Even if…It is well

Have you walked through a season where the only thing sustaining you is the head knowledge that God is there? Even though you can’t see Him or feel Him anywhere around you? You’ve stepped out in faith. You’ve done all the “right” things. You’ve prayed all the prayers. You’ve cried all the tears. You’ve read all of the verses. Yet you feel like God has led you to a wilderness place and left you there.

You beg for a change. For even just one sign that He’s still with you. And then it comes. Maybe not any change. Maybe not any movement from that wilderness place. But the reminder from Him that he’s there. For me, that usually comes in a song. A year ago this song met me in the wilderness. It didn’t move me, but it gave me the strength to push forward in that wilderness. And to say it is well…

Advertisements

First and last, beginning and end

It’s the first day of school in our hood. As someone who thrives on routine and schedules, I’m always eager for the first day of school to come around. I love summer. But by the end of it, I feel like my brain is just chaotic mush. Don’t get me wrong…I so enjoy the time I have home with the kids. I love that I work from home and can be here to enjoy summer with them. But the start of the school year is always a welcome thing.

This year has some bittersweet emotion tied to it. This is the first year that I haven’t driven Payne to school on his first day. Ever. He’s officially a licensed driver now. And while I absolutely will not miss having him to 6:15AM practices, not driving him to school got me a little in my feelings.

2018-08-20 06.58.46

This is also the last year that I drive Addi to Tally Elementary. A family we have been a part of for 762 years because when your kids are 5 1/2 years apart you feel like you’re part of the furniture of the elementary school. This is the last time I walk her into her class on day 1. We’ve loved every minute we’ve had at Tally since Payne was there. Knowing this is the end of this chapter is a tough one.

2018-08-20 07.14.36

As we’ve said too many goodbyes to college friends this last week or so, it’s made me very aware of time and how quickly it passes. We’re at stages with both kids where there are more lasts than firsts. More endings than beginnings. And it can get easy to get wrapped up in sadness for those things. It can be easy to realize the next first day for Payne is his last first day of high school. And get so consumed by that, that I miss the year we have right now. The time that will pass so quickly, whether I’m present in it or not.

It can be easy to realize the next first day for Addison will be her first first day not in elementary school. And get so consumed by that, that I miss all that 5th grade has for her.

It can be easy to get so wrapped up in the goodbyes with those going off to college, that I miss really seeing the amazing things that this new chapter has for them. The lasts, the endings…they’re hard. They’re bittersweet. Or sometimes just bitter. But they’re almost always followed by a first or a beginning that has so much beauty in it. So much opportunity for growth and new things.

Time is an interesting thing. I’ve heard people say that the days are long, but the years are short and I fully relate to that in this season of life. God has blessed me more than I could ever deserve with these people that I do life with. But am I’m really living presently in every day? Am I really allowing myself to soak up all of the firsts and lasts? Because they’re happening either way. Am I focusing so much on the endings, the lasts, the hard things, that I’m missing the beauty of the beginnings, the firsts?

My prayer this year for myself, and for you, is that I’m fully present in these days. School party? Count me in. Team dinner? I’m here for it. Road trips for games and meets? I’m all about it. Late nights doing homework, working through the struggles of the year, frustrations, disappointments…ALL OF IT…I’m all in. Present. A year from now looking back and knowing my people knew that I was here for it. For them. Not perfectly. But presently.

Happy first day, parents. Soak it in. It’ll be the last day before you know it!

Finals SZN

It’s the last day of school in our hood. I’m always glad when it’s the last day of school. I love having the kids home in the summer (most of the time!). This last day has some bitter mixed in with the sweet though.

This morning it dawned on me that today is that last time I’ll drive Payne to school. Before his Junior year starts in August (we’re not even going there, y’all), he’ll turn 16, get his license and start driving himself. I won’t miss being the driver for the 6:15AM cross country practices. But I will miss our one on one time in the car. It’s short, but most of the school year, it’s just him & I.

When the first day of school gets here, I won’t drive two kiddos to school. It’s a bittersweet final chapter to close. In a book that started 11 years ago.

This year also closes another chapter. An unexpected chapter. Tonight is graduation. Tonight 3 girls who mean the world to me walk the stage (or football field, because Texas) and close a final chapter in their lives. 9 months ago, only one of those 3 girls had a piece of my heart. Then they asked me to be their small group leader. I agreed, asking God to help me lead well and hoping I could make a mark on their lives.

God works in mysterious ways. Because those 3 seniors, plus the amazing juniors that I still have for another year (bless! because, Lord knows if they were all gone at once, you’d have to take me out on a stretcher), have been such a gift to me. Sometimes I think they’ve done more for me than I could ever do for them. In a year that’s had some amazing highs and some really hard lows, they’ve breathed life into my sometimes weary soul. And now all have a piece of my heart.

My seniors have become my concert companions, my coffee dates, the sharers of the funniest memes, the source of so much laughter, my prayer partners. My friends. They get their diplomas tonight. And leave in just a few short months. I’ve jokingly said for a while now that I’m not emotionally prepared for this. Y’all, I’M NOT EMOTIONALLY PREPARED FOR THIS. I don’t even know if my waterproof mascara is strong enough. I just hope I don’t go into a full on ugly cry.

Finals are hard. Whether you’re a student wrapping your year, or anyone closing a chapter. Some finals you can study & prepare for. Some you just can’t prepare for. Truthfully, there’s not really a way to emotionally prepare for lasts with your first born, precious gifts moving away or many of the other hard finals life throws our way. But wow, writing these chapters has been amazing.

 

The Legacy

If you’ve known me long at all, you know that you’ll never convince me that my Grandpa was the greatest man God ever put on this earth. He just was.

As a kid, there were 3 times that he should have died, but didn’t. Once, I don’t remember at all because I was a baby. Once I have very vague memories of because I was 6 or 7 years old. But the third time. That one is etched in my memory and on my heart for life.

It was the early (maybe mid?) 90’s. My Grandpa was having his second multiple bypass heart surgery. It was a July, but I can’t tell you the exact year. That surgery, if everything goes perfectly, is risky. And unnerving if you’re in the waiting room knowing it’s your person on that table. Surgery was long. Longer than it should have been. Long enough that the family and friends gathered in that waiting room were questioning why we weren’t hearing from a nurse or doctor.

I may have the order of events off just a bit, but my mom can put them in the right order if I have. But…a member of the medical team came in the family waiting area and told us that it was bad. That my Grandpa may not make it out of that operating room. Our people did what we do. We prayed. I know many were in that room with us. But I distinctly remember Steve Caddell, a lifelong family friend, praying for him and over us. I also remember someone calling up to Family Camp (sorry if you don’t know what that is. Just know it was one of the best parts of every summer), to have folks pray. Because the evening service was about to start. And my grandparents never missed a Family Camp. And those people pray. Pray the kind of prayers that move heaven to action.

Howard Burroughs was our District Superintendent at the time. The Burroughs family has always been dear to me. Pastor Burroughs (or Poppi as I had come to call him because I was so close to his grandkids) took the stage and opened the evening service with a call to prayer for my Grandpa.

Fast forward just a bit and the cardiac surgeon has come out to finally talk with the family. After it got “bad” in that operating room, it got worse. My Grandpa died on the table. They had tried repeatedly to revive him with no success. As the doctor was coming out to tell us he was gone, his heart started beating again.

As we began to share what God had done and put timing of events together, we realized that the time when my Grandpa was gone was about the time word had reached Family Camp that prayer was urgently needed. And that the time that his heart began beating again was about the time that Poppi Burroughs lead a charge on heaven on my Grandpa’s behalf.

Lots of people prayed that day. Every one of those prayers reached heaven. But in my heart, for all these years, I’ve always believed it was Poppi Burroughs leading that charge on heaven that moved God to bring my Grandpa back. And we didn’t just get him back that day. He lived many more years. He saw me graduate high school. He held Payne in the hospital, was the first person to throw a ball with him and made 5 years of memories with him. He saw me get married. He held Addison. Things I don’t think I’d have to hold onto if Poppi Burroughs hadn’t stepped in and called heaven down. My Grandpa went to be with Jesus 10 years ago this month.

Today Poppi joined my Grandpa (and Grandma and many others who have gone before) in heaven. I know there was a line waiting to meet him, that included my grandparents. Because I know that there are countless people who have a story just like mine of how Howard Burroughs profoundly impacted their lives. His welcome line likely spans whatever the length of heaven is. And his reward couldn’t possibly be contained in just one heavenly mansion.

Today my heart grieves because this earth has lost one of God’s best. Today my heart grieves for his kids, grandkids and great grandkids who have to say goodbye. But we grieve with hope. Because that’s the example he set for us. And because we know that cancer is gone and defeated. And he is made new. And where he worked his whole life to be. Right there with Jesus. And we can share stories of the legacy that he’s left. Because when you live the kind of life he did, your legacy lives on for generations.

When it all goes wrong

Easter is always a season that makes me pause. Makes me think. This year has really been no different. This time the thinking comes courtesy of the 4th-6th grade kiddos I spend my Wednesday nights with.

Over the last weeks, we’ve studied Lent. And talked about Jesus and what his last weeks and days on earth were like. Last week we talked specifically about the events that led up to the day that we have named Good Friday. One thing that stood out to my kids was that the people chose freedom for Barabbas. Freedom. For Barabbas. The cross for Jesus. My kids just couldn’t believe that the people would choose a murdering criminal over Jesus. As they talked about how crazy that was, God dropped a thought into my mind. And I know it was God because never have I ever had this thought before.

What if the people had given Jesus the freedom and sent Barabbas to the cross? 

I asked the kids that question and the silence that filled the room was very similar to the silence that filled my mind. We talked through how everything would have been turned on its head had Jesus been given His freedom. We talked about how that seemingly crazy choice to free Barabbas is actually what led to our salvation. We talked about how the people were wrong and indeed crazy to choose Barabbas over Jesus. But that we knew Jesus had to go to that cross.

How different would the world look had the crowd given Jesus freedom? How different would the Bible read? I’ve thought a lot about these things over the last week. All I can get to is that I’m so thankful that Jesus went to that cross. I’m so thankful the people were blinded by their fear of Jesus. I’m so thankful for the cross.

This thought of what if it hadn’t gone wrong that day has stuck with me. Because for the followers of Jesus, they certainly felt that it all went wrong when the people chose freedom for Barabbas. But after a few agonizing days, they saw that it really all went right.

We walk through things in life when it just seems to all go wrong. When it seems that a choice that we made or someone else made has just turned our world upside down. It’s so hard to see in the thick of it that maybe, just maybe, things are actually going exactly right. Exactly right for what God needs to do in us and through us. That hard, agonizing, heart breaking thing could very well be leading us down a path where all things are made new. Where the pain, hurt and maybe even death (death of relationship, death of a dream or even physical death) bring about the perfected plan of God in our lives. And a restoration of all that we thought was lost.

As Easter approaches, I can’t help but think about how it seemed to all go wrong. It seemed to all be at an end. But God doesn’t work in what we see. If it seems to all be going wrong right now, hold tight for the day when God makes it right. If it seems to be at a painful end right now, watch for your new beginning.

Just when you think it’s all gone wrong, WAIT. God is working behind the scenes making things right.