Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Elliott and Caiden Visit Connecticut

All my mom's kids and a straggler grand baby (Photo Credit: Monica Montgomery)

So, my mama turned sixty years old a few days ago and my stepdad made sure to surround his bride with all six of her children and eight grandchildren for her birthday.  It was a marvelous opportunity to reunite with my family and meet some of the newer members.  The kids and I jumped on a plane to Connecticut and what I took away from the whole experience is this: you can take my kids out of the city, but you can't take the city out of my kids--not in just one week anyway.

All my mom's grand babies (Photo Credit: Monica Montgomery)

Connecticut Day 1: My sister, Heather, was searching high and low for her purse until she finally asked for help.  

"Does anyone know where my purse is??  I thought I left it on my bed."

"Oh, that was me."  Elliott said.  "I hid your purse under the bed so no one would steal it!"

Connecticut Day 2: Driving a normal route from one town to another, Caiden is completely carsick from a drive that Connecticut kids have to take every single day.

Connecticut Day 3: Driving down a paved road that has lots of cracks that have been patched, Elliott asks, "What's all that graffiti supposed to be?"

Connecticut Day 4: Grandpa is taking the kids outside to find sticks for roasting marshmallows.  Elliott worries the flashlight will die and they won't be able to find their way back to the house which is fifty yards away.

Connecticut Day 4: We were going to take some kayaks out on Burr Pond and the kids want to know what a pond is and whether it is dirty or not.

"I thought you said it wasn't dirty!" they worried when we arrived. 

And then we when we left they were so impressed and told me, "That water was so cool!  It wasn't salty at all.  When it got it my mouth it wasn't salty, it was like water you can drink!"

(Photo Credit: Monica Montgomery)

David had tried to warn me before I left.  He was so insistent about the fact that our "city kids" (as he kept calling them) would be clueless out there.  He asked me if my mom's house was next to a forest and I started cracking up.  All of Connecticut is like one giant forest.  All you can see in any direction is hills covered in trees.  Secretly I was doubtful about labeling our kids "city kids."  I thought he was being a bit dramatic, but after the week we just had in Connecticut I'm convinced he's right!  City kids it is!

Monday, September 15, 2014

That Time Caiden and I Decided to Run Away

My sister always used to threaten she would run away when we were little.  A cousin of mine actually did run away while living with us.  This particular approach never occurred to me when it came to dealing with my frustrations as a child.  I remember using tears A LOT as an outlet to frustration, but it never struck me to throw in the towel on my family.  Never, that is, until two weeks before I was free to be on my own.  It was two measly weeks until my high school graduation (at which point I planned on moving away) when I got so frustrated with my mother and felt there was so much injustice happening that I literally ran away. I ran out of the house and down the street, jumping into ditches every time a car drove past in fear that my mother would find me and take me home. I ran all the way to the outskirts of town and eventually ended up in the home of a friend.  My mom and I patched things up a few days later and I came home, finished school, and moved away.  Twelve years went by before I felt any kind of remorse or guilt about my decision.  Until then, I had felt completely justified.  Completely at peace with my decision until the Holy Spirit brought conviction about this thing I hardly ever even think about any more.  It all happened when my own little girl made the decision recently that it was time for her to pack up her things and "get out of Dodge."

A few weeks ago, as I was getting out of the shower, an unhappy little six year old with an iron will and tangled hair came marching into the bathroom with her backpack on and her "Pink Blanket" in her hand.  "I'm running away from home!" she declared with a pouting look.

"Oh man." I thought wryly, "How can we be here already?" I really hadn't expected to deal with the whole running away scenario until teen years, if ever.

We talked there in the bathroom--me in my towel with dripping wet hair, sitting on the closed lid of the toilet and her standing before me with her backpack and determined face.  I asked her why she wanted to run away and explained why its not okay to run away from your problems.  I also tried to evoke some compassion for the feelings of her conscientious big brother who was probably scared as his little sister was packing up to run away while Mom was in the shower.  We talked about some other things and she apologized and had a change of heart.  She assured me that she wouldn't do it again.

A few nights later, David and I had a confrontation and battle of wills with Caiden right before bed.  Now that she was an old pro at this she threatened the run away thing again.  We had to have a serious conversation about obedience and trust.  I asked Caiden if she trusted God. I asked her if she loved God.  I reminded her that Jesus says "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." in John 14:15 and that His word says, "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." Colossians 3:20.   I told her that if she leaves the family God placed her in, she would be disobeying and leaving God's will for her life, because God put her parents in authority over her ("There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." Romans 13:1) In leaving, she would be saying that she knows better than God.*  In essence, she would be saying that she doesn't trust Him.  I told her that if she loves and trusts God, she needs to trust that He knows what He's doing when He placed her in her family.  As I spoke these words of truth from God's word, His word also pierced MY heart.  I remembered my actions all those years ago and all the circumstances surrounding them.  Nothing changed as far as my perspective or view of the circumstances, but I clearly saw that in leaving my family in such a way, even if I had felt wronged, was an act of disobedience to my Lord and also one of mistrust.  I was surprised by this change of heart, because nothing could have convinced me that I was in the wrong except for God's Spirit speaking to my heart and changing it.  I felt I must repent and make amends with my mom.

I love how He does that.  It lends an incredible amount of peace to my life in knowing that I need not spend all of my moments worrying and second guessing everything I've ever done, but can--in entrusting my life to following and loving Jesus--rest, knowing He is responsible for convicting me of sin and convicting my children, too.  I don't need to nor can I successfully micromanage these things.  If I do, I end up placing my trust in myself and my own abilities instead of spending my time enjoying Jesus and the relationship with God that He has made available to me through His work in living a perfect life in my place already and then taking my punishment for my sins. I am not resting in that work and enjoying Him, instead I am trying to do that same work myself as if His work wasn't good enough!

His worthiness to be trusted with these things has been evidenced to me exponentially, lately, as just yesterday, Caiden came to me out of the blue, confessing that she sometimes would throw her homework away last year.  I couldn't help but laugh, knowing how much Caiden hates homework and how much we battled over it last year.  At the same time I realized, with awe, how much God holds my little girl in His hands.  I might not catch every wrong thing my kids do, but He misses nothing.  I cannot force my children to love and obey Him, but His Spirit clearly works in them to do both. I may not always handle each parenting situation right; I may sometimes frustrate my child to the point where she deceives me and throws away her homework, but luckily God knows what He's doing when He allows one broken person who desperately needs God to steward and disciple another broken person who desperately needs Him, too, and He's faithful to work in both of us to sanctify us and He is "able to keep [us] from stumbling and present [us] blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy" (Jude 1:24).  The only way I know to parent is to humbly cling to Jesus, point to Jesus, and hope in Jesus.

*To be clear, this post was not written to condemn anyone who has left an abusive situation and/or left a situation in the interest of safety.  That would be an entirely different matter.

Monday, August 4, 2014

An Unexpected Moment with Jesus

Have you had a moment where God speaks to you so clearly you can't doubt that it's Him? The kind of moment you hold on to for the rest of your days and refer back to as a pillar of remembrance to His faithfulness?  The Lord has been gracious to me and faithfully taught me and spoken to me over the years through His word and through His people.  But He has also given me a few of those arresting moments in my life where His voice is loud and bold in speaking to my heart, transfixing me with His love.

One of those moments happened, unexpectedly, to me last week.  We had a new church member over having dinner with us and just before she left she casually handed me a shopping bag announcing that she bought me a gift and it just so happened to be my "half birthday"--or so she had discovered over dinner.

I opened the bag and inside was just this extravagant gift: a beautiful and carefully chosen handbag.  Not a hand me down (although I love hand me downs!), this was a name brand handbag--for me, an almost stranger to her--and I was just floored.  Like a gaping, staring, jumbling, teary eyed mess, I could not find words; I stumbled over my sentences.  I mean, who wouldn't love to be given an expensive gift?  But it was more than that.  It didn't make sense.  I could find no reason or explanation for such a gift--no prolonged friendship or previous debt she owed me, no magnificent feats or overly thoughtful deeds on my part, no intimate acquaintance or particularly shared interest.  Not only that, but it was the magnitude of the gift that was so confounding.  Again, who wouldn't be surprised by an extravagant gift?  But this was more than that.  The handbag won't last forever and the novelty of such a lovely thing will wear off, but what really happened to me in that moment was that I saw the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding.  I saw a gift that was modeled after the one that God has given to me in Christ Jesus.  A gift with insurmountable worth for no conceivable reason--an unmerited outpouring of extravagant favor.  It makes no sense!  And in that moment and the ones to come I was broken, humbled, and elated at the knowledge of God's love for me: how he loves me and pours out this unexpected and overwhelming love on me though I am undeserving.  Yes, it reminded me of this spiritual truth of my salvation, but it also demonstrated a current outpouring of undeserved love and favor from God at that very moment--a current grace.  I know I have salvation, but God reminded me that He continues to love and bless me all throughout my life and can at any moment arrest my attention with it.  I now call it "Betsy Johnsoning" me.  He tells me in His word that He has not withheld any good from me.  He has given me His best and His all without holding back any good when He gave me His one and only Son.  All that He does and allows in my life is viewed through that lens and security of His love--even the hard and heartbreaking things.  But at any moment He can swoop in and reveal Himself and His character and His overwhelming love to me by sending someone to my door with a Betsey Johnson bag for no reason and leave me completely gasping and wordless in awe of Him and His love for me. He doesn't always do it that way and He doesn't have to, because He has already given me His all and demonstrated once and for all His love for me by laying down His life for mine while I was His enemy--but at any time, in His own time, He can and He does.  In a time when I didn't feel worthy, wasn't looking,  and was doing nothing to earn, merit, or find Him, there He was before me displaying for my broken heart to see the magnificent firework show of His overwhelming love for me.  Why?  Because He is love--the very embodiment of it--because He loves me, and because He has chosen to set His love on me.  And I am undone.

A gift like that makes me want to love people boldly, extravagantly, and fiercely.  I want people to see how ridiculously crazy God's love is: how nonsensical and beyond reason it is to be loved like that.  Its like an electric shock to our souls when we are loved by Him.  And I can only love people in an arresting way like that through Him.  Without Him, all my efforts fall far short of magnificent like a little broken firework that never makes it past the first blade of grass before fizzling out.  Fill me up and send me out, Lord.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Anniversary de Proposal

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  For me, its the day 11 years ago, that David and I got engaged.  For the whole story, click the link for this old post.

David and me at our engagement party.  19 years old.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Time We Walked on Water

Errands were being run, people were coming over, there projects that needed to be worked on, and I was trying to figure out just how many things I could cram into the precious minutes left between leaving one store and getting to another and still have time to get home, tidy up, and prepare for our guests.

I was dragging Elliott and Caiden along on this endeavor, of course, and as we were driving along the road (we happened to be on an island) we glanced over to our left--where the land met the San Francisco bay--and beheld such a beautiful sight; the sun was setting down beneath San Francisco, setting the water aglow.  The tide was out farther than I've ever seen it.  The kids and I were in awe and suddenly I realized that the things that were driving me (chores, errands, projects) were not my captors--I held the keys to our freedom.  The choice was mine--stop and enjoy this beautiful moment or carry on and let the moment pass us by.

We stopped.  And it was beautiful and a thrillingly captivating adventure.  We made our way out, out, out onto the ooey gooey sand, treading upon surfaces which are normally forbidden to all except the sea creatures who make their home there.  We were a little wary and scared and I kept yelling at Caiden to try not to step too much in the puddles, but it was no use--her feet got soaked; all of our feet got wet and mucky, but no matter.  We triumphantly made it all the way out to the water's edge and soaked it all in.  We looked back to see how far we'd come; we watched and listened to the salty birds stretching their wings and exercising their lungs; we looked at all of the colors the sun was making; and we got surprised by the tide creeping in that got our toes even more wet inside of our shoes.  It was stinky, and wet, and beautiful.

For just a few moments during a very busy time, we had actually stopped and "smelled the roses" and its a stop I've never regretted.

We drank in God's beauty, thanked Him, and then jumped back on to the moving walkway of life, scrambled home, made dinner, and enjoyed the company of others.