I’m not losing my marbles, I know right where I planted them

picstitchI didn’t get to attend the Orange Conference this year, but tracked along–mostly while waiting in carlines for the four Scotts Tots– via Twitter and the #OC13 hashtag.

Trending during Reggie Joiner’s session was a quote from a book he wrote called “Losing Your Marbles: Playing for Keeps“. Basically, if you put a marble in a jar for each week of your child’s life from birth until high school graduation then remove a marble each week, you’ll see how many you have left. It’s a powerful visual. So much so that there’s even an app called “Legacy Countdown” that lets you see how many weeks (or marbles) you have left with each of your kids!

Throughout conference week, people used the app to calculate the weeks left with their children and posted this quote along with the picture of how many weeks they had left:

“When you see how much time you have left, you tend to do more with the time you have now.”

Comments being left on these infographics, Instagrams and TwitPics were along the lines of,

  • “Wow.”
  • “Please make it stop!”
  • “It’s going too quickly.”
  • “I have so little left.”
  • “Scary.”

I have to admit, these diffident comments upset me.

You see, I’ve been making a concerted effort to fully engage with and invest in my four children. I chose to leave a career that I triple-heart loved to intentionally focus on each individual child since day one of them being home from the hospital or the airport. I felt that they were more worth my time and effort than a paycheck.

I’m not a robot, and I will miss my children when they leave home to embark on new post-graduation adventures. I think the tinge of wistfulness I felt about sending each child off to kindergarten might return at high school graduation, but I have to hope that the tiny drop of sadness I feel for myself will again be completely and utterly deluged in my elation for them.

I have so much confidence in the work that I’ve been doing in their growing up years that I admit, I’m eager to see my investment pay off. I can’t wait to sit back and watch them navigate the world on their own two feet putting the skills and practices I’ve helped them learn to use in the “real world” outside of our four walls.

So I don’t look at those countdowns and feel sad or sick or scared. I’m excited for the launch! I get Jerry McGuire “Show me the money!” ecstatic thinking about the ROI that will be my kids in their future years.

That thought has me digging deep and investing generously in anticipation of the payoff. And I’d like to change my visual metaphor from marbles to seeds. Each time I take one out of the jar, I’m planting it. Knowing that I’ve prepared the soil, gone after those weeds with a vengeance, nurtured that seed, paid attention to the climate and adjusted accordingly.

I’m  not losing my marbles, I’m confidently and carefully sowing them knowing that astounding, exquisite, breathtaking things are getting ready to grow in their seasons.

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One year ago

One year ago today Dan and I spent an entire Sunday attending, touring, volunteering at, eating and interviewing with people at Northpoint Community Church. After his afternoon of meetings and interviews was done, I picked him up in the rental car and listened to him unpack all that had happened.

He told me who had said what in various meetings and interviews, I asked a million questions, told him what I had experienced helping put on a birthday celebration event, and together we came to the same conclusion. That this was not the right fit for him, for us,  and not worth uprooting our family for at this time. We had such a great situation at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI that we were content and happy to head back and return to life as usual.

But then…

We got a text to meet the Joiners (ReThink/Orange) at a local restaurant, Norman’s Landing. I’ll never forget that Tilapia Reuben sandwich with a side of fried okra, baked sweet potato, my un-southern un-sweetened iced tea, and Reggie practically FORCING me to order the peach pie a la mode.

We sat and listened to their hearts and realized that this was us. This was worth uprooting our children for. Worth that high and painful price of leaving an amazingly awesome church family and communityThis was our game-changer moment.

God had worked out all the details behind our backs and without our knowing it for us to be ready to change our course and leave so quickly. We sold and moved out of our house in less than two months. We committed to leaving well. Even though it meant a lot of hard choices, awfully hard goodbyes, and even taking some hits in order to preserve peace and honor God. I believe He has and will continue to bless us for those hard choices and leaps of faith.

Here on the other side, I remember how excited I was that day a year ago. I know it was the right decision because God has made our way here so clear. Dan is in a place where he gets to creatively use his gifts in a big and impactful way. My resilient kids transitioned beautifully and are beginning to thrive here. Our family rhythm is almost…normal. Getting to know Dan’s co-workers and experience the other side of the Orange Conference and beginning to forge friendships with amazing servants and leaders who love God I am confident that we are where we are supposed to be, despite my sometimes feeling like I am lacking context and meaning here.

My game has changed. And I am fumbling often as I learn to play it differently. But I think I’m exercising muscles I didn’t know I had or that had become lazy. So I’m excited to think that I’ll only get better as I continue to work at it.

Tonight I am thinking back on this year ago with very mixed emotions. But I am so hopeful for the future. I know God put me here for a reason, brought our whole family here because He has a plan to use us somehow. I’m beginning to see the hint of God’s smile in our lives and fully admit that I am living a sweet, blessed life that I do not deserve even though I constantly fight the urge to long for more.

And I know years from now I’ll come back and read this post and roll my eyes at myself and groan at my naiveté and the teenage angstyness of this post. But I needed to just put it out there.

Love IS the hug

I’ve been watching the Orange Conference online as well as following the #OC12 hashtag on twitter. This Tweet popped up this morning:

jannank: Agape love is not a feeling, it’s a verb. #thinkorange #OC12

I recently told a friend, “love isn’t the fuzzy feeling you get when someone gives you a hug, love IS the hug.” And that’s true of agape love, which in essence is love that is self-sacrificing as opposed to romantic or sexual love (eros) , familial love (storge), or affectionate friendship love (philia).

First of all, whew! I LOVED being validated in my thinking.

But second of all, ugh! That means I have work to do. Whether or not I feel like loving others,  Mark 12:30-31 tell us that we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The “love” commanded in these verses is agape love, love that is self-sacrificing. It will cost you something. You will have to look past the end of your own nose to make it happen. I don’t know about you, but doing selfless things is not always easy, it takes intentionality to take notice, and energy to make it happen.

That means walking outside to say “hi” when you see your neighbor pushing her stroller around the block rather than hiding behind the blinds or scuttling upstairs to hunker down with the laundry basket. It means being patient with the family blocking the cereal aisle in the grocery store when you’re running late and you have a headache. It means scooping your neighbor’s cat poop while they’re at Disney despite loving cats about as much as you love snakes.

Why did God tell us to love others?

1) Because it’s not our natural inclination to just walk around looking for ways to serve others. It isn’t like breathing: we have to make ourselves do it. And a lot times we need to be told what it is we’re supposed to be doing. Reminded.

2) Because He knew it would set us apart. I mean, who just goes around loving others more than they love themselves? Not very many people. And when someone does go around oozing selflessness loving and serving others, people sit up and take notice then want to know what makes that person tick. Boom! Perfect chance to point to God.

3) Because He IS love. If we are to be like God and emulate Jesus, we’ve got to love each other in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s part of living out our faith.

So, who can you BE a hug to today? Now, go agape someone!

Stories from Orange: things that divide

Although I only got to see Dan for about 4.3 minutes this morning, he was bursting with stories to tell me about people and interactions he’s had so far at the Orange Conference.

One story that he started to tell was about one of his friends (I’ll call him “Joe”) who has been through a bit of a rough patch lately. One of the thorns in that rough patch being his employer: the church.

Joe’s church runs a Christian school, but Joe’s children attend public school. The senior pastor decided he wanted all church employee’s kids to attend the church’s Christian school.

Joe and his wife had already decided that the best thing for their kids in the coming school year would be to do a mix of classical education via the public school combined with homeschool. Joe communicated this decision to the pastor and told him that if the church forced the Christian school enrollment issue, Joe would have to resign. The pastor reneged, and said he was uncomfortable with but had to respect Joe’s family’s decision.

This story immediately took me back to high school. After my freshman year, we moved from New Jersey to Colorado, where I attended a Baptist church on Sunday and a charismatic high school Mon-Fri.

Although I was easily in the top 10 percent of my class for academics, was involved in extracurriculars and leadership at the school, I was not inducted into the school’s honor society. When I met with the principal of the school to ask why I had not been included in the honor society, he told me it was because I did not speak in tongues.

I totally I feel for Joe and his wife. I groan because I know what it’s like to live a life that doesn’t fit into the “rules” or “policies” someone else has set, and having to suffering the fallout from them. I understand. I hurt. I’ve been there. And I hate it when we do stuff like this to each other in the body of believers. And I say “we” because I’m a rule-maker  too. I love policies and procedures and for everyone to fall in line and stuff themselves into neat, little boxes.

But I’m learning more and more that Jesus came and blew it up for people like me who like making up rules. He took all the laws and policies that people were making and shocked us all by doing the exact opposite. Instead of creating his own playbook, he took away the regulations and made a level playing field for everyone. In an unexpected and completely genius move, He changed the game and set everyone up to be successful just as they were instead of laying trip wires to keep people in line.

I recently studied Ephesians, and I’m realizing for the first time just how important the “we’re all on the same team” mentality of Ephesians 2:11-22  is in this game of life. When we engage in petty arguments, quibble and quarrel–just like they did in Paul’s time–we’re actually generating fodder for Satan to use against us to trip us up, frustrate us, divide us and take our energy and focus off the prize of living our lives all to the glory of God.

As I listened to Joe’s story, I empathized, then I immediately prayed for Joe and his wife and the pastor in this situation. That they’d see past the petty in order to focus on the greater call of God’s kingdom.

Are there things in your past or present that could be considered petty quarrels and quibbles that are distracting your focus from God or compromising your/the Church’s testimony? What have you learned? What will you do differently when the next “challenge” comes?

Waiting for the Cali girls

We love having people in our home. It’s easy to invite friends, family, neighbors, people we know or want to get to know better.

But what about total strangers?

When an Orange Conference organizer sent out en e-mail to the staff a few months ago asking if anyone was willing to host people in their homes during the conference, I immediately replied with a “yes”.

In approximately 32 minutes, two women from a church in California that Pricelined their way here, are volunteering at the conference in order to gain free admission, and didn’t have budget for a hotel room will show up at our house. And stay here until Saturday. Today is Tuesday.

Gulp. I’m tempted to Google “the art of repartee” or “good questions to ask total strangers you’ve never met before that are from somewhere you’ve never been and will be hanging out with you and your four kids and eating dinner with you tonight and living in your house until Saturday”.

Romans 12:13, says to “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” I’m relieved that the Bible doesn’t instruct me to “purvey perfection when having people in your home”.

A friend recently reminded me that hospitality is not supposed to be me focusing on how I present myself, not trying to impress people with my curtains or bedazzle them with my outfits. But rather hospitality is about taking the focus off of me and caring for them. Making them feel important and at ease. Welcome and wanted.

 

These church ladies have made a looong journey to come to a conference that will help bolster their faith, strengthen their serving muscles, and encourage their ministry. They are God’s people.  They are in need o

f a place to sleep at night. I have been blessed with a house and extra beds.

The ladies are sleeping in a room that doesn’t have paint on the walls, with sheets and pillow cases that don’t match each other, there is no blow dryer attached to the wall in the bathroom and no TV in their room. They will be  sharing a house with four children. There is no room service.

As Dan and I made the guests’ beds up, I said, “you’ve slept in worse places than this, right?” He laughed and replied, “OHHHHH yes, I’ve slept in MUCH WORSE places than this. Trust me.”

So although it’s not luxurious, it’s not a hovel, either. What matters is that I stop fretting about the barren walls and flutter about these making sure these two weary sisters have everything they need for a successful night’s sleep.

Because it’s NOT ABOUT ME.