Together for Our Good

7-15-2012 4-43-33 PM

I favorited that tweet by author Anne Lamott a few months back.  Instinctively I knew I would need this reminder.  The moment is here.  A story needs telling and not everyone, including myself, will be shed in the best light.  But it’s my story, my experience and I think there’s value in sharing.

If there is anything I learned while writing Entangled last year, it’s that your darkest moments shine the brightest when taken out of the shadows.  I’ve had some dark moments over the last week.  May I take them out of the shadows with you?

 

Last Wednesday morning I found out that when we were in Hilton Head doing this, my nephew broke into our house and stole 2 shot guns to pawn for money.

Scott waited overnight Tuesday to tell me because he didn’t want to see me react the way I did—a bursting of tears from the soul.  Violation.  Both of physical property and emotional bond.

The next 36 hours was near torture.

On Wednesday afternoon, we found out there was a 3rd shotgun taken and he admitted to it.

And then minutes later, I found my jewelry missing.  Two necklaces, 5 rings, and a bracelet that Scott gave me while we were dating.  My high school ring.  A wedding set I wore while I was pregnant.  Just as I type this, I remembered two more rings from my childhood missing.  My nephew denied taking them.

Although I knew he had, I began worrying about our safety.  If he truly didn’t take them, who else had been in my house?  When?  How?  What else is gone?  Do we need a security system?

I was experiencing so many emotions.  I was furious that he would do this when we’ve done so much for him.  My personal space felt violated in the worst way.  And I was just sad for him.  He knows better and I want so much more for him than this.

We debated about if and how to charge him.  He’s done this before.  He got arrested for the same thing just a week before we went to Hilton Head and has not been charged for similar acts in the past.  It was salt on wounds that he did this yet again.

We knew he needed some consequences but ultimately know he needs the Lord.  What was the best path for him?  We were solely responsible for his future.  If we pushed, he could sit in prison for 30 years.  Would he find healing there or in an intervention program offered to him?

We talked to the detective on his pending case and got our options. By Thursday evening, my nephew decided to talk to Scott, something he had always denied him in the past.  We just wanted to understand why all the stealing was necessary.  He’d been out of work at times but the amount of money he had gotten was just not necessary for his lifestyle.

While talking to Scott on Friday, he confessed to a prescription drug problem and also to taking my jewelry.

When Scott told me he admitted to taking my jewelry, I’ve never experienced quite so many emotions.  Validation for knowing he had done it.  Hurt that he had done it.  Grief knowing I would never see those meaningful pieces again.  I will never be able to give my girls my high school ring.  I can’t let them wear the heart diamond necklace he gave me on Valentine’s Day.  I don’t even have my own choice of selling them for gold.  Even relief flooded when I knew I didn’t have to worry that someone else had been in my house.

Scott decided, with counsel from many different directions, that charging him was the right way to go. He has an intervention program available to him so, if followed, he will not have extended jail time.

So as we worked Friday night to prepare our yard sale, raising money for orphans, our nephew was being  booked into jail.

Life and death.  I was sacrificing on all accounts.

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C.S. Lewis was right.  Christianity isn’t for the faint of heart.

I had every right to swear my nephew off.  To say I’m done.  Please don’t come near me again. But I know.  I know, I know, I know that Satan is prowling like a lion.  He’s here to steal, kill and destroy.

Scott told me about the jewelry just minutes before I had to go get Emma from camp Friday.  That was supposed to be my most joyous moment of the week.  Satan wanted to steal my joy.

Our last garage sale for orphans was planned and then thwarted the week my grandfather died.  He couldn’t stop this one from happening, but he wanted to steal the joy in this one.

He wants to destroy my nephew’s life.

He wants to steal our family’s joy and unity.

He really wants us to give up on my nephew.

I hate everything Satan wants.

My only weapons against him are not hate and revenge but things like truth and love.

I believe God is a just god and that is why I have no qualms that we charged him.  He ought to pay consequences.  But we can’t let hate take over.  Love covers a multitude of sins.

God is this beautiful balance of justice and mercy, both at full tilt, that I cannot wrap my head around.

I’ve been praying since Wednesday morning that God would give me forgiveness.  I see some family members angry and bitter over things from decades past and I don’t want a life like that.  It’s a miserable life to lead.  Miserable for them and everyone around them.

So Scott, being the leader and general better person than me in a lot of ways, invited my nephew to church this morning.  My first reaction?  I really don’t care to see him and I doubt he shows.  I prayed this morning that God would give me grace.  Grace to a grace killer.  It reminded me of Pete Wilson’s church’s reaction when they expected Westboro church to picket at Cross Point this morning.

It’s easy to gather your possessions and sell them for the orphans in Haiti.  They don’t deserve what they’ve been put through.  But grace to the grace killer?  That’s tough.

I was anxious the whole way to church.  I debated whether I’d even speak to him.  Would it be so bad if I slapped him in the face one good time?

Scott dropped us off at the front of the church and I was wriggling around, trying to help the girls with leftover donuts we were taking in.  When I finally got settled and turned around to go in and looked up, my nephew was standing just 6 feet away.  He was early for church, showered and dressed and looking like he might be expecting a slap in the face.

As if I had no choice in the matter, I walked over and threw my arms around him and said, “I love you.”  He said I love you too and apologized.  I said thank you and that I was glad he was there and he said, “Me too.”  I told him to wait on Scott while he parked and took the kids into church.

The girls had no idea what had just transpired. The people around couldn’t guess what was between the two people that had just hugged in front of the church doors.  Just another Sunday morning greeting.

I cried most of the way through worship with Scott on my left and my nephew on the other side of him and my friend on my right holding my hand, having no clue what had been happening but knowing something was very wrong.

The preacher, not knowing what had transpired, seemed to talk directly to us.  We have to let go of what we feel entitled to for greater things God has planned.  Me, my possessions for my nephew’s future, and my nephew, his lifestyle for his own future.

And then we were asked to have communion—something we only do every few months.

I knew I couldn’t hold hate in my heart and take communion.  I cried and prayed and asked the Lord to help me forgive.  This moment would be the end of my hate.  Not the end of the story, but the end of the hate.  Satan is not going to win this battle.  I took communion with teary eyes but a praising heart.  They played 10,000 Reasons, the same song that had ministered to our family just weeks before during my grandfather’s funeral.

Church ended and my nephew and I exchanged hugs, I love yous and apologies again.  I did so knowing it’s a long road in front of us.  He could, and probably will, hurt us again.  There are probably things from the past he’s done against us we don’t even know about.

But I know this and I want you to know it too.  God is good and he works everything together for our good.  Sometimes he allows us to sacrifice as he did but it’s never without purpose.  In those moments, we have to open our hands from our earthly treasures and the hate in our heart so God can replace them with his good and perfect gifts.   I may never have my earthly treasures but today peace and forgiveness and love and unity wins.

Be the Change

 

I sat in Starbucks for an hour this morning working.  I couldn’t help but hear an overzealous man next to us express frustrations about his church to his friend across the table.  I heard things like:

“I’m not going to split the church.  I won’t let that happen.”

“We need a new name.  Something simple but divisive.  Nothing wordy.”

“He might work in this environment but not that.  We don’t know what happened in his last church.”

Wow.  I couldn’t help but have many memories flood back from a few years ago.  I don’t talk about us moving churches a lot.  I don’t think it’s helpful or appropriate.  But it’s been three years and I have some hindsight. I sense that someone needs to hear this.

Be the change you want to see. 

I know so many churches are wrestling through this whole post-modern thing.  I’ve watched for the last 10 years.  I’ve been a part of some messy stuff and some really fantastic times.  I truly believe we ought to be the change we want to see in our churches.

But.

Sometimes you need to be the change that needs to leave.

Sometimes God just has a new church for you and all the wrestling and new things you feel are preparing you for a new place where those things are already present. 

I don’t mean to say when you are unsatisfied you should start church hopping.  Because I’ve seen that happen. 

I don’t mean to say you should leave mad.  Because love covers a multitude of sins and perhaps simply offering forgiveness could assuage a lot of the frustrations you are feeling. 

But sometimes we do all that and then the wrestling doesn’t stop.  God puts a desire for something new, but it’s so hard to let go of the old.  Leaving our church was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done.  I miss the people, but I know that God has us right where He wants us.

If you’re wrestling, stay faithful to the process.  Don’t leave when you’re mad.  Change where you can.  But ultimately, leave when you should.

Weekend Recap

Scott the DRE

Good morning.  This weekend was best of all because Scott came home!  He reached his goal of becoming a Drug Recognition Expert.  Just like an officer can do a few tests on the side of the road to determine if someone is under the influence of alcohol, he has learned a set of tests that can determine what category of drug someone is on, be it stimulant, depressant, etc.  As I type this, he is at the hospital after being called in to test someone they had arrested.  He will be considered an expert now in that court case.

He spent two weeks in Columbia last month learning all kinds of medical stuff and then just spent a week in Arizona in a jail testing people and then doing a 6 hour long test.  We’re all very proud to say the least.  That said, I was VERY happy to have all that over and done with and have him home last night.

Gluten-Free Expo

While he was away this weekend, a few highlights included attending a gluten-free expo in Charlotte.  Normally, no matter where we go I am always on alert about food.  I have to question everything and feel like I’m running defense for Emma to protect her from eating something that might make her sick. We walked into the expo where about 50 vendors, including the likes of Glutino and Udi’s, had samples out and I leaned down to Emma and said, “You can eat ALL of this!”  Not since we’ve started have we been anywhere where every morsel of food was gluten-free.  It was divine.

Let Me Run Race

Saturday evening I was able to attend a local race for an organization called Let Me Run via our big volunteer day with my work.  Let Me Run is sort of like Girls on the Run but for boys.  I volunteered as the Social Media Ambassador as let me tell you, I loved it.  My job was purely to post pictures and statuses to Twitter and Facebook as the event went along.  I mean, how fun is that?  I also pitched in to organize bags and put tattoos on some kids and that was super fun too.  Seriously, does anyone have a Social Media position open because I am ON IT.  The end of the race was pretty spectacular too.  A finish line never fails to bring tears to my eyes.  As I watched the kids coming in knowing all the work they had put into it, I couldn’t help but clap and holler for them in celebration.  Doesn’t it remind you of the race we are running and that “well done” we strive for at our heavenly finish line?  Gah, I love that.

Man Card

Sunday we kicked off a fantastic service called Man Card.  It’s all about biblically manhood.  I’m telling you, even after just the first service, I know every male needs to hear this one.  Seriously, if you’re a guy, hightail it over here and if you’re a gal, send all your favorite boys and men over there too.

Summer of 7

And finally, I wanted to touch on the first few days Summer of 7.  This week is food week for me.  No dessert.  No take-out.  Nothing but water.  I think I somewhat failed at the expo and didn’t even realize it.  A lot of the samples were cupcakes, cookies and brownies so technically that fell in the dessert category but I gave myself a pass since I wasn’t eating it with the intent of having a treat, just to sample food I would not otherwise. 

Saturday night after the race was super hard not to eat dessert.  I’d had a long day, the kids were spending the night elsewhere and it just would have been the perfect time to eat a bowl of ice cream.  I felt sorry for myself and then remembered that some people didn’t even have dinner that night and quit my whining. 

Sunday morning I missed not having coffee at church.  No compensation there.  I just missed it.  Sunday dinner I sat down and drank a few sips of sweet tea before I realized what I was doing.  I changed it out for water and kept going.  As I drank I thought of all the people who don’t have clean water to enjoy.  As fate would have it, on the way home we passed a homeless person asking for money.  My friend Dani had put the word out just a few days ago to help if we had seen this one particular lady so I grabbed all the cash I had and gave it to her.  It’s not the first time I’ve done that but it was a well-timed reminder that what we do with our money and how we view food matters.  It still has not left me thinking about her living outside and worrying about every meal.  Drinking water and eating as many meals and snacks as I want doesn’t seem so bad anymore.  If anyone should eat a bowl of ice cream, it ought to be her.

Have you thought about joining us for Summer of 7?  I can honestly say in just a few days it’s made an impact and it’s not too late!

 

I’m looking forward to the rest of the week as we’re headed out to Hilton Head this weekend!  Hope you had a great weekend and have a great week!

On Dressing Up at Church

These posts from Marla have weighed heavy on my mind since she posted because it’s something I’ve struggled with during recent years.

I’d highly recommend you reading them for yourself but she basically makes the case for dressing how YOU feel appropriate for church.  For her, that’s jeans.  For many of you reading, that’s your very best dress, skirt, heels.  For some of you, it’s jeans but you wear skirts because that’s just what your church does.  For me, I wear jeans (and some casual dresses) because I’m comfortable AND that’s what most of my church wears.

But I haven’t always been casual at church.  In fact, it’s only the past 3 years attending our new church did I even fathom wearing jeans on a Sunday morning.  I grew up in a Church of God church.  Church of God historically is very strict.  Very.  Women just did not wear pants.  I was in my very best dress every single Sunday.  I can remember my mom making me change when I wore anything not dressy enough, even as a 15 and 16 year old I had a dress, pantyhose and dress shoes on.  But so did everyone else.  It’s just the way church was. 

Then I got engaged and started attending church at Scott’s Southern Baptist church where we stayed for over 10 years.  Same thing.  Everyone dressed up.  It’s just the way church was.  And for the first time, I saw some some ugly things regarding dress.  And I don’t mean ugly dresses.  I mean ugly attitudes toward dress.  Now, before I say this, hear me when I say I’m not putting that church down.  That church is like family.  I’m serious.  In fact, many of them are literally family members.  But I did see some ugly things in regards to dress.  I know of people that were highly judged because they did not have a tie on when they were on stage.  People were looked down on when they wore shorts on a Sunday night.  You were definitely singled out if you weren’t in a dress or skirt Sunday morning.  No one would ever say anything to you directly, but the judgment was still there.  NOT by everyone.  Many could care less what you wore.  But some people did.  A lot. And some people didn’t really care much but dressy was just the acceptable standard.

Our current church accepts any sort of dress.  There are some folks who still wear dresses but not often.  Most people are in jeans or a casual skirt.  All the men wear jeans, even the lead pastor.  Only a few men have jackets.  Kids are mostly in casual wear.  Some girls have casual dresses, but not Sunday dresses.  My girls wear jeans most Sundays unless it’s a holiday and then we’ll dress up.  Scott hasn’t worn a suit, dress pants or dress shoes since we’ve started there.

And FOR ME, I feel so much more free.  Before I was SO CONCERNED with what I was wearing.  Clothes were almost 90% of what I was thinking of on Sunday mornings, more than any other day of the week.  I had to have the just right outfit, the just-right shoes. I had to make sure my makeup and hair were just right.  And then I’d spend all morning pulling at my skirt, tugging at my pantyhose, comparing myself to everyone else dressed up.  Church was like the Super Bowl for fashion every week.  On the other hand, I didn’t care what anyone else wore.  I honestly could have cared less if someone walked in with shorts.  The concern was all inward and how I looked and stacked up.  Was I any better than the folks looking down on people for not wearing a tie?  I doubt it.

Now?  I get dressed like I would every other morning.  Sure, I care about what I look like.  I make sure I’m modest and respectful and am not dressed like a slob but I’m not thinking about what everyone else thinks.  Because no one is dressed up and no one cares. My feet don’t hurt when I’m standing to worship. I’m not worried about tugging a skirt or shirt. And best of all, I don’t spend time seeing how I stack up to everyone else. I still worship the same.  I still concentrate the same.  In fact, at times, I’m less distracted by looking at everyone.  Furthermore, the one time I remember being distracted is by someone wearing a dress.

Hear me, I’m NOT bashing folks that dress up.   I dressed up for 30 years of my life and ALL of the rest of my family and many close friends dress up Sunday morning.  But what I am saying is now that I don’t, I’ve realized that dressing up on Sunday brought some ugly things out of me at times and I think it does for a lot of other people too (but not everyone!).

And here’s my most important observation: I think it can create a false sense of I-have-everything-together and enforces people acting and dressing one way on Sunday and then another during the week.  You are polite and nice and worship in your nice clothes but then you walk out of the door, not only do your clothes change but also your attitude and actions do too.  

I’m not looking down on anyone for dressing up or dressing down.  You have to do what you feel comfortable with.  But what I would ask is, are you TOO preoccupied with what you’re wearing on Sunday morning and furthermore what OTHER people are wearing on Sunday morning (comparing or judging)?  I can honestly say I was and I’m not sure I even saw how much I was until I wasn’t.   Sunday mornings have very little thought to what I wear and NO thought to what anyone else is going wear OR what they’re going to think about what I wear.  I’m wholly concentrated on worship and the sermon and reconnecting with like-minded believers.  And I think that’s just how it ought to be.

North Rock Hill Church – The 5 Before

Sooo…it’s clear it’d be better if I memorized the lines so I wouldn’t read and could smile a little more since I wasn’t concentrating.  But overall, first time ever doing something like this? I’m happy.  Yay for new things!