Tuesday, May 9, 2017

You are God's Workmanship

For YOU are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do.

For You are God's workmanship.

For you are God's workmanship.

For you are God's Workmanship.

Last Sunday after the worship, after the graduating seniors (what seemed to me about thirty of them) took the microphone and shared a word of encouragement to the younger students, after our high school ministry celebrated Senior Sunday with students filling the room and parents lining the walls... this was our youth pastor's charge to the students:

You are God's workmanship in Christ Jesus.

Several of the students' words were emotional, but it was Michael's firm charge that put a lump in my throat (ok, and perhaps I got a little teary before that too). Michael repeated it several times, slowly and deliberately.

You are God's workmanship in Christ Jesus.

What if we lived like we believed it?

You ~ yes, you. And me. Not just Adam and Even and Noah and Moses. You and me in 2017.
God's ~ the Creator, the King of Creativity, the Perfect Artist.
Workmanship ~ creation, showpiece, work of art.

Several years ago we took a family cruise and enjoyed the evening shows with a cast of highly trained singers and dancers and musicians. They entertained our packed theater throughout the week with lavish costumes and choreography. One evening, however, we crowded around the circular bannister fifteen stories up as the ship's crew put on a "pre-show" in atrium. We peered waaaay down as guests circled the railings on every floor, our eyes trained on the modest stage at the bottom of the cylinder staircase. We strained to hear several comedians in broken English, endured a few dance groups, but then she emerged ~ a young woman in a simple white dress. She was introduced as a cabin maid. But when she sang out in clear, perfect pitch, her song floated up that staircase and into the hearts of all those within earshot. We were mesmerized. It was a privilege to hear that young woman's song. I imagined her days and weeks spent hidden behind quiet duty, living in cramped quarters with hundreds of other crew from small countries across the world. But given a few brief moments to shine, she shared the gift of her voice. What she was created to do.

You are God's workmanship in Christ Jesus.

I saw it recently in an elderly woman behind the counter at our neighborhood Braums. Running in to grab a gallon of milk and a few groceries, I ordered a limeade with soda and extra limes. I paid and moved over to wait, and the older woman never even looked up. She shuffled around, making my drink to order without hardly a glance my way. I wondered what circumstances put her, advanced in years, behind a fast-food counter. She shuffled back, handed me the hand-made limeade, and I took a sip as the next customer moved up. I'd made my way nearly to the door when she hollered over to me, “Well, do you like it??”
She looked straight at me with an expectant grin, her clear blue eyes boring straight into mine, waiting for an answer. 
“Yes m’am, absolutely. It’s perfect.”
She nodded in approval, flashed the rest of that big smile, and then got to business with the next person in line.

You are God's workmanship in Christ Jesus.

It's why we love to watch American Idol or The Voice. It's why Britain's Got Talent's Susan Boyles garnered more than 207 million views in her audition video. It's why we ESPN streams constantly on our TVs and devices. It's a privilege to get to see people do what they were created to do.

Tall, short, thick, skinny, athletic or not, musical or not, brilliant or not, God created us as His workmanship. What freedom. If we believe His Word, we can be confident that our bodies, personalities, minds and hearts were crafted to precision for the specific works He planned in advance for us to do.

What is it that we were created to do, whether in our twenties or fifties or eighties? What is it that our children were created to do? Not once they're grown up but right now ~ as children and teens ~ what is their little corner of creativity to offer?

May we rest in God's great, unique creation of us, and then ~ let's get after it! Because we, my friends, are God's workmanship in Christ Jesus!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Practicing Gratitude 3.24.17

- Several days with Brogdons here ~ extended our Spring Break half a week!


 - Basden’s school choir ~ Superior sweep yesterday. Mrs. Adair is absolutely amazing and a GIFT. Brought all the kids kolaches yesterday morning (has brought them donuts in the past), took loads of students to and from Dunbar throughout the day and evening to compete, makes her class a safe place for the kids

- Hud’s shoulder - separated AC joint - that according to Dr. Conway yesterday, he’s out for remainder of the season. He was hoping to be back practicing & playing Monday, such a disappointment. Thank you Lord that you are WITH him and are growing/ teaching him during this time. PHS baseball coaches. That we can practice gratitude in all things.

- Science fair - one of my absolute least favorite things. But already I'm thankful for it. Thank you that Essie is working by herself - she was so disappointed not to be included in a group, and I was disappointed for her. But it gave us a chance to snuggle on the porch last night and work on it - that was awesome. She's motivated and likes her project, and if I can enjoy science fair then You are truly a God who can do more than we can ask or imagine.

- Bran's SCS baseball team - that he's enjoying the team and coaches so much, Grant's steady cheering; playing TVS the other night and getting to see so many dear friends - these boys are growing up
Nico pitching to Bran
Bran pitching to Brock
Extra fun to have the Brogdons at the game
Brock, Bran, Miguel
- Coach Howard taking the time to actually develop these boys are players - skills and mentally - has taken the time and energy to truly train Branson through errors and mental mistakes and I'm so grateful. Coach Duran, Coach Wimpee, Coach Higgins... Bran couldn't ask for a better coaches

- Nikki's prophetic text

- “Jason” - our Roomba - vacuums my downstairs almost every morning. I don't have to practice being grateful for Jason

- Awful parenting nights. Thankful in all things. That you are a God of second, third, fourth, fifth... a million chances.

- Looking forward to working CCBC Kids Kamp with teens (and Chrissie!) again

- Transparency among our Bible study ~ Lori's leadership, Lysa Terkeurt's teaching ~ "Finding I Am"

- Basden’s easy, easy personality, makes everything so smooth

- Some big decisions we're chewing on ~ that we can trust Your wisdom and guidance when the way forward seems murky

- Spring Break ~ we’ve come a LOOONG way from this time last year. I see your fruit in our family, Lord, and while we are always incomplete, thank you for showing up and growing us towards You

- Twins at the park
These two both bring so much joy!
- Sweet Essie and how much I love snuggling with her in the mornings


- FRIDAY.  We made it through another week ~ and this Fri morn is especially wonderful with the rain. Enjoying a cup of hot coffee and being snuggled under a blanket on the back porch ~ truly a gift

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles...   1 Chronicles 16:11-12

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Please Help Me!"

Our tired bodies climbing the stairs together, Essie headed to her room, and I headed to mine, relieved that she was retiring so willingly. I set my sights on a long, hot shower to wash off the day. Not necessarily a difficult day, just a long, normal one, and I relished the late evening solitude.

Several minutes later, under the heated, streaming water, I heard Esther cry out: an urgent, sharp sob, high-pitched and intense.
Her cry crescendoed into a wail, "Please help me!"
More crying.
"Please, please help me!"

What ten year old cries that?! My heart melted right into the drain along with the running water.
"Please help me!"
Pounding footsteps thundered up the stairs, and I heard muffled voices through the wall that separates my shower and the stairway. I bounded out of the shower, grabbed a towel and rounded the staircase sopping wet. Corbin had already gotten to Essie, along with Bran and Basden. Essie continued to wail and cry while everyone else huddled around her foot.

"She stepped on an earring," Bran told me, raising an eyebrow.
I would love to say here that Branson and Basden acted out of the utmost compassion, but seeing the smirks on their faces, I sent strong eye-to-eye communication that they be nice. Do not make fun. I took note that they had both run to her rescue. But seeing the severity of the impaled earring stem lessened their sympathies.

In Esther's defense, it was a decent puncture. She'd leaped from her furry rug into bed, and in doing so put all her weight on the bayonet-earring. And it was her "starter" earring, the one from getting her ears pierced, so the stem is thick and solid 14k gold. Not real willing to yield as it struck her tender, unsuspecting foot.

Checking in on her later, I found Corbin snuggled in bed with her, both sleeping soundly. Evidently she fell asleep whimpering and slightly offended, but I imagine comforted and reassured in her daddy's arms.

As for me, even after rounding that corner and realizing it was minor, even after seeing her snoozing contentedly, the thing that kept echoing in my mind was that awful wail, "Please help me!"

Nothing would have kept Corbin and me from running to help our daughter. I don't know what Corbin was doing downstairs when he heard her cry out, but it wouldn't have mattered. Even as sinful, imperfect parents, absolutely nothing would have kept us from dropping everything to save Essie.

So how much more does our Father in Heaven RUN and rush and bend to save us?
Sometimes we get ourselves into the mess, and sometimes the mess just happens. But in His perfect love, it doesn't matter.
He delights in saving, loving, comforting us.

I think of the "Please help me!" cries I've heard all around me just this week... failing grades, panic attacks from stress, an unexpected pregnancy, bad phone calls from teachers, biopsies, and setting the tombstone on a child's grave. All of these things ~ and yes even earring impalements ~ the Lord delights in saving us.

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will you give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!  Matt 7:9-11

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What I Cannot Do

Sitting on the edge of his bed, when the clock strikes much-too-late, I exercise all my self control to listen, listen, listen. Another late-night conversation, where emotions flourish, pressed hard by fatigue and a long day. I'm grateful for the transparent conversation, but it results in a sleepless night for me, laying awake with worry and regret.

"What can I do? How can I make things better for him? What should I have already done differently to help him avoid feeling like this?"

Happiness. Goodness.
My children's, my husband's, anyone's but my own.

I'm slowly learning, and accepting... I cannot possibly manufacture another person's happiness, or their goodness.
No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I love them.
It's not on me.

Some things I can count on:
- My children (and husband) will struggle, and
- I am powerless to determine their happiness.

And if their happiness is my goal, I will come up short every time.
The same can be said for their goodness.

I'm a slow learner, but I am learning. And guess what?? I'm finding joy and freedom in the process.

In his recent book, "Parenting," Paul David Tripp writes,
"Good parents... have come to understand that they have no power whatsoever to change their children and that without God's wisdom they wouldn't even know what is best for their children."
Ok wow, that's a statement. Again:
Here's the bottom line for every parent: the change that has to happen in each of your children, you can't create. In fact, nowhere in his Word has God tasked you with the responsibility to create it. Good parenting is about becoming okay with the fact that you are powerless to change your child. In fact, good parenting is about celebrating the fact that God has and never will put the burden of change on you. Because changing your children is a burden that we could never bear, God bore that burden for us by sending his Son to be the author of lasting personal change. The burden that caused his death liberates us parents and gives new life to our children. Now that's good news! So our job is simple; it's not to create change, but to be humble and willing instruments of change in the hands of the one and only author of change. (p. 62)
I think if I'd read this book five years ago, those statements might have flown right over my head. Or perhaps I would have disagreed, thinking the author had raised extra-difficult children. And I'm pretty sure I have a few friends that upon reading that paragraph would burn the book.

But as for me, with three teenagers and one pre-teen (let's be honest, FOUR teenagers) in the house, I wholeheartedly agree.

And it's a relief, to be honest. A relief that it's not my job to create lasting behavior and ultimately change my children's hearts. We can model and guide and love and certainly pray, but change is not in our parenting job description. 

What freedom!!

One of my dear friends recently challenged me to pray two things:
1 - Lord, show me my sin
2 - Help me to see my child through your eyes

Oh. my. word.
And so far, if I could sum up my take-aways from Tripp's "Parenting" in a couple of sentences, it would be the same.

Lord, show me my sin.
And help me to love your children ~ these precious ones you've entrusted to Corbin and me ~ well.

A few more quotes I'm chewing on that qualify these ideas:

"Mercy ministry always comes down to this: you can help, but only Jesus can heal." - Rosaria Butterfield, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (describing caring for foster children, but I'm beginning to view my parenting through this lens)
"It's my job to love you, it's God's job to make you good." - Ruth Bell Graham  ~ to her husband(!!)

And last but not least, of course I hear Cappy's voice, "A person is about as happy as they decide to be."

Amen and amen. Let us lean in, love well, and prayerfully wrestle demons over our children as necessary. But then may we leave the happiness and heart change to Jesus, the One true Healer.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

When Kids Talk with their Eyes

"I wish I could have a whole conversation with him about these things, see what he thinks about them."
"Well Dad, take him to dinner. If you offer Chipotle he won't turn you down, and you'll have his undivided attention over a grilled chicken burrito."
"He has time for that? Dinner? Ok if he misses time with you all?"
"Um... yes!"

And so they did. Last week Dad texted Branson for a Wednesday night Chipotle date, sent him a copy of the article he wanted to discuss, and asked Bran to read it before they met. I hadn't read the article, didn't know what was on Dad's heart. I didn't need to. As far as I was concerned, it was between him and Bran. All I heard from my end was, "Cappy wants to take me to dinner," and off they went.

In her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosaria Butterfield describes bringing a young orphan into their home. This little boy, "J," had been horrifically abused by his own family, rejected by multiple foster families, and was labeled mute and mentally retarded.

As Rosaria prayed with her children and prepared them for J's arrival, she confessed her fear about communicating with this child who could not talk. Her young son, Knox gave her that look and said, "Mom, kids talk with their eyes. We will understand him."

The Butterfields spent a week embracing this little guy, welcoming them into their home, dressing him in clean clothes and shoes that were not two sizes too small, drawing him into homeschool lessons around a sunny table, and allowing him to relax and engage in a warm family. Within just a couple of days J demonstrated his bright mind and began to talk.  Rosaria writes,
Jesus is the word made flesh. We take the role of words for granted, we for whom literacy is as common as dirt. I don't think we "taught" J how to talk that week... I think what really happened is that God sanctified and then answered our prayers. We prayed that J would talk, but God taught us to listen and respond to a scared boy who at first talked with his eyes. Then, I think when we learned to listen, it became safe for J to talk. That is, I believe, the bottom line of the Christian life.
When Branson walked in the door from Chipotle after his couple of hours with my dad, the rest of us were shuffling around the kitchen eating our dinner.
"How'd it go?" I asked.
Bran's bright eyes shone with invigoration, "Cappy and I think alike. We're going to write a book."
"Wow ~ what'd y'all talk about?" I knew it was a ridiculous question, a poor assumption that Branson could actually relay their discussion as our kitchen buzzed with plates and forks clinking, ESPN filling the background, and our kids needling each other with complaints of smacking and taking too much food.
But even so, Bran pulled out his phone and checked his notes for accuracy, "A person is about as happy as they decide to be."

Well, that's interesting, considering my primary prayers for this kid have been wrapped around contentment.

A couple of days later as I got to catch up with Dad, he said he started their dinner conversation with one idea of how things would go, but after asking Bran some questions and getting a feel for how he was doing, it went in quite a different direction. Instead of lecturing and teaching, Dad asked and listened. He took the time to let Bran relax and engage. And even though Dad was able to share some of the article and challenge Bran a bit, what Dad seemed to enjoy most was how much he learned from his teenage grandson. Listening and collaborating and learning.

"Ton, I saw his eyes take it in. All that I was trying to communicate. He got it."

Whether it's 8-year-old "J" surfacing from turbulence and neglect, or 16-year-old Branson figuring out where he fits, at times each of us are without words, needing to be heard and listened to when we talk with our eyes.

I can't replicate Dad's conversation with Bran. It's a role that only Cappy could fill. I see Papa doing something similar as he takes our boys fishing and to the movies, engaging in a way that allows them to relax and engage. I've seen our Young Life leaders and church youth leaders and friends do the same ~ building relationships with our kids that allow them to relax and engage and speak with their eyes when they need to. 

As Rosaria said, "This, I believe, is the bottom line of the Christian life."
I could not agree more.

Bran and Cappy, circa 2006