Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Big 3-0

Today I embarked on a new journey in my life- entering my 30s. My dad and Carter wished me Happy Birthday first, followed by Garrett, and then my sweet Saralynn. "Happy Birfday Mommy. You're firty." Thanks for the reminder, Dear One. My mom followed suit not long after. I'm a very blessed girl.

A few thoughts on what I've learned in the first 30 years of this wonderful life I've been given (in no particular order)...

1. The older I get, the faster time flies. (This applies even more to watching my children grow- it's just going by too quickly.)
2. Some days are just rainy days.
3. I miss my paternal grandparents. They would've loved watching my children grow.
4. I'm thankful that we get to visit my maternal grandparents each Friday. I'm sure that when they Memaw and Papa go to meet Ice and PaClyde in Heaven that they'll share some pretty funny stories about Saralynn and Carter with them.
5. I'm still a Daddy's girl.
6. I'll always need my Mama.
7. My brother is my hero.
8. My husband is the light of my life. I have no doubt that we were created for each other.
9. I think I could have the chance to sing and lead God's people in worship every day and it wouldn't be enough.
10. Thinking about the huge worship service that awaits me in Heaven excites me!
11. I love fresh out of the tub wet baby hair.
12. I still want to adopt a baby some day. There's a brown skinned baby out there (and maybe 2) that will complete our family.
13. Sometimes you just aren't as close to people as you think. They're a bigger part of your life than you are theirs.
14. I love being able to talk sports with my Daddy and somewhat hold my own.
15. Most Memorable Birthday Ever: 20th- 9.12.00- My mom and dad conspired with Bobby and Christina Jones to have our college Bible Study meet at Los Nopales for the evening. I thought it odd that we would meet somewhere to eat since Christina usually cooked for us. Little did I know it was a birthday party for me. My first surprise party!
16. 2nd Most Memorable Birthday Ever: 21st- 9.12.01- the day after 9.11.01. I woke up and immediately realized how much I missed my grandparents. That was the first birthday that they had not acknowledged with a ridiculously too early phone call to me. My grandfather had already gone to the arms of Jesus and my grandmother was debilitated by the heinous disease of forgetfulness that eventually took her from us. And then I quickly realized how many other people woke up missing people, too. I'll never forget...
17. 3rd Most Memorable Birthday Ever: 22nd- 9.12.02. I didn't have class that day (but I think that was by my own choice.) I woke up to the phone ringing around 9:30. It was Garrett. We'd only been dating about 2 months, but he'd taken the day off and surprised me with a visit to LaGrange. So fun. I really don't remember everything we did (oops) but I remember he bought me a Beta fish and took me to the coffee shop that night.
18. Even though the last month or so is tough on me personally, I LOVE being pregnant. (I am, however, done being pregnant.)
19. I want to go back to college one day.
20. I love watching my little girl learn something new.
21. My son melts my heart with pretty much anything he ever does.
22. Sometimes all you can do is cry.
23. A coloring book and some crayons are the best stress relief!
24. Learning to sew isn't as hard as I thought.
25. I still don't understand the need for ridiculously scary movies. Which is why I don't watch them.
26. I miss playing Mary in the Living Christmas Tree each Christmas.
27. I still want to learn to play the guitar.
28. Watching Saralynn "play" soccer is hilarious.
29. Carter eating cat food wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
30. I'm ready for the next firty years of my life!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Grass Stains

Do they bother you? They don't bother me.

Excuse me?

That's right. I don't mind the sight of a grass stain. Maybe if it were on my great-grandmother's heirloom garment or something I might feel differently, but otherwise I have absolutely no problem with grass stains. This stems from my last blog post.

You see, that wonderful, beautiful, albeit hot and muggy night in July in the mountains of Tennessee when Jesus called me to minister for Him was also the night I got the worst. grass. stains. ever. And the best part? They weren't on my clothes.

They were on my knees.

As I mentioned before, I was never really big on the whole "get on your knees and pray" deal. As far as I knew, I could pray just fine on my hind end in a chair or on my feet, or even laying in bed at night. But that night I learned a great deal about what it means to be in an attitude of prayer. I still remember the outfit I wore- a red and white striped shirt, blue jean shorts, and navy Keds with no socks. (No comments, please.) I spent a really long time on my knees experiencing Jesus that night. If I close my eyes and concentrate really hard, I can almost smell the scent of the grass. But I can still picture the grass stains on my knees. They stayed for days- I think through the rest the week we were at camp. An argument could be made that the less than stellar showering situation could've contributed to the extended stay of the greenish tent on my knees, but I like to also think the Master Gardner Himself used it as a reminder of what He had done in and through me that night.

Think back to a time in your life when you experienced a grass stain. Most likely that stain resided on a piece of clothing or some other material. The first time you slid into second base in a T-ball game? A picnic with a special someone that left a mark on the blanket you sat on? I'm sure at some point we've all had a stain to set in. And if we were around our mom during that time, we might've, just maybe, been scolded for said stain. "Do you KNOW how hard this stain is to get out of your clothes?"

Luckily for me, the stains on my knees eventually went away. But, the pigments, or memories, of that night stained my heart in such a way that a beautiful piece of artwork was born. The Artist Himself holds the brush and works, stroke by stroke, painting on the canvas of my life. Sometimes I try and take the brush thinking a blue stroke would be better than the green one He used, or thinking the road He's painting should go left instead of right. But, with patience that only He possesses, He lovingly and delicately takes the brush back from me and paints a curve that swerves the road from the left- and the danger sign that's ahead- back to the right, and smiles as He envisions how straight the road will be.

So, the next time you come across a grass stain- whether in your own garment or your child's, stop and think back on the situation that made the stain. Take time to see it for what it is- a chance to reflect. Stains are life-changing things, especially to the garment that bears them.

I hope you have a grass stain moment with Jesus soon, if you haven't had one lately. I've spent a lot of time in the past months trying to paint my own picture. Trying to make it match the vision Jesus gave me that July night so long ago. And I'm learning that the timing just might not be right for that picture to be finished. But through it all I'm learning. Learning that even though that vision was given to me, it wasn't time-stamped. Sure, I would've thought three years- one of planning and preparation and two of actual events and services- wold be enough. But, it's His timing and not mine. I'm thankful that what's on the canvas now is a picture of me and a very dear friend singing this coming Sunday.

And, if I look closely at the painting, I think I see a grass stain...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

When People Let You Down

This is yet another devotion I came across today- on a day that I really needed it. I'm sharing it because it's healing for me to share, and because I hope it helps someone else, too.

I've been struggling with a particular issue/situation for the better part of three years. Yes, I know- the Israelites wandered through the desert for 40 years, so what's three years, right? And, you're right- three years isn't that long. But, when things don't always go as planned, three years can seem like eternity.

You see, I felt a call on my life in the summer of 1993 to ministry. Vague, right? Maybe. Ministry takes on many faces, many voices- it can really be anything from writing a note to a shut-in once a week to moving across the world and sharing Him. However, during this calling, I had a vision of me leading worship. Again, vague, right? I have, after all, been singing in "big church" since I was three. Leading worship has become part of who I am- not just what I do. It warms my heart so to watch people from my vantage point as they enter the throne room of the King. I guess you could say I am helped in my worship by others and their worship.

I love to hear the stories of how Jesus touches people. For that reason, I share mine. I accepted Jesus as my Savior in early 1990. I was in the fourth grade, and it was Revival time. I LOVE church revivals. It's a time for a refreshing word from a different perspective, at least most of the time. This one was no different. Revival was compartmentalized by adults and kids. Our church was, I would say, filled with between 100-150 per service. A pure guess, but... There weren't usually very many kids- in fact, I was the only kid my age. But, the preacher that week took one night- Tuesday, I think- and spoke directly to the kids in the Fellowship Hall. He talked about our hearts and what they look like when they're full of sin. The Fellowship Hall became our heart, and as he spoke, he threw trash, paper, etc. all over the floor. The place was a mess! To make a long story short, the image of him having to kick around trash and nastiness just to be able to talk to us- and that representing the sin that infiltrates our hearts- spoke to this chick. I prayed with my preacher-all-my-life grandfather to ask Jesus into my heart and walked to the front of the church the next day or day after. (I think I actually made my "faith walk" on that Thursday.) I was in the pew with my Daddy, and as we prayed, I clearly felt a hand on my shoulder. I thought it was my Daddy, nudging me that "it was time." I looked over through a peeked eye (we are after all, praying), but he was in an attitude of prayer- head bowed, eyes closed, no doubt praying for me. I stayed put. Again, the hand. And again, not my dad. (Remind you of something? Samuel? Eli? Anyone?) I finally realized (duh) that it was the hand of Jesus, nudging me to the next step in my journey with Him. I went forward, made my profession of faith, and was baptized on Easter Sunday.

Fast forward a couple of years to Youth Camp. Hunter green t-shirt with a mountain-climber dude on the back- sky blue writing. "Reach the Peak". I know someone remembers... Again, Tuesday night. What's up with me and God and Tuesday? (Subsequently, I met my husband on a Tuesday. I digress.) The speaker calls for a time of prayer, and I feel a nudge. Talk about hair standing on the back of my head. We're in the mountains of Tennessee. It's hot. Maybe I'm delirious, but I feel it- just like I did in the pew of Unity Baptist Church. I look over, thinking maybe someone beside me just needs out. Nope, no one there. Really? So, I surrender to the Hand and leave my folding chair. I'm sitting about 6 rows back, looking at the stage, on the right. I have no idea where I'm going or why I'm going, but I am led to a patch of grass to my right. I feel the hands lead me to my knees, and my face into the grass. Whoa- I'm not really used to this whole "face to the ground" thing. But, I can't deny the Hands. I cry out to Him- "why am I here?" And, as audibly as I hear the pecking of the keyboard now, I heard "because you're going to minister for Me." Um, ok. "I have given you a voice- now use it. I want you to help lead my people as they worship Me." And then, I see it- a vision of the gym at our church. And I'm there, helping lead. I'm singing- people I don't even know are playing instruments around me. We're singing a song I don't know. But, we're there- I can see it clearly. And it's wonderful. It's beautiful. It's natural- right where I know I belong.

Now fast forward a few more years, to a time and place in our church that looks ALOT like the vision I had in Tennessee that year. I mean, ALOT. Like, the same. To think that our church would venture into such an environment was sort of unheard of in my younger years, but now, we're there. And, because of the vision I had, and the longing in my heart to help lead people to Jesus, I just figured I'd be there. If I had the vision, surely that meant I was to be a part, right? Maybe. But that hasn't been the case yet. And I'm hurt. I'm sad. I'm disappointed. And I've acted out of those emotions. My sweet husband, trying to come to my defense, has acted out of those same emotions, and has been admonished greatly for it. And I don't like it. That in itself hurts me. This is my battle to fight. My questions to ask. Garrett didn't sign on for it- he's just trying to protect me. To say that the past three years has been a struggle would be an understatement. I've been told to seek God more, listen to God more, try and understand where others are coming from in their decisions more- they're listening to God, after all. Well, so am I. And don't get me wrong- I don't think God gives people varying visions and such about the same situation. He's not a God who sets out to confuse us. And I know that we're all doing the best with what we have and what we feel, but I would really appreciate being heard- and I would really appreciate someone acknowledging the fact that I, too, am seeking after Him. Sure, there have been times I've not heard Him clearly and begged for something from Him. The past few years have been plagued by many other struggles- not just this one, but in it all I've tried to listen. I feel alot of the time that I'm just alone. Standing in the midst of a crowd, yelling at the top of my lungs, and being completely ignored. I can't help the way I feel. Am I wrong? Maybe. But, as the saying goes, it is what it is, and I can't shake that feeling. Sure, I've been told my day will come, and even that the day is closer than ever, but honestly, I've heard that before. And, again, I'm hurt. And again, I can't help it.

Fast forward now to today's devotion. So. Timely. For. Me. I will lead worship this Sunday with one of the greatest friends I've ever had in my life. And I am so excited to do so! My friend playing guitar, our voices joining together as they have so many times before... Pure excitement! And, oh, the vision I have of the activities of Heaven while we sing. I can picture my grandfather- whittling away on old wooden spools, making tops for the children sitting around he and my grandmother. She's rocking babies, both her outstretched feet hitting the floor at the same time as she makes the rocking chair rock. And around them, the cherubim themselves- watching over them all and singing "holy, holy, holy" in time with the flutter of their wings. What a beautiful picture!

I am still disappointed. I'm still hurt. But, today, I'm choosing to grieve what I "thought" would be reality, and grab hold of what is reality. I've spent too much time trying to put my vision and my calling into words. Frankly, I'm tired of crying, being upset, and upsetting my husband in the process. So, today, I'm choosing to let go of what wasn't and isn't, and hold onto what is.

When People Let You Down

2 Sep 2010
Melanie Chitwood

"Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." Psalm 62:8 (NASB)

Disappointment feels like a heavy rock sinking to the bottom of my spirit. I've felt disappointed in many situations – a business opportunity that didn't pan out, a writing door that didn't open, and a relationship that broke my young heart.

The heaviest disappointments for me, however, stem from people. And not just any people; people who I'm closest to. People who turn out to be not at all what I hoped they'd be, or not who I thought they were.

I know I'm not alone in wondering how to deal with people who let me down. Just this week a friend said with a choke in her voice, "I wish my mom and I could be closer, but I don't think we ever will be." Another woman said with despondency, "My husband and I just don't talk." I've heard the edge of bitterness in women's voices as they vow never to trust again because of a friend's betrayal. And most of us have swallowed the hopelessness that comes with a broken heart, "I thought he was the one."

I've tried different ways to handle disappointments in relationships. One way is to ignore the disappointment, to shut it in a box and hope the lid holds. Another way is to gloss over it with a quick statement such as, "People will let you down, but God never will." True, but does this really help me process the hurt?

One morning in my quiet time I was pouring out my sadness, anger and disappointment about a close relationship. As the tears slipped down my face, I begged God to show up. What do I do with all this? Show me and I'll do it because what I've been doing is not working.

Clear as a bell ringing in my spirit, Jesus said, Grieve.

Really? I questioned. I remembered that Jesus knew all about disappointment – Peter's denial, Judas' betrayal, and the disciples falling asleep during His anguish before His crucifixion (Matthew 26). I remembered people in the Bible who were well acquainted with people they loved letting them down, such as Joseph or Job. I felt reassured that Jesus wouldn't misunderstand my sadness as a lack of faith.

So I cried, feeling every ounce of the disappointment. I told God all the things I wish were different about this relationship, all the things I thought this person had done wrong, and what I wish this person would do differently.After the winds of grief subsided, I was done. Grieving was the bridge I had to cross to move beyond the disappointment. On the other side I found myself in a place where I could embrace the relationship for what it is, not what it's not.

On the other side of grief lies a place where we can consider how to respond to the person who disappointed us. There are a number of possible responses. Sometimes we need to talk to the person or get godly counsel. Other times we may need to create healthy boundaries, or we may need just to let it go. Only after we've allowed ourselves to grieve, however, will we know how to respond to this person in the way that God wants. Then the words, "People will let you down, but God never will," will be truly comforting, not just empty words.

Dear Lord, I'm so thankful that when it feels like no one else understands, You do. You understand about being disappointed in people but You loved them in the midst of that. Lord, I want to follow Your example. I'm thankful You know this sadness is a part of healing from the pain of disappointment. Give me guidance in handling this -I trust that You can bring good out of this. In Jesus' Name, Amen.