Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Twelve-Year-Old Pianist in Pampa's Spring Festival

I was in 6th grade  in 1967 and had been through the traumatic experience of moving across town in Pampa, Texas and changing schools from Woodrow Wilson Elementary to Lamar Elementary.  Sixth grade was the last year of elementary school and most of the kids at Lamar had gone to school together since 1st grade (we didn't have kindergarten then).  And I moved after school started and was thrown into that mix.  My saving grace that year was my music teacher, Sue Higdon.  Apparently, my music teacher at Wilson had told her I played piano because she was ready to hook me up as soon as I stepped into the classroom (which also gave me some standing with my new peers).  I'd had piano lessons for all of two years. HA!  But apparently, I had enough skills to accompany the songs we sang. We'd moved in the fall of that year and the choir was already preparing songs for Pampa's annual Spring Festival.

Pampa's Spring Festival was one of the biggest musical events of the town--the other being the high school musical--all under the direction of Dr. Hugh Sanders.  But the Spring Festival was a concert of all of the choirs from elementary to high school and the junior high and high school bands which took place in the high school gym.  The bands were on the floor and the elementary and junior high choirs sat on the lower spectator risers while the high school choir in their gowns and tuxes had the prestigious risers placed in the center of the gym under the east basketball goal.  There were individual songs sung by the combined elementary schools, the junior high schools and the high school.  But the grand finale was a song sung by all of the combined schools and accompanied by the bands.  There were probably a dozen pianos scattered across the high school gym floor which the respective pianists of the schools played...of which I was one.  Imagine!  Me--a twelve-year-old in the midst of this grandness--the biggest thing Pampa did each year!

It was more nerve-wracking playing for the elementary schools' songs.  Of course, there were probably six more accompanists playing with me (of which some were adults), but I knew my mistakes would stand out more.  I'd practiced my heart out and was ready to give the performance of a lifetime.  And my mistakes were barely noticeable in the grand scheme of things.  But probably one of the greatest moments of my life at that time was accompanying the grand finale with all twelve pianos playing together with the band.  I was probably the only person who could even hear my piano. But a young twelve-year-old girl got to experience being a part of something BIG--something bigger than herself.  And the grandness of that moment was an experience I'll never forget!  And because I was made a part of something so magnificent, I caught the vision of eventually wearing a gown and singing and playing in the high school concert choir.  Which I did.

I was thinking on this experience this morning and was comparing it in my mind to the body of Christ.  What if we graced young believers this way?  What if their contributions were received and appreciated as much as those of the mature believers?  What if their mistakes were overlooked or not even noticed?  What if we enveloped them into the big picture of what God is doing and they felt important, loved, accepted...needed?  What if they caught the vision?

I finished my 6th grade year as an accepted member of my new class.  I can thank my music teacher for that.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The only person you can change... yourself!  And honestly, it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to do that!

How many of us are trying to change the people around us?  It's exhausting work, isn't it?  We're aware of idiosyncrasies, blind spots, bad patterns, and sin in those closest to us and we feel obligated to point them out.  After all, we want them living in freedom, right?  And we're only trying to help!! (wink, wink)

But let me tell you a little secret.  They're not going to change because of you.  In fact, you're probably only hindering the change that does need to take place.  And you're trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit.  God seems to take His hands off of the situation just so you can see what you can do.  And in my experience, that's been a big fat zero.

So...instead of trying to change everyone around you, step back and take a look at yourself.  The only person you can change is YOU.  And the only adult person you're responsible for is you.  (Because training and teaching children is a given.  And it may be that as women we get in such a teaching mode with our children that it carries over to our husbands and anyone else we're around.)  And I've learned that as I allow the Holy Spirit to change me, it begins changing situations around me.  I respond differently which causes those around me to respond differently.  And pretty soon, we've all changed.  (But of motive has to be pure and my eyes have to be on myself only!)

Have I got this down?  No.  It will be a process the rest of my life.  Because God is gentle and longsuffering--He only changes those things to which we give Him access.  And it's a challenge to let go and give them to Him.  Open your heart today and allow the Great Physician access with His scalpel.  He'll cut away things you never knew were there.  And He'll show you what you're truly responsible for...yourself.  No one else.

"Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]."  Romans 12:2

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Grandkid Week

This week started out with Ryan & Addie coming to spend the night with us.  We got to take them to their first-ever basketball game!

They watched the Groom Tigers/Tigerettes beat Hedley!  Then we headed to Dairy Queen for a burger and some ice cream.  We had a blast!

We took them home tonight and they played their new version of Jingle Bells for me.  Addie is actually taking piano lessons...but Ryan isn't.  He taught himself this tune and they created their own duet together.

I leave for the airport very early in the morning to go to Dallas.  I'll be there until Sunday with these yahoos!  Their mom & dad will be going to a conference and I'll be on school transport duty and homework duty.  (Pray for me--it's all about math!)  We'll have a blast!

 There's nothing better than building memories with grandkids!

Monday, January 20, 2014

My Life in Retrospect

Just one more thing I learned through my journals this week.  I saw how God so patiently and lovingly brought me out.  I told you that the thing I've struggled with the most in my life has been my finances.  And twenty years ago, in my journals, I talked about it nonstop.  I walked completely in overwhelming fear which led to a poverty mentality.

Now if I'd been God, I probably would have shaken me and given me a couple of swift kicks in the rear and told me to straighten up!  But no...God just loved on me and brought me out baby step by baby step.  He encouraged me and loved me unconditionally.  I deserved judgment, but He extended grace.

It's because of that sweet grace that I can now look at others differently.  Instead of looking at the outward appearances which can manifest as control, fear, sarcasm, perfectionism, or a host of other things...I try to see how God is at work in their lives.  I want to see the same grace that is bringing them out a baby step at a time.  I want to extend that same grace and unconditional love because we're all pilgrims in imperfect progress.

I'm glad I kept my journals...even if it was just for this moment to look back and to have God's perspective on my life.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Gift of Forgetfulness

This past week, I spent a day going through my old journals looking for something Matt was wanting.  (Which I didn't find, by the way.)  I'd told Andy when we moved that I came very close to burning all those journals.  Why was I keeping 20 + years of them, moving them, and for what? 

Well, I've still got them.  And my early journals are just painful for me to read.  I believe every person alive has one hard area in their lives which they deal with over and over.  It may be a hard marriage, a prodigal child, a special needs child, etc...or a sin you can't seem to overcome.  For me, it's been finances.  And I hate reading those journals where my constant refrain was how, why, when?    But I truly believe God uses those areas to keep us coming to Him, depending on Him, and crying out to Him.  And boy!  Did I.  God has brought me so far--transforming me by renewing my mind.   

But as I re-read those journals this time, God showed me something I hadn't really put my finger on before.  He has blessed me with the gift of forgetfulness.  When people have hurt me, I've tried to immediately forgive them.  And then...I honestly forget.  In fact, in one instance, I've desired relationship with a person for years.  And I've felt guilt--wondering what I could have done differently or how I could have pursued them with friendship.  And as I opened an old journal, I read of a painful experience years ago which broke my trust with them.  I forgave them...and honestly had no recall until I read of the incident.  I must have known in my spirit because there was a guard up...which brought that guilt, I'm sure.  

I was amazed as I read through those journals.  Incident after incident which I'd completely put out of my mind.  As I read some of them to Andy, he hadn't remembered them either.  May we all be blessed with the gift of forgetfulness!!  And may we then press through with unconditional love.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Tour of Groom

I know most of you will never get to come to Groom to visit us.  So I wanted to give you a little tour of our new town.   

Of course, we are well-known for our 19-story cross.  If you've driven down I-40, you've probably seen it.  You can read all about it here.  It is well worth the visit--and don't miss the gift shop on the premises!  Come on a nice day so you can spend some time there.

The Grill! The Grill is one of two restaurants in town and has home cooked meals.  I haven't eaten anything there yet that I didn't love!  Be prepared to talk to the friendly locals if you visit.

This is downtown.   The thing that impressed me about Groom when I first came here was how well-kept the town is.  It's obvious our people take pride in it!

Groom S&H Grocery is owned by Charlene.  She does an amazing job---look at everything she offers here! (This is only a small portion) I knew it would be a small grocery store, but it's really remarkable...well-stocked and well-priced.  She also makes her own German sausage, banana bread, jellies, salsa, cinnamon rolls....amazing!  

Across the street from the grocery store is the Groom News.  It's a weekly newspaper and our owner/editor does a great job!

If you follow my blog, you may remember me talking about how quiet the town is--no loud traffic and you seldom hear a siren (I haven't heard one yet!).  That was before I heard the noises coming from the grain elevators!  (My cousins will be laughing at me!)  But I guess it doesn't happen least at this time of year.

One of my new favorite stores--Little Bit of Everything.  And it truly has a little bit of everything!  You can even see what they carry on their Facebook page.  And if you know Jill Babcock, this is Jill & her kids leaving the store.  (She called me later wanting to know why I was taking pictures.  Ha--I got caught!!)  Hi, Jill!!

 This is the Groom post office.  I often forget to go pick up my mail.

This is the local public library connected to the fire/ambulance station.  My friend, Tina, is the local librarian.

The four churches in town (Left to right, top to bottom):  First Baptist Church (11 a.m. Sunday service ), Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, United Methodist Church, Church of Christ.

The Groom Schools--Kindergarten through High School.  We are the Groom Tigers and our colors are red and black!

The Dairy Queen--the other restaurant in town!  It's located off one of our exits next to the motel.  The DQ has the friendliest staff!

This is one of my favorite sites--the Justice of the Peace.  Wouldn't this be a great place if you were wanting to elope?   The stuff movies are made of!

I wanted my friends and family who may never get to come to Groom to see where we live.  But...I hope I've made you want to come!  It's a great place to visit!  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Empty Nesters on the Move!

My children have only known one house where their grandparents have lived.  Both sets.  My grandchildren have known 4 houses where we have lived!  Of course, most were too young to even remember two of those houses, but we've now lived in 4 houses since we've had grandchildren.  There was one house in particular where most of their memories were made with us.

This house.

But we moved.  And we're not alone.  I don't know if God is doing a new thing...but there are lots of people (even among our acquaintances, friends & family) who are giving up their houses which echo with memories...for a new life.  And we're among them.

Where the generation before us has chosen to stay in one home and build memories, our generation seems to be on the move.  Some, like us, are following new jobs, but most seem to be chasing after relationship with those grandkids!  After all, memories are in our hearts and not just wrapped up in a place. 

I don't pretend to know what God is doing.  But He sure seems to be ShAkiNg ThIngS uP!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It Happens Fast!

I've been overwhelmed lately on Facebook--watching your babies grow!  I've watched pregnancies blossom into these tiny precious babies and have enjoyed your growing baby photos.  And then the next day, that baby is three years old!  How does that happen so quickly?  

I know while you're in the baby stage, you think it will never end.  My kids, Zach & Shanna, are experiencing a sick baby who doesn't want to sleep and is fussy and I know they're so overwhelmed!  (Prayers appreciated!)  And you absolutely think there is no light at the end of the tunnel when you're taking care of sick babies, changing diapers, and dealing with clingy toddlers.  But there is.

Toddler days turn into school years.  And one thing we noticed while Andy was in youth ministry (before our own kids reached this point), once your kids hit middle school--watch out!!  It snowballs and will be over in the blink of an eye.

So what's the advice of this grandmother?  Know what your true treasure is. Investing in your family is the greatest investment you'll ever make.  I promise.  ENJOY the stage you're at right now.  Be intentional.  Make time for your family. You're the only one who can purpose to have family time and to have dinner together.  Talk.  Find out what your children's dreams are, how they think, who they like, what their struggles are.  Encourage their giftings--just not at the expense of the family.  I can't say it enough--don't overschedule their lives!!!  Leave room for play, imagination, REST, and especially time for your family to interact.  Their lives won't end if they're not involved in every sport.  It's good to learn how to make those kinds of choices while they're under your roof because the rest of their lives will be filled with choices!

I know it's hard to have perspective when you're in the middle of child rearing.  But it's over in a moment.  Invest in your true treasure.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Kids

Matt, Amy, David & Zach

I have the best kids in the world.  I'm dead serious.  I recently read an article about PK's (preacher's kids) that rocked my world.  I responded to that article by asking my four kids how it affected them being raised as PK's.  (The comments by PK's after the article will break your heart!) 

They could relate to the points in the article.  Of course, there were some is made up of people, after all.  (Me included.)  But in their responses to me, the reoccurring theme was the positive influence of the authentic people who were a part of our lives.  People who allowed mistakes and graced us.  People who lived honestly in front of us.  People who prayed with us and for us.  Passionate people.  People who gave.  People who could laugh and help us not take ourselves so seriously.  They lived authentically in every way.  I praise God for those people who helped define my children.

And how I pray for those who are raising the next generation of PK's (which include some of my own.)!  May they be as blessed.  

It's a wonderful thing when your adult children become your friends and your best source of encouragement.  I am blessed.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Prayer Partners

Jodina & Liz

I have had so many amazing women who have invested in my life.  But these two women have been the ones who have been there consistently for the past 18 years.  EIGHTEEN YEARS!  I met Jodina through her sisters (she has three) and Liz through her daughters (she has three).  Jodina's sister, Evelyn, was the one of the first friends I met when I moved to Borger 26 years ago.  And Liz's daughter, Hailee, was the first young person I met when I moved to Borger 26 years ago.  (Andy was a youth minister then.)  In fact, Liz's family joined First Baptist Church Borger the same day we did.

Another of Jodina's sisters, Tere, invited us all to begin praying together.  At first, we met to pray for crisis matters.  But there was so much need in all of our lives, we knew we needed to begin praying together on a regular basis.  So we began meeting every Tuesday & Thursday morning at 5:30 to pray for two hours before we had to get home and get kids off to school.  And we did it every single week.  There were several of us and it changed a few times.  But eventually everyone moved or was unable to come for one reason or another until it was just Jodina, Liz & I meeting to pray.  And as our families changed, our times changed.  Soon, we were meeting on Tuesday mornings at 7:30 and praying until 9.  We've done it for years.  We have seen God do so many amazing things!  We've prayed for ourselves, our husbands, our children, our church, our friends, sick people, hurting people, our country, Israel...too many things to remember.  Except that we've journaled it all.  (And often said we wish we'd had a camera rolling to remember the amazing and exciting things God has taught us!)  We've whooped and hollered, we've grieved and wailed, we've danced and fallen on our faces.  And the thing that we've smiled and talked about time and again is this verse: Malachi 3:16, "Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord and who thought on His name."  We can't wait to get to heaven and see that book of remembrance.

And then I moved.  I'm not sure where we go from here.  I hope to still meet these sisters and pray together.  But I'm also hoping to take my turn and invest in some others.  If you don't have a prayer partner, I hope God gives you one.  I am a rich woman because so many others invested in me.  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Life's Adjustments

Yesterday, we finished our move to Groom.  YEA!!  We're so ready to be "all here" and get involved in our new community.  I won't lie...the journey has been difficult at times.  There are so many adjustments to make.  For instance, I couldn't even sleep the first week I was here--it was too quiet! heard me right....too quiet!  No traffic, no sirens...nothing but peace and quiet.  It's an adjustment I think I'll make quite easily, but it's an adjustment.  And did I tell you how bright the stars are in Groom??  AND...we're in the geese flight pattern!  It's amazing to hear a flock fly by honking!

We went to Borger yesterday and moved everything out of our storage unit and Andy swept it out.  Done!

The parsonage has a small basement.  I decided it was the perfect place to put our boxes of decorations so I could go through it at leisure and put things where they go.

We're so grateful for these shelving units!  When I worked at Living Water, I had to order some for that ministry.  So while I was at it, we bought some for ourselves.  They hold a LOT!  And even though it looks nice and neat, each box represents work.

These are boxes I have to go through--I still haven't found my coffee pot.

And more dishes to put up.

And trying to figure out if these curtains are washable.  Ugh.  So much stuff to wash to get rid of dust!

And pictures to hang!!  I have nothing on my walls yet. 

Even though Andy & I are very excited to be in Groom, it's been tough to leave Borger--a place where we've lived for 25 years--and where our kids grew up.  (I'm so grateful for the deep friendships we have there.  The good news is, we only live 40 minutes from Borger and can see our friends often!) God so gently and very sweetly told me one day as I sat in my new living room that I would soon be making new memories in our new home.  And wah-lah!  Within a few days, my whole family was here and we celebrated New Year's Eve together.  I didn't realize at the time how significant that was.  A new place, new memories, new ministry--on the crest of a new year.  God is so faithful!

It's been a year since Andy & I lived alone.  So we're adjusting to being alone again.  At the beginning of 2013, our daughter-in-law and two granddaughters moved in with us while Matt worked on their home.  What a sweet time--building memories with those two girls!  Priceless!  And then in March, we sold our home to our son, David & his wife, Lindsey.  So as Lisa and the girls moved out, David & Lindsey moved in and we moved to the basement and lived with our kids until we knew what we were doing.  That took 9 months...long enough to birth a new ministry.  And again, we built memories with that family.  It's a time I will always cherish.  It was much harder to leave them than I ever imagined.  

Change can be difficult.  But living things change and grow.  The thought that keeps going through my mind is that I could have gone my whole life and not known the people in Groom.  But my life is going to be richer because of friendships I've made/will make here.  And how exciting to get to heaven and already know the people from Groom!

Andy & I are making the adjustments.  It's been an emotional roller coaster and we're being stretched.  But God has transplanted us and I'm a girl who loves roots--deep roots.  And I'm believing God has put us in fertile soil where those roots will spread, go down deep, and grow.  I can't wait to live this new life!  

(And I keep seeing people driving golf carts in Groom!  I WANT ONE!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The New Year with Family

Jay & Amy decided to come see us in Groom and spend a few days.  We were so excited!  It's been so amazing to have our kids involved in our move and wanting to check out our new home--it's helped the transition and just given us a big "hug" in the process.

So last Saturday, we had some great help from family and new friends and went to the storage building in Borger to move our (HEAVY) furniture.  

The Bowens

We didn't even have a place for people to sit at our house--much less sleep there!  We couldn't have made the move without the help of Matt, the Bowens & the Langfords--what a sacrifice!!

When the Wright family got here, we gave them the tour of Groom and went to the gift shop at the cross.  It was my first time there as well and we were all very impressed.  They are standing in front of the frozen fountain here.

It was too cold to spend time outside, but we caught this quick photo!

And we made our way to Dairy Queen--one of the two restaurants in Groom.  Olivia especially liked the ice cream--with her fries.

I've always kept lots of dress-up clothes for the grandkids and we FOUND THAT BOX!  I think Olivia probably changed clothes 100 times while she was here.

On Tuesday, the rest of our family came over.  Addie & Olivia played dress-up together...

...while the boys watched The Lone Ranger.  (Dax, the two-year-old, wanted to come watch and these three warned me it was too violent for him.)  And it was obviously violent because the boys acted it out the rest of the afternoon.

The kids eating lunch.

Shanna tried to eat lunch and all of the munchkins attacked!

Gus riding in the car while keeping his left arm out the window the whole time.

Hadassah taking her baby on a ride.

Gus sitting with Aunt Lala and petting Betsy.

Me and my girls.

The guys taking it easy.

Dax got a "guitar" for Christmas from Uncle Jay & Aunt Mamy.  He took it out in the yard and sat down to play it.

The guys snitching cookies!

Four out of five of my granddaughters.  Caitlin was sick and didn't get to come.

What a great way to start a New Year--with family, in a new place ready to start new ministry.  I can't even begin to tell you how excited we are about Groom.  We already love the wonderful people here.  We are so ready to see what great things God will do in 2014!