Linky Interwebby Awesomeness 07.27.09

Last night our pastor finished a sermon series on the book of Ruth that has crawled all up in my head and my heart and pretty much left me in a fresh state of awe and wonder.

Except that I’m going to have to listen to yesterday’s sermon again because I spent the better part of last night’s service dealing with a six year-old who would not stop 1) looking at the clock on the back wall 2) using his flip-flops as action figures 3) leaning over to me and whispering, “THIS IS THE BORING-EST THING I EVER HEARD!”

The parenting, it is humbling. I’m just sayin’.

So anyway. The series.

Love Story

I hope you get to watch or listen – these messages will bless your heart.

Hope y’all are having a great Monday!

Internets, We Have A Picture

So several of y’all have mentioned wanting to SEE A PICTURE OF THE AMY, ALREADY.

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photo by Kay Williams

Here’s Chris Sligh (I didn’t say a word to him, either, because CHICKEN GOES BOK BOK) and the oh-so-lovely Amy Grant at ASCAP’s Christian Music Awards.

And a couple of things occur to me as I look at this picture (a picture I did not take, by the way – ASCAP had a real-live professional photographer in attendance).

First, Amy Grant looks almost exactly like she looked twenty years ago. The only difference is that she’s even prettier now.

Second, some people navigate college and their early 20s without missing a beat in their faith. I was not one of those people. I really struggled from about 21-25. There were a few mountaintops (the memory of one retreat in particular continues to be very special to me) – but mostly lots and lots of valleys. Lots of bad choices. Lots of pretending that I had my act together when in reality I was pretty stinkin’ miserable. Lots of trying to distance myself from God because I wanted to do things my way and on my terms – not to mention that I figured He wouldn’t want to have a whole lot to do with me given ALL THE REBELLION.

Anyhoo.

Even in that not-so-sunshiney time, when I didn’t want to surrender to anything that I perceived as getting in the way of the life I thought I wanted, there were days when I’d pull out my copy of Amy Grant’s “The Collection,” and inevitably, as I listened, I would cry. And sometimes I’d wonder what in the world I’d done to the girl who loved Jesus so wholeheartedly as a teenager, and I’d wish with everything in me that things could be that simple again.

What I know now is that things could have been that simple again – I’m the one who overcomplicated them. Got distracted. Compromised. Thought I knew better. Blah blah blahtedy the early 20s are hateful blah blah blah.

What I also know now is that God never let go of me during that time. I can see Him all over the place as I look back on those years. And one way He continued to remind me who I was in Him was through Amy Grant’s music. Even as I type that I think GAH, COULD YOU SOUND A LITTLE MORE LIKE A JR. HIGH DIARY, PLEASE? – but it’s true. And so when I saw her last Monday night, I got a little emotional and teary and whathaveyou. Not because I think she’s some big shot singer person. Not because I think she’s better than the rest of us because she’s famous.

But because she was faithful to sing the music that God put on her heart, and those songs made a difference in my life, and I AM SO STINKIN’ GRATEFUL.

That is all.

We Found Them

For the last couple of weeks Alex and I have been playing a silly game. He’ll walk up to me and say, “What’s your name?”

And I’ll say something silly like, “Snickerbottoms” or “Picklelemons” or “McTuttlenuts.”

And then he’ll feign surprise and say, “MY NAME IS SNICKERBOTTOMS, TOO! I FOUND YOU! WE MUST BE FAMILY!” and then he throws his arms around my neck and laughs hysterically and wants to play the game all over again.

He loves it. I do, too.

Last year – The Two-Oh-Oh-Eight – was wonderful and exciting and challenging and hard. It was overwhelming at times. There were some difficult patches for sure, and I’m being as vague as possible, you see, because LET’S KEEP IT LIGHT, PEOPLE. LET’S KEEP IT LIGHT AND THEN LET’S LAUGH ABOUT SOMETHING, THIS IS HOW I OPERATE.

So, in short: while there were definitely some bright spots, more often than not in 2008 it seemed like I was forever standing before God and just flat-out wrestling with all my stinkin’ sin and mistakes and selfishness and failures and stubbornness. And fear. OH my word at the fear. And worry. And etc. and so on and so forth.

But.

In the midst of all that.

God did the coolest thing.

I have long contended that I have the sweetest friends and family in the whole wide world, and if you don’t believe me then you should meet them and then you’d see and then you’d probably want to be friends with them, too, and that is understandable, really, because they are all quite fabulous. Most of those sweet friends have been in my life since high school or college, and I kid you not that one of the great delights of my life is laughing with them about everything and nothing. Those girls know my faults like nobody’s business (I’m prideful. I don’t like to talk about my problems or my weaknesses. I’m moody. The list goes on and on.) and love me anyway. I love them to pieces.

So in terms of long-time friends, I’ve been beyond blessed. But truth be told, I struggle sometimes when new people come along because I feel like I’m not serious enough or smart enough or holy enough or laid-back enough or disciplined enough or whatever, not to mention that I’m irreverent and sarcastic (I’m going to start calling it “sarTASTIC,” by the way) and loud and waist-deep in the process of working out my junk and figuring out what it means to live a fully surrendered life (OH SWEET MERCY I feel that I’ve hit my introspective limit for 2009 already and PLEASE, CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT BACON?).

Anyway, the bottom line is this: I can get pretty comfortable with (relative) isolation if I’m not careful. I can start to like isolation if I’m not careful. The fact that I don’t blog about all the ISH-AHS in my life and my family’s life doesn’t make them go away, and if for some reason you think I don’t have ISH-AHS, then please permit me to give you this piece of advice: OH PLEASE DON’T KID YOURSELF.

But in 2008, despite all the Life Junk, God just blessed our socks off through people. Old friends. New friends who were “hit it off” people to such a degree that it almost gave me whiplash. Their names aren’t “Snickerbottoms” or “Picklelemons” or “McTuttlenuts,” but almost every single time I talk to them I want to throw my arms around their neck and hug them to pieces and scream “WE FOUND YOU! WE MUST BE FAMILY!”

So while it’s tempting for me to look back on last year and think mostly about the hard things, what I want to remember about last year are the best things. Because I’ll tell you this right now and you can cross stitch it and frame it and hang it in your living room in the dead-dog center of your wall if you’d like: it’s a whole lot easier to walk through your ish-ahs when there are people in your life who you love and trust – and when they love and trust you right back. Whether they’re family, old friends or new friends, I don’t want to do life without them.

I don’t have some pretty bow to wrap around this post, no clever way to tie up all the loose ends. I just want to be more mindful than ever that even though life is stinkin’ hard sometimes, God extends so much of His mercy and His goodness through the people He puts in our path. I want to love people well. Whether I’ve known them for my whole life or for twenty years or for twenty days, I want to love them well, to be mindful that they’re a blessing.

And this post is a reminder to my own dadgum self.

The end.

Please Pray

Click here to read updates from Kelly.

Kelly and her sweet family need our prayers.

Kelly says:

Harper is in VERY critical condition and they are going to fly her to AR Children’s hospital. It is very, very serious and the NICU doctor did not give us a favorable report. Scott and his parents will be driving there tonight. My parents and I will be driving there in the morning as soon as I can get out of the hospital. We know that God is soveriegn. WE KNOW that God is the same right now to us as He was to us this morning when we were so excited and praising Him as we drove to the hospital. We know that He loves us and no matter what happens – we will continue to praise Him.

Fourth Time’s The Charm

This is officially the fourth time I’ve tried to write (“WRITE”!) about my weekend in San Antonio.

I don’t know why you people put up with me.

So. Here goes.

I had such a great time this past weekend. Except for the part when I got to Houston and they told me that my flight to San Antonio had been cancelled and that they had booked me on a flight that was leaving THIRTEEN HOURS LATER and I called Melanie and said all sorts of profound things like, “SOB FLIGHT CANCELLED SOB NOT MAKE IT SOB WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.”

But in the end, thanks to a mighty sweet friend who helped me connect with a couple of other people who were in the same situation I was, I was able to fly to Austin, hop in a rental car with my new friends Lisa and Avey Jane (as it turns out, Avey Jane goes to the same church that I do, and I’ve even heard her daddy preach before, thus confirming my theory that THE WORLD, IT IS A PEANUT) . We made it to San Antonio in about an hour and a half, and I kept thinking that our trip was just like Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Only without the trains. So I guess it was more like Planes and Automobiles, which doesn’t really have the same ring to it, but for the sake of narrative progress, we will pretend.

Anyway.

Living Proof Live was absolutely wonderful. Travis and his praise team kept the focus right where it should have been, and Beth delivered a message that was chock-full-o-Truth. I loved getting to see bloggy people who feel like old friends – it blessed my soul in ways you can’t even imagine. Plus, I finally got to meet Melanie’s real-life BFF Gulley, OH YES MA’AM I DID, and I adored her on sight. I felt like I’d known her forever.

All in all, San Antonio = GOOOOOD.

When I got home Sunday afternoon, there were tons of details about the weekend that I couldn’t wait to share with my husband, and I have to say: the flour tortillas at Mi Tierra in San Antonio were near the top of the conversational list. In fact, they were so good that after I ate my first bite I looked at Melanie and pretty much screamed at her. I said, “THESE TORTILLAS ARE DELICIOUS! THEY ARE SO FRESH! WHY, THEY’RE ALMOST LIKE PANCAKES!”

She must have felt like she was in the middle of some bizarre 21st century nightmare. About two years ago she left a comment on my blog, then we emailed a bunch and became real-life friends, and now she gets to sit in restaurants with me while I scream about the texture of my food.

The interweb has surely provided her with more than she could have asked or imagined.

But no kidding: those tortillas? Were better than Cheez-Its.

And that is some mighty high praise indeed.

In Which It All Makes Sense

I have never been on an overseas trip in my life. And for the last couple of years, even though I’ve been confronted over and over again with the enormity of people’s needs in other parts of the world, my reaction – though I’m not proud of it – has been to cross my arms, shake my head, close my eyes, and say, NOPE, NOT ME, NOT GOING, HAVE A PRESCHOOLER, STAYING HOME, THANK YOU.

Honestly, I have no idea why I wrestled so mightily with the idea of serving overseas or why I felt like it was an issue I needed to address rightthatverysecondplease. I mean, I wasn’t picking apart sections of Proverbs 31 and then stressing that I wasn’t MAKING MY OWN FLAX, for crying out loud. But the “go / make disciples / all nations” stuff confounded me; somehow I had gotten all bound up in some freaky legalism of my own making.

For the record: I do not recommend the freaky legalism. Because it will WEAR YOU SLAP OUT.

But at some point – probably around the beginning of 2007 – some of that resistant worry in my heart began to give way. I started to pray that God would help me to not be so closed off (and dare I say BITTER) about what I was or was not willing to do. And regardless of where He wanted me, I prayed that I would serve out of obedience, not obligation.

And yes. There is a mighty big difference.

On August 7th of last year I checked my email email right before Alex and I headed out for round two of what had turned into an Errand Day Extravaganza, and I found a note from Brian Seay (who is totally one of my heroes now, just in case you were wondering) waiting in my inbox. Brian told me that he worked with Compassion International, was looking to put together a bloggers’ trip to Africa, and wanted to know if I’d be interested in going.

Suffice it to say that I bawled my eyes out.

And to my complete and utter surprise, I knew that I was supposed to go. I knew I had to go. My husband knew it, too.

And I tell you all of that to tell you this: yesterday, at a restaurant in the middle of Kampala, Uganda, all the spiritual wrestling of the last two years suddenly made perfect sense.

Internets, meet Derrick.

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He’s 11 years old. My brother and sister-in-law are sponsoring him through Compassion. They will be able to directly impact his life through their sponsorship until he reaches adulthood – and even on through college.

Today he sat beside me at lunch and spent at least 15 minutes looking at their names on a sheet of paper. I showed him pictures of my nephews and told him all about their family. His extended family. Even though they’ve never met.

And this is Sharon, our family’s Compassion child. She’s three. And I absolutely fell apart the second I saw her.

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Sharon lives with her mother and three siblings in one room. She is very shy, very reserved; in fact, she was reluctant to even let me hold her when we first met.

But by the end of our lunch? She was asleep in my lap. It was one of the sweetest, most unforgettable moments of my whole life.

And because she’s so young, our family will have the opportunity to invest in her life for many years to come.

Two years of wrestling. Two years of questioning. And God used two precious children I’d never met – in a country I never dreamed I’d visit – to answer every single one of my prayers about what “serving globally” can look like in my life, in my family’s life.

In fact, it looks a little bit like this:

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And I think that’s a mighty cool thing indeed.

This post was originally published on February 15, 2008.