Give Thanks for the Legacies

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.” – Ephesians 3:14-21

What are you thankful for? Over the next days/weeks leading up to Thanksgiving I’m going to try to put some good in the world, some light in the midst of the darkness and bitterness of the world.  I have been slack on my 30 days of thanks for the 30 days of November on social media to cultivate a spirit of gratitude.  I’m grateful for SO very many things.  Like life, breath, my family, a roof over my head, good food to eat, living in a country where I have the right to vote, a calling and vocation that keeps me on my toes and continues to reignite and renew me as the Triune God refreshes my Spirit. If all is grace, then we are thankful.

On All Saints Day, I am thankful for the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us. These “saints” that have gone before are not just the heavy hitters like Mary or Paul or Mother Theresa. These saints encompass all of the people that have gone before us seeking to live as Christ. Some of these saints are ones that we read about in our Holy Scripture. Some are ones that we have read back and forth and still dig into their kernels of wisdom – CS Lewis, Jim Elliot, Teresa of Avila, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Love Jim’s “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”). Some of these are saints that may or may not be seen as religious folks – love me some Jane Austen, Joseph Heller and Louisa May Alcott. Others may be the ones that we’ve personally known or been shaped by.

I think about some of the dear saints I’ve known in this life. Mr. Howard and Ms. Evelyn that we sat with as children on Sundays while Dad preached and Mom sang in the choir. Ms. Betty teaching our first and second grade Sunday school class. I still remember the felt board with the Bible characters. Mr. Tim and Ms. Bunny who proved to me that people want to minister to their minister and his/her family and they really care about each of us. They would take my parents out to eat every Friday night and then stop by Dunkin Doughnuts to get us a mixed box of doughnuts among many things.  Ms. Pal Moore who taught the best VBS for youth that I’ve ever been a part of and continues to be an encouragement in my life.  She actually made the stole that I’m wearing.  There are so many that I could easily name, I have been blessed beyond measure by all the saints who lifted, taught, and undergirded me, those who have laughed, cried, and shared life with me and those whose example I try to follow every day.

I think about the saints in our family…and then I start to tear up and laugh. The thing that I love about them and any of our saints for that matter, is that they were real people – flesh and bone and not always perfect. There’s this thing about saints that we build up to be otherworldly with rose-colored glasses, but the thing that I like the most is that they were colorful characters who didn’t just do everything prim and proper perfectly, but they made a splash. They had spunk. They did not go gentle into that good night as the Dylan Thomas poem goes.

There’s always been an interest in connecting with the afterlife.  Mediums are not new.  I think there’s a great big part of us that wants to know for sure and for certain that we’re not alone here. There’s part of us that wants to know that our family and loved ones – both from long ago and now – those who are dear to us – are okay and it’s going to be okay for us too. When I’m channel flipping, even I get sucked into the story and it has me tearing up at parts because of the sincerity of people really wanting to know that we are all connected and we stay connected and that this beautiful network of love doesn’t just stop here, but continues on.

As the seasons in South Carolina start to change for real and things are turning and getting colder and Winter is coming, I’m reminded that death is not the end. Yes, there is grief. Yes, there is change. Yes, there is loss. Yes, there are those we miss dearly. But the great cloud of witnesses surrounds us, spurs us on, and still speak to us in big and small ways. As Dad likes to share – these folks are often our “balcony people!”  Joyce Landorf writes in her book you’re either a basement person or a balcony person.  Dragging others down or lifting others up.  The loved ones that we have lost and still feel a wide, gaping hole for, we have Christ’s promise of eternal life.  We read these words of grace at any United Methodist Celebration of Life.

The Word of Grace

Jesus said, I am the resurrection and I am life.

Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet shall they live,

and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

I died, and behold I am alive for evermore,

and I hold the keys of hell and death.

Because I live, you shall live also.

That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  3There are power in those words.  It likens to the Revelation text in its broadening, yet definitive answer.  As I look around my office and home to the things that I treasure – pictures with family, pictures at Ganny’s house, a beautiful picture painted by Robin, a shingle that my Gandaddy made with our pictures on it, Dad’s pottery, a “family tree” my Mom made for me….as I look into my heart to the things I treasure – both sassy grandmothers that neither minced words, had plenty of spunk, and weren’t afraid to use various words in their vocabularies, the amazing integrity and character of both of my grandfathers and their legacy of continuing to love people – whoever they are, whatever color they are or accent they have, wherever their family came from…these are the gifts that the communion of saints continues to give us as we wrestle with their words, their examples, their legacies and their authentic lives of faith.  They leave lasting legacies and as Rafiki tells Simba in the Lion King clip I shared a few months ago, they live inside each of us.  Louisa May Alcott writes, “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”

Thank you God for all of those that have touched us in such mighty ways!  May we ever remember them and treasure them in our hearts and may we give thanks for their legacies.

Who are your saints? Who has shaped you? What do you hold dear from the ones that have gone on before us?

The flip side is true too.  Who are you being a good example for?  Who are you mentoring?  Who are you showing, by your very life, the way they should go?

I’ll tell you one final story that will transition us to communion.

In fact, you never know the legacies you will leave.  You may not know that Gator Wesley was a local church, University United Methodist Church before it gave birth to Gator Wesley in 2010.  Carmen was one of the older members who never stopped coming.  He always would talk to those sitting around him at worship.  Ali wrote on her facebook page the morning that Carmen died, “If I’ve learned anything from working at a church, it’s that you make friends with unlikely people. One of those friends, Carmen (the older man on the left in the gray hoodie) passed away this morning. I met Carmen before anyone else at Gator Wesley. My first Sunday I sat in front of him, when he preceded to ask me about 10 minutes worth of questions about my life, my plans, and my dreams. Almost every Sunday since, he’s asked me about the stories I’ve done and the people I’ve I’ve done and the people I’ve met. Although he was confused about what I was doing (he was fairly convinced my dream was to be a TV anchor or a talk show host), he kept listening. Every week he told me how he prayed for me. His last Sunday before he entered assisted care, he told me that I was going to go out and change the world. I didn’t know that was going to be the last time I saw him not in a hospital bed.  While Carmen never realized it, the love he has shown all of the students at Gator Wesley has been unending. Although he was stubborn and cantankerous, he was a good man. Gator Wesley became his family. Wesley is much larger than this photo taken on Easter, but it’s nice to see Carmen with his home. Everyone deserves a Carmen in their life. I’m glad that I met mine.”

Carmen smiled and waved to students at the student apartment where he lived.  He touched countless lives.  He wanted his life to mean something.  He was so deeply concerned, that his life didn’t matter, I started to tell him in his last days, that the students were his legacy.  The students are his legacy.  He would light up when “the students” were mentioned.  The hospice social worker saw it and I did too.  He only wanted to see “the students” at the end.  So we piled into his room on a Sunday after church.  Four of the students went with me and our Associate Pastor Ryan to see him the Wednesday before he died.  That Wednesday night we shared the Lord’s Prayer, Carmen’s favorite prayer, and he was able to say some of it with us.  That was the last smile I saw on his face, when he noticed the 4 students we brought.

The students are his legacy.  I’ll never forget when I had finished a sermon and Carmen stood up quick as I’ve ever seen him and said, “Gator Wesley IS going to change the world!”  I’m so glad I got to hear and see that.  You see Carmen was a deeply spiritual person and a follower of Jesus Christ.  He had been raised in the Catholic Church, but he didn’t like what he called the “rules” or what he thought was the earning of salvation.  He struggled with the concept of grace. Don’t we all do that?  He was just honest enough to say it out loud.  He joined the baptism class my first year here and he would read the Bible and all of the handouts and he wanted a copy of the Baptism service in the Book of Worship and so on and so on.  He wanted to be prepared and he was excited more about the United Methodist Church that I haven’t seen.  I would tell him over and over again and again, any time he came up to me after the service, and in his last few weeks.  You’re a child of God.  You were made in your mother’s womb.  God’s grace was given to every one of us.  You don’t have to earn it.  There’s nothing you can do to earn it.  It’s a gift.  You’re ENOUGH.  I would say it over and over again.  One of our students says it was meaningful to her, “To see his face light up in a group when he was told that God loves him no matter what.”  “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  And in this table we celebrate that.  We are all enough.  We are loved by the Great God of the Universe, that came to Earth Emmanuel, with an abundant, passionate, ever seeking, ever reaching love.  We remember our saints, our great cloud of witnesses, as we try to be “balcony people” for others so we too can leave a legacy.

Amen.

As we celebrate this meal…

 

PS – Anytime I preach on legacies, I’m reminded of this Nichole Nordeman.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah1COE39ARs

saints

Seasons

Ecclesiastes 3 (NRSV)

Everything Has Its Time

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

The God-Given Task

What gain have the workers from their toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. 11 He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live;13 moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. 14 I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

 

This time of year has always held a mixture of excitement and nerves.  As a kid I loved getting new school clothes and the neat nick in me loved the clean notebooks and the perfectly sharpened pencils with the new erasers.  I still like that part of it.  Buying new school clothes or uniforms and checking off everything on my kids’school supply lists, gives me a sense of satisfaction as if I’ve accomplished something.  Add to it the list of things that you have to complete when you’ve not only moved schools and communities, but states, and even my peppy cheerleader organizational mode gets tired and discouraged.  Ever notice how a bad attitude is contagious?  It really IS.  (Christian music is what keeps me positive. Without it?  Yikes!)  When you’ve had to go to the DMV over 5 times to get your license and license plates, all arrows are pointing to God teaching you patience, perseverance and endurance.  It’s a constant test.  The corollary is true too.  As hard as it sometimes is to choose joy instead of frustration, it’s well worth it in our workplaces, with our friends, and DEFINITELY with our families.   So after the fourth time at the DMV, I stopped by a craft store and bought this picture, as a reminder to choose joy.choose joy

Today after Point Hope’s prayer time, where we intentionally pray for the prayer request cards lifted on Sunday and anything a person has asked us to pray for, this Mandisa song came on the radio as I was listening in my office.  It’s called “He is With You” and below are the video and the lyrics.

 

There’s a time to live
And a time to die
There’s a time to laugh
And a time to cry
There’s a time for war
And a time for peace
There’s a hand to hold
In the worst of these

He is with you when your faith is dead
And you can’t even get out of bed
Or your husband doesn’t kiss you anymore
He is with you when your baby’s gone
And your house is still, and your heart’s a stone
Cryin’ God, what’d You do that for
He is with you

There’s a time for yes
And a time for no
There’s a time to be angry
And a time to let it go
There is a time to run
And a time to face it
There is love to see you
Through all of this

He is with you in the conference room
When the world is coming down on you
And your wife and kids don’t know you anymore
He is with you in the ICU
When the doctors don’t know what to do
And it scares you to the core
He is with you

We may weep for a time
But joy will come in the morning
The morning light

He is with you when your kids are grown
When there’s too much space and you feel alone
And you’re worried if you got it right or wrong
Yes He is with you when you’ve given up
On ever finding your true love
Someone who feels like home
He is with you

When nothing else is left
And you take your final breath
He is with you

It was a perfect song for me to listen to right then.  There’s a time and a season for everything and God is with us through it all.  We choose every day and all throughout the day whether to grasp hold of the negative or we choose to give it to God and choose joy because we trust and believe God can make a way when there doesn’t seem to be one.

Even when this tired Mommy Pastor is worried about “Meet the Teacher” on Thursday afternoon, and the first day of school on Monday; I have to trust and pray that Enoch and Evy will have excellent teachers and will make new friends and we will find our new rhythm and places that we like.  Enoch said tonight, “We need to find a good doughnut shop and a good comic store.”  And we do.  But we also need to be gentle with our selves, as we grieve past things and embrace the new.  God is ever in the midst.  As Birdee Pruitt says at the end of Hope Floats, “That’s what momma always says. She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will, too…”

As we begin this school year, with all of it’s crazy hecticness, I give thanks to God for always being in the mix, guiding and leading us on this adventure, helping us to trust and lean into grace, God’s abundant grace.  If you’re feeling anxious about anything, then I leave you with these verses to carry in your heart.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NRSV)

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:7 (NRSV)

Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

We all, at any season of life, need to worry less and pray more.  Amen?  Amen.

 

 

God Things

Today in this season of thanks I thank God for the God things. That sounds like a really general and broad area, right? But I know you know what I’m talking about. I thank God for the times when you can feel God’s presence whether in the sacred or the secular, the intentional and the spontaneous.

Both kids have not been sleeping well lately and both were up off and on all last night. Needless to say, it’s been a sleep-deprived hazy day. But in the midst, there’s all these God things that keep us going. When things seem to derail and doubt starts to creep in or fears for the future begin to weigh, it’s nice to be reminded that we are called to trust in God. We are asked to step out in faith. We are charged to live lives full of the bold promise that God will provide.

So today I thank God for the little bits brought into our lives where we can feel that Spirit moving. I am thankful for possibilities and dreams and prayers. I am thankful for gentle reminders and teachings that I know I needed to hear today about forgiveness and peace. I am thankful for spiritual mentors and grounded students who reflect God’s grace. I am thankful for the joy that buoys us up even when we’re exhausted and blah-ed out and for the promises of God.

What little God things did God show you today? How was your spirit refreshed today or your calling confirmed? Where did you see God today?

Loving jamming to Colbie Caillat “Brighter Than the Sun” today.

For the Communion of the Saints

What are you thankful for? Over the next days/weeks leading up to Thanksgiving I’m going to try to do what many of my wise friends on facebook and other wise folks have shared – cultivate a spirit of gratitude. If all is grace, then we are thankful.

So for Day 1 on All Saints Day, I am thankful for the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us. These “saints” that have gone before are not just the heavy hitters like Mary or Paul or Mother Theresa. These saints encompass all of the people that have gone before us seeking to live as Christ. Some of these saints are ones that we read about in our Holy Scripture (Paul – I can’t wait to talk to you about the book of Romans after preaching on it this semester in worship – wowzers). Some are ones that we have read back and forth and still dig into their kernels of wisdom – CS Lewis, Jim Elliot, Teresa of Avila (Love Jim’s “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”). Some of these are saints that may or may not be seen as religious folks – love me some Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. Others may be the ones that we’ve personally known or been shaped by.

I think about some of the dear saints I’ve known in this life. Mr. Howard and Ms. Evelyn that we sat with as children on Sundays while Dad preached and Mom sang in the choir. Ms. Betty teaching our first and second grade Sunday school class. I still remember the felt board with the Bible characters. Mr. Tim and Ms. Bunny who proved to me that people want to minister to their minister and his/her family and they really care about each of us. There are so many that I could easily name.

I think about the saints in our family…and then I start to laugh. The thing that I love about them and any of our saints for that matter, is that they were real people – flesh and bone and not always perfect. There’s this thing about saints that we build up to be otherworldly with rose-colored glasses, but the thing that I like the most is that they were colorful characters who didn’t just do everything prim and proper perfectly, but they made a splash. They had spunk. They did not go gentle into that good night as the Dylan Thomas poem goes.

There’s stuff all over the place about paranormal activity and that crazy horror story tv show and even Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt talking to folks from the beyond and I get people’s fascination with this. Or at least I think I do. Well, not necessarily the horror/scare factor. But I do think there’s a great big part of us that wants to know for sure and for certain that we’re not alone here. There’s part of us that wants to know that our family and loved ones – both from long ago and now – dear to us – are okay and it’s going to be okay for us too. That stinking Anderson show (I watched while sick – captive audience) even had me tearing up at parts because of the sincerity of people really wanting to know that we are all connected and we stay connected and that this beautiful network of love doesn’t just stop here, but continues on.

As the seasons in South Carolina start to change for real and things are turning and getting colder and Winter is coming, I’m reminded that death is not the end. Yes, there is grief. Yes, there is change. Yes, there is loss. Yes, there are those we miss dearly. But the great cloud of witnesses surrounds us, spurs us on, and still speak to us in big and small ways. As Dad likes to share – these folks are often our “balcony people!”

As I look around my office and home to the things that I treasure – pictures with family, pictures at Ganny’s house, a beautiful picture painted by Robin, a shingle that my Gandaddy made with our pictures on it, Dad’s pottery, a “family tree” my Mom made for me….as I look into my heart to the things I treasure – both sassy grandmothers that neither minced words, had plenty of spunk, and weren’t afraid to use various words in their vocabularies, the amazing integrity and character of both of my grandfathers and the legacy for trying to love people – whoever they are, whatever color they are or accent they have, wherever their family came from…these are the gifts that the communion of saints continues to give us as we wrestle with their words, their examples, their legacies and their authentic lives of faith.

Thank you God for all of those that have touched us in such mighty ways!

Who are your saints? Who has shaped you? What do you hold dear from the ones that have gone on before us?

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” – Louisa May Alcott

Can you hear the party of praise around us???

Update on that Spongy thing inside my Noggin’

  I am completely slacking on blogs right now which breaks all the rules of regular blogging.  Sorry about that!  I’ll catch up soon.  Right now I’m at a great conference and have tried to be as fully invested in it as possible, but there has been a part of me distracted.  Some of you that began following this blog when I started writing after finding out that I had a brain tumor and you walked with me through that journey and the recovery and even though the blog has become a little bit something different, I do still want to give you an update on that good ole brain of mine because I believe that this community of support has been invaluable and really a holy presence in my life and I can’t imagine my life without your prayer and support.

I have been doing 3 month MRI and neurosurgeon check ups over the past year.  For the most part, I try to keep moving with life and I give a sincere and concerted effort not to let these worries and fears rule over my life.  Then comes the time when I get the envelope from Carolina Spine and Neurosurgery in the mail with all of my appointment times and as Mike and I see it, I can feel the background stress and tension in me and those I love.  The unknown is so completely…humbling…scary…difficult.  There’s so much to unpack there but that would be an incredibly long blog and mine are already probably way too long.

Last week I went to my (I don’t really care to remember how many its been now) whatevereth MRI and the techs were asking how I was doing and what I was there for, all that good stuff and I told them my hope that maybe this was the visit where I could be increased to every 6 months or every year instead of every 3 months.

On Monday I met with the neurosurgeon and he said that it was the radiologist’s opinion that the part of the tumor still up there in brain/motor cortex land may have grown slightly but that it was very slight.  His opinion was that he didn’t see a change and disagreed with the radiologist.  We then had a lovely back and forth where I looked at the comparison MRI’s myself and tried to understand and that I got a chance to ask some hard questions.  Since Mike was not with me, I could ask some of the things that I want to know and would like to understand but that I don’t want to alarm, worry or hurt someone else by them hearing the questions or the answers.  Does that make sense?

So even though it was not my most favorite news in the world, I was okay.  My amazing doctor said he was going to take the tumor to the tumor board for them to decide if it had grown or not.  I called Mike and my parents on the way home and was okay.

Primarily I was okay because I was leaving the next morning for a conference and I just didn’t have the emotional energy or the whatever to process it.

Yesterday afternoon while I was in a workshop, the doctor left a message and when I hear him say his name I immediately get a little freaked out on the inside even though he’s a fabulous doctor – like fabulous – but it’s just anxiety producing.  But then he says an AMAZING thing – the tumor board doesn’t see any change.  AND because this place on my lovely brain has stayed consistent this year, I get to stretch the time between MRI’s to 6 months!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (I could probably mash exclamation points for a while on that one.)  That may seem like a little thing, but it’s such an act of hope and grace and peace to me.

And though I didn’t shed a tear on Monday, I couldn’t stop crying off and on yesterday evening.  Is that crazy?  The bad news – I take it and I’m like let’s do this thing.  The good news – I’m a basketcase.  In talking with a dear friend and colleague about this last night I told her as I was trying to process and express my layers of feelings that I really needed to blog about this.  For some odd, crazy reason this is how I started this journey – blogging.  And it has been such a healing and cathartic piece or even peace for me.  There’s something about putting it out there in writing and narrative that makes it something that I feel a little more grounded in.  I guess we each have our mediums – whether it’s walking outside or making pottery or playing baseball or journaling.  And I am thankful for this one.

In the midst of this I know that there are those walking incredibly hard and deep and heartbreaking journeys right now.  I think of the family members that are living this reality right now and the friends and loved ones who have faced challenges that I know not of.  Please do lift up in prayer those who are in the midst of the struggle of the unknown and in this thin place where anger and fear and sadness and grief and life and death and joy and pain are so close to the surface at times.  Each of us walks this journey at times.

And we’re not alone.

I have seen Christ in the colleagues that I’ve shared with here and that continue to uplift and inspire and challenge and hold me accountable.  I have seen Christ in my family who continue to battle for me.  I have seen Christ in the countless people that continue to tell me they’re praying for me or those that just give me space to be…and to feel…and to just cry or laugh or talk about it or not talk about it.  I have seen Christ when I’m by myself and I am vulnerable and just laid bare as a child of God.  Although there is no doubt that I would not have chosen for this piece of the puzzle of life, I have felt Christ’s Spirit and promise more tangibly and have felt the Body of Christ more profoundly and genuine than I have felt in my life.

I am grateful for a community of people that I can keep it real with on the sad days and the angry days and the joyous days and the rock and roll days.  I am grateful for a Savior who continues to be that Great Redeemer and Strong Protector and just that Amazing Grace who support us and girds us up in mighty, mighty ways.

So that’s my brain.

And one of the awesome things – 6 MONTHS!!!!!

Grace and peace to all of you.  I am gratefu for you all.

Tears

Annual Conference this year was both a whirlwind and a marathon.  Busy-ness or business was everywhere and it was both challenging and inspiring, a call to action and a test of will as we waited/persevered to the end.

I’m starting to think I’ve become more and more emotional as I grow older.  There were several times over this past week when I felt tears come to my eyes.  Some of those times were times of happiness and thanksgiving – feeling the Spirit move as Telley preached at Annual Conference, Josh’s ordination, the prayerful and powerful way our South Carolina delegation laid hands on Dad and prayed over him after unanimously deciding he would be our episcopal nominee.  There were so many great moments from the teaching to the preaching to the videos shared like this:

It was also a great time to camp out for Imagine No Malaria and to train some amazing Students In Mission (SIM) to commit their summers to being in mission = ministry with.  Much to be joyful about!

Sometimes the tears were both thankful and a little bit of just overwhelming gratitude.  It was surreal being back at Annual Conference this year.  Last year, I came in for two days right before the brain surgery and although some probably thought I was insane for coming, for me, it was my church.  The conference – both lay and clergy – are our people and that’s where we as a body share our joys and concerns.  I didn’t realize going into this how much being back at conference would bring up for me in terms of last year’s struggle.

We sang the song, “In Christ Alone” during the opening worship and those words and all of us a large body singing together was such a powerful witness and testimony to the love and providence of God.  (A video and lyrics are below.)  I’m glad we also sang this song during the ordination.  What a powerful song for our commissioned members and ordinands.

My mom’s birthday is June 11th and the brain surgery (left frontal craniotomy) was on her birthday last year.  There’s a part of me that would love to forget that date and not have any mark or reminder of it.  There’s another part of me that knows that it was everyone’s prayers and the grace of God that brought me through and it should be celebrated.  Don’t know which one is winning yet.  The jury is still out.  I get teary just typing about it.  Does that mean I haven’t fully dealt with it yet?  Could be.  Too soon?  Maybe, but not entirely.  Does that mean that was a mucho grande big deal and it’s still crazy to me that all of that happened a year ago and wasn’t just a bad dream?  Yes.  It’s hard to believe that that was me and if I didn’t have my lovely scar that I worry about getting sunburned, I might forget.

It’s hard to process things.  There’s a certain grief and emotion that swells up when you least expect it sometimes.  And it happens to all of us.  I was sitting in the Memorial Service for ministers that have gone to be with God over the past year on Mom’s birthday on the anniversary of my brain surgery and I just couldn’t do it.  I got through the sermon but the slide show of the pictures just did me in.  It’s always been a powerful service to me since in my mind the South Carolina Annual Conference is my home/my church and I know that one day there will be a service for each of us.  And there goes a Sandi Patti song and slides of the pastor that helped during my Gandaddy’s funeral and I have to head on out.  Even in the midst of the thanksgiving for life, even in the midst of the joy of the swelling of the Spirit, even in the midst of realizing that nothing can pluck any of us from God’s hand – there’s still both the realization that something really scary and really serious happened and a something that’s even beyond the word thanksgiving that describes that depth of feeling behind all that could have been and is now.

As I think about those that have faced such devastation in the storms and floods this year, those that have lost loved ones, those that are facing moves and transitions, those that are searching for hope and a rock to lean on when it feels like the walls are closing in around you – I know that the great Comforter is at work in our world and is blowing, inspiring and surrounding us every step of the way.  I am grateful that it is in Christ alone our hope is found and that we will never be turned away from it.  It’s available to each of us.

What are you grieving today?  What are your struggles?  When’s the last time you felt that ground swell of emotion?  How do we see the Spirit at work in our world?  What are the fears and frustrations that we’ve held on to and not given over to God?  What are those buttons of grief that can be turned in to sources of joy in our lives?

We are given songs or videos or movies or sermons or scriptures or friends or emails or a beautiful tree or the melody of the ocean or the stillness and quiet to claim as our promise from God.  It’s there waiting for us.  May we open ourselves to the Word God would speak to us this day.  May we claim it and know it and feel it to the depths of our souls.  May we know and trust.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin?s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

I will stand, I will stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground, all other ground
Is sinking sand, is sinking sand
So I stand

Mommy, Mommy, Mommy

Today was a good day.  No idea why exactly I feel that way, but when the chiropractor asked if I had a good day today, I said yes. 

Now seriously I don’t know why I would have said that.  Enoch woke up in the middle of the night not feeling well.  Evy had a “bug” this past weekend so we thought he just had what she had, but when our super silly, energetic little man is laying down, whiny, and falling asleep while watching cartoons – we’ve got a problem.  Mike drove Evy to school and me to work and left Enoch with me while he went to a meeting.  Enoch slept on the couch in my office underneath a beautiful prayer shawl as we waited for it to be time for his doctor’s appointment.

Did I get much work done today?  Nope.  I gave a valiant effort.  Maybe.  But it’s hard balancing Mommy with a demanding week of end of exams/graduation/preparing for next week’s mission to Harlem.  I often wish I could give everything I have to my kids/Mike and everything I have to ministry.  It’s somehow not just hard but feels next to impossible to equally divide my time.  Some weeks, it’s a predominant Wesley week – hello the last couple weeks of school.  And some weeks, it’s a catch up with the kids and enjoy not plugging in for awhile.

The thing that I loved about today – even in the midst of a crazy week where I’m not feeling like I’m getting much of anything done in the midst of feeling like I’m working all the time – was that I got to be Mommy.  I got to be there for the doctor’s visit and not have to hear about it later.  I got to be the one to get Enoch to take his Tylenol and get Evy to let her diaper be changed.  Yes, she’s in rare 2 year old form.  The 3 of us got to invade Mike’s space as he was watching the basketball game in our room and we all four had fun piling on the bed and being silly.  It was a good day.

It wasn’t a perfect day.  I didn’t get a darn thing done.  It included doctor’s visits, antiobiotic and Tylenol all over us a couple times, cat poop on the floor, Evy stripping off her pj’s to wear a pair of shorts that she loves and saw as I was putting it in the washing machine, and now – everyone asleep.  Mike and Enoch fell asleep watching the game.  Who knows if coughing will begin again or if one of the kids will end up in our bed or if we’ll all sleep peacefully through the night.

I am thankul for the chance to be Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.  As much as by the end of some long days as I’m finally sitting down and I hear the words “Mommy come here” I want to scream, I am thankful to be Mommy.  I am mindful as facebook is blowing up with pictures of people’s mothers all over the place, that some people didn’t have the greatest mom’s.  Some have also recently lost their mothers and I can’t even imagine that feeling or how much this time of the year may hurt.  Some others may not be able to be biological mothers but they are mothers to dozens of us nonetheless.  I know that has to be hard too.

I guess what I’m saying is that at the end of the day – Enoch and Evy have no facebook picture background to change.  Praise God – they would probably love the most hideous of photos, my sweet angelic little rascals.  But, I don’t want them to thank me, I want to thank them.  I can’t imagine my life without their marks all over our walls, the stains all over my shirts, or the precious feeling when they actually do say I love you.  I can’t imagine (actually sadly I probably could) what kind of insane workaholic I would be, if I didn’t have Mike and the kids to come home to.

So although in the sleepy hazy fog of tomorrow morning I may totally recant this entire thing (totally won’t happen), I find myself giving thanks for being Mommy.  Watch now, they’re going to use it extra special tomorrow in all kinds of fun ways.