May 31, 2016

crunch time

T-1 week and 1 day until we make the big move back to Waco. It's that time that I hate in every move, where life becomes inconvenient because most things are packed, you are eating on paper plates and eating not-great food because most of your cooking stuff is packed, the house looks sad because things are coming off the walls and it becomes the empty shell you walked into nearly 2 years ago. Brennan has 2.5 days left of school and I'm not sure whose more excited, me or her? I am SO OVER the long trek to her school each day, and since I don't feel like I was ever really here this go around I'm admittedly detached from her school and just want to go home. I've said to Adam on more than one occasion that I think this will be the most anti-climactic move we've ever made, I really think we'll get into the moving van/car and just drive off with little emotion over actually leaving. These past 22 months haven't felt like real life to me, I've admittedly lived with one foot out the door since we got here and I think when we get back to Waco it will take about 2 seconds before it feels like we never left and this will all be a distant memory...and truth be told, I can't wait for that. I don't want to be insensitive to our dear friends who have made these past 22 months actually doable, and of course we will miss them terribly, but they have known from day one we haven't been "home" and they are eager for us to get back to it as well.

This past week Adam was out of town, then a friend from Waco came into town for a night, then cousin Mike flew in Friday morning and was here until yesterday morning. We had a fun weekend with him but poor B got sick so that put a damper on some things. Its been kinda nutty around here, but in a good way. :) We've got back to back to back dinners this next week saying goodbye to sweet friends, that's always bittersweet. I can't believe after all the waiting that this past year has entailed that we're here, we're finally HERE. The older I get I find I keep saying things like "life is so weird" to Adam, and he agrees. I think when you inch up on 40 something changes in you, you become more introspective and you start to realize how quickly life goes, how fast kids grow up, how you feel like you're still in your 20s so how can 40 be so near? Its a funny/weird phase of life for me, I've been thinking a lot about what I want for my daughter and for our little family, what lessons I want to teach her and what I hope she doesn't have to figure out the hard way. I've had some weird health stuff and have had numerous drs appointments and its reminded me how fragile life is and has kept me in check with the person I want to be and what I think is really important. I've read lots of books the past 2 years, probably more than ever in my life and I've feel like I've learned new things and gained new insights into this crazy life. I've been intentional about spending a lot of time with people who are wiser than me and have let them pour into me and teach me and its been so life-giving/rewarding. I've kept my mouth shut when I didn't want to and have learned valuable lessons in doing so. I've spoken truth into other peoples lives and have seen it yield some good things and some hard things. I've learned over and over again that good things comes from hard things and that hard things are less hard when you surrender them to Jesus and wait on his timing (have I mentioned I hate waiting?). I won't be sad to say goodbye to this "season" of life if you will, but I am thankful for all I've learned, I'm going to try to remind myself of that truth over and over and over. xo

May 26, 2016

betrayal

I've been thinking a lot about betrayal lately, its something that I've had thrown at me a lot in the past year and a half in various ways for different reasons, but ultimately 1 reason that has manifested itself in different ways at different times. I've been thinking a lot about it for several reasons but the main one being, I keep trying to figure out what Jesus would do with certain circumstances I've been given? You see, when things aren't black and white it leaves a lot up to interpretation and that can lead to actions where one can have a hard time trying to decipher what the "right" thing to do is. I've talked about this before, I've been wresting with it for a while so its making another appearance on this here blog. I was talking to someone recently and I said, I wonder what Jesus would say was the hardest part about the whole crucifixion experience? If we could sit down and have some face time with him and ask him to break it down, what would he say was the absolute worst part? The long walk carrying the cross while people yelled horrible things at him and spit in his face? The crown of thorns pressed violently into his head? The actual nails being driven into his wrists? The hanging with the weight of his body on those nails? The spear in his side? Or...was it the betrayal by those that claimed to love him the most? To have to endure watching the people that repeatedly told him they loved him look him in the eye and betray him like it was nothing? Please hear me here, I'm in NO WAY comparing my hurt to what Jesus experienced, but I have had some very painful physical pain in this life, and I've been betrayed and felt the sting of that and for me there's no question, the betrayal is by far the most painful...and lasting. You see, Jesus eventually was out of the physical pain, that was removed when it was finished, but the betrayal doesn't go away...he still has that pain to carry with him.

Today the news came out that Baylor's head football coach, Art Briles was fired due to an (alleged) cover up of sexual assault by some football players. I don't know all the ins and outs but I keep thinking about the girl(s) who were abused, and how the silence and (alleged) cover up of it all (by a Christian university no less) must have felt like such a betrayal of their experience and pain. And now, the truth is "out there" and natural consequences have taken place, and I can't help but think they must feel so vindicated, like their abuse wasn't nothing. Its SO HARD when a wrong has been done and people turn a blind eye for their own sake, they don't want to get their hands dirty. I have to believe this is not what Jesus had in mind when he called us to be peacemakers.

In college I majored in Christian Ministries with a minor in Theology and I had an emphasis in youth ministry. I took a class that required that I go hear Bart Campolo give a lecture at my school on youth ministry and it ended up being one of the most profound experiences I had in my 4 years at APU. For those of you who don't know who Bart is, he is (well, rather this is who he was when I was in college, he's changed his views a lot in recent years) an evangelist who lives and breaths urban youth ministry. He spends his days "in the ghetto" trying to reach broken kids with the good news of Jesus. When he's not doing that he's traveling the world speaking, trying to recruit urban youth workers to come work with at-risk youth. He's got a pretty amazing mission and is a very dynamic speaker with gripping stories. One of his stories has haunted me for years because of the reality of how messy life can be, and Jesus calls us into that mess and yet, he doesn't always give us the clear "right" answer for how to respond to certain situations. He explained how he had been working with a boy who came from a broken home, no dad, mom was working lots of jobs just to get by, he was often left unattended and was on a bad trajectory if something didn't change in his life. Bart had been pouring into this kid, trying to show him there was more to life and that was Jesus. This kid showed up at Bart's house one day and asked if he could live with him? Bart said this was a regular occurrence, kids would often come to him after trust was built when they felt they had nowhere to go and how it was a tricky thing to navigate b/c obviously he couldn't let all these kids come live with him and his family. So he pushed back on the kid and said "What do you mean your mom kicked you out?" After some back and forth the kid confessed that his mom wanted him to beat up a kid and he refused because "Bart said that Jesus said that you don't hurt people and that fighting isn't okay." So, because of his refusal to beat up this kid his mom kicked him out and he had nowhere to live. Bart pushed back some more and asked why his mom wanted him to beat up another kid?! After more back and forth the kid confessed "Because he's been raping my little brother." Bart went on to say how when in these situations, when life is this messy there's a problem, its true, Jesus says to love and not fight back but rather, to turn the other cheek. Bart went on to say, "in the ghetto you're often not dealing with good and bad, you're dealing with bad and worse." "So I looked him in the eye and I said, you go beat up that kid, you beat him so hard so he never touches your brother again." Bart went on to say when that kid walked away he felt so yucky, so gross, that he was covered in mess and he didn't want that on him, he cried out to the Lord and begged for his forgiveness but he didn't know what else to do, there was nothing "right" about any of this!!!!" He goes on to say how life is messy, doing life with urban youth is really messy, and Jesus calls us into the mess without all the answers but you go anyway, because that is what Jesus would do, and he too would get the mess all over him.

Life isn't black and white, there's a lot of gray, even/especially in the Christian life, but when a wrong has been done and people don't want to make a move because they want to keep their hands clean, people get hurt. Life is messy, but Jesus calls us into the mess, sitting on the sidelines isn't an option. xo

May 17, 2016

my friend's gratitude dinner

This weekend was a lot of eating and spending time with good friends. Adam and I went to a nice dinner on Friday with a long time friend of mine and her boyfriend, for one final "ho-rah" before we leave. Saturday we went to a joint birthday party for 2 of our long time friends who turned 40, that was really fun and we ate lots of good food and got lots of hugs from their parents who've treated us like family over the years, good stuff. We couldn't get a sitter 3 nights in a row so Sunday I went solo to a gratitude dinner that my friend threw for herself and it was so great. When we moved here almost 2 years ago we rented a house that just happened to be across the street from friends of ours and we didn't even know it! I don't think it was a coincidence that we were neighbors for that month as it ended up to be a really hard year for my friend and through that rental we got back in touch with one another. My friend and her husband are in the midst of a divorce and anyone who has gone through a divorce themselves or has walked with someone going through a divorce knows, its a lot, and its hard. I've watched my friend have good days and bad days, I've gone with her into her new apartment after having to sell her beautiful home, I've sat in her backyard as we've talked about how hard life can be, I've sorted through her belongings to help with those hard decisions of what to keep/get rid of when it feels like you're loosing so much already. Through it all she's had an unwavering faith that has been really amazing and encouraging to witness. On Sunday night she gathered those nearest and dearest to her and treated everyone to an amazing dinner at a local restaurant and talked about how thankful she is for the role that each of us has played in her life. Her dad got up to say a speech and to remind his daughter of the truth of God's word, it was really life-giving. He was saying how when we wait on the Lord, He will renew our strength, we will run and not grow weary, walk and not faint. His depiction of the famous Isaiah 40 passage was really poignant for me and it filled me with hope and truth and reminded me of what I know but never tire of hearing. Waiting has been a theme for me a lot in my life, most particularly these past 2 years and my eyes filled with tears as I was reminded that those who hope and wait on the Lord will be renewed. What a timely reminder for me, and more importantly for my friend.  Sunday night was one of those experiences that make up the good stuff of life, and I was so thankful to be there. I wish I could take away my friend's pain, but I love that in the midst of it she is celebrating God's faithfulness and acknowledging his goodness in the pain. It was an honor to be invited, it has been an honor to be on this journey with her, and I don't think the Lord providing a rental house across the street from her was just an accident because that's how God works, He's in the details of our lives even when we don't know it....yet. xo

May 10, 2016

May 4, 2016

a busy season / blessing the hard ones

Its a busy season in the Winn household, I'm tired. Anyone who has moved knows how much work it entails, its not just the buying of the supplies, the packing, the details of where to live, selling a house, renting a house, etc. it's also the emotional piece. Its hard for B to watch her room get packed away for strangers to come traipsing through, its hard to say goodbye to beloved friends who are like family, its hard to leave a home because, it was your home. As someone who has been on a quest for home for years, and who is passionate about making my surroundings home, this is hard for me. As eager as I am to get to my real home, I've poured my blood, sweat, and tears into our cottage here and there is a part of me that is sad to see it go. Our house officially went on the market yesterday, so that means its been a flurry of cleaning, home repairs (aka: money disappearing), realtor meetings, photographer/drone photos, runs to good will, etc.. Its just a lot. In addition to this, I nanny a couple days a week, we've had company in town from Waco, my mom flies in tomorrow, open houses this weekend, etc. -all good things, just a lot. Sorry, don't want to complain, this is minor in the grand scheme, but it also helps to explain my quiet little blog. :)

In the midst of all of this God continues to work on my heart and bring peace, and remind me of what really matters in this life and of the person He wants me to be. There have been a couple poignant things that have left a mark and as I've stated numerous times, when something strikes me I share it here b/c you never know what someone else might need to hear. My pastor (who I can now quit referring to as being my "Waco pastor" b/c..well, we kinda live there now :) has really challenged me lately by his example and I want to share those instances here. Shortly before we moved from Waco my pastor (and his family) moved into a house across the street from ours, it was SO great having them as neighbors and I was so sad to move so soon after this came to be. Well, as anyone who lives on our street in Waco knows, its spotty. To be fair, Waco is pretty spotty but our old street is definitely spotty. All that to say, several friends of ours who live(d) on our street, have been broken into. This is a sad reality of Waco, there is a lot of poverty, and break ins are not uncommon in certain areas. No one wants to hurt anybody (generally speaking), most breaks ins happen during the day when the home owners are obviously gone, and electronics and jewelry are stolen, and it is typically just items stolen, no damage done to the house. Well, about a week ago my pastor was broken into, big sigh. I hate that this happened to their family, no one ever deserves to be broken into and to be violated in that way (speaking from experience {not in Waco}) and they joined the ranks of that brokenness. I say all of this to get to the point of Josh's response. Josh posted on facebook a letter to the people who broke into his home, he said how sorry he was that they were in a place to do that and he wondered if they also had 4 kids like he did and if they were desperate for a way to support them? He explained that he contributes to the world's brokenness himself and that he too needs forgiveness. He explained that as a pastor he often preaches love and forgiveness but that he has often wondered if he is full of shit, as it's one thing to teach obedience and another to act on it. He thanked them for giving him the chance to essentially put his money where is mouth is. He goes on to say that he is tasked with forgiving something small like stealing, but how hard life is for many people who really know suffering, and how he has been taught by people who really suffer that with great suffering comes great grace. He goes on to say that the more he thinks about them (the thieves) the more compassion he feels for them, and he goes on to remind them that they are loved by God and they are fearfully and wonderfully made and that although it is doubtful they will ever read his post, its important to bless them because that matters.

WHOA right?! I'm not sure how you can encounter something like that and not have it change you. If you know Josh like I do, you know he isn't trying to be all "look how good I am," but rather, he is trying to really live out the gospel he preaches each week. He is putting his money where is mouth is, he is choosing to be better because that is what Jesus calls us to do. Whether you've been in church your whole life or not, we've all heard the "love your enemies" bit, right? But you know the part where it says to pray for those who persecute you? To bless them? Man, talk about taking it to another level! HOLY COW THIS CHRISTIAN LIFE STUFF IS NO JOKE! I tried this recently, I tried to pray for and bless someone who has really hurt me, it was really, really hard. I was talking with the Lord about it and trying to be really honest and transparent with where my heart was and the reality of if the person I was praying for knew how much she was really loved by Jesus and if that really penetrated her heart, it would change her-it would heal her. You see, hurt people -hurt people, and I know this person is really hurting, that isn't even a question, but when you set aside your hurt for a minute and actually bless your enemy - something transformative happens. You begin to see them more as God sees them, and not how you do. God doesn't love this person any less than he loves me, I'm just as much a sinner in my own right, and that is a hard truth to ignore. Forgiving your enemies is surely one thing, praying for them and actually praying blessing for them, I assure you is entirely another. Man, its hard.

I recently had someone say to me "Man, you're a better person than I am!" in reference to me doing something to better understand someone who has hurt me, and it made me pause, because the real truth is, I'm not better (even though I like to think that I am). I remember 15 years ago during our small group when I was talking passionately about grace and my friend said something like "I guess I've just thought about grace being so important for the 'really bad sinners' (I'm paraphrasing here) so I've never thought of it so much as it applies to me" and I remember saying "We ARE those really bad sinners, we are the worst ones and that is the point!" The truth is, sin is sin and we are no better and no worse than anyone else and Jesus died just as much for me as he did the murderer and the thief. When you have that "aha" moment where you realize you are no better, and you're just as messed up as "the worst" that is when you realize what grace really is, and the words "to whom much is given, much is expected" start to really resonate. Those who have been forgiven much, need to forgive much. I have been forgiven much, so I have no choice but to forgive much -that is grace of which I have been freely given and I need to freely extend. And its really, really hard. But this is the gospel message, folks, this is the good news that Jesus came with and for and it is life changing. When people tell me they know there is no God I almost just have to laugh -these things don't.just.happen. People don't forgive wrongdoers and bless them just because -that is God work, and it's as real as the air we breathe. xo