled or afraid.  John 14:27 NIV

'There are times when our peace is based upon ignorance, but when we awaken to the facts of life, inner peace is impossible unless it is received from Jesus.  When Our Lord speaks peace, He makes peace; His words are ever "spirit and life."  Have I ever received what Jesus speaks?  "My peace I give to you"  it is a peace which comes from looking into His face and realizing His undisturbedness.' Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, Classic Edition

It was no coincidence that this was today's reading in 'ole Oswald.  Actually, every time I engage with Oswald, it is far from coincidental...sometimes it just plain freaks me out.  There hasn't been a time when I sat to open the pages of his book that it isn't spot-on, punch-me-in-the-face purposeful!  Did you catch the question he asked of us?  "Have I ever received what Jesus speaks?"  I caught it. I stayed on it long. Swelling in my heart was the answer to the question; burning its way to my lips as if I couldn't get it out fast enough.  "YES!"  My answer is "YES!"  I have received what Jesus speaks...and that is why after 1 year and 7 months almost to the day of my last entry, I am writing this.  I needed to tell you the story, my story; the one that Jesus has written about me.  This blog has several past entries, written by me, from a heart that wasn't quite whole.  They are all true stories about my life experiences, ones full of tears and laughter and God encounters...and they all matter in His pursuit of me and I would choose to live them again.  

"Ozzie", as he is affectionately called around our house,  goes on to say: 'Reflected peace is the proof that you are right with God because you are at liberty to turn your mind to Him.  If you are not right with God, you can never turn your mind anywhere but on yourself.  If you allow anything to hide the face of Jesus Christ from you, you are either disturbed or you have a false security.'  OUCH!  See what I mean...that was a straight up punch in the face!!! This was me not so long ago: self focused and falsely secure.  

My life has been marked by the "Look Good, Do Good, Be Good" mentality. I was really good at being good and really exhausted. I grew up in church, went twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays.  I had amazing grandparents who made a real effort to get me there when my parents couldn't and I rarely missed as a child.  I talked to Jesus and learned how to tell him I loved him because of a song I memorized from Psalty the Singing Songbook (come on, don't pretend you didn't jam it out to Psalty back in the day).  The problem was that nobody really told me (or if they did, it didn't sink in) that Jesus didn't just belong at church and that I could have a real relationship with Him. 

Then I became a teenager (do I really need to elaborate on this...really?)  Pretty much did my thing, attitude and all.  There were lots of times when the 'being good' part of my plan kind of fell to the wayside, but by God's grace I made it to young adulthood without any major derailments.  College was more of the same, but by this time my exhaustive efforts of "Good" were resulting in insecurity, anxiety, and fear.  I would bounce in and out of church whenever it was convenient, or if I am being transparent here and I am, if I felt like getting out of bed to get there on time.

And then enters my knight in shining armor!  Okay, so it wasn't like that at all, but stay with me.  Through a series of events (a terribly unhealthy relationship, parting ways with my roommate of 4 years,  and overwhelming anxiety and insecurity) I found myself applying for a job at a local restaurant.  It was a last ditch effort to make new friends and get out of my funk.  Long story short (because this is a whole other story that is my second favorite to tell next to this one of my redemption) I met my future husband.  He told me how important Jesus was in his life and I thought, "Hey I believe in Jesus, so this is going to work out just fine."  

We had begun attending a new church and in August of 2000 I took a step of courage toward the cross.  I left my seat during an alter call.  This was such a big deal because it meant being known and exposed and wrestling with the thoughts in my head about what everyone must think about me!  Afterall, I was back on track of Look Good, Do Good, Be Good.  I knelt down front and got to dump off a lot of things that day.  When I went back to my seat I had a new fire.  I was hungry to know all about Jesus!  And off I bible studies, book stores, conferences, serving roles, journaling, and anything else I could get my hands on in the name of Jesus!  I strived to learn all I could about Him and I fell in love with Him.  He showed up big time in more than one area in my life.  I tried to do all the things I knew Jesus would want me to do but I was most often frustrated and rarely had joy.  You see, what happened that day 13 years ago was me doing what would make me feel better about myself and getting up from that alter "knowing" exactly what I "should" do for Jesus.  There was a big huge part of that encounter that was missing~an exchange.  It would take years for me to realize it~and in His greatness, Jesus never stopped pursuing me.

I kept filling my head with knowledge and doing good for Jesus.  I went on a mission trip to Malawi, Africa (that you can read about in this blog) that forever changed my heart, and stirred a love in me that I didn't know I could have. I was even baptized because I understood the act of obedience that it was and I wanted to be good for Jesus and the people in my life. We were attending a church near Columbus, Ohio at the time of the baptism and mission trip.  That church was led well, and week after week I soaked up some AMAZING teaching...but all the while I was soaking, spiritual pride was manifesting.  Nothing that was filling my head was getting to my heart!  And everyone assumed I was "good" in my walk with Jesus.  I didn't know any different and neither did they.

While I was still getting comfortable with our move from Indiana to Ohio, God was already planning a major right hand turn in our lives.  Another Kentucky (of all places, the home of horses and college basketball neither of which spark any form of excitement in me).  The weeks before our move a sweet girl by the name of Angie told us about a church in Lexington that she thought we would LOVE!!  We thanked her for her help and set out to 'find our own way'...needless to say we spent weeks church shopping and every week we left empty and frustrated that it wasn't the right fit.  After one more completely brutal Sunday dragging our kids to yet another set of strange faces and leaving defeated, I said to my honey, "Next week, we are going to Quest."

We had been attending Quest Community Church for over a year and I had jumped in right away with a serving role, a women's lifegroup, a couple's lifegroup, even acceptance into Accelerate (our churches leadership development program).  I was doing it completely under my own control. I had no idea that I had never surrendered my whole heart to Jesus and received His Grace and the Gift he was offering me in exchange for my junk. What He wanted to do in my heart was not convenient for me and I fought it, hard.  I was clinging to that moment 13 years ago as MY moment of accepting Jesus and forging ahead with all "his" good!  And I was completely exhausted...if you are on the never ending merry-go-round of the Do know what I am talking about.

It was after hearing a message about Mary and Martha (it has always been one of my favorites by the way) when I realized my life was all about "doing things for Jesus, and rarely about being with Jesus," and that was because I had never given Him access to my whole heart.  It was at baptism three days after that message this past April, that he wrecked me.  Those being baptized shared their stories of redemption from stage. It was Sondra Stakelin's, a sweet little grandma who had lived 60 plus years doing good for Jesus, that spoke to the condition of my was a foreshadowing of where I was heading in my feat to be GOOD!  It was as if Jesus was saying to me, "You can keep going in the direction that you are going, but I can never give you rest in it".  For the first time ever I was forced to realize that I was drowning in Spiritual Pride.  I was a good girl, I loved people, there was no way I could be prideful (typical of a prideful person).  It was so hard to humble myself because I didn't want all that had happened over the past 13 yrs not to count.  My husband of 12 years, had no idea. As a matter of fact, he had just asked me two weeks earlier, "So do I really know your whole Jesus story?"  I wanted to punch him square in the nose!!  We had been married for 12 could he not know me?  My family had only seen Jesus through my own pride and all I "knew" about Him.  I cheered on friends in my lifegroup who accepted Christ in my living room and I just missed it. Everyone around me had an impression of me that wasn't the real me~it was good, but it wasn't the me He created me to be.  I was embarrassed and ashamed.  Now I understand that all of those years did matter in His pursuit of me; even down to the one where Jesus gave me Isaiah 41:10 as a scared 19 year old on her first airplane flight who packed her dusty bible "just in case".  He NEVER let me go.

I kept seeing a wall, very clearly that night at the service, that I couldn't get over without laying down the control and the pride. On April 17th 2013 two amazing women in my life encouraged me and loved me as I "climbed" over that wall as they led me to Jesus and I made the exchange of my "good" for His best.  The peace in my heart was unexplainable and I could finally just sit at His feet.  I didn't care what anyone thought, my embarrassment went away, I didn't feel like I needed to perform, or even be good!!  I just felt at rest.  Since then there have been several times when my old "good" self wants to lead out, but I can bring everything under Jesus’ authority and believe who He says I am.   
Click the link to see a so sweet capture of this moment:
So on June 2nd, I made the choice to be baptized having received a new heart in Christ.  I got to stand on the stage and share my story to hundreds of people in church and won't believe what Jesus did!  My husband was in the back of the church praying for me as I spoke because He wanted Jesus to show me that it mattered that I didn't keep quiet.  You see, I didn't feel my story was very significant...I wasn't rescued from the pit of despair due to addiction or abuse or abandonment....HE rescued me from myself  and answered the prayer of my honey.  While I was still dripping wet from the dunking, Jesus gave me the sweetest gift.  There was a girl sitting in the crowd, the sister of my dearest friend, who heard my story and said, "that's me".  She responded to hearing the Gospel from our Pastor and gave her life to Christ right then AND had the courage to be baptized on the spot completely unprepared.  Only Jesus can do a work like that and use a once completely prideful good girls story to make a ripple for His Kingdom!  Feeling like an "Amen" is in order in the house ;)!! Here's my favorite pic from baptism:

So here I am with John 14:27...."the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give."  Friends, this is my story.  Jesus' story that is being lived out right here in this passionate-about-a-lot-of-things-not-great-at-any-of-them-girl.  I wrote this because Jesus prompted me to...and I believe that it will matter in one way or another.  In ways that I may never know until I get to Heaven, but I couldn't keep quiet.  I needed to re-introduce myself to you and tell you that you want this kind of eternal peace.  Things are no where near Rainbows and Unicorns (as my little firecracker says) for me, but it's okay.  Even today I peeled that firecracker off my hips and handed her to her teacher screaming, because in her world a five year old needs a pair of shoes to match every outfit and she couldn't see past it...but thankfully (after a long walk, a sweet word from my honey, and a cup of coffee) I can.  I know without a doubt where I will go if these words are the last you ever read from me and getting to rest in that peace is like nothing I have ever known before and it has nothing to do with any "good" things I said or my performance.  Thank goodness I don't have to be in control of my eternity, doing God's "job" is exhausting.  So I will borrow from Ozzie and ask you "Have you ever received what Jesus speaks?"  I love you!  Thanks so much for being in this moment with me.  

A note to sweet Angie:  thanks for your obedience to Jesus in mentioning the church He wanted us to attend.  It has made all the difference. BTW, the Hamilton's are amazing!