Tuesday, December 9, 2014

When Time Feels Like It Has Stopped: A Medical Emergency!

One week ago today had  seemed like an ordinary day until right around 4 pm.  I had arrived, with my two teenage sons, at the inner city house where we are in our fourth year of volunteer work.    This ministry serves families of the neighborhood surrounding the little blue house.  

Shortly after arriving, I received a text from the founder of the ministry that a horrible crash involving two school buses had occurred and one of "our kids," Mr. J, age 7 was on one of those buses.  His mom was on her way to the trauma center to see if he was there.  Other than that, it was only the local news media which provided information.  We had a few college students working and some high school kids hanging out waiting for their time at the house later in the evening.  They were all using available phones and computers to follow the news and fill us in as the reports were updated.

Someone said that Mr. J had been ejected from the bus when it crashed!  What?   How can that be?   That beautiful little boy with his bright, shining eyes?  Why it was just the day before that I shared a few minutes with him on the front porch.   He was telling me about the events of his weekend; some family upheaval had occurred and he was talking with me about it.  He had been sitting on the porch railing and I stood beside him and listened.  He was tying his shoes and showing me that they were cleats and wondering if they might be too slick to play on the asphalt in the parking lot with the other kids.   We spoke for maybe five minutes and then he jumped down from the rail and went to find out if those cleats were indeed too slick for that parking lot.  

And now I hear he was thrown from a moving school bus?   We hear that there is one fatality, then shortly after, another fatality is reported.  It's important to report that a half dozen or so adults and as many teens were carrying on as usual; we were serving food, correcting inappropriate behavior, sharing hugs, singing Christmas carols, assisting children in making an ornament for the tree, talking, listening, sharing more hugs, praying.  We always pray with the children a time or two throughout our time with them.  This day was different.  We didn't want the children to hear the news from us though it was shared that there had been a wreck and the children who uttered prayers to our Father had the option of praying for the hurt ones.  

But our group, no doubt, uttered many prayers throughout that time.  There was also our extended family of volunteers, in the text loop, who were praying along with us.  Those of us working as usual prayed silently, secretly, with eyes wide open while serving those precious souls entrusted to us.  

By the end of our volunteer time, we were saddened to hear there were three dead at the scene.  We heard stories of very young school children who were victims and witnesses of all the chaos at the scene.  We heard about parents who were frightened witless trying to run to the scene to find their child(ren.)   We heard and saw the rescue helicopter fly over the little blue house; we wondered if our precious boy was on that flight.  

About the time the children are leaving our care, we hear that Mr. J is doing well.  He had a head injury which bled profusely and required five staples and one broken bone, his clavicle.   Oh Father thank you!  Later, we learn that he had not been ejected from the bus.   Thank you Father!

Before we leave the little blue house, we circle in prayer and offer our gratitude to our Father for his mercy and protection over our boy; we offer prayers, petitions for comfort to the families of those who went Home with Jesus.  We offer requests for healing, physically and emotionally, for all those in the wreck, at the scene, in the schools.  

Two days later, Mr J walks across that parking lot with his brothers and is back with us.  His eyes aren't shining as brightly; he says he is in pain; he still allows me a one-sided hug (avoiding the broken side) and a kiss to his wonderful stapled head!   Thank you Father-God! 

Six days later, Mr J's eyes are once again shining, almost mischievous, when he reports he is feeling much better.   God is so good!

Monday, December 1, 2014

When Time Is Short, First Things First

A few weeks ago, the heavens opened and the stars aligned and suddenly, I was booking a flight to Las Vegas and then a car to finish my journey to the California desert.  Why?

Thirty years ago last month, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen.  I had secretly longed to spend her birthday with her and her family for several months.   It had seemed impossible when the idea first formed in my mind.   But suddenly, all the doors opened and I was free to plan my journey.  

It had been a year and five months since I had seen my daughter, son-in-law, and their three children-- my grandest kids.  A lot had happened in our lives since their trip home to Tennessee.  

I had checked a book out of the library a few weeks before my trip about managing our day to day commitments.  One of the primary messages of the book was about the amount of time our gadgets- computers, readers, TVs- steal from our daily lives.  Our time with email and social media result in less time for other pursuits and for those sharing our lives.  Even though I had read very little of the book before leaving town, it spoke volumes to the choices I make daily about the use of my time.   I made a decision.

My grandchildren are seven, six, and three.  I knew that nap time was mostly a thing of the past.  The two older children had just two days of school during my visit and the three year old would be home full time.  I decided that I would forsake my email completely while visiting these precious souls (gasp!); I did briefly check into facebook most days to answer private messages.

I am so pleased that I made the choices I made!   I spent priceless cuddle time, game time, play time, reading time with the grandest children I know.  We colored, glued, pretended, played games, read books, sung songs, and talked.  We also watched a few of their favorite movies and I got to share a few of their family traditions as they prepared for Thanksgiving  just before I left to come home.  My only phone calls were with their grandfather, my husband, usually daily. 

Because of their age, I always worry that I will have to start "from scratch" again with our relationships, as we don't often speak on the phone, nor do we use face time.  With the littlest one, there was a bit of  warming up time, but once we were through that, all was fine.  The older two grands and I picked up right where we left off.  Grandmama learned that a heart connection does not fade away.  It survives through the absences and is nourished and thrives during time spent together. 

My California experiment was such a success, I decided to try it again during my husband's extended family Thanksgiving celebration at his sister's Kentucky home.  Again, the results were fabulous.  I was fully present with my sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephew, mother-in-law, my own children and my husband.  It was a wonderful few days of food, games, talking and sharing.  

I love the availability of contact with friends and family from other parts of the country through email and social media; but I plan to continue this pattern of less screen time and more time being present with the ones in whose presence I find myself.  The gifts received through being fully present during face to face interaction are priceless!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Home Education Support and Encouragement

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22: 6

Six years ago near the end of the school year, my husband and I made the decision that our two youngest children would leave the public school system and we would embark once again on the home education journey come the end of that summer.  Though we had schooled the oldest of these two boys at home his first grade year, I had felt overwhelmed and relinquished that responsibility back to the public schools for the four intervening years.  Both of our older children had been public school graduates and had done well; but we desired a different path for the two youngest. 

I was blessed from the beginning to have two wonderful mentors and advisors through our local Christian school, our umbrella school.   I also had several friends and close acquaintances who educated their children at home.   The one thing missing from my support system was anyone who was using the methods of Charlotte Mason.   

I first learned about Miss Mason's teachings during that earlier homeschooling experience and was drawn to her methods.  Early in our second beginning, an acquaintance mentioned the Ambleside Online website.  I had never heard of it; it took me a while to actually tap into it.  I think we were into our second consecutive year at home before I began implementing any of the many resources offered at AO.  

Over the next couple of years, I utilized more and more of the Ambleside Online website until finally we were using the curriculum.   It took an extended stay in California for the birth of my third grandchild for me to find a Charlotte Mason support group just 100 miles up the road from me in the tri-cities area where I grew up- one of the many reasons I love the internet!  I attended only one meeting, but that group, via email, still offers all sorts of support and encouragement to me on a weekly basis.  

Within a few months of finding that group, I tapped into a feature of the AO website which helped me find like-minded people in Knoxville.   After a couple of meetings at a local restaurant, five of us formed a local Charlotte Mason support group.   This group meets once a month to discuss Miss Mason's writings

With both my boys in high school now, I have the oldest students represented in the local group.  I have never professed to be an expert on Miss Mason, her writings, or Ambleside Online, though I do enjoy sharing my experiences with others.  But I am not, nor will I ever be, an expert. But because of others who have studied Miss Mason's writings extensively and implemented an educational program based on her methods and ideas, I, and my sons, have been blessed and our educational path has been greatly enriched. 

That is why I am thrilled to announce the forthcoming book of Ambleside Online co-creator, Karen Glass.  The book, Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition!, is slated for release on October 25.   I cannot wait to read what Karen has to share.   The book has been reviewed by several women whom I admire and  whose writing I have enjoyed and learned from through their blogs, letters, visits, and classes.  Having access to the written words and wisdom of other Charlotte Mason home educators has been the greatest source of help and encouragement to this mom.  Happy reading!

Pressing On in Him,


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bad Things Happen (even to Good People)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.      Matthew 5: 43-45

I have struggled with these thoughts for a week now.  I'm not sure how to write this true story.  I don't know how to stress the importance of what I have to say.   I don't know how to rid my mind of the thoughts that are lurking.   I have prayed for a week now for a girl or young woman whom I never met.  I want to know she is okay or that she will be. 

Early Saturday evening, May 17,  my husband, our two youngest sons, and I left our hometown and drove south to Athens, GA.  We stopped for supper at a Cracker Barrel somewhere off I-75 before getting into Atlanta traffic. 

We arrived in Athens around 9:30 pm and took a bit of time figuring out where to find a hotel or motel room.  We had gone there to buy an older used car and arrived too late to see the car on Saturday evening.  At our first or second stop, we discovered that the NCAA tennis tournament was being played in Athens that weekend.   Who knew?   Lots of people!  I love tennis but never knew that soooo many people loved to watch it being played.

We drove from hotel, motel, inn to the next and the next.   No room in the inn at all.   Finally, a friendly clerk gave my husband a sheet of paper with a list of places to lodge including phone numbers.   I began to call and was told that this one was full, that one was full.

So we found ourselves at a motel that didn't look all that great.  There was a vibe.  The facility looked old and unkempt; the manager (owner?) was not friendly but was gracious enough to let us preview a room.  It was barely passable.  But it was after 11 pm and I really had no desire to find a stable.  This was the only "inn" that seemed to have a room still available.  We considered driving back home (4 1/2 hours) and forgetting the car purchase.   But instead we checked in to that place.

By the time my husband did the paperwork and drove us all back around to the room we had previewed, "neighbors" had appeared in the parking lot.   Let's just say that the way the woman was dressed, it looked likely that some sort of business deal had been made and was getting ready to be transacted in a room near ours!  I know, very judgemental.  But trust me, if you had witnessed the sight, you would have had the same thought!  UGH!!

I went ahead and showered even though I wasn't sure it was safe without my shower shoes (for campground showers) which weren't with me.  The guys had all settled down into bed; my husband was aiming for sleep, the two teens were checking out the WIFI connection with their phones/tablet.  I grabbed the book I had been reading and settled into bed beside the husband.

There seemed to be a lot of foot traffic as well as auto traffic just outside our door.  We heard loud sound systems pumping out bass; we heard voices, noisy, oblivious to the hour of the night.  We heard vehicle engines revving, driving by repeatedly.   The guys had all settled down to sleep.

I'm not sure how long I read; it felt like it had been less than an hour, maybe just a little more than an hour.  I finally turned out the light and tried to sleep.   Every time I would start to drift off, a voice or more than one, or an engine or sound system would rouse me up again.  At what I guesstimated to be 1:30 or so, I had drifted off to sleep only to be awakened by what sounded like an argument upstairs over our room on the second level.  A man and woman were yelling at each other.  Then I was out!

Then suddenly I was awake, groggy.  It was around 3:30 am.  My husband uttered quietly, "Are you hearing what's going on next door?"  My eighteen year old whispered that he did hear.  I turned off my CPAP and began to listen.  I heard doors shutting, slamming.  My husband said, "I want everyone to get up, do not turn on a light, gather your stuff, we are leaving."  Groggily, I asked what was going on.  My husband said that they had  just heard what sounded like an attempted rape or a rape in the room right next to ours.  I felt sick.   More car noises, people.  Then the room phone rang.  I about jumped out of my skin.  My husband asked the caller who Crystal is?  He reported that she was not in our room.  I headed to the bathroom to put my clothes on.

When I came out, our room door was standing open and only my fifteen year old was in the room with me.  I heard my husband's voice outside.   There are people walking by the room, looking in.  I feel sicker and a bit panicked.   I walk to the door and a small car is backing out of a parking space and my husband is calling out the license plate number.  He walks to the driver's window and says, "You might as well stick around, the police are on their way."  The kid driving says the police can find him at his house.

I walk out of the room to put my belongings into our vehicle and the manager/owner is standing outside the office back door yelling at kids who are swarming all through the parking lot and the walkways of the motel, upstairs and downstairs.  There is an older (30's or 40's) woman walking past our room seemingly headed to the room next to ours.  My husband asks, "Ma'am, is that girl okay?"  The woman asks, "What girl?"   She knows nothing??  Every other person we see, some walking around the parking lot, some walking the motel walkways, entering and exiting rooms, one yelling at the owner/manager that he has no right to make him (the kid patron) leave are all teens or at best barely in their twenties.

By the time we drove back around to the office to argue about a refund, three police cruisers had pulled up.   My husband spoke to an officer.  He told the officer what he heard; he reported that he saved a license plate number of someone who had most probably fled that room.   The officer told him that they (law enforcement) couldn't prove that the mouthy kid and his companions had been there.   Strange.  I have always believed that a witness with a license number could help law enforcement to track down someone in a criminal investigation. 

I felt sick for days, still do if I dwell in these thoughts.  I feel helpless.  How could I sleep through this monstrosity?!!  How is the girl?   Please God, let her be okay.  Please God, help her to seek help from someone she can trust!

I intended to call the police department and speak with a detective in the sex crimes unit and reiterate that my husband and son heard an incident.  They heard a young woman crying, telling someone to stop, saying no, please no.  I got busy, never made the call.  I need to make that call this week.   I don't have high hopes of the detective being interested in what they heard or the license plate number that I still have.   My son recorded the number his father was reciting and sent it by text to my phone.

But the one thing I can do is to speak to the young people who listen to me, heck to anyone who will listen, any age.

Here is what  I want you to know.  I don't care why you showed up at that motel room.  I don't care if you were drinking or if you took some pills or if you simply thought you were ready for "the next level" with your date.  When you say no, that means NO!  I don't care what else happens leading up to that "no."  If someone hurt you, forced you after you said no, it's wrong!   You need to tell someone you trust.  You need to seek legal help; you need to press charges.  Most importantly, you need to get help to deal with your emotions and your memories and your thoughts about yourself and the event.   No one has the right to force you into sex!  

In spite of any poor decisions on your part, there is a God Who loves you with all His heart and wants you to know it will be okay.  He wants you to know Him as the loving Father that He is.  And He forgives you for any mistakes or poor judgement.  Talk to Him about it.  Turn to Him.  

I pray for you and want to do more if needed.  I hope (and pray) you will seek wise counsel to help you deal with the aftermath of Sunday morning, May 18, 2014.  

We learned later that at least two high schools in Athens held their graduation ceremonies on Saturday the seventeenth.    If you are reading this, please say a prayer for the girl/young woman who was hurt in some way, if not multiple ways, during that night.   And speak to the young women you know and remind them that no matter what, no means no.   And love and support those young people in your life and try to help them make decisions which will enable them to avoid situations like the one in that room next door.  But if the worst happens, let them know that you love them no matter what and help them heal.  And remind them that God, their Creator, loves them no matter what.

Pressing on in Him,

Lisa Ann

Monday, April 28, 2014

Lessons on a Playground

 “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your 
soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’

My little friend I. and I spent the entire day together on Good Friday while his mama worked.  One of the things we did was go to a city park a few miles from my home.   I. is only 2 1/2 but the boy is mostly fearless.   He doesn't seem to grasp that he has limitations because of his age, inexperience, or size.  This is not a complaint, just an observation.

When we got to the park playground, he wanted to slide first--one of his favorite things to do!  There are many slides at this particular park.   The variety includes small ones perfect for a two year old to enjoy; it also includes larger plastic ones with or without a tunnel.   But I. spotted the two old metal slides first--the ones like the one I was terrified of on my third grade playground.   I felt brave at age eight when I climbed up that metal giant and slid down, gleeful with my accomplishment.  Baby I. walked right up to that high metal ladder and started climbing.  I instructed my fifteen year old son to stand at the bottom of the ladder and be ready to catch this little one if a foot should slip.   I walked to the end of the slide and waited for I's arrival at the bottom.   

His climb was laborious.  This slide was designed decades ago for older children than I.  His legs are short for the distance between the ladder rungs.   But he climbed.  He had the goal in his mind and he knew the reward was waiting for him at the top of that ladder.  His anticipation of that sweet, short ride carried him up those steps.  And that boy was happy when he arrived at the bottom, all smiles, ready to repeat!

It didn't occur to me how hard the baby boy was working until a girl, aged 8 or 9, rushed up that ladder in front of him on one of his repeat trips.   Her feet flew from rung to rung and she was at the top in seconds while baby I. climbed  laboriously behind her.   The pure determination in his face showed his concentration on the task.  He was literally working with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind to make that climb and receive the reward as he swooshed down, giggling. 

He did not care how long it took him; he did not care that others made the same climb in much less time.   The boy was determined!   And in those moments of observation, I could hear Jesus whisper, 

  "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."    (Matthew 18:3)

As I continue my life's journey, I am inspired to possess more tenacity and become more childlike as I seek to walk with Jesus each day.  Walking the road, not looking for the easy or easier way, not avoiding the harder parts.  I need to work at it with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Pressing on in HIM,

Lisa Ann 


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Silly Saturday Story

Having been ill with a respiratory virus all week, I have done only the absolutely necessary tasks.   Until today, we had managed with what was in the fridge or picked up quickly on the way home from workBut in spite of my intention of not leaving the house all weekend, I had to vacate my cocoon in order to buy vittles for the natives.    Who knew that teenage boys expect the refrigerator to be stocked?

I exited my vehicle and started walking toward the store.   I suddenly found myself in step with a gentleman whom had exited his car across from mine in the same parking lane.  Our paths converged as we drew close to the driveway running in front of the store front.  He muttered something and I looked over to see if I had been spoken to.  He didn't make eye contact, shook his head a bit, and kept walking.   My first impression of him was that he is a bit of a Bohemian hippie wannabe.  He looked a tad too young to be the real thing.  

We both needed to retrieve shopping carts; I tried to defer to him and stay out of his zone of operation as we both maneuvered carts from separate lines of them.  He stopped, stared at me straight in the face.  I smiled and said, "Go ahead."   He did, without smiling.   A niggly little feeling crept into my consciousness; I shook it off and set off to produce and bread.   I crossed close to his path a couple of times through the store aisles; but I quickly moved on wanting to avoid any further direct contact.   

I made my way to the checkout line with a favorite cashier and the shortest line to boot.  I was feeling as if I had escaped some unknown perverse danger when who should appear at the checkout line next to mine but my Bohemian non-friend.  I carefully kept my focus on what was in front of me instead of who was a few feet away beside me.   The cashier and her bagging assistant made quick work of my purchases and had me ready to go in short order.   I glanced over and saw with relief that I was going to escape the store ahead of HIM.     

In spite of my difficulty with walking and breathing at the same time, I made my way to my vehicle and quickly unloaded my six or seven bags.  Now I just have to put the shopping cart in the proper place and I'll have escaped that menacing fellow.  I look through the window and see the return on the other side of my truck and, "Oh dear, there he is.  He's going to see me.   This could be life or death."

But I can't NOT  return the shopping cart to the proper place!   

So I walk around my vehicle pushing that cart while my Bohemian, hippie wannabe non friend pushes on to his own vehicle  and begins to unload his purchases.   I get into my vehicle, put on my seatbelt, start my truck, and drive off to finish my errands.  

You know, my mama always told me I was too much like Nancy Drew, always looking for a mystery.  Maybe I should choose another genre of book to be reading for awhile.   Maybe that James Patterson mystery thriller got to me more than I thought!   But I kept watching in my rear view mirror just to make sure.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sweet Dreams

As I prepared to lay me down to sleep last night, my conscious mind suddenly flashed with images from a dream from the wee hours that I had not remembered all day.  Its sweetness caught my heart strings and I wanted to return to it.

John and I entered an older house to see if it might meet our purchase requirements.  As we toured from room to room,  we were surprised by rich wall colors and a few antiques left behind by whomever had been living there.   It appeared to be a small house but as we continued through a hall we entered a large room in the center of the house with nothing in it.   I heard several voices from an adjoining room and entered it to find my parents sitting at a dining table enjoying after dinner coffee with dear friends.   I, in my wakened state, have no idea whom the friends were, but in the dream I knew them and considered them dear family friends.   John continued to tour the other rooms of the house and never entered the dining room.   I flitted out of the dining room into the kitchen and then found a surprise third bathroom not listed in the real estate listing through another hallway.

Before the dream ended, I returned to the dining room where my parents and their friends were chatting happily and amicably.  I don't recall words being exchanged between us; but there were smiles and I knew in my heart that they were proud of me and who I am and whom I'm becoming and mostly of Whose I am, not only theirs, but their Father's also.  I gathered my purse and I think I told them I would see them later and then left the dining room to find John.  

Having suddenly lost my father as a young child, I haven't seen him in 42 plus years.  I lost my mom in all the important ways in my mid-twenties to Alzheimer's Disease, though her body lingered until my mid-thirties.   I cannot convey the sweetness of the moments in that dream.   But I am so grateful for that gift!    

Friday, February 7, 2014

Vision, part 1

But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,  for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
Luke 18: 16 

My youngest sons and I have been involved with an after-school ministry in the inner city for two and one-half years.  My husband joins us when he gets off work early enough.  We have made new friends; we have fallen in love with children; we have been shown an area of ministry that is crying out for more.   

About three months ago, a vision for a preschool took over my mind.   One thing we have seen in our existing ministry is that many of these children are behind academically.  The foundation was not laid well in their education; first principles still need work, otherwise, they will fall farther behind. 

My sons and I are in our sixth consecutive year of home education.   We had one additional year of homeschooling several years prior to these consecutive years.  For all of these six years, I have followed the teachings of an English school teacher, Charlotte Mason (1842-1923.)  Miss Mason wrote six volumes on the education of children and related topics.   Miss Mason had great success with the poor of England, those educationally-left-behind souls of her day.   She has been called the "mother of homeschooling" because from her writings and lectures the Parents' Educational Union, later the Parents' National Educational Union, was born.  A monthly periodical detailing Miss Mason's thoughts and vision for a liberal education for all children, not just the children of nobility, was published and read by parents throughout England.  Miss Mason's teachings and guidance were used all across England with great success.   Miss Mason also ran a school, the House of Education in Ambleside, England, teaching young women how to be teachers and governesses. Just in case you need more affirmation for Miss Mason, here is what one prominent citizen had to say about her:

  "Teachers owe much to Charlotte Mason's deep insight into child psychology and to the new principles in character building and mind training which she advocated.  The gratitude of [those] who have profited by her counsel will be her enduring memorial.     
~ Elizabeth R., Her Majesty the Queen Mother of England

My vision for a preschool encompasses a bit of all these factors.  Laying the foundation for our children is the most important work we have, whether it is behavior, education, or faith related.   Miss Mason's preschool ideas do not align with the modern education system's ideas.   She prescribes letting the young child be just that; don't hurry the child into ABCs and 123s; first teach the child the habit of attention-- of being able to pay attention.  The best way to do that?   Lots of time outside exploring the creation, learning to observe the smallest of details.  Letting the child play as children do; play is the work of the small child.  Add a few books, good books not twaddle, for the child.   Formal education shall not begin until the child reaches age six (6.)

The preschool I have in mind would also serve as a learning center for moms and young women by  hiring those who have interest in childcare.  The goal is to impact the neighborhood by opening up opportunities for employment while educating its inhabitants about childcare principles and teaching mamas to teach using timeless principles which will ready any child for formal education.

This preschool lives strongly in my mind; but, (isn't there always a but?) there is much foundational work to complete in order for this preschool to be born.  And so I am prayerfully putting first things first.

Pressing on in Him,

Lisa Ann

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When God Calls- Early Hints

Jeremiah 29:11 

 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."


My journey through life has held so many bumps, mistakes, disappointment in my circumstances and myself.   When I "found" the Bible verse above, I held it as my own.  I had been in some bad circumstances; my life had derailed from the "happily ever after" I had imagined.  But in that verse, I  found hope.  The promise of a future, living for God's purposes, excited and thrilled me!   I.  Had.  A. Future!   Thank you Father! 

I have done those magazine quizzes which are designed to help the reader find his/her "passion" in life.  Usually there is a question or thought-provoking exercise where the reader is asked to recall times or events in  life when one  felt fully alive, energized.  I have a couple of memories which fall into that category which always make me wonder a bit about my life and how on earth I took the detours I took.   The first event was a "zone" meeting at the home of an elderly couple from the church congregation where I grew up.  I remember sitting on a side pillar/wall of their front steps talking with some friends.  I know we had shared some food because we always did that when church family gathered.  I don't remember eating; I don't remember a devotional time; I do remember sitting on that wall talking with friends; watching as children, teenagers, and adults mingled and moved about, I had a deep sense of contentment and joy.  Looking back on that moment, I feel that I knew, in that moment, what life was about-- I was probably eight or nine years old when that happened.   That moment in my life has been relived numerous times in my mind and stands out as a high point.  

The second event was the summer after my first child was born.  My husband and I were poorer than the proverbial church mouse.  But our congregation teamed with an inner-city congregation to conduct a vacation Bible school for the children of the neighborhood around that church.  I remember pushing my baby daughter in her stroller as we walked to and then back home from that small church building.  Singing, with voices young and old, black and white, praises to our Lord  and Father was so uplifting.   What a blessed time that was.  I don't have any other clear memories of that week of serving other than the vague feeling that those children loved to gobble the cookies at snack time.  

Those events in my young life, separated by more than a decade of  existence, are very clearly times in which I felt fully alive, as if I was doing what I was created to do.  I can't say that I knew for sure at those times; but looking back, that is always the sensation that I feel while remembering those moments.   

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Finding Grace Again

 He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who 
repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends.
Proverbs 17:9

I remember asking my mom, "Why on earth did you give me the three most common names on earth?"   I, the young teen, wished that my name was more unusual, more exciting, intriguing, or fun.  But Lisa   Ann    Smith, really?!!   She told me several reasons but none of them satisfied me.  Who cares that school teachers suggested shorter names for ease of learning to write one's own name?   Who cares that Daddy did not want me to be named after him?  --Randallyn, no one else would have had that name!   But I was Lisa Ann Smith!   And I hated it,     for a while.   And then at twenty-one, I got my wish!   I changed my name.   I dropped the Ann right out of my name legally when I married.  It was a family tradition from my mom and both my grandmothers.  We all dropped our middle names and used our surnames as our middle name after marriage.   I also did it as a reminder of my dad.   Having lost him at age 9, I wanted to maintain the part of my name that came from him.  It was important to me to maintain my identity as his daughter. 

And then I grew up and matured a bit.  Truthfully, I'm still working on the maturing process and trying to get out of the way and allow God to work in that process also.   Through the years, as I got the chance to pick names for little people to wear throughout their lives, I began to appreciate my name.  

I still feel that it's entirely possible that I was named for the popular character from the long-running soap opera, "As the World Turns," Lisa Hughes Shea Coleman........  I'm not sure how many times she changed her name through marriage.  But when I discovered that my first name, Lisa, means consecrated to God, I was more impressed with it.   I realized that of all the lessons my Daddy taught me in those nearly ten years we had together, the number one lesson was that I had a Creator and that I was made for His purposes and my life should be built around Him.  My name came to mean a lot to me at that point.  It became a sort of lifetime reminder of my parents' wishes and blessing bestowed by them on my spiritual walk.  

And then there was the poor dropped Ann.  Ann means full of grace.  Over the last few days, months, year, I have found myself in conflict with several different people(s) in my life.  When I survey those relationships and missteps in relationship closely, I can see that I am much of the problem.   My own discontent and lack of grace shown to others when they make mistakes has been the cause of many of the problems I have had.   I have become discontented with the one who seems to "blow me off" in favor of speaking to someone else or acting as though I am not standing right there; I have been overly sensitive when criticized by my husband or a close friend, even though I know that person's true intention was to help me in my walk with our Lord.   And heaven help the friend or relative who had a bad day and said the wrong thing at the precise time I was least able to be gracious and loving!   

So while I will not be contacting the federal government and adding Ann back into my name legally, I do plan to add it back into my thinking and for a while, into my writing persona.   I am completely convicted in the thought that I need to regain my grace towards others and their shortcomings and "do unto them as I would have them do unto me."  As I recently shared with a loved one, one thing is certain:   for the rest of my days on this earth I will make mistakes.  I am human and messed up and will be as long as I live this side of heaven.  And I will need grace and forgiveness from all of those who come into contact with me in my failures.  And honestly, so are you.  We are all in the same boat when it comes to making mistakes.  And so I also need to extend grace daily to others.  So for now friends, I am,

Pressing on in Him,

Lisa Ann