Wednesday, July 8, 2015

He Works Together All Things

Approximately 25 years ago I sat in a church pew most Sundays with my grandma Peggy. I was a little girl who liked twirly skirts and shoes that tapped when I walked. (Surprising now, I know.) Sundays were the perfect time to feel cute and to sit with grandma doing something I knew made her happy.

One Sunday I heard the Pastor preach from Matthew. His message was on being a sheep or a goat. The sermon was simple, sheep go to be with Jesus, goats do not. I wanted to be a sheep. That was my first real encounter with the gospel, and I've carried those verses as part of my testimony ever since. 


In 2004 - when I was 19 - I worked as staff for a Christian summer camp for students. I was introduced to a young evangelist who was in charge of all of the evangelism efforts at the camp. I was his right hand 'woman'. I watched him and sat beside him on countless nights, at countless camps, with countless students as he introduced them to Jesus and led them through scripture as their eyes were opened and their hearts became receptive. 


In August of 2005 Aaron and I married. We lived in our old hometown. God moved us around here and there. Then we went back 'home', had a couple of kids, and ultimately felt God was moving us onward. The year was 2011, and the next thing we knew, God had brought us to a church being pastored by that same evangelist I'd worked alongside 7 years ago. 


Last night, as we were going through our normal bedtime routine, I sat down with the kids to read the Bible. The topic of the night was sheep and the Shepherd. I explained the sheep were people - us - and that the Shepherd was Jesus - that those of us who are sheep hear Jesus' voice, recognize it and follow Him. Memories of my grandma Peggy and my sitting in that pew really hearing the gospel for the first time flooded back, and, in passing, I mentioned to B that God saved me with scripture much like this, about being a sheep or a goat. 

Last night, God led my baby boy to Himself using similar scripture that He called me with. He used the faithfulness of my ( now deceased ) grandmother who faithfully took her grandbaby to church. (I can't imagine the party that ensued...) Lesson 1: The legacy you leave reaches much further than what you can see, and chances are, if you're a Christian, God had been preparing a way for you to get to Him LONG before you were even born.

And today - today I sat in the Pastor's office, hearing him talk to MY little boy just as he had those students 11 years ago. Had I known then... I could not have fathomed. So many times in life we wonder 'why' and 'what was that all about' and 'how does this fit in with God's plan' -- and that brings me to Lesson 2: God always has a plan. He's always working it together for good for those who love Him. Sometimes we can't see it, sometimes we can't understand it, and sometimes we'll never see it, but sometimes, yes, sometimes we get to see a small piece of years worth of God's orchestrating out our lives come to a hard, beautiful collision, and it's awesome and overwhelming and an incredible blessing. 

His love for us is beyond anything I can understand. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God9not a result of works, so that no one may boast10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:8-10

God is so good. We are so blessed. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ramblings Regarding Influence

In what seems like a previous life I had the privilege of walking with my husband in the realm of student ministry. I started a newly-wed, and finished a young mother. My oldest turned three just weeks after my husband accepted the call into full time worship ministry.

All that said to say --- I don't think I ever really 'got it' until now.

By 'it' I mean that I didn't get the weightiness of the trust it took for parents to allow me to be an influencer in their child's lives. Don't misunderstand me. I knew the call itself was weighty. There wasn't a decision made or advice given to a student without a load of prayer involved, but I never thought much about what it required of that parent to allow me the privilege to give that advice.

And this year, my oldest started Kindergarten. You know, it's one of those milestones that few parents, mothers especially, escape from unscathed. There are tears, sometimes many. There is sadness, sometimes great. And there is emptiness, often heavy. I think all parents feel that.

I knew I would be different though. From the moment he started his last year of preschool I knew I would struggle. I've never understood those who pump fists and shout for freedom at the start of a school day. What I don't understand most is passing my child over to a person I've probably never met, for the greatest portion of their best awake hours, to become, in theory, one of the largest influencers in their lives.

I have a problem with that. Just sayin'. (And I'll totally say it outloud... or... well, type it bluntly, I'm totally considering homeschool.)

Please don't judge me. I know a lot of teachers. (I used to work in an elementary school.) I would choose a great many of those teachers to be a providing influencer in the life of my child. I don't know that I would choose many of those to be the primary influencer in the life of my child, and that is not a hit to the teacher at all. For me, it is the weightiness of the responsibility that God gave to me the responsibility of training my baby up in the way of the Lord, and unless I can get to know them for, say, a few years, and then have them endure an in-depth interview process, I think giving that responsibility away from 8-3 every day is preposterous. (Honest, not judging those who feel 100% okay in public school at all, either. I've been one of those for a long time, and I firmly believe God calls us to different things, at different times, for different reasons. AND - we are still in the public school system right now!)

Before I go any further, allow me to mention that this post isn't about public school (or private school, or homeschool, or unschool, or any other kind of school, for that matter). No, this blog isn't even about shielding my children from the world or other ideas that could have been assumed. This blog is actually about the fact that I know, without a doubt, that my child needs us - their parents - primarily in their lives, but they also vitally need other influencers in their lives.

I'm setting us all up here. I'm so thankful for the parents who allowed their student to hang out and talk to me at our house, when I now know that they so badly wanted to be the one talking to them. I'm so thankful they trusted me to be an ally, an advocate for their child, to be their voice. Because, lets face it, at some point, our kids need adults who aren't us.

And here's what this post is about: what am I looking for in an influencer?

My kiddos are still young. I still have a chance to formulate relationships with men and women who can watch my kids as they grow and speak into their lives when the extent of the guidance is the correct way to swing the bat in baseball or how to treat a teammate who just struck out and lost the game for the team. Those relationships will soon be the ones who may get the privilege of talking to my children about the party they've considered sneaking off to, or about the bullying they've endured at school. We are so lucky to have awesome church friends, other parents, ministry leaders, and coaches speaking into the lives of our kids, and, trust me, we've seen our fair share of, well, not good influencers.

Men in the church abandoning their families.
Coaches in little league yelling at kids who aren't their own.
Worse, dads yelling at their own kids and ripping apart their performance.

And it's made us diligent. It's made us ask tough questions. And it all leads me to this (deep breath and drum roll, after that novel):

5 Traits of a Great Influencer:

1. No cowards. For real, be real. Life gets hard. This one is huge. My kid comes to you and wants to sneak out to that party, a great influencer needs to tell them they've lost their ever loving minds and their parents will not deny wrath for such an offense. Feel free to share your own "I tried this and you really shouldn't go down that path" stories. Then, they need to relay the message. Secrets and safety do not mix. Scale the scenario down a notch, and if you happen to be my kids coach or tutor or be teaching them some skill, if my kid's not performing his / her best (hear me, I'm not talking perfection here, their best, which implies that the influencer knows my child well enough to know their 'best performance'), they need to have the grace and the courage to drive them to do their best. And one more biggie on not being cowardly: a great influencer knows when and how to apologize. We are all human, and in relationship, we all make mistakes. I don't care if you're 40 and the time comes to apologize to my 4 year old. Do it. I do. All the time. Is it humbling? Miserably. But we all need that from time to time. Bonus points if you teach my kid the proper times for him / her to apologize, too.

2. Established relationships. This stuff is messy. There's nothing more frustrating to me than someone who doesn't really know me from anyone and wants to start spouting off advice or tell me things I need to change. Nope. Chances are you'll make me mad and I'll do the opposite. Some of the hardest things I've had to hear are from people who love me the most. That established relationship is the only thing that allowed me to really hear and consider what they had to say, and it's also the only thing that kept me in the relationship after the hard thing was heard. Don't think you can choose where you have an influence and where you don't. One thing I learned in student ministry, nothing was 'out of bounds'. Ask any coach, teacher, mentor, etc. You'd be surprised the things that kids / students confide in them.

3.) We have to be on the same page. We live in Texas, and we are Cardinal fans. Chances are, we aren't going to find many friends around here pushing the Cardinals for us to our kids. But- great influencers are going to know our faith, and even if they spiritually don't have all the answers for our kids, they are going to know that our answer is always going to be one that aligns with our faith, and a great influencer will echo that.

4.) They meet our kids where they are. I noticed something during our son's little league baseball game the other day. (May I mention, for the record, we have amazing coaches.) He is in coach pitch now and the coach has tailored a specific style of pitch for every kid. He knows where they like them. He knows where they hit the best. He knows what speed the ball needs to come in, and he knows where it needs to cross the plate. Does he try to stretch them? Yes. But when push comes to shove in a game, if a kid typically hits the one that's fast and a little outside, that is the pitch he's going to throw them. This also aligns with number 2... knowing my kid, but it fits just as well here. My son isn't much of a talker at first. He's a little quiet and gets nervous easy, and the only way to bring him out of that is to talk to him, often, and it's sometimes awkward, but that is meeting him where he is. Eventually, he'll talk back. My little girl, well, she'll talk your ear off. You want to meet her where she's at, you gotta be able to listen. Fast forward 10 years and meeting them where they are may look much different, but a great influencer is going to not only meet them there, chances are they aren't going to leave them there either.

5.) This one goes without really mentioning, but I feel compelled to mention it. Be a good influence. Yeah, I said it. Want to be a great influencer? Set an example for my child to follow. Ultimately, I want them to follow Christ, but they learn what that looks like in a visual way by watching men / women who are already do it. Display attributes they want to mirror. Don't throw your hat and yell at an ump. And if you do, apologize --- to the ump, preferably in front of my kid, and then to my kid (and all the others). Hear me, hear me, I'm just as guilty as the next one. We had a little league game last night and I was off the bench and fuming mad as my little man hit an in the air to center field double then got called out for 'throwing his bat' (he in NO WAY threw his bat, and a boy from the other team had all but taken out the third baseman EVERY time he had batted with no thrown bat call... did I mention this is a U7 league?!). I watched my "young for the league" kiddo CRY in the dugout and my mom claws came out. I had to focus and think about what he was seeing in me at that moment. I aired my frustration in a private way to those around me and didn't end up needing to apologize, but I could have. It happens. It does. But let's think real hard about the behaviors that our kids will come to mimic.

So there it is. Be a great influencer. Be one that is true, present, on our side, flexible and worth mimicking. You are treasured more than you know, as you are being trusted with our most. prized. possessions. We are handing you a bit of the reigns of the responsibility and weightiness that we've been given by God, and trust me, that is not a decision we have taken lightly. And we are ever thankful for those who have allowed us or are allowing us the same investment into theirs. Thanks for traveling this journey with us... it really takes a village. I just prefer to choose mine ;)

What other things do you all look for in a great influencer?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

To B & A

In the thick stands a tree
firm and deep rooted,
His leaves the deep thoughts
budding tight in the wind.
Err the wind blows,
the leaves, they don't falter
but dance in the current and hold firm to the end.
Solid and sure his branches jet outward
his roots reach down inward,
his gaze, it transcends.
Absorbing the drink of knowledge and knowing
His words may be few
but his thoughts never end.
Yet near that tree flitting,
dancing and singing
the bird she is flying but doesn't descend.
Rather she rests upon strong reaching branches
While breaking from joyfully riding the wind.
Unlike the tree she moves without thinking
and risks all worth risking and yet does not bend.
Her chirp, quite the giggle, her joy not lacking
all while shamelessly deeming the tree her best friend.
The tree, he is steady, a tree in his being,
Always a branch from him there to lend,
She nests and she rests in all of his glory,
Chirping him love songs again and again.
The tree, in his quiet, he shades and protects her,
lifts her, is with her from now to the end,
And she tickles the bark with innocent nonsense
And she brings forth his laughter, hidden deeply within.
So very different, yet here for each other
the tree and the bird, through thick and through thin
Thoughtful and true meets joyful surrender
Each their own being, yet better as friends.

Monday, February 23, 2015

When God Waits On Me

I've spent much of my life contemplating what I wanted to do when I grew up. Think about it. I'm 30. Generally, somewhere around toddler-hood people start filling your brain with the 'you can do whatever you want to do when you grow up' jargon, by somewhere around 1st grade every school-going lad wants to be a teacher when they grow up (me included), and by 6th grade they are handing you a skills assessment and revealing to you your destiny. To say I've contemplated 'the rest of my life' since I was a kid is an understatement.

How that affects us - much to my dismay - when I not only graduate high school, but also college, wondering what in the world God wants from me! Worse... how much of a disappointment I must be to God, who certainly has directed me and made painfully clear what He has planned, and I've missed it. Sure, they say you can be anything you want to be (which I have theological issues with, anyway, but that's another blog for another time), but what if you have no idea what that is?

For people who are type A, as I am, it's torture. It feels like failure. It feels like disappointment.

I've prayed many, many, many times in my life for God to write it on the wall in the middle of the night, for Him to speak to me in a dream, I've physically yelled, "HERE I AM, LORD, SEND ME!" and here I've sat.

But ---

I now know... I wasn't ready.

In days of late, I feel closer than I've ever been. I feel like I may be onto something here. I feel like He may finally be removing the scales from my eyes. Loose ends abound. Questions still remain, "Is this my dream or is it God's will? And my prayer pleads, "Your will be done, Lord, not mine." But that means I have to aspire towards it. It means I have to make action steps, because maybe this dream of mine was born when I was. Maybe when the Lord knit me together, He knit me together for such a time as this.

And my 20 year old self, yes, well, she wouldn't have entertained this idea. In fact, the thought would have never occurred to her.

My 25 year old self, she would have laughed and waved it off. She would have been Jonah and run completely the opposite direction.

I don't even think my 29 year old self was prepared for this.

And the moral of the story is this: if you are 5, 15, 25 or 105 and don't really know where life is heading, push into Him. He'll either tell you or He'll be silent, and if He's silent, it's because you aren't ready for it yet and He's prepping you every. step. of. the. way.

I'm 30. For the first time I have a real dream with an end goal. It's my 30 year old dream, not to be confused with what He'll do in my life for my 40, 50 or 60 year old dream, but I thank God for His faithfulness and wisdom in holding out on me, for my own good.

Prayerfully pushing forward and praying God's provision in opening doors -


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Girl

Some know this and some do not, but I knew... the Lord had impressed upon me long before A was knit together in the womb, that she would be part of our family. We had two names picked out for B, a boy name and a girl name, and when we found out B would be a B, well, Ansley's name felt void, empty... and I knew she'd come, I just knew it.

Fast forward to my pregnancy with her, and before I knew she was a 'her', we had two names picked out, a boys name and a girls name. The boys name was for traditional purposes only. I knew we wouldn't need it. I'd already bought girl clothes. I was not surprised to see the 'hamburger' on the ultrasound. Not in the least.

She's special like that. Until God states otherwise, she has completed our family. God knew I'd need to laugh a bit more... He knew B would need a fierce friend and companion... He knew daddy needed a little girl, with a personality precisely like his... and I'm so grateful He knew.

And now my sweet girl is on the cuffs of 4... of FOUR, I tell you! Four years of laughs and fun. Four years of sweet embrace. Four wonderful years. So here's a brief look back... it's all felt as if it's flown by anyway...

It's a special bond that's formed with your ob. Seriously, they become the best of friends. Here is our last picture as a family of three. We were dropping B off with Gaga and Papa on our way to the hospital for A's eviction notice (read: induction). Praise Jesus for an OB who thought the growth ultrasound a day prior seemed "off some" (ahem, almost 2 full pounds), and pulled every. string. she. could. to get the induction 9 days prior to my due date.

These pictures may be never before seen. I'll never forget Aaron posting on facebook that she was here and we were fine but there'd be no pictures. This was why... her poor, sad, bruised head, and that left arm, we thought it'd never be mobile again. It was an easy labor with a scary five minute ending. A weighed in at a whopping 10 lbs 1.1 ounces. (Slightly above the 8 lbs 3 oz they'd claim the day prior) Again, the ob and I, yeah, we are tight.

But all the bruising didn't kill the enthusiasm of a certain Big Bro ;) Look at that cheese!

And a week to heal the bruising and this sweet girl is perfect, and has ginormo feet :)

And here at 1 - there's that personality coming out...
 And at 2-- the year of hair...
And at 3--- little girl, now, more than baby...

 And nearing 4 ---- What a sweet, funny, precious gift she is :)