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Monthly Archives: July 2015
I had the amazing privilege of attending the She Speaks conference from Proverbs 31 Ministries last weekend. There is so much to say and think and process through… It’s truly an incomparable event. It’s well-run, phenomenally organized, perfectly staffed and tailored to Christian women writers, speakers and leaders down to the last detail. It is unequivocally the best conference I’ve attended.
Even so, the things listed above are not what make it exceptional.
Lysa Terkeurst, the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, leads this group of breath-taking women in a culture of sisterhood, team playing and true humility that exceeds my capacity to describe in a way that does it justice. The vision and execution of equipping women to learn and teach God’s Word is inspired….and unanimous. Each of the leaders and staff members has embraced the core values, and none of them waver in the slightest from the mantra.
“We have to go to God’s Word, to truly be with Him, in order to stay in alignment with His assignment. Keep the sacred space. Getting sent out is second.” Lysa Terkeurst
Every speaker wove this theme throughout her lessons and advice seamlessly, which tells me that they walk this walk as well as talk the talk. They were gracious and funny and wise, giving us a plethora of tools to put in our arsenal for study and use, sprinkling each lesson with the reminder to really listen for God’s voice….and then do as He says.
Are we serving where needed, regardless of what that looks like, knowing that our call is never mundane?
I was uplifted, overwhelmed, encouraged and enriched.
I was mentally and emotionally spent by the end of my time there.
And I was determined to stay true to the spirit and wisdom shared by these women I so admire. I prayed for God to help me hear Him clearly, to have the discernment to understand when and how He speaks to me, and to have the discipline and humility to obey by serving as He wills even when it doesn’t match up to what I plan or think.
I spent my last night there meditating on this while girding myself up for the return home, knowing that His voice gets harder to hear and His will feels less clear in the chaos and noise of my everyday space. I waited at the gate to board the plane, anxious to get seated, anticipating a few hours of concentrated reading/studying/writing time as I processed through my copious notes, aware that my patience would have to increase back at home, given the distractions and people who constantly need me in some form or fashion.
As usual, God had a different idea; and it became obvious that my testing would begin the moment I stepped onto the plane.
I made my way down the aisle and found my seat. Looking at the row behind mine, I discovered that a family of five was sitting there – two parents and three children below the age of four…on their first flight as a family. Two of the kids were wired, bouncing in their seats with excitement and chattering non-stop when I made eye contact, the baby was already not happy to be there, her mommy looked incredibly stressed and was on the verge of a small freak-out (every mom recognizes that look, we’ve all been there), and her husband was trying to follow orders as fast as she was spitting them out. Turning my head to the seat next to mine, I saw a lovely teen girl, who I had noticed at boarding because she was escorted onto the plane as it was her first time flying alone and she had special needs.
All thoughts of focused study time flew out the proverbial window at this point.
I didn’t get upset, not really. I could almost hear the question: “What now? What are you going to do? Do you remember the point?”
And I found that I actually did. I smiled at the kids as they jabbered excitedly about their first time on a plane, their first time going to Texas, all the things they thought would happen during the flight. I joked with their mommy about the adventure of flying with three kids, and how we had just done so last month. I had a lovely visit with my new friend, Misty, as she told me her entire life story and exclaimed over how fun flying is. She chatted about her best friend, and how he would miss her while she was gone, and about how her sister fixed her very own room up since she was staying there for a whole month.
Transparent moment: I might have given myself a tiny mental pat on the back, preening at my cheerfully smooth handling of this curve ball….which set me up for a bit more correction.
The real fun began when the plane started moving. Misty was quite insistent I look out the window with her to see take-off; and then she began to loudly proclaim that she hoped we had a good pilot because planes can crash, you know. She saw it on the news once, so she knows it’s true. It could happen to any plane, even ours.
Those of you who know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, may already be chuckling. For those of you just tuning in, let me bring you up to speed.
I don’t fly well. At all.
I hate flying. I am terrified of planes. I generally spend take-off and landing with my eyes closed praying and/or singing Amazing Grace under my breath as I try not to cry or vomit. I envision plane crashes with tremendous ease. Every instance is cause for alarm.
This flight was oversold. Which means they kept asking people to give up their seats for vouchers. It also means the luggage space was over capacity, so they had several of people check their carry-on at the gate. More luggage means heavier plane. What if we went over the weight limit? What if they underestimated fuel needs, not realizing how packed the flight was? I was already shaking as I boarded.
Before take-off, the flight attendant came and asked the guy in front of me if he would switch seats with someone in the exit row who didn’t feel comfortable sitting there. The man who ended up sitting in front of me was a perfectly healthy, normal-looking gentleman in his 50’s or 60’s. Why would he switch? Why would he be uncomfortable? Did he know something? Had he placed an explosive device under his seat?
Apparently, if there’s not a crash, I’ll create a terrorist.
It’s ridiculous, I know, but I can’t help it. Every time I fly, I mentally end up with my children orphaned and my husband a widower who (after a less-than-meets-my-approval period of time) marries a 25 year-old blonde aerobics instructor who has no idea how to properly care for either him or his kids.
I am a lunatic. But, I’m a lunatic who listens when the promptings are so very obvious.
What else was there to do, other than agree that yes, planes can crash and assure her that our pilot was much too skilled to let it happen? How else could I respond, except to lean over and look out the window at everything she pointed at while maintaining a pleasant facade as I fervently prayed I wouldn’t throw up all over her? Who better to sit there, comfortably unfazed by this beautiful and special child of God than a mother who works with special children as a career?
Even as He works to teach us lessons, He provides….. for everyone.
And what a lesson He was driving home. He reminded me, as He does with increasing regularity, that the call to love my neighbor, the command to love His children, always comes first. Always. Without exception. Without equivocation. Without end.
Perhaps because I was more open than usual to listening, He decided I had done reasonably well, and to further drive home His ability to provide for and pursue us, He threw me a bone. About an hour into the flight, the kids settled down, the baby stopped crying, and my friend decided to take a nap.
So, I got to write and journal and study a bit. And the exact instant I lifted the pen from my final sentence, Misty woke up, ready to resume our chat and share her M & M’s.
God is so good. And I was so humbled at the reminder of His goodness (following that tiny slap on the wrist).
He thinks of everything, and loves us enough to cover the details that fill our minds and trouble or excite our hearts. No whisper is too silent. No prayer is too small. No slip-up is too large. No accomplishment goes unnoticed….even if He has to guide us in baby steps to the goal.
What a gift. What a blessing. What a Father.
Solidarity, sisters. When He speaks, listen.
As I mentioned in the previous post, we did a fair amount of swimming and snorkeling on our vacation. Our kids are part fish, being river rats and all, so this was no surprise.
Our first snorkeling venture was not a smooth one, however. As much fun as we had jumping into the river, the freezing water and lack of visibility made our little Bug very nervous. The mangrove trees were overpowering, the water was dark, and the designated swimming path was quite narrow. Little One was not happy at all, and was ready to be done before we even started.
When she refused to be comforted or cajoled into embarking on this new adventure, her daddy swam over and placed her on his back. As you can see by her expression, she tolerated it….just barely. Patiently, he swam at a steady pace, despite the challenge of a little passenger. She looked so adorable, perched like a tiny turtle on his back with her blue goggles, pink life vest and serious expression.
About halfway down the canote ( the name for the part freshwater, part saltwater rivers that run from inland to the lagoons), Gregg said he felt her begin to relax a little. Her death grip loosened, and she sat more comfortably. He felt bad that she was missing out on the action, since her view was limited to trees and the water line, and the fish and other creatures were down below. So, he raised his head and explained to her that they were going to implement a system. He would swim on as she rode, looking below for interesting things to show her. When he saw something, he would raise his hand on the side she was to look, and she could duck her face into the water to see the wonders underneath.
I got to witness their teamwork in action as they came down the final stretch into the lagoon. The boys and I had reached the end faster and were waiting on them to catch up. I stood watching, along with a fair number of other guests and tourists, as the pair of them swam into sight. Suddenly, Gregg raised his left arm, finger pointing up. Without changing expression or pausing for more than a quick breath, Emry leaned over and stuck her face in the water on the side of his raised hand. After a few seconds, she sat back up to continue her journey, repeating the process several more times to either side as directed.
It was one of the most precious things I’ve ever seen in my life.
I had tears in my eyes even as I laughed – as did more than a few others who witnessed this display of a nurturing father and trusting child.
Thinking on it later, I couldn’t help but contemplate on what a great literal representation of God’s love this anecdote is.
Matthew 11:28-29 – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
It’s such a simple, yet profound concept, isn’t it?
When we’re tired, or scared, or can’t see clearly enough, all we have to do is reach for Father, and He will carry us.
He doesn’t mind a bit. We’re not too heavy for him. He knows the way, and will get us there safely. It’s what He does.
And when we begin to relax, when we finally figure out that He’s got us and it’s all under control, He’ll know we’re ready for His signal. He’ll start giving us a sign or two, here or there.
He’ll point out when and where we need to look, because He doesn’t want us to miss the good stuff.
He’s all about letting us in on the good stuff. We just have to trust Him, then watch for His signal and look where He points.
Solidarity, sisters. There’s no shame in hitching a ride.
There’s nothing quite like a family vacation, is there? The planning and processing, the hunt for the perfect location, the fun of picking a time and place, the non-fun of squeezing a budget together…. It’s an experience like no other, and summer is the perfect time to pull it off.
We’ve never done a big vacation with all five of us, so this year seemed like a good time to start. After much debate and discussion, we decided on Mexico, the Maya Riviera to be exact. I hyper-ventilated my way through airline reservations (we all know how much I love to fly), figured out the resort and accomodations, filled out passport applications and ran around like a crazy person to get them for the kids (that’s a blog unto itself); we coordinated calendars, shopped, packed, made 57 lists and somehow got everyone to the airport on time with all necessary pieces of self and luggage.
Perhaps it was the exhaustion resulting from such a herculean effort, or perhaps it was the distraction of having all three of our children on an international flight as their first time in an airplane….or perhaps it was my amusement at the flight attendant that kept sneaking us contraband snacks (he would hide them under his apron, then lean over pretending to ask for my drink order while dropping cans of Pringles or bags of cookies in my lap and then pointing to kids – he was smitten with Emry), but my usual flying anxiety/nausea was more under control than usual. So, yay for that. It helped make up for the fact that I had to get out of my seat to take Emry to the potty every 10 minutes.
We made it safely through the Cancun airport, sailed through customs and smiled as Drew practiced his Spanish with every customs agent and airport or resort employee he saw. It was late when we got to the resort, so our real fun began the next morning.
What a great place this was! I cannot say enough good things about Tres Rios Haciendas – if you ever have the chance to go there, do so. Food, staff, views….fabulous, every bit.
We purposefully didn’t buy any international plans for our phones, and the resort only allowed internet access for one device per room (best idea ever), so we were unplugged for seven days. Seven whole days of family fun and togetherness with no interruptions. It was amazing.
There is something to be said for times of rebuilding and bonding in your core group. It’s easy to overlook, and gets away from us if we’re not careful.
We were a unit, totally and completely together, in a strange place, with a different language, new experiences and non-typical foods.
Our kids ate it up. They tried everything! Every. Single. Thing. Food, activities, sports, communicating…..they were in the thick of it as we cheered them on.
They were addicted to virgin Pina Coladas, and our two non-Spanish speakers learned very quickly how to order them in Spanish. They would do so quite frequently, bringing a “round” for everyone at regular intervals (at least they were serving each other, right?).
We did get tweeted by the lifeguards more than once. I can’t point fingers here, since Mommy was the first one in trouble – apparently, they do not want you doing back flips off the planters in the center of the pool. Who knew?
Also, our children can’t resist – if they see a bridge, they want to jump off of it. It’s a compulsion. We’ll work on it.
Safety concerns aside. we stuck together and learned just how fun we are as a whole. We had conversations, and laughed at jokes. We were amazed anew at the differences in our children’s personalities, and the speed with which each picked up particular skills. Drew was a natural under water at scuba (he’s got a few years before he can go on a dive) and snorkelling, and his Spanish was a beautiful surprise to the staff and vendors. Luke put his salsa skills to good use, dancing on the beach with his mom (and he wasn’t even embarrassed by me), and blew both his dad and the dive instructors away on his first scuba adventure. Emry jumped, swam, played and charmed everywhere she went. She made friends at every turn, and the staff was literally in tears when they had to say goodbye to her.
It was fun, yes, but it was also inspiring to watch our kids experience so many cool things, and to embrace the foreign with abandon. We lose a little of that as we grow, I think. We forget to let go of our preconceived notions and our comfort, and to just jump in with both feet, shouting for joy and ready for adventure.
Different doesn’t have to intimidate; it can exhilarate just as easily.
And whether we like the experience enough to repeat it, or discover definitively that a particular enterprise is not for us, the lesson is in the learning. There’s a humility to that, and growth that comes from it.
We spent seven days together as a family, and it was glorious. We found out new things about each other. We watched each other soak up every drop of verve and vivacity from our time in Mexico.
That’s LIVING. It only works if you’re all in.
Solidarity, sisters. The family that plays together, stays together.