Saturday, July 27, 2013

In the Storm

Dan and I drove to North Carolina with the kids today. We went to visit my sister and her family. Along the way, we ran into a pretty bad storm. We went through a tense two hours of driving in the rain, with a bunch of “knuckleheads” (that’s what Dan called other drivers for two hours). The storm was really bad for about 30 straight minutes, and I was very much on edge.

When you’re in the middle of a storm, it is scary. Your hands are white-knuckled and you are tense and tight. Your vision is clouded and you can’t see more than ten feet in front of you. Do you slow down and stop under an overpass? Or do you keep moving as fast as you can (even impeded), because the storm HAS to break sometime, right? You can’t see in front of you. You have no idea how much longer this will last. Your ears are full of the sounds of pelting rain. Your teeth are clenched. Your breathing is shallow, panting. If you step out of your car, you’ll be drenched and blown away. All you’re looking for is shelter and a destination where you can just stop and rest.

We finally broke through the storm and pulled off at one of the first exits to take potty breaks and get gas. THAT was a bad idea, because the storm caught up with us before we could get back on the road. To go back into the chaos with already-frayed nerves was very sucky.

At the moment when my anxiety was at a maximum level, I got a text from a friend that said simply, “I need prayers please.” So I closed my eyes and went deep into my soul and prayed for my family and for my friend.

My family is going through a personal storm similar to this. The storm is of life-changing proportions. I’ve watched someone I dearly love draw firm boundaries against someone else I dearly love. The hard part of this storm is we can’t get perspective. We can’t pull up a weather radar to see how fast the storm is moving (because sometimes it feels like it’s parked right on top of us and won’t ever pass). We can’t see more than ten feet ahead of us to know if it’s ever gonna let up. We’d be happy for even a small break in the clouds. I’m not asking for clear blue skies; that would be asking a lot! I’m only asking for the rain to stop falling sideways.

After some intense eye-closed prayers and deep breathing, the storm surrounding our car let up a bit and I opened my eyes to see this:IMG_3493

And another five miles down the road, I looked back and saw the storm we just plowed through. This picture doesn’t capture the intensity of the storm we went through.IMG_3494

As I pondered life and what it means to live in the middle of a storm… and thought about writing this blog post… and watched the clouds disappear, I remembered a quote I read a long time ago: Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s learning to dance in the rain.

We’re gonna do some dancing and let God teach us the rhythm. It is the only thing that will get us through this storm, because we can still rejoice in the midst of pain. God gives us that gift each and every day.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Getting to Know You

King and IMy work life is undergoing a big change right now. I’m getting a new boss, and my boss is also getting a new boss. So, in effect, I’m getting two new bosses.

My first boss (the one directly supervising me) has been at our church for 20 years. She has been there for so long that SHE was the entire paid staff of the kids’ ministry. Now, there are 13 and counting. I’ve known her for a while, from when I was a volunteer at our church – before I started getting a paycheck.

My second boss (the one supervising me and my supervisor) is new to the ministry. He’s not new to our church, but he comes from the education world and is new to ministry. (Which is just fine by me, because I’m only a year and a half into it too!) I didn’t know him until a few weeks ago, so it’s a brand new relationship for me.

This morning, I’m sitting down in a meeting with Second Boss. He is doing this with every staff member in our kids’ ministry, so he can get to know each of us personally and professionally. So as I was showering today (which is where my brain does lots of heavy thinking), I started thinking about what Second Boss might want to know about me – and what I might want to share. These are the things that pinged my brain:

  • I am so anal retentive that my towels are stored in matching sets. And when I finish showering each morning and hang my current towel up to dry, I have a system for rotating it on the towel warmer bar so it gets dried evenly every other day.
  • I have baggage from my past jobs and a previous firing. It has made me a little more tentative in my professional life, which is sometimes good and sometimes not.
  • I have baggage from my previous churches. (Who doesn’t?) But I can see how God has unpacked that baggage and used it to equip me for this chapter of my life. He’s good like that, isn’t He?!
  • I am a lifelong Christian, yet I consider myself a new believer in lots of ways.
  • I am transparent, maybe to a fault. I am okay with going deep and doing it quickly. I see the necessity of it in my job and in this new boss relationship. Sometimes, I hate my transparency – especially when I’m not ready to discuss my feelings with someone but I can’t avoid it because they see my emotions written all over my face. I wish I could control it a little better so I could be the one to decide when I’m ready to share them.
  • Speaking of control, oh! I’m a doozie of a control freak. But the good news is I have lost some intensity over the years. (At least that’s what *I* think, although Dan might have something to say about that.)
  • I have trichotillomania. Still.
  • I love writing. And creating/crafting/making. I love talking to people and hearing their stories. I love sharing mine, because it is a testament to a saving Love that rocks my world daily. I love reading. I love people. And at the same time, I shake my head at them on a daily basis. (Myself included.) I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. And if I had an extra hour this morning, I would spend it by falling asleep in the LoveSac with my kids snuggled beside me under a blanket.
  • The defining moments of my life still cripple me some days. Other days, they are barely a blip on the radar. The sucky part is I can have both kinds of day, even in the span of just one day.
  • The classic job interview question of “What are your weaknesses?” could fill an entire interview (and has been filling a blog for five years!). I am passionate (good and bad). I care too much. I am prideful. I am self-centered. Ugh. Too early to start this today!

What else do I want to tell someone who is trying to get to know me? I’m sure my brain will keep chewing on this question throughout the morning. Obviously, it’s a professional relationship and I’m not going to share every detail of my personal quirkiness. But I see the benefits in sharing the gist of who I am in relationship with those around me – whether they are professional or personal.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It’s Time to Sing Your Song Again

She came to me tonight, in the dark. Her hair was still wet from her bath and she smelled of green apple conditioner.

“Mama, will you rock me?”

“Oh, yes, baby. I would love to.”

She curled on to my legs, too awkward to nestle into my arms. Now her body is so long that her arms have to wrap around my neck, her head on my shoulder. Her legs overflowed my lap, pouring down the length of my own and grazing the carpet with her toes. I didn’t care. I held her like the newborn she used to be. I restarted the rocking rhythm that began before she was even born; the same rhythm that’s been on pause for a few months – or has it been years?

I held her. I thought of the words to a song that started my day today:

“The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning. It’s time to sing Your Song again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes. Bless the Lord, oh my soul…”

I held her, and realized the Song had changed tempo countless times today. It was a day that started with trepidation and worry for the lives in another time zone.

“Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”

Then it evolved into a morning of flurried activity with whiplash speed. A thousand melodies pinged at my brain, each played on the instruments of someone else’s heart. My part of the blessing was getting to open my ears and listen to those hearts.

“Open up the doors and let the music play. Let the streets resound with singing!”

“And nothing formed against me shall stand. You hold the whole world in Your hands. I’m holding on to Your promises. You are faithful. You are faithful!”

“We are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes. If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”

“God loves you and me. God loves you and me. Jump up, jump down, jump all around…”

The morning ended and:

“With all creation I sing, praise to the King of kings. You are my everything, and I will adore You.”

Home. And an unraveling. Cracking open, unclogging the drain and letting the wetness seep out until I could touch bottom again. Another Song:

“All of You is more than enough for all of me. For every thirst and every need, You satisfy me…”

Life needed to get done. Food to be bought. Errands to be run. Then in the parking lot, the place where I got my start came to nestle in my heart. I wept as I sang a new Song:

“My chains are gone. I’ve been set free! My God, my Savior, has ransomed me. And like a flood, His mercy rains. Unending love, amazing grace.”

I missed her, all over again. And I told my girl about my own mama and why Amazing Grace can make me laugh and cry at the same time. Dinner. Home. Bath, and then the question:

“Mama, will you rock me?”

The tempo changed, and I heard it one more time:

“Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.”

My cheeks were wet. My arms were full. My hands held as loosely tight as possible. I rocked, and I remembered the rhythm my own mother started in my soul; the same rhythm I continued with her granddaughter.

My heart overflowed, and the wetness seeped out again. Her breathing slowed, and mine matched hers. She held on to me in a way that told me her heart knew I needed to be held tonight. In her embrace, I felt my Savior’s arms holding me close and rocking me with His whispered lullabies.

It’s His tempo, His rhythm. It soothes me, it carries me, and it astounds me that I might get to sing His song again tomorrow.

Monday, July 1, 2013

June 2013 Review

The first thing that happened in June is that I got a new phone! It isn’t top-of-the-line by any means, but at least it isn’t ancient anymore. While I love photography with my fancy-schmancy DSLR, having a quick camera in my pocket is unbeatable! So now I will have LOTS more photos to share on this blog. Aren’t you lucky, my poor readers?!

We started the month at church and then driving by this cool hand-made tree house near church. The kids have always begged us to stop so they can go inside, and this time we said yes. Unfortunately the doors were locked, but they were satisfied to climb outside it instead.IMG_2324

Dinner at one of our new favorite gluten-free restaurants, and Jackson guffawed and hooted at this sign. No tooting!IMG_2432

Dan moved the table aside on our patio, and Jackson has enjoyed going outside to shoot some basketball on his own. Dan likes to play with him too!IMG_2330

Jackson and I checked out a book at the library called Sidney and Norman: A Tale of Two Pigs and LOVED it so much that I bought a copy. You really should go read it, because the best part is when Jackson took it to heart and came up to me and whispered in my ear: “First of all, I love you. Second of all, I love you. Third of all, I love you!” He carried the book around in the car for a day and read it to himself. Joy!IMG_2437

The single biggest blessing of our summer has been our “nanny,” Genevieve! Her family attends our church, and we started talking in late winter about my need for a nanny this summer. She agreed to stay with the kids three days a week while I work, and the kids ADORE her. (Actually, ADORE is an understatement!) She takes them to the pool, plays Just Dance on the Wii with them, picks up a few groceries for me when they venture out to the store (where she has scavenger hunts with them!), takes the kids to the movie and library, enforces our family rules, and does it all with a hug and even an “I  love you” as I leave in the mornings for work. This girl has ROCKED our summer and I can’t tell you how much I adore her too!IMG_2455

So, this new phone of mine means I’m getting a slight bit more technically advanced. This new fandangled FaceTime thing (could you hear me say that in my old-timer’s voice?) is pretty darn cool. When I was out of town for my niece’s graduation, I used FaceTime for the first time. It is somethin’ else, I tell ya!IMG_2497

The next day, I had all four of our family members on FaceTime together. Egads! Isn’t it swell?! (Ha.)IMG_2527

To top it all off, Dan used FaceTime to connect me to church while I was in North Carolina. My setting was on my sister’s porch in front of a lake, but I got to worship in real time with my church family. Now THAT is really cool!IMG_2540

While Jackson was at camp for three days, Katie and I had an adventure day. We went to a nearby pottery store so she could paint a new plate to go with a “You Are Special Today” plate that we use in our family. The new “You Are Loved” plate that she made can be used for any regular ol’ day to remind someone in our house that he or she is loved.IMG_2562

Baptism is a big deal at our church. The building is under major construction right now, which means a new baptismal pond was created in our back yard. It was full of muddy water, and a huge crew of people worked incredibly hard to get it ready for baptism Sunday. This is just one of the days the crew spent mucking out the pond. (Have I mentioned I work with some truly dedicated people?)IMG_2595

This year, one of Dan’s Father’s Day gifts was an updated DAD photo collage. Here’s the finished result.IMG_2725

I got to squeeze in dinner with a high school friend who was in town for a conference. It was so nice to catch up with my friend Tracy, and for Katie to meet her too. I felt so young AND so old at the same time, because it felt like no time had passed – and yet I had a ten-year-old daughter sitting beside me. Too weird!IMG_2629

This is an event that happens daily at our house. The kids will plop themselves down wherever they land (the couch, the floor, the LoveSac, my bed or their own beds), and dive into library books. Every single time, I stop and think about how blessed I am to have such voracious readers. It gives me hope for their futures, and I send a prayer of gratitude to my parents for instilling it in me – and Dan’s parents for instilling a love of reading in him, which my kids still witness to this day when they hang out with their grandparents.IMG_2625

June means swimming at our neighborhood pool. This year, I had a Lifeproof case on my new phone and did some underwater photography. Fun times! (I returned the case, though. I didn’t like how the screen felt so plastic.)IMG_2665

We had an early Father’s Day celebration to visit a park and take a hikeIMG_2732

…visit a local landmark…IMG_2729

…feed our sweet tooth with a new summer favorite (because I can get corn-free, dairy-free, gluten-free yogurt there!)…IMG_2734

…and spend family time together!IMG_2735

Baptism Eve at church was pretty spectacular, and the pond was ready just in time for a HUGE rainstorm. Ugh.IMG_2739

Katie turned ten and I took her out for breakfast at her favorite donut shop. I had a donut too, even though they aren’t gluten/corn/dairy free. And MAN it was good!IMG_2839

You know those days when you hear the bell on the ice cream truck start dinging, and you cringe in anticipation of a big tantrum when the kids hear it and you tell them NO…? One day, I saw the truck in our neighborhood as I was coming home from work. I stopped him and told him where our street is, and asked him to come so I could treat my kids. He did, and I treated them and The World’s Best Summer Nanny to ice cream. Yum! It was nice to say yes for a change!IMG_2857

Last year and this year, Dan worked with our church’s Outreach team to cook food at a local man’s farm that he named Our Father’s Farm. Youth from our church, the inner city, and some refugee families who live in St. Louis come out to find common ground and have farm fun. The kids and I took an early visit to the farm so Dan could deliver our smoker for the weekend food, and the kids enjoyed looking around the farm.IMG_2863

The best part was when the kids got to make friends with the horses. How I would love to do this more often!IMG_2868

Jackson completed his first crossword puzzle. This is a milestone, since Dan and his mom are big crossword puzzle fans.IMG_2903

Jackson and I were invited to join my friend Gina and her boys at a local farm to explore and meet the animals. We saw cows, goats, sheep, hens and roosters, ducks, geese, barn kittens, donkeys and turkeys. But I think the boys’ favorite part was watching the cows pee and poop just a few feet away. Talk about a giggly group of boys!_MDS7609

My favorite part of the farm was watching the boys explore, especially this moment when they were collecting tree nuts and making piles of them._MDS7811

I mentioned that our church is under construction. Every time I set foot in the building, something new has happened: a wall has been torn down or built in a new place, or an entire new extension has been completed. In late June, I showed up to see a large portion of the offices gutted and the furniture moved into the lobby until it was relocated a few hours later. (Have I mentioned I work with some very dedicated people?!)IMG_2933

Along with the construction at work, there have been lots of other changes underway. I have been seeking God’s answers to a whole new list of prayers. One day I was listening to a song on the way home from work and the lyrics said, “If there’s a road I should walk/Help me find it./If I need to be still/Give me peace for the moment./Whatever Your will, whatever Your will/Can you help me find it?” This was my view out the window, and I it reminded me that God always has my back. I am thankful for that!


Jackson has been begging for a toy bow and arrow that he saw at the store. I told him he could buy it when he saved the $5 on his own. Finally, he did it and was in heaven running around the yard with his new “bone and arrow” set.IMG_2965

Jackson has joined me a few times this summer for morning devotions. He reads his kids’ devotional (Jesus Wants All of Me) out loud to me, and I read my Bible too. It’s a nice way to start our day.IMG_2947

Jackson and I had a date at the local outdoor theater. It was his first trip to The Muny, and we saw Shrek: The Musical. He loved it and laughed a LOT at all the fart and burp jokes. I had a wonderful date too!IMG_2975

We also got to hang out with new friends at their neighborhood pool the last weekend of June. The kids swam in cold, rainy weather while the adults huddled under blankets and laughed enough to keep ourselves warm!IMG_2979

I ended the month with this glorious view greeting me as I drove to work on a Sunday morning. How blessed am I to get this view on the way to a church where God is present and active? Breathless!IMG_2997


Related Posts with Thumbnails