Category: a grand journey

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

It’s always raining

I remember the day he sang at this church. The call came in the middle of the night, literally. The opportunity was so refreshing. The financial blessing was so needed. We were on the starting edge of the biggest drought and hardest challenge of our lives, even though we were fighting it off and maybe even denying it a little.

I was looking for a different song he’s sang today and came across this one. I had to giggle. This isn’t the same guy, and I am not the same either. November 2011 might as well have been a decade ago instead of two short years for all the ways our lives have changed – and all the ways we have changed.

But the message holds. The rain is coming.

I’d like to hear Rod sing it now, with his long hair and wearing his flip-flops, strumming his guitar, on the beach or the porch. Part of our change has been letting go of religion in all its hidden forms, in the legalism, the formality, the appearances, the parts that build walls instead of shine lights.

Part of our change is a realization that even though we have dry seasons, it never actually stops raining..

Jesus said this:

This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. – Matthew 5: 43-48, The Message

I’m grateful for those who gave us water when our season was dry. I am grateful we have some water to share this year. I’m grateful for the lesson learned that we should always be watching and waiting for a bouty of blessings to come to us.

day 3: the unexpected journey

Today, we celebrated journeychurch.

Journey. It could not be a more fitting word.

In so many ways, our existence in South Carolina is anchored to this place, these people, this mission.

We celebrated so hard today that I’m pretty tired, and there isn’t much I can write that I haven’t already, just…

In South Carolina, our home is journey, our friends are at journey, our family is at journey.

We thought it was going to look different. We thought moving to Myrtle Beach was going to mean an anchor to positive and Christian entertainment, the opportunity for Rod and I to work together every day and get paid for it, a chance to perform, create, promote, succeed.

In a matter of months, that journey was over for us. That dream was gone. But the unexpected part was how the work, the mission, the ability of the local church- of a vibrant, dynamic, growing, Spirit-led, truth-teaching, real-hug-giving, loving, let’s-do-this-like-Jesus-did-it church, became the place for us to, well…

perform… create… promote… succeed… in a totally different way, for Jesus.

We have grown up in our faith here. Our children will grow up in every way here.

However unexpected and different the journey is, we are grateful for it and in love with it.
journeynow

 

So, what are you guys doing now?

We used to do this all the time.

Get up early and drive. Be dressed just so. Have a set list. Prepare a short, mental list of goals. Buck up. Settle the children. Smile and act naturally. Respond to the canned questions and comments with canned answers.

singingWe called it ministry. We usually did it 3 weekends out of four. But this kind of ministry… a “singing” at a church on a Sunday morning… well, it’s been two years since the last time.

We were glad for the opportunity; it was for a friend, it was local, it would be fun. And simply put: there is a difference in doing ministry like YOUR life depends on it as opposed to doing it like perhaps someone else’s life does. We didn’t need a minimum or even a morale boost. It was simply, “We get to visit a church and Rod’s gonna sing and hopefully lead some people to worship in a new way. Cool!”

We have friends who still do this travel-and-minister thing because they are called. Our calling for it left us without much ado in a season when God pretty much stripped us of all our creature comforts, even our work. IMG_4162It was strange to wake up and realize, “Hmmm…. We don’t do that anymore,” without there being a press release or any dramatic show of it. In the mean time, He’d replaced our calling with something new. At first, I thought it was smaller: because it mostly takes place within our local church (our beloved, spectacularly awesome local church). And lately, I realize it’s bigger.

See, with a message of grace and a method of integrity, and an “Event” that didn’t ask permission or strive to stroke egos or be fancy, we had a specific goal… I’m not sure we reached it, but I know we forged new relationships that have lasted and had impact and meaning, and that’s probably even better.

We were seeking to change an industry.

Now, we simply seek to change the world.

I could cower from that and decide it’s too arrogant to write. But I don’t think so.

deanna

Not when a friend of mine who started a magazine out of her kitchen last year will be seeing it on the shelves of Barnes and Noble this year. Not when my friend retired from an illustrious and exhausting career as a teacher and found his second act in Habitat for Humanity.

And then there are the life changers I see every day around me: the ones who drop everything and pray for their bankers and doctors… the ones who take meals to strangers who have sickness in the family… the ones who stay with their friend’s mother so their friend can go to church or out to dinner… the ones who give away couches and TVs and beds to people they’ve never met… the ones who move a farick guatemala copymily in the pouring rain just because someone asked… the ones who look at people who are hurting, lost, confused, or lonely and call them by name, and aren’t afraid to hug them, and show them that people still care about people.

Yeah. That’s how we change the world.

I don’t know what my/our “next act” is. Sometimes I still get restless. I love hearing my husband sing more than just about everything. And I love new opportunities to share my writing with others. And make no mistake… I do get that temporary high off of a success, off of recognition. But that is not where I live anymore. Are we doing something of value? Are we helping people get what they need? Are we loving like Jesus? Those are the questions that guide our ministry… and that ministry starts with our own family, our marriage, our kids, our parents, before it works its way outward.

burtons2013

We did not step down or step back or retire. We did not accept a lesser position. We did not leave the ‘limelight’ for the local church. We still sing for Jesus. We still sacrifice to reach out. We still strive to keep the spotlight on the message. We’re still here… following Him. He is leading in places different than we expected. He is surrounding us with people who stayed or came along the way. He is here… every time one of us commits an act of love in His name.

Jesus, help me to love my neighbor even if I don’t understand or agree with her. Help me to find as much satisfaction in cleaning the office toilets as I do in great conversation. Help me to listen more than talk when I pray. Help me to sing my own song with You as my audience. Help me to be kind and patient and helpful and sincere, and not just waiting for my turn. Help me to follow Your lead, whether it leads me to a big stage, a small corner, or something I haven’t even imagined yet. Help me to let go of the past and the people who stayed there and appreciate what and who is in my life right now. Help me to be more like You! Amen.

The 3rd Day of School

For various reasons, both draining and exhilarating, the first weekend of the school year wore me out.

But this morning…

Oh, this morning:

On the third day of school, the first Monday, we turn to routine, which for us means that when Daddy isn’t out of town, he takes the girls to school. He likes to. (This is reason #EleventyBillionandTen why he is my love, my best friend, and my hero). And quite frankly, I do not enjoy it. The traffic disturbs my calm. The difference this year, today, of course, is that he not only took Randa, but KK too.

I gave extra kisses, and watched them drive away, and closed the door, and leaned on it, and sang a few bars of the “Hallelujah” chorus as I beheld this sight:

IMG_3409

That’s right…me, my house, alone. Oh, the plans we had! The things we did!

Right. I did manage to drink an entire cup of coffee while it was mostly warm and watch an episode of Damages (catching up on everything after the first season) while I was in my jammies. Exhilarating, y’all! But while I did that, I also cleaned the kitchen, straightened up the girls’ rooms, changed the sheets on their bunk beds, folded a load of laundry, cleaned my closet, and…

Well, I planned on what I will do with that one hour and fifteen minute time block for the rest of the entire year!

I do have specific plans… I don’t want to be all legalistic about it, but I will try to keep that hour time for me, and not just errands and chores, so hopefully, at least 3 hours a week will be spent on writing and exercising. Both are key to my health!

Other observations from today:

mannyI actually love Mondays. This has much to do with loving my job, probably for the first time in my adult life…really, really enjoying what I do, and feeling comfortable in it, feeling freedom in it, feeling supported in it.

I still get a lot of questions about what I do: I work on the staff of our beloved church, journey. After the theatre sailed on, I was honored to be asked to remain and work for the church. I’m not totally sure what my title is, but I stopped caring a few months ago :) I work on the website, social media, publications, and communications, and I also assist the Executive Pastor, and sometimes the Generations/Youth pastor and sometimes the Lead Pastors, in all sorts of things…. project managing, resource creating, hunting down 50 pounds of chicken thighs for the village employee luncheon, cleaning a toilet or two, whatever. I model my work after Manny Trillo, a utility player who spent some of his best years on the Chicago Cubs playing short stop and third and outfield and generally rocking Wrigley. If it needs to be done, and I can do it, or find someone to do it, bring it. And Mondays on a church staff, especially after a great day like yesterday, are just fun. Crazy, but fun!

 

My children, like me, are night owls. They look like this every morning, yet they hit the ground running off that school bus in the afternoon and they don’t want to go to bed. Help me, Rhonda! Maybe the end of daylight savings will actually help this year…?
IMG_3407

Playdates are the bomb. Dot com. We used to be pros at these. The moves have hurt us. But now, we have enough friends in the neighborhood (and elsewhere) to make these impromptu gatherings happen. It’s a win-win for all of us.

 IMG_3408
Homework time can be pretty awesome, at least on the first day. Today I got to observe Randa rocking her addition and doing better in her reading, in spite of the fact that we pretty much blew off formal summer reading for our special brand of practice (signs, brochures, menus…) And KK did not have any formal homework, but she did practice writing her name in proper case and read her first school library book with her Daddy. She is a much more focused and intense learner than Randa, who prefers to sound out words while looking away and dancing. It will be “interesting” to see how this all plays out through the years…

IMG_3412
“Surprise!” We will never be normal people. This was confirmed once again on Saturday, when I was with my future daughter-in-law as she chose a beautiful and far-from-conventional wedding dress for their big day. It was re-confirmed today when I tried to be a Cool Mom. I had 10 minutes from the time I got home from work to get to the bus stop, which is a half mile away. KK really wanted to ride her bike, so I started off at a brisk walk, trying to juggle both the girls’ bikes. I made it to the end of our street before I realized it was awkward…with a side of awkward. So I waved to the guys finishing a new house there and told them I was leaving the bikes for a few minutes, and then proceeded to walk/jog the rest of the way, in my jeans and flip-flops (It was around 88 degrees, which we are calling “fall-like” weather here. To say I was sweating at the end of all this is like saying Miley Cyrus caused a few raised eyebrows last night). Anyway, I made it to the bus stop with 2 minutes to spare, and the girls actually did not complain the whole way home. What was awesome though, is that about 2 blocks from home, the construction workers rounded the corner with our bikes in the trailer, and delivered them to the girls! How cool is that? I love nice people! I will take that over normal any day…

There are benefits to being awkward weirdos. Feel free to ask me about this, or about my feelings on the Ben Affleck as Batman news. Happy 3rd day of school… or happy Monday, whatever the case may be.