Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I spy...

My summer routine pretty much consists of driving 3 kids to various activities from 9 am to 5 pm. I know! You are probably thinking that it's a shame our poor children are so busy with little time to enjoy summer. You are probably having an urge to give me the address for some of those better mommy blogs where they write about their precious ones running through the sprinklers or playing with chalk or making crafts. Speaking of crafts, you probably  want to suggest I do some with my four year old as we talk about Bible stories. Trust me, she did some two weeks ago with her wonderful grandmother. Here is a photo of sweet Sarah when I picked her up from what we call "Camp McKinney" which is actually a week with Blake's parents. She couldn't wait to show me the paper mache' pig she made!

I've pinned about a million craft ideas on Pinterest, but here are the ones she did with Grammy last week so I'm thinking she's crafted out for awhile anyway. Aren't they adorable?!
And by the way, she even cooked with Grammy AND ran through their sprinklers!  See, my kids really are having a perfectly lovely summer!

I did recently get super creative with breakfast...notice the frozen waffle and paper plate.

As much as I try, I'm not that kind of mom usually, and we aren't that kind of family. I'm okay with it, really! It's how we thrive honestly. I mean, seriously...this crazy family will choose the vacation to a crazy big city over a leisurely mountain cabin any day. I'll spare you all the pictures of our recent trip to Washington DC. Even when we are in nature, my husband and sons prefer to live on the edge!

Suffice it to say that we really do enjoy being busy.

Please don't judge us! It's not that we don't talk about Bible stories or appreciate some quiet time. We really do! It's just that we find ourselves in the high school, middle school, and kindergarten stages all at the same time. All three of our kids are active because they want to be. They each have their own activities, so we have some really great opportunities to meet other families in our community. We have dinner together around the table almost every night. During the school year we have breakfast together every school day and morning devotions.  

But one of my favorite things about all the busyness is that we have captive moments in the car to talk about Jesus. We also try to spend the beginning parts of our drive praying for others. We pray for teachers, coaches, church staff, neighbors, even strangers in ambulances as they rush by. When several of us are waiting in the car for a sibling to finish summer school, voice lessons, drum lessons, ballet, gymnastics, church orchestra, or pool time we have the best conversations about how we see God at work in the world! (Here we are waiting for Justin to finish a voice lesson. You'd be surprised how much you can learn about God's love for us as you see hints of redemption even in Disney stories on the ipad!)

Because we are in the car a lot, we play several car games. One of our favorites is "I Spy".  

A funny thing happened this week as we pulled out of the garage. I reminded Sarah that we needed to pray for Coach Jana as we headed to gymnastics. Sarah volunteered to go first and started, "I spy with my little eye..." before we both started to laugh! Sometimes we don't think before we speak.  Sometimes we just "phone in" our prayers. We did pray for Coach Jana and talk about how we have to take that seriously. Sarah honestly just said what came very naturally to her in the car...she wasn't trying to be funny, but I was reminded by Sarah that prayer really is an invitation from God to spy Him!

I believe that He is always at work, but when I'm consciously praying about something or someone I'm compelled to watch for an answer. Honestly, it's sometimes easy to go for hours in the day without acknowledging His presence or speaking to Him. I know i should be praying, but I just get busy. I don't know if my prayers change God's mind necessarily, but I do know that prayer changes me. It focuses me. It reminds me that He is doing something so big that I'd hate to miss it! It's an invitation to play "I SPY GOD!"

Do you spy God at work in your busyness. Prayer is the best way to make yourself spy God! If you are talking with Him, asking Him to reveal Himself, then looking hard for Him, you will spy Him! God spoke to the rebellious nation of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah and even said, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you..." (Jeremiah 29:13-14a)

My challenge to you, to myself too, is to play "I spy" with God! Talk to Him! Ask Him to reveal Himself to you in new and surprising ways. Beg Him to move in your life and your circumstances. Plead with Him to move in your friends' lives. Even tell Him and others where you've "spied" Him lately! I'll just bet that when you pray about some things and then watch for His answers, you'll spy Him in all sorts of places!

This week I'm hoping to spy Him at the gym!

I'm betting He'll turn me upside down in the process!  (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

I just love that so many of my friends are posting photos of their fathers on Facebook!  I've enjoyed seeing many pictures of men who were dear to me as beloved friends' dads!  I wish I had a photo of my own dad, but he passed away almost 15 years ago.  Dad and I had a weird relationship, not exactly what I wanted, but he most certainly loved me in the ways he thought were important.  I've thankfully had several other father figures throughout the years and each of them gave me love in their own way.

Bobby Graves was my father.  He was born in 1920, and was almost 50 when I came along.  Now that I'm almost 50 with a preschooler I completely understand why he wasn't always warm and fuzzy with me!  He was exhausted by then, having already raised two boys and daughter.  My sister was his princess who came along 10 years after the boys, and when I came 10 years after that he must have been tired!  Even though he wasn't exactly an overly involved dad, he did have extremely high expectations.  I'm forever grateful that, even though he never graduated from high school, he INSISTED that I finish college.  He bought this small town girl a blue Chevy truck when I was 16 and then made sure I could drive anywhere!  He never missed a basketball game or a football game if I was cheering. He never made much money, in fact I remember that he made $13,000 the year he retired from the US Forrest Service when I was in high school, but somehow I had more than I needed and was allowed to travel more than most kids in my small town.  Most importantly, he made sure I NEVER EVER missed church, and I used manners.  The best memory with him was when he took Mom and me to Germany when I was in college to visit where he had walked and fought in WWII.  I'll never forget watching that hard man sob at the site of the Remagen Bridge, where he fought bravely and lost so many friends.  I was changed by that experience and learned so much about him during that visit.  He died when Justin was only 6 months old, and I wish my children could have known him.

My brother Ronny Graves was the father figure for me for much of my teenage and early twenty years.  He is 20 years older than me and has two daughters, Kristal and Karmen, who were so much more than nieces!  His girls were like sisters to me so he treated my more like a daughter than a little sister!   Though Ronny was always stationed far from home in the Army, we visited him and his family every summer.  He and my sister in law, Nancy, always treated my like their very own!  They took me to see my first movie.  They were cool parents!!  Going to the pool with them on base at Ft. Hood was like visiting the Hawaiian Islands to me!  Ronny is a teacher, and I can't tell you how much I still learn from him!  He's patiently taught me everything from German, cake decorating, horsemanship, and scripture.  He's the father figure that hugged me and told me he was proud of me as a teenager. He even rented a sports car for us to drive one time in college, and I've never forgotten it! I always wanted to marry a smart man because Ronny was smart and could converse about any topic!  It's been fun to watch Ronny and my husband, who is also smart, talk about everything from religion to politics to family.  I love my brother Ronny so much!

Larry Graves is my OLDEST brother.  I love to say that to him!  He's actually the closest thing to a father I have today. Though Larry and I hardly spent time together as I was growing up, we're making up for lost time now.  Larry and I talk almost every Sunday night.  What means the most to me is that he really keeps up with what's going on with my children and my everyday life.  Honestly, Larry is exactly what I need  in a father figure these days: he knows what I'm involved in and he keeps up with what I'm accomplishing.  He says words like, "I'm so proud of you" and "You're doing a great job."  He and my sister in law, Milly, drove all the way from Houston to Kansas City to visit us, and that means the world to me!  He gives me great advice when I need it, but he realizes I'm an adult!  I honestly wish that we lived closer to each other  because not only do I think he's the best, but my children really love him.  He's the closest thing they will ever have to a grandfather on my side of the family, and I love it when my children get to spend time with him!   I love my OLDEST brother Larry so much too!

JV McKinney is my father in law.  I knew I was in for it when we first met because he interrogated me about all sorts of things.  I assumed the interrogation came from his desire to not waste his son's time with a dingbat, but after 25 years I've decided that he just enjoys conversations about issues,  And though we don't often agree on the big issues to him, I'd just bet that he at least appreciates that I have opinions.  JV is the absolute best photographer I've ever known.  Any great photo I have of my children was taken by him.  He's also generous beyond imagination.  He never charges anyone to take photos because it's just his passion.  And speaking of passion, the man is 100% passionate about whatever he's doing.  I like that...and I'd like to say that I've developed some of my passion about life watching JV.  Since he and Blake are SO MUCH alike, I guess I'm most thankful to JV for creating the atmosphere in which my amazing husband matured.  The single best thing about me is my husband, and JV did much of the work raising Blake!  I love JV!

Of course my favorite dad in the world is my husband.  Blake is the absolute dream of what I always thought a dad should be!  He's patient, kind, affectionate, and gentle.  He has extremely high expectations and is a wonderful motivator for the kids.  He's warm and fuzzy, smart and passionate, full of wisdom, and more humble than anyone I've ever met!  He accurately portrays our Heavenly Father to our children, to me, to our church, and to anyone he meets.  Now that we have Sarah, I see so much of his relationship with her as exactly what I wanted and needed as a little girl!  I realize that my own father lived in a different generation and he just didn't have anything else to give...but I'm so thankful that I get to relive that dream by watching Sarah and Blake!

Happy Father's Day to these dads in my life!

Monday, June 10, 2013

What's old is new again...

So I was up particularly early this summer morning to watch LifeWay author Jen Hatmaker on the Today Show.  Now honestly, it wasn't really early, but it's summer.  And I'm home alone.  And I didn't go to bed til 1:30am because (did I mention?) I'm home alone this week.  Just in case you don't know me, I need you to understand that it's a big deal that I'm home alone!  I haven't had an extended "home alone" time in 15 years so my plan was to sleep late, stay up late, work at the store during the evenings, and write.  Up at 7:45am was not on the to do list, but anything for LifeWay I guess.  Oh wait, I'm home alone so I'll just take a nap this afternoon!  Sweet bliss!

Jen did a great job, of course.  Her funny but sarcasticly insightful blog post about being the worst end of the school year mom ever hits the nail on the head in so many ways. Read it here: http://bit.ly/JenHatmaker, but promise me you'll come back and finish this post!!

As I snuggled onto the couch with my coffee in anticipation of Jen's segment I turned on the show only to see about a bazillion teenage girls "on the Plaza" there in NYC screaming bloody murder over some young pop star.  I consider myself fairly "with it" when it comes to pop teenage culture, though the use of the term "with it" probably means I'm not actually.  Believe it or not, I had never heard of the young man Austin Mahone.  Cut me some slack here though because my daughter is only four years old and she thinks Phineas and Ferb are cutting edge.  So, like any "with it" adult, I googled the cutie pie!  I even went to Itunes and sampled a song.  I'm cool like that.

Turns out, cutie pie Austin Malone remade that old Biz Markie song, "Just a Friend".  See I told you I was "with it".  You remember it if you are a child of 80's, otherwise known as best decade ever!  I'm singing it right now out loud in my kitchen because, did I mention, I'm home alone!!!

         "Oh baby you, you got what I need!  But you say he's just a friend, you say he's just a friend.

I'm not saying you should necessarily download it but it's a catch little ditty, huh?  In fact, I can't wait to show it to my teenage sons.  I'm sure they'll immediately love it and download it because I'm the role model for them when it comes to music.  I'm pretty sure our Ipods have identical music, right?  Surely they have all of the Travis Cottrell albums.

Then it hit me, I was one of those screaming girls about 30 years ago.  My mom took me to the Hot Springs Mall to see Bo from Days of our Lives at the apex of "Bo and Hope" Days!  We waited in long lines, took a bazillion photos with our Polaroid, and made the exact kind of posters those sweet little girls made for Austin!  Oh, and there was a lot of screaming and crying and promising to never wash that hand Bo touched again!

My mom tried to act like she didn't enjoy it, but I think she did.

And honestly, I think I've been a part of a group or two like this at a LifeWay Women's event. Haven't you stood in a long line to get great seats at Living Proof Live, just hoping Beth Moore will get close enough to bless your heart or at least figure out where she bought that cute jacket? My BFF and I have a system when we go.  She gets in one line and I get in another.  Our strategy is whoever gets in first RUNS down to the floor and saves two seats.  It's not pretty (or very Christlike) but it works. And if I've rudely elbowed you at some point in one of those lines, I'm sorry, but a girls gotta do what she's gotta do to see Beth's jacket up close.

And then I remembered Psalm 78, an unforgettable Psalm about learning from the past.
"...for I will speak to you in a parable.  I will teach you hidden lessons from our past...so each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting His glorious miracles and obeying His commands."
Psalm 78:2, 7  (NLT)

So much about life doesn't change at the core. There will probably always be teenage girls screaming over cutie pie boy heart throbs.  So much about me doesn't change.  I will probably always have to ask God to give me right motives and completely pure desires even at a women's conference.

But HE never changes.  We will always be enamored with the world, it's trends, it's promises, it's fleeting fun. We can even engage culture to teach our children about the faithful love of our Father in Heaven.

James 1:17 says it so well...
Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.  HE NEVER CHANGES, or casts a shifting shadow.

Thanks Jen, for getting me up this morning to experience some encouragement in my ministry as a mom and some fun music!  I'm cool like that!  Now I'm taking a nap.