Tag: this Jesus thing

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.

 

Redemption Child

One year ago today, 3 months after a devastating miscarriage, I suspected I was pregnant again. This week, I am revisiting the journey of carrying and birthing our Jackson Cash – my redemption child!

redemptionchild1Unmitigated joy. It’s not a feeling I am used to, and yet, when I am around my baby son, whether he is eating, sleeping, chatting, smiling, or just looking at me with his wide, blue eyes, I feel it bubbling up.

It’s not that I love him more than my other children; of course not. But his timing, his entrance into our world, well, it’s so easy for me to see God’s hand in it.

I have probably said before how much having another child surprised us. The roller coaster of shock, elation, and heartbreak of our miscarriage last year changed me forever. It changed my perspective on mothering, family, my career aspirations, my belief in God and His works, my bond to other women, my pregnancy experience… everything.

But carrying and having Jack changed me, too. In the years between Kaity’s birth and his (6 years, 11 months…), I was often, as my Gramma H. would say, “running myself down.” I didn’t like my body. I wasn’t losing weight. I didn’t nurse the girls long enough. I should have pushed harder for natural births. I didn’t enjoy them enough. I should have taken more time. I should have planned my job moves differently. I should homeschool. I should do this, this, this, and this. AND, even better, “This person did this better. This person looks better. If i was like that person, my kids/family/body would be ______.”

What a lost cause that thinking is.

During my pregnancy with Jack, I met amazing women, mamas, nurses, midwives, birth workers, who encouraged me personally or by simply sharing their stories. Through those months – and the four following, I’ve been able to make peace with my C-section births, my ability to breastfeed, my level of patience with my children, and my role as a mama, a stepmom, a grandma, a wife, and a sister in the community of mothers.

In a nutshell, God sent me a whole lot with my newest, my last baby. While the loss of David last year brought me so many questions, the birth of Jack brought me affirmations.

God used Jack to make me listen to Him saying…
You are enough.
You are new.
You are forgiven.
You are strong.
You are beautiful.
You are young.
You are patient.
You are kind.
You belong.
You give love.
Let my joy radiate from you. Point to your son and say, “The Lord is good. His promises are real and true. I have been redeemed.”

As a result: I don’t feel uneasy when I have to nurse my son in public; I feel confident. I don’t feel shameful about the extra pounds around my waist or the gray hairs sprouting more frequently; I feel strong. I don’t wonder if my husband is really attracted to me or whether my kids really adore me; I feel cherished. I don’t feel like I missed the boat in my career; I feel like my whole future is still unfolding, and like I am showing a smart, balanced, and loving example to my children.

I was these things all along, though. I was supposed to see them that way. And it dawns on me that God could have used any number of things to clarify my vision. I am very grateful that He chose as His means of attention-getting a pure bundle of cuddly joy, one who elicits smiles in a hundred different ways, one made to fit perfectly into the curve of my chest and my heart. God sent Jack to make me a better listener…

And oh, the things I am hearing! :)

And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
 Romans 4:21

to be continued!

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

day 7: The Mary Moments

Mary and Martha are one of my faaaaaaaavorite stories in the Bible.

{apparently, there was a brother, too, but no one really says much about him until he dies, and then he becomes kind of a big deal… read it}

I have a great old storybook called Jesus’ Second Family that tells all about sweet, attentive Mary and crazy-eyed, anal-retentive Martha (who, lets face it, probably set a kick-butt table and made everything smell nice and coordinate).

As a grown-up, just last year, I read another book (and we all know what I mean when I said “read” – started obsessively then fizzled out and dug for the parts I needed) called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. It is a great reference and application to how these women fit into who we are now.

This past March, my friends and I went to hear Jen Hatmaker, and the first in her three sermons was about Mary and Martha, in a new light.

So there is much to be said about what amounts to FOUR VERSES in the Bible. God is so smart. He can pack a lifetime of lessons into one little glimpse of a family.

~

DISC-Personality-BreakdownAt our church, and in our church office, the DISC personality test is used and referred to quite often.

I have not taken the test myself, but by being around all these “Ds” and “I’s” and “esses” and “cees” (seriously, how do you SPELL PLURAL LETTERS?!?!?!), I know enough about the personalities to diagnose myself.

I am an I, who is the one that wants to “go to the beach and watch a movie!” (slightly inside joke there). Basically, I want to do all the things with all the people. Let’s GO! Let’s DO! Let’s HUG AND LAUGH AND MAKE UP A SONG! LET’S BE EXCITED ABOUT IT!

If I look at the simple chart, I get confused, because I see all these traits in me… the drive that is a “D” trait, the organization and make-everything-be-just-so that are “C” traits… the loyalty and reliability that are so “S.” And therein lies the Mary-Martha smackdown that exists in me.

I enjoy working. I like presenting things that are shiny and informative, enjoyable and comfortable, whether they are event flyers or a dinner parties. But that takes a lot of work and planning and concentration, and so often, my heart, my “I” personality, just wants to sit and chat.

…or as I texted to my friend De last week:
I just want to eat donuts with my brothers and sisters, at the feet of Jesus. Is that too much to ask?

{I’ll let you guess what her answer was…}

Zoom in on my professional life as a 30-something with a teaching degree I never plan to “use” again and about 4 unrelated careers on my resume. What does one do with that? How do you utilize your skills and find something fulfilling to do?

I was hired by my church.

AND I, and the Martha and Mary in me, LOVE IT!

On a daily basis, there are plenty of tasks to accomplish… post this, send out this, write this, reformat this, call them, email them, order that, fix that, clean THAT for crying out loud, make this, talk about that, copy those, read this…mary

But also on a daily basis, there is, wait for it…

Listen.

Talk.

Share.

Laugh.

Cry.

Pray.

Repeat.

This is not an isolate incident, but an example: Yesterday, I had the most amazing conversation with one of our volunteers. I have known him and his wife since we started coming to the church. He is one of The Italians… always pleasant, always kind of kindred. Yesterday, I heard his story…his testimony, just because we both happened to be getting a cup of coffee at the same time, (and because I was floored to hear he is 77 years old, because he looks 20 years younger, and made a big deal out of it), I got to experience salvation, grace, and the work of the Holy Spirit through his eyes. By the time he finished, more than 30 minutes had passed and we were both wiping tears away. In that moment, my Mary heart had said, Whoa Martha, the spreadsheet will wait, and my whole inner person was taught, blessed, and filled with the good stuff.

And no one minded.

Get your work done. Give your all. Do it well.

But pause for these moments, because God is speaking through people… and He has so much to say.

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.