Stepping into new

First day of SchoolSometimes we need someone, someone with whom we are well-known, to come alongside us, put their arm around our shoulder and say, “I’ll go with you. Don’t be afraid. I’ve done this before. I’ll show you what to do.”

That’s exactly what my son did for his brother today.

We closed a chapter and have already begun writing the next one. I think we’re off to a great start.

For the Volunteer

Dear Volunteer,

I am a mother of 3 and have experienced every children’s ministry environment offered at Buckhead Church. I was watching Large Group in Waumba Land Sunday morning when years of memories came flooding in. As the children raised their hands in worship, I was overcome with gratitude.

I wish I had thanked you sooner. Only, I didn’t have the words. On this day, while standing in the back watching men and women, with busy lives, volunteer to surround our preschoolers with truth and light, the words came faster than I could process them.

UpStreet, thank you for welcoming and ushering in my 7-year-old with bed head and a half eaten pop tart in his hand. Little did you know, just 5 minutes before, I was sitting in my car contemplating not coming in. You removed the weight of the world in those few moments at check-in.

Transit, thank you for sacrificing your time to my confused middle schooler (now in high school) not only on Sunday, but for retreats, special outings and all the texts/calls/emails in-between when you were the only voice of reason. In those times when my words fell on deaf ears, yours were heard, felt and followed. You didn’t know that the weeks leading up to boot camp she had contemplated suicide. Thank you for praying that prayer with her on the last night of camp. You were able to speak hope in a way that I couldn’t. I wonder how many souls have been saved because of your investment?

Waumba Land, thank you for greeting my child with a warm smile at the door when he had arms crossed, furrowed brow and feet firmly planted outside the room. Thank you for playing referee when he was “the runner.” And the times you took his hand while looking at my worried face and said, “Go to service mom. We will be just fine here” as he screamed and kicked, were the days I got the most from the message. You didn’t know this, but when my alarm went off that morning I hit snooze and strongly considered staying in bed. Your interactions with my child motivated me to get up and out even when it felt like staying home was avoiding a battle.

Host Team, thank you for making sure I don’t get lost in the crowd. I have been attending for years but there was a Sunday, last year, when I must have looked lost because several of you welcomed me and asked if you could help me find where I was going. “No thanks.” was my response, but the fact that you took notice and offered to help meant so much. You didn’t know this but the next day my 36-year-old friend passed away 9 months after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She left behind a husband and two small children my kids ages. We had grown up together and I felt like part of my childhood was buried with her that day.

Parking Team, if maintaining a highly functioning team of hundreds to get people in and out of one of the busiest areas in Atlanta was an Olympic sport, you would, without a doubt, take the gold. Thank you for showing up, rain or shine, putting on a vest and a smile and waving your flashing wand. You may not know that more than once I have tried to use the excuse of “traffic” and my preschooler would say, “Mommy, can the ninjas in orange vests with lightsabers show us where to park?” What can I say to that? Out of the mouth of babes…

Facilities and clean up crew. Thank you doesn’t even seem close to appropriate. Wow, you have a tough job and you do it seamlessly. Without you, no other environment would function and thrive.

I know you hear how much you are appreciated from those in leadership. It’s one way I’ve rationalized not writing to you. I’m just a face among many. There are thousands just like me. Unfortunately, we avoid writing letters like this one because of fear. The fear that I will leave someone or something out. The fear of not saying what I really feel…of not being able to wrap words around the impact you have had and continue to have on the lives of those you don’t even know. The next few sentences sum up the essence of this letter.

You need to know that, because of you, my life is better. My children are better. My family is better. Don’t you see, your commitment to show up week after week is changing the world outside our door. It’s enriching lives and encouraging families towards each other instead of away. What you’re doing is being the change that most only talk about and rarely do. You are leading by example and because of that, people are being reached in ways that would not have been possible were it not for your decision to serve.

Evermore thank you. From the depths of my heart….I am truly grateful.

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To my Son’s Wife

3F9B1096Dear Daughter-in-law,

I have been thinking about you a lot lately. I know that sounds strange since my boys are only 5 and 7, but I can’t help thinking about their future. After all, I am the one who has been with them from the moment their past began.

I hear horror stories about mother-in-laws. It’s easy for me to say, “That’s ridiculous! She’s crazy! I’ll never act like that!” Truth be told, I don’t know how I will act when he falls head over heels for you. I would hope I will be supportive and not overbearing, loving and not smothering, wise counsel and not unsolicited advice.

Here’s the thing…I think I understand a little better why mother-in-laws get the “Crazy Lady” label. Some of us have trouble letting go of being the primary girl in his life. Some of us aren’t sure how to transition from being the last to wish him sweet dreams before sleep and the first to greet him in the morning, to the one you have to remind him to call.

There’s just something about a mother and son that is too precious to wrap words around. There is something about the space in a mother’s heart for the baby she raises into a man. There is a meshing of sorts that cannot be undone. And I’m not so sure it should have to be.

Please understand, I do not, nor have I ever, lived for my boys. I believe that to live is Christ. Everything else is a futile attempt at purpose. I’m not going to tell you that I gave up everything and sacrificed my life for them. We all make sacrifices. It comes down to what we are willing to sacrifice for. That looks different for everyone. Honestly, my life is so much fuller, richer and exciting because of my children. I cannot imagine what I would be doing were I not their mother.

I want to ask that you see one thing very clearly. That is, I have made every effort to instill in my children that there is only one opinion that matters. God’s. He is the great Creator. He chose exactly how they would be put together and how their mind, heart and spirit would work together and sometimes against each other. No one knows them better than He. Not me, not their earthly father, not even you, though I know that’s hard to hear.

So I have begun praying. For you, for him, for me…I’m praying that nothing will ever come between him and his relationship with the one who knows him best. I’m praying that you will encourage him to grow his relationship with Christ and always place it as highest priority. It may not seem like it now, but if that relationship is healthy, your relationship stands a much better chance of being strong and wildly fulfilling.

I could make a list of all the things I wish for you and him. All the things I want in a wife for my son. Honestly darling, I want nothing but God’s will. All else is fleeting and empty.

Please believe me when I say that I do not want to be regarded, by you or anyone, a monster-in-law. I am working on me. I have much to work on. I am also praying that God will guard my son’s heart, mind and spirit against confusion. That he will not mistake lust for love, manipulation for sincerity, ultimatums for resolution, insecurity for confidence, or persuasion for honesty.

I do, at times wonder if I have already met you. If I have looked into your eyes and seen your smile. Only time will tell. Just know that I do not take the responsibility of “Mother” lightly and I am doing the best I can to raise men of integrity. I hope that you will rest in the assurance that I am covering you with love and light, while praying God’s protection over your heart, soul, mind and body.

Gratefully Yours,
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Five Minute Friday: Brave

This week’s word is one that I’ve used more in recent days than ever before. With myself…my daughter…my sons…it seems to be at the forefront of my mind. “Be brave. You can do this!” “Great job! You are so brave!” Sound familiar, Mamas?

I saw a perfect example of bravery from 2-year-old, Sophia today. It made me wish I was as brave and trusting of my Heavenly Father as she is of her earthly father. Her whole face smiled as she soared into the air without a single doubt that he would catch her. There was no fear in her eyes. She never took them off her daddy.

runningrunning to daddydaddy's armslift offin the airflyingthe catchback in daddy's armsHappy HeartTrue bravery, I believe, is running into the Father’s arms, ready for an adventure, knowing full well that as long as he is in control, there is nothing to fear. He always makes the catch.

Losing my religion…to a hair stylist

Alright ladies, listen up!

If you are a “Christian” who feels guilty because you want to look nice, raise your hand. Darlings, when did God declare, “There shall be no highlighting of hair, painting of nails, or staining of lips”? Who told you that beauty isn’t important to the one who created it to begin with?!

I am so tired of hearing women bash other women because they’re pretty, curvy, skinny, tall, short, well put together or any number of things that we all strive to be. Why don’t we walk up to each other and say, “Girrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl, you got it goin’ on!” Instead we gossip and make snarky comments to anyone who will listen about how we bet she’s starving herself or throwing up… she probably doesn’t have the money to buy that outfit so she charged it and is in debt… that’s not even her hair, it’s a weave… or highlights, or a hair piece. Let me tell you something, the moment I pay for highlights, a weave or a hair piece, technically it’s mine!

Some of you have seen my Facebook post about my hair stylist Freddie and his trusted assistant, Jason.
Freddie and Jason at Jamison ShawFreddie and Jason restored a sense of beauty in me that I haven’t felt for a while. Not because I don’t feel valued. Not because I need more attention from my husband. Not because someone was mean to me. Are you ready for this?

BECAUSE I DIDN’T LIKE MY HAIR.

I didn’t even realize that I felt this way until Freddie changed my look. I feel great! What I don’t feel is guilty for spending 2 hours in a salon, away from my children, being pampered by professionals and paying money that I worked hard to earn.

You shouldn’t either!

I have received mostly positive feedback from the picture on FB, but I did have one woman email to say, “Don’t you feel selfish taking all of that time away from your husband and children to have unnecessary things done to your appearance?” Hmmmm…”No. Should I?”

Here’s the deal beauties, I am finding more and more that when I take a little time out to take care of myself, I am a much better wife and mother. Chris and I are a team. He’s not a babysitter, he’s their father. I didn’t turn in my id card when becoming a mother. Did life change? Sure. Is it richer and fuller? Yes. Do I find my identity in my children? No. Plus, when I feel better about myself, I feel sexier for my husband. See how this works? I cannot imagine God saying it’s a bad thing.

People will disagree with me and that’s okay. (Please disagree in the comments and don’t send me an email.) Here is what I believe. God took His time. He created every living thing with such ornate detail. He sculpted the earth. He used color and light. He didn’t throw a blob of black and grey together and say, “It is good.” He created beauty and said, “It is good.

So for those of you condemning those of us who take delight in highlights, stilettos and red lippy, I say, “Stop acting so religious and go get your hair done! You’ll thank me.

Don’t underestimate the positive impact of a seemingly small change. AND you don’t even have to have surgery. I’m going to make this super easy for you Atlanta peeps. Here’s Freddie’s card.
photoI suggest calling to make an appointment. When they answer the phone, they ask, “How may we make your day beautiful?” I love that!

 

Why balance is overrated

balancingI have used the phrase, more than once, “I just need to find the right balance in my life.” Whether it be with work and home, dreams and reality, me-time and mommy-time, I have defaulted back to this phrase.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t ever find myself striving for balance. I love extremes. It’s how I’m wired…I guess. If I’m going to play, I’m gonna go all out!

The definition of balance changes from person to person. It’s personal. It’s all about how you look at it and what your capacity is. Am I wrong? (Feel free to disagree in the comments. I love a healthy debate.)

I have been thinking about this so much since having a dream the other night encompassing my fear, doubt and excitement with life in my current circumstances.

I was standing on a plank no bigger than my two feet. It was supported by a metal pole and held by someone I didn’t recognize and couldn’t see from my estimated view of 200 feet in the air.

The fear was so real. I had the bitter taste in my mouth. Recalling it now makes me grateful it was a dream.

Just when I was swaying, trying to get my balance, a friend who was sitting on a wall behind me, reached her hand out and said, “Here. Take my hand. I’ll pull you back on the wall.” I glanced down and felt queasy trying to focus on the ground below.

“I can’t.” I answered. “I have to do this! I just need to get my balance.”

The thought of sitting back on that wall made me wilt. Thinking about it now, I know that’s the place I was before taking this wild leap of faith. I know the friend represents all of the relationships I cherish from the position that I left.

Change is hard and I’m pretty confident this dream was about the big life change I have made in my career. However, it could pertain to several areas of my life right now.

I have some critics who want to see me fail. Those who accost me at every turn with why something won’t work. If only they knew how much that fuels my determination. (I guess now maybe they do?) The great thing about critics is they demand that I be on my game. Their sarcasm and thoughtless remarks provoke my creativity. Don’t get me wrong, I get discouraged and introspective when criticism is presented in any way other than constructive.

I also have incredible support from people who love me and want to see me succeed. Those who speak truth into my heart and mind. When I get seemingly too close to the edge, they offer me a hang glider instead of negotiations.

So now the choice is mine. Who will I allow to influence my future? Who will I give access to my decisions? Who do I listen to?

Here is what I know…my Heavenly Father knows my name. He beckons me with His unrelenting pursuit of my heart. Though everything around me changes, He remains. My Constant…my Deliverer…my Redeemer. He cares about the decisions affecting my life. He cares about my pursuits. When I focus on this truth, the naysayers fall silent and their opinion has even less no bearing on my present and future.

Can you relate to my failed attempts at reaching that perfect balance? When did you discover that it doesn’t exist?

Resources worth sharing:
followAndy is unwrapping a series called “Follow” from North Point Community Church. It has given great insight into the things I consistently read, say and do. He made a statement in the most recent message that has been on repeat in my thoughts and prayers as I make a valiant effort to integrate it into my daily life. “When our faith intersects with His faithfulness, everything changes.” 

Here’s a great post by the beautiful, talented and wildly successful, Joy Phenix Joy Phenix
about “Life Blending” instead of “Life Balance.”
“So often, we mentally put our commitments on an invisible teeter-totter, hoping to distribute our obligations evenly. The theory is that balance brings calmness.  The thinking is if we distribute our work evenly, then we’ll be less tired, less stressed, less guilty about our choices, and happier.  The problem is, life isn’t even.” read more…

(credit for balancing photo at top of page goes to google)

When the Siren Sounds

Station 21 Firehouse The Atlanta Fire Department’s Station 21, offers a variety of services beyond firefighting and fire rescue. Citizens can have their blood pressure checked and obtain and learn to install child car seats, water conservation kits and fire alarms. The station also serves as a safe spot for domestic violence victims. Station 21 has a proud history, dating back to the 1940’s.

IMG_9491However, it isn’t for any of these reasons that I was first introduced to the men. For the last 3 years, they have faithfully come and shared with the Preschoolers where my son attends. There are only a few children in each class, but that doesn’t deter them. They show up and run through a demonstration of fire safety and first aid just as they would to a packed auditorium. The Chief even attends and facilitates the talk.IMG_9436

I am so grateful to each one of them for investing in the lives of these little ones. Each little IMG_9538boy now wants to “fight fire.” These guys are hero’s in our community. I would be lying if I said that I do something for them on a consistent basis. I think about it often, but rarely act on it. I plan to do better going forward.

For anyone who has schooled aged children, I cannot recommend this enough. They walk through each step of putting on their suit. All while talking to the children in an effort to diminish fear of the mask and oxygen tank.IMG_9544IMG_9550IMG_9553IMG_9554IMG_9556IMG_9558After he’s suited up and ready, the children are allowed to touch the mask, suit, helmet, while he continues talking to them, explaining what each piece is and why it is important.
IMG_9559IMG_9561IMG_9592IMG_9587This is so helpful in the case of an emergency. The children are learning not to be afraid of a rescue worker trying to help them.

At one point Rogers’ gear was sitting unattended by the truck.IMG_9466
Any time I see a firefighter’s helmet, a worn American flag, or hear the sound of their personal distress signal, I am instantly taken back to 9/11. All of those who were lost. The days of multiple distress signal units being heard from the rubble. It’s haunting.

To think that the same men and women who are saving people’s lives everyday would take time out to come share with us and take pictures with the children, is humbling and so incredibly appreciated.

When we took the boys to the station to deliver a thank you from the preschool children, the men were more than accommodating. They showed us around the station, let the boys take a picture with them and even slid down the pole. It is a memory that will remain at the forefront of my boys minds for a very long time.

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Who in your community is serving fearlessly to protect those you love? What can you do to appreciate them and their daily sacrifice?