Tag: memory lane

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.

 

2 Years

So what were the questions…?

Basically, they all started with “how long before…?” Some of them were quite simple, but took longer than I’d have thought, like:

– we find family doctors?
– I can go from one end of the strand to the next without using Google Maps, and I don’t panic when someone asks me for directions?
– we don’t immediately turn to tourist traps as our recreational destinations?
– people ask me where to go to get their hair done?
– I have a regular-standing-girls-night-out again?
– I know other parents?
– I say we are going to a Pelicans baseball game or to get Mexican food without smirking?
– I learn that Walmart must be avoided on the weekends from April-August?
– we have a hang-out worthy patio, with party lights?
– we become south-side snobs (again!)?
– we have favorite beaches. Ranked. (for the record, MB State Park, followed by Huntington State Park, followed by Surfside Pier).
– we form opinions about bike week? (for the record, in favor)
– I have random run-ins with people I know? (for the record, that actually, suddenly, seems to be happening more here than it did in the Chicago south suburbs where I lived for 35 years!)

But then, my heart, there are the other questions, the ones I spoke only to myself or my husband… the ones to which I didn’t really want the answers… the ones that I still can’t verbalize, even though now…I know.

They involve moving on…relationships…instincts…feelings…home. They’re a little scary and a lot bittersweet. In some ways, acknowledging the answers to those brings me to the exact same tight rope feeling I had when we first moved.

The last question that shares the answer is: How long will I be the new girl?

Incidentally, the related question that is still unanswered is:
How long will I feel like the new girl?

I hope it’s 3 years…or maybe even 2 and a half.

~

ridearoundwithyouNothing on this ‘adventure’ – and I mean nothing, and I mean adventure – has gone how we thought, planned, hoped. We have lived through some of the hardest times of our life here…and we have celebrated some of the best. And that is what to hope for, it seems… balance, perspective, and faith to face whatever comes.

I can’t be thankful enough for not just the ride, but who shares it with me.

Happy Chicagolina-versary.

~

Wow…two years!

Just as I am, established by grace

Ten years and one day ago, I was an adulteress and a fornicator. Those were the correct terms according to the Bible. I had been in love with a man for nearly five years, who up until 6 months prior, was still married. And not only that, but I acted on my love for him. I lied to everyone I knew, including myself. I rebelled against Biblical teachings that I knew to be true. I moved in with him shortly after his divorce. And all the while, I yearned for forgiveness, grace, and a second chance.

On March 28, 2003, I was given one. The worship pastor of our then-church was given permission by the senior pastor (who didn’t feel he could do it himself), to perform a simple matrimonial ceremony in the church conference room. My parents were there, along with Rod’s children and two special friends who had “been there.” Our marriage was made holy in the eyes of the Lord that day, which is all that should matter.

Our adultery, our mistakes and failures, will never be “right.” They will never be justified. They have been forgiven… by God, by Rod’s first wife, by his children, and by many of the people hurt as a result. But that will never make those decisions and actions “Ok.” I don’t condone them, stand by them, or recommend them.  But somehow, nor do I regret our relationship.

How can I?~

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There were many, many “believers” who extended grace to us right from the beginning. And there were many who only did after years. And there are some who still have not. And there are some who went to their graves without doing so. Ten years, two babies, and a whole lot of life and learning later, *I* am still learning to extend grace to those who did not have it for us. I have even had to smack myself down for not having IMMEDIATE grace for people who have gotten themselves into a situation similar to ours.

Good thing I don’t have to be God. His grace is without hesitation or condition. It is there because He loves us, and there every time we seek it. Please understand: I know I do not deserve the life I have. I do not deserve God’s grace. I do not deserve to have been embraced first by a community of ministers and then by the staff of a local church, getting mentored by pastors to become one myself. And though I did not wake up one day and decide, “I am going to love a married man with little kids and hopefully inspire him to move ahead with a divorce!,” the ugly things people called me were at one time very accurate labels. And yet…

There is no explanation why God has blessed a formerly adulterous couple with an amazing life and beautiful family and opportunities to minister to others, except that He loves us. He loves us as much as He loves the one who has never committed a sexual sin. He loves us as much as He loves the pastors and church leaders who have to make very difficult decisions when it comes to dealing with complicated relationships. He loves all of us who are still learning just how far His grace will go.

just as i amI have seen a lot of words thrown around lately about what grace is, what marriage is, who we should love, and what we should hate. I generally steer clear of the marriage debate, because God knows in conventional eyes, my marriage is not a traditional one. I know what the Bible says, and I have seen God move in miraculous ways, so it is my conviction to choose my words and my battles carefully. The fact is, we don’t, won’t, cannot know exactly how God’s grace works. In my adult life, since ‘getting right with God,’ I have fancied myself a bit of a Grace Hippie, and yet, I am learning things now (from my pastor, with my pastor & my church), that are blowing my mind about God’s grace… as my friend Kenny has said, His grace is crazy! That isn’t a liberal or new age notion; it’s older than the songs in our hymnals, if we still have those! That is God’s love stripped down and set free from the interference of religion, the misinterpretations of the misguided, and the agendas of the self-righteous. That is God’s love saying that not just the fallen and publicly redeemed Davids and Sarahs and Pauls will be with us in Heaven, but maybe the Delilah, the Lot’s Wife, the Judas – those hopelessly weak, distracted, sick, and used – will be as well.

God created us, He knows our flaws, and He sees our souls. If we struggle and fall, if we are confused and make a mistake, and if we are ignorant and think we *are* living the right way, I believe He is merciful! Furthermore, if it turns out that God’s grace is BIGGER & BETTER than what we have all been taught all our lives, and because of that more people will be in Heaven…isn’t that a GOOD thing?

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4

I know the Bible also says we must reach out to Christ in faith and turn from sin. Along with that, it tells me to grow in grace…to administer grace to others… to set my hopes on grace. We are not all equipped exactly in the same way and at the same time to do those things. Of course, we need a Savior, whose grace, another old song tells us, is greater than all our sin.

I do not have all the answers. I do simply pray that everything in my life, my words, my relationships, and my marriage, point people to the love of Jesus. HIS LOVE empowers us to overcome any sin, obstacle, and failure.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. – 2 Peter 3:18

do you think I’ll ever get there?

This week, I was waxing nostalgic about 2010.me2010

2010 was a banner year. We met people and had experiences that changed us, forever. We traveled more miles than any other year. If I were speaking superficially, I would say that we were at the top of our game.

Oh sure, there were setbacks. There was a particular situation that left me angry and a little violence-leaning a lot of the time (no violence was committed, just fantasized about. Hey, I’m human, and the weapon was just a folding chair…)

And now, when I get defeated or disappointed or mournful, I think about 2010 and wonder if that was when I “peaked.”

You know, at the ripe age of 33. (I did proclaim it my year of perfect, as at age 33, Jesus completed His ministry on Earth).

Rod tells me this is foolish, stupid thinking. He is probably right.

But sometimes I feel like, even though I believe I was “born to fly” (thank you, Sara Evans), my wings have been clipped… or at the very least, I am living in a box that is nailed to the ground.

Is is delusions of grandeur I have? Or am I really called to, meant for, something other than “this”? …understanding that “this,” my life, my family, my job, my home, it is All Good.

Am I just never satisfied? Or is there more? And if there is more, “How do you wait for Heaven? And who has that much time? And how do you keep your feet on the ground when you know you were born to fly?”

Whoa, 2012.

January
We met my parents in Disney World. I got a cool hat and spent my 35th birthday at Cinderella’s castle and the day after at Harry Potter-world. My children have no idea who Duffy the Bear is, but loved every second we were there.
The day after we got back, I dropped the girls off at school, went home and returned to be. Thus began a period of depression, uncertainty, and fear that I haven’t written about much. Now that it’s over, I will….            

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February
Rod’s work as a telecom consultant saved our financial booties.
Josh, Kirsten, & Paige (& the Carters, & Mamaw & Grandpa) all visited for KK’s 4th birthday.
We got a dog named Max.
And with saved airline miles, Rod sent me for a secret trip to stay with Jen for a weekend. It helped.

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March
The future started to look brighter.
I made 6000 recipes from Pinterest, thus ending the weight loss of January & February.
Rod and I took a marriage class and bought a 2005 minivan, with a cassette player. The girls started swim lessons at the Y.
My friend Becky visited me for a lovely weekend, and Rick visited for a lovely week during which I fell in love with Charleston and Pawley’s Island.

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April
We went back to Disney, because we have a time share that we use well! We met the Paris family there. The day we got back, Wayne and Wanda came to visit. During a trip to the beach with them and the Carters, Rod got hired by Time Warner Cable!

Oh, and our church decided to lease a theatre, and named me General Manager.

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May

I took the girls to Chicago for a week while I was also beginning my new job. It was stressful and crazy and great. I vowed never to do it again, but am making plans for this coming July!
Also, Miranda got her ears pierced, we went to our first Pelicans baseball game, and found a new house to live in, about 45 minutes southeast of our old house.
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June
We started saying Aloha, a lot.
Josh & Kirsten moved in with us, then two weeks later moved into an apartment, then one week later helped us move to our new house. In the mean time, Annie and Laura came to visit and didn’t mind our boxes and brought us cookies!
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July
In between Aloha-ing and Illusions (2 house shows at The Grand Theatre), we hosted Jeff & Sue Duffield, some of the most real and fun people in the world, and we went to the beach a few times.
Also…our nephew was born!

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IMG_3911August…whew!
Journeychurch held its grand opening.
We welcome the Wonderettes to The Grand and said Aloha to Aloha.
Miranda started kindergarten, and sleep was a thing of the past.
Mom & Dad came to visit on the busiest Labor Day weekend ever, but one that included an unforgettable concert and Labor Day lunch with Russ Taff.

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September
We had visits from Wayne and Wanda and Mamaw and Grandpa and the Carters. We finally made it to “What Do Pirates Do?” (aka Pirates Voyage). We found a dance class and a dentist and a little time to be together.

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October
With 2 house shows running at full steam and Daddy traveling lots, we turned to the mall food court for helpful nights on the town. Rod made his debut as a Willie Nelson tribute artist and I perfected my 1950s look (teehee). We went on a hayride past the ocean. And we finally met neighbors while trick-or-treating.

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November
My friend Deanna came to visit…she helped me lay groundwork for a moms’ group and we ‘rocked the block’ at journey together. The Groves family joined our wonderful Thanksgiving festivities, and we returned to Disney again. I would so live there.

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December
I vowed to have a quiet advent. I failed. We finished an amazing season at The Grand. Randa danced in The Nutcracker. KK finished pre-school. I made a trifle. We traveled to Ohio and Illinois and have annoyed everyone with our complaints about the cold. We met our baby nephew. We will end and begin the year in Chicagoland, eating Italian food with people we love.

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~
2013, for me, will be a little bit about things I don’t want to happen (depression, financial woes, etc). I am considering carefully what I do want to happen. Whatever it is, I hope it includes good health and shared happiness. Happy New Year, one and all!