Friday, August 31, 2012

Look How Far We've Come

Tomorrow begins my eighth September in Powhatan.

It was a different season, eight years ago. My eldest was barely a teenager. I had one in kindergarten. My kids absolutely defined me; I was the mom of five. I was a single mom of five. Pretty much everything I did, most of the day, had to do with raising and caring for my kids.

Nobody but me had a driver's license. Anywhere we went, I drove.

Swim team, soccer, church, shopping. Life was me, my five, scrambling in and out of a big red Suburban and doing our best to get through every day.

The days melted into weeks, and then months. Seasons came and went and eventually a year went by. Then another.

And then things seemed to go into hyper-speed and there were cars and licenses and proms and graduations and boyfriends and colleges and girlfriends and now it's September 1st, in just a few hours, and I have two kids who will head out into a new school year together next week.

Now I drive a little car and often it's just me, or it's me and my kindergartener, only now he's thirteen and taller than me. The girls are all off at college. The other son has his own car and a steadfast direction and there is no other evidence needed that things change.

Back to school still gets me excited. I bought a new notebook and a package of pens last week - for myself. Ideas are fresh. I like the idea of a blank sheet of paper, a new year, the wide expanse of nine months ahead, full of cool, crisp evenings that will morph into snow and bare trees and then explode into springtime before we are back to another summer. It helps that my boss, who has been gone all summer, returns to work the same day the kids go back to school.

It's a new season. I'm excited.

But I'm spending a bit of time reflecting on just how far we've come. It's worth remembering; it adds to the gratitude bucket. If you don't know where you've been, you don't really know how to appreciate where you are.

I'm grateful for this grace; it came daily. It has unfolded.

It is welcome.

Me, with my kids, in 2007. Wow.....

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Worship Recap 8/26/2012

Today was a great day at PCC's Powhatan Campus! We're at the tail end of our IMPRINT series. The topic today centered on Genesis 50.20: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." John Tiller was the speaker, and his son Eli sang both the set-up and the closer for the message. More on that later.

I loved the band. I brought the band leader home with me, he was so good.

I'm married to him, so that's okay.

Tony led and did a good job orchestrating things. Kevin and Brenda led on vocals and did a fabulous job. Nathan was solid on drums, Dale kept it all together on bass and Mike played excellent lead guitar, in spite of smashing his fingers in a work-related accident earlier in the week.

We also had an incredible tech team today. Andy ran sound for the second week in a row and did an outstanding job. Dustin Wilson came in to lend a hand with a little "re-tweaking" of the sound system; we welcome his help. Dustin knows what he's doing; last week he ran sound for the Train show at Innsbruck and will be the technical director for the Creed show this week. It's a major blessing to have him add his talents at PCC! Our video team did a great job, with Eric, Hank, Josh and Randy on cameras. Ginger ran graphics, Steve was on lights and Tom kept the whole show going as the producer.

We often try to connect the worship music with the theme of the message, and today was no exception. Here's the lineup; I've linked each song title to iTunes in case you'd like to purchase it.

Today Is The Day This great song by Lincoln Brewster is tons of fun. The guitar solo in the bridge is one of my favorite spots in any praise song; the lyric after the solo brought home an important theme for the day (I will stand upon your truth / All my days I'll live for you )

Your Love Never Fails I will confess that I was VERY happy to have my number pulled to sing this song! We wrestle over this at times; the original version was sung by a guy, and when a female leads, we have to change the key. Sometimes that hurts the way a song "feels", and occasionally it's a real dilemma for the guitarists. I've grown to love this song in the female key, and I really love singing it. The lyric really resonates with my life, and it's a powerful message. Great song by an incredible band - if you haven't checked out more of Jesus Culture's stuff, you should. And by the way - we prefer the original Jesus Culture version, not the Newsboys.

Hosanna A standard for PCC, this is a Hillsong tune that we've sung for several years. It's designed for a female lead, and most every woman who sings at our church has wrapped her heart around this song in a definitive way. Most powerful today was the bridge line: "Break my heart for what breaks yours / everything I am for your kingdom's cause", which always catches in my throat as a risky but powerful prayer.

Your Great Name We introduced this Natalie Grant song at a Core meeting sometime last year, and then used it in services at Westchester and Powhatan. It rocked. We put it at the end of the worship set today to give us a chance to settle into the worshipful vibe created by the first three songs. Tony played acoustic, I played light keys and Brenda and Kevin sang beautifully together. I'd like to use this song even more in worship; while on the Puerto Rico mission trip earlier this summer, I was captivated by the power of a humid room full of hot, sweaty, tired laborers singing along with simple guitar accompaniment. We sang loudly: Jesus, worthy is the lamb that was slain for us / son of God and man / you are high and lifted up / and all the world will praise your great name.

We Belong In Heaven This is one of Eli Tiller's original songs. Co-written by Laura Krzyston, Eli sang this as a preface to his dad's message. I cried. My friend Bob was there, in the room. I know it sounds crazy, but as I told Eli's dad after the service, I remain convinced that the veil between heaven and earth is much thinner than we realize. If there's anyone who understood Eli's message, it would have been Bob. I felt him, filling the room, cheering on Eli as he led us all in worship.

John told me that Bob used to shout, "There's my boy!" when he saw Eli.

That's what I felt, as I listened to him sing. I felt our friend Bob, beaming. I felt him shouting, "There's my boy!"

I did not know that he used to say this.

But I know it now.

After John's message, Eli sang Nothing Is Impossible. It's the truth, and he shared his version of it with simplicity and great power.

It was a most excellent and fulfilling day.

What did YOU think? Your feedback helps; what songs help you connect with God?

Eli has recorded a three-song EP with both of these songs included. Please make your way to iTunes and download a copy. It will be the best $3.96 you'll spend. Find it here.

And this is interesting; for those reading who don't know my friend Bob, I wanted to link to a post I wrote about him about 18 months ago. I looked in my archives to find it, and realize how incredibly connected it is to today's service. Uncanny, really. Very connected. 

I felt him today. I know I did. 

You can read that older post here.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Road Trip, Lots Of Love And My Father's Blessing

Me. My uncle. Lots of love.

 I made a whirlwind, thousand-mile round-trip to Savannah (via Columbia) yesterday. We left Thursday afternoon and returned Friday night.


I saw my daughter in Savannah and got a taste of her life there. She has a great apartment in a great part of the city with an incredible neighborhood vibe.

The public library is right across the street, y'all.

I was drooling. I really, really wanted to manufacture a reason to stay. For a week. Or three.

Seriously; it's a great town, very southern but with a unique college-town, urban vibe. Diverse and artsy and incredibly cool. I've made four trips to Savannah now, but I'm going back, and I'm going to do more than I've done thus far, dropping her off for school and driving through town with a three-hour window. I need to spend some serious time in that town.

We walked to an awesome bakery, had what will go down in history as the best hamburger I've ever eaten, visited the Savannah Candy Kitchen and had a wonderful - but short - visit together.

I went to pick up David and bring him home; he spent five days there. I'm not sure he really wanted to come back.

It was great, as a mom, to get one kid and get a peek into the life of the other.

But the best part of the trip was for me as a daughter. My dad rode with me; props to him for a spontaneous, oddly-timed road trip. Mom said, "Maybe your dad would want to go." He did, and he gamely jumped in the car late Thursday afternoon. We drove-through Chick-fila and Starbucks and cruised South down I-95 with confidence and aplomb.

The youngest brother and the oldest.
We went to Columbia to see his brother - my uncle -  and spend the night, and that was cool. Always great to take advantage of an opportunity to see a loved one. It was nice to see them together and to eavesdrop on some of their reminiscing. My uncle loves me, and he lets me know. He has a huge bucket of affirmation and a beautiful gift. I always feel better about life and about myself when I spend a bit of time with him. It was great to sit on the front porch and catch up. Those were good moments.

But better yet were the hours of conversation I got to have with my dad during those long stretches of highway.

It wasn't non-stop talking (like it would have been with my mom or any of my daughters. He's a man, for goodness' sake.) Sometimes there were long stretches of quiet. But here and there were comments, and a few stories, and timely observations and some great conversations about Things That Matter. More than once he took the opportunity to tell me how much he loved my mom.

When we pulled into my uncle's driveway, he patted my shoulder and said, "Good job, kid. You did good. Got us here safely."

And when we got back home, he did the same. "Good job, girl."

I said, "Dad, you taught me how to drive."

It's as simple as that.

Contemplative. Or watching people.
I never imagined a necessary long drive to pick up my son would result in the time and space to listen to four hours of Merle and Waylon and Wille while navigating the interstate with the man who first taught me to respect the road more than three decades ago. It wasn't hard to remember the countless family vacation and trips with him behind the wheel and me peering over his shoulder from the back seat. I learned it all on those trips: watching out for "the other guy", always having an out, using your brights, using your blinker, accelerating gently...that's all intuitive now.

But it started with my dad.

And this trip ended with a blessing.

Who knew?

"Good job, girl."

You're never too old to feel good about making your dad proud.

One thousand forty-nine miles. And a lot of love, on both ends and cut right through the middle.

Max. David. Youth.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Your Sin Will Always Find You Out

When I was in therapy, trying to understand what was behind some of the horribly bad choices I had made, I spent a lot of time with Jim the Counselor.

One of the things I liked about Jim is that I could not get by with BS where he was concerned. He called me out, as I tried to weave around things I didn't want to say, and the result - to my surprise - was that I found myself broken and vulnerable before him. I learned to whisper the truth, in places where I'd never had the nerve to admit it.

I had a lot of junk - much more than I ever imagined, being the Type A, Get-It-Done kinda girl I was. Jim helped me pull my hands away from the cracks and begin the slow, difficult process of learning how to live honestly.

It was painful.

But it was worth it.

I remember this thing he said; when it first hit my ears, it stung, because in that moment, I was living out the truth of the statement. It wasn't news to me, this truth; but the reality of it had become clear in my daily life, my coming and going, my waking and sleeping.

You know how when you're in the middle of something, that's where you seem to stay? You're in the midst of something painful or confusing and it's like a bad train wreck, you just keep going back to it. You wake up in the morning and for a moment, there's peace, and then your chest tenses and your breath catches in your throat and you remember. And then throughout the moments of the day, there's that sepia tint to everything, good, bad or neutral. It's all tainted, because you realize, "Oh, crap. There's that."

Jim said to me, "Your sin will always find you out."

That's heavy duty, authoritative stuff. It's in the Bible, in Numbers. It carries a kind of weight that implies consequence, punishment, revelation, shame.

We don't even use the word "sin" much any more, perhaps for the risk of offending someone or appearing judgmental. But there are many things that we do as humans that qualify as "sin", making us "sinners".

I know. I am one. When I was seeing Jim regularly, I was living out the consequence of some choices that were, by anybody's definition, sin. It was not fun. I learned the meaning of shame and sorrow in a way I never thought I'd need to know.

But that's where I learned grace. Grace saved my life. I received it; not just in the spiritual sense of "the grace of God", but in the truest sense of being exposed and raw before people who were willing to offer grace to me.

Not everybody, of course. Grace is never required. But when it is given, it brings healing. I have come to believe that the richest, deepest experience of community and relationship is when we give - and receive - grace. It changes us.

Today, I have thought a lot about sin, and repentance, and mercy and forgiveness. I've thought about the remarkable capacity we have as humans to believe in one another, to hope for the best, to look away from the worst. I've thought a lot about how hard it is to live in the grey area of mercy and forgiveness when the effects of our sin often drag behind us like tin cans tied to a wedding car. It's noisy and distracting and makes an awful racket.

I've thought a lot about how stuff we think is long gone, over and done, buried and forgotten, can rise up with a vengeance and paralyze us.

I've thought about this: that grace will seep in the dark places and fill the cracks of the most sinful soul. Grace longs to bring life, and people who love God often yearn to offer grace.

But it does not go where it is not invited. It can be offered lavishly, generously, freely; mixed with a desire to forgive and restore, it often comes at great cost. But it must be accepted, welcomed in and given free reign to fill and heal and make all things new. What is withheld, left in shadow, veiled and kept aside sits untouched, and unchanged, and too often that sin lays waiting, patiently, clawed and fanged, waiting for opportunity to slip out and make some noise.

"Your sin will always find you out."

Worship Recap: 8/19/2012

I ran into somebody a few weeks ago who asked for details regarding some of the songs we do at PCC. A few years ago, I tried to post a regular update on our worship service every Sunday evening. I got out of the habit.

Getting back into the habit. Here we go! Hopefully this will help anybody who might want to pick up some of this music. I'm posting links to iTunes for each song.

We're doing a series called Imprint, focusing on several verses that we think are worth learning and digging into. Sammy Frame brought the message this week on Micah 6.8: 8

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? 

The song lineup:
You by Hillsong from their album A Beautiful Exchange. Find it here. Love this song because of the fun - and incredibly repetitive - keyboard part. Amie Bonner did a bang-up job. It's only six notes, but they go like crazy and they NEVER stop. I always get a cramp in my hand when I play that tune. Amie rocked it.

Like A Lion by Daniel Bashta. We do the David Crowder version, mostly. I love hearing Matthew O'Donnell sing this song, and today, Mariah Lewis sang the harmony part gloriously. I nearly came unglued. Today's band interpretation of this song was the best I've ever heard. Find the Crowder version here; the Newsboys did it, too, but I'd go with Crowder.

Our God by Chris Tomlin. This song changed a lot from rehearsal; originally, Travis had placed it in a different key for a female vocal and asked Mariah to sing it. She did a great job, but the tune just didn't have the same punch in a lower voicing. We tweaked it in rehearsal to the key of B (Tomlin's original key) and asked Matt O'Rear to sing it, but after rehearsal ended, we changed it again to A and decided Travis should sing it - simply because that would give everybody one song to sing. Sign of a great band: nobody blinked at the key change, even on Sunday morning when we picked the third key. Sign number two: no prima donnas. Everybody said, "Whatever's best for the day. I'm cool." Find Tomlin's version here; in fact, Like A Lion and Our God are both on Passion's Awakening album. Well worth your investment.

Forever Reign byKristian Stanfill and / or Hillsong. This song has been around for a while, but we just started doing it at PCC, thanks to Matt O'Rear's influence. The refrain, "My heart will sing / no other name / Jesus / Jesus" has great power, I think. Elijah did a beautiful job with the vocal. It is imprinted in my heart and I find myself singing it all the time. That's not a bad thing. Find the Hillsong version here.

All the Poor and Powerless by All Sons and Daughters. Incredible duo that we first heard at the STORY conference last fall. This song....I'm sitting here, blank, because I have no words to convey the experience of worshiping together while singing this song today. Incredible. Matt brought such passion and vulnerability to this song. It's a little different, as it has a measure of 5/4 time in each line of the verse. It feels a little unusual, but it fits. When we sing, "Shout it / go on and scream it from the mountains / go on and tell it to the masses / He is God", I just come unglued. I highly recommend this EP - great, fresh music. You'll love it. Buy Brokenness Aside by All Sons and Daughters here.

Lindsay Harris made the verbal video with the words, a great - and very creative - piece she put together with voices she found in the office (you never know what you'll get yourself into if you come around the office during the week!) After Sammy's message, we showed a short black and white clip of various folks talking about ways they had experienced or lived out Micah 6.8, and then we sang the bridge from Courageous by Casting Crowns. I like the song, but I really like that bridge. It'll stick with you - great way to memorize a verse! Mariah did a beautiful job.

Speaking of Micah 6.8, we've created a Facebook page; we'd love to hear from you. How do you live out that verse? How do you see others "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God"? How would you LIKE to live it out in our community? Go like the page and let us know. We are convinced that our community can and will be changed if we walk this way.

The band at rehearsal this week
A final note about today: we had an incredible band on the stage. Nathan Wheeler continues to grow as a musician - a self-taught drummer, he is the glue that held it all together today. Travis Wagner led the band with humility and left a lot of room for everyone to rise to the occasion. Elijah Schiarelli, back from his mission trip to Guatemala, did a fabulous job on acoustic guitar and vocals. I love to listen to Elijah play, and I love to watch Elijah; he just beams the entire time he is playing music. I've never seen somebody exude joy like that guy. Every time I glanced his way, he was beaming. Loved it! Matt O'Rear, who has been leading at Westchester, made his first trip to Powhatan and did a fine on electric guitar. Matthew O'Donnell led on bass, and Mariah Lewis sang all the girl parts. Amie Bonner played keys and I snuck in there for a song or two as well.

Big shout out to our technical artists: folks like Hank Cosby, Caleb Glasco, Sean McLane, Tom Lewis, Jeannie Ashman, Brian Gayle and Andy Vaughn - and our number one hero, Kevin Mann, who manages the stage and gets us all where we need to be at the right time.

It was a great day at church. Your comments are welcome!

Find the FB page here.  

You can see the entire service here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Where I Point My Arrows

I think a lot about my job. Sometimes I think more about my job, it seems, than I actually do my job.

But part of my job is to think about my job; strategically envisioning the future, contemplating growth, developing leaders, anticipating the next thing, planning for three or six or twelve months from now...a lot of my time is spent on what I visualize as a topographical road map in my brain. There's a thin, squiggly red line - that's the pathway - and it zigs and zags all over the place; there are mountain ranges and valleys and many rivers to cross and then there's me, a little dot in the middle of it all. Smiling and waving and hoping that everybody still likes me.

Honestly, sometimes that's how it feels.

I have had much good advice and much time and effort invested in me over the past six years. People like Brian Hughes and Dennis Green have gone out of their way to push me and prod me, ask me hard questions and sometimes tell me things about myself that I couldn't see - and sometimes didn't want to hear. The end result - or at least the result at this point in time, which I HOPE is not the end! - is that I've started to intuitively do some things that are relatively effective when it comes to leadership. There's much I have to learn, and much I don't do well; but today, I had two specific opportunities to reflect on the dynamics of what I do and why I do it. In both cases, answering specific questions led to an entire day of reflection and examination.

And now my head hurts and I'm tired.

But, in short, here's something I thought about a lot today; and something I also talked about in two very different conversations, occasions when two very separate people asked, for two very different reasons, "How do you do what you do?" I think that these are two guiding principles that I have learned from leaders like Brian and Dennis, things that have become the baseline for whether or not I feel like I am fulfilling my role as a pastor / leader as effectively as I should. If I do these things right, everybody wins.

  1. Listen well. Brian says repeatedly, "People just want to be heard." In situations that are conversational, pastoral, coaching or simply dialogue, I try to remember that the most important thing is to hear. Stephen Covey says, "Seek first to understand; then to be understood." Without even realizing it, years of hearing that around the office and seeing it applied (especially when I have been given the gift of being understood!) has forged that principle deep in my soul. I think the greatest gift we can give anyone is to hear their story. I try to listen well, to keep my body language focused, to be more about the person across from me that I am about what brilliant thing I might have to say. This is very humbling, but it has become true in almost every situation: Other people are infinitely more interesting than I am. When I act on that truth, it helps me to live out one of the most powerful pieces of Biblical text: "In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." Making good listening a priority reminds me of what really matters. Plus I learn a lot.
  2. Build trust. I was part of a conference call as the recipient of several questions regarding how and why we do what we do in the Creative Arts department at PCC.  "Tell me about your planning process" is like opening a fire hydrant for me; I had to quickly think about what would be most helpful and filter out what would just be me happily rambling on and on about the incredible things we get to do around here. Over the course of the question and answer exchange, I realized that these folks were looking to build a strong team, one that encouraged all the members to "play nice", which - apparently - is not always the case (with any team, anywhere). As our time drew to a close, I spent a few moments emphasizing the importance of trust; and even as I said it, the realization became stronger in me. Without trust, nobody wins. We have invested a lot of time and tears in building trust at PCC; learning how to have conflict with one another, holding each other accountable, believing the best, going to the hard places together. I am convinced that this is a foundational and important part of any organization - but especially a church staff: you must trust one another. I know that living in an environment that emphasizes the importance of trust  had impacted my spiritual growth; after all, trusting God is a cornerstone of our faith and our spiritual formation. We're learning to live it in the messiness of our humanity; there's no question that it powerfully impacts who we are. For any team to succeed, trust is essential; and it takes time and continued investment to maintain. It's worth it.
I don't get either of these things right all of the time, but they help form the foundation for where I'm pointing my arrows.

And that's where I've been today, both inside and outside of my head.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Space

Empty. Full of promise.
I moved my work space, leaving a communal, big room for a smaller, more cramped space on the main hallway. I left primarily because I took our work table - an IKEA kitchen table I bought when we moved in the building - back to my house to serve its true purpose in the new kitchen.

I'm sitting in this new space, yet to be mine, with nothing personal on the walls or the shelves. I'm listening to "Moving Forward" by Israel Houghton:

I'm not going back
I'm moving ahead
Here to declare to you
My past is over
In you all things are made new

and I'm remembering an afternoon in December, two and a half years ago, when my dear friend Bob Pino let his voice ring through the ballroom in the Jefferson Hotel, singing those words as I stepped out with Tony into a a new promise for me and for my kids.

It was appropriate for our wedding day, a declaration of purpose and gratitude.

It is appropriate today.

There are so many significant markers of change, of newness, of transition. I like new things - I appreciate steady and constant stuff, but I have learned this truth about myself: too long in one place - literally or metaphorically - and I get itchy. I am rarely satisfied with the view from the same position for too long.

This can be wonderful, fresh and exciting. It can also be exhausting.

Today, I'm in a new work space. I can't quite adjust. I've spent a lot of time looking at the walls.

But this is where I want to be, for whatever is required in this new season. August is half over (what??? How did THAT happen???) and September is right round the corner. Time for new books, new school years, changing seasons. My boss will be back in just a few weeks. We'll look forward.

What a moment you have brought me to
Such a freedom I have found in you
You're the healer who makes all things new

Amen. Let's go.

But Lord, do I miss Bob today....

Monday, August 13, 2012

Purity And Sin And Clean Hearts. Oh My.

I'm blogging today over at angie and beth. Talking about sin and stuff.

Take a look.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Angie And Beth Are Blogging!

I'm partnering with my friend and coworker Angie Frame in an exciting new venture.

Angie and I are VERY different, but we have a few important things in common.

You can discover the details here.

We've decided to lean into our role as parents of kids ranging from 18 months to 21 years and write about our experiences. We're starting with a look at the current PCC series IMPRINT from a parental point of view. Our perspective may be slightly different, but we're betting we share some things in common there, as well.

We hope you'll join us. Come take a look. Chime in. Let us know what YOU see!

Find our new blog here; Angie's posted first - her reaction to last week's message on Sabbath.

Being Available

Today was a jaggedly productive day. Lots of unexpected events kept me hopping; nothing too unusual or unbearable, but a lot of surprises. I got up early, had some good study and reading time, spent a good chunk of the morning organizing the results of an awesome Programming Team meeting yesterday, created an accompaniment track for a three-minute church talent show performance, had an impromptu yet fruitful lunch meeting with a co-worker and then stopped to kiss the proprietor of Powhatan Music & Sound.

I took a deep breath there, transitioning towards a planned afternoon at the office. Often, Wednesdays are tight with rehearsal prep, but I'm not playing this weekend, and that gave me a little breathing room. I planned to come into the office and work on a few projects; intentionally, there was nothing calendared. I try to leave two afternoons a week open for meetings - making myself available in case something or somebody needs some attention.

More and more, I'm finding that scheduling some "open" time leads to all sorts of meaningful encounters.

As I prepared to walk out the door of my husband's store, a woman from church walked in. She had a minor question - or so it seemed - but it masked a much larger issue. We sat down to talk, and the tears flowed.

An hour later, my heart was full of the kind of satisfaction that only comes when you feel like you did something really worthwhile with the time you'd been given. I listened, and I affirmed; I encouraged and shared a bit of her sorrow.

And I think it mattered. She was grateful, and she was smiling, with a sense of purpose, I think.

And I had a greater sense of purpose as well.

Sometimes I think the biggest part of living a life that matters is simply being available.

I'm glad I was today.

I feel a little like Paul - not that I measure up in any way, but these statements resonate strongly with me after a day like today.

"This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details.....I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities." Ephesians 3.7-8 (The Message)

Are you available?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When Trials Come

"Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We actually progress by means of trial. We do not know ourselves except through trial..." - Augustine of Hippo

Reading my Book of Common Prayer this morning (A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals), I'm struck by how pertinent these words are. I suppose, on any given day, I can see pain and trials on the horizon; not just in my life, but in those of the folks around me. Extended family, friends, acquaintances, church friends, community members - there are trials aplenty.

Sometimes we act like the bad times are the exception. I have come to believe that the opposite is true.

My father once told me, "When you're on the mountain top, ride it for all it's worth. The valley is coming; so enjoy the good times while you can."

That's been true in my life. There's the good, and the joy, and the contented feeling that everything is working just right; and then there's the pain, the sorrow, the disconnected, broken part.

This slight change in my paradigm - to celebrate the good times, while knowing that the challenges are right around the corner - this has been, I think, the most healthy decision I've ever made when it comes to How To Live. It impacts my understanding of God; it undergirds my life as a follower of Christ.

Life is hard. Life's not fair. God is good.

(Thank you, Jamie Rasmussen.)

I know so many who are challenged by their circumstances right now. I pray for them, daily.

And for myself.

Teach us to trust in you, O Lord: and follow your way to the end.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Olympic Commentary And Sunday Update

If I were doing anything of importance - anything other than getting out of bed and going to the bathroom first thing in the morning - I'd like to be wearing more than the American beach volleyball players are wearing.

I'm just saying. I'd hate to be involved in a seriously competitive endeavor wearing nothing more than a t-shirt and my undies.

But that's just me.

In other news, there's this:
Sleeping boy

Sleeping boy (in pink shorts)
It is Sunday afternoon, and we have had an incredibly busy weekend. And by we, I mean my husband and my two sons, the current inhabitants of this home. We continue to adjust to this new way of living, and I daresay we are thriving. But at the moment, the male inhabitants of the house (which is to say, all but ME) are napping.

Funny, that. I have dreaded this - the girls leaving - and yet I find myself at such peace. In fact, as I said to my mom yesterday, I think I am happier and more content than I have been in a few years.

Our weekend has been filled with sawing and hammering, finishing up the loose ends of the home addition. It's essentially done; there is a bit of construction left (drywall for a hole in the wall and a new closet), but my incredible husband can do anything, and construction is no exception. He's on it, and we have just a bit of work left, and we're doing it together.

We've moved into our "new" bedroom and realized that it's a first for us; he moved into my space after we married, and then I moved into his space when we changed houses - but this is new space for us, and it matters. For the first time in his life, Daniel has a bedroom and a closet of his very own. He's loving his new space (our old space) and that makes me very happy. Nobody should have to live in the basement forever.

We have some loose ends to tie up, but the bulk of this project is done, and that has relieved a good bit of stress. My husband has been working hard to adjust his lifestyle with his health as a top priority, and it's making a huge difference in attitude, energy, demeanor and the happiness of his wife.

I'm just saying.

And we're having dinners together, just the four of us, and the conversation is actually pleasant and informative. And fun. Things are rising up here, and it's all good.

I love my family. I've never been more content at home. Plus it's tomato season, and fresh squash, and watermelon, and I LOVE the taste of summer.

And in just five days, the pilgrimage back home begins. One comes Friday; the next on Tuesday, then the third on Thursday.

And that is cause for celebration. No matter how happy I am with the current state of affairs, there's nothing like having them all home.*

Even temporarily.

*(All but Nelson, who stole our hearts but headed back to Nashville to seek his fortune. We miss him, too.)