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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Journey {part 5}

The Journey {part 1}
The Journey {part 2}
The Journey {part 3}
The Journey {part 4}

We met on the Tuesday following a week of five interviews and hoped to walk away from that meeting with a single finalist to put before our church as the new Children’s Pastor.  The reality was that we walked away from that SEVERAL HOUR meeting split evenly between two candidates. 

The decision was made to ask them both to come back and have them each spend a weekend.  I immediately began praying for God to work and change hearts where they needed to change one way or the other.

The week before the first candidate was to come into town, the other withdrew their name from consideration.  There were half of us who were more than a little disappointed.  I remember talking to one other committee member and saying, “Did I hear wrong after all of that?”  It was, to be honest, a time of confusion and yet dependence on God’s faithfulness and His providential plan.

Still, the first candidate came and spent a very full weekend of dinners, meetings, lunches, more meetings and even did a kind of Bible lesson/devotional presentation to the children during Sunday school. 

That next day, it was a Monday, my family and I were sitting down to dinner.  As we had our normal dinner time chatting with each other, I said to the kids, “Something very exciting happened today.”

Sarah popped up with excitement in her voice, “Did you pick a new Children’s Pastor?!?!  Because THAT would be exciting?”

“No,” I said, a little surprised at her response since I didn’t feel at liberty to discuss where we really were in the process with her.  “I was just going to tell y’all that Daddy brought me flowers while I was at work today.”

“Oh.” 

(I love how he can still surprise me.  Even after fourteen years. )

I went to our committee meeting on Tuesday night with mixed feelings.  I knew that this was going to be the person God had for us, but I still, for some reason, had reservations.  I didn’t feel like I had my answer. 

Everything I had seen the previous weekend from this person was good.  Impressive, even.  But safe.  It didn’t feel like we would be taking the step (and possibly risks) it would take to go to the next level in our Children’s Ministry like we all said wanted to do.  But I kept an open mind and an open heart, asking God to give me confirmation.

I am so thankful for God and His faithfulness to show us exactly what we need.  We all talked about our interactions with the candidate and what our impressions were.   This is why we have more than one person because other people did see those things in the candidate that I did not.  After all the other opinions I heard during that meeting, I felt a greater sense of peace about the decision that was going to be made.

But one thing still bothered me a little.  And it wasn’t about the candidate.  It was about us as a church and in children’s leadership.  And I just had to say it. 

You see, several of us when with the candidate and her spouse to lunch on that Sunday previous when they were in town.  Here we were, a group of about eight committee members gathered around a table and it was a little like an interview all over again.  But what I kept hearing was people, including myself, talking about the specific programs we were involved in and framing questions or statements around those programs. 

My concern was (and kind of still is)  and what I said to the committee that night at the meeting was basically this:  “If this person comes and is as creative and progressive in programming as everyone has the impression that she is, but we are not willing to give up how we have always done children’s ministry (which may mean giving up our own programs that we dearly love and are passionate about) and let God do something new through her, it frankly doesn’t matter who we bring to fill the position and this whole exercise we have been through the last seven months has been purely academic.”  I couldn’t tell how my statement was initially received, but there were a couple of people I talked to afterward that agreed and did thank me for saying it out loud.

I’m usually good for that, you know.  I say out loud what everyone else is thinking.

We voted unanimously during that meeting to submit this person to the church for a vote and we left that room united in our decision.  And I might say, hopefully in our resolve to allow God to do a new thing.

I can’t tell you how excited I was a day or two later to be able to report back to Sarah that, yes, we had in fact picked a new Children’s Pastor.  And she was pretty excited as well.

It was a couple of short weeks later that we brought this person before our church and we voted.

The answer was YES. 

I pray it is a YES to God.  A YES to go and do in Children’s Ministry whatever He tells us to do.  A YES to work alongside this new leader in our Children’s Ministry and support them as they make any and all changes that are needed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our last installment and hopefully a good conclusion to this story will come tomorrow in part 6.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Journey {part 4}

We are in the midst of a 6 part series of posts where I am sort of “unpacking” some of what I’ve been walking through and processing over the last year.  You may find the previous posts here:

The Journey {part 1}
The Journey {part 2}
The Journey {part 3}

~~~~~~~~

My answer was, “Yes.”

My answer was yes to God.  Yes, I will do whatever you ask me to do.  Yes, I will stay at this church that you brought us to and caused us to fall in love with 13 years ago.  Yes, I will seek to do whatever it takes to encourage my daughter in her spiritual walk rather than throw uncertainty into it.  Yes, I will work alongside people with whom I have not had the best relationship  in order to build and edify the body of Christ.  Yes was my answer. 

And so the work began just a few short weeks later.  The work of which I speak is that of seeking who God had in store to come to our church as the Children’s Pastor who could lead us as we follow God’s plan to take our children’s ministry to the next level.  It promised to be a long process and one that I was sure would have its ups and downs. 

But in the midst of all those ups and downs, the Lord was faithful to minister to my heart and give me what I needed to do the job.  He timed it such that I was doing the Beth Moore Bible study on Esther and allowed me to hear her teach on Hebrews 10:35-36 regarding throwing away our confidence that summer just as much of this was happening. 

And I tell you, there has never been a time in my life that I have felt more under-qualified, over-anxious, over-responsible, under attack, under-rated and over-shadowed (the 7 main “It’s tough to be a woman” points in the Esther Bible study).  And there has never been a time that I have needed to remember the confidence that God gives me and to not allow others to trash it like I have in the past.  Not only because of the process we were going through on the search committee, but that coupled with continuing to have to make choices and difficult decisions where are family was concerned due to the difficult circumstances we found ourselves in because of our lack of income.  God sowed those words and scriptures in my heart for me to return to and lean on every step of the way.  The timing, very simply put, could not have been any better.

Because this Children’s Pastor search process has largely consumed my time and life outside of family and work these last few months , I’m going to walk you through the process a little.  I think it’s important to my story as a whole for you to see where I’ve been these last few months.  But I could not write about it at the time as it happened because I could not say that I was walking in victory and some of the process was confidential.  As consuming as it was it, therefore, greatly impacted how much and what I was able to blog.  I can say now that the process is over and I am walking in victory, so hang with me here today and tomorrow as you review these last few months with me.

In January of this year things really began to pick up for us on the Children’s Pastor search committee after already several months of considering the type of person we were looking for and accumulating prospective candidates.  We were finally at a point where we had 5 finalists out of all the resumes that had been submitted.  We needed to talk to these people to get a better feel for if they would truly be a “fit” for our church. 

So, one week in January, the eleven committee members and eight  pastors interviewed five candidates in two evenings.  First of all, can you imagine having to interview in front of 19 people?  To say it was a beating for both us and the candidates would be an understatement of gigantic proportions.  But, it was also exciting to see how our work was coming together and that we might be nearing a decision. 

We were to meet the following week and we were to come to that meeting with the candidates ranked in order – 1 to 5.  There were three of them that were very close for me as I poured back over all the written information we had and all the notes I took during the interviews.  So, I set all of that aside and spent the next two days fasting during lunchtime, praying and seeking God. 

I came away from that time with a verse.  2 Samuel 16:7 says “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” 

And I came away from that time with a name.  A name that I sensed the Lord lay directly on my heart.  I knew, then, how I would rank these candidates.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Climbing Trees {Mama Braggin’ Monday}

Oh Lord, have mercy.

I don’t know if I should call this braggin’ or not. 

My little man has learned to climb the big Magnolia tree in our back yard.

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He’s so proud of himself and all I can think is, “Oh baby, you can’t fall because we don’t have any insurance.”

Which now that I think about it, I probably shouldn’t say too loudly any more for fear of being found out.  But I’ll not go down that political road in this post.

So, here’s to our soon coming first emergency trip to the ER.  Broken bones… broken head…. it’s coming.

Lord, have mercy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

BBA Challenge #18 – Light Wheat Bread

So, yeah. I totally made this bread. But for the life of me I can’t find a single picture that I am absolutely certain proves it.

This might be it.

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But I’m not certain.

And to be honest, it was just about that memorable.

It wasn’t bad. In fact, it’s possible that I didn’t take any pictures because we were just out of our regular store bought sandwich bread and had to use it so the children would have a sandwich in their lunch boxes.

But it wasn’t great either.

Next?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Journey {part 3}

The Journey {part 1}
The Journey {part 2}

During Vacation Bible School last year (2009), Mike was teaching Sarah’s class (entering 3rd grade) and I was teaching the most adorable group of (entering) 1st graders.  I think it was somewhat bittersweet but our discontentment had really begun to interfere with our ability to worship and our attendance at church with our children.  We were sure we were making the right decision to find another church.

Then, on Wednesday, August 5th, while I was in crafts with my darling 1st graders, Mike came and pulled me out of class and told me that Sarah had made her decision to receive Christ as her Savior during the time we set aside for the older grades (3rd – 6th) to hear the gospel message and have the opportunity to respond.  We stood in the hallway and cried tears of joy together.  It was a sweet sweet moment.

Later that morning, as the four of us were trying to leave after VBS was over for the day, our pastor pulled me aside.  He informed me that our children’s pastor, who had only been at the church for about 18 months, was leaving and asked me if I would serve in the coming months on a search team for a new children’s pastor.  I told him I would have to let him know.

Then, that evening, as Sarah and I were talking about the day, she asked, “So who will baptize me on Sunday?”  The child was excited.  We were excited for her.  And yet, we were once again conflicted.

There we were.  We were at a crossroads and were being forced into a position to make a firm decision.  We had been sure that we needed to move on and find the place God had for us elsewhere.  But in one day, He put things in motion to turn it around on us. 

I began to question if a move would take away from any of Sarah’s excitement over her decision and in any way derail her walk.  I didn’t want to do that just because I was feeling disenchanted with the church.  I feared that putting uncertainty in her life over where our church home was would just quench what the Holy Spirit had birthed in her.  And as I sought godly counsel from a very few people who knew of the struggles we’d had at the church and with some of the individuals and leadership there, I began to see that maybe my discontentment might be a call to action in staying rather than leaving.  I began to see my discontentment as a gift to possibly bring change rather than a curse that was forcing an exit.

Now, at this point you need to understand that my pastor and I have clashed over issues and I have disagreed with him on a decision he has made more than once in the past which contributed, in part, to my discontentment and disenchantment.  It also was part of what made the decision to serve on this search committee so difficult; I knew it meant working with him in a significant way.  To be honest, for me that in and of itself would likely prove difficult.  But as I prayed and searched, I began to believe that God had put that position before me for a reason.  I wasn’t totally sure what that reason might be, but I began to wonder if my discontentment was supposed to be a motivator for change.

We had a decision to make.  And ultimately, as I told Mike, if we were staying, it was truly going to be a long term commitment.  We were going to be in it for the long haul.  If we were leaving we would have to figure out how to do it without putting a damper on Sarah’s excitement over her decision to follow Christ and be baptized. 

While my pastor said he wanted a decision the following day (Thursday), as you can see, it wasn’t that simple for us.  We prayed and sought counsel before I finally gave him my answer on Friday.

~~~~

We will continue with this series of posts on Tuesday of next week.  I thought this might be a good point to take a break for a couple of days and do a couple of posts that are a little lighter in nature. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Journey {part 2}

The Journey {part 1}

Over the previous year, well before the layoff, both Mike and I resigned from our teaching and directing positions on Sunday mornings in the children’s ministry at church. Mike felt he needed to be in an adult Life Connection class (aka Sunday School) and I believed my place was to be with and support him.

We got situated in an adult class with which we had done some social things in recent years and we were looking forward to forming some relationships and soaking in some good Bible teaching. It went okay for a while, but dynamics in the class seemed to change and it seemed to be, well, kind of dying. Then, all of the sudden, without any notice or what seemed to be any attempts at reviving the class, it kind of just disbanded in June.

It was in the midst of this change in dynamics that Mike’s layoff occurred which contributed to us not having a core group within our church with whom we could talk about our situation.

Through the summer, our personal financial situation continued to be grim and even seemed to worsen. While Mike technically had a job, it was a situation where he had to kind of form his own business and was working purely on a contract basis. The economy being what it was in 2009, work was scarce... or I could say pretty much nonexistent.

We did attempt to reach out to our pastoral staff but really felt like we got no response or support from them or much of anyone else in our church that we did talk to about our situation.

Disenchantment, discontentment and dissatisfaction with our church began to set it. And not necessarily in a productive or good way.

We had encountered difficulty over the recent years in reconnecting with any adult groups within the church since moving back to Texas from Northern Virginia. We also had some issues and disagreements with leadership. The disbanding of our class and lack of support we felt from the staff just heightened our dissatisfaction with our church. It was kind of "the straw that broke the camel's back."

I had so much on my mind dealing with things that I dropped out of pretty much everything church related. It was as if my brain had these major overriding issues that could not be resolved and I was unable to focus on anything else. At all.

I backed away from my role as a VBS coordinator, I quit choir… I dropped off the face of the planet as far as church was concerned. I felt I needed to focus on my husband, kids and my personal relationship with Jesus. Leadership would have to take a hike for a while.

But there was something else going on as well. Part of my dropping out of things was a way that I began to distance myself from the church. Both of us would be teaching in VBS come August, but we had pretty much decided that we would begin looking for a new church once VBS was over.

… continued in parts 3 – 6 …

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Journey {part 1}

So many things have been going on for me over the last few months that I haven’t really felt at liberty to talk about here.  It has been a journey that has finally come to a point where I can begin to unpack some of it.  I would like to invite you to come along with me as I wander back over the last year through a series of 6 blog posts and discover all that God has done in my life personally and our lives as a couple and as a family.

It really all started back in April when Mike lost his corporate job.  I was shaken to the core. 

It was one of those things that we really didn’t feel comfortable talking about a lot publically.  We told people if it came up, but it was not a widely known thing.  I’m not really sure why we handled it this way, but both of us felt the same way about it. 

It felt private. 

It felt strange to talk about it openly. 

We also didn’t want people asking a lot of probing questions in front of the kids.  And since they are with us most of the time we are at church, it just kind of naturally happened that we didn’t talk about it much in our church setting. 

We had a core group of friends that we shared the news with and, of course, with our families.  But very few of them could really relate in any way.  I have struggled a bit with how that core group of friends reacted and with some of the insensitive things that were said in my presence.  I’m still working on forgiveness and trust here nearly a year later.

Mike and I really began to depend on each other and on God.  But even he didn’t fully understand how the layoff had affected me.  It had rocked much of the security that I felt in life on this earth.  But there was nobody who really got it.

Pretty much, from my perspective, this was another one of those times when I felt I was on my own with God.  I’ve been here before, and I knew that the Lord could heal my heart and make me feel secure again.

… continued in parts 2-6 …

Monday, March 22, 2010

Is it Picasso? Or a 4 year old? {Mama Braggin’ Monday}

Last Sunday, Nathan drew the greatest ever “Jonah and the Whale” picture during Sunday School.

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No…. really. It is Jonah and the whale. My son just CLEARLY has a bit of a surrealist or even specifically a Pablo Picasso influence in his art.

Or maybe he’s just four.

Things I love about this:

1. The line drawn on the paper to show the trajectory of the whale’s burping up of Jonah. We’ve obviously watched the Veggie Tales version a time or two… or ninety.

2. He thought to draw the boat.

3. The belly of the whale. That’s just awesome. Especially since there is no body around it. Just teeth and a belly.

4. Jonah is a dot and is clearly insignificant to the story. But he did merit a mention.

But really, what’s NOT to love?

Have your kids drawn any great works of art for you lately? Tell me about them.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A hug I finally got!

I finally got to hug the neck of a dear sister in the faith.

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A favorite author and Bible teacher of mine, Beth Moore was in the area doing a book signing this morning for her newest book, So Long, Insecurity: You’ve been a bad friend to us.

I got to the book store and was immediately asked if I had a ticket. 

Um, no.

Then I was sent to the “non-ticket-holders line.” 

I immediately began to feel insecure that I didn’t have a ticket.  Did I not measure up?  Was I not special enough to have a golden ticket?!?!?!

Oh, I kid.

I’m still actually not sure how people got tickets, but I think they just got at the front of the line.  Which was no big deal really.  I got there early enough that I didn’t have to stand back among the cookbooks and spend every last red cent in our bank account.  I was standing amongst the fiction… which really holds not a lot of interest for me being the non-reader that I am.

I got there a little after 10 am and the signing started at 11.  I had made it through and was done by 12 noon-ish.  So the line was really no big deal at all.

I hope she doesn’t think I was too weird, but I took her a homemade gift.  I wrapped up a couple of baguettes from my latest Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge creation, Pain à l’Ancienne, since the formula makes a bunch. 

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Ever gracious, she accepted my humble gift and seemed excited about it. 

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This sweet lady has impacted me and so many people I know.  I was so excited to get finally get to hug her neck and express my gratitude to her in some small way.

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Thanks Mrs. Bethie for coming to DFW today! 

Monday, March 15, 2010

They Survived Camping {Mama Braggin' Monday}

They survived.

It was man vs. wild at times. But they survived.

And if there were a reality show about dads taking their kids camping, I'm sure this trip would have made the cut.

My man and one of his buddies took all of the kids camping last night. It was a first for 3 out of the four children. We had our kids try out sleeping in the tent in our back yard on Friday night and my poor little man only made it about an hour before he came in because he couldn't get comfortable. So, I'm not kidding in the least when I say we were unsure of how it was all going to go. But, by all reports they had a great time and slept well.

Why didn't the moms go, you may ask? We did. In our own way. Our version of camping was to go see the movie Valentine's Day and have sushi afterwards. So... yeah. You get the picture.

We got home from church on Sunday and began to pack. And pack. And pack some more.

All this for a single overnight camping trip. Less than 24 hours. Good grief.




But look at these faces. They were so excited!!



Their camping site.



Apparently there was much hiking and biking and scooter riding and...



... and falling.



Just evidence that a good time was had.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Milestones {Mama Braggin’ Monday}

Did you realize that the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has suggested guidelines for child car seat and booster seat usage that go beyond laws in most states?  In fact, until recently, Texas did not have a decent booster seat law.  (A new booster seat law went into effect last year.)

Personally I think many people allow their children to get out of their booster seats way too soon.  And their children find the shoulder strap does not fit them well and they may put it behind their backs making for a very dangerous situation in the case of a wreck. 

The guideline that the NHTSA encourages that I have always looked for when determining my kids readiness to leave the booster seat is, to quote the NHTSA site, “A child using a seat belt should be able to sit all the way back against the vehicle seat back with knees comfortably bent over the edge of the seat.”  And while I have not been legally required to have my daughter in a booster seat, she has remained in one until she met this guideline.

Well, as of this weekend, my now 9 year old daughter meets those guidelines.  Yes, people, I now have a child who is no longer in any kind of car seat or booster seat.  See for yourself:

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It may not seem like a big deal to you, but this child of mine has been in some kind of a car or booster seat for the last nine years.  For her to now suddenly be big enough to not need one is just another one of those “passing of an era” moments.

Her daddy fussed at her pretty good when we realized all this.  We keep telling her to stop growing but she continually and habitually disobeys us. 

What are we going to do with her?

Can someone seriously please make time stand still?

Friday, March 5, 2010

100th Day of School Snack Mix {Foodie Friday}

Any parent of a pre-school or grammar school child is well versed in the 100th day of school celebration.  There are many ways to celebrate such a momentous day in a young child’s life.  One way is with the 100th Day of School Snack Mix.

The idea is that everyone counts out and brings 100 of a small snack type item and it all gets mixed together for a snack mix.  Such a concoction defies all culinary rules and norms and borders on the “suicide” drink mix that 6th grade boys are known for at the soda fountain at the local Cici’s Pizza.

Nathan’s 100th day of school was several weeks ago and his 100 items were Alpha-Bits cereal.  Following is the “recipe” for his class’s 100th Day of School Snack Mix.

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Nathan’s Pre-K 100th Day of School Snack Mix

100 of each:

Square pretzels
Apple Jacks cereal
Cocoa Puffs cereal
Vanilla wafers
Cookie Crisp cereal
Cheetos
Trix Cereal
Golden Grahams cereal
Skittles candies
M&M’s candies
Pretzel sticks

Now don’t you wish they would package THAT and sell it in bulk.  Yummy!

What kinds of interesting things have you seen in a 100th Day of School Snack Mix?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

No-Prep In Car Entertainment {Works for me…}

Let’s say, hypothetically of course, that you go out to dinner on a Saturday evening.  And perhaps the restaurant you go to is along a very busy six lane (three in each direction) road.

You may be in a situation where your husband is a car guy (buys and sells cars and is meticulous about car maintenance) and drove a new car to dinner.  He might want you to drive it home to see how it feels.  Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Not that I would know from experience, but in this situation, you could discover the car hesitating as you press the accelerator and it might eventually die as you try to pull away from a traffic light while you are positioned in the middle lane with cars speeding past you on either side.  In this situation the following conversation may happen:

“Um, honey, the fuel light is on,” you say as you look at the instrument panel.

“No. That’s not possible.  It showed half a tank on the way here.  I mean, the fuel light came on at first, but it went off as the needle went up.”

“Well, it is possible because it’s on now and the car won’t go.”

So let’s say you’re in this situation.  The police might be passing by and stop to lend a hand.  Your husband tells the nice police officer that you *may* have run out of gas while being sure to mention that there *may* or *may not* be a gas gauge problem.  The nice police officer will probably have to radio for another officer to bring a gas can.

And so you have to wait.

Believe it or not, I’m getting to my point.

Knowing that you have kids in the car and not knowing how long it will take the other officer to arrive with gas reinforcements, you find yourself in a situation for which you were not prepared:  Sitting in the middle of the road with no place to go with kids getting antsy in the car.

What do you do?

If I were in that situation (not that I necessarily ever have been), I would start a story around the circle.  I begin telling a story and we go around the circle and each person adds a little bit to the story.  You just let it take whatever twist the next person adds to it.  So you might start off the story with, “One night, a family was stuck in the middle of the road in a car that wouldn’t start…”  The story will likely end with something like, “… and the dragon went to sleep.  And that’s the end.” 

I really do love telling stories around a circle.  It encourages our imaginations and helps develop speaking skills.  It’s great when trying to stay distracted in the car as well as around a campfire when trying to keep little hands away from said fire (not that I’ve ever been in that situation either).  But all in all, it’s a good idea to have in your back pocket for those times that you need a distraction when you are completely caught off guard and unprepared.

So, you know that hypothetical situation I described above, well, just to tie it up with a nice little bow, I’ll see if I can finish the story for you. 

When the other police officer arrives, you might look in your rear-view mirror and see that it is taking two police cars with lights on to get you going again and that everyone that is passing by is taking a really good look at you in the car.  And as you look in your rear-view mirror you would probably see one officer carrying a gas can to put gas in your car - your car-guy has never run out of gas before meticulous about car care husband’s car – in front of God and the whole world to see.  In this situation you might just start laughing hysterically. 

You might.

I’m just sayin’.

And in this case, you will be very glad that you didn’t have a beer with dinner because you are fully expecting the officer to say, “Ma’am, would you please step out of the car for a breathalyzer test?”

So once the police officer has put some gas in your car and you discover that with some gas the car does indeed start, he might suggest that you drive directly to the gas station just up the road and on the right. 

“Yes, sir,” is probably all you would be able to say in response.

But, if you ever find yourself in this situation, you now know how to keep yourself and your kids distracted and entertained with no preparation needed.

That’s what works for me…. again, hypothetically speaking, of course.

Go visit Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer who is hosting Works for me Wednesday for the next couple of weeks while we pray Kristen and her family through her trip to Africa with Compassion International.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Aren't these some cute kids? {Mama Braggin' Monday}

Just sharing some photos taken yesterday morning before church.

Sarah had on her American Girl Kit Kitridge outfit that my mom (Mimi) gave her for Christmas. Clearly, she was so cute that I had to take a picture.



And naturally, Nathan wanted me to take a picture of him as well.



Oh... no... hush.... yes, well, I know they're cute, but I'm biased. Oh, stop it.

*wink*