Monday, January 26, 2015

I Hope You Will Still Like Me After You Read This: My Life Interrupted, Part 1

You know those moments when you can do nothing else but stand in awe of God, and just praise Him for even remotely considering using you as a part of His plan? Been having a few of those moments lately.

In my last post I wrote briefly about a book my dear friend Rachel Hyde gave me for Christmas, and how God was using it in my life. The book, "Interrupted" has had quite an impact on me. Well, since that post I have finished the book. The day I finished it, I literally sat in the floor of our guest room and cried (one of many times this happened while reading this book). I have been completely taken aback by this book. In a good way, of course. And I have tried, for the last week, to put into words all that God has shown me by reading "Interrupted", but I just can't seem to put it into words. So, you will just have to read the book. You should. It has the potential to change your life.  I guarantee that at the minimum it will bring you to a crossroads and you will have to make a way or the other. So don't say I didn't warn you.

What I can say about my life after reading this book is that God has opened my eyes to the way in which I HAVE NOT been living a missional life. The spell check has underlined the world "missional" like it isn't a real word, but I promise it soooo is (or maybe I just spelled it wrong....but I don't think so).

 So let's is how I have been living my life as a Christian up to this point.... I attend church regularly, serve regularly IN THE CHURCH, listen to as much Toby Mac and other awesome rockin' Christian music as possible, hang out with CHRISTIAN friends, etc., etc. All very wonderful and good things. Please DO NOT hear me say that these are not beneficial things. They are, and have encouraged me, strengthened me, and filled my life with the Spirit. Good things!

However, they do not replace the mission that Jesus gave to all believers, which is found in Matthew 28- to GO (keyword) and make DISCIPLES (other key word). You see, I am afraid that in my well-intention-ed Christian life I have become so full of Christian "things" (like knowledge, music, friends, etc.) and have spent so much of my time and effort filling myself with these things that I have become spiritually obese. Too much going in (to me, and the church only), not enough going out (to the world).

Yes, I am definitely dangerously spiritually obese. Dangerous because as I have learned in a very painful way, lots of filling ourselves with Christian knowledge and not going out into the world but only using our skills and knowledge in the Church can definitely let pride seep in and puff ourselves up. I never thought of myself as a prideful person (hello, red dumb can I be??) but moving to a brand new state and town and attending a church where nobody knows you is pride killer #1. I am truly a nobody, and honestly, that is the way it should be no matter where we are. I have found it very painful to be a nobody, (which is very different than not being known by anyone) and all that pain just reveals how much pride I have had inside me. Sorry, but its the truth, and I hope you all will still be my friends.  It's not supposed to be about us. Even if we are the best, hardest working, most dedicated servant in the church. Still not about us.

Another danger is that in doing so much in the church and for the church, I have forgotten that Jesus commanded us to "Go"! What a concept! So you mean that I shouldn't expect people who have no interest in church or spiritual things to just magically appear in my church? You mean my life should be a mission to make disciples by the way I live everyday, and not just defined by a few events (great as they may be) that my church holds each year?  I should befriend people who make me feel uncomfortable because God created them and Jesus loves them? You mean I should hang out with people who live in "the bad part of town" and don't act very Christian like because God created them and Jesus  loves them too?  I should give my money (oh yeah,  it is all God's anyway), my possessions, and my time (deep breath....that's my most precious commodity) to develop RELATIONSHIPS!!??? with people that I would really like to just ignore? Jesus, are you sure that's what you meant when you said to "Go"!!!???

And Jesus has confirmed, "Yes, Rebecca. If you want to truly 'Go' and to truly 'make disciples' then you have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone in your nice neighborhood with people like you, and give your time, love, money, possessions, whatever it takes, to people that don't know Me  and just love them the way I would. Just spend time getting to know them. Just invite them into your home and feed them a meal. Just let your entire life be a mission."

Well, shoot. That was honestly my first thought. This is not exactly what I was hoping for. Because I am already having a tough time making "church" friends, and now you want me to make friends with and serve people whom I really don't even want to get to know???! Well, shoot.

For a few days I had moments where I wished I had never read this book and the scripture contained in it. I wished that I could just go back to the way I use to think about my Christian life. It was much easier, felt more comfortable, and was generally less anxiety provoking. I could think more about things that made me feel happy, like if my foyer table needed a table runner, and things to do in Gatlinburg in February. Anybody feeling me?

But thankfully God continued to put up with me and my pitiful, broken, selfish mess, and I prayed for God to somehow move and to help me makes sense of all this. Then I saw God move in two very specific ways, and I realized that I didn't want to go back. As hard as this new way may be, missing it would be even worse. Missing it would mean not being a part of bringing God's Kingdom to earth. Missing it would mean that I would just grow more and more spiritually obese until I would die. And I didn't want that to happen.

More on those two very specific ways in the next post......stay tuned! But here are the scriptures God has been using to really speak to me:

Matthew 28: 18-20
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with youalways, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 25: 31-46
31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' 41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

James 4:6
But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, "God opposes the proud but favors the humble."

 In "lighter" and "less heavy spiritual" news: Our guest "suite" (bedroom and bathroom, okay) is now ready and open for visitors. We actually had our first visitors this past weekend- my lifelong best friends came down to watch the Wildcats beat the Gamecocks (Sorry SC people). We had a great time at the game. I miss them so much and one weekend just wasn't enough time to catch up. But I will take what I get :)

Weekends are filling up fast (not really) so make your reservations soon!! Seriously, come and visit us people!!!

Guest Bath- This was previously just a half bath- we were able to steal some space from the new bedroom and add a shower (you can kind of see it in the mirror)

New Bedroom (previously a formal living room....something we would never use:) 

The kids are doing great! Noah had another great 9 weeks and achieved academic excellence. Caleb has been invited to participate in a special reading group, and is also doing great. Emmie loves her class, and her speech therapy is progressing well. Zack is coaching Upward Basketball at Summerville Baptist and the boys are playing on his team. They are all having a great time participating. All three kids have new hair-dos as you can see from the below pictures (of course Emmie has in her "fake hair" so don't worry it's not permanent :)

Caleb before the finished product...old man look

Finished product....Good Job Dad!

Way to Go Noah!!!

Until next time....all our love from South Carolina. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Special Visit Home.......Interrupted!!!

The Holidays have come and quickly, I might add. We left on Friday, December 19th with our micro mini van loaded down. Thankfully we had our friends mini-van (Zack's college roommate visited us over Thanksgiving and while visiting their van was hit and had to be left in Charleston for the repairs), repaired and ready to return to them in Kentucky. I am grateful that the timing worked out for both of us, because we needed the extra space and they didn't need to make another trip to Charleston :) A win-win! Our trip home took a little longer than usual, about 9 hours, but I can honestly tell you that pretty much the minute we crossed over into Tennessee I began to smile....nonstop. Then, as we moved closer to Knoxville, then to Jellico, then finally into KENTUCKY...I actually was feeling quite giddy. Emmie was with me, asleep in the backseat (a miracle in and of itself) and I had Christmas music playing and the seat warmer set at its highest level possible. I was a happy girl. It had been 12 weeks since we had been home. I know that isn't a drop in the bucket for people who are deployed overseas serving bravely in our military, or for people who serve selflessly as international missionaries....but for this girl, is was the longest time I have been away from good ole' KY.  And I was elated to be back home. Here is a picture of Emmie, ready to head back to Kentucky.....she might have been even more excited than me, because she literally sat in the car for 30 minutes all by herself before we left Charleston,  just waiting for the rest of us to get it together so we could hit the road!

We had a packed schedule once we got home, and we were all pretty pumped. The first weekend home we had a birthday party, our annual tacky sweater Christmas party, my annual Christmas party with my high school friends (thinking this was maybe the 12th year?) and another party with my girlfriends from church. Throw in two awesome church services at our home church and a service with my parent's church, and that made for one fun filled, reunited and it feels so good weekend!!!  I can't quite articulate the feeling of home, but there isn't anything exactly like it, at least in my opinion. It is comforting, peaceful, just like a big warm hug kind of feeling. I equally can't tell you how special being with precious friends and family was. It was the best gift we could have been given this Christmas!! Here are some highlights below.....

 Annual Christmas Party with high school friends....
we started this our sophomore year of high school!

Tacky sweater Party....loads of fun!

This is supposed to say "I'm nuts for moving to South Carolina"...not, "I'm almonds". Get it?

Buddies glad to see each other :) 

The following week was just as wonderful. On Monday, I had lunch with two of my dearest friends and former co-workers. Love these girls so much. Tuesday we had fun making Christmas goodies, and Wednesday we went to our church's Christmas Eve service, which is always so very special. My parents went with us, so it was even more wonderful. Being able to take communion with your family and then sing "Silent Night" amidst candle light....there isn't a much sweeter reminder about what this season is really all about. After the Christmas Eve service we spent time with my mom's family and then headed back to Bobbi and Pap's house. We opened a few presents, but the highlight of the night was watching the kids excitement at the impending special visitor that would be arriving later on. I have never seen them quite as excited! We even heard some ringing bells outside, which told us Santa must be close. Poor Emmie was afraid she was going to "miss him" as she kept saying. All the kids hurried to bed and of course Zack and I  listened outside their door to try and get a glimpse of what what going on inside their minds! We rolled with laughter (silently, of course) as Noah gave Emmie some big brother advice. He said, "I know how you are feeling! I am trembling right now! Let's just hurry and go to sleep!". So cute. Priceless memories.

Christmas morning came and the kids woke us from our sleep eager to see what Santa had brought. They all opened their gifts and were very pleased and thankful. Then we began the scramble to get ready to make our annual Christmas Day voyage to Ashland. Our mini mini van resembled Santa's sleigh, but we made it! If it had been 12 weeks since we had been to London, it had probably been more like 18 weeks or more since our last visit to Ashland! It was more than wonderful to see Zack's extended family and for our kids to have fun times with their cousins. We had a blast and stayed until Sunday, when we headed back to London.  We had a few more great times this past week- dinner with friends, and a super fun New Year's Eve Party. During many of these gatherings we played a very fun game called "Heads Up". You can download it onto your Ipad for .99, and I promise it will be the best .99 you ever spend. Hours of laughter was had by many, thanks to this fun app.

 New Year's Eve....

On New Year's Day we loaded up our mini-mini van. This was an experience, let's just say that. My husband and father are pretty much expert packers, and it is a good thing. Now those of you who know what we drive understand what I am talking about. Those of you who don't just need to understand that we drive a Mazda 5. See pic below.

It is a great little car (key word "little", especially for a family of 5). I am thankful for it, because I have no car payment, and I love driving it. It really does "zoom zoom" like Mazda says. It is cute, fun and economical (both important to our family). But offer lots of cargo or passenger room for a family of 5??  It does not. But, we made it work, and the luggage only fell over and crashed into Emmie's head one time. She is a trooper. And yes, that really happened.  See the luggage to the right of Emmie in the picture?? Yeah.

I almost forgot to tell you about the best gift I got this Christmas. First I should say that  I greatly appreciated every gift I received, and the thought and generosity that came along with each gift. But one gift I was given has blown me away, and I haven't even finished it yet!! It is helping me hold on, so to speak, through this faith filled time of blindly walking through each day and not really knowing for sure what we are doing here (in South Carolina).  It came from a dear friend whom I have always been able to have some wonderful spirit filled conversations with, and whom I miss dearly. It is a book called "Interrupted" by Jen Hatmaker. I am putting a picture of it right here, because I highly suggest that you buy it immediately. Like right now. Go get on Amazon and buy this book.

It  is a story about what happened to one normal, down to earth family who thought they were doing everything right in terms of living the life God wanted them to....but something still didn't seem exactly right. That is when one simple prayer was prayed, and God interrupted their life....big time. Hmmm. Sounds vaguely familiar to me. Okay, very familiar to me.  Sounds pretty much  like what happened to our family.  I have been devouring this book, and I know that God is using it in my life, at this exact time, when all I really want to do is abandon ship and book it back to Kentucky. You see, this family heard God's call loud and clear, with circumstances and heart yearnings that could only have been from God. They eventually gave themselves over to His call, and prayed for Him to show their family the next step....but it didn't exactly happen that way. They had to wait on His timing to see exactly where this "interruption" was taking them (I haven't finished the book yet, but I have a feeling it is going to take them someplace wonderful!!).

 And that is truly where Zack and I feel we are. We began praying a prayer for God's work in our lives at the beginning of 2014, and we undoubtedly saw God's hand in leading us to South Carolina. But to be very honest, we really aren't sure what our purpose is supposed to be here, now that we are here, in South Carolina. Basically every day we say, "God, why are we here again?"  It's a painful

We can, however, share with you that God has revealed to us and taught us truths that we believe God could have only done by taking us away from our comfortable place in Kentucky. Not because God wasn't capable of teaching us that in Kentucky, but because our sinful and selfish hearts weren't willing or ready to receive it.

More to come on this last point in my next post....cause that post is going to need some time and space, if you know what I mean :)

Happy New Year!!!!