Monday, October 27, 2014

Show Me


Some things come easy for us. Some things make us want to scream. And hit something. And call those we love terrible names. And eat an entire bag of peanut M&M's instead.



There are two things that whisper "Just eat the M&M's" to me. 

Paperwork and tech stuff. Proof of God's sense of humor since I am a special education teacher and a blogger. 

I recently attended a blog conference (yes, they exist) and walked away so inspired, so challenged to use my passion for writing to make a difference in the world. I'm in. All in. Except for the fact that I can't figure out how to set up my new blog on Wordpress cause you know it's techy, and in order to figure it out I have to read 174,000 detailed directions in some tutorial. I would rather glue my eyelids to a tree.

What would really help me is to have a Wordpress "pro" sit down and show me how to do it. That's how I learn. If I'm listening to someone tell me, the words become a smeared mess of nonsense in my little head, and I just feel stupid. 

Show me. Don't tell me.

Show me. Don't tell me. That's what the world around us is saying. Quit telling me about Jesus and show me his grace when you don't "approve" of me. Stop telling me how to be a Christian and show me what forgiveness looks like when you've been wronged. Show me what it looks like to face death without fear. Show me how to respect my husband when he doesn't deserve it.

Jesus wants to show his love to your neighbor across the street and the girl you work with in the office. How? Through you. His love living through you in your love and choices.

There is someone walking through something that makes them want to scream. A way out can't be seen. It's too hard, and instead of a bag of M&M's, they're reaching for a bottle or divorce papers. 

Will you be the one to live out the wisdom and grace of Jesus while the world desperately searches for healing. It's a broken world wondering what wholeness looks like. "Show me. Don't tell me," it whispers.

God has always shown us, hasn't he? Sunrise upon sunset. Chain after chain of mountains declaring his beauty and strength. A moon reflecting the light of the sun as we gaze at the night sky. A cup of hot coffee on a cool, sleepy Monday morning. An encouraging word from a friend just when we need it. All love. All grace. Shown to us by our Savior.

Who need to see Jesus today? 


35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:35










Wednesday, October 1, 2014

For the Working Moms

I'm a visual learner and I love word pictures to help convey my thoughts. So lets think about airplanes and airports for a sec. 
E Using the air travel analogy, this time last year I was a flight attendant. In fact, I had been a flight attendant (remember this is a word picture) for sixteen years, diligently taking care of my passengers and my hot pilot. Snack cart fully stocked, I cheerfully passed out treats, drinks, and occasionally a barf bag for the sick. I knew my job. I could recite the whole oxygen mask and seat belt thing in my sleep. My passengers loved me.




Then it happened. Totally unexpected. I was transferred. Not to a new plane or different flight itinerary. Nope. I now work in air traffic control! 

No more familiar routine. 

Good-bye snack cart.

Good-bye seat-back trays and overhead bins.

Now instead of taking care of my passengers, I direct their flights and in my free time I fly the planes too. Oh, did I mention that I'm now a pilot too? Crazy, I know.


Stop. Analogy over. Let's talk.

Last year I was taking care of our home, six children, and Hot Pastor. Full load I thought. I did find time to exercise and write as well as lead our children's ministry at our church. 

I did things like run errands without children, bake muffins for their breakfast, and get the car washed. I knew how to do it. I could make a menu and even show other ladies how to do the same. I paid the bills and had coffee with friends. 

Then it happened. I became a Special Education Teacher. A working mom. 

The other day, this whole analogy came to me as I sat at the orthodontist with one child, texting Hot Pastor who was home recovering from surgery, while another mom picked up Mini Me from cross country practice and yet another gave Sweet Boy a ride to football. I left the orthodontist in time to pick up Distracted Son from practice before going to Tall Girl's volleyball game. I direct traffic. I make flight plans. 

Lately I feel like I manage the lives of my family without living it with them. I am here to make sure that all passengers get to their destination and that no one crashes and burns. 

I miss the passengers in my plane. I miss going to every destination with them. 

You wanna know the funny part?  The airline couldn't find someone to replace me so I have to figure out how to be a flight attendant from the control tower. 

My snack cart has suffered. Running low on pretty much everything. My passengers have to rummage through their carry-ons in hope of finding a pack of crackers from the last flight. My uniform needs ironing and I'm not quite as bubbly. My passengers still need drinks, peanuts, and pillows. They still have questions about the flight. Hot Pilot still depends on my to keep everyone calm and comfortable. 

But how? How can I keep all of the planes in the air, fly one myself, and pass out peanuts? 

I can't.

Those two little words may fly in the face of all those women who put their faith in the whole "Super Woman" myth, but it's true. I can't do it all.

I am new to the whole working mom scene, but from my short experience it is no cake walk! 

Not only am I still fighting off mommy guilt, but now work guilt has starting picking fights with me. I literally walk out the door reminding myself out loud, "I have six children." 

No matter what anyone says, or what titles sit on the shelves in book stores, I still believe the wise words of Hot Pastor, "We can not add anything. We can only replace something." When we take on something new in life, we have to let go of something.

When I started working full time, expectations that I had of myself had to go. Thinking that I could work full time and maintain our home as I did before and keep the same gym schedule and have time to blog every day would be nuts! But I tried. Fail.

The truth is that I can not be at every school party, game, and appointment. I can not stay as late as some teachers at work. I can not be a room mom or a team mom. I can not bake muffins on school mornings. I can not lead children's ministry. I can not blog daily. 

Not the message you hoped for today? 

Let me tell you what I can do. I can trust the one who gave me these roles as mom and teacher. I can seek his wisdom as I decide how to spend my time. I can listen for his expectations instead of the unrealistic ones of my culture. I can be present for my family when I'm with them. I can be okay with not doing it all. I can walk past the mess on the floor to my Sweet Son who needs me to read to him. I can walk away from lesson plans to watch Tall Girl play volleyball. 

I get it working moms. I'm in it and still seeking the Lord and his expectations. I'm still trying to figure out how to find margin and stay healthy in the midst of taking care of everyone. 

This is what the Lord showed me this week. 



Proverbs 2
My son, if you accept my words
    and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
    and applying your heart to understanding
indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
    he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
    and protects the way of his faithful ones.
Then you will understand what is right and just
    and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
    and understanding will guard you.















Sunday, August 17, 2014

Prayer at Chestatee High

Hot Pastor is preparing to speak to our church today about the threat of a lawsuit against our high school. It's the high school that our children attend, a great school.

I'm normally one to jump in with my opinion without thinking through my response. Maybe because I have been drowning in lesson plans and IEP's (Special Education paperwork) or perhaps because I have not exactly been a prayer warrior lately, I did not post anything on social media or participate in many conversations. 

In case anyone is curious about my view of all that has happened this week, here goes.

As I scrolled through Facebook last night, one of the articles that has been written caught my eye. Actually, just two words, "against atheists". Those words did not sit right in my spirit. 

I also saw many pictures posted of Chestatee students who came together to pray in the early morning hours this week. Other high schools gathered as well to support Chestatee. (I have teenagers and understand how amazing it is that they woke up early to go!) 

Facebook has become the way we feel the pulse of our communities, and I read many comments, and comments on comments. Parents, teachers, politicians, all passionate about our right to pray. T-shirts have been made, colors worn in support of our high school. 

As beautiful as it has been to see a community come together, I am left with some questions. Hard questions. If you read my stuff, you know I love Jesus and believe in prayer. Wrestle with these questions with me.

Why are we fighting? 
Our students have been able to pray at school all along. They can gather on the field, in the gym, in the parking lot, at their lunch tables and pray. Students are allowed to participate in organizations on campus like Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Young Life. Laws have stated that those prayer groups have to be student led. I love that- it puts our teenagers in a place to make their faith their own and learn to lead others to Christ. That's amazing freedom! That freedom is not what is being challenged right now. It's our first amendment right. In nations like North Korea, you could be jailed. In countries like Iraq, beheaded. We are blessed with freedom that the rest of the word is dying for every day.

Who are we fighting? 
My heart was saddened by those words, "against atheists". Didn't Paul write that our battle is not against flesh and blood? Our battle is against the enemy, the dark forces of Satan in this world. The atheists, the unbelievers are those Jesus came to redeem, the ones he loves. We had a neighbor who was an atheist. Should we have been against him? Debated him? Fought him? He is now a believer, but it was because of humble believers loving him. 

What was our motivation to pray? 
Before you stop reading, know that I am so thankful that my own high school students, Tall Girl and Distracted Boy were a part of those prayer circles on the field. This week, our community heard, "you can't pray". We responded with, "Oh yes we can!" My children came home telling me how powerful it was. As believers urged to "pray without ceasing", shouldn't we wonder if we have always had the freedom to pray, why haven't we? Why haven't we come together as a community to pray for those dying in Iraq or even those students who are being abused and molested before they come to school each day. Who will stand and pray for kids in foster care,or homeless? These are hard questions, but if we don't ask them, will we grow? 

Do we want teachers leading prayer and Bible study?
That seems like a no-brainer, but is it? I have to say, that unless I know a teacher's beliefs, I would rather teach my own children. We have so many opportunities to teach our children about Christ at home and in our local churches. As much as we love each other as Christians, we do not all agree on theology. But here is something beautiful- our children are allowed to ask a teacher to pray with them if they need prayer! That means that if there is a coach that my student knows is a believer and my child needs prayer, she is allowed to ask the coach. Again, do we realize how blessed we are? That is a freedom we have taken for granted. For parents of students living in more diverse areas of our country those teachers and coaches may be Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu. 


This last question has weighed on my heart most.

After this is all over, will we pray for those who don't believe? Will our students gather on the field to pray for those who oppose God? Will our community come together and pray for our fellow believers who are being tortured for their faith in Christ? This freedom that we have- will we exercise it when this law suit is over? I get excited thinking about the possibilities! What if those students see God move and decide to keep praying? What if there are teenagers on football fields every morning praying for their schools and communities? Once this lawsuit is over and the dust settles, the atheists will be watching. I'm praying that we will still be praying. Not for ourselves and our "rights", but for them.

One thing that I realized this week is that I'm not battling it out in prayer enough. I'm not fighting for my family and my world in prayer. I'm distracted by all the crazy, big family stuff and work stuff. I have the freedom to come to the throne of God on behalf of those in need. I'm not afraid of someone taking that freedom away. I'm more concerned about my tendency to lay that freedom down. 

The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. James 5:16 The Message



















Monday, August 4, 2014

2014 Back to School Survival Post

You girls know I keep it real over here. This whole Togethergirl title came from a girl worn out from years of trying to be super. I hung up my cape and have not looked back.

I still get comments from well-meaning, yet obviously deceived women, who think I possess super powers. I guess because I'm not wearing a straight jacket and appear to be functioning normally. Raising six children is definitely challenging, especially during the school year. Actually, keeping the peace in the summer is no cake walk. I barely survived last summer and was counting down the days until school started.




Do you have unrealistic expectations for yourself? I fight them daily. I found freedom from the girl I thought I had to be, but I can easily slip back into bondage if I'm not careful. My former super hero wanna be self would arrive at the first day of school or the first day of a new year like arriving at the rim of the Grand Canyon. I would stand at the edge and make grand plans (based on my insane expectations of myself) to build a bridge across using only a box of toothpicks and duct tape.

(If you want to read more about my journey to freedom and how I hung up my cape, read my first blog posts.)

I want to be purposeful about this school year. I want to set goals for myself and teach my children to do the same. That's healthy IF YOU KNOW WHAT HEALTHY EXPECTATIONS ARE. Once I finally understood that life was not about me getting it together, it got a lot better. 

So...in the spirit of keeping it real, here are my 2014 School Year Goals.

#1 Read to Sweet Son at bedtime.

#2 Pray for my children.

#3 Clean underwear for all.

#4 Refuel myself so I don't become empty and bitter.

#5 Date Hot Pastor every chance I get.

#6 Look at my color-coded calendar and super long to-do list and know that it is full of the blessings that I asked for in life. Every dentist appointment, open    house, football game, cross country race, volleyball match, and booster club meeting is there because I have a loving husband and six beautiful children.

At first glance, my goals may not seem impressive. Girls, if I can live these six things out this year, "Wahooooo!" It's a win.

Yes, it's a new school year. We all want to do it better than last year, but let's do it in freedom. Check your expectations. Are they yours? Are they of God?

I feel like God gave me a beautiful picture yesterday of the whole "yoke is easy" verse. I was wearing a yoke like oxen wear and Jesus was right beside me. We were in it together. He had one arm around me and sweat was pouring down us both. He was smiling and encouraging me to keep going. He was laughing because as we pulled, our feet were deep in mud. 


Whatever he has asked of us, he does along side of us. Careful, if he didn't call you to it, then you may be sweating in the mud alone, plowing the wrong field. 


There is amazing freedom in knowing that I don't have to plow every field. I'm not in this work that he gave me alone. I am not pulling an impossible load. 


Yeah, it's gonna get crazy over here. i have six goals I believe are from the one who ordained these days for me. He is not expecting my life to look like my Pinterest boards. He has invited me, instead, to live in the freedom of today. 


28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Matthew 11:28-30The Message (MSG)
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”





















Monday, July 28, 2014

Living Like an Orphan

He sits alone in his need. Tears flowing behind a closed door. We are on the other side. The ones who answered a call to minister to orphans. In his heart, is he still orphaned? Abandoned and rejected? 

We flew around the world to bring him into our family. Almost four years now. 

It's as simple as a broken yo-yo string but there is nothing simple with his broken heart. Almost puzzled, I remind him that he is not alone, that all he has to do is ask for help...we are here.




I could describe to you the same scenario but insert myself into the story as the orphan. 

No comparing our sacrifices to the one my Father made for me so that I could become his child, forever adopted into his family with all the rights and privileges, a great inheritance. Grace and mercy beyond measure.

Yet, I carry my worries and fears, my anxious and hurting heart alone. Tears flowing behind a closed door. Just like my son. All around me is the evidence of my Father's love and provision. Promises that can be trusted, yet I do not bring my heart to him.

He reminds me that I'm not alone, that all I have to do is ask for help...he is here. 

Why? Why do I live as an orphan searching for my own provisions to survive? Those days are over, I am his child.

In the morning air on my deck, I lay it all down before him. All that weighed on my heart, that consumed my thoughts. What I thought I must fix. Simple to Him, like a broken yo-yo string.

For some, intimacy with God is easy. Prayer is like breathing. I long for that.

Listening to Him through his word and seeing Him work in my life has never been hard for me. I have seen him do things that only he could do. Yet, I trudge through life weighed down and hurting on my own. 

My Father patiently reminds me, calls to me, invites me to trust him. Come to me all you who are weary...taste and see that the Lord is good...draw near to him and he will draw near to you...how great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we may be called children of God...

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18

Maybe you are like me, one of those girls who tries to do it on her own. Exhausted? Alone? 

Your Father is waiting for you. 















Monday, July 21, 2014

Drowning?

Ever feel so overwhelmed that you just don't want to get out of bed? I'm there, only it's my big comfy chair. (I was forced out of bed early to drive my teenagers.) I came home to a quiet mess too big to think about tackling.


I'm avoiding. Procrastinating is my solution for it all. When life demands too much of me, I curl up in the comfort of my chair with a cup of coffee. I am seeking solace from the things that pull at my mind and my time. The same thought cycles through my mind, "It's too much. How can I get all of this done?How can I take on these difficult rolls that I have been given?"


Am I afraid? Is that the feeling deep within that keeps me in this chair? I've been overwhelmed by fear before to know that it paralyzes. What fear overwhelms me now?


Like a scene in a movie, I have been swept away by a rushing river. The currents overpowering. I fight the water and somehow manage to climb onto a rock, escaping danger. Breathless, shaking with exhaustion I look around realizing that this rock I'm clinging to is in the middle of the river, water rushing around it.


I can not stay here on this rock. I will have to face the rapids at some point, but how?


A few trips white water rafting and a couple of episodes of Man Vs. Wild do not make me an expert, but I remember that if swept down a raging river you should lie on your back with your feet pointed downstream. Fighting the currents is dangerous. Eventually, the river will calm.


My life is not a movie. No river. Just a huge to-do list on top of some serious parenting challenges and relationship issues. No rock. Just a big, worn out, but safe chair in my kitchen, by a window.


I can not stay in this chair.  One more cup of coffee will not make it all go away. I have to brave the strong currents of life today. I am no expert here either. I assure you. It hits me that there should be survival shows for women, because there are days that I would take the raging river and the rocks over my lot.


What am I afraid of today? What will happen if I don't get it all done? Has God asked me to do something and then cruelly not given me the time in which to do it? Is that his character? Is he still in control? Who gave me these crazy children anyway? And the unexpected job that blessed our lives? What about this house? Wasn't it a gift from my Father, along with all the clothes, toys, and dishes that lie around?


I hear His voice over the roar of it all. Do the next thing. Rest in me.


The river will calm, it's not all rapids. Point your feet down stream, and stop fighting the currents.


My whole life has prepared me for today. God has lovingly equipped me for the challenges I'm facing, yet reminded me that braving the river alone is not the best way. He stands in the strongest current, unmoved. I am not alone. He will not let me be swept under.


After I post this, I plan to eat a bowl of cereal and go to the gym. It's the next thing.


The laundry, the lesson plans, the school supplies, and the blueberries that need to be picked, even the relational issues will not sweep over me today. I'll ask my Father to put them in order for me, then I'll do the next thing.


When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.






























 







Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I Will Never Get it Together

I used to believe that I needed to "get it together." I tried so hard that I was miserable. What is "together", anyway? I wanted to feel better about myself. I thought I needed to be better, choose better, do better. 

Crazy thing is that God could not love me more than he did when he gave Jesus for me. He could not love me more than when I said "yes" to his love for me. 

He loves me in the middle of my falling apart, in the middle of my not-togetherness. Don't believe me? I'll show you. 

Details are not my thing. I'm a big picture kind of girl. I hate fine print, directions, and emails. I'm a scanner. You can imagine the trouble this gets me in managing a large family. 

Our girls had a birthday party on the calendar. I say "on the calendar" because I purposefully gathered all summer camp info, invitations, etc along with our big wall calendar to make sure I did not miss anything (and to keep six children from asking me what we are doing every day of the summer). I realize my weakness with details and I don't want my children to suffer.



Somehow, I put the party on Sunday instead of Saturday. I thought it weird that someone would want a party on Sunday, Father's Day at that. I think the mistake came when I put the party first on my iphone calendar. You know that spinny wheel you have to move to select the date? I think that's where I went wrong.

Here's how I know that God is so personal. He knows my issues and lends me a hand.

On Saturday, Hot Pastor's parents were visiting. His mom loves yard sales like I do, so we thought about going to some. Even though it was late in the morning, I sent a post out on Facebook asking if anyone knew of a great sale.

A friend texted me about one, so we headed out with five kids in our bus. I, of course, had the road mixed up in my head and we had to backtrack a little, but saw a yard sale sign and followed the trail. (not the sale from the text)

We all piled out to find treasures, and as the kids looked, I was focused on Yard Sale Mom because she looked so familiar. When I heard her say that the money from the sale went to a mission trip to Guatemala, I began chatting with her (because that's what I'm good at). After only a few moments, we realized we had lots of mutual friends. One such friend was the mom of the friend having the birthday party. Sweet Yard Sale Mom said, "yes, my girls are going to her party tonight!"

I froze. "Tonight?" Yard Sale Mom saw my confusion. Without shame, I said, "we had it on our calendar for tomorrow!" She assured me it was, in fact, that very day. I should have prefaced all of this with the fact that the birthday party invitation had come two months prior. It was a very special, dress-up, Paris themed, 13th birthday party that my girls would have never let me forget had we missed it. 

I climbed back in our bus with a knot in my stomach thinking about my girls' reactions, Birthday Mom's reactions, my need to throw up had Yard Sale Mom not saved the day. 

But it was not Yard Sale Mom's rescue. It was my Father orchestrating it all. I feel confident that had we not gone to that yard sale, his rescue would have come in the form of a phone call reminder. It was his intention to help me that day. 

When I dropped off my girls at the party that night, I was so thankful that God had intervened and saved the day! 

Does he rescue me every time? No. Sometimes, the blunders that I make are lessons, sometimes journeys to other plans he has for me. 

I know this. He knows me and he sees me. He is involved in my life because I am his girl. Whether it's a good day with my calendar or not.

See, I don't have it together. I never will. I live this life together with my Father and with you. 

I believe God reminded me of this song today. I have not heard it in years. The lyrics are all about not having it together, but being loved regardless. 
Read it and listen to it knowing that it's true for you today. You are loved in a deep and personal way by a personal God. Rest in him.


Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”