I took a deep breath today. For the first time since June 10th. My world slowed down and I’m deciding the things this school year will include. For me.
Early this morning, our daughter got on the bus and rode off to first grade. And I sat down with a cup of coffee and Facebook.
The first picture I saw was the young girl who cared for our daughter in the nursery at church. That girl started her senior year today. And I took another deep breath.
I watched the likes and comments appear on Allie’s first day of school post. And my breath caught in my throat a little. This pretty, confident little girl.
We went to a bank the other day. She’d fallen asleep in the car and I picked her up out of her seat and started to carry her into the building. Like I’ve done a hundred times.
“Mom,” she exclaimed. “Put me down. You can’t carry me anymore.”
Or our movie nights these days. When she informs us she won’t sit on our laps but instead snuggles in right next to us. Close enough.
Six. Not sixteen.
I read other Facebook posts from friends. Their kids didn’t need hugs, kisses or chauffeurs into the classroom either. What a good job we’ve done raising such confident kids!
And yet. I know these days are precious. Tongue in cheek, I told you a few weeks ago I was done with this summer business.
We road tripped to St. Louis.
We camped up north with friends.
We ended our summer with a few days on Lake Michigan. Like every good Michigander should do.
And today we reflect. We pause, catching our collective breaths, as a new school year is upon us.
Routine. One. Two. Three. Breathe.
Today, meet Sara. She attended our Wednesday morning Bible study for a number of years. The Christian walk was new to her. And just as she was getting her feet steady on the solid ground, her life fell apart. Sara lived through an unwanted divorce. She graciously shares that experience with us today. God, and her Bible study gals, were by her side the whole time. Even when she didn't realize it. Thanks Sara for sharing your story.
If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm....
What do you do when everything you know, feel, love and have worked hard for changes?
When your whole world comes crashing down?
You are lost, hurt and confused.
Who do you turn to? Do you run to God or do you yell and blame God?
Let's start by introducing myself. I'm Sara, I am 27 and have two beautiful spunky daughters, ages six and three. I have been divorced from their biological dad for two years officially, separated for three. For those doing the math; yes, my youngest was just born when he left.
Also, I am about to walk down the aisle again (T-minus 42 days!) with an amazing, generous and, might I add, handsome man! A man who has stolen my heart, swept me off of my feet and taken on an incredible role.
But I will get to that in a bit.
I am going to backtrack for a bit here so bear with me. I was not raised in a home where going to church on Sunday, or any day really, happened.
We didn't pray before meals (unless my grandparents were around) or go to VBS or anything like that. My parents did teach us here and there that there was a God. It was when my Aunt passed away that my mom really started talking about God. I saw a need for prayer at that point and didn't really know "how" to pray but did.
My mom started talking a little more about God and she asked me if I was saved or if I even knew what that meant. I didn't know. She explained and we prayed I would accept Jesus into my heart. Sometimes I really wonder if he knew truly how much work I would be.
That was at 16. I was not really in the best spot in my life, Dating a boy no one approves of. Cut from our schools softball team (this was huge for me as softball remains a big passion of mine). I just didn't care anymore.
This was when I met a new boyfriend. He pulled me out of that bad place. Down the road a little, he proposed to me and we got married when I was 19 (he was 22 and I am pretty sure my dad hated that)! I was 21 when I our first child was born and I decided to be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM).
This was also when God really laid it on my heart to seek Him. I started to desire a relationship with Him. I wondered how to find a church to call home. I needed to be fulfilled and I really wanted my kids to grow up with a church home.
So I prayed.
Through social media, I stumbled across a local group called Praise and Coffee, which introduced me to Jaime. Which in turn led us to visiting church. Really my first time. Jaime led a small group at the end of Praise and Coffee and she invited me to bring my family to visit her church.
She also asked if I wanted to join their women's Bible study. I was terrified. I didn’t know anything about the Bible, Scripture, nothing. Then add on I didn't really know anyone at the church. I didn't want to look stupid or out of place.
But there was something inside me that gave me the courage to take my family there. To go. Now I can say that was the Holy Spirit leading me, but then I was clueless!
Things moved quickly for me as I soon discovered I had two good friends already attending that church who were also a part of the women's Bible study!
We started attending regularly. I started volunteering in nursery and joined the bible study. I was learning so much about our awesome God and about myself! I was making some great new friendships and deepening some old ones! I was trying to better myself and set a good example for my daughter.
Fast forward a couple years and I have a new bundle of joy. However, joy was not something that came easy for this newborn. We discovered through some testing that she had Acid Reflux alongside colic. Combine those two and sleep rarely happens, although puking frequently does!
I had my hands full to say the least. An almost 3-year getting ready for preschool and a fussy newborn.
Unfortunately at this time, things quickly started turning for the worst in my marriage. My husband and I had one of many arguments, which led to him staying out all night.
When he returned, he uttered to me four words that made my stomach drop:
"I want a divorce."
Surely some of you have thrown that awful word around. If you have, I urge you NEVER to do that again!
“Come on, let’s talk. You don't want that.”
He's firm and now angry. He repeats that is what he wants.
The smart aleck in me replied,
"What's her name?"
You don't just walk away from a marriage of six years and two children without any desire to TRY to fix things.
“There is no one else. I just don't love you anymore.”
Now, if you have never experienced anything like this, imagine a dagger straight through your heart. Yup, that is exactly what I felt at that moment. I lost it. I was sobbing uncontrollably by this point, which did not help the situation.
I packed the girls up and head for my parent’s house. On the way, I called his sister and begged her to call him and talk some sense into him.
The next few weeks are a blur to me, even to this day. I cried, I yelled, I prayed and nothing I did changed his mind. All I felt was sorrow. So hurt and worthless. He refused any kind of counseling and hardly talked to me at all.
I tried everything you could imagine.
Then, I started getting messages on Facebook about a girl from his work. Rumor was they had been having an affair. It was about three weeks into all this when he finally admitted to "seeing" another woman.
I’ve never been so angry, hurt and confused in my life. Why me? I had been doing everything to try and live this better Christian life. Build up a great foundation for my kids and family.
I started thinking if I was only skinnier, prettier, smarter. The list went on. How awful that's where our minds go in these situations. I should have been a better wife.
I was so angry at everyone, especially God. I started questioning this faith that I had built up the last three years. I am far from a perfect Christian, wife or mother but I was trying.
How could God allow this?
I knew I was strong, but what about my kids? What did this mean for our daughters? Why did they have to suffer?
I wasn't working. I didn't have any money of my own. Or a home. This was all going through my mind.
Instead of seeing what I had, I was focusing on what I was losing.
What I did have though, was my family, friends and my Savior. I didn't realize the last three years God was preparing me for this. He was preparing my sisters in Christ for this!
At this point, my parents took the girls and me into their home. Never did I imagine I would move back in with my parents at 25 with two kids. I am pretty sure they didn't either!
I am beyond thankful we had that option and that they took care of us. Things were far from easy. I was working a lot now and trying to figure out where I was supposed to go from here.
Everything was changing. Work. Where we lived. My oldest was starting preschool and now she had bad separation anxiety. We stopped attending church because she refused to leave my side but wouldn't sit through the service.
That and I just couldn't face going back.
I knew divorce was a sin. What were they all going to think? I felt like everyone was looking at me. Staring and judging me. *Disclaimer - my church family never did this to me. I was extremely insecure and making this up in my head.
The next few months consisted of a lot of ups and downs. Mostly downs. I really didn't know what to do with myself.
The girls started going to their dad’s every other weekend, which left me feeling alone. I cried. A LOT. I was depressed and not taking care of myself. I didn't eat right, if I even ate at all. I started smoking again (had quit four years prior). I started drinking and going out at night.
I surrounded myself with people who gave me this fake attention. A false sense of feeling important. Not everyone I spent time with did this, but I picked up some new people and surroundings that were not good for me.
While all this is going on, these woman who I had built these friendships with in Bible study, they never left my side. They never stopped praying for me. Along with them, I had a couple of lifelong friends and my parents. All of whom literally held me together.
They took me in, fed me and the girls, made sure we felt loved. They held my hand. Listened to me cry, yell and anything else that came out.
I did a lot of things I am not proud of now. The devil was definitely starting to win here. I didn't trust anyone. I wanted to hide. I hated myself, and believed that I wasn't good enough.
People would tell me things like:
"You don't know how strong you are until strong is the only option."
"If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it."
“Everything happens for a reason."
I remember yelling and saying to God,
“Stop trusting me with so much! I can't take anymore.”
A few friends suggested I start going on dates here and there and meet new people. I learned quickly I am not cut out for dating. I was a hot mess and didn't know how to handle the emotions I was still having from the separation. Let alone new feelings and emotions.
How was I to know if I just want this person around because I like the attention, or if I really feel something? I didn't like the idea of being alone, so needless to say I made a lot of mistakes.
But there was something awesome going on this entire time and I was clueless!
I didn't realize it for some time but there was someone who loved me (besides my amazing family and friends). This someone had been carrying me through this entire journey. I am worth it to him. I am beautiful and smart. I am good enough.
You know why?
Because this Someone created me and made me in His image. He forgives me no for even my biggest sins. He listens no matter how ridiculous I sound.
I think you have probably figured out who I am talking about by now. Our awesome God!
That whole time I was blaming, sinning and just not following him, He still loved me. He was still there for me. Carrying me through, calming me and forgiving me.
“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand, it is I who help you." Isaiah 41:13
My God never left my side. And those moments when I felt my weakest were when I would receive messages and cards from my sisters in Christ.
They were still praying for me.
Our God is so great He laid on their hearts exactly when I needed prayer and they listened, responded and I FELT IT! If you have never felt and experienced the power of prayer, words cannot describe it. The calm that comes over you is simply amazing.
I slowly, and I mean slowly, started to try to heal. I realized I had two beautiful girls who needed me. Which meant taking care of myself and rebuilding my life. Figuring out where I was supposed to go from here. I started being able to laugh again. To have fun again.
In baby steps.
Those who read this and saw me through all of this, I thank you for your love, compassion, prayers and mostly for your honesty. Sometimes it hurts, but you have to hear it.
Get up, brush it off and keep moving.
I thank you for always being there and you will never know how truly grateful I am. God placed all you in my life strategically. It's amazing to me how we don't see that at the time.
Now fast forward again to when I met Ben! It was amidst my being a hot mess. Somewhere in the middle of starting to care, but still not quite on the right path.
There is much more to our story of meeting and getting to know one another but that is a whole ‘nother book in itself!
After a few months of spending some time together, simply as friends, I shared with him my situation. He never once judged me or made me feel like I was bad for being divorced.
A few months later we were playing Guitar Hero in his basement (ha ha), when he takes the controller from me, looks at me and says,
"I have to tell you something."
Now, in my mind this is never good!
I'm slightly nervous at this point and say,
He looks right at me and says,
“I am falling for you.”
Now I am pretty sure my face showed pure panic. My reply,
This poor man's heart was probably shattered at that moment. He apologized for saying anything.
Crap! Did I really just say that out loud? No, no no, I plead with him. I assured him it is OK and I am glad he told me.
I just have this gigantic wall up and I don't know how to break it down. No one is supposed to be ABLE to break down that wall. I have to be strong and not have feelings anymore.
I quickly recovered from the terror and embarrassment about my response. I suggested we go on a real "date."
Gulp, what did I just do?
So we go out, to the place where we first met, and have a great time. Not that I would have expected anything less.
We moved very slowly, for my kids sake and for mine! It was quite some time before those even closest to us even knew we were dating. I knew regardless of how long I waited, I would encounter those who thought it was too soon or wasn't right.
But I was always honest with Ben. He knew what I had been through and somehow knew what to expect. He realized I was still a mess and he didn't care.
Fast forward to present day. Now here we are, getting ready to walk down the aisle. He has not only stolen my heart, but two little girls’ hearts as well.
Photo credit: Kari Stull Photography
He has taken on so much responsibility by being with me. He has taught me how to trust again. Love again. Truly shown me more love and passion than I ever knew existed.
He stepped up and provides for our family. He has chosen to be a father to two children. He has been so patient with me as I have learned to break down walls and trust again. I’m still a work in progress but have learned a lot about myself and others in the last three years.
Ben had a church home when I met him and I started slowly attending with him. We introduced the girls after a while and we all attend regularly now. I’ve served on the praise team for about a year and help out in other areas when I can.
Our new church has been amazing. I have never felt judged there either and everyone welcomed the girls and me with open arms.
I still have daily struggles and constant reminders of the past. Sometimes those reminders are needed to keep me focused.
It's easy to blame. It's easy to be angry.To feel hurt.
What is hard is forgiving. Healing. Trusting.
We each must chose. Do we want to spend our lives being angry or do we want to find happiness?
Looking back, I did learn a few lessons. May I share them with you?
The biggest lesson I learned was you can't be happy with anyone if you are not happy with yourself.
You define your own happiness.
God is good, all the time!
Everything does happen for a reason, even if we never understand all the reasons.
If I can inspire even one person by this blog post, it makes everything worth it. I want to thank Traci for giving me the opportunity to share my story. I was, and am still, nervous to put this down for the world to see. It is all a part of my journey!
I'm going to leave you with a verse that I clung to through all of this.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
I received a copy of The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, written by Barnabas Piper, from netgalley.com for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
- - - -
I also partnered with Family Christian Stores to offer one reader a copy of the book! See details at the end of this article.
I used to think I wanted to be famous. A rock star. A movie star. Just rich. Until I read a couple biographies about the Kennedy’s. That family never gets a break. Royalty. Royal pain in the you-know-what.
So, the older I get, I became quite content to just be me.
Some people aren’t born with such privilege. Take PKs (pastor’s kids) for example. They are considered well-known by every member of each congregation where their parent is called to minister.
And when your dad is John Piper, take the notoriety up a notch or twenty.
According to Barnabas Piper, he has a threefold purpose for writing his book.
We expect so much of our pastors today. Take a moment to reflect on all the hats your pastor wears.
Now, say a prayer for them.
This book exhibited a good amount of grace. For pastors who are pulled in so many different directions. Who face constant tension between shepherding a congregation and being a good role model as the leader of the home.
“Accept that his family is more important to him than the church members. And more than accepting all of this, the church must make know to him that it is expected of him.”
Also grace for their children. Who live under a great deal of pressure to be “perfect angel, biblical superstar, and theologian extraordinaire.” When they just want to spend quality time with Mom and Dad.
“Even the sheer number of people who greet the PK by name is constricting. It all adds up to a feeling of being watched. And watched is what PKs so often do feel, all the time, in everything.”
Through personal example and by sharing the stories of other PKs he’s corresponded with over the years, Piper relates how hard it can be to develop a faith all their own. At some points in this book, I could easily slip my own circumstances into the equation. We all as strong Christians want our children to grow up mighty in the Lord.
But there can be a fine line between teaching them about relationship and issuing an impossible set of rules. By God’s great grace and mercy, our children can grow up to be strong in their own faith.
“It is only grace that has restored me. It was the awful power of God’s grace that peeled back layer after layer of hypocrisy, my onion self, to expose my heart to what I knew answers about but truly needed to believe.”
That is what Piper wants for all PKs. For that grace to embrace them. I think his book can go a long way in helping them, and us, find that faith.
“More than anything I want my breaking to be the freeing of others. "
Now, you can win a copy of this book! There are a couple ways to enter.
1) Like my blog’s Facebook page, Tracesoffaith, and comment on the page so I know you’re new. 2) Comment below.
The giveaway is open to U.S. residents and will run through midnight on Monday, September 1st, 2014. A winner is randomly selected. The winner will be contacted by email and will have forty-eight hours to claim the prize. If unclaimed, a new winner will be selected.
Today's post is linked up at Ed Cyzewski's blog. Visit his site for other writers reflecting on what saved their faith.
This particular Sunday felt no different than any other. We attended church same time same place. We worshiped to music. The pastor taught us from the Holy Scriptures.
I’d been struggling through something though. Quietly. Privately. With the Holy Spirit. I had an internal conflict going on with a friend. I never said negative words out loud so as to avoid confrontation. But I’d had hundreds of conversations in my head. And I always seemed to win the arguments.
I’m sure my nonverbal language communicated some dissension. We don’t hide those things like we think we do.
The service ended with a song. Now, make no mistake. There wasn’t an invitation call per se. My new Reformed traditions dont lend themselves to such practices. Not on a weekly basis anyway.
Our prayer partners were in place. We do often have these men and women available at the end of our services. Especially when we sing one final tune.
As the music played, I felt a familiar tug. The Holy Spirit called me to come. To the altar. I love our prayer partners. They are my friends and I know them well. But I didn’t feel led to share my need or to pray with them.
No, I heard the call quite clearly. I had business to do. Alone with God. Regarding my hardened heart. At the altar.
I went, of course. My walk with Jesus started at the altar when I was seven years old. I said yes then and I’ve been doing my best to respond ever since.
I have been to said altar countless times. Oh, sure, the altar varies by church, denomination, city. But I’ve always found God there. Waiting.
As an older child, I would take my troubles to Him there at the little country church just up the road from my house. A church who never locked her doors. Where I’m from, it really wasn’t necessary.
I’d walk the dirt road slowly. Already deep in reflection. The church had a quiet reverence. It carried the musty smell of age. And there, I’d talk with God.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me;
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
Each time, my soul would leave refreshed. And one day, years later, I got married there. Seeking a marriage blessed by God.
In college, I lost my grandpa. The relationship he had with his Creator was only between him and God. He was one of my favorite people, like ever, and I desperately wanted to understand without any doubt what eternity looked like for Grandpa.
Week after week, I made my way to the altar. A more elaborate altar this time. The church I attended in college was fancy and new. The biggest church I have ever attended.
Sometimes I was the only one at the altar, but it made no difference. Through my tears, God taught me deeper lessons about faith. And sharing our story with loved ones. I walked away from this time knowing one's salvation truly rests in Christ alone.
Vocabulary.com offers the following definition of an altar:
A raised area in a house of worship where people can honor God with offerings. It is prominent in the Bible as “God’s table,” a sacred place for sacrifices and gifts offered up to God.
This definition resonates with me. For what else do we have to offer God but our very real selves? I have saved my faith, deepened my faith, at God’s table many times over the years.
Sometimes the altar has been the ground right in front of where the pastor stood at a microphone. These days, the altar is at the base of a middle school stage.
A place where I continue to trace God at work in my faith walk. I work my faith out there with fear and trembling.
My daughter was baptized at this altar too. As a baby. In years to come, I hope and pray she’ll learn to offer her own sacrifices of tears. The gift of herself. At the altar.
“What saved your faith? Write your own post answering that question and then visit edcyzewski.com to learn how you can join the synchroblog or to read additional posts to celebrate the release of Ed’s book A Christian Survival Guide, which is discounted on Amazon this week. “
We had a date night last night. At home. Our daughter had a sleepover with Grandma and Grandpa. We fired up the grill and had steak, baked potato and fresh okra from our garden.
A nice evening alone on our back porch. A cool breeze coming through. Quiet. Always enjoy the quiet.
And I thought to myself,
Someday, our daughter will be gone. And I’m still just fine spending my time with this guy. Blessed.
So, today’s post, 7 ways you can know you’ve found the perfect mate... for you.
1. You share everyday moments.
Richard Gere starred in a movie, Shall We Dance. In it, he decided to take ballroom dance lessons. Kind of a mid-life crisis moment. He ended up really liking it. He also ended up not telling his wife. By the time she did finally found out, her mind had formed all sorts of suspicions.
In the midst of that tension, they had an exchange I have thought of often over the years. And I quote:
John: Beverly, dance with me.
Beverly: I don’t know how.
John: Yeah, you do. You’ve been dancing with me for nineteen years.
These moments, the dance moves if you will, are the good stuff in our marriages. Organizing the kids’ schedule with your work schedules. Planning date nights with some kind of regularity. The familiar affectionate touch as he passes through the kitchen. The everyday routine of taking turns in the bathroom, scheduling appointments, fixing dinner.
2. He supports your interests.
My husband somehow ended up with a sports fanatic although he could take or leave them. And he isn’t always sure about this blogging thing. Not to mention my presence on social media. He likes his privacy and takes his role as protector of our family very seriously.
But he sees it’s important to me. I enjoy sharing our stories and consider my writing to be a next step in the ministry efforts God calls me to. We went on vacation in July. A weeklong camping trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. So much natural beauty! Ryan took a lot of pictures specifically for the blog. He knew it would mean a lot to me. In fact, he provides the majority of my online photos.
Further, he’s a great publicist. A few months back, a coworker of his went to Israel. He asked her if I could use her pictures for the blog. He shares my blog with his friends at work. He’s even worked on a few folks to share their story on my page.
His support shows me that what I consider important, he does too. I try to return the favor.
3. What’s cooking in the kitchen?
Every couple needs common interests. You can certainly also have things you do separately. Please make that a priority as well. But what do you have in common?
One of the places where we find common ground is in the kitchen. He will grill any time night or day. Sun or rain or snow.
Our garden doubled in size from last year. How did that happen?! I enjoy picking something fresh and preparing it to go along with his grilling masterpieces.
Homemade pizza, canning fruits and vegetables, fine dining at our favorite restaurant. We love sharing all of this... together. It connects us.
4. You enjoy knowing and being known.
Families are complex. Often messy. Your spouse, they signed up to navigate the family tree with you. And there’s comfort in having that one person always choose to be on your side. To learn about your family and theirs with all their angles.
Further, someone who knows your past. Who wants to know about what you dream of for your future.
We read an article early on that encouraged someone to pick a mate who they could see themselves rocking beside in the nursing home someday. If there’s a cribbage board on the table between us, Ryan and I would be comfortable for days.
5. Disagreements are about the situation, not the person.
No couple reaches perfection. We are no exception. We do strive for perfect moments. Even when we aren’t on the same page. Our voices can elevate, we can agree to disagree. But thankfully, we have never developed a habit of verbally attacking each other when the discussion gets heated. Our disagreements are short-lived and healthy.
I’ve had some newly married friends ask me what advice I would give a couple just starting out in their lives together. I have given the same answer for years. Communicate. Give yourself time apart if the talk isn’t going to be healthy. But when the time is right, and you’re somewhat level headed, communicate. Honest. Open.
The relationship is always more important than the disagreement.
6. Together, you share your faith.
My dad never went to church. I used to think I didn’t really have an example of a Christian couple since my parents didn’t share that. God showed me I did have plenty of role models. Couple mentors at church. Relationships in God’s Word who give us examples of how to live a life of faith together.
Together, Ryan and I have forged a way to share our faith with one another. It can always use some work. But what a blessing to have someone with whom you can share what God is doing in your life. Someone you can pray with during good and bad times. These relationships are rare. I encourage you to find ways to trace your faith walk with your spouse. God can be found there too.
7. You know you’re beautiful.
He doesn’t say it. Not every day. But I know my husband thinks I’m beautiful. He compliments outfits. Hair cuts. There’s a fondness in his glances. Life gets busy. We can take our other half for granted. I am never more confident than when I know Ryan loves me, finds me attractive and takes pride in calling me his.
I knew it in the back of my mind. Never saying a word. Because peer pressure exists in motherhood too.
When there were just a few weeks of school left (in June!), the nagging thoughts were there. Summer seemed like an awful lot of days.
I’d already experienced no-school days. Last winter delivered more snow days than should be allowed. Maybe we could make our school buses double as snow plows. Think on that.
So, when summer came I asked myself, "what am I going to do with this child 24/7?" We intentionally left the calendar open because one of the #1 things I want for our daughter is an ability to be OK by herself.
But she’s an only. And let’s face it, alone time isn’t that hard to come by when it’s just you.
This mama loves routine. The older I get, the more it’s a security blanket all my own. Wrap me up in the familiar and color me happy. That’s not to say I don’t long for a spontaneous weekend road trip. Or unexpected company.
One or two days maybe. But this summer break thing. Week after week. I knew.
We did a brand new school in our new community last year. And it was good. Went so well I wasn't sure I wanted to see it go. I know teachers need a break. Kindergarten must come to an end.
Then, the summer thing went great. Trips to the beach, free movies, play dates, frolicking with all the farm animals, ice cream, campfires, vacations, camp, VBS. All in those remaining few weeks of June.
True Michiganders, we ODed on summer. Proved once again you can’t beat Michigan weather in June, July and August. Fiercely denying we even have winters.
One summer highlight was theater camp. At school. A fine performance of Annie. She’s still singing the songs. Indeed, aren’t we all? Because you’re never fully dressed without a smile...
Now, I am reading posts on social media and some blog articles about how parents are ready to send their kids back to school.
Like these words from Jen Hatmaker:
My Beginning of Summer Attack Plan has atrophied. We are no longer cooking delicious new recipes together. Caleb had Lays potato chips for breakfast yesterday. At the crack of 11:15. The wheels have come off, dear ones. I did my part: the fun camps, the trips, the pool, the lake, the snow cones, the Good Times, and now it is all dead to me. I’ve reached to the outer limits of my capabilities, and we are now in the black hole of what I call “the screw-its.”
Oh, and we promise to make healthy lunches. Volunteer in the classrooms. We’ll gladly reinstate bedtime! Just get us back to a routine. Even homeschoolers are ready for their world to gain some structure.
Thankfully, Allie is starting to wonder too. She expressed some nerves about first grade. All the while excited to be back with her friends. Preparing herself.
We won’t talk about how many days we still have to wait.
Every day I walk to our mailbox. I peek inside hoping for a sign that the school is ready for us too. Where is our orientation letter? What teacher will try to replace our kindergarten teacher (as if)? School supply list please. The first signs of getting back to a real to-do list.
Because a part of me has waited all summer for this. Routine. Schedule. No more going to bed before my daughter.
And I know you’re finally with me. The reality of kids unleashed for days on end has settled in all around you. Let’s get back to being adults. Right?
I told you so.
I have never left the church. Perhaps I should say the church never left me. It runs through my veins on my mother’s side.
In my earliest memories, of a granny who took a monthly portion of what little she had and financially supported Billy Graham. Living into her 90s, she always kept a devotional guide and a Bible on the end table by her chair. A simple faith that grew stronger with age. One she shared with those around her. She attended a country Christian church until she became unable to do so.
To a grandma who had little money and many mouths to feed. She mourned more deaths than anyone should. Three children lost in separate car accidents (two were teenagers, one late twenties). Also a husband who lost his fight with Alzheimer’s Disease before the illness had really developed a name for itself. Her quiet faith was business conducted between her and God. But we all saw it. Felt it. She attended a local methodist church until she moved to town. Later, she attended a baptist church with her daughters.
To her husband, my granddad, whose own grandfather was a preacher. He became riddled with a disease that took over his mind. Through all his days, he never lost his faith. Some days, he didn’t know his own family. One time in particular, we had a big family dinner at their house. He leaned in close to us as if sharing some conspiracy theory. And he said of my grandma, “I don’t know who that woman in the kitchen is but she’s been working hard all day.”
That man lost touch with the present on a regular basis. Wandering off to mend fences no longer in the fields. Wanting to leave the nursing home where he spent his final days so he could just get back home. But if you sat him down at the piano, he never forgot a single note or a single word from the hymns of his church:
“Farther along we’ll know all about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.”
To a mother who married young. Wed a wild teenager. They had three children together and raised them well. Before life and hurt and problems became more than they could handle together. As an adult, I experienced my parents’ divorce from a distance. I saw my greatest mentor fight for her sanity as she lost the love of her life. I witnessed the turmoil that came with choosing divorce when she knew it wasn’t what God had planned for an ideal marriage. Yet, she reached a point where it became obvious her marriage was less than ideal.
She clung to her faith. I watched her read through the Psalms repeatedly until they finally penetrated her soul and brought healing. When nothing else could. After all those years of attending church alone with her children, she sought refuge in the Scriptures she had discovered there.
With time, she transformed from fragile and broken to a strong leader in her church. Talk to her today and she’ll give God all the glory. Always in all ways.
So, when it came time for me to leave home and find my own faith, I knew right where to look. Not in a single church (I have faithfully attended nine in six different cities over the years) or in a single denomination (four at last count). The church was in me. In my blood. In Christ’s blood.
All I had to do was find a community of believers who would walk my faith journey with me. As my people had. I don’t look for the church to be perfect or to have the exact same belief system I do. What I do look for is a Bible-teaching pastor. I need a loving family (because mine live so far away) to walk life with me. I want to work out my salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12b) among believers who are also doing the thing. In varying degrees, the church has always fulfilled these needs in my life.
Whether by sprinkling or immersion, infant or adult, may my family always be baptized with the holy waters found in the local church.
Generations of my family before me found answers to life’s hardest questions at church. Honestly, if I didn’t stay in the church, keep my faith, I wouldn’t have the first clue where else to look.
I didn’t plan it this way. In my younger days, I thought possibly eight or nine. Mom and Dad with a family of our own ready to take the baseball field. A complete team.
Reality looks so different. Isn’t that the way it goes? I blame my husband mostly. He waited to be found until I was 28. Hardly enough time to have a huge brood.
So ours is an only child. That concerns me sometimes. I consider the good and bad involved in being a lonely only.
Our eyes are always on her.
She does have our attention. I suppose that can be a real confidence booster. And our little one does not lack confidence. But I wonder if her world is a bit harder. The rules more stringent. Because of the time and energy we have to invest in her.
Some ladies with multiple children were sharing stories with me the other day. One said when her kids were little she would say the phrase “What were you thinking” multiple times a day. To multiple children.
I nodded. Yes, we have said that phrase too. Then she started relating the causes for her exclamation. Many of which included holes in the dry wall. Or major bumps and bruises. Sometimes on other people.
I cannot even fathom our reaction if damage was done to our dry wall. We have handed out consequences for much, much less. Like the time she dripped craft glue on our concrete floors. Or missed the table with her milk glass. Minor turns major when you’re an only child.
She has no experience with sibling rivalry.
I’ll be the first to admit this can be a big plus. For half my life I was the punching bag for my older brother. Fists and words. Then, when he left for college, I became the instigator. With some fondness, I recall several games of “Shark” played on the living room couch. My little brother always accidentally fell off into the ocean....
Allie has always been social. She makes friends easily and plays well with other kids, once we got her past the biting stage. Actually, she bit her friend recently when we went camping. That hardly counts though, right?
But the knock-out, drag-down fights you can only have with a brother or sister. She doesn’t know those. That annoying dweeb of a sibling you beat up on a regular basis. No one else can, of course. No one but you.
Not on her radar.
All that time spent playing independently.
Allie has no choice but to develop a great imagination. What a developing artist with her sketches! She also spends hours singing and making videos. And making her toys sing. And listening to music. A world full of creativity and song.
She never has to share. Think about it. All the toys in the whole house to herself.
And with all that time alone, we have the best conversations. I am not her constant source of entertainment. That wouldn’t be healthy for either of us. But she is my friend. We can sit one on one and talk for hours. We travel together. She goes on mommy and daddy dates. Often.
Just as I start to wonder if she’s too lonely, I watch her playing in the yard. The great big yard we’ve provided for her. Chasing chickens, romping with the dogs and picking up the cat for the fifteenth time today. Not a care in the world.
I smile to myself because once again I can trace God at work. He knows what He is doing. Our Allie has just the family God intended. For her. And He gave us this huge blessing with a personality that could win a popularity contest. Especially if Dad and I were voting.
Sometimes the church gets it right. And during those moments, you hold your head up high, raise your arms in the air if you’re so inclined, and shout, “To God alone be the glory!”
By all standards, mine is a baby church. Carving out our place beside congregations who have served our community for hundreds of years.
A few weeks ago, we voted to purchase a piece of land where our place will be built. An exciting moment in our young church history.
I have shared on here before how much I have learned about the church being in a community all because we don’t have our own building, Showers of (Used) Blessings.
And some of the lessons I learned through the eyes of my daughter. Around four years old, she started paying better attention to where we were driving.
And when we would pass a familiar church, she would identify it as our Sunday morning church, our Bible study church, our mom’s group church... All different churches.
To a large degree, she could claim all of these churches all because we didn’t have a building for our own home church. We wouldn’t have made all the connections we did if every church event we had was in our own building.
And let’s consider the other side of this same coin. These churches opened up their doors to us. We didn’t have to be members. There was no attendance requirement and even when we paid a rental fee for some of the larger events, the price was nominal.
The church. In all its glory. Serving its community. Including me.
North Point Church (Sunday morning church) - I’m honored to keep serving with you. After seven years, we all know we don’t need a building to call ourselves a church. We need Jesus. We need one another. And with a church campus, we can better minister to our community.
Friendship Wesleyan (Bible study church) - For five years, you have opened your doors to our church ladies on Wednesday mornings. And you let us bring our kids! Many women have grown in their relationship with Jesus thanks to your hospitality. Thanks for being one of our weekday homes.
First Baptist (mom’s group church) - The first time I walked in your doors I received the warmest greetings. And then, glory be, you took my little one and watched her for two hours! That courtesy saved my sanity on more than one occasion. Some of my sweetest friends come from this special group of ladies.
Church of God (mother/daughter event) - These events are just a few times this church has welcomed the people of our church. Also for meetings, VBS sports camp, Royal Family Kids’ Camp registration and meals. Churches serve our collective communities best when we partner. Your willingness is so appreciated.
First Congregational & Calvary Reformed (VBS church) - Over the years, our church has partnered with these churches to split up VBS responsibilities. What a great chance to work beside some Christian sisters who live in my community. The load gets much easier when we share the burden.
I’m not so certain we need all the drama surrounding our denominational differences. I know those on the outside of church looking in could care less. But what they do care about, what they will notice, is how we take care of one another. How our services and ministries point others to Jesus.
If you ask me where we go to church, I would tell you North Point. But what I’ve learned, what makes me proud and thankful, is that I can call many churches home. Just ask my daughter.
I’m no good at answering the question, who is your favorite Bible character? Can I have 37 favorites? Or none save Jesus. All the others are so... flawed.
There is a lady in Scripture, however, who inspires me. When I first started speaking and teaching, my mom sent me a bracelet with a single charm on it. As a reminder of this story. I think of this woman often.
She remains unnamed. Luke is the only gospel writer who shares her story. If you aren’t careful, you’ll probably overlook her altogether. It would seem those in her day certainly did.
A poor widow.
We read her story in Luke 21:1-4. Four verses that pack a lot of punch. In the gut.
As recorded, Jesus looked up from his seat at the temple. Because, you know, Jesus went to church.
He watched the rich put their gifts into the temple treasury. Can’t you see them? Making a show of lugging their heavy gifts to the containers. Struggling to lift their bags of money from the sheer weight of the loot. I bet they dropped those dozens of coins in one by one. Clink. Clink.
Then, she came along. I hope to learn her name in Heaven someday. Because I think her name is important.
A poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins. A tiny offering. Meager. A toddler could have carried the weight of her offering.
But Jesus. He was impressed. And that is all that matters.
“I tell you the truth... this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:3-4.
There is a hashtag movement happening on twitter this week. Many of my readers aren’t active participants in the blogging world and its social media counterparts. Our week goes on largely unaware.
#FaithFeminisms. Jesus. And a love of women. Here is my favorite article on the topic from this week: Loving Eve and Ham.
I, for one, am starting to pay attention. I’m moving past the connotation feminism carries in my mind. A definition learned from a young age in my very sheltered world.
Kind of like the term “poor widow.” A lady in Jesus’ day who lived in poverty and had no means to improve her lot in life. A woman who others in her day wouldn’t have noticed in their very sheltered world.
Yet, Jesus praised her. Forget winning an Oscar. Or having a blog post go viral. She earned a mention in the Bible!
That takes me back to the idea of a favorite Bible character. If I were to ask you for the name of a favorite, some would say Moses, Ruth, Esther, Peter, Abigail. Some of you brave souls would even claim Paul.
But very few, if any, would claim a poor widow as their favorite.
Short story. Very few verses. Unnamed. Widow.
I wonder if it would help her cause if we knew her name. If Luke had embellished a bit more on her story. If she’d been in need of a physical healing and Jesus provided a miracle.
Which also makes me think maybe we’d warm up to this idea of Christian feminism a bit more if we saw the label through a different lens.
Then, when writers like Rachel Held Evans have the nerve to get all up in our business. And she says:
Enough! And she dares to write posts like this one, We Need Feminism. In no uncertain terms, she tells us we can do better. No more wrinkling up our noses at those who dare to use the word “feminist.”
No more ignoring the poor widow, who put in all she had.
And we remember these women. Victimized women. Overlooked women. They have names. Jesus knows them every one. By name.
And you. And me. And Rachel. American Christians who have so much to give. He wants us to give all we have.
To the woman who has experienced domestic violence. To the woman caught up in the nightmare that is sex trafficking. To the young girls (sitting on the pews in our church) who already think they are not thin enough. To women who are sexually assaulted. The women who don't live into the full calling God has placed on their lives because it might break a mold.
I don’t know exactly how God’s justice system works. Oh, I hurt. I have struggles. But overall, mine is a life of privilege.
This week, though, I have determined to learn just one name. One name of a woman I can pray for. One name I can support in whatever way God leads.
Together, let's be inspired by an unnamed poor widow who impressed Jesus all those years ago. Let's give all we have.