conference this

God is preparing youI admit, I am a bit of an eye-roller about the conference circuit. After running around the southern gospel convention circuit for 5 years like it was my job (oh wait! it was! we even had our own for three of those years…), I was over it. The crazy schedules. The inevitable disappointment. The exhaustion. The drama. The competition. The inspiration that would burn like a candle until… 3 days later… when you’re home and real life squelches it all.

So when two friends from Chicago included me on an invitation to a WRITERS conference… for WOMEN… CHRISTIAN women, I sort of rolled my eyes. It was expensive. It looked very pretty and perfect, so I figured I would not fit in. And after all this time – 3 decades, y’all! – writing, getting published here and there, I wasn’t sure what I had to gain.

But it would be with girlfriends, who get that ambitious and artistic side of me, who I rarely get to see, and once we decided to get there the day before and have our own “pre-conference,” I was in.

I’m not going to list all the details of the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference. If you know anything about this 22-year-old ministry (that started as a newsletter! Just sayin’!), you know it was first class… thoughtful, thorough, lovely. If you don’t know about it, you should definitely check it out.

What I want to reflect on for just a moment is that right there on the first day, when I went to a myriad of informational workshops and one fairly successful meeting, the bookend general sessions grabbed my heart, my thoughts, and my spirit and would not let go.

It was the story Proverbs 31 President Lysa Terkeurst shared about having Monday night dinners at their house, and in particular, instead of turning to Facebook to discuss and judge issues that affect people’s lives, having those people into their home and loving them.

It was every single thing that came out of the mouth of Christine Caine, founder of A21, who called all of us to take time in the dark room, being developed, before we lunge for the spotlight. In particular, it was when she said:

Looking at all the things we’re not invited to only fuels our selfish ambition. If GOD has assigned you, HE will FIND you!

I’ve spent so much of the past three years wringing my hands and wiping my tears, trying to figure out where I fit in, what is next, why this or that fell apart, why I’m not a part of this group or that gathering. So Christine’s words struck me straight to my core. I was listening to her fervently but also speed-texting my husband her words and my thoughts on them, because…

WHAT? What am I waiting for? What are we doing? God has assigned us. We’re not hamsters on a wheel nor are we sitting ducks. Maybe we aren’t doing what we used to do, and maybe we aren’t doing what we WILL be doing, but, the next piece of Christine’s statement was:

God is preparing you for the things He has prepared FOR you.

We have a promise of an assignment, a purpose, an opportunity to make a difference. Apparently, it isn’t in music industry, in family friendly entertainment, in a theatre, or on a bus. OK. Cool. Done. It might not be on any stage or published page or viral blog or huge platform. OK. Cool. Whatever.

But it will be loving people and serving people. It already is.

pre-conference with Deanna & Lisa: sushi dinner!

This past weekend included time with one of my besties and a dear friend I didn’t get to know so well before moving away. It included a bonus visit with my bonus daughter Paige. It included precious moments with ladies who shared their visions, hearts, stories, smiles, prayers, and hugs. It included valuable learning from women who have paved a way in writing and publishing words of life.

But as with all the messages I have heard in the past few years that resound strongly in my spirit, the idea of simplifying, working with what is in my hand, seeing, loving and serving the people around us – including our family first – was what struck. There is nothing to wait for, no spinning wheel, no box to wait in.

It’s time to simply be who I am called to be. What greater adventure?
To learn more:
Proverbs 31
She Speaks
Lisa Terkeurst
Christine Caine

Read More

100 happy days

#100happydays#100happydays is a Facebook challenge.

{You can read more about it here}

I decided to assign this one to myself today because I felt it first. I felt it when my phone pinged after a crazy day at work and cancelled plans for after, no plan for dinner and no nap (still hanging on to the last days of first trimester, y’all). I looked and saw my friend Deanna’s words

I discretely snapped this for you.

What was it she snapped? A photo of my daughters’ pediatrician in Illinois during her kids’ own visit. Oh, how we loved Dr. C.! And how we miss him. He was so fabulous… had three daughters of his own, never panicked or gave us trendy advice, always smiled and spent time with us, and when we were losing our health insurance, made sure we had plenty of samples for Kaity’s nebulizer.

We have a good doctor here, but when you spend 2 straight years of well visits and plenty of sick ones with your little almost-Irish-twins, you grow attached.

That Deanna knew the picture would make me smile, possibly make my day… well, that is pretty fabulous too.

Feeding the birds leftover tortillas at Chipotle
Feeding the birds leftover tortillas at Chipotle

I think we often equate a happy result with a grand gesture… planning, formality, fanciness, bigness. And then, when we look back at the times we spend preparing The Grand, the effort was often more draining than the result deserved. Or perhaps, the process was happier than the outcome.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the simple. Look at your day. What moments made you smile? What notions made you laugh? Did you give anyone a hug or an encouraging word? Did you appreciate anything you saw in nature? Did you listen to your favorite song one time? Did you call a friend or hold your husband’s hand?

It doesn’t have to take much. It doesn’t take much. When I look around and see dissatisfaction or even misery in our first-world experience, it is usually due to unrealistic expectations or misplaced energy.

A trip to Target... Randa's not in pain. She's singing, I think :)
A trip to Target… Randa’s not in pain. She’s singing, I think :)

So I take the challenge of 100 days. I accept the opportunity to find pleasure in one of my favorite Friends episodes being on at bedtime, or my child saying something completely hilarious first thing in the morning… to be satisfied by a family outing to Target on a Sunday night or to be fulfilled by a 4-text conversation with a faraway friend.

Happiness is accessible. It is simple. It is a choice.

Take the challenge with me. And clap along…!

Read More

We were made for this

kaitlyn_dec2013 She runs outside with the other girls, excitedly whooping and ready for adventure. They’re all cute as buttons, pictures of what little girls look like in their homemade t-shirts and bare feet, or dress up clothes and funny socks.

I look at the window just minutes later (so grateful for the view to the outside, and so grateful for the sprawling, shared yards we have with friendly neighbors). She is there, alone, playing on the climbing wall, having an adventure with herself.

It’s taken awhile, but I’ve learned that these are not sad adventures, and this is not a lonely child. Sometimes, most times, she does not fit in. She is the one with the “thing” that I can’t quite put my finger on, the thing that isn’t a diagnosis or a label. She is going to dress her way, imagine her way, and demand her way. She is going to challenge me and she is going to be challenged.

She is mighty. She is a leader. And she is a child. And that last one sometimes trumps the first two, and the brave warrior comes crashing down, with angry accusations and heart-wrenching tears that break her mama’s heart, because I never wanted my five-year-old to feel that level of fear, of uncertainty, of rejection, of humiliation, or frankly, of intensity.

~

On church day, a friend comes to me. She knows me pretty well by now, and she embraces me as she tells me what she feels God has shown her. It’s confirmation, so I know it’s true. One daughter, she says, is just like her daddy. And this one, she is like you. God is showing you what you were like, so you can see… so you can see…

Like me? This five year old with bravery that I envy? With confidence that I long for? With coolness that I strive for? She is me? Did I leave others in awe? Did I leave my parents in manic states of amusement and frustration and utter bewilderment at my brilliance? Surely not.

But now, colored with perspective, I watch her today. I remember the stories I began to write at age 6, excited ramblings and detailed imaginings. I remember how my heart reached out for others, wanted to be like them, but could never quite change enough to fit. I know that looking back at the girl I was…age 6, age 9, age 12, age 18… age 35, that I was beautiful, but I didn’t see it, so I tried to be something else, anything else.

icor12-4I look in the mirror and see the same blue eyes and pale skin as our youngest child, the one who does not look at all like her three older siblings, (who’ve captured their daddy’s little bit of Cherokee blood, deep brown eyes, and great ability to tan), the one whose flowing blond mane calls to mind “Irish Lass” or “Tinkerbell” until people realize it’s more like “Buzz Lightyear” or “Thor.” Can I have the same care, the same grace, for my own reflection as I have for my baby girl? Can I accept, even celebrate, that those uncategorizable differences my Father gave to me make me special and fun and even great? Can I accept the beauty that others insist is there, in spite of the wiry grays and the extra pounds and general feelings of awkwardness? Can I apply the lesson that adventures of my own making, taken alone, are acceptable and even enough, if they are what I am meant to have?

~
I look outside again, just after writing those words, and see the girls have regrouped, then run off again, except now one has stayed behind with my warrior, swinging on a tire just feet away, companionable but separate. Companionable but separate: kind of like my husband, reading across the room but smiling knowingly at me on the occasions I look up… or my Dad, who sometimes smirks and shakes his head at my “Kelly-ness”… or those friends, some 1000 miles away and some at the next desk, who know my fake smile from my real one (even on Facebook) and when to call me on it.

We were not made to be just like everyone else. We were not made always to fit in the crowd, but sometimes to get lost in it, and sometimes run circles around it. She will be ok, and so will I. And if this resounds in your spirit, so will you.

~ November 2013

Read More

from a heart who doesn’t know but tries to understand

“from a heart who doesn’t know but tries to understand”

It was a Facebook comment I read this morning, by someone whom I don’t know, but through Facebook orchestration, I am united with through mutual love and support of another.

I have a friend I have not seen since 10th grade. We were buddies. We mostly hung out at school or football games. She lived a few towns away, and before drivers’ licenses, that might as well have been states away. {It’s a lovely bonus sidenote to this story that I am going to see her TODAY!}

Paula and her daughter CarmynNow, she does live states away. But we are close. Facebook, that little tool that can be used for good or evil, has been so fruitful in bringing this woman, her family, her perspective into my life… and it is one I have come to count on.

We love a lot of the same things… family life, cooking and food, Jesus, our husbands, fun TV. But our lives are different. She has 4 littles. I have a unconventional blend. She is a stay-at-home-mom who homeschools. I have a few part-time gigs and am happy with public school for now. She gardens. I edit a teen magazine. She churches at home. I practically live at my church.

And the one factor that our American Society of Modern Moms seems to say should divide us, does not.

She has a child with special needs. I do not.

I have read countless articles about being a friend to parents of special needs children (I hate them, mostly… what to say, what not to say…). I am often flabbergasted at the challenges faced by the families in my circle, from juvenile diabetes to epidermolysis bullosa, Downs syndrome to spina bifida, food allergies to Angelman syndrome. The range of lifestyles and decisions and emotions and lessons and stress experienced by these mamas often leaves me feeling breathless and absolutely helpless. How many times can I say “Sending love and prayers?” How many times can I ask God “WHY” do some children have to struggle and suffer this way? How long before my lack of these challenges becomes an obstacle in my compassion and my ability to be the kind of friend these women need?

The truth is, though, that in the big ways, mamas are the same. We stress over how to Do This Thing that is raising our children in a safe, loving, educational environment, teaching them to be good people, advocating for them and empowering them all at once. We do our best but often feel inadequate, criticized, or judged. We want to feed them healthy foods and take advantage of teachable moments and expose them to a well-rounded cultural experience, but sometimes, we just want to sit on the couch and watch Netflix in peace for 5 minutes, even if it means we’re having PB&J for dinner.

And we all want to know we are not alone in this.

A few nights ago, I was talking to another friend. She, too, has friends facing the struggle of children with severe medical issues or special needs. We talked exhaustively about this subject, about how to best reach out, encourage, minister.

As we talked, the thought rang in my head that we were, indeed, advocating for these mamas, just amongst ourselves. We are saying to them, to you,

“Hey! We don’t get it. We likely never can and never will. But we get you. We see you and your struggle. We are here praying for you and cheering you on. We are loving your babies and making donations and telling your stories. It’s not much… it might not change a thing, but we are in this together.”

American mamahood is fully of petty competition and sometimes foolish worry. If we are not careful, we become products of marketing and media, rather than the organic fruit of one of creation’s most sacred and rewarding callings: motherhood. It doesn’t matter if we arrive at the same conclusions (breast vs. bottle, public vs. private vs. home, organic vs. processed, vaccines vs. not…). It matters that we value the walk we are all taking. It matters that when I turn my head and see another mama next to me, struggling, I do my best to give her a hand up and not to judge her. It matters that when I see a mama who is facing more, doing more, or “doing it better,” I don’t judge myself, because my lot is the lot given to me, and I have to do my own best on my own path.

It doesn’t matter that we don’t know each other’s hearts, because maybe we never can. It matters that we try to understand, that we respect each other, that we cheer for each other’s children. Let’s stop being afraid of having the wrong kind of compassion and instead just make sure we are not without it.

To learn more about Angelman Syndrome, please click here.

 

Read More

The power of laughter

laughIt’s probably impossible to play catch-up here, not only because it’s been 6 months, but because it has been a jam-packed 6 months… some of the most surprising of my life.

The summary is that in February, we found ourselves very unexpectedly pregnant. The range of emotions went from terror to shock to utter bliss in the matter of about 10 minutes, and then 2 weeks later, to devastation, as we were told the baby had no heartbeat.

Miscarriage. I have checked that off my bucket list of nightmares I hoped never to face. It sucked. It still sucks. But we survived.

I remember the day I found my laughter again. It was probably 3 or 4 weeks after my D&C. We were lounging in bed on a Saturday morning waiting for the girls to come and jump on us. They did. And for some reason, I grabbed my iPhone and turned on the song “Happy.” (You so know the one). Then I started lip syncing. And dancing. Rod was watching me with the light in his eyes you can only have for the person you adore when she is being completely odd.

And I cracked up. And I couldn’t stop.

That was the day I found myself again. Even though when I look back at my early life, I see a thread of melancholy, the real truth that has arisen as I have “found myself” in adulthood is that I am a joyful person. I smile. I laugh. I embrace happiness. Having a family of my own, becoming a mama, helped me to see that and be that. And while losing a child could have been the thing that changed it (as indeed, it did change me to my core, but that’s another blog), I refuse to let it.

Death doesn’t win.

Fear doesn’t win.

Joy, love, laughter… it will, it must conquer the sad things in life. It will give us wings.

It did this year. But news of another Burton Baby certainly has also helped.  Our first grandchild will be born to Josh and Kirsten this fall! And in May, in the spirit of twofold blessings and almost 3 months to the day we lost our baby, we found out we will be having another, one whose heart is beating and arms are waving.

And I laughed…

baby burton

Read More