Monday, June 28, 2010

Not One Thing

We are leaving for vacation in four hours. Tony is at school. It is my job to pack the Suburban, tidy up the house, gather all the beach gear, take the trash and recycling to the dump (maybe I should do that BEFORE packing up the car with our stuff...), clean the windshield and get some cash. Daniel needs to mow the front yard. The girls need to clean their room. Shannon needs to wash her clothes. I gotta make our summer music mix for the car.

We are leaving in FOUR HOURS. The kids are still in bed.

What's wrong with this picture?

I am - ahem - enjoying my VACATION already. At the moment, that means sitting immobile with a great cup of coffee and a blank slate in front of the next few days.

It feels very, very good.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Church Today


Some days just work.

Sometimes it's my attitude.

Sometimes it's a great combination of people.

Sometimes it's the fresh wind of grace.

Today, our gathering of worship was just that. We were whipped and caressed with grace.

And it was good. In spite of all the things that we control that failed to occur, the mistakes made, balls spite of our rank humanity, we experienced the presence of God in an amazing, tangible way.

This I know, because I have no words. At some point, words become meaningless. It was, quite simply, a time of fullness, redemption, truth and grace.


Friday, June 25, 2010

It's Summer And I'm Staying Up Late

Just a few random thoughts as the evening winds down. Or, as the case may be, the morning winds up; it's 1:13AM. I'm obviously on a summer schedule...

  • I love to cook. It might be more accurate to say that I love to feed people. I really do. I go on and on about not having the gift of hospitality; I'm not much for hosting parties and entertaining and all that. But I love to make food for the people I love. From scratch. Tonight I threw together some sort of beef tips on rice meal that came from frozen sauce (made from scratch a few weeks ago, when we had stew or soup of some sort - honestly, I realized after I threw it in the pot that it WASN'T what I thought it was. I hoped for the best and bravely carried on....) and some steak that didn't get cooked for dinner yesterday. A little on the salty side (why? don't know..) but delicious. I have a habit of declaring my food delicious right there at the table. That's probably really bad manners, but I enjoy making stuff and I don't mind enjoying it when I eat it, too. 
  • I'm growing a garden of sorts, but it appears to be a miserable failure. It did alright when it was raining every day, but I sort of forgot about it this week. I think the 148,000 degree temperatures might have done it in. Epic fail.
  • Had a great talk tonight with a friend who has been "officially" in ministry for some time; well-educated (at seminary, no less!) and serving others in the name of Jesus for quite some time. She exudes grace and tenderness. She's moving towards ordination - the official sanction of a Christian church on her calling to ministry - with her tender, wounded heart in her hands. In previous churches, she was refused ordination. She's a woman; many churches "don't do women." She's found a safer place now and will be ordained in the fall. It was just so wonderful to talk with her, to listen to her articulate her heart and talk about her journey.
  • Had a great conversation today with another friend, who has grown and changed and leaned hard into her real self over the last four years. As I listened to her share about where she is in her life and how she is embracing the future, I got goosebumps. She is living a life worth living; it's an incredible story. She's inspiring.
  • Talked with another woman yesterday at lunch and enjoyed hearing about her journey and her passion for a future that is as yet unknown.
  • Thinking hard about how I felt God nudge me towards speaking to/with/for women a few years ago at a retreat. I got to speak in front of the entire church last week, but there's something in me that sometimes leans hard towards women. Fascinating, since I've always felt like a very odd (as in different) sort of woman; being "the chick in the band" for most of my life can do that to you... 
  • I was driving to work Wednesday morning feeling SO incredibly happy that it made me wonder if I'd been SO incredibly sad for too long. It was an odd feeling. I think I've been stressed.
  • Vacation comes soon.  BREATHING.
End of late night rant. I'll go cook something....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bloated, Consistent Accountability

Summer + Hot Weather + Wacky Schedules + Beth Moore = RUTH

Beth Moore
I'm doing a Bible study over the next few weeks, and you're invited - by me and by Beth Moore.

Beth Moore is a gifted speaker, insightful teacher and dynamic personality. And she's a blogger. She's a major celebrity in the world of Christian culture. And while I'm prone to a bit of cynicism when it comes to Christian celebrities, this girl's got the goods.

She's very southern, and that's a bent all its own - but with her passion for her topic and a genuine interest in the spiritual lives of women, she comes across as nothing bit sincere. Very southern, but sincere.

I believe Beth Moore when she talks about Jesus.

She's got this website that has quite a following, and for a few summers now they've done a Bible study "together". Blog followers are called "siestas", which is, I think, the result of some long story about the word "sisters" and "siestas" and yada yada yada....but it's sort of cute. So this summer, the "Siesta Bible Study" is based on the book of Ruth, from the Old Testament, using a Kelly Minter study book.

And Kelly Minter is a singer/songwriter. Musician. Writer. Girl after my own heart. Here's a sample...
Kelly Minter

This is good stuff. Challenging.

Wanna do it with me? With the way summer schedules go, it's tough to meet for any kind of small group or study. But there's a common connector here with a video every two weeks, and a great, very engaging book to study.

So here's what I'm thinking: I'm going to do this study, and hope that a few folks will do it at the same time. For those of us who are local, we can entertain the idea of getting together a couple of times during the next 12 weeks to discuss (and eat - see video for details!) For all of us - especially those who are farther apart geographically - we can discuss via Facebook.

And pray for one another.

And learn something that just might rock our worlds.

If you're in, leave a comment here and the Ruth note on my Facebook page. And order the book! You can read the first chapter here and get a head start; the book is available here and here.

Here's the preview video; you can hear Miss Beth herself sketch out the plan for the summer study.

And by the way; my answers to her questions?


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Parenting Tips

When it comes to blogging pastors, Mark Beeson is one of the best.

I read him daily. You should, too.

This latest post on parenting really hit a chord with me. Want to have great kids? Want to do the very best you can as a mom or dad? Want to fill in the blank spaces if you're a single parent?

Read this. Then look around and figure out where "your" people are....

Friday, June 18, 2010

Shannon's Graduation

Our family has changed.
Lonnie and I are both married to other people now.
But I'm glad we are both still here for days like this. And that we are both striving to be the very best parents we can be.
Shannon's graduation day, June 12, 2010

Summer Begins Today

It's the last day of school for the kids.

Summer officially begins.

More than anything, I want to be here:

But I will not. I will be here this weekend, and I'm not exactly sure when we'll get there.

When did my life turn into one in which summer was simply another run of days and weeks of work and Stuff To Do? What happened to the June/July/August days that stretched on and on with nothing to do? What happened to leisurely afternoons at the pool?

I miss my younger self.

And I want to go to the beach. Now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Almost Six Months Of Marriage

I've been married now for almost six months. Long enough for us to have gotten comfortable with one another, even though every day brings us new experiences. Short enough to have our heads spinning from everything that's happened in the past few months.

We've had a lot of changes in our family. In the midst of it all, we're learning how to live together, how to accommodate one another, how we each deal with crisis.

We've learned to be clear and frank about what it is we like and dislike. What we need and could do without.

Part of me was utterly terrified about getting married again. There were so many ways things could go south. I had gotten pretty comfortable living on my own. Crossing the line from 'single' to 'married' at this point meant some major life changes. After six years, I'd figured out who I was as a single mom. To be married meant a total new life definition. It meant changes would be ahead. It would be a call to a selflessness that I wasn't sure I could muster. It was a huge risk for me; to place that level of trust in someone was overwhelmingly frightening and a real challenge to my insecurities.

What if he realized, after a few days/weeks/months that he realy didn't like me? What if he changed his mind?

I've had to own all that stuff and more, to be honest about my fears and concerns. To listen to his. To learn more about love and respect and what matters most.

It takes work. It's not always easy.

But there's something so solid underneath even the hard times. I've long believed that in order to be in a healthy relationship, I had to be healthy first. I think I'm a lot closer to that today than ever before.

And this man is solid, too. Decent and kind. Authentic. And pretty firm in his commitment; he hasn't changed his mind.

I'm glad I'm married. I'm think this in one of life's finest opportunities to feel the full force of our belief that God's mercies are new every morning.

Indeed, they are.

You Can Deal With This...Or You Can Deal With That

What is it lately with incredible car commercials?


HT to Jon at Stuff Christians Like......

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

So Long Self Day Seven

Things I don't know yet
When, exactly, I'm going to get to the beach
What, exactly, it's going to take to motivate me to get back to the gym

What I'm learning
How valuable it is to work as a team and feel productive (Hi, Lindsay! Hi, Lori!)
How to relinquish control and let others rise to the occasion.

Things (people) I'm praying for 
Danny Buetow.
Bob and Jeanne.

Things that annoy me
A zit. I have a big, painful zit.
I wish I could get more sleep.

Things that scare me
Not much, right now.

Things that make me happy
Finally got my bangs out of my eyes.
Sydni Brawley's voice. The girl can SING!

And thus ends the week-long experiment.

The message is written and rehearsed. Brian has spent a few hours editing, coaching and today listening and giving great feedback. I practiced speaking to the cameras today.

I'm fine. And this was incredibly productive.

So long....

Monday, June 14, 2010

So Long Self Day Six pt 2

Things I don't know yet
Only the things I don't need to know yet
Things I'm learning
How to be content with who I am and what I have
Things I'm praying for
Taping a message on Wednesday
My friends Bob and Jeanne
Things that are getting on my nerves
My own inability to relinquish control
Cancer. Cancer is stupid.
Things that scare me
God's not given me a spirit of fear, has he?
Things that make me happy
Making an incredible mirepoix and ending up with a great meal for my family

Gosh Darn It, God Likes Me!

You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abounds in glory that just pours out into eternity. Philipians 4.19-20 The Message

My Day, Part 1
Paid bills this morning. It's been an expensive month; graduation, etc. Yikes.

I'm out of checks. I didn't put a check in the offering box at church yesterday.

I remembered that we can give online. So I did.

It always seems a little ironic; I mean, the church pays me because I'm an employee, and then I turn around and give some of it back. But obedience brings blessing. I want to learn how to live generously.

My Day, Part 2
Got the mail this afternoon.

Found a refund check from Ann Taylor. Looks like I overpaid the bill somehow. So they sent me some money. Pretty close to what I gave when I clicked "donate now" on the PCC website.

It always seems a little ironic; I mean, God makes provision for me through a job and a steady paycheck. And then I turn around a give some of it back. And then He turns around and gives some of it back. And then...well, you get the picture.....

So Long Self Day Six

From Seth Godin's blog, emphasis mine:

Shipping is fraught with risk and danger.
Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you're exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power or making a fool of yourself.
It's no wonder we're afraid to ship.
It's not clear you have much choice, though. A life spent curled in a ball, hiding in the corner might seem less risky, but in fact it's certain to lead to ennui and eventually failure.
Since you're going to ship anyway, then, the question is: why bother indulging your fear?
In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he's tired. Everyone is. That's not the point. The point is to run.
Same thing is true for shipping, I think. Everyone is afraid. Where do you put the fear?

The point is to run.

I'm running. Since Saturday, I am passing mile markers of watershed moments with blazing frequency. My second child graduates from high school, and it feels like a sucker punch. (I finally figured out that it was the chronological nature of Kid #1 and Kid #2 that made this second graduation harder than the first. They've always been "SarahandShannon".  Sarah provided the first split last year; Shannon's graduation completed the exodus. And I really felt it this year - personally. I felt my age, my future, the changing of the guard. I sort of felt old.)

So anyway: Saturday marked a momentous occasion. Sunday brought another. PCC baptized 34 people in Cartersville in the James River. My friend Lindsay was ready to take that step, and she asked me to do the honors.

It was incredible. I haven't found words yet; to try to create a story out of the experience seems like it would devalue the moment.

I will say this: I was fully present in that place and time, with Lindsay standing in the water between me and her husband. The time came to say the words and they freely slipped out of my heart.

There's something planted in me, this firmly rooted seed of faith, and at times I am stunned by the depth of the roots. Seems like it just happened, somehow...

The point is to run. Just do it. Go for it. Ship it. When I read Seth Godin's post, it resonated. And I was thrilled to see something that connected so tightly to my current circumstances and my recent series of posts.

Here's the story: This weekend, I'll be delivering the message at PCC. I've spoken before, and although I'm more comfortable behind a piano, I'm okay with speaking the message. I feel confident in the content because of the process; Brian is heavily involved in editing and coaching. He's good at that.

But this time it's different. Because we are a mulit-site church, we prepare a DVD of each week's message. We shoot it early in the week, edit and have it ready for Sunday at Westchester. That means that I have to stand in front of a camera on Wednesday afternoon and deliver this message. To an empty room.

It just plain freaks. me. out.

And you know why? Here's the confessional part, the thing I'm really not proud of.

I'm all jacked up about this because of how I'll look. My hair. My clothes. The ten pounds I wish I'd lost last week. Etc.

It's all about me. And it makes me so nervous and uncomfortable. And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is RIDICULOUS.

It's distracting, it's wrong, it's prideful. It's human nature.

Last week I decided that I fight fire with fire and do a little proactive battle with my self-image. The daily photos have been the first shot - no taking six or seven poses until I "looked good". No edits. Raw answers to the questions.

Not for any response, but to allow me to get comfortable with me. To feel the fear and do it anyway. To raise my hand and risk the criticism.

Just to run. 

Odd to do it on the internet, I suppose, but it's been a very helpful process for me.

And there you have it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

So Long Self Day Five

Things I don't know yet
What song we'll be singing at Jackie's dad's graveside service
Why I ate ice cream AND four Oreos tonight
Things I'm learning
That it's an incredibly moving honor to baptize somebody
That if it's natural, it's easy
Things I'm praying for
My family
That I'll DO what my pastor SAID to do in church today when it comes to sacrifice and my kids
Things that are getting on my nerves
I. Feel. Fat.
My neck hurts
Things that scare me
That our days are numbered
That I am wasting more money than I should be, rather than giving it away to those who really need it
Things that make me happy
Lots of time with my daughter Sydni
Being married

Saturday, June 12, 2010

So Long Self Day Four

Things I don't know yet
Exactly how tomorrow's service will go; I missed rehearsal Wednesday night...
How to baptize somebody.
Things I'm learning
How to baptize somebody...
To see what's there and quit worrying about what's not.
Things I'm praying for
Shannon's future
My friend Jackie and her family
Things that are getting on my nerves
My hair
The pain in my neck (literally)
Things that scare me
What I can't control
Not fitting into my clothes
Things that make me happy
Memories of an awesome party for Shannon with a lot of my favorite people together in one place
An extended family that gets along and lives out grace as best they can, to honor God
Relaxing with the family by watching "The A-Team", which I never thought I'd like, and laughing my head off

Friday, June 11, 2010

So Long Self Day Three

Long day. House cleaning, yard work, furniture moving, food prep. And helium balloons.

I. Am. Tired.

Graduation tomorrow, followed by graduation party. Lots of prep today - physical and emotional.

Things I don't know yet
How tomorrow will go
How Tony really feels about all this
Things I'm learning
To trust Shannon
That helium costs .79 per balloon at Food Lion
Things I'm praying for
My friend Bob
Smooth sailing for our entire extended family tomorrow
Things that are getting on my nerves
This bloated feeling in my stomach
Things that scare me
Not being good enough
Things that make me happy
Tony's house, especially how beautiful the yard looks
A $25 PF Changs gift card that came in the mail today. :-)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

So Long Self Day Two

So long self, day two.

I cooked a great dinner tonight; just threw it together and something amazing happened.

Made a new friend tonight, due to miscommunication. She was there for a meeting that didn't happen, so she came to my meeting instead. And something amazing happened.

Via Ben Arment, just discovered some guy named Josh Garrels. No words yet, except that it's been a while since music felt this fresh. I hear some Peter Gabriel and some sort of demented David Crowder-ish stuff happening. And a funky Duffy-esque accent. Like disco shuffle meats bleugrass indie. Love it. Something amazing happening there for sure.

Things I don’t know yet
What's lies ahead for my friend Bob.
What time Tony will be home.
Things I’m learning
That 15 minutes of harmony can put huge smiles on the faces of some very special people.
I have to let go of Shannon.
Things I’m praying for
My friend Jackie and her family.
The next few days; busy, lots of extended family and an interesting mix of personalities.
Things that are getting on my nerves
My constant craving for food.
Not getting enough sleep.
Things that scare me
Letting go of both of my oldest girls and having to trust that they'll be back.
Feeling so out of control when it comes to my friend's illness.
Things that are making me happy
David Brawley, growing up.
Daniel Brawley, becoming a young man.
Sydni Brawley, blossoming into herself.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

So Long Self Day One

If you'll indulge me...I'm going to do a little experiment for the next week.

I'll be making a daily post that's about me. Of course, blogging is pretty much about the blogger, but, you know. This series of posts will be to the extreme of self-indulgence.

I tend to wear one of two hats when I blog here; either Church Leader Worship Person or Mom Of Awesome Kids.

But for the next seven days, I need to do an exercise of sorts, one that will require some navel gazing.

The good part is if you don't like it, you can simply click on by.

Easy, right?

For the next seven days, I'm going to take a photo of myself with my Mac and post it here on this blog. I have my reasons, which will be revealed in a few days.

I'm also going to think through a few questions.

You can watch if you want to.

Things I don’t know yet
Where we're going to live
When Tony will finish school
Things I’m learning
How to trust my friends
How to be a pastor
Things I’m praying for
Clarity on what to do about our housing situation
Healing for my friend Bob
Things that are getting on my nerves
The bad news that seems to come every single day
The BP oil spill
Things that scare me
The impact of all that oil in the ocean
Things that are making me happy
Sleeping beside an amazing man every night
Watching my 18-year-old daughter enjoy the last few days before her high school graduation

By the way, this little exercise was inspired by a blog post found here.

David, On The Value Of Studying

On the way home from a post-Senior-Awards-Night trip to Brusters, Tony was lamenting the fact that he had to go home and study for a test. The awards extravaganza took three hours (well worth it, but I think the length took us by surprise. We were naive.) Tomorrow is the last day of Tony's current school semester.

Here's the exchange:

DAVID:  "Tony, don't stay up until 2:00 AM studying. Then you'll fall asleep in your class."
TONY: "I don't have a choice. I have to study."
DAVID: "Tony, you always have a choice."
ME: "That's right, David. You can always choose."
DAVID: "Tony, you should choose like me. Go to bed. And tomorrow, just guess."

I laughed. I mean, I shouldn't have - of course, the kid should value studying over guessing at the right answers.

But he seems to have a plan. And I guess he's working his plan.

DAVID:  "Seriously. I just guess. And I make A's and B's."

Educated guesses, I suppose.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Listen To Your Lady

It was such a hit this morning that I thought I'd post it here.


Thanks to Central Christian Church for their creative skills!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Like Jonathan

My heart is swelling.

I'm sure pride is sinful in some way; "pride goeth before a fall" and all that...

But I am PROUD. No other way to say it.

Three of the young men pictured have been part of my life in some way since 2000, when we first moved from Texas to Chagrin Falls, Ohio. We met Steve Smith (center), his brother Jeff (fourth from the left) and Dan Prout (furthest to the right) at Fellowship Bible Church. They were awesome, intelligent young men who appreciated the challenges of living a life of faith. They loved God. They loved their families. They loved their church.

And they loved music.

Some of my very favorite memories are from summer VBS weeks, where these guys and a few others would get together to be the worship band. I got to lead with them for a few years and we had such amazing times, learning ridiculously fun songs for kids and leading them in worship every morning with crazy passion. I was privileged to have some incredible moments of worship with Steve, Jeff and Dan - the kind that sear your soul with the presence of God and leave you changed.

These guys are all amazing musicians. Gifted songwriters, good friends to one another and to others. Passionate about life and people and Jesus.

They've just released a really good EP. I really hope you'll check it out. The depth of writing is excellent, the recording quality is stellar, and they've got some great music on this album.

You can listen to them here.

Better yet, buy the EP at iTunes here.

You might want to familiarize yourself with their music, because we're working on getting them down here in October to be part of some PCC worship experiences. Now that will be incredible.

I can't wait to introduce you to these guys.

I am SO proud!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Only If...

My primary role at PCC is to help plan and create weekend services that are relevant and meaningful, offering an authentic encounter with God. We are passionate about giving people tools to help them understand what it means to be a Christ-follower and help them live into the purpose and potential that God has for every human. We plan our services based on what we believe God is leading us to put before people who are looking for answers, seeking God, trying to find help or just curious about religion and church.

There are particular challenges that all of us face in life, and getting along with other people is an area that can bring great joy and fulfillment. However, getting along with others is also one of the greatest sources of stress and disappointment.
This Sunday at PCC we're starting a new series called
Only If...How To Have A Relationship That Rocks.

Relationships are difficult and complicated. The Bible starts out with detailed stories of how people struggled to interact with one another; from Adam and Eve's first adventures in the Garden of Eden, to the sibling rivalry between Cain and Abel (which went past a brother-to-brother spat and straight to murder), it's clear that God knows about the difficulties we have in building healthy relationships.

Within the stories of fighting, failures, love triangles and parenting challenges throughout the Bible, there are some timeless truths and a ton of wisdom about how to do life with others in a meaningful, productive way. It's hard to get it right - but we believe that there are Biblical principles that you can apply to your interactions with others that will do two powerful and important things:

  • Allow you to honor God with your actions and your words - to be the person that God wants you to be
  • Honor the people in your life - spouses, significant others, children, parents and friends
Putting these principles into action will literally change your life. I know. It happened to me.

This week, Brian will be what might be the most defining, important element in any relationship. When I first heard this principle a few years ago and learned to put it into practice, it radically changed the way I interact with other people. It might do the same for you.

This is a great week to invite someone to check out PCC. It's also a good time to come with your spouse, friend or significant other. Make an investment in your relationship on Sunday morning at PCC.

You won't regret it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

David's Eleventh Birthday

Guess who had a birthday today?

David turned eleven.

I can hardly believe it.

Seems like just yesterday, I was laying on the couch, eating Cheetos and Oreos, processing the fact that I was going to have another baby. Number five.

The timing didn't seem right, but boy, was I surprised. David has brought such joy to our family, and a unique tenderness to me.

His talents are ever-increasing and surprising. He is fiercely loyal. He is a quiet kid, with a deep, thoughtful heart.

It is our family tradition to allow the birthday boy or girl to choose their favorite food for dinner. Each kid has some sort of special request; frankly, most of them choose to go to Grandma's house (because NOBODY cooks like Grandma cooks...) When I asked David what he wanted this year, he replied, "I would like a selection of my favorite meats.  Bacon. Pork chops. And steak. Oh, and some macaroni and cheese."

The boy knows what he likes.

We settled on ONE meat - steak - and Grandma's homemade mac and cheese. It was a good time.

 He was excited. Note the props to Maida Vale, a fine rock and roll band....

Tony gave him some sort of funny card. It had the word 'fart' in it. David loved it, of course.

Oh, yes. A bunch of plastic dinosaur bracelets.

His one specific request was for the Iron Man 2 PSP game. He got it.

I love my son. I love him for who he is, for the person he is becoming. I am shocked at how quickly manhood looms ahead, and I can't say that I like it much.

It goes without saying that motherhood changes you. David's presence in my life has shaped and molded me in powerful ways.

Tonight, we celebrate eleven years of his life and I am grateful.

Happy Birthday, Dave.