Monday, December 30, 2013

A Thousand Years

I'm sitting here looking at the ocean, the way it goes in and out, all the way to shore it seems... and then it pulls everything right back out...the ground shifts right under your are never still here. The kids get in the water and they steady move to the right, I don't know why but it's a thing.
People gaze at the endless possibilities of the water hitting the sky and I can tell (because I am a people watcher) we are all dreaming of something bigger, how can you not when you are among  a billion grains of sand. 

And I'm thinking too, a lot. Well, I'm actually mostly praying. I talk to Him in fragments. It's one of the things I adore about Him...He could care less about me. It's the broken pieces of conversation he is so good at putting together...He completes sentences...he loves run-ons. He is reading the books we are all writing in our heads.  

And so here we are, hanging onto the edge of 2013, it's on all of our minds. Some of us could-care-less about the number aspect of it all, and some of us are completely wrecked by the passing of time. I can relate to both.  

There have been years that were so full of pain and loss and confusion that I was begging God for calendar to change, as if that was my permission to grab a blessing or get a "new thing" from Him that would somehow heal the mess. Ridiculous. He changes things and makes us new anytime we ask. Even now, today, the last holdout of this calendar year...could be the launch. He can’t be contained...especially by a number.

And there have been years that were so full of just plain goodness, wholesomeness and all those wonderful feelings you can’t seem to express and I was almost terrified to hear the fireworks and sip the champagne because, surely, goodness can’t last forever and the next year was sure to bring something horrible. You know the saying...Waiting for the other shoe to drop. (Honestly, I don't even know what that means but I've said it and I've certainly heard it and it doesn't sound positive.)

I know my God...I trust Him...His timing isn't our timing...His ways are not our ways...I know this...but I can’t wrap my head around it so I fret. Because I guess that's what I do. It's not good. I don't recommend it. Fretting.  

 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. 

    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so my ways are higher than your ways

    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." 

Isaiah 55: 8-9

So anyway, after all thing rambling, if you are still reading this, you must need this Word as much as I did...I want to share with you a few things I know for sure God has whispered to me among the waves this week. I hope so much that they bring peace to you.  

When I close my eyes and open my heart, I mean really open it up, tears may fall in the quietness of *it all* but then God... 

"But do not forget this one thing, With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day." 2 Peter 3:8 

I call out to Him like a child who has just been given permission to stay awake an extra hour to read a few more chapters in her favorite novel..."THANK YOU SO MUCH GOD." 

I don't know about you but there are so many things I will have to call unfinished, or even failures if I have to call them done or completed by 2013. Goals I didn't meet, dreams I didn't grab, relationships I didn't mend, adventures left un-ventured.

I NEED MORE TIME to get all this done, and I am suggesting to the rest of you who maybe don't feel ready to hit 2014 wide open because there are still strings attached, dangling’s from 2013...ITS OK.  

This isn't so much a new year for some of us as an extension. As long as you and I are breathing we still have time to complete our callings and perhaps the only ones putting hard dates on it all is US. Maybe...God didn't ever intend for us to finish something in a calendar year. I just want to throw it out there that 2014 can be the year of “Still mending up pieces that are worthy of the mend."

It's possible this is just a me problem, that's OK. But I need to know that a 12 month time frame doesn't make or break a person. Whether it was a great year or one you really would like to see go up in flames. I needed to hear from God that he wasn't even on the same calendar of achievement I was.  

Bring on the celebration of life and opportunity to keep keeping on. The good stuff you want to hang onto...hang on tight baby, and the stuff that you need to change or put more work into, let’s bring that with us, it's not finished until It. Is. You know what I mean? Today is not that day.    

 So I'm looking at 2014 in a different light this year. The one through Gods hour glass. Who wouldn't like a thousand more years to get it all done? The good the bad and the redemptive. 

Pace yourself according to God’s grace. It’s like a thousand years more than we thought we had. How awesome is that!? 

Don't give up on your thing...whatever it is that you thought was going to be a 2013 thing...guess have more time. Here is your extension, refocus and go for it. Or you know what...don't. Take this New Year off and rest.
God is not angry at those who sit by The Stream for rejuvenation. The waves are still going to roll in and out, God's going to complete His work in due time.

Happy New Extended Time... (I know how stupid that sounds, just go there with me...) Grin.


Monday, December 23, 2013

A Love Story

You go into marriage knowing as many things as you can about the man who has swept you off your feet. Our love was young and fast...I didn't even know his favorite color or preferred meal but I knew how his eyes sparkled under clear fall nights on top of that hill in Alabama...and I knew how it felt to ride shotgun in his open top jeep and spontaneously park on the side of the road just to dance under the stars  to our favorite song.

We talked about eloping after only six short weeks of dating. We dreamed wide eyed about having a large family moving all over the country and working our way up the ladder. We didn't have a dime. We were barley in our 20's...most people thought we were crazy. "Rushing into things when for the Lords sake she's not even through with school!" But we never had a doubt. There wasn't ever even one pinch of hesitation in our minds...this was going to work. I knew it like I knew his phone number...I dialed it one hundred times a day. It was written on my heart.

We held hands all the time, I became pretty good at doing most things one handed, the other one was finger locked with his. I knew a lot about this young man, we talked long hours, but at the same time...all I really knew was what he said he was going to do...

We know nothing about a man until we see him not as just our spouse...but as a father. And we have no way of testing these waters. They see the belly growing and they notice "all the changes" happening to your once well maintained body...but they don't know...I mean really know...until the day they hear that deep swell of first breath air filling tiny lungs...and the wail that follows.   

Then begins this journey...the one you planned for but don't have a map. The one where character is built or destroyed. And just as a mother waits expectant to see the color of her new borns eyes and the shape of its she waits to see the response from her man. She wants to witness his reaction to the introduction of himself. It's magic.  

I'm sitting here typing this and I can here my husband downstairs playing a new game with the girls. It's an app of charades called heads Up (I think) and they are roaring with laughter. And I cant help but stop and just weep at the miracle of it. The bonding that has taken place with a man and his children over the last 15 years. It can not be replaced in a child's life. And God knew that. It's not perfect, I'm laughing as I even say that, not at all, its so messy this parenting thing.  But the process, when not given up on, IS the gift. It is the story. There is no final result, you are always on the the game. 

Here on this Christmas Eve, Eve (My youngest made up that name for today so she could try and get an early present) I'm thinking about Joseph.  He was leading his soon to be wife into the delivery room, the one with out doctors and nurses and God Bless her soul an epidural. The one without heart monitors and latex gloves and oh my word there wasn't any hand sanitizer. And there he was...a man, a newbie dad...delivering God's Son. Deep Breath.

A love story like no other...were they holding hands, Mary and Joseph, as the labor began? Were they anticipating the color of His eyes and the shape of His nose? Would He resemble Mary? Did Joseph  bond right away or was he just terrified and exhausted? If he was...rightly so! An adoption, a step earthy father for the Son of The Creator of the Universe...God.

Is this how they had planned it when they were in courtship, dancing under the stars...I'm going to just say Um, no. But Joseph, being a man of God, stepped up to the plate...stayed in it for the tough stuff. The stuff that married couples really hope they don't have to deal with until years after vows. The stuff of doubting, the pit in your stomach that makes you wonder..."This is more than I bargained for...Is this really going to work?"

And then He came...just as God said it would happen. Born of a Virgin...delivered into the hands of a man who didn't run away. A man of integrity, who stood by his woman even when her story was ridiculous. When the public was glaring at this unwed teenager, he was faithful, and he didn't have to be. He could have chickened out and God would have rewritten the story but he stayed. And we are all better for it.

What a beautiful picture of fatherhood. The kind with a beginning no man would desire and the one with an ending that was the raising of a man who would save the world. The kind that honors God. An example any man can follow. Trust God, stick around and raise your children...the ones God gives you.

If I made you a list of the top 10 things I love and admire about my husband, four of those reasons would include how he fathers our four girls. Nothing can replace his role in their lives. His protection, his providing of spiritual guidance, the food he works so hard for to feed them, the time he invests.... From the delivery room wonderstruck man who *just like that* became a father. The role of a lifetime...the one that is hard to mess up if you will only commit it to God and just show up...stay. Lead with grace and love and the rest will tell the story of the greatest daddy in the world, you.

I am thankful God included a man in the story of the birth of our Hope, our Salvation. He didn't have too, but he wanted too. He continues to set examples for us all....we need our men. Our strong fathers who hold double fisted to the voice of God. Our Daddies....thank you Lord.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Remembering Mary

I grew up in a small neighborhood where the moms all knew each other and the front doors swung open without knocking needed. I was completely comfortable pulling up a chair to the kitchen table of any of the surrounding homes and asking for food and a drink.

Conversations were had with ease...political correctness wasn’t a thing...the disciplining of children verbally was a group effort. I knew that my behavior was being monitored and would be corrected by any woman on that street...with permission from my own mother.

We were all slightly different, of course we were, but we seemed more alike than not. Everyone had a mom and a dad, a job, a dog, and grass that needed to be cut on Saturday. And on Sunday, the cars all pulled out of driveways around 9am and headed to a church.

Where I’m from there is a one on every corner, a church that is. I am not exaggerating. There are so many different denominations to choose from. I can remember my nose pressed to the glass of our car window, counting all the churches we passed before we arrived at ours, the big Baptist one, white columns and all. I would wonder...why aren’t we all together? I want to know what they do differently than we do.

My best friend, who lived directly across the street, was Catholic. I spent a lot of time in her home. If I close my eyes I can smell her mother’s laundry detergent, I loved it so. She also had Sprite in her refrigerator. This was a big deal to me...we didn't keep sodas in our house. I would sneak sips of that Sprite every chance I got.

I also recall the way they had figurines of Mother Mary and open Bibles around the sitting areas. Candles set up for lighting and long strands of beads with crosses on the end. This was captivating too me. I would stare at Mother Mary; run my fingers over her folded hands and bended knees. I wondered why we never really talked about Mary in our church. I mean we did at Christmas, but that was the last I recall throughout the year. (She might have been talked about more than once, This is just the way I recall it.)

We certainly had open Bibles in my home too. My mother studied the Word of God as if it was her life line, and prayer journals were filled year after year. I thank God for that. I am very certain it is the reason I am living the life I have now...the prayers of the ones who love me...God has granted. But no talk of Mary, really.

I gathered that adults were afraid that if they talked about her too much, they were breaching some sort of contract or allegiance to Jesus. It was like walking on thin ice or something. I didn't get it.  

Still...I wanted to count beads like my best friend, and I had longing to know more about this Mary she adored. I would ask questions but I was hushed. I imagine it was the same hushing I give my children when they ask questions I don’t want to dive into.

My best friend and I both loved Jesus. We were comfortable talking about Him. I remember her telling me about going into the confessional. My eyes were wide and it was as if she was reading me a Nancy Drew Mystery...I would ask, “Were you afraid? Did he make you list EVERYTHING? Did you tell him anything I did? (Whew) Is he going to tell your mom???!!!!"


My fascination grew and I guess I had pestered her mom long for the 100th time I asked she finally said yes. "OK Allison, yes, you can come to Mass with us on Sunday." (Mass? I thought we were going to church? Don’t ask her anything or she will change her mind...)

I jumped and clapped and ran home to ask my mom’s permission.

That Sunday came and I was dressed in my best. We parked and walked into the church. I whispered to my friend "Is this Mass?" She giggled and said just pay attention and don’t talk or we are both in HUGE trouble. I pinkie promised her and we took our seat on the soft velvety pew.

I immediately noticed a long bar with pads on it down by the floor. I thought, "How nice, a place to prop my feet!" Her mother squeezed my leg and said in a low firm voice I had never heard come out of her mouth before..."Get you FOOT off the kneeling bench."

The kneeling bench? I had never kneeled in church before. This was going to be awesome!

The preacher was dressed in long robes with cords dangling and he spoke in rhythm. He read the words from the Holy Bible and the congregation would repeat long paragraphs back to him in unison. I stood there...lips sealed. It was so much to take in and then the next thing I knew I was on the floor, kneeling, we all were...bowed low before the giant Jesus hanging on the giant Cross on the platform. I could see the nails and all...

Then came the time for the Lords Supper. I was asked to stay in my seat and not participate. I didn’t question it. I wasn’t offended. I just obeyed and observed as they each went up for a blessing. A BLESSING! I wanted that blessing.

I had never seen someone touch a person’s head and say "May God Bless You In the Name of Jesus Christ." (How beautiful…how important. Bless me someone, please bless me I thought.)  It was followed by a loaf of bread ripped and then dipped in red wine. Real wine, the kind that leaves a smell on your breath. The kind Jesus served.

We did a bunch more praying and up and down kneeling and songs and Scripture reading and then it was over. I loved it. And as we were leaving, there she was...Mary. An ivory statue standing with her arms down to her side, slightly open with her head tilted. I went up to touch her dress and stare at her eyes...The one God picked to be the mother of Jesus. Mesmerizing.

That was the last time I went to a Catholic Mass service. Not for any reason really except I wasn’t invited back. I don’t blame them. I was touching everything and asking a bunch of questions. Plus, we were really involved in our own church so it’s not good to have a lot of absences when you are in the learning phase of it all. Sunday school teachers have sticker charts for attendance and I wanted my sticker. (Grin)

Let me say here that I adored my church. It was filled with love and worship and praise to Jesus. It is where I sat at the feet of hundreds of faithful volunteers who taught little children the word of God. I fell in love with Jesus there, had my head submerged in baptismal waters there and married the man my soul is eternally connected to there.

My preacher makes no bones about hard truths of God’s Word yet also speaks of  mercy and grace and forgiveness of all sins. He is passionate about the gospel, about serving the poor, about the great commission and he loves his wife in such a way that set an example for even me...a watcher from the day my husband would love God and love me like that. And he does. I love my church. It feels like home....but I still carry a space of curiosity.

Not a wandering from God…but a searching of His mysteries. Surely, they cannot all be bound up in these walls.

I’m asking God to take me deeper. To follow the things and ways of Him…Certainly, we are all robbing ourselves of a piece of His creativity by setting such hard lines that divide us…brothers and sisters of the One True God. The One who came to set us free, and here we are getting all caught up in our "rules". But the Cross...

I grew up and moved away from home, as one does. I longed to find a church of my own.  My man and I have had the privilege of attending several denominations in the process of seeking God’s will for where He would have us become members. As we moved from state to state we researched and visited and prayed and landed in many different churches attached to different denominations. We have learned from them all.

I am quite fond of the Methodist church seeing as my dad was raised in that church and my sister attends one now. I am blessed to have a first cousin who has gone "the preacher route" and he is a Presbyterian. I listen to his online sermons...that boy can give a good word. See for yourself...

I have a Catholic best friend again, I met her in my adult years, and we talk of Jesus often and with great ease. There are differences, yes, but far more that binds us. I am surrounded by new this and new that churches...all trying to name themselves something different in the hopes of breaking down walls that seem unwelcoming. I respect that. Call yourself whatever you want to if it brings people in to worship Jesus Christ.

I am currently a member of Baptist church. I am raising my children there. It is a place of imperfect people who radically love Jesus and do their best to follow the Scriptures. Though, I am not married to it, and I don't see myself staying there the rest of my life...especially if they do not move towards putting more women's voices alongside the men's. The Holy Spirit is rooted in us all equally (Galatians 3:28) and more and more I am longing to hear from both genders. According to Acts 2:17 God declared He would pour out His spirit out on all flesh and “your sons and daughters” shall prophesy.  Don't let that bother you. My heart is sealed to Jesus Christ alone. He wasn't a Baptist. And yet He still saved the world...

This Christmas, really just this past week, I am drawn back to the lure of Mary. The Virgin girl who was seen as highly favored by God. He could have picked anyone to deliver The Son...and He picked her. A girl. A human. She was His choice.

From the dust He created Adam, from the rib a woman…from a girl…Jesus. I want to focus on her for just a minute. I don't think that in anyway takes away from the Glory of our Lord. It is in fact a key part of the fulfillment of the Scriptures. (Isaiah 7:14)

I will not pray to her, that is reserved for my God, I don't pray to any humans... but I will acknowledge her role of greatness in the story that woos my heart. The birth of my Savior and yours...The One that will ride in on His white horse according to Revelations and collect all of His people ...from all denominations...

I want my home in heaven to be just like the one I had as a little girl. The one wedged in between the Catholics and the Methodists...the Presbyterians and the Jews. The Non-Denomination the Lutherans and Pentecostals and Episcopalians.

So my attempt to try this "advent"... I'm reflecting on Virgin Mary...thanking God for giving her favor, thanking Him for choosing a young unassuming girl to be an intricate part of the greatest gift man has ever received. 

And who knows I may even light a candle and kneel before God in her remembrance. That 80 mile journey on a donkey…full term body aching, baby boy kicking....radical obedience of a 12 year old girl who's response to the Lords call on her life is one to be admired...

 And Mary said, “I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

"Oh how I praise the Lord. How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation forever shall call me blest of God. For he, the mighty Holy One, has done great things to me. His mercy goes on from generation to generation, to all who reverence him."
Luke 1:47-50

I’m raising four little girls…what an extraordinary example Mary is to them for multiple reasons. In preparing our heart for the birth of a King, We must not leave out his mother.

The One who put a longing in my heart to climb over man made fences... and search for the things that He deemed important, the whole story, is worthy of the search that makes us uncomfortable.  

So you know all about Jesus, but do you know His Mama?