"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

As It Should Be

Having married off both of my sons to wonderful women last year and now marrying off my daughter in a few months to a wonderful young man, I only thought it appropriate and required to read Annie Chapman’s book The Mother in Law Dance. Though a good read for any mother who finds herself with a new in-law, it’s especially intended for mothers and daughters-in-law.

Here’s how the book begins: The candles are lit, the room glows with a soft yellow hue, the groom, the pastor, and the wedding party are in place at the altar. As all eyes eagerly watch the closed door at the chapel’s entrance, suddenly the air is changed from the sweet stillness of anticipation to the first notes of the beautiful music chosen for the wedding processional. As the doors swing open, the bride’s heart races at the sound of the melodic cue to make that long-awaited, slow walk down the aisle of matrimony. But as the song plays, the lovely bride does not realize that she is not the only lady in the room who has been cued by the music. Her mother-in-law-to-be is also called to respond to the melody. While the young woman in white moves gracefully with the music toward her chosen one, the song calls the mother of the groom to graciously step to the side. In reality, the wedding processional is not just for the bride, it is also a cue for a lifelong dance to begin for two special women in one man’s life.

Life is certainly about transition – and this one is key to future years of healthy family function. I certainly haven’t mastered the mother-in-law thing yet, but I’m working on it. I’ve seen a measure of success, I think, but I’ve also had my failures.

As I look back over years of praying for my children’s future spouses, I see the faithfulness of God’s hand: not that He formed the spouses into what I wanted, but that He molded my prayers to fit my children’s needs. I bow to such a wise God.

Both of my son’s wives are wonderful and caring individuals who continue to make me feel a part of their husband’s lives. Whereas guys don’t do a lot of emailing or calling, I hear from the girls often as they send newsy notes, calls or emails updating me on the latest. I appreciate that so much in them.

But yesterday I was hit with what I would call my first real test. I received a call from Kristin about 4:20 telling me that Robert was sick and they were on their way to the hospital. As far as I’m concerned, anytime blood is involved, there’s a need for concern. Sandy told me that if I wanted to go, he wanted me to leave quickly to make it before dark. I was set on go. But of course, I knew what I had to do. I called and asked the newlyweds if they wanted me to come. And at this point, the answer was no. And as much as I wanted to be there, I knew their answer was the right one – and I rested in it.

But my sweet daughter-in-love knew this mother’s heart. She texted me constantly, giving me the moment by moment plays. She even sent pictures of Robert lying in the hospital bed! And then a sweet one of him resting peacefully after the meds had kicked in. At 9:00 she texted to say all was well and that they were leaving to go home. And to think that he didn’t even need his mama.

So much changes when our adult children fall in love and marry. But it’s indeed for the good and just as God would have it. And quite frankly, as I would have it, too.

Thank you, sweet girls, for loving my sons. I bless you both.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Rare and Unusual Family

Sandy and I frequent a little mom and pop “diner” here in town. You’ll find us there about every Saturday morning for breakfast and every Sunday after church for lunch. Even on a weekday, we might stop in for a real homemade hamburger. When leaving a couple of weeks ago, Sandy made the comment, “I swear, even if the food was terrible,” (which it’s not), “I’d still come here just because of the people.” And that’s the truth.

Though it’s rare that we go in and don’t see a familiar face, even the not familiar have grown recognizable. We may not know the names of all the customers, but we certainly know their faces. And as for the staff – dishwasher and cooks included, we not only know each of their names, I even have their birthdays written on my calendar at home so I can make sure they get their favorite cake.

Where else but My Sister’s CafĂ© can a waitress pull out her cell phone and show you pictures of her dog? Or another tell about mud-bogging the night before? If it’s slow, they’ll even take their shoes off and sit down with you for awhile. And if it’s busy, we pour our own coffee and bus our own tables.

We have jokingly called it “ministry,” but lately, it has been more than that. We actually were saddened when we learned that a favorite waitress (who dubbed Sandy “Sunshine”) decided not to come back from “vacationing” in Florida last week. Not only was she tired, but her dad was sick and her marriage on the rocks. I wish I had done more.

And it’s certainly not odd to have Millie, the owner, spend the entire meal with you – and we don’t mind. Today was one of those days for us. But each time we learn a little more of her life story. She came from a broken home; was raised by her dad who was an alcoholic and took care of her grandfather who was an invalid; has a sister who is bipolar; lost not one but two children to death; suffered for 5 years from agoraphobia and wouldn’t leave her house; lost her husband before it was time. She’s no doubt a survivor. But to just have a casual acquaintance with Millie, you’d never know these things. Her life is characterized by joy and a deep faith hammered out on the anvil of life.

As for me? I was feeling sorry for myself tonight ...

Maybe I need to visit My Sister's again soon, sit awhile, and just get a little perspective.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Two are better than one

Sometimes it seems that ordinary moments are just that. Ordinary. So I've been struggling to find something to pen. Actually, I've been struggling period because life has seemed hard lately. Discouragement, insecurity, loneliness. So tonight, as I've thought about God moments, I've thought about people who have encouraged me over the last week.

The first is my pastor who's not afraid to speak boldness over me when I'm ready to throw in the towel. He not only prays for me and blesses me, but he's quick to encourage me not to let the enemy put his one finger on one issue and destroy the work God is doing in all the other areas of my life. Thank you, friend.

The second is a mentor who allows me to regurgitate on her on a regular basis -- and then tells me she enjoys it. What I give to this relationship, I have no clue. But she continues to welcome me into her life and offers me a safe place. And I am so grateful. Thank you, friend.

And lastly, the Lord has brought such a special friend my way who prays for me fiercely and who is not afraid to tell me like it is. Her prayers usually begin, "Here we go again, Lord," for I'm constantly sharing my own insecurities with her. I can count on her to take it straight to the throne room of heaven. Thank you, friend.

Surely, the writer of Ecclesiastes was right when he said, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. ... And a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (4:9-10, 12b). It's not just the companion -- as wonderful as all of these are for me. It's that third cord -- Christ Himself who binds us together. But it is their hearts, their hands, and their mouths through whom He works. Maybe He knows that sometimes one just needs a little flesh.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

You Go

Well, I've been sitting on this one for awhile -- trying to make some sense of it as well as trying to figure out how to put it down on paper. Sometimes God does something so out of the ordinary that it leaves me having to let it form in me for awhile and seeing if anything comes out of it. This is the case here.

I along with 18,999 other women attended the Deeper Still Conference a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta. Whenever I take someone for the first time, I always tell them, "Be prepared as it can be a little overwhelming." The stage played host to some of today's most anointed female teachers: Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, and Kay Arthur. And there's no better worship leader in my estimation that Travis Cottrell. Even Mandisa of American Idol led us in some worship time.

I always go to these conferences expecting to hear God speak -- and this time was no different. In fact, I begged Him to let me hear a word. But while the teaching was good and the worship wonderful, nothing seemed to come my way. On Friday evening, it was announced that something special was going to happen at 8:50 the next morning -- 10 minutes before the conference was to begin. I along with 4 other girls in our group were there at 7:30, ready to rush in and get seats. (This is where the overwhelming part comes in -- trying to get seats while 18,999 other women do the same.) After making sure our seats were secure -- which they never really were, but that's another blog story -- Julia Nell and I decided to go check out the book tables to see if there was anything new and looked interesting for our next ladies' Bible study. With purchases in hand, which only amounted to a Deeper Still tee shirt each, we got in line to pay.

If you've never attended one of these events, I'm not sure you can understand this next part. The concourse is normally shoulder to shoulder women. You stand in line to get in the arena; you wait in line to get your food or drink; you most certainly spend time in the LifeWay check out line. And to walk straight into a bathroom stall is nothing short of a miracle from God Himself. With that many women there, that's just the way it is. One does not get in a hurry.

But I was still a little miffed with myself for finding myself in the purchase line when this "special" was to be in only minutes. I even considered laying my shirt down and waiting until another time; but I didn't -- praise God. As Julia Nell and I waited and edged VERY slowly to the counter, I noticed a woman up in front of us who seemed to be having some trouble -- like she had taken a fall or something by the way she was rubbing herself. They had called security to her and it seemed she was assuring them she was okay. Slowly, we crept forward. I could hear the activity and music inside the arena and kept wondering what was going on and wishing I were in there. After all, I had missed the worship session the evening before due to having to purchase lunch tickets for our group, so I was really looking forward to this one.

And then it happened, this whole thing that I've been sitting on now for 2 weeks -- not quite sure what to do with it. The lady who had been the focus of attention moments earlier finished paying for her items and then sank to the floor. And no one did a thing. We all just stood there and looked at her for what seemed like forever. I'm talking swarms of women standing there all watching to see what was going to happen next -- my being right there amongst them. I kept thinking, "Why isn't anybody going to her?" And then God answered my prayer. He spoke. "You go."

Now here's something you need to know about me. Contrary to what you see and what might be portrayed, I do not like to be the center of attention. My stomach still suffers when I have to get up in front of large numbers to speak and my hands very often shake uncontrollably when I play the piano. So the idea of pulling myself out of the crowd and walking to this woman put me in full sweat mode as well as aerobic heartbeat. I don't know how long I argued with God about it, probably not as long as it seemed, but He and I did have a strong conversation about it. So knowing time was running out as the paramedics would be arriving quickly, I handed my tee shirt to Julia Nell and said, "I'll be back in a minute." I approached the woman, got down on the floor with her, put my arm around her and prayed. As I stood and turned around, those who had been called were approaching from behind us, and as they took over, I kept my head down (sort of like the ostrich in the sand -- hoping nobody could see me) and moved back to Julia Nell and the comfort of just being next to a friend.

After a moment, the lady waiting behind me -- yes, we were STILL waiting -- said, "I could never have done that," to which I replied, "Well, the Lord didn't tell you to. He told me." She proceeded to tell me that I'll probably never know until I reach the other side of eternity what had really just happened. I guess time will tell that, but for the moment, it was just that -- a very ordinary moment turned very quickly holy, not because I got out of my comfort zone, but because I heard the voice of God speak directly to me, for anytime the God of the universe chooses to break silence, it is a very holy and sovereign moment. And may I add that He doesn't mince words.

When I returned to my seat, I asked my friend Kari Ann what the special had been and what I had missed. She told me that Beth and Priscilla had donned sunglasses and rapped with the praise team. A purely fun and light hearted moment. But God had placed me where He wanted me and He had spoken.

As one friend told me, "It sounds like you had a Mary moment in a Martha world." Maybe my friend was right. Maybe I did kneel at the feet of Jesus for just a short moment. Maybe there really was something "special" that happened at 8:50.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Picking Blueberries

My blueberry bushes are awash with fruit right now, and each day's labor brings in its bounty. My harvesting efforts call to mind a favorite portion of poem, and this morning, having just returned from my "garden," I thought I'd share it with you. It's an excerpt from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh:

"Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries..."
Think on that.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sweet One from the Past

I enjoyed a most holy moment recently with a sweet, sweet friend from Texas -- and his beautiful new bride Lisa -- who stopped by last week, put their feet under my table and stayed the night. When in Vidalia, Chris and I met together on a weekly basis with two other ministers of music, Don and Phillip, to encourage each other and sing. (They'd sing, I'd play.) What a special time it was. And so was this recent visit. By the way, Lisa is a worship leader herself and has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. I think one of the reasons that's so is because her voice coincides with her heart. Thanks, guys, for including me in your sabbatical!

The Newlyweds: Chris and Lisa Seaton