Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A New Song for Thanksgiving

Surprisingly, this was a year of new blessings to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. I think I got into a groove of regular blessings for many years - family, health, provision, ministry, a home…..those all relatively stayed static. And then this year. THIS YEAR!!!

Lord – thank you for showing yourself to be so mighty and yet so intimate with me this year. You provided a job for me that helped beyond “feathering the nest” …this job from you was provided in such a low economy, yet at such timing that You knew I’d need the ministry to direct my energies toward since the chicks are leaving said nest. The team I work for is a daily encouragement and an iron-sharpening-iron tool for me….I am amazed You would be so loving to me to provide a job in my area of passion, grace me with the flexible hours that this mommy needs, and use this seemingly low job to bless others! I am surprised and grateful that “my job” is a heading the top of a Thanksgiving list!

Lord – thank you for caring for my heart this year by giving me new people to love. The whole Robertson clan has nestled into the “family” portion of my heart, and has been a consistent and deep channel of Your love and encouragement. Thank You that You’ve chosen to do a lot of that via Starbucks. J Thank you for Linda, a mentor and kindred spirit – my New Old Friend. (How did you know I needed that?) Also, Baby Avery and Baby Paisley have delighted me, and have reminded me of the sweetness of the circle of life – while my own babies are growing and leaving, You are giving me new babies to cherish in what must be an interim stage…..someday the babies I cuddle will be my grandchildren. Thank you for their soft skin and trusting eyes – thank you for reminding me of innocence and the value of life.

Lord – thank you for caring so well for those I care about. Abigail is happily ensconced at NuHouse, surrounded by faithful friends, and in a godly community. Ben is thriving at Sammamish High, and Katie is connected to the majority of Bellevue College in some manner or form. Our parents have supportive and active friendships….thank you Lord that loneliness isn’t a burden for us in 2009.

Lastly, I’m grateful for the traditional things that have mercifully been added to my list again. Jon. Health. Music. Provision. Our Home Fellowship Group. Laughter. Coffee. Books. Chocolate. Education. Safety. Katie’s cookies. Humor. OCC Student Ministries. Grace. My flannel nightie. Mostly – Your Word, which is a balm to my spirit, a light to my path, a tool to sanctify and sharpen me, to comfort and bless me, and which connects me to the heart of You.

Lord, thank you for the new song you put in my mouth this year. Not only are Your mercies new every morning , they are recognizable year to year. You are a God who surprises us and blesses us far beyond all we could ask or imagine!

I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.

(Psalm 40: 1-3)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Being Myself While Learning Who I Am

Last month I got to pop over to Pullman to check in with Abigail in person….she’s a great texter, a decent phoner, but only an emerging emailer or Facebooker. Being great at texting is a tremendous blessing – it transmits “real time” on my phone and catches me wherever I am – so I’m super thankful for it. But – my phone is from the dinosaur age and so her whole life gets summarized in three succinct sentences or else it overloads the phone memory and gives me the heartbreaking \\missing text\\ announcement halfway through a really newsy or poignant epistle from Miss Communication.

Thus the trip to WSU. Time to look her in the eyes and watch her talk, unedited. More than three sentences worth.

Amidst all the stories pouring out of her – covering her daily routine, her varied career aspirations, new friendships, two jobs, homework, rec time, college residence life, fashion needs….oh let’s see what else….awkward guy stories, fabulous guy stories…..news, weather and sports…..well, a significant summary line stood out to me. “Mom, it’s challenging to BE MYSELF while discovering who I am.”

Part of me immediately synched with that. Of course, young adults at college are continuing to grow and mature – their worlds just grew fairly large, their education is (hopefully) expanding their minds in new ways….of course they would be stretched. Relationally, Abby just added about 49 more people into her world – people she lives with, not just high fives after class. Recreationally, she just blew the doors off of any parental supervision and is getting to live virtually at “camp” 24/7 – granted, it’s Pullman, of course…but there are movies to watch, rec centers to sweat in, hills to hike, cliffs to dive off of, parties to avoid or attend, and people to play with at all times. So, discovering “who am I?” is natural for a college freshman.

Am I someone who fits in time for studying? Am I someone who sleeps instead of going to class? What do I eat? Which crowd of friends do I hang with? How do I spend my money? What do I pray about?

The more she talked the more I realized how much we still had in common. Age and stage might change the details, but the question remains the same – it’s challenging to be myself while discovering who I am. (OK, technically that doesn’t look like a question, I realize.) But it begs to ask, “WHO am I?” And, “am I being myself?”

Am I someone who fits in time for learning? Am I someone who sleeps instead of works? What do I eat? Which crowd of friends do I hang with? How do I spend my money? What do I pray about?

Good thing I had a five-hour drive home from Pullman to figure all that out.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"?
It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. (Eccl. 1:8-9)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Matter of Perspective

So many people are worried about me this week.

They know how connected I am to Abigail, and how she and I are more than cut out of the same cloth (similarity does not always breed affection). We are the type of friends who finish each others sentences, laugh at the same things, and talk/listen/ask/rinse/repeat.

So with her departure for college in the morning, it is a sentimental time...but I want to tell you I will be okay. And so will she. And I want to tell you why the perspective change .

Earlier this summer we journeyed through the death of a friend's 20-year old son. He spent seventeen days in a coma before he passed away - each day a combination of hope, grief, weakness... then strength from the Lord....but then came time for them to say goodbye. Ryan passed away on July 16, surrounded by much love. His mom, Linda, was for me a mentor of types - how to hold a child close, but with open hands. How to grieve yet still hope. How to be assured that for a Christian, you never really say "goodbye."

Anyhow, of course such a season brought to mind our "change in season" with Abigail. No longer did leaving her on the WSU doorstep seem unfathomable - no longer did waiting until Thanksgiving seem like an eternity. Ryan's mom, Linda, put a new perspective on being out of arms reach with your child. And about completely trusting God with the care of your child! She has inspired me to give thanks in all circumstances and choose joy.

So while I will miss the everydayness of Abigail - her laugh, her physical comedy and warm hugs...her cute little toes and her household help...her little devo insights and Spanglish and....well, the list could go on and on....while I will miss all of that, I thank God for skype, email, Facebook, cell phones, and texting. But even without all that, I am thankful the Lord has promised those who love Him an eternal home - thus, Christians never have to say goodbye!

Thank you Linda for blessing me with this perspective - keeping my eyes on the eternal! (I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow when I look in the rearview mirror at her little waving hand.)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col. 3:1-2)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Note to Daughter: Order Steak

We're in the "final days" before sending Abby off to WSU. Last minute lists are scribbled - buy computer paper, find a fan, do you really need a new robe? Conversations between mom & dad in private revolve around finances (how much does she need every month for food?) and fears (will mom cry the entire 4.5 hours home after dropping her off? and if so, what does dad do about that?).

One fear that Jon naturally has as a protective father involves the guys that Abby will meet at WSU. He knows she is a savvy scholar, but what will happen if a sleazy sweet-talker comes her way?

I told him not to worry...that once you've had steak, why would you order hamburger?

Of course that startled him - to find out this way that his daughter has "already had steak!" But she has...and in so many ways.

Abigail firstly has been raised by a loving, interactive father. He has been honest with her and has exhibited faithfulness, godliness, tenderness, and a great work ethic. (plus he has those cute sparkly eyes)

Her close interactions with Pastors Jake, Bob and Rory have given her a picture of how romance and integrity blend together the way God designed for couples. They have set before her standards that are challenging, yet achievable with God's grace, provision and guidance. Each of them have courted their wives with a balance of passion and self-control...each serve their wives with high esteem, intimacy, and delight. The other male leaders in the ministry have also modeled godliness for her, as have the husbands of our HFG...and though distant, Jeremy Johnson's influence is also cherished as one who treasures/integrates/lives out the Word of God.

Abigail has "tasted steak" in her friendships as well - flavors of purity and respect have mixed with fun and warmth. I am grateful that the two dance dates she had were with guys who treated her with such gentlemanly honor - beyond just "opening doors," they guarded her innocence and sought what was best for her during the night they were responsible for her. They also respected her father's edict to "bring her back more pure than she was before" (which is now family lore). The senior guys at OCC gave their spiritual brotherhood as a protective mantle over Abby - always the big brother to defend and support. Specifically, this summer Abby's had a major portion of steak with Riley, Jeff, and Miksa. They have shown her what the perfect blend is of vulnerability with strength, openness without manipulation...adventure without idiocy. :) They have been the trifecta of godly manhood right at the end of summer so she can leave for WSU with that impression fresh in her memory!

Family has provided steak tasting too - from her grandfathers to her uncles to her brother and cousins - flavors of fun and deep conversation and attention and affirmation are always the takeaways from her time with them.

But maybe more than all of these steak samples is the portion she's received from the Lord. "Never will I leave you or forsake you." "I have loved you with an everlasting love." "There is no greater love than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Abigail, it's not with boasting that I told dad to not worry about the guys at WSU. God has been faithful to you to provide you with (pretty much) 100% amazingly godly examples of what His best is for you! In His perfect timing we'll see who that is, but my guess is that he'll be a blend of all the men who you've known before.

Just reassure your dad & don't bother with hamburger.

Friday, March 13, 2009

45 Day Review

So I haven't blogged in 45 days.

I know this, not because I am OCD, but because since starting my job I haven't had the where-with-all to juggle all my plates adequately, much less be reflective and have time to compose. (I still haven't even sent my dad's birthday card - since Jan. 19 - because I want to write something sweet and meaningful on it, plus have all the kids sign it...and my brain hasn't synched enough to have all that happen!) This week was my 45-day review with my bosses, so I've passed a marker of sorts. Time to come up for air!

If I were to describe the past 45 days, I'd probably use numbers. I'd say a good 20 days have been filled with tremendous satisfaction....the team I work for is the best - godly, funny, patient, creative and kind. My portion of the work is meaningful and challenging. I leave the office feeling like I've made a positive change - the little world of Student Ministries has been improved a bit by me being there - and my home life has functioned smoothly at the same time. The kids seem to be adjusted to my absence, people are functioning and fed, the house is "clean enough" to host our weekly teen group and our monthly adult group...there is milk in the fridge, coffee in the pot, and a candle flickering on the mantle. Laughter and dinner happen at 6pm.

Perhaps 10 of the days, though, have been frustrating... from feeling frustrated that I'm not performing either of my jobs well. The 45 days have included sick kids, injured son (trip to ER, surgery, recovery), stressed hubby, stressed daughters...and it is frustrating to not be able to totally hone in on those situations and excel at being a comforter, a helpmeet, and a source of peace and joy. In the office meanwhile, are challenges like camps, new systems, deadlines, increasing responsibility, student drama....and because of my home life I have not been able to hone in on those situations and be the completer, the helpmeet, and a source of peace and joy. So ten of the forty-five have been discouraging because I think I'm not doing anything well.

So 20 good, 10 poor, and the remaining 15 have been neutral. The days where you grab milk on the way home....eating leftovers for dinner....asking others to step it up to cover your inadequacies ("Jon, can you pick Ben up from basketball?" "Abby, can you get Katie from rehearsal?" "WHO WILL DO THE LITTERBOX?"). But, there are still smiles and piled children on my bed at night....time together and a feeling like "today was okay." We managed. We got through it. God is in control. God loves us and takes care of us.

When I write up the sum of my days, I see how blessed I am to number such a miserly few to being bad, and how many good and neutral days I really have. And the fact that even my "neutral" is, for the most part, actually GREAT by much of the world's standard! And no matter if my days qualify as "bad" or "good," God is still in control - He loves and takes care of us no matter how we are "feeling" about the day.

20 + 10 + 15 = 45 days to lean on Him, to look to Him for my satisfaction, my peace, my joy, my contentment and my value.

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Surprises at the Crossroads

This month has been all about waiting.

You might've read earlier that we had some crossroads we were approaching - colleges, schools for Ben, a job for me, a possible relocation to London.....gosh, even what to have for dinner has been occasionally a mystery!

We are still in the dark about college, but the Lord (and the church) did open up a part time job for me. I am not sure what's for dinner tonight, and we're still negotiating the specs about London (hopefully we'll know by tomorrow). In the meanwhile, we research schools for Ben both stateside and in the UK.

But what I've realized is this - I am where God wants me to be. It's okay to wait. It's okay to be excited but it's not okay to be anxious. As long as the day is "today," I am where He wants me to be, no matter where I am tomorrow or the next day. Yes, humanly speaking I wish He'd hurry up the "unveiling" process of my life because months of "what ifs" are beginning to take a toll on me, but I think He's okay with that. I think if I were able to be indefinitely distracted with holiday preparations, or merely trusting in the accuracy of my next grocery list (trust me, you actually shop differently when you think you might move! Costco sized spices are no longer desirable), my trust (anti-anxiety, anti-control) would not be stretched as far.

I am where He wants me to be if I am doing His Will. Geography does not matter. Public or private school does not matter. Rather, what matters is the heart - am I content? Am I at peace because of my trust in Him? Am I loving those around me, and looking for new people to love on? Do I share my stuff, my faith, my time, my money as a good steward? Do I seek His voice and opinion on the matters of my day, my heart and my choices? Do I give Him the glory at all times - whether in times of success or failure, plenty or in want? Am I kind and supportive to my husband and children and bosses? Do I live out of selfishness, or selflessness?

These are the questions whose answers determine if I am where God wants me to be. So today, no matter if we discover the spot we pitch our tent is in the UK or US, or UW or WSU, I will rest in knowing that for me to be in God's will, it doesn't really matter which country or college wins out.

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed,
we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling...
2 Cor. 5:1-2