Faith

Going Out and Coming In

IMG_20160901_173434My dad joined my life before my first birthday.  He was a larger than life character in his Corvette and as the story goes,  I wasn’t so fond of him.  When I would hear his car pull up for a visit, I would crawl as quickly as I could to the front door to try to shut it.  I don’t remember those days of course, but it’s easy to imagine that I probably wasn’t too fond of my dad’s old school, lay down the law ways. Nevertheless, I soon became his 5th child by marriage and his legal child a few years later through adoption.

W.E. Green is the kind of dad that made me feel safe when I was young.  He was strong and had a gregariousness that made people notice and respect him.  He was a manager by profession so he has always known how to run things and make them happen.  As a child I saw him as unbreakable, constant, and generous; and that made me feel loved.

I am grieving over his illness and the thought of him dying today.  Lying quietly with eyes filled with  tears, I began replaying in my mind scenes and stories of our life together–trips in the many motor homes we owned, Winchell’s Donuts and Church on Sundays, the horse races, and everyday snapshots like watching him walk around the neighborhood with our dogs, peeking at him when he takes a deep breath to pray over the thousands of meals we have had together and seeing him in his office with his Marilyn Monroe picture near him and using his pen to pay bills and then placing it in his lifelong pen holder.

Security is the theme that was impressed on my heart by these scenes.  Throughout my life my dad has always made me feel secure.  I never wondered if he would provide for me or if he would be there.  I never wondered if I would be safe or if he would allow me to be placed in danger.  I never wondered if he really knew what to do or was faking it.  Nope, he was and has continued to be a source of security for me and I realized that his secure presence is really what I’m grieving today.

God’s word is a faithful friend in grieving and Psalms 121 is speaking to my hurting heart. It says in verse 7 and 8,  “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”[pullquote] “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”[/pullquote]  I love that God gently reminds me that ultimately HE is my security from now until I’m with him.  He urges me not to fall into fear.  It’s a sweet way that Jesus is hugging me and whispering, “I’ve got your back.”  But even better is that I know that this verse is also for my dad– who is completely confident in Jesus, who has kept his life and will keep it safe all the way to the throne of God and forever.

Hanging tightly to the promises of God and forever grateful for all of your sweet comments, prayers, and hugs.

XOXO,

Summer

 

 

 

 

Faith, Love

and so it started

CYMERA_20160831_224851We found out my dad had cancer 20 months ago.  We were saddened by the news, but because it wasn’t very advanced, it didn’t seem real or terribly pressing.  He made the decision at the time not to fight it because of his age and his desire to maintain a good quality of life.

Yesterday though, it all got real.  As I stood next to my dad’s hospital bed he told me that the doctors had given him a more specific amount of days left.  All kinds of emotions came flooding in as my mom and I tried to process this news. I felt stunned.  I had no idea how to react.  Many of you know how this feels and can recall the exact moments in your life when you heard similar news.  It is nothing short of surreal.

During the last 24 hours I have held back tears numerous times.  When I talked to my daughters, I tried to remain factual so that I didn’t trigger panic in them.  When my mom started to get scared, I held back the tears so that she would be able to rely on my strength.  And today, I held back tears as my dad talked to his Palliative Team about my faith and writing because I didn’t want to ugly cry in front of strangers.  I decided tonight that I don’t need to hold them back any longer though. This crying is a gift.  This crying allows me to feel the sadness and to process the loss that is occurring.  It tells my dad that he matters to me and that I love him and will miss him greatly.  It supports the emotions of my mom and my girls and says that I’m here, fully present, and you can let go with me and be vulnerable.  My friends will also get to see me cry, not to make them feel awkward, but to open myself up to humbly receive kindness and care.  My hope is that by receiving this care, others will know that I am available for them when they need it from me too.

Y’all know that being authentic is really important to me.  I am no longer able to put on a happy face and pretend that life isn’t filled with a large spectrum of emotions and experiences.  And this time will be no different. My blog will be devoted to honestly seeking Jesus while grappling with this grief.  I know many of you have been here and I long for your support.   I know the last few weeks of his life will be hard as I wade through family emotions, give courage to my grieving girls, love and support my mom in the ways that she needs, and crown my dads life with gratitude and joy.

This journey I’ve just begun demands faithful companions.  I hope you’ll join me as I rely on Jesus hour by hour to hold me heart and my hand.

XOXO,

Summer

 

 

 

Faith

Margin Release II

My typewriter has a lot of useful keys that give me the ability to go over and beyond basic functioning.  These keys include the Shift, Tab, Back Space, and Margin Release keys. I am quite fond of the bell that rings that warns me that I am almost to the end of my line too, but the Margin Release (M-R) key has captivated me recently.

My typewriter lets me set the margins for my work– I decide how far and how big I think I want text to be on my paper.  I choose what I think is appropriate, normal, effective, and safe.  I don’t make margins too close to my paper’s edge, because it’s too risky and might end up not working.  The bell is my typing safeguard in this process and warns me that I’m getting close to the end of my writing row so I don’t mess all that up, but when I disregard the bell,  the margin steps in and says, “You can’t go any farther.” The Margin Release key at this point can answer with, “Oh yes I can.”

I have created a pretty strong life-margin too.  These margin requirements are similar and often just as unforgiving. These margins reside inside my head and frequently say the same thing to me– “You can’t go any farther.”  I created my self-imposed margins by determining what seems appropriate, good, normal, and safe too.  My history, my family, my experiences, and my faith have contributed to where I have placed my margins.  The fact is that I often know where I want my margins to be placed, and then out of fear, shame, and lack of confidence, I move them in even a bit more.  It’s really no one’s fault that I move them, I have placed them where I thought everyone would be happy. Sadly, where I have placed my margins has resulted in a smaller, safer, self-centered life. A life in which I often dictate where I allow God to lead and where I can safely trust him so nothing too radical happens.  But the love of God, if allowed, comes in and answers, “Oh yes I can.”

After years and years of hearing the bell ring when I get too close to the edges of my life, I have decided to use the M-R key and free myself.  I’m not willing to stay inside my self-imposed margins any longer. [pullquote] God calls us all to step out of the smallness of the margins that we create based on fear and judgement, and into a bigger God-centered life of trust, obedience, and abundance.[/pullquote]

Oh friends, we all have these margins in our lives.  Where is God calling you to release your margins?  Where in your life have you been living out of fear and smallness?  Take time today to ask God.  He loves it when we ask, he loves it when we seek.  Don’t worry, he won’t keep silent.  He has promised us that he has good God-plans that he wants to bring about in our lives. All we have to do is be open to them–let go of our self-imposed rigid margins and be obedient 30 seconds at a time. We can do 30 seconds at a time!  God loves you and according to some pretty awesome Bible stories, marginless God-plans are his specialty.

XOXO,

Summer

 

Faith

Margin Release part 1

IMG_20160503_211130When was the last time you did something personally scary?  You know, one of those things that you have to get completely out of your comfort zone to do?  I’ve had moments this year when I’ve gotten to the edge of my box and it’s been a bit uncomfortable, but I’ve purposely not taken it too far, not gotten too crazy.  You know what I mean?  Today however, I decided to abandon some of my fears and I hit the Margin Release key on my life.

I’ve been stretched this month, to love and grow like I’ve never had to before. In that stretching, I’ve come to feel the anxiety that life is short and I can’t waste a single day.   No, it’s not new knowledge, but it is felt knowledge now. [pullquote] Suffering has a way of sifting through things and making bold those parts of our lives that need to be edited out and those parts that need to be italicized.[/pullquote] This season is hard, but I do believe that it is purposeful and working for my own good.  That good that none of us wants to sign up for but produces in us some important characteristics and qualities that we are grateful for later.

After a conversation with a friend today it became apparent to me that I needed to stop complaining about my first world problems, release my self-imposed margins, and move into my life as I feel called to live.  I’m going to take the next few days to share with you two exciting and scary decisions that I made tonight. It is my hope that as you watch me hit the Margin Release key on my own life, you will have the courage to hit yours too.

I can’t wait to share my decisions with you.  If this is your time to do some scary things too, will you step out and let me know?  There is nothing like having a community to walk into the unknown with.

XOXO,

Summer

Faith

When Doing, Really Should Be a Don’t

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.  Unlike the culture around you always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12

Amazonas, Brasil 1988

I spent 2 months in Brazil in 1988.  It was an amazing experience and one that I would not change for anything. My Brazil time was physically hard and emotionally exciting.  It made me a better person by opening my eyes to the world and giving me a bigger perspective on the beauty of the people in it.  This trip was one part spiritual adventure and another part the answer to the question that I was asked over and over in my youth. “What are you going to do for God?”

Today, as I raise my daughters, I have steered away from the secular question of  “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and it’s church counterpart “What are you going to do for God?”.  Honestly, these questions have never set well with me.

As Christians, our lives are not about figuring out what we want to be or do for God.  I believe, our lives please God when we are responding in love to what he places in and before us.  We don’t need to search for things to do for him or to try to dream up ways to please him.  We don’t need to create ministries or start movements to fulfill our role as followers of Jesus.  We just need to respond to God. CYMERA_20160419_195426

As the book of Romans states, we take the ordinary stuff of life and place it before God as our love-gift-response. We give him our chaotic morning routines, lunches at work, carpooling, kids sporting events, phone calls, Pandora Channels and our internet time.  We offer it all to him as a beautiful expression of our love for him, obedience, and our desire for him to transform it all into the sacred.

Mission trips and service days are great for working out our love for others.  It goes all wonky though, when we start doing it to either earn our salvation or God’s love-which is impossible.  We also cause ourselves grief when we start keeping score-mentioning it to God later when we want something or are sure that he’s forgotten us in some way. This is when doing things for God should be a don’t.

The Christian life is much more simple than we want to believe it to be. Jesus himself boiled it down to loving God and loving others.   God often puts in front of us beautiful service opportunities so that we will develop well-formed maturity . He also places passions in us for the things he is specifically calling us to respond to.  These things are not birthed from our own compulsion to do something for God, but they are God directed and allow us to respond to him and participate in his work.

Today, instead of doing, doing, doing for God, let’s , fix [our] attention on God.  [We’ll] be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from [us], and quickly respond to it.

XOXO,

Summer

Faith

First Things First

Hi!  One of my favorite sayings has become, “Everyone has a story”.  It’s totally true, and it is so much fun hearing about them from all kinds of people.  Well friends, I have a story too and since you are here hanging out on the blog with me, I’ll assume you’d like to hear a piece of mine. CYMERA_20160220_152516

I’ve kinda fallen into writing a little later than most.  Well, that isn’t entirely true.  Writing has always been a part of my life from poetry to passionate pleas to stop human trafficking.  As an adult, I have often woken up with poems in my head or the beginning lines of something I should write.  I thought it was pretty normal, so typically I just ignored the whole thing.  That is, until one day I didn’t.  A beautiful life altering experience was the important inciting incident that unlocked my writing voice.  This incident gave me a new awareness that my voice mattered and that somehow, it held value to others that I had never previously felt.  So now, when I wake up with poems flowing out of my heart, I began to write them down and text them to friends. All kinds of things I am passionate about began to flow out and onto paper and  into the world through social media.

Jesus has used this experience to change and move me as I have never experienced before.  He has cracked open my heart and life in such an unexpected way, and in obedience to him, I try to open it all up for others.  Writing publicly has been terrifying.  It has forced me to be brave, humble, vulnerable, and honest daily.  I am learning to love and embrace it as it forces me to cling to Jesus in a new and deeper way.  Right now, he is calling me to follow him into this blog world and I am excited to be doing just that.   Yesterday he compelled me to encourage others on Facebook, today it’s a new blog — which I dedicate solely to his glory.  Tomorrow?  I can only guess what it will be.  I do know that out of obedience and love,  I will step out right behind wherever he leads.  Exciting and hard and beautiful is what I’m counting on this place he calls me to be.  Will you join me?  Let’s step out and together see where God wants to take us as we learn to love him and one another more and more.

XOXO,

Summer