Two gather

For the past few weeks at our church we have been doing a series called “Two Gather.”  A good sermon doesn’t always surprise you with new information, sometimes it just puts words to a feeling that you already had inside.  This was the case for me, for months my heart has been processing openness and community.  You may recall the saltine diet post, and I am still thinking along those lines, and I am gaining depth.

To check out this series please visit here and you’ll be so on the same page with me it’s not even funny.

The promos for this series make me laugh outwardly but cry inside.  They depict a lonely guy trying to do things on his own that just aren’t right.  Such as water ski or ride a tandem bike, only catastrophe can ensue. Those are the parts that make me laugh.  The part that makes me cry a little inside is this picture.

This is a guy, all by himself on his birthday.  Blowing out candles alone. Suck pill…

If that picture doesn’t make you a little bit sad inside, go get your heart strings tuned up a bit.  We all know from personal experience that loneliness sucks, especially on birthdays, holidays and times when we need a friend the most.

A million years ago (or so it seems) I heard a talk by Rob Bell at Mars Hill about community and how it was not really created, but discovered.  Here is what this means:  Lets say that you are lonely in your life and longing for community, you may be thinking that you need to go through a series of elaborate hoops and scour your city to find people to connect with.  Or you may be looking for someone else to form community for you.  Here is the sneaky secret that I want to let you in on.  The odds are very good that at your work, school, gym, etc are people.  And the odds are even greater that those people are struggling with life.   Stuff like marriage, temptation, kids, addiction and loneliness.  These are the sort of things that people deal with every day and it could be the same stuff you are dealing with.  So there you are, surrounded by people who are silently dealing with heavy stuff alone yet side by side
So back to the concept of community being discovered rather than created.  People are all around you and there is connection waiting to be solidified.  One thing that I have learned over the summer is to stop waiting for community and friends to come to me, but to get out there be a part of it all.  I had to start connecting with and supporting the people who are already in my life and allowing them to go deeper into my life and do the same for me.  I am not saying that there is anything easy about this, it takes guts and gumption and a big long jump outside your comfort zone.  It is not easy at all, but I can guarantee 100% that it is totally worth it.

Here are a few things that you were not designed to do:
1) Go it alone (Read all about it in Genesis, God said it point blank:  It is NOT good for people to be alone.  Period.  finitio. Ad Nauseam.  
2) Figure it out for yourself (There are people who have been where you are, who want to pull you along and teach you the next steps, just reach out your hand)
3) Pretend like you have it all together (no one does so I say this with great confidence: cut it out)

We were designed for community, support, and opening ourselves up for wisdom and love.  Again I know that this isn’t easy, because you may have been burned and inside you are resistant to try again.  I am sorry people hurt you, I hope you can take a step toward wholeness.  I promise that I’m praying for all who read this, because believe it or not, I love you and I want your life to be big, beautiful and full of community.

Some Action Items to try: As to you without excuse.
1) Start a group that shares your interests or check to see if one exists
2) Check out a church that seems to be full of honest, on fire Jesus people.  They may have something all lined up for you to walk into.  Bring brownies!  Everyone loves brownies.
3) Volunteer- Nothing builds strong connections faster than cleaning up trash, dry-walling or serving someone a glass of lemonade side by side.
4) Call some friends over for dinner, turn the TV off, look them in the eyes probingly (but not creepily) and ask them how they are really doing.  I will even plan your menu for you, I want you connected THAT BADLY! 

Please don’t stay lonely another day, I pray that something brave is stirred up inside you and your desire to connect finds feet and walks toward something real.  Thank you for reading, I pray you have at least one real deep and soul quenching conversation this week.  We all need them.

Those are my thoughts, a penny for yours?

Choosing Joy 9-4-11

I got to go on a sunrise walk with the little man this morning.  I pushed him in the strolled and in turn he held my water bottle.  It was a really good system.  As we strolled I thought through all the ways big and small that God has given me joy this past week.  These days I am full of faith and optimism both for my future and that of my family.  God has placed the right people in my life these days and they encourage me in very specific and necessary ways.  I don’t want for anything I need right now, although I lack a lot of things I would like.  God is teaching me every day to simplify and be thankful.

This week has definitely been a week that highlighted who my home team is, those people who have my back and want God things for my life.  I hope you are thankful for a home team too, those people who cheer for you and will catch you when you fall.  Who know what you like and what makes you smile.  You should thank those people, and maybe make them a pie.  Especially if I am on your home team, because I love pie.

I think I can sum it up best with these Jesus Culture Lyrics

Come away with me, Come away with me
It’s never too late, it’s not too late
It’s not too late for you

I have a plan for you
I have a plan for you
It’s gonna be wild
It’s gonna be great
It’s gonna be full of me

Yeah That right there, that is how life feels right now.  I feel renewed and optimistic, on a journey of great importance with a faithful God who knows my every nook and cranny and knows very well what we are capable of.  And no matter who you are you are capable of greatness in this specifically unique way that blows my mind.   You should probably download that song immediately.

So here are the big, small, normal and quirky ways that I have chosen joy in the day to day.

1) The Phantom Puzzle:  

Nothing lightens the mood of a serious living room quite like a random horse whinny

For my daughters birthday this year my Aunt Betsy sent down this great animal puzzle.  Kids love it because when you put each animal puzzle piece in the correct spot, it makes that animal’s noise.  IE: The dog barks, the fish bubbles, etc.  This puzzle doesn’t stop there, oh no, it will randomly make noises at any time of day, when the play room is clean and no one is around it will still sound out a random bark or chirp.  Cracks me up every time.  I think they did it on purpose to give the parents random enjoyment as well.

2.  A full fridge

Please feel free to draw conclusions about who I really am based on my fridge contents…

I am always walking the line between being frugal and ensuring good nutrition for my family.  Fresh food isn’t cheap and so anytime I go to open the fridge and find it overflowing with fruits and vegetables I breathe a little prayer of thanks for God’s provision.  This week we got to take a trip to the grand opening of Sunflower Farmers Market in OKC and that accounts for a good deal of our current fridge contents.  Great grocery store, check it out!

3. Football Season

I think I am pretty good Oklahoma wife… Although the “for realsies” Okie dressed the kids today.

I’m too easily distracted to be any good at watching football, however I am great at making snacks and snarky comments so generally I do pretty well for myself.  What I love about football season is that it’s a reason to get together with people, share food and get excited about something.  It’s a reason to gather and if you don’t stake your happiness on the outcome (which a lot of people do) you are guaranteed to have a great time.

4.  Brunette Hair (as seen in picture above) Lets face it, I wasn’t cut out to be a blonde and it turned my hair to straw, so after a couple hours of salon therapy with my hair guru Emily  I am one happy dark headed lady and my time at the salon was pure heaven.  If I ever tell you I am going blonde again please poke me in the ribs with sticks until I come to my senses.

5.  Our Lifegroup

Cookout by the lake in 100 degree heat made somehow fun by these fine folks.

We are new to this group but I can tell you that God is already using them to speak into our life in a big way.  Last Sunday I didn’t want to attend our group’s cookout because it was over 100 degrees outside this may come as a shock to you but, I hate heat.  My mood immediately changed upon arrival because no one was cranky about ludicrous temp, so I shut up and joined in.  After we left I think I told Kel how much I enjoyed myself at least 2 dozen times.  I love doing life with people, and I am really falling in love with doing life with these people.

6.  Knock Knock Jokes– I was cleaning up cheerios of the floor (this is my real full time job) this week when this started.  Apparently my daughter has learned the art of the knock knock joke.  And when a 2 year old tells you a knock knock joke, they always have the same punch line.  At least my daughter does.  Knock Knock, Who’s there?  She is! every time.  I have no idea where she picked up knock knock jokes.. but they make me smile every time.

7.  Surprise Gifts-  When I came back from the city Wednesday night, with my van full of the aforementioned groceries and new kid shoes, my husband had a surprise all for me.  The best gift he could give me right now, other than maybe a nanny, and that’s my own laptop for writing.  He ordered me a mac book, a gift full of frivolity and generosity.  He wanted to show me that he takes my writing seriously and so he gave me a tool to do it on, and specifically an apple lappy, which he knows I would love.  The Kel is an endless spring of joy for me, and apple products are just the icing on the cake.  Although, they are very thick rich icing.  Maybe even ganache.

8.  This Forecast- 

It had to happen and I think the winds of change have found us!  Look at those glorious eighties!  If this pattern continues I will be sipping coffee outside in jeans and a hoodie in no time!  We are living in faith that the 95 day on the end will just go away and that 2011 will not see another temperature with three digits or that starts with 9.  Come on God, please?

9)  The Henson Family-

I think I could put this on each and every week because this family adopted us when we needed it the most.  Not many people get adopted at the age of 26 but God knew what we needed then and now.  Grandma Sandy and Grandpa Dave, along with their awesome sons make us feel like we belong.  They spoil our kids with frozen yogurt and new shoes and I feel so much stronger with their support than I ever could without them.  It just solidifies my newly forming belief that even when the worst happens and you lose the irreplaceable, God provides.

9.  Man on the Move

If you are under 5, pants are optional at the casa

The little man has found his groove and I never know where I will find him as he rolls and reverses his way around the house.  Although odds are it’s usually halfway stuck under the couch.  He can’t resist.

10.  Garage Sale Finds

Cleaned up gilded mirror tray (little fall votives are ala Target)

We are a young family and I am at home with the kids, so it goes without saying that we are on a budget.  So I have taken to free blog tutorials and garage sales for our home decor pieces.  I am ridiculously lucky that “shabby chic” is in right now.  Yesterday after Kel made our Peach French Toast breakfast we loaded up and cruised our town for garage sales.  We ended up with this antique gold mirrored tray, a handful or antique spools, a little pink chair for Noelle and cheap kid shoes, which as we all know the Holy grail of garage sale shopping if you are a parent.  Because kid feet grow an average of 6 inches a month.  Or at least it seems like that.

So yeah, this week was all about people for me, I love my people.  I am thankful to be surrounded by lovely individuals and I hope that I am able to support you all as well as you support me.  I hope that this Holiday weekend finds you surrounded and thankful.  Know that I am thankful for you.  Now go Labor Dabor with your people and grab a fine piece of Joy.  It’s ripe for the picking if you look.

And yes I know there are two nines.  A)  Math has never been my strong suit and B) I didn’t want to go over ten so I doubled up on nine.  Deal with it.

PS I love you and Paul

The other night I found myself in an exhausted heap on the couch watching PS I Love You.  Nothing in my life has every worn me out like being the primary care-giver for a 2 year old and an 8 month old.  I am tired to the bone every night and I often find my rest in books, movies, ice cream and the occasional generous glass of wine.  Last night I popped in PS I Love You for the 874th time because I love it and it called to me from my DVD collection.

I have had a love for Kathy Bates since I was about ten, and this movie is no exception.  If you haven’t seen the movie it centers around Holly, a very young widow who is searching for healing and wholeness after losing her husband to brain cancer.  Her mother is a hard-knocks bar owner and has been doing the single parent thing for years since her own husband left her.  She isn’t cuddly or soft in any way and when she talks it’s always to give advice or speak her mind.  She loves her daughter, but as you watch the movie you get the feeling that years of fighting life have made her tough and taken away any softness she started with.

Around every corner of the film I found myself enthralled with her character and totally jealous.  For one Kathy Bates looks a lot like my Mom to me, and for two I would have given anything to have a hard knocks, wise mom spurring me on and speaking her mind.  For my entire twenties my Mom was so far gone to depression we didn’t really have any conversations of substance.  I ached to be able to speak to the woman I knew that she was behind her illness and pain.  She was the star of the school play and a cheerleader, they all tell me she was so bright and fun, but I never got to see it.

I long for something very simple in my life, to have my parents back.  To have a dad coming over to fix the sink or a Mom giving me more advice that I care for on trivial stuff like cooking or kids.  I hate the big Mom and Dad shaped holes in my life.  And sometimes the sheer size of them sucker punches me to the ground.  And I curl up in a ball, and it sucks so bad.  A lot of days I find contentment with it, but some days I just can’t.

Check out Philippians 4:11 – 14

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles

So this is written by a guy named Paul, a rock star of a man who traversed the known world and told a million or so people about Jesus.  He did all this while being starved, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and flogged within an inch of his life.  And yet he was content.

Think about the very legitimate things we struggle with and ask for prayer on.  Broken relationships, loss, abuse, neglect, divorce and illness.  For me, I struggle with death.  I miss my parents for who they were and who they could have been.  I am in the process of finding contentment with my life but I still have moments of sharp jealously.  I get lumps in my throat, I cry big fat tears.  When I see grandparents holding brand new babies:  jealous.  When I get a call from a friend and her dad is there fixing her sink: jealous.  Honestly, anytime I hear a friend use the words “Mom and Dad” in reference to their parents it seems strange to me.  I don’t use those words much anymore.  It’s weird I know, but it is where I live.  And I am learning to find contentment in it, even though it sucks and it doesn’t seem fair.

What are the things you are praying and longing to have?  Like me, your prayers and longings may seem normal and natural.  So why do we have to be content with gaping holes in our lives?

I don’t know why we have our specific holes and gaps, but we do.  And if you look around you’ll find many people with gaping holes.  Maybe not the same ones as you, but so many of us have them.

I am jealous of parents and I want my Dad back and I want to go on a walk and get unsolicited advice from a mom like Kathy Bates.

I don’t know where you are in your journey today.  But I can tell you that I know what its like to hear about the idea of contentment in the midst of immense pain and to scoff and get pissed.  How dare God call me to be okay with this crap?    I’ve been there, asking Paul where he gets off even suggesting such a concept. I can’t make it all better for you, but I can tell you contentment comes with time and I can assure you that it is so normal to long for something natural you are missing out on.

I can also promise you that God fills the gaps in time.  Through beautiful people and lovely moments of healing.  His healing is a miracle every time.  So just take one step toward contentment today, that’s all you have to do.  Don’t hold on to your anger for dear life.  It’s okay to have it for now, but you don’t want to buy it a collar and turn it into your pet.  It’ll just bite people who ring your doorbell and pee all over everything, metaphorically speaking.

Paul didn’t have food, a wife, kids, a home or a functioning body.  And tons of people spent their lives trying to kill him.  So he has room to talk.  Just saying.

Contentment is a battle worth fighting.  To be honest, your life depends on it.  Please contact me if I can help you on your battle.

Those are my thoughts, a penny for yours?