Wednesday, January 09, 2019

4am Grief

Before the actual post starts, I want to explain that putting words on paper is my therapy. It gets the hard thoughts out of my head and onto something I can see. It heals me. I have been told a time or two that these words help others know me better, and sometimes helps them put words to their own thoughts. It is with that in mind that I publish an unplanned therapy session from a couple of nights ago. It was good for me, and I feel so much better today.

For the past few weeks, life has been nonstop for me. I had more than one person comment on how well I was handling it all. My standard joke was that I was running on adrenaline and denial. I knew it would all catch up to me "next week", but I had been successfully pushing back "next week". That is, until 4am. That is when it all crashed in. I woke up hoping it was just my middle aged bladder, but it wasn't. Then, I hoped it was just a crick in my neck I'd been battling, but that wasn't it either. My mind was racing with thoughts of my kitchen being torn up for an unplanned remodel thanks to a leaky faucet, but I knew that wasn't the real issue either. As I sat up crying, having lost control of the one last thread I had, Rocky gently rubbed my back in the same way she rubbed my back when I was a little girl, awake because I was spending the night in a bed other than my own, having a sleepover with my favorite person. It all came flooding out. Too many emotions to name, tripping out of my mouth between sobs. My fears, my worry, and then finally, the real reason I was awake, my grief. It finally found a moment that I couldn't fight. The middle of the night. With my conscious thoughts at rest, the door was now open and it wasn't closing until I named it. It's name is grief and it is hard.
It took me a half hour to cry it out, and another half hour to write it out. I'm sure this hour of sleep I have missed will catch up with me tomorrow, but that's okay. I have safety nets during daylight hours, and it won't be so scary then.
Now, I can drift back to sleep having beaten my grief ninja attack with tears and prayers and my husband's gentle hand making circles on my back.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

A Tribute to Rixie the 2nd

When I was thinking over how best to pay tribute to Mamaw, I was reminded of a chance encounter I had in my early twenties that really opened my eyes to who she was.
A woman, who was the mother of a childhood friend of my mother’s, came into the place I worked. After speaking to me, she asked who my family was because I had a familiar look. I told her, and she said that she thought of my grandmother every time she drove past her house because she greatly admired how strong she was and how she had carried on her life after my grandfather died. From that day forward, I knew “strength” as my grandmother’s defining characteristic.
She was literally physically strong. For example, she did her own yard work well past the age that most people stop. There was a section of privet hedge that she frequently did battle with. She overcame a heart defect, colon cancer, and fought her way back to being independent more times than is believable.
Her strength of heart was unmatched. She faced more tragedy and loss than most of us could bear. Even in the face of being widowed so early, she picked up and carried on. I don’t think I ever saw her cry, not because she didn’t, but because she didn’t cry in front of the children. She always wanted to be strong for us.

She was a strong role model. She was not only the picture of a 50’s housewife, but she was also a working mother. She held various jobs over the years, and most probably remember her work in the Andrew Jackson school cafeteria because her rolls were amazing, but the one that made an impression on me was that when Papaw got his real estate license so he could sell houses part time, she got her’s too so that she could support his work and run things while he was at his other job. All of that with three kids to take care, and a hot dinner on the table every night. Then when my parents started dating, she added my dad in as her fourth kid, showing him what it was like to be a loving parent. It changed the course of his life and by extension, my own.
Most importantly, she had strength of faith. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Her unwavering faith and trust in God touched us all in one way or another. When many would have sat down, overwhelmed by the changes life had thrown at them, she relied on God to help her stand knowing that He would see her through whatever came next. It is the reason we can all have peace today. We can trust that she rests with the Lord no longer having to be strong.

I will remember how she took me to the movies and made me bacon and French toast for breakfast. How she always sat at the kids table, and how she could have a full Sunday dinner on the table in the time it took the rest of us to change out of our church clothes. I still haven’t figured that one out. Most of all I will remember her strength and try to live up to the standard she set for being a Rixie.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Why We Track

A couple of years ago, when Nix was working on getting her driver's license, our family made the decision to use a family tracking app through our phones. It had absolutely nothing to do with trust or some need to know where my kid was 24/7. It was for safety and peace of mind. When you have a new driver, you spend a lot of time worried about the million things that can go wrong while they are in the rolling death trap surrounded by bad drivers. You can tell them to text you when they get where they are going, but then they hit traffic and you hear there was a five car pile up on their route and you have to wait to find out if they are okay but they forget to text. The next thing you know, you are having ridiculous thoughts of driving past their work like a crazy stalker to see if they made it okay. OR, you can download an app that lets you know they just forgot to text you.
The next benefit came after Nix went to college. Some of her friends were giving her a hard time about being tracked. We got labeled as helicopter parents. Nix was seriously considering turning her's off. And then it happened. She got lost in her new town. She got lost driving home on the weekend. She got lost a lot that first couple of months. In fact, every time she started thinking of ditching the app, she'd have to call me to look at the app to see where she was and how to navigate back when her phone map directions were failing her. It was the dreaded "proceed to the route" instructions when you have no idea how to get to the route.  I admit that it is tempting to check in and see if she is staying out late or making it to class, but that urge eases up after a couple of weeks, and you start to only use it when you need it.
It turned out to be useful with Rocky. Most days he works from home, but he does go into the office from time to time. I like to time dinner so that he can eat with us on those days, but to do that, I need to know when he leaves. I set an alert to ping at me when he leaves the office so I know it is time to start cooking.
The most amusing benefit of family tracking came from my parents. My father sometimes goes to all day woodworking events. With equipment running, it can be hard to hear your phone. My mom's phone isn't compatible with the app we use, so she asked me to add my dad to our's. That's right, I track my dad so that my mother doesn't worry about him. I may check it occasionally when they are traveling here so I know how much time I have left to clean the guest bathroom. My dad likes to check it so he can call and ask me if I bought anything when I was at Ikea and laugh.
When we first started this, JD didn't really go anywhere without us, but we decided to go ahead and put him on it too so it wouldn't be a big deal to add him later, and also so if he left his phone somewhere we could narrow down where to look. He used it to see where I was in carline so he would know when to move to the front of the line and when he had time to talk with friends. I was recently reading about a kid about his age that went missing. Although there is no guarantee that his phone would remain on him if he went missing, it does give me a little extra peace knowing that we would at least have a place to start.  I also read about a kid, also his age, that almost died of alcohol poisoning. Although having the app would not have prevented this kid from being stupid, when someone picked up her phone to call her parents, they could have known where she was and had the ambulance meet them there instead of having to beg someone to drive her home first.     

There are several apps like this. If you want to consider one, I recommend doing a little research to find one that fits your needs. We use Life360 because we all have different types of phones and it was available for all of us. There is an option to pay extra for reports on the comings and goings of your family (this includes a list of how fast they were driving), but that seemed like overkill to me.  If you do decide to try it out, please be honest and don't try to sneak it on your kid's phone. If you try to be sneaky, they will be sneaky too. It isn't hard to disable it or cheat the tracking, so you should really discuss it as a family and get everyone on board for the right reasons.
For the record, if Nix decides she doesn't want to be on the tracker anymore I would absolutely remove her.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

I am weak, but He is strong

 I was reading in 2 Corinthians the other day. in chapter 12, and I suddenly felt a new kinship with Paul. He had been begging God to take away a "thorn in his side". There was some sort of problem that Paul had that seriously limited him. It seems so odd to think of someone we now know of as an enviable man of God feeling held back because of a limitation. The man's writings have continued to hold an important place in Christianity for 2,000 years. People use his words everyday to explain the very basics of salvation. How could this man have ever considered himself limited in what he could do for Christ? Then, I was reminded of my week. The time I spent not feeling well. Mostly, the time I spent frustrated that I wasn't doing what I felt like needed to be done. During that time I used my computer and my skills/talents to work on photographs for friends, graphic work for church, written words of encouragement to others, and a list of other things that I was considering nothing all because I wasn't getting done what I wanted to get done. I am sitting here realizing now that I actually accomplished a lot. I made a difference to several people. I contributed because God has granted me a skill that works around my shortcomings. Maybe it is okay to not be okay. Not being okay gives me opportunities to do things I wouldn't if I wasn't having to rest.

         "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

Paul had asked for his problem to be removed three time. I think I have got him beat on that front (by a lot). But like Paul, I don't think my issues are going anywhere. If it served God's purpose for me to be healed, I would be. There is not a single doubt in my mind that I could wake tomorrow and never have another stomach issue again. The thing is though, my weakness IS serving a purpose. The strength of God is made clear every time I carry on. I will be up tomorrow, at church, doing what needs to be done even though I am awake at 2 in the morning writing to distract myself from the sharp pain that woke me. It will be God's strength carrying me through, God's gifts to me that will allow me to do things even from bed when I get home and inevitably collapse onto my bed to give in to my physical weakness.

I try not to go on about my digestive disorder too much, part because no one would really want details of what goes on with that (ew, trust me), but also because I don't want people to think it is a daily horror show. I forget how much I have adjusted to all the things that go on until I am around people who don't have to consider every bite they take or make a sort of escape plan for every outing they try to go on. The truth is, the life I have gotten fairly use to is limited. It is actually significantly limited. I just don't like to think of it that way. I'm not dying. I'm not having to go through awful medical treatments. I have adjusted to the diet and discomfort for the most part. This is just my life. Why depress people with how much my daily life differs from theirs? But today, with this post, I am bringing it up because I want you all to know that every time you see me working, getting things done, having fun, being around people, eating food, or writing, it is because God's grace sees me through. His strength is what holds me up. I know because the second He doesn't need me strong, I am a puddle of weak. I am honored He has taken the time to find a use for me around the frailty this world laid on me.     

Case in point, it is now 3 am, my pain is easing and I have a new blog post to show for it. What did you do between 2 and 3 in the morning?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

My hope is built on nothing less

I know I kind of left you hanging on that last church post, and I have wanted to update, but so much of starting a church is waiting that there hasn't really been enough to post about until now.
We did vote to start, we have been admitted into a local association, and we finally picked a name.
We are Hope Fellowship, a Southern Baptist Church.
To pick the name we opened it up for suggestions, and like everything else so far, a common thread appeared. Well over half of the suggestions contained the word "fellowship", and the next most mentioned word was "hope". It wasn't a small number. Since church people are notorious for not being able to harmoniously pick a carpet color, it is kind of a small miracle that we managed to pick a name so easily. To go with our new name, we picked this verse from Psalms

Next, we have a mission statement. Typically speaking, church mission statements can get kind of wordy and a bit hard to follow. Instead, we wanted something that boiled it down to what it is that the church needs to be about. This is what we got.

That's it. The whole thing. Love God, others, and the lost. All the work that the church needs to do falls under one. or more, of those things.
Our newest fun little line up has been location. It isn't easy to find a place that can function as a church especially when you have barely a months worth of history to your name. After a bunch calls and several scouting trips, we found a local school that could rent to us. It wasn't the first place on our list. In fact, I think it was at the bottom of the list we started with. That's where God comes in again. This school is in a corner of the county that has a ton of neighborhoods but no churches. They have struggled to get sponsors for the school because it isn't near businesses. Compared to the other schools in the area, their extras budget is very low. They need us, just like we need them. The principal is a former preacher's kid herself, and beyond thrilled to be having a church lease space. Once again, everything fell into place better than we planned.
It hasn't all been sunshine and roses. Starting a church is hard. We've had friends who needed to step away. We've hit roadblocks. Patience and flexibility tested. But, at the end of each day, hope and unity have continued to win out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

House Rules and Vacation Pictures

Last week, JD had his big 8th grade field trip. When I was a kid this meant something like we were loaded on a bus to drive to see a community theater play and were home by the time school was out. What this means here is that kids go to Savannah for three days on charter buses. Since Nix had also been on this trip it meant that Rocky and I were the only ones in the house who hadn't ever been to Savannah. We decided that this was not right, and made arrangements to pick up JD in Savannah instead of him riding the middle school bus home.
Nix had just freshly finished her first year of college, and was still in that mode of meeting with friends, job hunting, and general unwinding, so she opted to stay home alone with the cat. Since this was the first time she had been left at the house overnight, I felt it was important to leave her with a few house rules. She mostly followed them all.

While in Savannah, I got a chance to play with my camera a bit.
I took typical touristy pictures.

And, I took pictures of random things that just pleased me.

Savannah is a beautiful town full of history and character that you don't find in many places in the South. I think I could spend a week just walking around, sitting in parks, and soaking in the beauty of it all.
Although the trip itself was an overall wonderful experience, it just wouldn't be "us" if things didn't go wrong. JD came home with a sinus infection and a weird rash from some sort of mystery botanical irritant, and we all have sunburns because the weatherman was wrong, which gave us unexpected time to enjoy the beach. Thankfully, our hotel was close to Walmart because, in spite of being on vacation, I still managed to need something from there every single day. There is just no escaping it.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Another week, another sign

I hadn't planned on posting again this week, but life has been full of things I didn't plan lately, so I am just going to run with it while the mood is striking.
Last week I talked about a rather amusing literal sign on the wall pointing to my post from the week before that. This week I had a different type of sign. 
The group of us meeting to consider starting a new church were all asked to write down a couple of reasons why we did or did not want to start a church. Then, we were going to discuss those tonight, and get a better idea of what we were talking about. Our family sat down and came up with a good list, and then I condensed it into one statement to share with the group. I went in tonight assuming that either I would read that statement or Rocky would, but something kind of amazing happened that changed that.
Our main speaker stood up with opening remarks (if we were a church this would be our pastor, and by remarks I really mean sermon). I marked a couple of things off our list because he covered those points. As people came forward to share what God had laid on their hearts this week, one right after another checked off the rest of our list. In a room of a hundred people, not once was a point raised that made someone stand up and disagree. I don't know how many church meetings you have been to, but in my experience this is a rare event. 
Although no official declarations will be made until after we meet next week, I feel less like this will be a group starting a new church, and much more like us joining a church that God started long before we were aware of it. 
The only thing on my list not shared was a word that has been turning over in my head all week. Sanctuary. It is a word that has gone out of vogue and shelved for the crime of being too churchy. I think for a long time it was used as a name for a room where the choir sung, the preacher talked, and people tired to sleep upright in pews without getting caught. What sanctuary actually means is a sacred place of refuge in a consecrated building set apart for holy worship. Could there be any better word to describe what I am looking for? 
Another definition is a holy place of asylum, which tickles me because the pastor said that the one thing we needed most to succeed (other than God, of course) was to be committed. Committed to an asylum sounds about right for my family.  
The one thing Rocky did add to the open discussion was our family's list of personal costs. These are things that we have to expect will be required of us, and things we need to decide as a family if we are ready for. After talking them out we realized that it is a simple list of basic requirements that are at the same time a tremendous responsibility that we can't commit to only halfway. It is a good list to check yourself with regardless of where you worship.
  • We have to tithe without fail
  • We will have to prioritize attendance
  • Serving will not be optional
  • Our prayer lives and Bible study will need to be solid
  • We will have to be okay with trial and error
  • We need to be ready to open our home. 
  The list seemed almost too easy until I started thinking about the number of times we have slack on one or completely failed at another. Now it seems daunting. Daunting, but totally worth it because it challenges us to be where we should have already been anyway.