Friday, November 27, 2015

The Water Tower...

My teenage years were pretty challenging.

(Actually, I could probably slightly adjust that sentence to read: Teenage years are challenging for anyone.)

My family moved the year before I started junior high. I didn't really have any friends, and my dad literally worked seven days a week from the early hours of the morning until some times the wee hours of the following morning. There were lots of difficulties in my life at that time, but the Lord knew this, and He placed a very sweet and selfless couple in my life: The Bryants. David was my youth pastor, and his wife, Ashley, was a precious servant of the Lord. They truly were a team (which totally shaped how I view ministry with my husband.) They would often pick my brother and I up for youth events, bring us home, take us to special events no one else was going to...David and Ashley embodied the calling of ministry--which means you aren't just available from 9-5 on certain days of the week. No, he and and his wife sacrificed so much of themselves to truly minister to my family. They stretched me spiritually and encouraged me mentally. A huge part of who I am today is because of who they were to me then. 

(Lesson Number One: Never underestimate the power of your actions.)

During one of our Wednesday night series, David began something called "Destination Unknown." This was where he would take the youth to an unknown destination during our youth group time, and he would relate the place to a specific message. I remember visiting a wooded area where he discussed unreached people groups, posing the question how if people never hear the name of Jesus, can they still know that He exists and is their creator? A location I remember the most, though, was the city's old water tower. I still pass by it to this day every now and then when I am visiting my hometown. It's in an older part of town, and it's not surrounded by anything that would draw you to the neighborhood. It's not a place you would typically (or ever!) visit. You wouldn't take your kids out there to run in the small, open area for fun, you wouldn't plan a romantic picnic underneath its shadow, and you certainly wouldn't just visit to check an item off your bucket list of notable places to see. But 20 years later, I can still remember this short visit to that water tower, and every time I pass by it now, I'm brought back to that moment.

To be perfectly honest with you, I don't remember the point our youth pastor had in taking us there. I don't remember what passage of scripture he used, and I don't remember what the lesson was about. But as I was reflecting on it all today, for whatever reason, something struck me about it all: What exactly IS the purpose of a water tower? This is what I found:

"...A water supply system that provides emergency storage for fire protection..."

Why has that particular, short, Wednesday night lesson stuck in my mind all of this time? I think because of what that particular place represented. The water tower wasn't much to look at (there's a much newer and nicer looking one in my hometown now), and it didn't provide anything to me that I needed at that moment--we certainly weren't in need of emergency water supply that day at our visit! But I was desperately in need of consistent, spiritual figures in my life who would love me where I was at and encourage me to be all that God intended for me to be. I might not have known it at the time, but looking back, I can see several "emergencies" that were surrounding me, and I needed a source to be there for me to help get me through them. My youth pastor and his wife were just that. They didn't live in a fancy house, and I'm sure they weren't making very much at our small country church, but that didn't matter. They were living out their God-given calling with grace, determination, and purpose.

(Lesson number two: never allow the size of an assignment to determine the size of its possible effects. Jesus' most far-reaching ministry was just to a group of 12 people!)

I so desire that I can be that type of "emergency storage for protection" to other people. I pray that I never measure ministry by the size of the audience or the benefit for myself. I pray that I will allow myself to be fully available to consistently embody the security, supply, and sustenance that my Jesus desires to house within me, and I hope I remember that right now, my greatest audience is my family. It may not be the most glamorous of jobs--most days, I suit up in yoga pants and t-shirts; I encourage my husband and snuggle my babies;
I referee small sibling spats and serve quick and easy meals, and I don't get paid in any kind of monetary form. But that's not why I do what I do. I'm a wife and a mom because that's what GOD has called me to be--to love, encourage, provide, and be consistent in the everyday and the mundane. And while I certainly love and cherish my husband and my children, I pray my MAIN motive for being who I am is because I love my JESUS.

Be encouraged today, my friends. You may not have the largest audience--in fact, your location may often make you feel overgrown and forgotten--but you have a great purpose, and you may never realize the impact that you're having on those around you. So mommas, wear those yoga pants and spit up stains proudly! We play an important role in the body of Christ. Perhaps that city water tower will never really be utilized for its original intent, and perhaps we feel like our talents and desires remain untapped, too, but God desires that we remain consistent and AVAILABLE. God has created you to be an important source, housing His grace and His sustenance, so don't forget to tap into it!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Are We There YET??!

6AM on Thanksgiving (after everyone being up late spending time with family we don't see very often...)

Annie keeps laying over on her new doll that giggles every time you touch her belly, which makes Annie giggle every time she hears the baby doll giggle.  Daddy is groaning the "I drove 3 hours and didn't sleep good last night...please go back to sleep" kind of groan that all parents should be well acquainted with.

Mommy has already been awake for an hour, and she's trying to sneak out of the room for some "Java with Jesus" with the hope that the kiddos will fall back asleep...

but the baby doll keeps giggling...

and Annie Beth keeps shooting her head up out of the pack n play every time she senses Mommy's slightest (attemptedly stealthy) movements.

So, up we go...

only to discover that the other two are already wide awake as well.
 I sense naps in everyone's future...and I shall be THANKFUL for naps in everyone's future;-)

At any rate, as I looked at my kids and said, "Don't you want to go back to bed?" I had to laugh about my ridiculously rhetorical question. If my children are EVER given the option to go to sleep, they're always going to choose to stay awake where the action is! It reminded me of the silly rhetorical questions I often hear from them, too: "Are you awake yet?" "Can I just eat dessert tonight?" "Do I have to brush my teeth?" I'm sure you have a list compiled yourself from your littles one. But one I'm pretty sure that all of has heard happened in the car yesterday on our way to Mema Joan's house: 

15 minutes into the trip: "Are we there yet."
                                      "Honey, we JUST got into the car!"

45 minutes into the trip: "Are we there yet?"
                                      "No, sweetie...."

1 hour into the trip: "Are we there YET?"
                               (starting to get perturbed) "We're still driving on the road, so no, we are not there yet."

2 hours into the trip: "Are we there YET??"
                                "NO!  We are NOT there yet!" LOL

I realize these questions stem from excitement at arriving to a destination. Lucy was excited about getting to see her Mema Joan, Papa John, Nonnie, Opie, Aunt Bubba, and Uncle Joey. She had been anticipating the trip for quite awhile, and she couldnt wait to see everyone and spend time with them (And maybe get some speical "Mema Toast" for breakfast the next morning;-) But a parent can only get asked the same questions so many times before we start to crack a little, right?

I think of all of the times that happens at home, too. When I'm on the phone and Gabriel asks ten different times for Mommy to turn preshool prep on for him, but I need him to wait just a *few* more minutes...
Or when Annie acts like she hasn't been given a cup of "milk juice" in days, and she just doesn't understand the process takes more than Mommy magically snapping her fingers...
Or when Lucy is ready to eat breakfast, but Mommy desperately needs just a few more minutes to fully wake up before attempting to stumble into the kitchen and safely use any kind of eletrical device.

We often view our kids' endless questions as impatient actions. They get frustrated with us when we don't have immediate actions and/or responses. They have a need or a want, and they want to see immediate gratification from it. The quality of being patient is certainly a learned one though, and it's one we try to instill in them...

And yet...perhaps I do the same thing with my Daddy-God from time to time.

Our requests typically stem from a desire we have, a want, a need, a plea...and we often feel like we are asking over and over again, anticipating a result. We continuously tap at His shoulder, often wondering why we aren't getting a response. But it's not that Daddy-God isn't responding, or that He's too busy, or that he doesnt care. It's that He can see a part of the picture that we cannot. He's often protecting us with his delays, He's often teaching us from our persistance, and He's often pursuing us with our dependance on Him through the circumstance. God's delay is not a sign of His distance from our requests. In reality, God's delay in a sign of His great love for His childen, because He doesn't want what WE think will be best for us, but rather, He wants what HE KNOWS will be best for us! 

I know I've shared this story many different times on my blog, but I hope you'll allow me the opportunity to share it once again...

More than anything, from the time I was a little girl, I longed to be a momma. I played with baby dolls until I was in junior high and kept (okay, I STILL keep!) a list of names I wanted to name my future children. After I got married, I dreamed of the moment I would find out I was expecting a baby and get to experience the thrill of feeling that child grow inside of me. I longed for the moment I would see them face to face for the first time, hold them close, and sing them lullabies. I couldn't wait for the opportunity to raise a child alongside my husband who I had no doubt would be such an amazing father. So we tried, and we prayed, and we waited...and we cried.  I tapped on the shoulder of my Daddy-God repeatedly, pleading for a yes, asking for a why, questioning His delay...I felt confused and ignored, and probably even angry. 

As much as I sometimes wish my children would enjoy sleeping a little more easily, I don't enjoy the thought that my Daddy-God is sleeping (even though I know that's never really the case.) 

But all that time I was throwing a bit of a fit inwardly, my Heavenly Father was busy working behind the scenes. He was knitting together a family far greater than my hopes could have dreamed up, in a way I would have never even known how to have asked for. Did that make the waiting or the pain any easier in hindsight? No. But it made the end result even sweeter. And it taught me of one of the most important lessons we can learn in this life: God's faithfulness. You see, when we're asking and God doesn't seem to be answering, we can rest in the Truth that He IS listening and He IS working. And we can have the expectancy that His response is going to be so far greater than anything we could ever ask or imagine--because that's what He's promised to us!   

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory..." Ephesians 3:20

In what ways are you finding yourselves tapping on the shoulder of your Daddy-God? How many times are you asking Him, "Aren't we there YET?!" Rest assured, my friend, He knows, He hears, He cares, and He IS at work! On this Thanksigving day, let's choose to thank Him in advance for what He has done and what He is GOING to do for each and every one of us!  Sometimes the road is a bit long, but we'll eventually arrive at the destination. (and "Mema toast" may even be waiting on us;-)