Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Do You Not Want to Baptize Me Mom?

On June 5th, 2016 I was blessed with one of the biggest honors of my life. I wish I'd written about it when the emotion was still fresh but I was so terrified that someone would still my joy.  I kept it to myself and only shared with my closest friends.  Hadley and I baptized Lydia that day and there is nothing more edifying than standing with one of your babies as you baptize another one together.  The only thing that makes it any better, is sharing it with the people you love the most and the people who accept it and celebrate it with you.

I grew up with a lot of rules, my church was very legalistic and there were rules around everything. There were even more rules if you were a woman. I've said before that I'm glad I grew up the way I did because it helped me learn healthy boundaries and it helped me develop the relationship I have with Christ today.  I am also glad that I've studied and learned who I am in Christ.

One night, Keith and I were downstairs watching a movie when Lydia came in and said, "I think I want to be baptized."  Regretfully, I was tired, and I told her that we'd talk about it the next morning.  I wish I'd pursued it better, but sometimes we win at parenting and sometimes Jesus takes the wheel.  She went upstairs and I asked Keith what he thought about it, was she ready, was she too young, did she understand enough?  That's when Lydia came happily bouncing down the stairs and proclaimed, "I accepted Jesus into my heart!  I told him that I love him and I want him to be with me forever."

Well...that happened!  Some days we teach our children, but every day we learn from them!  This was no exception!  She didn't need my approval, she has a direct line to God Himself!

We talked it over it, she was happy, we were proud, we prayed about it, we soaked the moments in!  It was a gleeful night for all of us.  We started talking about when and where and who she wanted to do it. No real decisions were made and no one was in a rush, we were just enjoying the moment.

A few days later, Keith was traveling and Lydia brought up her baptism again, with just me.  She said "Mom, I want you to do it!"

My brain began screaming, "STOP!  YOU CAN NOT DO THIS!" and my anxiety was through the roof!  I quickly replied, "Or, dad could do it."

I will never forget those sensitive blue eyes looking right into my soul and asking, "do you not want to baptize me mom?"

Oh, my heart!  "Of course I want to baptize you sweetie," I said quickly.

There was more conversation as the panic ran through my mind but the calm and confidence remained on my face.  Eventually we wrapped up and all of the kids went to bed, because all good conversations happen at bedtime in our house.

I took my panic and grabbed my phone and began texting my friend Mark.  Mark is a great christian man who loves the Lord and he loves his people.  Mark and I also share the same upbringing.  He knows his Bible and he knows where I come from and why I have so many weird hangups in my journey.  I sent Mark questions as rapid fire as I could text them...

~is it sinful for me to baptize her?
~can I do this?
~will me doing it somehow tarnish the validity?
~what if the church won't allow it?
~will I somehow be responsible for taking us both to hell if I do this?

Mark walked me through both my rational and irrational questions.  He said, "even in our sect of Christians, I think its acceptable for a mom to baptize her daughter."

Lydia settled on a date, we set it up at church and she began inviting everyone she's ever met and I had plenty of time to crawl around in my own head.  I had time to play out every scenario, from someone telling my daughter that her baptism didn't count because I did it, to me falling in the baptistery and drowning us all!  There is a lot of crazy in here and I had two months to sort through it!

Over the next few months I threw some insanity Mark's way and he talked me down every time.  I kept Mark & Keith on their toes with my emotional outbursts and worst case scenarios.  I even pulled my preacher into my crazy when I told him I was scared I'd drop Lydia in the water.  He and one of our friends showed me how to baptize someone and practiced it with me.  Coming from my background, having the minister not only allow me to baptize my daughter but supporting and encouraging it was spectacular.  There aren't words for how much that moment meant to me, and to everyone from my background who felt it with me.  I've shared that with so many people because it seemed like a small thing to him, but it was huge to anyone coming from where I come from.

June 5th rolled around and I was so excited and nervous.  I'm not sure which emotion was stronger.  Our church family was so supportive.  Our ministry team all encouraged us, prayed for us and with us, and everyone shared in our joy with us.  It was an exciting and emotional day.  Lydia had friends from school, friends from our former church home in Indiana, friends from Kentucky, and anyone else she could invite.

At 9:15am, Sunday morning, Lydia, Hadley, and I walked into the baptistery together.  The emotions were overwhelming, the support was phenomenal, and the love was everywhere.  I have no doubt that these are the moments God wants to see from us and He was in the midst of it all.

That moment of freedom that Lydia felt after baptism and the moment I felt lifting her up couldn't have been that different.  I washed away 36 years of religious chains in the water that day.  As I lifted my youngest daughter up from the water, a new christian, I stood there free from a weight on my soul that I've carried my entire life.  I felt the presence of every strong Christian woman that I've known that morning.  All of the women before me who never had the chance to experience what I felt that day were in my heart.  I wore Grandma Ruth's "everyday" watch that morning so she could be there, in that moment, with me.  I don't really believe that our family members are in heaven looking down on us, but in that moment, I think she may have been.

I have so much more to say about this and I am incredibly thankful that Mark has harassed me to write about that day and now that I've started, there may be an entire series of religious and spiritual transformation that began for me the night Lydia said, "do you not want to baptize me mom?'

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Good Enough for the King

I spent a lot of years hiding who I really was and changing myself for the group of people I was with.  I worried that the real me wasn't a good enough daughter, christian, wife, mother, friend, etc.  I was confused about who I was and there were only a handful of people who knew who got all sides of me, because they were the only ones I trusted.  I thank God for those people who stuck with me and who were probably going through similar transformations.

Now, at 37, I am finally at peace with who I am.  That doesn't mean I'm not working on improving, it just means that I'm okay.  I have finally realized that I am good enough for God and that's good enough for me.  That doesn't give me free reign to act ridiculous, I am a daughter of the King after all, I should behave as such.  My self acceptance just means that while I'm working on me, God is too, and he's loving me while we piece together my beautiful mess.

I finally realize that there are no perfect people, no perfect christians, and we are all broken.  That's okay, God loves the broken!  Our job is to heal ourselves and heal those around us. 

Our sermon today talked about the three stages of discipleship, 1. Being fed, 2. Growing, and 3. Feeding others.

Reasons for Writing 1 John 2:12-14
12 I am writing to you, dear children,
    because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
    because you have overcome the evil one.
14 I write to you, dear children,
    because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God lives in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.

My job is simple!  Be fed, grow, feed others!  Nowhere does it say be perfect, it doesn't say I'm not good enough, it doesn't say I'll never be whole.  Instead, I am not perfect, but He is.  I know that I'm not good enough alone, but I am with God.  I will be whole again one day and what a great day that will be! 

I won't give up on friends who are fighting their demons and they won't give up on me.  I'll pray, I'll cry, I'll call out to God on their behalf and I will hope that when I'm in my own darkness there is someone doing the same for me, but if not, God is.  He always is.  Joshua 1:9 tells us that He is with us wherever we go. 

Joshua 1:9
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Celebrate Together!

We celebrate all kind of milestones in our children's lives. We have birthday parties and invite friends, we have end of school parties and graduations with family to witness, we have sporting events with guests, and the list goes on and on.  We are people who like to celebrate!

Recently when Lydia was baptized, one of the parents of her friends who came said she was so glad that we'd asked them to celebrate with us. She expressed that often times we see our children take one of the biggest steps in their life and we forget to celebrate it properly. Brenda said to me, "we invite people to sporting events, talent shows, and birthday parties, why do we not think to invite people to baptisms?"  She's right, baptism is BIG, we should celebrate with everyone!

Lydia asked to be baptized, first on Easter Sunday, but wanted to invite everyone she knew. When I explained that most people like to be in their home church for Easter service she had to rethink her date.  She said, "baptism is an expression of my faith and I want everyone I know to see it!" 

Lydia chose June 5th to be baptized and excitedly gave me a list of names for invitations. 

She said, "it's one of the biggest days of my life, I want to share it with everyone I know!"  

I invited everyone on the list and some of them went to great lengths to be here and it touched my heart to see how much these people love my daughter and love our family!  We had friends that got up Sunday morning and drove 2-3 hours to be here and made it, on time, for the 9:30 service!  We had friends who came in the night before, from Indiana, and spent the night in town so they could be here. She had friends from several other churches around town who came!  The mom of two of her closest friends woke up early and snuck out of the house, leaving a sleeping toddler with dad, so she and her two daughters could be there!  One of Lydia's other close friends had been at camp all week and her mom was looking forward to resting up after a long week, but they were there bright and early!

Those kinds of sacrafices and that amount of dedication is moving. It's not easy to do any of those things!  The amount of planning and consideration, and altering of plans and days isn't lost on me. The coordination it takes to get kids ready, the dedication it takes to say you'll be there and show up, the covert operation that goes into sneaking away from a sleeping toddler when you'd rather have a day off, the time it takes to drive across state lines, giving up sleep when all you want to do is rest up, the sacrafice of missing your home church, and the dedication it takes to be willing to do those things are all testimonies of God's love here on earth. 

The baptism itself will be an entirely separate blog because it was one of the most amazing blessings that I've been given and I'm still processing the emotions from that. 

I've only got one child left to be baptized, but you can bet when he takes that step there will be a celebration!  Next time any of our kid's friends make that commitment we will be there too!  We may just be a face in the crowd but we will celebrate here on earth like the angels in heaven!  

Psalms 150:1-6

Let Everything Praise the Lord

150 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

That Mouth...My Mouth

That mouth, my mouth, got away from me again. This afternoon Kip fell off of one of the horses and got hurt. After calming him as much as possible, loving on him, and getting my freak out under control, I called the pediatrician on call...because we can never have drama on a weekday and all calls must be made after hours. 

The poor on call pediatrician, who clearly didn't know he had crazy on the phone, said to me "please explain to me how a three year old fall off of a horse..."  

BOOM!  I may have said, in a loud volume, "I realize you're questioning my parenting choices right now and I respect that you want to protect my child but we need to deal with that AFTER you tell me whether or not I need to get him to the ER!"  

Ugh, he was only trying to ask how Kip's body hit the ground so he could better evaluate his condtion. We worked through it, he explained himself, and naturally, I apologized. The on call Doctor also apologized and admitted that his words may have come off as judgey when in reality, we both were concerned for the same reason. He was right, I explained that I tend to run on hot and when I'm worried about one of my babies, my good judgement is gone!  He said he'd keep that in mind if we ever talk again...

Ultimately, Kip will be okay. His face is swollen, he's sore, I'm traumatized, and he may never ride a horse again. Thank God for helmets though, and for pediatricians who forgive and for my ability to apologize!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

They Gave Me Life, Saved My Life, and Made Me Live

Cancer is one of the worst things that has ever happened to me. It ranks up there with losing my grandma Ruth too soon and too unexpectedly and not having anyone to walk me down the isle at my wedding. Those are the things you don't quite recover from, you just patch up and move on.

I have a million amazing memories of the times I spent with Grandma Ruth that make it feel like she's here and someday I'll have a vow renewal where my sweet son will walk me down the isle and erase the pain of not having someone by my side in that first moment, but cancer has changed things forever. 

In an older post I said that I hoped someday cancer would become part of my testimony and it has. I hoped so much that I'd be able to talk about cancer with more than just fear, anxiety, and trauma but I never really believed I would. Tonight, I am. 

A couple of months ago I finally sat down with my girls and told them that I am a cencer survivor.  When I'd been diagnosed, I made it a point to keep it from them and I told everyone I knew that they couldn't tell them. Our church secretary went so far as to send an email to the entire church, explaining that we were NOT using the word "cancer" in front of our children. I was so overwhelmed with dealing with cancer, physically, mentally, and emotionally that I knew I couldn't navigate the parenting part of that too. I had to understand myself before I could help them understand. I stand by that decision, still today, because as hard as it was to keep it from them I had to take care of me first. I tell my kids that you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself and I had to do that.   

I sat the kids down and told them that when I'd been sick and had surgeries on "the icky stuff on my knee," that it was actually cancer. I explained to them that the oncologist was confident that I'd be okay.  I told them I am cancer free! Then I explained the part that each of them had played, not only in my recovery, but in my life. 

Hadley made me a mommy. I never understood love until she was born. After falling in love with her I've become a better Christian, a better wife, and a better human. She changed everything, I never knew love could be like this. If she hadn't paved the way, coming into this world six weeks early and weighing under five pounds, I don't know where I'd be now. I have watched her from a very early age show love. She wants to take care of everyone and she loves people and doesn't understand why some people don't love everyone. She showed me love and she gave me life. 

Lydia saved my life. When the Holy Spirit was calling and I didn't answer, God used Lydia. I will never forget sitting in the bath tub and her pushing on my tumor, that had repeatedly diagnosed as a cyst or lypoma, saying "mommy, you're so pretty, I wish you didn't have that because it's so ugly."  Boom!  I KNEW in that moment that I needed to see a new doctor who would take me seriously.  So I went to the doctor and I was persistent because God spoke to me through Lydia. The Holy Spirit moved me to leave my doctor who'd written it off as a cyst and see someone else. Lydia is the reason I asked (begged!) our friend, a surgeon, to operate. Thank goodness he is a good christian man who didn't think I was completely off my rocker when I said "I would never ask this favor, because it's wrong to ask this of a friend but something, I believe the Holy Spirit, is telling me I have to have this removed. It has to be gone!"  Thank God for my surgeon who listened to what the Holy Spirit was telling us. Lydia is the reason the oncologist walked into the room grinning and elated to share the good news that he so rarely gets to share. He said "I have good news. I don't get to share good news with this type of cancer. I usually tell people how long they have left, but I get to tell you that you're going to be okay." She saved my life.

And Kip is the reason I pushed through. When I found out I had cancer I was devastated. I had a new baby, and I was convinced I was going to die. A mix of post partum hormones and paralyzing anxiety is terrifyingly toxic. Baby Kip didn't care that mommy had a major health condition, he didn't care that emotionally I was destroyed, he didn't understand anyone's needs but his own. He cared that his diaper was wet and his belly was empty and that he felt better with mommy. I didn't have the will to push through, but he willed me to.  It would have been very easy to give up if I hadn't had such a demanding little human in my life. He made me live!

So cancer has become part of my testimony and I'm thankful for the changes its made in my life. I'm still working through the (now diagnosed) PTSD and the occasional anxiety attacks, but with God, my family, and my friends, I can do it.  I can talk about cancer, scary things, emotions, strengths and weaknesses.  My kids know how important they are in this life and they know that experiencing and feeling the entire gamut of emotions is okay.  Sometimes all at once!  And most importantly, they know that God hears our cries and we are strong because we are children of God. We are sons and daughters of the King.

Psalms 143:1 Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Navigating Unfamiliar Holy Water

I was raised in a religious household.  I was raised in a church that uses the Bible as their only teaching tool and by a group of people who love the Lord, but I was also raised in a very legalistic religion.  Everything had rules and regulations surrounding it.  If a rule couldn't be found, specifically, in the Bible it was covered by saying there was no "Biblical authority."  There were rules surrounding everything from dancing to mission work and from instrumental music to co-ed swimming, NONE of which were allowed.

I look back on my upbringing with appreciation.  I'm thankful for the discipline that I learned and I'm thankful that I had hedges to protect my relationship with God when I was young and vulnerable.  I also look back in awe though.  I was telling a Christian friend about the rules I was raised with and he said, "sounds like it's harder to get into church than it is to get into heaven" and he was exactly right.  It was complicated and I always had a feeling of balancing on a tightrope.  I knew that one minor slip up could condemn me for eternity, it made me work harder but it also filled me with fear and insecurity, in the Lord, that I still battle.

Now that I've gotten older and I've spent a lot of time in the Word, I've changed the church I go to and, man!  Is it different! I didn't leave my former church with any hard feelings, I just found a different church where our family could thrive.  Change isn't always a bad thing and you have to change to grow, but that doesn't make change any easier!  We live in an ever changing universe but some changes are hard to adjust to, no matter what blessings they may provide. 

There are so many hot buttons in my old church and there are so many things you can talk about and things you can't, and I know the ins and outs of all of them.  Whether I agree or not, I know how to work the system.  I've spent my entire life in that branch of religion and I know the ropes.  There are tons of different degrees of the religion but (whether they'll admit it or not), they are all very similar.  I can flow in and out of any of those churches fluidly and fit in effortlessly in minutes. 

My new church is very different and although my grandparents went to a church similar to this one and I visited occasionally, its not my norm. I'm navigating completely new holy waters.  No one has made me feel anything other than loved and welcomed but I'm always just a little on edge.  I'm stay on pins and needles with every conversation and with every activity.  I'm waiting for the time I mess up and wondering if I'm being judged as a bad christian or a failure.

We do a Bible study on Monday nights and most of the time, I just keep quiet and listen because I worry that my perspective will raise eyebrows.  We meet with an incredible group of Christians who have made this church home, but I'm still not ready to let them all the way in.  I'm reluctant to jump into many activities until I familiarize myself with the church a little more for fear of alienating myself for my beliefs or for my heritage.  Maybe this says more about the church I grew up in than I'd like to believe, but it's ever present in my mind now.

I don't know when I've ever been involved in a congregation that loves each other and love the Lord the way this family of believers do and someday I'll be able to unpack my baggage a little more and jump in with both feet, but I'm not there yet.  I love this church and I feel more at home with these believers than I have with believers from my former tribe, since moving to Nashville.  I'm still getting my toes wet and watching from the banks.

I mourn for the loss of familiarity and my heritage.  I miss that feeling of of comfort and security.   I miss my former religious tribe but at this time in our lives, we are a part of a new tribe and I'm learning that that's okay.  The traditions are all that's changed, the Bible truth stays the same.  I'm serving the same God, I have the same Savior, and I'm learning from the same book, I'm just doing it a little different than I'm used to.  All the stuff that matters is right, and I'm adjusting to all of the other stuff and enjoying the ride.

I'm also learning that I had put entirely too much faith in my religion and not enough faith in God.  I felt such a strong allegiance to that religion and I loved being a part of it, but I need to feel that way about being a Christian, not a Christian at a specific religion.  My relationship with the Lord is growing stronger because I'm learning that my faith is in Him, not in a church.  I love my new church and I love my old church, but I love the Lord first and foremost.   

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Thirty Something...

Tonight Keith and I got home from Saint Simon's Island, Georgia after a weekend watching one of our dearest friends marry the love of his life.  I was tucking my girls into bed and we were saying our prayers and I started tearing up, a lot.

Hadley prayed for Jeff and Kelly and their marriage, she prayed for Mark and Tracy and Baby Clayton, she prayed for Jason and Jen.  Then I took my turn to pray and started crying because I am overwhelmed with how blessed we are by these incredible people!

We have the most amazing friends.  Oh my goodness!  God knew what he was doing when he brought this band of people together.  I was thinking about this group of friends and it struck me that we are all strong, opinionated, loud people and maybe even what some people might call jerks but every one of us would do anything for each other!  We love fiercely.

We have been through divorce, marriage, adoption, pregnancy, moves, cancer, new jobs, and everything in between.  We have cried together, we have yelled at each other, we have loved each other, and oh man have we laughed together!  We get each other.  

I've moved away and left my beautiful dysfunctional family of friends but they have never stopped being there for me.  Even as I'm typing this, the tears are flowing.(Yes Jeff, TEARS!)  I never knew I'd have friends like these people and I don't know how I got so lucky.  I miss them so much that sometimes my heart hurts but I know that we will always be together. I sat around with them this weekend and thought, "man, there should be a show about us!" Then I realized there had been...Thirty Something!  Ha Ha!

When Jeff and Kelly started building their relationship, I was so hard on her.  I refused to like her.  I was so protective of Jeff and by then, I'd moved away and wasn't there to witness their budding love.  I was never as kind to Kelly as I should have been but it never changed how she treated me.  Thank goodness she had the patience to tolerate me until I could see her for who she is.  She's pretty awesome!

On my birthday, when I screamed at Jeff and told Kelly to get in the car, no one blinked an eye.  When I went to the March Madness party and relentlessly talked about cancer, everyone rolled with me.  We have stuck together and enjoyed our lives together.  I am in awe of God for bringing me into this group of people.  I love them.  

I'm going to write more about the wedding later, but I just had to get my gratitude out there tonight!