Can I just go on record as saying that I love our student ministers at our church? Now, I really, genuinely love both Shelley and Ryan because I just really like them as people and as a brother and sister in Christ. But what I truly love about the two of them are the high expectations of Christian discipleship they have of our students. Case in point - in order to go on the summer mission trips each year, each student is required to complete ten hours of service in some area of church ministry. It can be volunteering to work during the Parent's Night Out activities, or during Vacation Bible School, or for the monthly Love Granbury service project, but everyone is expected to complete the ten hours before they can go on mission trip. It's a little different with summer church camp, which is open to any and all who want to go. But Shelley and Ryan have been teaching our students that mission trip...going to serve others in some other location outside our own community...is a privilege, and as such, carries with it a higher degree of personal commitment. I love that! I love it because it's teaching our students the essence of their calling as Christ followers...to love and serve God by loving and serving others for His sake. And guess what - our students are responding. Yesterday and today, we had another opportunity for some of our students to come and complete their mission trip service hours by working on our church's children's playground. The old bark mulch in the entire playground area had to be turned so that it could dry, then there were 200 bags of new bark mulch that had to be spread. This isn't shrinking violet work by any means. It's hot, sweaty, physical work. But yet, there those students were, guys and girls, giving up two mornings of their summer, serving for the privilege to go and serve the children and families of inner-city Philadelphia in two weeks. And there were even a number of younger students who came to work who aren't even going on the high school mission trip...they just came to serve. To me, there is no more valuable lesson of Christian discipleship that our students can learn than this - that people are much more willing to lend you their ears, after you have given them a piece of your heart. Or, as one of my heroes of faith, Steve Sjogren, puts it...being the Good News before we tell the Good News.
"Can I step into your office?" - this is usually followed by heartache and sheer pain... and at times wells of tears pooling not sure if they can be released to flood every available space. Today's moments have included such conversations.... yet they were revolving. The individual would come and talk.... leave..... come and talk.... leave.... and so on. The layers of this onion are vast. It is a rather large onion even in the package it is wrapped in. And in the midst of the chaos that was today at the physical church building.... that did not stop the smell of each piece that was being diced up trying to decide what it was going to create.
At times an onion just needs someone to listen. Not necessarily have all the answers.. I consider it a privilege that this individual knows I am there for them. Yet, that is only a known factor because of the time invested in their life. It is like money that has been taken to the bank, deposited and growing interest. And yet, it is active as change jiggling in a pocket loose - not just merely sitting waiting for the day it will be withdrawn.
It cracks me up at how often I explain this one. "The puppy" is not a small dog.... not a young dog..... normally when I say it. It can refer to a blog... but just as easily to a laptop or an article. And yes, the puppy was born yesterday. Thanks to all who have prayed about it being birthed! And have read it and sent your thoughts to me or told me in person.
More than that... it goes to show how prayers can be answered in such unexpected ways.... Who knew except The Father that the man who would ask me to consider writing with him would use the puppy too...... and funny enough..... the onion as well. I think it goes to show that The Father has a sense of humor too. I know my dear friend Steve Sjo. agrees and I am thrilled that he came knocking at my email door and invited me on another part of this continuing journey of sharing God's kindness and love with others.
In the post below I talked about being hit between the eyes. More of that is to come... as this puppy is going to show more layers of the onion and help peel them apart to create dishes that one can hopefully sink their teeth into. Maybe you'll even say, "Hey! If she can make it... any one can!"
It's okay to laugh people in the midst of being serious.
Wherever you are at this moment - you were just prayed for! And it is a sheer privilege!
Notice others. It really is as easy as pie. But please don't be square about it.
This morning I am taking an inventory of sort. Yesterday I had the privilege of spending some time with a few individuals. And are they ever making me think.
For weeks Brother G and I have been hearing about this man. We met him this past Sunday for the first time - immediate connection. Yesterday, he was at the physical church building again. As I came out into the hallway, I saw him... and it was if seeing an old friend. We hugged and hugged... and hugged some more. And then he did it - he started challenging the heck out of me. Oh, how he had me laughing. How we were laughing together.... That conversation still has me thinking.
Ishmael had a few others with him. I introduced myself to them and we talked some more about why they were there. I continued to talk with one of the men as we walked. Again, was challenged and spurred on. Hopefully, he received some encouragement from our talk as well. And yes, that conversation still has me thinking.
I came back to the highly secure gated community earlier than normal for a Wednesday. I was in need of some RQM (really quiet moments). I had spent a good amount of the day training the volunteer I have written about before. Brother G and I believe in training others to learn.... to do.... to teach... to give away... (Yes, I know that's why some think we need to be church planters!)
I wrote about the editor last week... in an email last night he told me to speak up. And I laughed and laughed. He also gave me some items to consider for the future. Again, that conversation still has me thinking.
Bull's eye conversations... It is necessary to take inventory.
To ask yourself those questions... and then actually do something with the answers.
More to come! I've been hit between the eyes. Have you?
Austin had a meeting tonight for the mission trip he is going on to Philly. I finally received a call saying he'd meet me in the front circle of the highly secure gated community. So, I headed out...
There are a couple of streets that go on and on for what seems like forever. Where we lay our heads down at night can be found on such a street. As I made a turn here, a turn there, went straight - I finally arrived in the place we said we'd meet. And I waited in the dark.
Funny enough..... the headlights were just bright enough to give light to some of the activity going on around me. A mother and her fawn were walking across the street as if they had no care in the world. And yet, after living here for a few years now - I know better. Cars and deer make for strange neighbors at times. And if you hit a deer - you get a ticket and an ambulance is sent out to pick it up. I kid you not.... weird.....
As I sat there watching them - I could not help but think about the parent/child relationship. It is no secret that we have very strong bonds with our sons. The last few months we've been going through some of the wildest times ever in our lives as a family. And yet, we've only become stronger. It has only strengthened us as Parker said it would.....
Austin finally arrived in the circle and got in to the vehicle I was in. As we were driving back - he could not help but go on and on about the upcoming trip. And in a very real sense - Austin is waiting in the dark. He has never been on an airplane before. He has never been that far away without his dad being on the trip also. Philly is totally different from Kentucky where he went last summer. Is that teenager ever excited..... even with not knowing fully what to expect.
There are real lessons that can be learned while waiting in the dark... in some ways it is like learning to walk after being paralyzed. I can still remember the looks on faces as I had to look straight ahead..... I can remember the doctor and nurses saying, "Keep your head up Camey.... Don't look down. If you do - you're going to lose your footing." I was like sheer jello..... all wobbly..... And yet, I was ever so excited.... even with not knowing fully what to expect. Even with the years that followed of on/off again paralysis and the gloom and doom diagnosis that was given. There was just as much light there even when being healed completely and all these years later. And yes, in being in the best health of my forty years of life.
I'm often asked how can I look at life in the moments like I do.... simple. The Father has shown me time and time that I do not wait in the dark alone. He provides enough light.... in His Love... through His Son..... and with Spirit. Holy.... Holy.... Spirit.
The glory in this life is Him.... in Him... through Him..... and it Glorious Light!
And there is more than enough to dance with even if a toe gets stepped on in the movements or even when held in His arms.
This morning I've been going over the G family's calendar for the next few weeks. And I cannot help but laugh again. For as much as we can make our own plans...... a lesson we've learned time and time again in life and living.
At 9:00 a.m. this morning, a man named Earl is coming to get Austin and Travis. They will be spending some quality time doing manual labor for him. Apparently there is a barn that needs cleaned out and some hay that needs to be bailed. This is definitely a new adventure for the boys. Until coming to G-town - they've been strictly city boys. We're thankful that Earl loves our family in such ways as to invest time in our sons' education and to be a man they know they can trust and look up to.
One thing that Brother G and I believe is that the moments of life are just as much as a classroom and provide opportunities for learning and development. School for our family is not some thing found on a calendar from August to May alone. It is life..... 24/7. It is noticing God... noticing others... and seizing the moments to serve.
For those who continue to ask me about the writing opportunity thingy.... I have submitted my first article after doing a complete rewrite. And while I still remain dumbfounded.... I am beyond grateful. As long as we have an Internet connection - I can write from anywhere... I'm often asked why I do not have a stat counter on this blog. It's not the number of hits that matter to me. It's being found faithful in serving The Father in the ways He provides. A part of the ministry I've been called to is encouraging others through the written word. For taking the moments of life and unwrapping them as the gifts that they are.... even cleaning toilets. Life is precious.... even the moments with pain. If one person gets encouragement..... if one person takes a step out of their comfort zone.... Priceless!
Brother G has given up some opportunities as of late. At first we thought they were due to a particular reason or two. Now, we're finding out there is more to the picture than we could have realized at the time. What all opportunities lie ahead? That remains to be seen. As his wife I am beyond grateful for how he is seizing the new ones coming his way. How he is willing to risk..... And yes, we're beyond excited to see how The Father is going to stretch us yet again.
Parker and I took some more free lunches to one of our sites yesterday afternoon. Upon getting out of the vehicle, I saw a familiar face walking up to me. Her name is Lori. She was one of the participants at a ministry I used to be on staff at a couple of years ago now. Lori hugged me and said, "Camey! I was going to call you. I passed the test!" What all else she said - I let stay between us. As we were walking up to where the food was to go... Parker said to me, "Mom? I'm glad you were one of ones that helped Lori. She used to look so sad." Talk about teachable moments. I was the education coordinator for that ministry. And yet, I can tell you without hesitation, I learned even more from the students than they did me. Seeds planted that are now growing trees that have roots. Praise God!
So, today... this moment.... I encourage you to look around your moments at the opportunities in life that The Father has presented to you.....
Are you going to keep them in the box because they look so pretty? Or are you going to rip that bow off and discover what is inside just waiting to pop out?
Brother G has left for the day.... He is in a meeting this morning in another city. As he was preparing to walk out the door..... we held hands and prayed. And we both got misty..... yes, that is safe to say.
I'm often asked how does it work when both the spouses have been called to ministry... are surrendered to God. For us, we cannot imagine it any other way. I think at times the one thing that most do not understand is that we truly are a team. I will follow that man of mine any where..... even if it were to mean giving up parts of what has been ministry for me thus far.... For like Brother G flat out told a church back a few months ago.... For us... it's God first... our marriage second... and then our sons... Any other order - he is not the man for that church...
As Brother G prayed this morning.... he talked about being broken vessels in The Father's hands. He also talked about how thankful we are for how our marriage continues to grow and strengthen over time. As we stood there holding hands - I had my head leaned up against his chest..... and I could hear his heartbeat. And I know without question whom it truly beats for.... I would not want to be first any moment of the day. Nor would he for me....
For you see.... one thing Brother G and I believe 100% - the most important relationship any one can ever have is with The Father..... with Jesus.... I do not complete Brother G... nor does Brother G complete me... nor do our sons... or any other thing we possibly ever do.
If marriage is to not only to survive the pressures of ministry but truly thrive..... The Father as the head of the triangle is a necessity.... not a luxury.
This question has been asked of me over and over the last few days...
I've debated with myself over answering it here or not.... Then, I received a comment on the post below this afternoon. About the time I was going to respond to it..... Travis came and asked me if we could go see if the pool was open. So, I shut this puppy down and grabbed Trav and Park and off we went. (Note to Kevin: That means I signed out of blogger.)
As I watched them together in the deep end....... I just listened....
As I watched them dive off the board time and time again..... I listened....
As I noticed how they swim now compared to days gone by...... I listened even more....
Brother G and I are incredibly grateful for all the prayers and for the love they represent.
As for an answer....
We want to be found faithful. Wherever... however..... Doors closing. Doors opening.
As tomorrow comes..... That's especially how you can pray for us.
For now.... it's time for some moments with the man I will go any where with.