Having FuN?!

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It was a simple text Huni received just over a week ago:

 “[Since becoming serious about your relationship with Christ] Answer me honestly.  Are you having fun?”

And it got me thinking. . .Christians have a reputation of being so serious about Christ that they smolder all of the fun out of their lives.  Is that a true representation of Christ?  Do I have enough fun in my life?

And what about you? Would you consider yourself someone who takes their relationship with Christ seriously?  Does the idea of fun seem trivial or unimportant in the Christian life?

As I’ve grown and matured into a woman, wife and mom, I understand why I should seek joy and not merely happiness.  I understand why peace is far more enduring than presents.  I have come to value my friendships more (even though I often do a terrible job at keeping in touch) and I drink in the wonder found in the life stories of others.  I can see the danger and detriment of comparison.  I get it.  I do.  I get all the stuff that comes with growing up and I get that I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet.  I don’t have half the answers.  But.  Unlike people, I don’t think that fun ever gets old.   So, as people who love God and seek to serve Him and do His will, why aren’t we having more of it?

I’m not trying to make some big statement except to say that we shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously that we forget to honor God with our whole lives–the serious bits, and doubled over laughing til we snort bits.  I think the idea of “The Zero Fun Christian Life” is what makes it so difficult for some people to come to and/or remain in Christ.  Particularly younger people or those who have sipped the sweet nectar of the world longer than others.  I’m convinced that fun is not the issue.  It’s the emphasis we put on it and where we think it comes from.

God desires to be Lord over every area of our lives.

He provides for every need.

Even the need for fun.

Pleasures Are Meaningless

2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both.

15 Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
“This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Toil Is Meaningless

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? ~Ecclesiastes 2:1-25 (NIV)

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Home for the Holidays

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It has been as quiet as a mom with a sleeping baby around here lately.  And I’ve been as busy as . . .well . . . as a person can be.  :0)  And in the process of all this busy, I’ve contracted some sort of something.  I’m not quite sure what it is, but it’s a whole bunch of up and down, sneeze and blow, rest and unrest, uugghh and uuuuurrrrrggggghhhh.  So I am saying a prayer for myself, my baby girls (who are actually getting much better by the day) and everyone else who may be getting over the uuurrggghhhs (you define what that is).  I certainly want to feel better, for good.  Next week I am making my way to my hometown to spend some time with my family.  I’m looking forward to wrapping my arms around my nieces and nephews.  There’s a juicy little dimple faced boy who looks just like my little sister when she was a baby.  Then there’s my other nephew with the golden ears which have been switched to the off position, for whom I’ve been brushing up on my sign language so that he and I can have a conversation and perhaps he’ll better know that I see him and I love him. The crew of what feels like scores of nieces each with their own tv variety personalities and a new, precious wonder of a girl who I cannot wait to hold in my arms for the first time.  Oh yes, I must get better!  So many joys ahead.

For some people, though, going home for the holidays is often a very sad and often painful time.  Since my parents are divorced, this used to be true for me.   I hated the idea of dividing up my time between the two houses and the stress that accompanied that type of planning.  Considerations flowed in and out of my mind in capital, oxblood red letters like breaking news scrolling across a ticker: I have to make sure I get to daddy’s house.  How will my mom feel while I am gone?  Will she feel alone or abandoned?  Will daddy feel like I spent enough time with him?  The whole thing could easily give me a case of the uuurrrggghhhsss!  For real.  It was very heart-wrenching and difficult for this people pleaser to feel as though there was no hope for me to make the people I care about the most, happy.  It was as though I was approaching Mt. Kilomanjaro in stilettos and a clutch bag without so much as a 4 oz. Deer Park for the journey.  I found myself praying off anxiety before each visit or just avoiding going home altogether.  And because I know that there are some of you who may be experiencing the same for similar reasons or reasons completely different from mine, I want to offer you hope.

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How about instead of thinking about all the dysfunction in your family, you take out a pen, right now, and jot down a list of thanks, to God, for anything and everything right about your family.  Before you roll your eyes and call me an idealistic Pollyanna wanna be just try it.  I really believe that in every family, there is some redeeming quality, some glimmer of hope, some semblance of goodness if we look hard enough.  And the alternative to seeing and appreciating the good is your misery and the risk of making an idol out of every grievance you legitimately have with each person in your family.  And we all know who so badly desires your misery . . .  So take a few moments and call forth the good.  Conjure it up.  And be careful not to allow your enemy to overshadow each sweet thought with a memory that negates it.  After you have a hefty list of only the sweet, thank God for each item and enter into a time of prayer asking Him for whatever it is you need to experience His joy and be a light for Him while with your family.

I am sincerely looking forward to going home to be with my family.  And I sincerely believe that it is going to be a beautiful time as we make new memories together.  And I am going to accept nothing less than that . . . and I challenge you to do the same.

Disclaimer:  Above are not pictures of a dysfunctional family . . . they are actually a very sweet family with dysfunctional tendencies.  :0)

The Network

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Verizon boasts to have one of the largest 3G cell phone networks available.  The cellular provider claims that no matter where you go in the United States, you will have coverage and, therefore, be able to both receive and make phone calls from your cellular device.  It’s a pretty grand offering.  Since my primary place of residence is somewhere between John’s barnyard and Mary’s farmhouse, I play “chase the signal” a few times a day as I move skittish throughout my house shouting, “Can you hear me?  Hello?  You there?  Can you hear now?  Hello?  Hello?  Wait, I can hear you!  Wait, don’t hang up!  Helloooooo!!”  :0/  Yea.  Oh what fun.  Clearly I don’t have the Verizon network.  But, it got me thinking about another network.

This weekend Huni had the great fortune of visiting his alma mater, North Carolina State University, to participate in a leadership panel.  On a whim and at the very last minute he convinced the girls and me to join him.  Whilst there, I had the great, good fortune of talking to and spending some time with family and friends.  During one conversation, I had a friend describe the latest happenings in her marvelous life (she wouldn’t describe it that way, but hey, that’s what friends are for!).   She told me that she and her roommates, three single ladies, are doing a study on purity together.  The other night one of the roommates led the time and it was phenomenal.  She told me about how she prays with a different friend in the mornings either before or after going to the gym.  The day that we were chatting she was tired after having a sleepover with a friend/colleague in support of two women who are currently raising financial support and preparing to go into full time ministry.  And there it was that she and I were talking, laughing, crying and reflecting together.  She does have a marvelous life, right!?!?

Since I live quite a distance away from all of my Frans, I was feeling quite sad after our conversation. I was like, man, how lucky you are to have all of these great connections and great women in your life.  And most of them are at your fingertips!  Comparison and self-pity are two venomous arrows in satan’s quiver.  He aims them right into your eyes, blinding you from the glory that surrounds you and somehow simultaneously highlighting someone else’s.

Sunday we went to our church.  I missed my favorite part of the service, praise and worship, I was tired from a restless night of tossing and turning and although I was happy to be there, I just wasn’t feeling it.  Honestly, I just wanted to go home and crawl into bed.  After service was over, I talked to a Fran from undergrad.  She’s so fabulous and always greets me with such a warm reception.  This time we were able to talk a little while longer than usual and she was just as sweet, gracious, funny and cool as ever.  As I finished my conversation with her, I looked up and saw a dear sister who I’ve intimately studied the word with over the past few years.  I was only able to give her a quick squeeze before a big sister in the faith came and squeezed the tears out of me.  Literally.  Just the sight of her brought a flood of tears.  Her prophetic wisdom knew that my tears were more than just the sight of her, so immediately she inquired for the real story, wiped away my tears and prayed for me.  Once we were done, I looked to the row directly below and there was yet another sister in the faith, looking at me compassionately, embracing me with her eyes, saying more than words could say as she offered me her home as a homebase for me and my girls whenever we came to town and wanted a change of scenery.  Later that night I hopped on OoVoo with Huni and we goofed, teased and chatted with some couples, the wives of which are more of my sisters  in the faith.  Together we shared some of the latest news in our lives and talked intently about how we saw the Lord calling us and directing our lives.  And this doesn’t include all of my Frans.  Only a handful.  Only a handful.

These women keep me grounded.  They know my heart, they know my hurts, they get my humor.  They love me, they enjoy me and they want me . . . just as I am yet they actively participate in my growth; they pour into me and root for me.  Even when I cannot wrap my arms around them, lay my eyes on them, or hear their sweet voices, I know that they are for me, thinking of me, praying for me.  I too have a marvelous life.  Not because of the things I have but, in part, because of my network.   All of these women are a way that God shows His love, concern and compassion for me.  They remind me that He sees me and He knows me.  No matter how lonely I feel, the truth is I have a network.  And it is sweet-potato-pie-with-whipped-cream-on-top-amazing.

What about you?  Who’s in your network?  How about showing them some love this week either via text, phone call, lunch date, good ole snail mail, or something free and simple like a stroll through your local Target?  The moment you start reaching out to each of them, you’ll receive an instant reminder of just how big and bountiful is your life.  And you’ll smile.  And your heart will feel all warm and fuzzy.  And it’ll be better than a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day.

Saturday Night Contemplations

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I think we are most self conscious when we are acutely others conscious. . .

Don’t punish self for crimes committed by others.

Awkward stares, rudeness, insensitive comments, misunderstandings, heartbreaks. . .

Even though you have good reason to, don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Take heart. 
Our world is incomplete partly because we have so many impersonators and not nearly enough originals.

We need you.

The real you.

Then it occurred to me, many of us have spent so much time and energy trying to be something we’re not, or running from who we don’t want to become or trying to maintain an image or trying not to come off as weird … that we really don’t know who we are.  Some may try to shame you for this.  I say, congratulations. They say when you know better, you do better and now that you know, you have approached the passageway to a beautiful place called self discovery. It can be a lonely city; the names on the mailboxes of most of its citizens are Incognito and Inconspicuous.  Few people are willing to admit that as self assured and confident as they appear, it’s only a charade.

But it’s ok.

 Journey through your own adventure of self discovery. Take God with you. You’ll be a wilderness child spending unnecessary time going in circles if you choose to go without Him.  And as with everything I post here, this one is hitting home.  You won’t be alone. We’ll be neighbors.

Replacing Sunday Mornings

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Strolling through the articles of one of my favorite sites I found this title–“Replacing Sunday Mornings.”  I was intrigued and the article left me spinning, thinking.  It’s essentially about the millennials, people born between 1981-2000, of whom about 60% have stepped away from the Christian church at some point during their faith journey.  I am a millennial but I did not trek with them in their great migration away from the church.  I have some friends who have, though they may not communicate it as simply.

The article was beautifully written and strikingly thoughtful.  Its relevance rang loudly in my ears, resounding a familiar heartbeat of confusion and angst when it comes to church experiences.  Huni and I have moved away from our local church as we have relocated for full time ministry.  We struggle now to find a local body in our new location that meets our needs.  Through the pain and loneliness of this period I link arms with the millennials and can see through their eyes and reason with their mind as to why one would leave the Christian church in search for something real, something true . . . community, truthful & graceful shepherding, Christ.

I know that so many people have had some really bad and hurtful experiences in the Christian church.  Some people have suffered there or just been disappointed as their needs have not been met.  This is real.  But the thing is, it is not a true, full love that loves Christ yet does not love His bride.  If you have relationship with Christ but not His church, your relationship with Christ is incomplete.  I believe that Christ was not so much referring to a beautifully built building with doors perpetually flung open on well oiled hinges, stained glass windows and a steeple when He talked about “the church” as much as He was talking about the collective body of believers in Jesus Christ–the church, but our Sunday morning and midweek gatherings are an organized entity of the body that we call “the church” and it is real, relevant and important to Him.

I am in a season where, if I lived in a cooler city with more to do, the temptation to replace my Sunday morning would be REAL and I’d have to prepare myself through prayer starting Friday night, not to give in to the temptation to ditch that Sunday morning time in a worship space with other believers.  But I press and Huni and I keep searching.  And I believe that God cares about our faith journey and will lead us to someplace where our needs can be met and we can participate in meeting the needs of others.  So I think you should read this article.  If you are in a similar place, let’s pray for one another.  God desires that we get back and trust Him to take care of us in those spaces.

What about you?  Are you in a good space right now as it concerns your Sunday morning with a local body?  Are you searching or have you left? Praying for all of us, no matter where we are.  Praise God for His grace.

xoxo

Photo Credit

Support Staff

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It was a beautiful, bright, winter Saturday.  The kind where the air is crisp and wet, thick with the anticipation of some wintry mix threatening to keep everyone inside, fireside bound for the whole of the day.  Except the bright boldness of the sun dared anyone to mention inclement weather, as she spread all her rays out over the earth like a mama’s proud arms, welcoming her babies in to the warmth, love and comfort that only a mama can assure.  Yes, the sun was working her magic and wooing all of the women as they excitedly dressed and prepared to go and wish well another Darling, preparing herself to take on a new last name and a basket full of responsibilities to go along with it.  They were all so excited that though aware of the blue temperatures outside, they were motivated to be with her, share with her, celebrate her and tell her exactly how to be the best wife possible to this lucky man.  So excited they were, in fact, and having done this several times before for a friend, a niece, sister, cousin, that they got caught up in the excitement and familiarity of it all and forgot to consult with their their editor and manager about what they should say.  Surely He cares that much about us, to inform us on how to inform others about how to do His will?!?!  Yet they sauntered out there, laughing, playing happy games, conversing amongst themselves, sipping the sweet, inviting nectar of joy and eating the tenderly baked, enticing confections of comfort and started talking out of turn.  Their guards were down–which can be one of the worse times to speak aloud at all, especially in a group setting and especially when you haven’t spoken with your manager.

No, they weren’t rude or harsh, but they spoke more from their own heartaches and past mistakes rather than from truth.  And Darling, so eager to please and be the wife she felt her lover deserved, took it all in without a sieve.  She swallowed it all whole thinking that it’d be better to receive it all now, soak up the moment and try it out later to see for herself if these platters of advice from the kind, well-meaning women in her community, would lay softly on the palate of her intended.

Seeing that she was a hungry girl, and wanting her to do well in this call, they talked more and more and became braver in their offerings, leaving no room in the house untouched.  From the Kitchen to the laundry room to the bedroom, Darling was told exactly what her man would like and wouldn’t like, and how she should conduct herself if she wanted to stay married. Shucks, it got so good in there that even the younger, unmarried school girls started placing their offerings before her, as if they knew anything about this scared calling for themselves except for what they had been warned against or had seen played out in some version the Housewives franchise.  They meant well. . .

No one seemed to notice that Darling’s once bright, anxious, joyful eyes had now dropped to a half moon, wandering, listless stare.  And those that did notice figured that she was probably just getting tired and wanted to open gifts.

Not all of the talk was unproductive and unedited but one of the comments that I think dimmed her light a bit came from the back of the room, an auntie, older, respected, and thought to be wiser than most of them said,

 “Don’t tell your business.  If anything happens in your marriage, keep that between you and your husband.  Don’t tell people what’s going in your relationship because you’ll choose to forgive him and they won’t.”

If I were a betting woman, I would bet you that all across the world, there is some version of this same bit of advice being told to women all over the world.  But is it biblical?

It just doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me.

Darling finds herself in the position of being recognized as that “good thing” that the gentleman has been searching for.  She is so excited about being with this man and so she sets out to plan her wedding, for some, the day of her dreams.  As she plans, she chooses the women who will stand closest to her on that day.  They smile, cry, tilt heads to the side, clutch hearts and prepare for months of sentimentality and love, anxious for the big day.  Then, after the day has come, they have all celebrated, eaten cake and burned it off with the Cupid Shuffle and the Electric Slide, the couple drives off into the sunset to live happily ever after . . . and the supporting cast members are supposed to just walk away and stay out of their business?

No.  I think we’ve got this all wrong.

I don’t believe that you should share your business with just anybody just as much as I believe that you shouldn’t have just anybody in your wedding.  Marriage is sacred and we should treat it as such from the moment we start dating.

The bible speaks often about community and how we are to conduct ourselves as we live in community with each other.  One example is in Galatians 6:2 encouraging us to: Carry each others burdens…”

I should be able to talk to a select few women in my life, or perhaps one woman, who is close to me, loves me, sincerely cares about me and my marriage when I am happy and when I am struggling to be the wife who respects her husband as I am called to do in Ephesians.  I should be able to go to her and trust that she will keep my confidence and lead me to the throne to receive help and healing for my heart, mind and marriage.

Now, to be clear, I do believe that our first move should always be toward the Lord, in prayer.  We shouldn’t ever get into the habit of running to friends and family for help when our God has already set Himself up as everything that we need.  But the place where most people get mixed up is in forgetting that God places people in our lives who we are to grow with.  He will often use people to show us His love for us, to show us His hand of provision, and even His hand of correction can come down through the people in our lives.  Don’t shut people out because you have been told to cover your relationship like a newborn child in the middle of a war zone.  Be wise about the people you have in your life, and trust God to use them to lead you into His call for you, which is holiness.

I have some of the most amazing women in my life.   Truly.  They love me.  They like me.  They applaud me but they also challenge me.  They know who I am and they know that I aspire to be pleasing to God, so they never let me compromise that. I am free to pitch a 60 second fit but they are are there, one (and sometimes two) at a time, to gently get my head back in the game and get back on point.  They are consistent as I parent, in my friendships, my work, relationships, goals, and yes, my marriage.

I think that we should talk more about this and unravel it a bit more.  We’ve got to debunk this myth and see what the Lord has to say about it.  While it has some value for keeping the sanctity of your marriage, I believe that it has taken a turn and put more of us in bondage than anything else.  I believe that there is a reader who needs to be free and know that she just may have someone in her life that she can be completely transparent with about her marriage, to the glory of God and the edification of her and her husband.  I also believe that for some of us, it runs a little deeper and we need to clean house and get some new Frans ’cause the ones we have on staff have taken an extended, paid vacation.

She Reads Truth

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And at the risk of sounding like Tamar Braxton,  I proudly say that “she” is me, and I read His truth daily.  Booooom!

I found this site some time ago and wanted to share it with you right away, but I figured I’d give it a run for myself a few times so that I could recommend it with some conviction.  I can!!  When I started reading with the group, they were reading from the bible app YouVersion a plan called “The Surrendered Life.”  It was good; a few verses a day, some commentary from the site’s authors and a forum of other women commenting on how the word touched them that day.  The next plan rolled right in and it was the Proverbs plan.  Honestly, that plan changed my life.  And it’s been a sustaining change in helping me to watch my mouth and my motives.

SO. what is She Reads Truth?  Well, if you visit the site you’ll get the full story but the gist of it is that there were some women who looked at their lives and daily routines and noticed that engaging God through His word on a daily, consistent basis was not happening in their lives and they wanted that to change.  Recognizing the power of community, they decided that they would make a decision to dig into the word daily and look for God to reveal Himself in their lives and use His word to change their lives, but this time they would do it together believing that adding accountability through community would make the difference.  And it has certainly made the difference for me.

So, everyday on the site or on your mobile device, Nook or Kindle–where you can engage through YouVersion if you have the bible app, the ladies pull out verses according to whatever reading plan their engaging at the moment and offer a short commentary/devotional on those verses.  Those of us who read the verses are encouraged to read the word, pray over it, think about it, then respond to it–either by tweeting it, blogging it, writing in a private journal, taking a pic and posting it on Instagram, or sharing in the comments, but always by our actions.  It’s been a really great experience for me and I wanted to share with you thinking that you might enjoy it as well. Right now we have about 2 days left on the current plan, the Ephesians plan.  I figured I’d let you in on my little secret now so that you could prepare to join us for the next plan!  Let me know if you decide to join me!

Huni on a Thursday Night

Huni leads a group of men in study of the word on Thursday nights.  It’s been like a mystery to me.  He goes off to the study once I have already left to meet with a certain teen girl.  He comes back much later than I, usually.  But when he comes back, he beams.  He glows.  He’s so humbled that the Lord would choose Him as a lens through which others can see His light reflected more clearly.  He’s so excited about the revelations that ride into the room and rest there on their hearts and minds.  He’s so determined to study harder next week so that God can do more, show more, give more through him.

Tonight was different.  Our timing was all off and rushed and compromised so I needed to drop him off instead of our usual divide and conquer routine.  We pulled up with five minutes to spare and one brother was already there.  Ready.  Patiently waiting.  Huni discovered that he had no keys to get in so we had to jam to the house and get the keys.  We came back and there they were, waiting around the door, dappin’ each other up, laughing.  Joy, expectation and excitement were all present there with them on the sidewalk as they waited to get into the building to meet with God.  I could tell that Huni was so excited.  He was distracted by it all and he too just couldn’t wait to get in there and get it going.  I watched him as he made his way across the street carrying pizza, wings and the word.  I watched them as he approached.  I got so excited at the sight.  I can’t imagine how our Father must have felt.

I don’t know what all happens in that room.  I just know that lives are being changed.  Huni is being changed.  Iron is being sharpened.  God is being glorified.  Our brothers are getting stronger.  And because of that, our world is getting better.  God is just too good.

Hey You!

Huni and I have moved and ever since we planned on doing so, it’s been a struggle for me to get myself to this computer and practice discipline, sit down and write!  But it’s been some of the things that have happened as a result of our move that have driven me here with laptop aptly placed in lap . . . writing.  Life can be like that sometimes.

Huni was born and raised in a small town that he has always dearly loved.  There’s not much to this place, but he holds fond, dear memories of his childhood here and it means a great deal to him.  Over the years we have seen it decline.  I used to visit fairly often when we were dating and even I’ve noticed the changes within the last ten years.  And they haven’t been all bad, but it’s been mostly a pretty depressing, slow decline to the quality of life of the people who live there.  Job opportunities have become a “search and find” of sorts, the local schools often get more complaints and poor grades rather support and top performing students, crime is on the rise, drugs are still deeply effecting the youth and it’s not hard to see which ones of them are held firmly in its grasp, the churches are in desperate need of leadership and spirit filled truth tellers and the people just want more altogether.  So Huni decided that we should gather all of our things and move our whole life here.  To help.  (staring off blankly, blinking eyes rapidly)  I’ll save the conversation about all that happened to get us here for another post, but let me just say that no matter how ill-equipped or incompetent I felt in this calling, God’s grace was and is on us for such a time as this.

We have some pretty huge goals for this town, some things that we are believing God to use us to initiate–whether He uses us to actually do the work or to encourage and assist others in doing it.  So far we’ve started three small group bible studies; Huni meets with a group of men and I meet with a group of women and a “group” of teen girls (more on that “group” of teen girls later!).  I know that ministry is no joke, but I never knew that it was going to be this blasted hard!!  And right now, as we prepare to transition into our space, we are living with Huni’s parents.  (swallows hard, takes deep breath, then stares off blankly, blinking eyes rapidly)  :0)  I have to say, since I got married, I have always been one of the most blessed married women I know because of the man God gave me, his family of origin, and my relationship with them.  It’s the real deal.  I love them as if they are my own and we, honestly, have no issues.  But even as much as I love my mommy, the one whose womb nurtured me for some months and who raised me and helped shape me into the woman I am today–I am in no hurry to return to her home as my temporary residence!!   And I do dearly love my parents that my Huni gave to me, buuuuuut. . . .you get the picture . . .  :0)

SO, I’ve been stretched, changed, and gone through the whole gamut of emotions.  And I’ve only been here a month and a half.  And I know that it’s only just begun.  (staring . . .blinking . . .)

But there is just a sweetness to belonging to God.  He just knows me, and He takes the time to let me know that I am known and seen and loved and watched over and cared for.  He’s using Huni, my children, my parents, my circle of sister-frans and the women in this community to reinforce that just when I need it.

This week has been a hard one.  I know, it’s only Tuesday.  But that’s what I’m saying.  It’s only Tuesday and already I’m like WHOA.  But I got a really sweet email from one of the women in the women’s group named Michelle.  I wanted to share part of my response to her to give you a glimpse of what’s already happening here.  Hope it blesses you and glorifies Him.

Miss meeting with you here in this space.  But I think I’ve found my groove again ;0)

Michelle,

     I don’t even know how to start this email!  I’m a very emotional girl.  Always have been.  My mom says that when she was pregnant with me, she spent most of her time crying and going through.  I’ve used that to help explain why I cry so much now and why I spent the better part of my first 16 years of life being so tenderhearted, and crying at the drop of a hat!  All of that to say, it doesn’t take much to get my tears to fall.  They lie in wait at the first chance to release themselves.  They used to be a permanent part of my face but I am truly, so very grateful that I now understand what it means to have the JOY of the Lord as my strength.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t cry, it just means that I receive His joy as I understand His purposes for my WHOLE life, not just the parts I like and am proud of.  But you’re right, I have experienced a great deal of pain and it is still present with me.
     I recently had the privilege of going through some counseling at the church E and I were members of when we lived in Raleigh.  Michelle.  It changed my life.  But it opened up some wounds that, for the longest time, I didn’t even want to admit were there.  Our childhoods, most often, shape our lives.  Through the power of God, who trades beauty for ashes, all of those things that happened to us in our youth, no matter how ugly or destructive they seemed, show up beautifully on us.  Just like we discussed last night when we talked about the long obedience in the same direction–being able to say yes however many times it takes, and say no however many times it takes–I have had to work consistently to change my thoughts in order to believe that everything that has happened to me is showing up beautifully on me.  I ran away from it for so long because of the shame attached to it. And the “it” that I am referring to is so many things, including but not exclusive to most of the things you mentioned that you’ve dealt with.  I’m still gaining the strength and wisdom to tell my whole story and not allow Satan to pull me back into the shame that kept me hidden and afraid for so many years.  It’s women like you who put their whole selves forward that God uses to really encourage and strengthen me to do the same.  
     This study is just as much for me, as it is for all of you.  I know that the Lord called me to it, but He called me not just to use me, but continue to make me whole and holy.  It’s like I told you before, every email you send me, and every text, they make me braver and strengthen me just a little bit more every time.
     What I want in this season of my life is to attain true freedom in Christ.  I want to understand His word in such a way that it frees me up and gives me power to walk like a woman who is free, understands the word of God and the role it plays in her life, and who understands her purpose.  All of the pieces are coming together–the hurt, the pain, the laughs, the joy, the sadness, the accomplishments, the mistakes, the downfalls, the slip-ups . .  all of it . . . and it’s all showing up beautifully on me.  In Jesus’s name. 
 
pamela t.

The Sunday Community: Proverbs 17:6

 Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
and parents are the pride of their children.

Proverbs 17:6 (NIV)

Happy Grandparents Day, Grandma, Granddaddy, Nana Phee, PawPaw, GG, and GG Mama!  We count it a sheer blessing to have so many of you to celebrate today and we love you.

~Izzie, Ava, Emmanuel & Pamela

  Please join me and The Sunday Community at Jumping Tandem for more of God’s word and inspiration.