Category: the inevitability of change

School’s in!

Homeschoolers 2015Just when we think we know what’s up, another new season, with its changes and rhythms and surprises, comes in!

I spent the last three years waiting at the bus stop after school for my girls. It’s where we met some of our great neighbors. It’s where we met KK’s best friend and her wonderful family. It’s the place where my girls begin their hour-long debriefing of their day, every day. And for the last month or so, I watched from the porch as they walked home by themselves.

They are growing so fast, so much.

Today I went to the bus stop for the last time, at least for now. Though we have loved St. James Elementary, it’s time for a different school… one that will be located in our home.

Nothing happened to bring this decision, simply a steady set of observations over the past years about who our kids are, who are family is, what is natural to us, what is best for us.

Plus, we want to sleep in, eat fabulous home-cooked lunches, and travel whenever we want!

I’m nervous and excited about this chapter… I’m so thankful for the trust and support of my husband, the constant encouragement from my vast, widely-spread out homeschooling network of friends, my flexible job, and that God gave us these kids… and the ability to know what’s best for them during any given season!

 

Four years and forever

A few lifetimes ago, in the fall of 2008, Rod and I were parents of four kids – two in high school, two in diapers, we would count.1924028_107157033521_2892837_n

Based on prompting from friends, our environment, and the Holy Spirit, we decided to have another baby. We named it Branson; short for Branson Gospel Music Convention.

During three and a half years of learning something new every day, many wins and losses, meeting all kinds of people (from pianist and cake-maker extraordinaire Dino to the Oak Ridge Boys, from Branson innkeepers who liked us to gospel bloggers who didn’t), working our tails off, and chasing with all our energy the dreams we felt God had given us, we were the proud parents of something that felt groundbreaking: a Spirit-led southern-ish gospel event that sought to unite and encourage artists and minister to the audience.

It felt like the world to us. And then all of a sudden, it was over.

The third convention, renamed “Revival” and moved to a perfect location, was a peak in several ways. We left that week feeling victorious and energized and grateful.

But it also come on the throes of Rod and I moving our family to Myrtle Beach, SC for what we though would be a “Branson every day” kind of experience that never actually came to be. So not long after, those feelings were replaced by fear, confusion, and defeat.

Rod hasn’t “had a concert” per se since that year. Our bus is gone. Currently, the only events we promote are dinners and holidays at our house. Life sure changed quickly.

Even with the ease of Facebook, we lost touch even with some of our closest of friends. While logic and embroidered pillows and memes tell us that “Friends come into your life for a season, a reason, or a lifetime,” without so many people’s voices in my circle, I just felt alone.

And also, forgotten.

When we put our whole selves into obeying God, because we are human, we also have expectations. Part of me expected that once we started down the path of full time ministry/concert promotion/working in the music industry, we would remain there. It gave me a severe case of whiplash and then probably depression when I realized we did not. We were not. And we don’t know if we will go “back.”

But thanks to our loving Father, there are markers. There are monuments. There are reasons to believe that those three and a half years of toil and investment were not in vain.

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If you are reading this, you are likely a reason.

– Because some people met their future spouses at Branson GMR.
– Some people made true, lifelong friends.
– Some people made business connections and therefore gained bookings, studio dates, and invitations.
– Some people were ministered to in such a way that the very direction of their lives changed – and the funny part of this is that most of those occurrences didn’t happen on stage, but behind it, in the exhibit hall, or in the parking lot.
– Some people were called into ministry, were set free from addictions, guilt, or oppression, or were healed.

This past week, as we mark 4 years since our last Branson GMR or even since we stepped foot in the town we loved, God has seen fit to remind me very tangibly about our time there and what it meant and what it means.

Every once in awhile, I feel so sad that it’s over. And I wonder if it mattered.

And just like the loving Father He is, God reminds me: it wasn’t about fortune (LOL!), fame (haha!), or anything fleeting. It was about uniting a family for a season and sending them back out…

It means the same things we dreamed about before we ever got to Branson, the same things we talked about in interviews and from the stage and in those hallways, and the same thing we still strive for now:

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Connection with other people, encouraging one another in the grace and goodness of Jesus Christ.

Thank you to the people who have remained in our lives, whether for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. Thank you to the ones who share where you are and who you are with, because there are days, without you knowing, that you bless me because I look and say, “They met in Branson.” Thank you for those who encourage the Burton family as we still chase after God in a variety of ways, by raising our babies, working in our local church, opening our home as a safe haven of fellowship, and constantly asking Him, “What is next?”

Thank You, Lord, for the opportunity of a lifetime that, in spite of all odds, existed in Branson from 2009-2011.

May the spotlight continue to shine on that message. Amen.

 

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…

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.