Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's Been a While...Seriously, since 2010

Well, I decided a four year hiatus from blogging needed to end. Seriously, almost four years! After my sister died, this blog gave me a place to process a lot of the day-to-day things I experienced as I walked through that season. Now, I plan to blog to grow. So...I'm not sure what we'll see appear on these pages in the upcoming months, but I'm looking forward to growing along with whoever wants to read this thing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's Good to be Wrong

So I'm going to start by telling on myself. Let me preface by saying, I am not proud of the moments I am about to share with you, nor do I hope to repeat them, but they unlocked a great opportunity with my six-year old that is worth repeating.

Last night when I got home from church I launched into a dissertation about why the clothes my husband picked out for my kids to wear to church were, ummmm, how do I say - less than what I had hoped they would be. Okay, I'm sugarcoating. I thought the clothes he picked out were the most wrong choices he could have possibly made and I communicated that thoroughly in front of my kids. Ugh. I made a mountain out of a molehill and had to apologize to him and my kiddos for the words that came out of my mouth about - of all things - clothes.
The truth is, my kids don't care and Dock only cares because I care. Does anyone else see the problem here? It's me! Ugh, again.

You know that part in the Gospels where Jesus talks about not worrying about what you eat or drink or wear? That truth totally escaped me last night. The truth is, God doesn't particularly care what my kids wear either. And, I can assure you He was less than impressed by how upset I became over such a temporary thing. Still, He loves me - and as I'm about to share - so does my family. Oh sweet grace.

I started by apologizing to my oldest while tucking her in. My confession went simply, "Hey, Mommy should not have spoken unkindly about what Daddy put you in for church. I'm sorry I did that. Will you forgive me?" Ave quickly responded, "Yes" and then I added, "That was kind of a silly thing to get upset about." With more gusto, Avery simply said, "Yea, it really was, Mom." With that kick in the gut silently processed I was so glad that she was honest with me and that she had the chance to watch her mom be completely in the wrong. Yes, you read that right. I'm glad she knows I was wrong. How else could she learn to fail or to ask for forgiveness or know that even when she's wrong that we can still come out okay on the other side of reconciliation?

I'm not glad I got upset about clothing or that I spoke unkindly to Dock in front of my kids, but it ended up being good to be wrong. I still wrestle with failure. I wrestled with it as a child and still as an adult. Some call it perfectionism, I call it "REOO" - ridiculous expectations of oneself". I do not like to fail and can be really devastated when I do. That is a legacy not worth passing onto my kids. I want them to know how to fail and to trust in a God unhindered by failure because ultimately He was victorious through Christ. I want them to learn it before they have to unlearn "REOO" like their mom. So, it was good to be wrong.

But next week, I'm laying out the clothes... ;)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Distracting Distractions

I've learned about myself that I constantly look for distractions from the grief of losing Lauren. Sometimes that means I want to move, so I look for new houses. Sometimes that means I want to shop so I either hit all my favorite websites to browse or hit the mall. Lately, it means I rearrange furniture and swap out home accessories! I'm sitting in my rearranged living room (quite pleased with myself about how it turned out I might add) wondering why I try to be distracted from the hurt. I have a friend who hurt, rather who got hurt, so badly and she determined early on the face the hurt head on. She's a champ - I'm ducked in the corner somewhere. Nice.

As a mom who's home a lot, I have to be wise about where my energy goes. I have a husband who needs me, two girls that need me and friends, job responsibilities, etc. that need me. It's hard to distribute the energy I'm given every day between these legitimate demands on my time and person. When I spend lots of energy distracting myself, I can ultimately get distracted by the distractions and use my energy to fulfill some lesser needs than the truest and most important needs around me.

In the middle of all these needs and my attempt to be distracted from my own hurt, I'm left with one question - does it take more energy to face the pain or to distract myself from it? I think on each day the answer to this question varies. I do know that unresolved conflict, unforgiven hurts, and unaddressed bitterness can suck the life out of a person like a shop vac sucks water out of a wet basement. Distracting myself very well may be an okay defense mechanism that allows me to hurt in spurts and not just all the time, but I am not allowed (in my opinion) to short-change those around me (a.k.a. my family) in an attempt to be distracted from my own hurt.

I read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 this morning about God's grace being sufficient for our weaknesses and Paul boasting in his so that Christ's power could rest on him. The truth is, I don't want to hurt. I would prefer this whole grief thing just disappear. But that's not reality and turning my back on it will only make it linger longer - and that doesn't sound good either. Not wanting to hurt is evidence of my weakness. Evidence that I would rather avoid the emotional journey than grow through it. Everything in me wants a wand waved and my family's lives restored to the way things were before we lost Lauren. What would we miss? Well, truthfully, a lot of hurt, but more than that, opportunities to know God and to live with His power rested on us. If I really believe that God uses ALL things for our good, than this is one of the things He will use for good. So, next time I reach for the arm of the couch or pick up an ottoman, I'm going to try to ask myself if I should just get on my knees, confess weakness and reach for the arm of God instead.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Anticipating Worship

I experienced the Hillsong Live concert tonight. I use the word experience completely on purpose. That's what the team I'm on at church is called - the Experience Team. It's our role to create experiences for people to encounter Jesus and fuel them to follow Him (hence the name of the other team - the Follow Team). Tonight I got a glimpse of why creating spaces for people to encounter God means so much to furthering the kingdom.
What I am about to write is in no way based on fact, simply my own experience tonight as I worshiped. I had multiple opportunities to experience God as the many different things He embodies. I knew Him as Healer during "Desert Song" and "You Hold Me Now". I knew Him as Almighty God during "Stronger". I knew Him as Hosanna in the Highest during - you guessed it - "Hosanna". I knew Him as brother and friend as I stood next to (besides my family) the dearest people in the world to me. I knew Him as humble and as defender as I listened to the Hillsong pastor describe the woman who poured out her alabaster jar on Jesus. I knew Him as Savior during just about every song, and I felt something. According to my friend, I felt a lot of kick drum - but other than that, I felt something internal.
I remember thinking many years ago - how can people worship while they're jumping up and down, flailing their arms and shouting? Then I pictured a UK basketball game and...oh, did I say that out loud? Anyway, I used to think those actions might not be genuine. Seriously, I thought that! I grew up in a church where we did not even clap - not even when someone finished singing. It's awkward. Trust me, I experienced that, too! I feel certain that the only thing TRULY worth jumping up and down for is a God who loves us like He does and takes us like we are.
I learned tonight, I felt refueled tonight and I felt really, really loved. I felt really loved by God that He would give me the chance to just participate in worship tonight beside friends and even some of the people I lead with. What a privilege! I felt loved that I didn't have to lead and could just drink it all in - with a giant Panera frappuccino sized straw (have you seen those things?!). I felt really loved that I got to welcome people at the door. The whole night turned out differently than I planned from who I sat with to serving as a volunteer, but God's plans are always SO MUCH BETTER.
Afterwards I thought about the reason why tonight was so good. I think the greatness could be attributed to the genuine spirit of the leaders and band. I think it could be attributed to the good songs we sang. Mostly, though, I think it was good because everyone there (or at least 99%) of the people there came READY to worship. To worship was the whole point of the evening and people came anticipating to experience God through worship. To be honest, I think there's only so much we can do as an Experience Team to create spaces and experiences for people to encounter and know Jesus. I think the real work is for those who know Jesus to anticipate that they just might have an experience with Him in worship - that they would anticipate worship.
I think day to day we need to expect to experience Him. He wants to be found and known and heard - not because He is egocentric, but because He's given up everything to come after us and bring us back to Himself. Mostly, though, because He loves us a lot and just wants to be with us.
So maybe this weekend if you come to Southland for the thousandth or the first time you could try to come ready to worship. Anticipating not that by the third song or message you'll experience God, but that from the moment you enter the room you will. God's word says that He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3 KJV). Whether or not God will show up is not up for debate. He promises He will. So, come ready to experience Him. He'll be there.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Singing in the Car

I pulled up behind a woman on Nicholasville Road the other day and noticed her head bobbing steadily. Then, her shoulders started moving and finally, her hands hit the air. Whatever she had floating on the air waves in her car had really "moved" her! I smiled - big. The first thought through my head was, "You go girl. Get after it! Let your hair down. Sing like nobody's watching..." ok, so maybe I didn't think that long, but I felt all of those things as I watched her... and I smiled. Such a simple thing, but such a sweet moment for me. Her freedom unlocked some joy inside my heart, and I was thankful for her.

Worship is similar. I have found that in leading worship, the more freedom I accept as reality in Christ, the more joy I can help the Spirit unlock in people who are frustrated, disenchanted or downright skeptical about God. Joy is undeniable and cannot be fabricated. Joy is not a smile or a laugh, joy is different. Joy comes from inside - and you just can't force joy to come out of you.

Joy can preach, too. You can have joy even when you're really sad. Joy is not happy. Repeat after me, joy is not happy. Joy is settled, sure, steady, peaceful and strong. Joy is resilient, not fleeting. It's more than a mood, it's a state of being. How else could the Bible say to consider it "pure joy when you face trials of many kinds"? (see James 1:2). James sounds nuts! But, he knows joy is not being thrilled you're facing trial. Joy looks further down the road than the present trial. Joy says, "Somehow, someway, God is going to use this for my good." Joy says, "This is building character into me in a way it could not have been developed otherwise." Joy says, "God's got this and because of that, I'm okay even though I don't feel okay." Joy is awesome, joy is available to you and joy reeks of hope.

The more freedom we experience in Christ, the more joy we have because we stop worrying about the Christians we should be, or shouldn't be and we start simply enjoying God. We start letting the truth about who He is and who He says we are really become the only truth that matters to us. We find that the joy of the Lord really is our strength (see Nehemiah 8:10). Right now, I'm praying that if you feel miserable, you will be reminded of the freedom available to you in Christ. People often think God is a rule maker and the punish-er of rule breakers. What a cheap shot at God to think that! He's a Dad and He's not stupid. He knows we need boundaries and ways to live so that we don't get kicked in the pants by a very real enemy.

Freedom looks WAY different than just doing what you want. Freedom is more like the play place in the center of Fayette mall - gated, padded, and made to be enjoyed. What if that place was full of sharp objects and cut glass? We'd have to restrict our kids way more than by simply putting them within the parameters of that white fencing. We often think the fencing is the trap - that it is what holds us back. Parameters seem like walls in the way of freedom. NOT AT ALL! Parameters give us more freedom than we could imagine and we don't have to worry - we can touch everything without fear of getting hurt. Same thing with God's "rules". Think about premarital sex, for example. If you don't have premarital sex then you don't worry about pregnancy or contracting a disease or making some really hard decisions. People think freedom is doing whatever they want but that kind of freedom leads to the thickest bondage of all - the tangled web of the consequences of sin. We've gotten this backwards for a long time.

So, I've decided to name that woman in front of me singing in her car, Joy, and to name her car "Freedom". I think it suits them both.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kite Flying

Hello, blogger friends. My name is Amanda Carter. Just thought we ought to reintroduce ourselves. I've been on vacation and school has been out for BOTH of the girls, so time has become a little more scarce while albeit fun these past few weeks.

Ok, I'm done making excuses about why I haven't blogged in so long.

I recently went to the beach. While I could write oodles of blogs about such a wonderful, fun, relaxing, perfect...I digress...place, there was one "moment" on the beach that made a lasting impact on me. I flew a kite. Well, technically my Dad got it in the air, but I held the string for a long time! I think it had been well over 15 years - maybe 20 - since I had flown a kite. Granted, kite flying does not produce thrills of excitement or riveting entertainment, but kites do seem to intrigue people. Every beach walker that passed spent an incredible amount of time looking up at the kite swaying and gently diving in the wind. I stood there thinking, "What's the big deal? Haven't you seen a kite before?" Then I realized, probably, like me, it had been a long time. We're so techy these days and techy living has created a culture of "down lookers". We look down at computer screens and phones and watches and floors (because eye contact is WAY too much interpersonal interaction).

That day on the beach, lots of "down lookers" became "up lookers". Watch out, I just pulled my soap box out! I want to propose that we've lost something - taken steps back as human beings with the invention of techy toys even though we claim these inventions as "progress".

Here's what I think we've lost. When my grandparents got together with other couples they played cards and board games or worked puzzles. Now often when we gather with other couples we play Wii and maybe an occassional board game, but it's often fast paced and full of timers. I'm speaking to myself when I say that we've lost appreciation for slower relationship and entertainment. Families no longer gather around radios to all listen to the same show or talk over a card game. Truthfully, we often end up in separate rooms being individually entertained with TV or texting or video games. Why don't people read aloud to each other anymore? Why do people feel so efficient and yet so stinkin' lonely? I offer that it's because despite the efficiency, they somehow still have no time for real relationship.

I'm not suggesting we all give up technology. I need to confess that I'm getting an iPhone this week for the first time so I may be plunging even deeper into this techy trap! I'm also blogging right now. The reality of blogging is that I am crafting a conversation with you through my keyboard and on my own. What I'm offering is that we remember to do the slower things like read aloud to each other, really talk to each other face to face not just through tweets and status updates. The fact that we call social interaction "tweeting" just sounds ridiculous if you think about it long enough and "status updates" sound like official press releases of our lives. There's a lack of warmth and home and dare I say...genuine relationship.

As I flew that kite I felt so relaxed (the waves crashing beside me helped a good bit!). As I watched other people stop and stare at the kite, I marveled at how such a simple thing could hold the attention of so many for as long as it did. In a world of "down lookers" what if we were like the kite swaying and diving in the wind - the Holy Spirit kind of wind? What if our mere existence made people look up and enjoy and marvel at what God can do with a normal, simple person? Lots of questions today.

What did you expect? I had a LOT of free time to think on the beach...stay tuned.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Every Day Birthday

Today is my birthday. I'm 31. I am no longer 30, I am now IN my thirties. Yes, it's different. Still laughing at me? Well, okay, but I'm just saying - I'm in my thirties. I am now fully separated from my twenties. I've decided that I am not going to hide my age - ever. I always laugh when people who look 45 say they're 29 (psst...nobody believes you anyway - just fess up!). So, you heard it here...I just committed to always saying my age - yikes!
Birthdays are so interesting and everyone celebrates them differently. Some people are HUGE birthday people. These types create birthday weeks, or if permitted, birthday months! They adore the celebration of them - and who could blame them? Since I've been awake today anytime I would think, "I would really like to...", my next thought would be, "Hey! It's my birthday! I might actually get to do what I want today - sweet!" Isn't that funny? Just because I was born on this day, thirty-one years ago (see, I said it again - so far so good), I think maybe I can get my way all day. Hilarious! I have two small children...quit dreamin'!
What if we celebrated each other every day? I mean, truly, I'm glad my friends and family were born every day and not just on their birthdays. What if each day we served each other like many of us get served on our birthday? I bet I'll hear at least a few times today, "It's your birthday, it's up to you." So what if each day I said to Dock, "It's your day" everyday? Think about it. If his attitude was "It's your day" to me and mine "It's your day" to him. Nobody would lose.
I really think this is why Jesus encourages us so often in Scripture to "consider others better than yourself" (Philippians 3). Then, the passage describes Jesus' attitude by saying that even though He was in "very nature" God, He did not "consider equality with God something to be grasped." In a nutshell, Jesus could have pulled a whole bunch more favors and "I'm better than you" cards - and been accurate in doing so, yet, He humbled Himself - "made Himself nothing." This is the attitude of Christ - others before ourselves - others better than ourselves. I think we most often grasp this when we celebrate birthdays. So what if we gave each other an "every day birthday". I'm talking about a "you before me" day - every day. Sounds REALLY hard. It also sounds REALLY Jesus.
I'm going to try to do this today. I'm not guaranteeing I'll do it perfectly, but I'm going to pray that the Spirit will enable me to give others around me an "every day birthday" today. Want to join me? Come on - it's my party, I can ask if I want to!