Awaiting Christmas

Monday, December 26, 2016

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Advent has led us through a season of waiting.
Of expectation.
Of anticipation.
Of faith for things unseen.
We look back at the years of silence as Gods people waited for the Messiah.  And we reflect on our own personal struggles and seasons of waiting for God to answer requests, prayers, petitions….spoken and unspoken.  Some of us near another Christmas with prayers unanswered, or heartache unhealed, or chronic pain. 

Waiting and longing, this is the essence of our life as believers.  We know that the comforts of this life aren’t the answers to the sorrowing, broken world.  We are the ones who know that no amount of accumulated stuff can satisfy the hunger of our hearts.  Its the journey of advent that reminds us that we hunger for Christ, to realize that He alone is the end of every yearning of our hearts. 

Christmas is when we remember that Christ has come to defeat death and overcome the world, but Advent, is when we remember that we are still in that world.  Advent is the chance to be still before the Lord and acknowledge our need for Christ final coming when he will end all suffering and wipe away every tear and bind up the broken hearts. 

We quiet our hearts to reflect on the personal affects of living in a world that is broken.
We mourn.
We grieve.
We live with sickness and pain and loss and disappointment.
But we do not grieve as those who have no hope.  Because of His coming as a babe, we have Emmanuel, God with us, a promise kept.  God incarnate, in the form of a baby come to us, abiding with us, and indwelling us through His spirit.  

This child was a King. A King in a dirty stable, wrapped in rags—but a King with a plan.
This child brought hope. Not just a wish, but the confidence that God would and will be all that He has promised.
This child brought peace, even in the midst of great suffering and trials—a peace that assures his followers that he is in control even in the midst of great turmoil or suffering.
And this child brought joy, for he would deliver us.
This child brought us love—a love that would never be taken away and is unconditional. 

And today, on the birthday of our Lord, we celebrate that Jesus was born. That Jesus has come. That Jesus is our salvation. And that Jesus will come again!!

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Loosening the Apron Strings

Thursday, September 29, 2016

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You know the newly “empty nester” moms who have a mini-breakdown and are licensed to indulge in a mid-life crisis and do something drastic like dye their hair red or book a Caribbean cruise?
Yeah, I feel like I got jipped!

Most freshmen college kids leave home for approximately 3 months when they set off for the initial fall semester at college and return for Thanksgiving.  Those moms get to tuck their kids tearfully into their dorm and attend parent orientation.  Those moms have girlfriends who bring over a bottle of wine and commiserate about the bittersweetness of launching ones fledgeling.  Those moms are entitled to weepy spells in the middle of the checkout line at the grocery.  There is sympathy and support….and Xanax!
Long before I thought I was “ready”,  my man-child left home for 4 months!! abroad.  I didn’t get to set up his new dorm because he was 10,000 miles away.   I couldn’t call and bug him every day because there was a 12 hour time difference between us.  I was deprived the months of dread and anticipation and weeping and wailing because because one day he was here and the next day he just….wasn’t.
You see, it wasn’t exactly planned.

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Dont look too close….there may be some mascara streams down my cheek!

The plan was for him to go to the US this summer for 2 months and work and that already was gonna be a stretch for his momma!!
But when my sweet mother came to visit after Eden’s birth and pulled the “how bout I just take him home a month early with me?  What difference does a couple weeks make? ” card….how could I resist?  What a wonderful opportunity to visit Georgia cousins and grandparents!
Then his return was delayed an additional month when Chad’s parents decided to take him on a European/Asian tour!  How incredibly amazing!!

So there I found myself saying goodbye to my boy for the longest he’d ever been out of my sight.  And he wasn’t within a weekend drives distance – he was on the other side of the world!!  A mother’s heart reflects at moments like that realizing that something was bound to change and he would return different.  The loosening of the apron strings..…its necessary….beneficial for both of us….healthy…..as it should be.  But it doesn’t feel good!  I read somewhere that it gets easier if you practice letting go when your kids are young.  I certainly hope there is going to be payoff because Im feeling like my fragile momma heart may not be able to do this 7 times!!  Growing pains hurt!

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Surprising Granddenny and Great Grandpa at the Atlanta airport

The summer was rich for our Tristan in both relationship and opportunity.  He learned to mow lawns, skim pools and build houses.  He partook of favorite American fast-food with uncles and developed some golf skills.  He indulged his favorite past-times, fishing and rifle shooting with his 96 year old great-grandpa.  He even got to celebrate his birthday at the beach (and learn a valuable lesson about the importance of emptying pockets of phones before going swimming!)  Tristan went camping with California cousins and spent time on his beloved lake in SC with his best friend.  And his old dog Lady who is on her last leg, spent one more boyhood summer by his side.  From there, the adventure continued with a trip to England and China.

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Birthday with the cousins

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European tour with cousin and grandparents.

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Visiting the place where his daddy and I met 17 years ago in England!

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Shanghai Healing Home – one of our ministry partners. This little one took a shining to Tristan.

He did return changed.  A little taller.  A little older.  A little more independent.

Needing me a little less.

We all remember returning home from college the first time after we’ve been on our own…..things are just different!  He’s not a kid anymore and we’re walking that delicate line of parenting with a different approach as we relate to him as a young adult.  We’re entering a new chapter with teen children who need a different kind of parenting.   Im trying to embrace this new season of toddlers and teens at the same time.  Some things were easier when they were all little….tho certainly, some were way harder!!
But with all that is changing and growing and evolving, one thing is certain – this big brother to our motley crew was tremendously missed and our home and hearts are happily filled once more with the banter of big brother and the balance he brings!  And these sisters know exactly how lucky they are to have such a great big brother….its a sweet guy that will take his hard earned summer money and buy pearls for his sisters in China!!
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A Case for Codependency

Thursday, August 18, 2016

 

Our society today celebrates independence.  We salute those who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and move beyond the hindrances of their youth.  We applaud brave single moms who selflessly and tirelessly hold down two jobs to make ends meet.  We commend those who make something of themselves….by themselves…..for themselves.

And while all of this does indeed deserve an ovation, I pause tonight on the eve of my 15th wedding anniversary to make a case for codependency.  The negative connotation of “needing someone else” is new to recent generations.  Lets just clearly state that Im not talking about turning a blind eye or enabling a drug or alcohol addiction kind of codependency – but I am talking about needing eachother in a way that is perhaps antiquated in our day and age.  I look at my grandparents who lived 70+ happy years together and reflect on the beauty of their interdependence and the hard seasons they weathered that would have been easy to walk out on.  Theirs has been the kind of marriage modeled that I hope mine will one day be.
So Im just over here, coming out that I am unapologetically codependent!
(And venturing to say, I believe, that this is an important point of a healthy marriage)

If we were better off on our own, independent, untethered, living a me-centered existence doing everything the right way (our way), we should have stayed that way!  Marriage isn’t meant to make us better versions of ourselves – its meant to change us!  We are under a false impression if we believe that two individuals can each live independently of each and never loose any of their identity and have a thriving marriage.  A marriage that is going to work is a marriage that sacrifices.  It means altering who we are and how we do things and over the course of days and years and decades, hopefully, we will not be the same people that we were when stood hand-in-hand in the blessed naivety of wedded bliss with our toes in the sand and committed our lives to eachother.

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Codependency gets a bad rap in modern psychology.    WebMD says “If you find yourself making lots of sacrifices for your partner’s happiness but don’t get much in return, you might be in a codependent relationship”  And that seems to be sufficient evidence to give your marriage the boot.  Im giving more than him, so this marriage thing isn’t fair and isn’t working out.  Is this not a pretty lenient basis to condemn a relationship?  What happy marriages do we know today that have stood the test of time that have not seen seasons of sacrificing for the other at the cost of their own happiness?  The internet (which is the gospel truth, right?) has a plethora of self assessment tools to help identify codependent relationship and recommends getting the heck out, fast!

Do you expend your energy in meeting your partner’s needs?
Are you the one that is constantly making sacrifices in your relationship?
Do you put your own needs secondary to accommodating others?

Im going out on a limb here stating boldly that I believe all of the questions above should be answered to the affirmative!  My marriage isn’t going to work if I hold a “tit for tat” approach that demands the scores be even.  Vowing your life to someone in marriage doesn’t come with a clause stating “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part ———— or until you aren’t holding up your end of the bargain”.

God doesn’t ask us to change exclusively for the petty happiness or comfort of someone else.  Thats belittling to the beautiful creations God has made us and its being a people pleaser with a motivation of gaining approval.  Thats not the kind of change God requires.  But, He does ask us to lay down our lives and He models an example of selfless, sacrificial love to the umpteenth degree of what I will ever be asked to do in my marriage!  How can that example not profoundly debunk my justification and unwillingness to change?!

Please hear me when I add a parenthesis here that I am not making light of abusive or dangerous relationships in which you need professional help.  Im simply pondering an epidemic in society today in which so many feel exempt from marriage vows because their own needs are not being met and because they feel justified in getting out when their investment has not yielded a satisfactory return!

As the years and life-seasons ebb and flow with babies and and moves and circumstances that are ever changing and uprooting us, we find our affection for one another has multiplied with the stripping away of so many other relational crutches.  Living the majority of our married life far removed from our closest friends and family has forged a dependency that I think is uniquely related to our transient lifestyle.   We’ve become students of each other.  We’ve learned to care about the things each other care about.  We share life on the deepest levels and depend on each other and value the opinions of the other.
Susan Sarandon said it best in the 2004 flick Shall We Dance:
We need a witness to our lives.  There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything.  The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day.  You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it.  Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”

Tomorrow we celebrate 15 years.  15 years of depending on eachother.  15 years of being a witness to eachothers lives.  15 years of building a single life together out of two very different people.  15 years of first and foremost needing the Lord, and secondly, needing each other.  Ive lost a little bit of myself in this marriage.  Ive changed for him.  Ive sacrificed.  But Ive gained infinitely more!  And when (God willing), we find ourselves celebrating our 70th anniversary someday, I hope Im a little less like Mandy and a little more like Christ.