Uncharted Territory

Caleb and his ABC scripture cards

Caleb and his ABC scripture cards

Ok, again… too long since last post.  I promised I’d avoid the POD (Pit of Despair) this summer and I’m happy to report:  I DID!!!  Another post will outline my strategy for success on this.  For now, I have other news.

We’ve spent this summer, Dwayne and I, wrestling with a major decision:  What to do about school for the kids???

Our oldest has been getting by with online school, middle had a sad excuse for a fourth grade year, and baby is only 3.  Bottom line, we were looking for some good solutions for our kids when it comes to school.  Private school is out.  Can’t afford tuition, plus our last experience with private school was not too great.  Public school, while I have no problem in theory with it, didn’t do the trick for my kids either.  Especially Levi struggled mightily this past school year and nothing I tried seemed to work.  Nothing major, just barely passing grades and little actual growth. Translate this: 2 frustrating hours of homework every night until somebody or everybody cries and nobody knows what we’re doing wrong.  Now that Mackenzie is accepted to NOCCA, meaning we won’t arrive home until 7pm to start the aforementioned homework torture routine, we needed a new direction.

I had a thought, a daring, crazy thought that I knew my husband would immediately reject but I couldn’t keep it out of my mind.  So I brought it up.

He didn’t reject it.  He thought about it.  I thought about it.  We prayed about it.  We sought advice of trusted friends.  We decided to go for it.  I’m going to say it really fast so it won’t seem so ca-razy.

I’mhomeschoolingmykidsandstillworkingfulltime.

Oh my gosh, I said it.  I know this is taboo so you’ll still be my friend, right?  Even if you think I’m nuts?  Thanks, I knew you would.

I’ve rearranged my schedule a bit, so I’m up at 5:45am, and by 7:00 the kids and I are doing school core studies. (The bus for public high school stops on our street at 6:45am in case this seems crazy early to anyone.)  Roughly three hours later I head to work and then tap out with stepdad who does afternoon reading, driving to field trips, music lessons,  P.E. and the drop off at NOCCA where Mackenzie has been accepted as a student of culinary arts.  Around 6 I leave work and head to NOCCA to pick up my girl, and we all reconvene at home around 7:00 to have dinner, get baths, and drop into bed.  Weekends include some prep time and coaching from my very own homeschool professional, Janet, is in abundance.

Ya’ll, for a while I totally doubted if I could do this.  I sought help from various sources, validation really.  I asked a homeschool blogger for advice, but got something like “I understand.  I work full time AT HOME too.”  Hmmm… I know it came from a good heart, but I felt like it meant “NO way can a work OUTside the home mom do this.”  But the truth is, it’s doable.  Not easy.  But possible.  Kids who are professional entertainers, missionary kids, and even regular old American families, all homeschool in unconventional ways…so why not us?

Since this IS still the US of A and my school choice for my kids is still my business, I considered keeping quiet about this because I fear the judgemental attitudes of others.  However, I’ve had so much fun the past three weeks and so much joy with my kids that I had to share this with ya’ll.

We’ve memorized scripture verses, learned about sea turtles, dolphins and alligators, learned spelling rules and cursive handwriting, analyzed and written our own poems, studied prohibition and Lewis and Clark and more.  And this was all during our “trial run” before regular school started.  You know, in case we couldn’t handle this schedule we’d still be able to start regular school and keep trying to figure something out.  But the trial run only served to prove to me that this CAN work.

I’m looking into my children’s eyes.  I’m spending the FIRST and best part of my day concentrating on them, not just the last and most irritable moments.  My son has learned more in three weeks than I saw him pick up over the entire second semester of last year.  I’ve been able to determine some areas that need attention, ones I didn’t realize were lacking.

Since Levi was a baby, I’ve been haunted by a night when I, against what I KNEW God was telling me in my heart, allowed a doctor to catheterize him.  I knew it was unnecessary, but was afraid to go against the doctor’s orders.  I never want to feel that way again.  It turned out, my “feeling” was right, he was fine and there was no bladder infection.  I caused my baby unnecessary pain by being scared to just be his mom.  Not anymore.  In my heart’s deepest places, I want to give whatever it takes, do whatever it takes to love these babies and introduce them to God and give them a happy life.  I know that God will direct me and give me everything I need to do what He wants done for these three amazing creatures He created in my womb.  I’m so excited for what we’re doing.  Whether we do it for the next year only or for the rest of their school careers, I’m enjoying every minute in this uncharted territory.  Maybe it’s a lil’ weird, but I’m cool with that.  I’m happy to be mommy to these three, wife to Dwayne and whatever else God asks me to be.

 

 

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For Real?

I’m a terrible faker.  Really bad.  I can’t figure out if it’s because I’m no good at faking or because faking is fake, in and of itself.  Yes, I said faking is fake.  The idea of faking is a mirage because fake effort yields fake results.

You can’t fake being sober if you’re drunk.  Don’t ask how I know, and if you’re one of the ones who know how I know, quit snickering.

You can’t fake being an athlete if you’re a couch potato.

You can’t fake right relationship, either.  Once you’ve gone there, once you’ve experienced real connection with someone, then try all you want but you won’t be able to fake that if something gets in the way.

Here’s where I struggle:  Sometimes I “fake” because I’m not completely trusting God for the results.  It’s a form of self protection.

Here’s an example:  Part of my job is to build relationships with the residents and families at the assisted living home where I work.  I love that part of my job.  I work hard to make real connections with people, show them real love, and give them a sincere hand of friendship during a difficult life transition.  This week, during a pretty hectic day, a family member showed up during my lunch break.  I was irritated.  I had already bent over backwards on more than one occasion for this person and I was a bit annoyed at having to cut into my precious half hour’s peace.  I pasted on a smile and did what I thought was an excellent job of faking it while I handled what was needed.  The family member gave me a quizzical look and said “You seem upset today.  Are you ok?”

BUSTED!!

Now, I know there are times when an honest, painful heart to heart is necessary to clear the air.  But there are some times when it’s just me.  In that moment, when I was asked “Are you ok?”, God whispered to me.  “Why are you trying to fake this?  Why not just get your heart right?  Why not just decide to go the second mile, love above and beyond, and surrender your annoyance to Me?”

Part of having real relationship is being able to “bear with one another,” “forgive one another.”   Part of loving other people is deciding to leave the “fairness” up to God.  You can’t fake that type of surrender.  Start holding onto your “rights” or keeping score, and something shows up in the curl of your lip, the hesitance in your smile, the dullness in your eyes, and your feelings are betrayed.

When it’s needed, nothing can take the place of a true, honest confrontation with another person who has hurt you.  But that’s for another blog.  Sometimes, when I can’t keep my feelings in check, what I’m really trying to fake is trust in God.

Can’t be done.

Real trust and real surrender to a very real God make for the realest of relationships with other people.  I’m learning that you can’t go back to fake once you’ve had what’s real.

Harder work?  Yep.

Painful sometimes?  Yep.

Worth it?  Of course!

I’m for real about that!

 

 

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Making 70

My dad made 70 today.  In New Orleans you don’t “turn” a certain age, like “turn 30.”  You MAKE your age each year.  Only Dad’s not here, he’s in Lakeland, Florida.  Still, for me, he makes 70.  I’ll see him soon, but on days like today I wake up with tears wishing I were helping cook his birthday dinner and make him a cake.

New Orleans is the wild, wild west compared to where I grew up.  You don’t find guys like my Dad here.  Sure there are lots of good ole boys, but it’s not the same.  I remember when I first moved here, going months on end without seeing a cow, or really a piece of open land big enough to handle a cow.  It was weird.

Kenzie and the cow

Mackenzie feeds Holstein

 

Dad isn’t really all that fond of the nearly 700 miles between us.  I’m not either.

Some days I wonder why I even bother.  If anyone knew how many times a day my heart cries to go home to Daddy and Mom, they’d wonder the same thing.  But I know the answer, really.  I bother because I really think God wants me here in this crazy, awesome, sideways place.  My mom took a picture of me at about 17, upset over something and crying in my Daddy’s arms.  I’m pretty sure God knows that if I were physically close enough, I’d never really move beyond that.  There’s no place safer or better, except the arms of God Himself.  I’m lucky to have had a Dad who introduced me to God and made an example of God’s unconditional love in a world where so many Fathers become an obstacle to a child’s understanding of God as a loving Father.  My Dad only enhanced that understanding for me.

Papa and Caleb

Papa and Caleb

My Dad, and Mom, taught me love.  They taught me work.  They taught me Jesus.  They taught me faith, a for-real, down-deep, affects every part of your life faith, not a measly one day a week, take-a-lick-at-a-snake excuse for religion.  And here… here in a place where there isn’t any room for cows, I’m bringing and sharing and living what they taught me.  I’m raising my kids their way.  I’m growing veggies in my fenced-in, subdivided yard.  My house has more than its share of mason jars and my van finds its way to the farmer’s market practically on its own.  I stand there among very cool, very green, hipster types and look for a flat of strawberries cheap enough to make jam.  I cock my head to the side at the things they grow, like kale, and wonder where are the “new potatoes” and “silver queen corn” and “zipper peas”?  My hands hold babies the way Dad and Mom did, and love old people the way they did.  They introduced me to hospitals and nursing homes and funerals through their ministry in those places and now I love old people for a living.  My eyes and my smile carry their physical traits, and communicate their philosophy of real faith and real love for people.

It occurs to me that I repeat this behavior on a fairly regular basis.  Trying to bring a little of the love I was brought up with to the place I’ve been transplanted.  Trying to say “See, Daddy?  Mom? See, Granny?  Papa?  I listened!  I watched!  I loved the things you made for me and taught me and did for me and now I’m doing them over and over again, copying you in another part of the world because the goodness of you needs to be taken to other places.”   It’s in my tomatoes, potatoes, strawberry jam, vegetable soup, various holiday casseroles, and so on.  It’s in my children and the way they are being raised.  It’s in my work and the way I love to see crinkly laugh lines and wrinkly eyes light up.

Dad, Caleb and Holstein

Daddy, Caleb, and Holstein

It’s you, Dad. (And Mama too!!!)  You gave me a lot of good stuff to bring beyond the 20 acres where I learned it all.  I’m living the faith you taught me.  I’m adding your flair to my everyday life.  I’m following the God you introduced me to, with all of my heart.  I keep Jeffries in my name because it’s a reminder of who I am, and who I’m teaching my children to be.

You’ve made a lot more than 70, Daddy!  Hope you have a happy birthday!!

Mom and Dad's 50th

Mom and Dad's 50th Anniversary

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Control Freak

Hello, my name is Rebecca and…

I’m a control freak.

Yep.  Don’t judge.  You probably are too.

Oooo ya’ll, I love me some control.  I don’t even mind being at fault for a problem… just so I get to call the shots.  Here’s the thing with that:  You can’t really control things like hurricanes, divorces, failing health, car accidents… oh yeah and OTHER PEOPLE.  You can’t control other people.  This includes, but is not limited to, husbands and children.

Summer’s here, you know.  My annual pit of despair opens its mouth yet again as I anticipate sending my big kids to Florida for a few weeks.  Without me.  Outside my control.  Ugh.

Something’s different this year.  This year I’ve decided to avoid the P.O.D (pit of despair).  Not goin’ in.

God and I have had a few talks over the last few weeks.  Here’s something that caught my eye…

JOB 37

14 “Listen to this, Job;
stop and consider God’s wonders.
15 Do you know how God controls the clouds
and makes his lightning flash?
16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?
17 You who swelter in your clothes
when the land lies hushed under the south wind,
18 can you join him in spreading out the skies,
hard as a mirror of cast bronze?

19 “Tell us what we should say to him;
we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness.
20 Should he be told that I want to speak?
Would anyone ask to be swallowed up?
21 Now no one can look at the sun,
bright as it is in the skies
after the wind has swept them clean.
22 Out of the north he comes in golden splendor;
God comes in awesome majesty.
23 The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power;
in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.
24 Therefore, people revere him,
for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?[b]”

You know what?  I’m not in control of what goes on with my babies when they are away.

Know what else?  God IS.

Truth be told, I waste a lot of time and emotional energy trying to control the uncontrollable.  Trying to make sure nothing bad happens.  Trying to shield and protect and oversee.  Trying to improve and revamp and adjust.

Yeah, God totally has it.

I think somewhere along the way I decided that my broken heart was evidence that God wasn’t quite able to handle my life.  So of course it would be better if I took over.  Right.

As evidenced by four miserable, depressing, sickening summers… that didn’t work.

This year, I’m leaving the control in God’s hands.  That’s actually a joke because it’s always been there.  Let me try again.  This year I’m not going to waste my time obsessing and worrying about what God controls.  He will be faithful to my children just like He has been to me.  I’m just going to love my kids, be grateful for my family and enjoy my life.

Hmmmm…..

Now what kind of freak will I be?

 

 

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Lime-life

It all started with three fateful words, texted to me by my friend, Janet. (That’s Janet, of butt blowdrying fame to any who have been reading for a while…) Anyway, back to the text:

Key. Lime. Pie.

From the moment I read the words on the screen of my iphone, I knew. I would be making a key lime pie.

To set the scene for you, about a week ago someone gave an industrial size bottle of key lime juice to my husband, the chef. I was thrilled. Overjoyed. I have a thing for key limes.

Just try. Try to think of something that doesn’t benefit from a twist of lime. I know! You can’t!!

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Is that KEY LIME in those glasses?

Then over the weekend while walking through Walmart minding my own business, I happened to pass a sale on bags of adorable little key limes. What good fortune! Those would go perfectly with everything I intended to mix with my lime juice. So I bought them, of course, and some coconut vodka just in case.

Can I just tell ya’ll that limes are totally one of my favorite things God makes? I just love ’em.

So I’ve used my juice over the last few days to paint a lime-ey ribbon through cocktails, homemade salsa, water, and tea and fed these lime laced labors of love to anyone who put their feet under our table.

And then of all things, Janet texts me about a key lime pie she was having and, not one to be outdone, I knew it was time for the pie. At first I got out my favorite cookbook, going for a “busy days pie” using ready made crust, whipped cream, condensed milk, and lime juice. Then I realized I had no ready made crust on hand, neither did I have whipped cream. A younger, sillier me would have given up, but nah…

I simply made my own graham cracker crust! It was easy!  I have a three-year-old, so graham crackers are a given.

Then I went for a recipe I found here, and it too was easy. PLUS it still called for condensed milk and who doesn’t love that stuff?? I may or may not have dumped a little lime juice in the bottom of the can after I poured most of its contents into the mixing bowl and eaten the lime juice and leftover condensed milk with a spoon. What? You know you’d do it too!

Anyway, I also didn’t have whipped cream, but I DID have whipping cream. (There’s a difference.) So after I picked up my Mackenzie from youth group and while my darling little pie was cooling in the fridge, the whipping cream lived its dream… fulfilled its destiny… it got whipped.

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Mama's piece of pie

So now I sit, alone, all others in the house slumbering peacefully. But I made a pie. And I ate the first piece. You know, out of good will toward the rest of the pie eaters that may come along, I willingly took the always-misshapen, difficult-to-cut first piece upon myself. Don’t tell, but it wasn’t misshapen at all. It cut like a perfect custard pie with all the preservatives in the world. You’d never know it was haphazardly homemade by a silly girl who is lime-crazy.

Limes, especially ones of the key variety, remind me of Florida. They have their roots, their history in Florida and so do I.  I love a bunch of people in Florida so limes make me cry in a happy/sad/lovely sort of way. (What? You don’t cry over fruit that reminds you of people you love? Then I won’t mention the various levels of emotional breakdown I have over green beans, corn, home canned tomatoes or fresh navel oranges.) So I can’t have Florida (you know, the people I love that live there) but I CAN put key limes in everything possible and know that the salsa on my chip, the wedge in my tea, or the pie on my plate is smiling back at me, reflecting a little bit of who I am.

I love limes, ya’ll. And pie. And my mama and daddy.  Lime Life is good.

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Lime life photo by Caleb, age 3

 

 

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All Natural

Around our house we’ve got a little trend going. We’re keeping things natural. We haven’t really talked about this. It’s not a bandwagon we’re on or anything, we’ve just been enjoying a lot of natural, simple things…

Local produce from Hollygrove Market and Farm.

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Our weekly produce haul

Creole tomatoes growing in our yard.

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Little Baby Creole Tomatoes

Mint Juleps with mint we grew ourselves.

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My mint!

A new/old shelf from an onion crate found in the neighbor’s garbage.

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Our new/old crate/shelf!

A made from scratch Mother’s Day brunch at home.

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Mackenzie's Mother's Day Brunch

These days natural things are kind of rare. Natural foods, hair colors, clothing, body parts… they’re an oddity rather than the other way around.

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My natural lips plus a little unnatural lipstick!

Even things that say “natural” on the label usually aren’t really natural at all. I’ve been thinking how the same goes for our relationships, with God and with each other. Natural, honest, calm communication is rare. What we normally experience is flowery, fake, frantic and fraught with double meanings if not all-out untruths.

Being part of a house church provides a very natural, basic way of expressing my faith. I find myself more and more uncomfortable with manufactured spirituality. My own included. Have you ever heard someone pray aloud and wondered if they really talk to God that way in private? Heh. I’ve wondered that about myself. There comes a point when the “pre-packaged” expressions of spiritual speech just don’t nourish anymore.  Just like a wrapped granola bar can’t compete with a warm homemade oatmeal cookie, the boxed and labeled premixed prayers and conversations cease to satisfy a craving for true, authentic interaction with the Father God and His other children.

I’m not talking about prayers like The Lord’s Prayer here.  I’m speaking of those expressions, fillers, things we say just because it’s expected or because we don’t know what else to say.  I have a few pet peeves like using “Amen?” to ask for agreement or understanding, the “unspoken” prayer request, or asking an omnipresent God to “be with” us.  You know the type of thing.  Could be a figure of speech or just saying fluffy stuff in prayer or conversation with another person rather than getting to the real, natural expression of actual thought and concept.  I’ll be first to admit that sometimes I’ve said nothing in prayer because other than platitudes, I had nothing to say.  Yeah, God wasn’t surprised.  I find my “out-loud” prayers with my family and my church family are sometimes stilted and awkward as I struggle to keep it natural rather than resorting to something prepackaged or formulated.

I’d like to see my life, in prayer and conversation, filled with less prepackaged things like “Fine, how are you?” and more home-grown stuff like “I don’t tell you enough, but I love you.” or “You know I really respect you, admire you, or even disagree with you.”  I’d like to stick to natural words and concepts that are real rather than convenient but empty words that fill time but don’t really accomplish any communication.  And ya’ll can hold me to it.

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Mint Julep with homegrown mint.

Here’s to natural!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Us

Just had our fourth wedding anniversary. We had a lil’ weekend getaway.

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There was this.

20130429-232932.jpg And this.

Oh… and this (yes, I did!)20130429-233014.jpg

 

Our getaway involved several hours alone to just reconnect. We’ve had lots of “you and me” but building an “us” has been a bit more challenging. Sometimes it seems our four years have flown by.  Sometimes it seems an eternity since we’ve struggled through so many things.

We’re still working on it, but it was really good to be reminded that there is more to us than pee-peeing on the potty, driver’s ed, 4th grade homework, and eating your vegetables.  We’re more than what we fight about, more than our perpetually empty checking account and perpetually packed to-do lists.

To keep it real, ya’ll, we’ve sometimes acted as if neither of us learned a darn thing from our first failures.  We’ve approached this marriage like two dummies expecting to “stick in a thumb and pull out a plum” as my daddy would say.  Oh, we knew second marriages are difficult, but OURS would be different, right?  Right.  Keep on dreamin’, honey.

Four years and about four MILLION “discussions” later, we are learning how to stop collecting retribution for past hurts from each other, though we had nothing to do with each others’ pasts.  We are learning (who, me?) how to leave well-enough alone, how to give each other some space for grace.  We’ve finally begun to quit trying to force our individual ways of doing things on one another and instead we’re starting to  figure out our COLLECTIVE way of doing things.  I think we’re about to get on the same team here, people!

We ain’t perfect, yall.  But things are lookin’ bright.

And Honey, if you read this sometime… I had the best weekend with you.  Happy Anniversary!

 

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The Easter I Couldn’t Plan

Oh law, did WE have us a wonderful Easter or what?

We did!

Growing up I have a lot of special Easter memories. Many of them involving an Easter dress WITH a bonnet or a hat. Mmmm hmmm. Many memories also involve a musical of some kind, or a passion play.

20130401-223824.jpgThis year, however, we made some different memories with our family. On Saturday night we attended a Messianic Passover Seder with our Origins family. I had so much fun hearing again the story of Passover and drawing the parallels to Jesus, our Lamb of God.


 

 

 

 

Easter morning,while my darling picked up our 60 pound crawfish order from the seafood merchant, I made Hot Cross Buns! (Click on the phrase to see my inspiration) Please tell me I’m not the only person who played the song in first grade piano lessons and on the recorder in third grade and never knew it was about buns with crosses on top. Please.

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Anyway, they’re evidently somewhat of an Easter tradition. Perhaps not a southern one which would explain why I had no idea. But when Joy the Baker put a post up about Cross buns I knew I had my Easter morning breakfast plan. I do love Joy the Baker. I love anyone who knows the value of a carb as much as I. A sister in all things sweet, she is. Anyway, since I’m nowhere near as awesome as Joy the Baker, my crew got whop cinnamon rolls (you know, the kind where you WHOP the can on the counter to pop it open) with icing crosses.

It’s the thought that counts, yeah?

And since we had a big group of 15 for house church (Easter crowds everywhere, ya know!) it also took a dozen biscuits, NOT whop biscuits thankyaverymuch, and a breakfast casserole with enough cheese to bind us all together if you know what I mean, to feed everybody. Oh, and two pots of coffee. Don’t tell, but I love the feeding everybody part the best about house church. Give me Jesus, a table full of biscuits and butter, a hot pot of coffee, a bunch of people, and it is on like pecan my friends.

As a matter of fact, Janet’s dad was telling God when he closed us in prayer how he had loved sharing house church with us, it had seemed a little like what we’ll all do in heaven… sitting together enjoying each other and talking over all He has done. I hadn’t exactly thought of it that way before, but it’s true. A little bit of heaven is practiced in my home every week. I’m loving it.

And as if that weren’t enough, the coffee hadn’t even cooled before people started arriving for phase two of Easter festivities: the crawfish boil.

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Ya’ll, there were kids everywhere, family, friends, faces to love all OVER the place.20130401-224312.jpg We killed a BUNCH of crawfish, hunted eggs, laughed and talked.

 

 

 

 

 

It was incredible. And I don’t even eat crawfish.

 

 

But people I love DO.20130401-224127.jpg20130401-224143.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just as everything was winding down, everybody dragging their happy, crawfish-stuffed selves to their cars and heading home, it started to rain. It was a lovely, soft rain just perfect for a visit with one of my favorite people who happened to wander over from down the street. God blessed me with some relatively quiet moments to chat, eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, and enjoy the company of yet another person I love.

After the rain, Janet and Ray’s electricity went out so they came back and piled on our couches and we ended the day watching the Bible on TV and drinking another pot of coffee.

I’m sure I could have never planned a more perfect Easter weekend. Good thing I didn’t really plan it. I mean, we knew we’d attend the Seder, we ordered the crawfish ahead, I schemed over the cross buns and all that stuff. But those weren’t the things that made the weekend perfect. It was the love of friends and family, the love of God, all blended up together to make a level of exquisite-ness not able to be conjured up through human effort.  What better way to celebrate a miraculous, resurrected Jesus?  I can think of none.

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Unforced Rhythms of Grace

 

This came from a great blog I follow, Margaret Feinberg. I really like Margaret’s books. Check her out sometime.

Anyway, this scripture was taken from The Message paraphrase. The phrase “unforced rhythms of grace” keeps echoing in my mind. I’ve been learning a bit about those unforced rhythms over the past few years. When I took piano lessons as a kid, I had this old thing called a metronome. It FORCED me to keep a certain time, meaning any rhythm I played had to obey that particular speed. I didn’t enjoy that thing. You wouldn’t know it, though, by the way I lived for a long time. I lived by some very forced rhythms.

Get all A’s. Do everything right. Make sure you live up to expectations. Never let ’em see you sweat.

I have to be honest, I’m so used to marching to a very strict beat, that unforced rhythms aren’t too comfy for me. Or weren’t. Now I’m learning to bask in them. Enjoy them. I’m liking what happens when I stop trying so hard and leave it to God for real.

Sunday morning was house church, of course. We’re on four years of house church now. That means we’ve been meeting since I was pregnant with Caleb. That means Caleb’s ALWAYS been a house church kid. Can I tell you a secret? I’ve been SO scared that somehow my littlest love would know less about God or love Him less than my big darlings. They WERE ministry kids, after all. They went to the Sunday Schools and VBSes and Summer Camps and all that stuff. They got rocked in the church nursery by ladies that love Jesus and came home with lipstick marks on their cheeks and clothes that reeked of grandma perfume. How would Caleb EVER begin to match their God-stuff pedigree? Back to Sunday morning.

We sat in the living room finishing up house church and were closing with prayer. Caleb came to my lap and sat there quietly while Janet prayed. He whispered to me “I want to pray.” I said “Ok, Mrs. Janet is talking to God now and then you can pray.” “No,” he said “All of us pray.” I finally caught on that he meant he wanted us to say The Lord’s Prayer together, as is our tradition every week. Janet finished and another person chimed in his prayer, then I let everyone know Caleb wanted us to pray the Lord’s Prayer. As we did, my baby boy prayed along with us, keeping up with the words, and finishing up with a loud AMEN!

In a very quiet way, I realized that our unforced rhythm is being used by God to work His grace in all our lives. He doesn’t need my metronome to tell Him how to show Himself to me or my children. As I’ve been trying to keep my eyes on Him, follow as best I know how with brothers and sisters and babies He’s given to me, He has still caught the heart of my boy. And this Sunday, my babies worshipped alongside their dad and me, another dad and his kids, a single guy, and another couple who have become as close as family. They had someone to play in the yard with them, hug them, affirm them, and little Caleb had his choice of laps to occupy and arms waiting to wrap around him. God’s family played out right in our living room as it does week after week. Simply loving Jesus is catching, my friends! Perhaps it’s those unforced rhythms of grace that capture our hearts anyway, no matter where or how we engage with the church. It’s Jesus Himself that becomes so wonderful, so irresistible, so all-sufficient.  It’s been Him all along.

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My church “metronome” went out the window a few years ago, and I won’t lie, it ain’t easy to let go of all my church-ey labels and security blankets.  Sunday mornings look like this instead of a pew-filled sanctuary.   I’m learning to simply love God, follow Him sincerely, love His word, and walk humbly with the people He places along the same path. I’ve pried my fingers time and again off of the old confidences I held because of my Christian pedigree and I’m learning to look to God as Conductor. These unforced rhythms are making for a lovelier sound than I ever thought possible.

 

 

 

 

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Jesus’ Stepdaddy

Chef: “I bet you don’t even know who St. Joseph is!” Me: “Oh yes, I do! He’s Jesus’ Stepdaddy!!!”

An excerpt from an actual conversation that took place between my husband and me around St. Joseph Day about 5 years ago. Ummm… yeah. That was before we were, ya know, liking each other and stuff.

Today was St. Joseph Day and our annual St. Joseph altar was held at St. Francis Villa. 20130319-234622.jpgIf you’ve never experienced a St. Joseph Altar, then mark your calendar for next year and live a little, would ya? But take my advice, don’t just go and be a visitor to an altar. You gotta get BEHIND THE SCENES, stay all day, and really see what it’s all about. Italian food, Italian mothers, Italian traditions, and regular old garden variety love and laughter. Oh, and cookies. It’s very much about cookies.

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I have to tell you that first altar we did together was rough. I wasn’t too sure about anything Catholic or Italian and he wasn’t too sure about a Baptist girl running a time honored Catholic Italian tradition. We laugh about this now, and looking back, we know that our work together on that project was the beginning of our friendship, however rocky it may have been. Our friendship blossomed, needless to say. There may or may not have been a stolen lemon involved, as St. Joseph altar legend advises.

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Anyway, the altar has become a treasured tradition for me, not just for the joy it brings to our residents and the fun and friendship that happens on that day, but for me it’s a reminder. Another reason to celebrate Jesus. A reason to think about how He was a real kid, and went through real stuff…like having a step dad. You know, the scripture gives us a major clue about Joseph when it tells us he planned to divorce Mary quietly once he discovered she was with child. He had other, much more vicious and vindictive options. He could have made her pay for the humiliation she brought to him. With her life. But nah… he planned to go quietly on, refusing himself the satisfaction of vengeance. It takes a pretty awesome guy, ego TOTALLY in check, to make that kind of decision and let something like that go. Of course when the angel appeared to Joseph and clued him in on the plan, he was on board with God. He then allowed his life to be overtaken by that Boy, moving himself and Mary to Egypt to protect Jesus. How many guys would do something like that for a child they didn’t father?

It always strikes me when I hear the altar blessings on St. Joseph day, how they refer to Joseph as a protector of children. I’ve known the story of Jesus’ birth for as long as I can remember, but I haven’t often stopped to consider the way Joseph protected the child Jesus. What an example to dads everywhere, stepdads especially.

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I still don’t claim to be any kind of expert on Catholic or Italian things. I’m just glad to be part of a day of such fun, such love, such generosity… and glad to be reminded of the man who was Jesus’ Stepdaddy.

And one last little shot of a resident lovin’ on my baby.  Too cute to resist!!

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