About this time 58 years ago, I was born. I hear it was an easy birth. My mother reminds me that I was an easy child. No wonder my theme song is “I’m Easy,” by the Commodores. You could take that wrong. But don’t.
So, while my dearest husband on the planet has a prolonged snooze this morning – I’ve been reflecting on the year. It’s been wild and crazy. Yet beautiful and glorious. I’ve had to pause a few times during my “writing the Lord” and write a few humans just to say thank you.
I wrote my old boss, Ric, who hired me 23 years ago. I wanted to tell him how much of a God-instrument he has been in my life. You see, he “ordered” me to take care of two international women – one that came a few years back – and to this day – we are still beautiful friends. The other came this past spring. She came from Indonesia – and I think my former vocation lasted just long enough to bring her into my life. Both of these women are coming over tonight to help me celebrate 58 — bringing dinner and a chick flick.
I wrote three friends thanking them for last night. I enjoyed last night. I’ll back up a bit: I had the desire to preach on “holiness” as being God’s will for the life of his daughters. And my new ministry leader gladly accepted my offer to lead the evening mom’s group. Now, I thought my birth date was a secret to this new group I’m a part of and I was prepared to preach my heart out – with the help of God and his prayer warriors. But then my G’town BFF – being part of the plan – delayed my walk over to the ‘birdhouse’ – where we found it pitch dark. That should have given it away – but I can be dense. This new group, that I have grown awfully fond of, surprised me with singing and cake and silliness. Our group leader – a former youth director – is filled with silliness. I turned into my Aunt Vic (I noticed this after I saw the video of my reaction) and was delighted by their thoughtfulness.
But can I just tell you about this group? They have filled me with joy in the presence of God. It has provided me with some true intimacy among women this year and has allowed me to be fulfilled in one of the overall desires of my heart – which is to be used in ministry by Jesus. I’ve written all their names down in my God-letter this day.
Then there’s my church! Often we humans can focus on how un-Christ-like “the church” can be. But not my church. In this season of transition – I can’t begin to tell you how gracious and loving they have been. To me. And, to my husband – who still claims “staff status.” All the pastoral and parishioner visits have brought joy into our home.
Then there is this saint who was in my life back in our St. Louis days. I haven’t written her yet, but I will. I can’t even write this without tears flooding my face. She has been to me an instrument in the Redeemers Hands this year. She stepped in to a tragedy and turned it into a cup of gladness. She was the one who personified “who can make trouble when You send me peace.” She showed me that the God I serve is a God who sees and takes notice – and longs to be lavish with his children.
And then there is my studio. I get to sit at a wheel for several hours every day if I desire – and discover what it means to be a potter. This week, the Lord showed me one of the biggest requirements/attributes that is needed for a potter. And it is ‘gentleness.’ I am not gentle. I ding my bowls with my carelessness – it happens too often and too quickly. But it has made me ponder this week just how gentle God is – and has been all year with me. He has turned my sorrow (over losing a vocation that I loved) into rejoicing. He has brought me to higher ground. He has given me a ministry where I am made to feel loved and valued. He has put a new song in my mouth – that I get to sing and dance to daily in my studio or in my morning sanctuary (which is my living room). He has rejoiced over me with such goodness and mercy – and I rejoice in him with thanksgiving and worship.
Oh Lord. Lo davirm indeed. Thank you for last night. The joy that now floods my soul for an evening of community. And love. And fellowship. And delightful children and adults with talent.
It was an evening to remember. And perhaps before I forget anything, I should give a record for the joy that is in me—beginning with my newest Gastonia BFF Alex, who writes music and sings so very beautifully. Yet she began with a belly button song that was priceless. She’s adorable. Thank you for giving me Alex this year. May you continue to flood her soul with your joy and wisdom. She is indeed a soul sister.
Then Ana. (Aaaaah-na to me). She has a beautiful voice! It reminded me of Lily’s. Oh so soothing. She is fun! Lord, thank you for bringing her to us. Prosper her so that she may have a dynamite ministry in your name one day. Yes, she also closed the show with a seminary Spears number that was so fun and clever. She’s gifted. Thank you for gifting her.
And then came a new talent that I knew nothing about until a couple weeks ago – Keith & Olivia Ginn. Oh so very beautiful – and fun (Ikea! Ha!) – and talented! Lord! That was such a pretty song (Blessed Be The Tie)! I could listen to it in eternity. Such a dear couple who truly added grace to the evening.
So, now it’s going to get fuzzy.
Because I can’t remember the order.
But the Lee children! Oh my! What discipline and talent. What a family. Lord, they are beautiful and adorable and excellent. Whatsover is pure, lovely, admirable … surely Hann and Hazel are teaching them such things. I’d love to witness their family life.
And Lucas! Now with his brother Caleb – doing an adorable skit. Makes me giggle remembering them. Lucas is a treat for every show. Thank you for giving me the Browns for a long time. They are forever friends and I never want to lose that. Lily’s voice is perhaps my favorite voice in all the world – and you gave her to me for a long time. She sang an Easter song that silenced the hollers. Amazing how we can go from nonsense to reverence when Lily sings. Prosper them and bless them beyond their wildest dreams. That’s the thing, holy God, the people who participate in the show are truly exceptional in character and not just talent – that is what I see. There is this humility to their talent that impresses me greatly.
Then Elihe and Erin! Oh my. They are growing in grace and talent before our very eyes! Lord! That was incredible! And beautiful and difficult – and then the duet along with cello & violin – lo davrim (that’s no words in Hebrew) – I’m glad they love this show as much as I do. I can always count on them to step it up – and they did so in abundance last night.
Milling! Oh so adorable. Milling is a new pianist who played a number called Say Cheese. It was delightful, which matched her smile and enthusiasm and personality. Oh I’d love to be friends with this delightful girl. I think I’ll work at making that happen!
And that back table! Pedro, John, and Travis among others! Cracking me up! Because they hollered and rooted for them all with great zeal. And what a Student Council! Many of them showed up at 4:00 to help with the meal and twinkling décor. I’m going to enjoy this council. They are truly servant leaders, who desire seminary community, and are willing to make that happen.
Thank you Father, Son and Holy Spirit for gracing my vocation with such joy and blessing.
Three days from now I will finish a Philippians study with a few fabulous women at seminary. I’ve known most of them for only three short months, yet in that time they have become forever friends—friends I plan to spend eternity with—an eternity that hopefully involves downhill snow skiing—at least occasionally.
The topic for Monday night is twofold: anxiety and contentment. I taught it this summer to an older group of lovely women at my church. In that group I was the youngest—in this group I am the oldest. I am having a little anxiety of my own trying to decide how to teach on the very same subject that I taught on three months ago. Because, our anxiety and contentment issues are surely different when we are in our twenties, than when we are in our nineties. (Yes, I had two ninety-something year old women in Bible study this summer, who I also hope to snow ski with in eternity).
I plan to start our evening by asking: What brings you anxiety? I’m curious to see what they say. For when I asked this question to the older group, they gave answers such as: the health of my husband, my children don’t know Jesus, friends or family members out of work, and living with chronic pain. These are all legitimate, anxiety-producing issues. If I’m to be honest with myself and God, I have worried over these same issues in various seasons of my own life. And, yes, there is some tinge of anxiety every time I lead or teach a group of women.
But all anxieties are not created equal. Some are debilitating and some are just annoying and evaporate quickly. Like this “chronic pain” issue—that one stays with me. But after I teach—whether I think I’ve done my Savior justice or totally floundered in my words—my anxiety is over.
My husband thinks I have no anxiety—ever. He wishes I had just a little—the kind needed to keep yourself safe from danger—or a wife who cares just a little about what others may think of her housekeeping abilities.
But for many, anxiety is a very serious issue. And because I have little to no anxiety, perhaps I’m not the one that can speak to this subject. Or, I could flip that around, and say because I have little to no anxiety, I am the perfect person to bear witness to anxiety-free living. Personally, however, I attribute my anxiety levels to being a gift from God. And I am certain that the minute I was to take credit for a lack of anxiety, I would become a very anxious-ridden soul.
Expert or not, here’s what I think perpetuates an anxious heart:
We think too much of ourselves, and too little of God.
So, if I may elaborate …
One, we navel gaze … in other words, we worry too much about what others think of us and how we come across to those we think are thinking about us. (My husband loves to remind his clients–and me as well–that people really aren’t thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are.)
And two, we think we know what’s best for our lives. We think we have life figured out and know what we want. Yet we often want the wrong things, and when we don’t get what we think we want, we pout or become mad at God or others. So, when we rely on others to make us happy instead of relying on God and his infinite wisdom for our lives, what we get is an anxious heart.
I think our biggest problem is that we still haven’t discovered how incredible, mighty, lavish and holy our great God is.
We know what our wretched self is capable of—yet we care little about trying to fix the serious flaws that render us ineffective and unproductive toward lasting change. And we know way too little about how mind-blowing God can be in our lives IF we would surrender EVERYTHING into his powerful hands. He is in the details. He does know that we hurt. He does know that our children are still very far from him. BUT the fabulous truth is that he not only knows, he also cares and he is also near. He has never left you or forsaken you, not for a minute. But sadly, we stay ignorant of this knowledge, and continue to run our own agendas, inviting God into the mix when things aren’t going our way.
I think Calvin was right to start his Institutes with “knowing ourselves and knowing God.” For when we are honest about who we are—with a repentant heart—and seek—with that repentant heart—to know God as he reveals himself to us—in His Word, through Jesus Christ, by His Holy Spirit—in the smallest details of our everyday lives—I do believe we will get smaller, He will get bigger, and our anxieties will diminish.
It’s just my opinion. I could be wrong. But it surely wouldn’t hurt to try.
p.s. I greatly appreciated the wisdom from two books on these topics: Tim Lane, Worry Free Living, and Bill Barcley, The Secret of Contentment. I read them this summer in preparation for Philippians chapter four, and I thoroughly enjoyed them both. I whole-heartedly agree with their godly perspective on the topics of anxiety and contentment.
My husband, Tom, has a pair of genuine cowboy boots. His former cowboy boss and dear friend, Rex Dunlap, personally measured his foot in his office about 40 years ago. Yes, they are custom made. Tom’s initials are embroidered on the sides and at least one reptile lost its life in the making of these very cherished boots. I’ve witnessed the wearing of these boots. Once. We were with Rex and JoAn, walking a trail (more like a gravel road) in the mountains of Arizona 32 years ago. That’s the first and last time I’ve seen my husband put these boots on. That night, I had to peel them off his feet with as much strength as I could muster, thinking, if I ever get these off his feet, I hope he never tries to put them on again.
I’ve been trying to pitch these boots for over 20 years now. I hate clutter. I hate hoarding things I know will never be used again. Things just don’t carry much weight for me.
But they do for Tom. He loves to look at stuff from his past, and remember. They bring him back. He has a cowbell from his cheerleading days; bottles of stuff that remind him of his sales manager days, medals from his army days, pictures of his dance band, pictures of him dancing, awards from his time at Family Preservation, a bowling trophy, Indian Guide vests, and all sorts of soapbox derby memorabilia. That’s my husband. Yes he’s quite the collector. A collector of things that mean the world to him and only him. I think one of the things that keeps him going at 81 is the fear of what will happen to all these things when he departs this earth and enters eternity.
I walk past most of these things every day and just see clutter.
But not yesterday. Even though I don’t identify, I think I’m starting to get it.
And here’s what I got today. My very dear and precious husband is still going. And not just going, he’s finishing well. Even though some part of his aging body hurts every hour of every day – he hasn’t given up.
Yesterday, when i saw those boots sitting on a shelf in our garage – the garage I’m ready to turn into a pottery studio – my heart didn’t just see clutter. It reminded me of a life well lived and still being lived, and remembering a past filled with the mercy of God. You know that old saying: “He went out with his boots on.” While my husband may not be able to fit into these cherished boots at the moment, for the first time in 32 years I’m thankful they are still here. Because you know what, if he dies before me, I’m going to make sure he goes into the ground with his boots on (or at least in the general vicinity!)
I just noticed something I do. Often. During times of study. Or in my morning God-Time.
I keep reading until something so explosive in thought invades my entire being and then I stop. What follows next are combinations of jumping, dancing, hands lifted, feet kicking. That’s the physical part. Internally my mind is being renewed, my heart is becoming strangely warmed, and burdens are minimized to disappearing levels.
At this point, I’m done with my God time – I just can’t go any further – as I simply want to bask in that thought and moment – really feel and experience what I just read – and not let it go away as quickly as it came.
I was there just now.
Without further ramblings here it is: Joy + Poverty = Generosity.
It’s based on 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 where Paul is referring to the Macedonia churches.
They are joyful and they are impoverished – YET they are generous.
I’m not so sure why this resonates so with my soul at the moment but it does. Perhaps because just this morning I was reading Luke and this passage jumped off the page: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
Or, perhaps because I was watching Fox News last night, and hearing Donald Trump speak about his run for President. I don’t know.
But something tells me that the opposite of this beautiful equation also rings a little too true in our present age: “anxiety + wealth = stinginess/never having enough.”
I agree with the liberals and a few conservatives – the divide between the rich and the poor in America is becoming increasingly wide – even though we claim to be a Christian nation – we “Christians” have no qualms about fattening our 401Ks and accumulating “stuff” only to be auctioned off at $2 a box years from now when we are dead and our children are trying to get rid of said-stuff. Can you tell I recently went to another auction? Perhaps that too has something to say about this current track that is running in my head.
These are the messages that make me want to not only declutter – but also repent. I pray they strangely warm your soul as they did mine. And not just warm us or convict us, but also cause us to go out and do something generous for someone who needs to experience Christ-like generosity.
If you could have any vocation on the planet what would it be?
That was the question my husband and I were contemplating just before I graduated from seminary. He assured me that wherever God called me, he would follow too. Just as I had followed him to his beloved state of North Carolina over a decade ago when he graduated from seminary, he was ready to go anywhere the Lord called—preferably near an ocean.
So, in the presence of my husband, and out of the overflow of my heart, I blurted out, “I’d run a camp.” Knowing me all to well, Tom said, “You couldn’t run a camp – you like the city too much.” Again, without much thought, I said, “Then, I’d run an urban camp.”
That conversation took place over 10 years ago. A conversation that God took notice of – a conversation that went into my heart as a pipe-dream desire. And yes, several years after it was flippantly verbalized in the parking lot of the Red Lobster restaurant – my ultimate vocation became a reality.
Now mind you, in His mercy, God indeed put his own spin on the desire of my heart to run a camp. For what He gave me was Brookstone Camp in Charlotte. The camp runs for six weeks in the summer, led by one of my heroes in the faith, Kristy Davis. Kristy could run a camp full time. And after one week of running and planning a camp with a team of friends, I realized quickly, one week was as much as I could handle. But what a week! It’s the best week of my year.
The children are gracious and wild and loving and moldable. What’s not to love about that!? Every night during that week my heart is filled to overflowing.
We sing and we dance,
we listen to godly men speak the truth about God into their lives,
we make joy boxes and write character words on stones,
we teach them how to say Jesus loves you in other languages and to sign the twenty-third Psalm,
we have tea parties and etiquette lessons over scones,
and end the three hours over cheese sticks and cookies while having whole group Bible trivia.
And that’s just some of the things we’ve done over the past three camps we’ve been blessed to participate in.
Our week this year is July 20.
Not even a whole week.
Monday through Thursday.
Not even a whole day. 1:00 to 4:00.
I need help. While I love doing this, God did not equip me with all the skills to run a camp. It takes dancers (thank you Kim!), and preachers (thank you Matt!), and story tellers (thank you Aynn & Kristy!), and crafty ones (thank you Wendy!) and organized ones (thank you Julia!) and silly ones and athletes and those who simply love children and love to serve God in the most delightful way.
I need prayer. Even if camp is not your thing – or you are too far away to trek to Charlotte for four days – prayer is essential to pulling off a Christ-centered Fun Camp.
Would love it if you’d consider joining us for a day or more.
I wish you all a happy day.
You who have the hardest vocation on the planet.
The vocation that never stops.
The vocation that always gives.
The vocation that puts everyone else first.
The vocation that has the greatest blessings
and the hardest sorrows.
But there is one mom in particular that is on my heart at this moment, and it is my own.
She’s truly something.
Other worldly something.
Because all that thrills her soul is her heavenly Father.
She talks about Him continuously.
She has no greater pleasures than seeking Him first and making Him known.
She cares deeply for all her children.
Yes, four children before 23.
All born in New Orleans.
And then there are the hundreds of other children that didn’t come from her body.
She cares deeply for them too. Rachel, Coley, Kammy, Buddy, Kathy, Bob … You know who you are.
Here’s what I love about her:
Her faith is rock solid in Jesus Christ, which produces an overflowing joy emanating from her at all times. And if she’s not talking about Father, you can be sure she’s thinking about him.
She’s Polyana. She only believes in what is pure and lovely and true.
She’s also Walt Disney (the early years).
She’s imperfect—never needing anyone around her to be perfect either. Growing up, her expectations were never very high for her very imperfect children – which really takes the pressure off of all who are around her. You can be yourself, and it is good enough.
She’s fun. Four children in your early twenties—living in the projects with a husband who shipped out for months at a time, doesn’t sound like fun. And for her it must not have been. But for us kids? Well, we had a ball. Beignets, Mardi Gras, Halloween, snowballs, Christmas, Easter, ice cream trucks, playing in the streets, building forts out of blankets in our rooms, playing playing playing – we had fun every day of our lives – and every night ended with prayers in bed. Amazing that we found time to go to church twice on Sunday and Wednesday nights. For much of my childhood, my mom was the church pianist. So while she played the piano at choir practice, we ran wild throughout God’s house.
God’s grace to my mother has not been without effect. We really didn’t have much – in the way of worldly possessions – those early years – but God never let my mother out of his sights. And His grace to her has produced a woman after God’s own heart. She works for free for her favorite Christian retreat center, she still plays the piano at her church, she runs the community Bible study in her town – and she still has hundreds of children. And that’s just only a few of the things she is STILL doing in her mid-seventies.
Ma, I love you. You have been a fun, godly, passionate mother. I’m very thankful that the Lord gave me you as my mother. Eternity will be a blast with you and Jesus.
It’s January. January 23rd to be exact. And I still haven’t gotten with “the program.” I think my last year’s theme of Rest didn’t cease on December 31 and I am still in rest mode. Yet it is time to move on to another life theme. Because, I realize that God indeed gave me rest for my body and soul, refreshment for my mind and heart, and I now feel quite rejuvenated.
Just last week, I almost bought a new home. The word new may be a bit misleading. The home was built in 1966 and it looked like nothing had been done to the home since the ‘80s. Yes, it was a complete fixer upper – but thankfully my husband and my God had better sense than I did – and I didn’t get what I thought was a desire of my heart. One week later – my BFF reminded me that we should be extremely thankful when God doesn’t give us what we think we want in the moment.
But, oddly enough, the desire to pack up all our belongings and move two blocks down the street to fix up a fixer upper was attractive to me – making me realize it’s time to lean into 2015.
That was the first lesson – rest over, get moving!
I came away from that experience with other lessons, not to mention a renewed gratitude for the cozy home the Lord did give us 21 years ago.
Another lesson from this fun adventure was that I sensed the Lord was telling me: you CAN have that house if you want it, BUT I don’t want you to have it. You see, the house was auctioned off – and my generous husband was the highest bidder – however, the highest bid was not enough for the sellers. We were given the sole opportunity to offer more but that is when we both realized that God was in the midst of our decision and His answer was NO.
[My husband came to the realization that I was looking at too much Property Brothers.]
Having this sole opportunity also made me think that God often says, ok, you can have what you want – but you’re not going to want it later. It was another one of those lessons that He has shown me over and over again in my life: His ways truly are higher than mine.
So, one week later, sitting in my cozy, closed-concept livingroom that was remodeled, floor to ceiling, 4 short years ago, I am experiencing shalom. The kind of shalom I get from realizing that God is watching over me, protecting me from all sorts of things that would seek to rob me of my shalom.
Thank you Holy God. The nearness of You is my strength.