Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Feeling Him

I finally felt Him. Praise Jesus! (Do a dance right here!) See, I have been making "my" station since the beginning of Lent. I felt inspired to make it and felt a "vision" of it last Easter Sunday. I was thrilled to know I would get to participate again after such a deeply spiritual experience last year. Then I went back to work and in chapel with the munchkins the entire lesson was on what I had planned to do for my station. See, my station is all about Simon of Cyrene, and I had a vision of his travel bag. I just didn't know what to put in it. (Toothbrush and an extra pair of underwear didn't seem appropriate.) Then, at chapel (at St. Martin's where I work), the whole lesson for the kiddos was about Simon coming in from the country with a basket of eggs. They turned to beautifully decorated eggs by the end of the story. What a sign! I was meant to make the bag - and fill it with eggs.

Fast forward to 2010 Lenten season. Bag - definitely. Eggs - ? Then I went to my bible study, and we talked about Ebenezer rocks. The women from my group inspire me just about every time they talk, and I was not disappointed this time either. Bag - Yes. Eggs - no. Rocks - Definitely! At the moment I realized what God wanted me to make, things got a little easier. Still, I had not had the feeling that the Spirit stirred in me. The entire Lenten season I have procrastinated and dragged my feet on this project. I have not obsessed about it. I have not been excited about it. I have certainly not been motivated. Yet today the Lord saved me - from embarrassment, worry, pride, apathy, myself essentially. He inspired me; He let me feel His presence. I am no longer worried whether I got it just right or whether people will feel Him through me. I no longer feel the responsibility to do this on my own. I feel Him, and I cannot tell you how relieved I am. And all I have to say, is once again, I may have been gifted the physical skills needed to make station #5, but it is His creation. I have been saved, and I cannot take credit. Oh thank you, sweet Jesus!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Embracing the Detours

There are detours that are minor bumps, hiccups, cute little side trips, and then there are those which change our lives. I know of 2 detours that have had a bearing on the path which I am currently taking.

Detour #1: I went to Furman University. I wanted to go to a school that had some opportunity for me to continue dancing, and possibly a dance conservatory. However, I injured my ankles my senior year of high school, and was told by my doctor that if I continued dancing as strenuously as I was currently, I would be wheel chair bound within three years. OR I could give it up. At that point I had been dancing for 13 years and was averaging 20 hours a week after school in rehearsals. I gave it up, and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was like cutting out part of my soul. I can still, as a mother of two and adult woman far removed from that world, go see a show, and silently cry in yearning to be up there with those that can. That is those that can dance - at that level. It's a gift, and I got to taste it.

The other part of college was that wherever I went, it would be north, since I had grown up in small town Tennessee. I worked my tail off to get accepted to some phenomenal schools, and then I had to accept that my parents couldn't afford them. They could afford more than lots, but even then, the schools I had aimed for were more, and I had no scholarship to them. An acceptance letter wasn't enough. So. I went to Furman, which is in South Carolina, where I received a scholarship for viola and I played in the orchestra, and I was EXACTLY where I needed to be. It was a beautiful school, and I was greatly challenged, and I had to grow up to survive, and my professors noticed me, and they cared about me, and I cannot describe how grateful I am to my parents. Furman wasn't (isn't) cheap, and they sacrificed to give me that experience, and to me, at the time, it was just a detour. I grew there. By the end, I got it. Or should I say, I got him (smile). In fact, my college roommate introduced me to my husband shortly after we graduated. It's actually all his fault I even took detour number two.

Detour #2: Since I had not had the opportunity to go north for school, I decided I would go north for work. I wanted to be an inner city middle school teacher in Boston. Yes, middle school. Yes, Boston. My parents had taken me to Boston on a business trip back in high school, and I had gotten to stay in the ritzy section, ride the train alone, and be pampered at some of the boutiques. I naively thought Boston would be a great place to go teach inner city kids. After all, I had read the book, Dangerous Minds, before seeing the movie. All joking aside, it was my dream to go teach in an inner city environment, and I took the coursework to prepare myself. But Michael came along right as I started my student teaching. He was just too cute, and pretty quickly my job applications started moving south. I had three offers, but only one was near him, and I took it. I lived with his aunt and uncle while I looked for an apartment, and I changed my life's purpose to include him. He gave me the life I have now - a marriage - two precious boys - a home in the south - a life better than I had planned. It's funny, they say, the best joke you can tell God is your five year plan. I told God that joke twelve years ago, and he has rewarded me ever since.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


"I was born in TN, late July humidity, doctors say I am lucky to be alive..."

Brandon Heath song

Okay, not entirely true for me, but I WAS born in TN in May and I am lucky I even got here. That's another story for another day. The reason I start with a song is that songs remind me of driving in the car during the freedom of summer and taking off through the mountains towards my home. The home town where I had the privilege of growing up. I LOVE Maryville, TN. You would not have known this fact the summer before I left for college, but hindsight 20/20 is how my brain tends to operate. In my time on the Earth I have traveled some, and most of it was before husband and kids came along. All of my siblings and my parents have traveled what I would call extensively and have lived overseas and get sent to exciting places regularly for work or in law visits. I go to Augusta, GA for the day or maybe to Atlanta or Maryville to see the family and then we make a 2 hour drive to the beach occasionally. The places I go are all accessible within an afternoon in a car. I like my homebody status. I get jealous of all these friends whose parents live in the same town with them, and they get free babysitting, and they get to just hang out, and if they get on each other's nerves they just go home to their house. And then have dinner together next week. Pretty nice set up if you ask me. I like my family. I'd be okay with all of us living closer together. I like my in laws. I'd be okay living near them too. And yet, right now, I live in Columbia, which I do love. And I have this tendency to fall in love with where I am, once I have had the time to make myself comfortable. I loved Aiken before Columbia. Now I am settled here. Yet I got born into this traveling family and married this man that speaks Japanese, God help me, and so I think God is having fun continually knocking me out of my comfort status. Because now Michael is in FL on business, and we are praying for a clue as to what our future is shaping up to look like. Do I get to stay put? Do we move? Does Michael find a new job? What's transpiring in God's universe that involves me that I don't know about? And to top it all off, I have naively been tootling along for a year now imagining a station of the cross in which I create Simon of Cyrene's travel bag. Now I'm wondering if God wasn't sending me my clue for A YEAR NOW and I am just now getting it! I am making MY travel bag, and now that I might be understanding, though hopefully I'm overthinking, I can't seem to get started. Oh, Lord. Please help me. Seriously!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Breathing lessons

So the last few weeks at my bible study with the ladies, the same phrase has been repeated a few times, and it goes something like this.

What you breathe out, they breathe in.

It is offered up as child rearing advice. For some of us at Gospel Transformation it relates to our interaction with the general population of people everywhere, and even close to home, such as skeptical family members, when talking about faith. Therefore, the general idea is to breathe out Holy Spirit in all that we do, in order to be good parents and apostles. It's a very nice idea; it really is.

Sometimes I slip up. Yes, I know this about myself. But I repent and ask forgiveness for all the sins I know about, and ask for grace on the ones I don't recognize, and I figure I'm covered. Hopefully God won't make me pay. My God is way too nice to make me pay if I say I'm sorry.

When my oldest son was four, he was still riding a tricycle. At preschool they held a fundraiser for St. Jude's hospital called the trike-a-thon. All the kids were to bring their tricycles to school and they would ride laps around a track to raise money. Adorable idea. The day of the race, I dropped Key off with his tricycle and a new helmet (did not want to be the bad parent so we had to go buy one the night before) and wished him well. When I picked him up at the end of the day, he was all mad and pouty. Apparently his buddies all rode four wheelers (a bike with training wheels) and so they beat him by several laps. I can just imagine him furiously pedaling, trying in vain to keep up. After that day he would not ride his tricycle. So, for Christmas, we took him to the fancy cycling shop and showed him the pretty green and blue bikes. They were expensive. They were very trendy (for the parents). Nope. He wanted the Hot Wheels bike with a neon handlebar and flames going down the sides from Walmart. I hate Walmart. I hate Walmart toys. Luckily Santa is much less snobby, because he got Key his dream bike.

Now Key is three years older. He needs a new bike, and his birthday is coming up. I asked him where he would like to go look for bikes - Walmart perhaps? I'm thinking of my checkbook, summer vacation, and lots of other plans coming up. His answer - Nope. Not Walmart. He wants to go to one of those "fancy" bike shops that have the cool, expensive bikes. You know, the trendy ones. So now, I am going to get to pay. And I have done it to myself. Because if I try to teach him a lesson in being grateful for what he has, I am going to have to be grateful for what I have too.

Eww. This sort of hurts.

I am going to have to be careful about that breathing thing I do.

What you breathe out, they breathe in. Ouch, says my wallet. Ouch, says my heart.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Station #5

Station Five: Simon of Cyrene takes up the Cross

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

I carry a purse that is one big pit. In it are numerous items, including but not limited to, legos, mini cars, lipstick, grocery receipts, granola bars, pens, wallet, sunglasses, bobby pins, and who knows what else. I could go on, but you'd stop reading. I carry it everywhere. I rarely leave it behind. And I can't imagine in recent history women have acted much differently than me.

With men it is their wallet. My husband, Michael, is on the ultimate quest to find the perfect wallet. Such an item would have room for all his cards and cash, including his change. There would be no jangling while he walked and it would remain flat and thin and not bother him when he sits. According to him, he used to own this masterful wallet, but then foolishly threw it away when the stitching came undone. The regret still irks him.

Essentially purses, wallets, backpacks, fanny packs - They are all made for the same purpose. They are created to help us carry our stuff from one place to the next as we travel. Maybe we are only traveling to the park, or maybe we are traveling to Rwanda, but nonetheless, we are traveling somewhere and we need something to carry stuff. We could never go empty handed. Nope. Not practical. We might need something - like bobby pins or water bottles.

So my guess is that if Simon of Cyrene was coming in from the countryside for the day - on the same day Jesus happened to be crucified - he would have had a travel bag. It may have had his lunch in it. Maybe it was holding goods to be sold at market. Maybe, as legend sometimes implies, he was carrying eggs. Who knows. But if I could, I would bet on him at least having a bag. And that makes designing station number five fun. Because hanging on the cross on Good Friday will be my version of Simon's travel bag. And in it will be rocks. Lots of rocks. Little rocks, big rocks, smooth rocks, bumpy rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. Why? Because think about Simon taking up the cross. The whole station means for us to symbolically take up our own cross. We get nervous when we talk about really taking up our cross. It's heavy. Like a bag of rocks heavy. And if you look at it from an outsider's point of view, not a positive action to be taking. Who would reasonably agree to take up a bag full of rocks, who would take on this burden, this so called cross? Christians. Look in the bag. It's not just any rocks in there. Those are Ebenezer rocks. Rocks that mean, "Thus far the Lord has helped us." (I Samuel 7:12) Written on each rock is a verse from the bible. Some of God's many promises. Some of God's words of comfort. God's verses on each rock. This bag, this travel bag is not a heavy burden to those who know Him. It's powerful. But one has to know, to walk up, to look inside, to rifle through the bag, to see. Blessings are in there, heavy though they may seem. Blessings in that travel bag. Your bag. My bag. Simon's bag.

If you have a favorite verse from the bible that would go in your travel bag, what would it be? I would love to include it in Simon's.