Monday, June 20, 2011

The Town that Raised Me...

I knew the question was coming eventually.  And then it did.  Kyle asked Jacob (my sister's soon-to-be groom) why he waved at every person we passed as we drove to retrieve some ferns for the reception.  It was neat to see my hometown of 3500 people in West TN through Kyle's eyes.  Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest along the I-5 corridor and never having traveled to any of the cozy, sleepy towns below the Mason-Dixon, I knew it was bound to be an experience for him.  And it mattered that he see it.  My heart was grown here.  It was nurtured and encouraged and inspired and advised and equipped to fly in this place. 

My little brother is now using his college summer to work at the bank that's now run by a man that my mom watched grow up in our church.  He's given me financial advice, and he married our former babysitter and one of my mentors.  And now he's mentoring my brother, who's been working as a teller.  This is PERFECT for him since he 1. already knows most of the folks in my town and 2. never meets a stranger.  Kellen has personality for days.  He's quick-witted, kind, and even a little mischievous.  He'll go far in whatever profession he chooses because people will LIKE him.

Jada just married Jacob, her high school sweetheart of 9 years this weekend.  They've both been through many years of school and life, and now that she graduated pharmacy school and can move back, they decided it was time.  Jacob's taking over his dad's insurance business, and they already have the 4 bedroom house that will house their future lineage.  It's perfect.  They're set and ready to move right into the community pillar role that both their parents have played.  I've gotten to see them both grow up and grow together.  I'm blessed to call them family. 

This whole wedding was an example of the warmth and hospitality that happens in a small town.  A blessed and extremely generous couple not only agrees to let us have the reception on their grounds, but puts in countless hours and funds to get it newly sodded, landscaped, and the outside building upgraded just in time for the occasion.  To hear them talk about it, you'd think they were as excited to host the party as we were to throw it.  Mom's friends put the reception together in terms of decor and flow and layout.  THEN the rains came... and it kept coming.  Friday morning there was standing water on the dancefloor.  We were rethinking location.  This was AFTER most of the arrangements had been made.  Some interventions were tried, but Saturday morning, the puddles remained and the rain came harder.  We were a somber group getting ready for pictures.  There were even tears involved.

 But 30 or so men from the community gathered together with my stepdad to screw plywood onto 2x4's to make 8,000 square feet of flooring inside the tent.  They finished in about 6 hours.  It was people from the bride's side, the groom's side, church friends, family, and out-of-town guests.  They made it happen.  And we had a beautiful reception.  THAT's the beauty of my hometown.  I love being from there, and I love coming back to visit.

Kyle flew in from Germany to surprise me, and boy, was I surprised.  But I think I was the only one.  I'm pretty sure my whole town already knew and was excited to meet him.  He got to shoot guns, see farms that don't have animals, and understand the camaraderie that goes down to your bones when you've grown up in small-town West Tennessee.  It was perfect.  

I love my story.   I am proud of my life's trajectory.  It's overwhelming to look back and see God's Hand at work at so many turns in the story.  And I know He's not done.  I look forward to see where He's taking me if where I came from is any indication of the blessings.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Be the Spark; It's His Fire

Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

Desmond Tutu
     My heart beat faster, and I spontaneously rose to my feet with 15,000 others as his name was announced over the Tacoma Dome speakers.  It seemed as if we were all immediately aware that we were in the presence of greatness as the Archbishop slowly made his way to the center podium.  He quickly lifted his arms in an attempt to quiet the crowd and stall the goosebumps that had developed down my spine.  And there he was.  This Nobel Laureate and international social activist, with his soft expression and gentle but expressive voice, seemingly invited us to sit at his feet while he told us his words of wisdom for this life.  Like a grandfather to his grandchildren, he began speaking to us of his great God, Who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and Creator of all things.  He went on to speak of God's design throughout the ages to "partner" with His human creations to do His work.  He spoke of Moses, the Israelites, Mary, the boy with the fish and loaves, and Jesus, recounting with each one how that conversation between them and God might have gone.  It was quite endearing and even comical when he changed his voice to match the characters, just like a good story-telling grandfather would do. 

     He didn't speak of his battles, of his scars, of his sacrifices in the various victories he's won.  He didn't push a social agenda or even a human rights cause.  He told a friend years ago that he sees the depressing headlines of the daily news as God's to-do list.  For us.  As we were bombarded all night with the encouragement to "Be the spark" that starts a fire for the betterment of our world, I couldn't help but wonder if people got it.  I mean, got IT.  The whole picture.  It was easy to agree with all that was being represented: people working together for a common good that is greater than the sum of all parts.  Who isn't motivated by that?  It's also easy to understand that this is GOOD.  It's pure; it's humanitarian; it's people at their best.  It's what is TRUE.  We SHOULD fight against injustice.  We SHOULD support every effort to end child labor and provide clean drinking water.  Those are no-brainers. 

     But do we really get the big picture?  To what end are we doing these things?  Where does this desire for GOOD come from?  The Bible says that "Every good and perfect gift is from above..." (James 1:17) and that "no one is righteous, not even one." (Romans 3:10)  Good is from God.  All of this is His.  All that is true, all that is good, is from God.  I believe it's the God of the Bible.  It's the God of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Noah, the Israelites, and many more.  I agree with the Archbishop that God wants to redeem humanity to Himself.  I agree with him that God sent Jesus as the only means by which to do that.  I also agree with him that God has and will continue to involve people (US) in the process.  There was only one doctrinal flaw of his that gave me theological heartburn: He stated that God needed people to do His work.  Um, God has no needs.  He chooses to use people in His plan to carry out His will.  Why that is the case, I will NEVER understand. 

     The bottom line is that Tacoma heard Truth last night.   From a man who has given his life to being the hands and feet of Jesus the best way he knew how.  I was privileged to encounter him.  He is now in my top 5 folks to spend a day with for sure.  I would like to be a spark that ignites God's fire in the world around me.  It was eternally impacting to hear from someone who has. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"In Process"

Man, I feel like that's the most appropriate description EVER of the past 6 months of my life.  In a process?  Am I ever!  I guess we always are, but it's rarely been so tangible as it is right now.  Adjusting to where I am vs. where I thought I was vs. where I want to be.  Yeah, it's a lot.  BUT the biggest transition has been moving to a place where I let myself BE where I am.  And let that be okay.  Praise the Lord!  I'm going to credit amazing friends, a persistent loving God, and a bombin' Christian counselor for aiding me in this trek towards peace, and not in that order.

It's weird to live in the dichotomy of being a thinker/hyper-analyzer AND a romantic...and be in love.  Because you can fully feel and experience the highs and lows of love and then step outside of it at times and see how crazy it all looks.  And I'm convinced that it's crazy for most people.  And I'm compelled to pity those that it's tamer for.  I think that would be a bigger tragedy.   Regardless, I don't think I'm even built for that (tameness).  I'm a thinker and all, but I'm way expressive, and I don't have a problem addressing conflict.  That lends itself to some ups and downs that may be more frequent but less heightened than those of folks who prioritize avoiding conflict over deeper resolution of ongoing issues.  That eventually blows up, and beware.

If you add in my misconceptions about needing to perform and accomplish for God to prove my worth, it can leave me in a heap of confusion regarding how to proceed most faithfully in a dating relationship.  What are the make-or-break issues?  How much does what I want factor in?  What SHOULD I want?  I know what makes me happy, but what is setting me up the best to be the happiest I can be (from an eternal perspective) 10 years from now?  Oy!  It's such a risk.  Period.  It just is.  I don't care who the person is you're thinking about loving for the long haul.  They are a risk.  They're going to have your heart, and you're going to have absolutely NO control over what they do, think, believe, or how they live.  Oy.  I know you don't actually WANT control over them, because that would totally negate their choice in loving you, but knowing that doesn't really quell the fear of all possibilities. 

Remember that fear I was blogging about previously?  You notice any of that?  ;)  It's actually better.  I am learning to lean into trusting God with my circumstances and not trusting in a certain outcome.  I'm just being really honest with you right now about some of the things spinning in my head and heart.  I don't know many of the answers.  In fact, I've only been successful at distilling down what the bigger questions are.  I WILL tell you this, though.  For me, God has answered prayers.  Seriously, for the first time last weekend, when certain concerns surfaced in my heart, I didn't freak out.  I didn't start the hyper-analytical spiral into a puddle of worry and doubt, totally rendered ineffective and unfocused on anything of Kingdom value.  Instead, I went back to what God has done for me so far.  He's shown me what to do a day at a time.  So I got alone and started asking God questions.  I started with the big ones.  Some He chose not to tell me right now.  But I plan to keep asking until He does.  The ones He DID answer were all I needed for that day.  For one day's worth of peace and mercy, He gave me the answers and directions I needed.  So that's my new plan in this process.  Make those little reconnect and recenter sessions with God more frequent.  The older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more in life I realize I don't know or have any control over.  So the only sane choice is get better at trusting God.  So I will.  And THAT's where I am in this process.

Friday, February 04, 2011


Man, what a motivator.  I can honestly say nothing's been more consistently dominant over the past year.  I've thankfully had pockets of peace where I was abiding and trusting.  But the fear lingers, always.  It just waits for one of my steps to hit remotely uneven ground, and it swoops in to carry me off into an abyss of ominous hypotheticals.  The eternal perspective (the upside) is that it's been opportunity after opportunity to trust God more, minute-by-minute, day-by-day, situation-by-situation.  And sometimes I lean into that.  And other times I run in circles in my mind until I'm too tired to keep going.  And then God meets me there.  With the end result always being God showing up to comfort my heart, you'd think this doesn't sound too bad.  But seriously, how unnecessary are the massive peaks and troughs of my emotional cosin wave?  (Sorry to get all trigonometric on you, it's just what is fitting in my mind.)  And what does that speak to those around me about my belief in God's faithfulness?  I know my lack of belief doesn't diminish His power or His ability to glorify Himself however He chooses, but I want to be a part.  I want to help.  I want to be a living example of a life submitted fully. 

So maybe here's where grace comes in, as tears creep into my line of vision.  Maybe I'll eventually let go of thinking and planning and guarding myself against possible mistakes 3 months from now.  What control do I honestly have over 6 months out?  2 months out?  4 years out?  Why does fear of these times affect me NOW?  I have very little choice in life in the grand scheme of things.  But I have a choice RIGHT NOW.  I can choose to focus on who GOD is.  I can choose to cling to His promises.  I can choose to expect Him to use me in my job, in my church, and in my relationships.  I can choose to let others love me as long as they want to keep trying to.  I can choose to tell fear Who my Dad is, and what He has to say about it:
Isaiah 41:10 (New International Version, ©2010)

10 So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.