Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Heart of Worship

I grew up singing.  My mom says, I was singing before I could speak in full sentences.  I also love to sing for church.  I have sung in a Karoake bar once, but it never felt right.  Somehow, if I am not singing to glorify God, singing just doesn't seem like home.  I wouldn't have it any other way either.

As a teen growing up, I enjoyed singing in choir, solos, and then I got to college and tried a semester as a music major.  Several things happened that changed my course in life.  First, it was the catty attitude I noticed and the spirit of competition.  It wasn't a kind spirit, it was mean and vicious and that alone was enough to deter me from pursuing music.  I sing because I love it, it's a part of who I am, not because I want to be better than everyone else.  Second, my TMJ came back with a vengance.  When my TMJ flares up, my jaws clench, I am in agony and become light and sound sensitive, which stinks big time, because it means I can't even stand to listen to music, I just want quiet, darkness and I don't want to move.  By the time I finished one semester as a music major I didn't sing for a year after leaving college.  It took that long before I was ready to consider singing again. 

Then I got older, I got married, I had Elizabeth and I found that while singing in choir was still fun, that it was more important that I take care of Elizabeth.  In that time, I also began to learn something about the importance of talent, versus the importance of having a heart for worship.  In our choir, several years ago was a man who was flat, he sang loudly and proudly but he was flat.  Many choir members took turns sitting in front of him (me included), and tried our best to not let him take us down with him.  But as I sat in the congregation I realized something,  all the talent in the world does not make up for anything if you are just singing to sing.  This man who by our standards was subpar, sang with great gusto and a great love of God.  His only goal was to sing and make a joyful noise to the Lord, and surely that was more important than making a pretty noise. 

It reminded me of the woman who was poor who came and brought her last coins to pay her tithe.  In all likelihood, this woman would go home and have nothing to eat and possibly even die, but for her it was more important to serve God and give him what was rightfully his.  Just as in the parable of the servants given talents by their master it is more important to use the talents God gives us, it is more important that when you come to God and sing, it is with a heart of worship than a heart that wants to impress others.   

Dear Papa,
Please help us as we come before you to bring a heart of worship.  Help us remember you'd rather we come with the heart of a child than a voice of talent and that you will love that more than a beautiful, but soulless sound any day of the week.

Amen.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Top Ten Reasons to Not Totally Hate Summer




Summer has come to Washington.  Yesterday, we got up into the 90's and many people fled to stores and the mall as well as play areas with air conditioning to stay cool.  I know it might sound funny to many of you, but for most of my friends in Washington, cooler weather is what they know.

I grew up in Oklahoma and Kansas - not quite as warm as say living in San Antonio, TX or Arizona, but when it got hot in the summer it got HOT!  Triple digit heat is hot regardless of it being a dry heat or a wet heat.  Although, Chris assures me there is a difference, because being in Iraq was more bearable for him than Kuwait where he said, the humidity coming off the ocean was so heavy it made it almost impossible to walk, much less breathe.   Either way, I LOVE the weather in Washington.  I don't care about the rain, or that it stays overcast.  Being far sighted means my eyes are somewhat light sensitive.  Chris, Sarah and Beka all have light colored eyes, so for them the overcast skies are wonderful and mean less need for sunglasses year round. 

However, there is a down side to this normally cooler weather.  No central air conditioning in most of the homes.  This means one the days when summer does show up and it gets past 80 in Washington and in the Puget Sound, it isn't just hot, it's hot without air conditioning.  UGH!  Today is going to be one of those days.  And the worst part is I live near a pond, but it won't help at the highest temperatures of the day.  It just means the water will tease us, because it's too nasty to swim in - ducks, geese, frogs, fish - they all use the bathroom in that water and there are leeches.  I am not swimming in that, no matter how hot it gets.  Chris hates the idea of swimming in the ocean or sea because there are dead people in it, and sharks.  I have to admit, I'd really prefer to swim in a swimming pool myself - preferably and indoor one if possible so I'm not sweltering to death while in the water that is supposed to cool me down.

All of the heat aside, though there are things I do enjoy about summer weather.  Enjoy my top ten reasons to enjoy summer:

1.  You get to sleep in, at least you do if your kids aren't in year round schooling.

2. Ice cream - need I say more.

3.  Sandals and flip flops - I love sandals and flip flops and not needing socks to keep my feet warm. 
But I don't love them enough to really ever love summer.  I can tolerate it though - after all, it isn't as if I have a say in whether or not summer comes to the U.S, right?

4.  Sundresses - it was and always will be one of the reasons I will love summer.  I love seeing my girls in cute little sundresses having a good time.

5. Iced tea - I like my hot tea in the cooler weather, but I also love iced tea - especially when it's fresh from brewing.

6.  Picnics - especially when said picnics are the pre-show to some awesome 4th of July fireworks.

7.  Swimming - again I would rather it be indoor and air conditioned in the inside area, but at some point, swimming is swimming and helps keep you cooler than you'd be if you were not in water, right?  Right.

8.  Summer evenings spent with the girls playing until it gets dark.  I loved summer as a kid when we could play outside while Mom and Grandma Taylor would visit - we'd ride bikes and find things to keep us occupied while the weather was cooler.

9.  Camps - Family camp, kids camp - both were a part of my childhood.  For years we went to Anadarko, OK for Camp Meeting and children's camp.  It was fun, I got to see a lot of old and new faces and heard some great music (even if it was Southern Gospel music, I enjoyed it), heard some amazing sermons and got to spend long lazy summer evening eating sno cones and listening to Mom and her friends laugh and have a good time playing Skip-Bo or Uno while they caught up and talked about life.

10.  SNO CONES!!!!!!!!  If you haven't ever had the privilege of a sno cone, I am so sorry.  Granted you probably don't know what your missing, but childhood isn't really complete without trying a sno cone. 

Have a good weekend.
In Christ,
Maureen

Monday, August 13, 2012

Unexpected Roads

Family colors our lives in many ways.  All of us know this, sometimes the lack of family colors our lives, how we interact with others.  Maybe it colors how you interact with people, maybe it colors how you view families importance.

My family is sometimes a brutally honest family.  My younger siblings show this to the nth degree.  Sometimes it's good, sometimes it ends with us yelling at each other because someone said something without tempering with grace.  One of the things we were all three taught though was prayer is important, no prayer is too large or too small for God.  And that all people need help, no matter what.

Sometimes I find I struggle to remember that not everyone was raised this way.  Not everyone thinks that no matter where you are prayer is very important.  And yet, it is because I hold this belief that a prayer group was opened.  It's not really my prayer group, I just happened to get it going - this one is all God's baby.

 A few weeks ago, I posted a prayer request on a prayer group for an individually named child.  The baby I requested prayer for is in need of a heart transplant.  Without this, she will die.  There is no ifs about it, without a transplant, this beautiful little girl will pass away and leave her family devastated.   And so I posted a request for prayer on the praying page for another little girl.  It wasn't meant to detract for the other child's plight, but this child's mother had had years to finally get things going on Facebook, the baby's family was still reeling for their news and how life had changed for them.  There was no Facebook page for this baby, no one to remember her.  I innocently thought, all the prayers she receives can be helpful, right?

Wrong!  Suddenly there was a backlash that I honestly never expected.  People who truly begrudge a baby, whose family is just learning to walk the road that comes with a sick child prayers?!  I was stunned.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this could happen.  You really choose to begrudge a baby less than three months old prayers, because it's not her name on the prayer page?  Then I got angry, what is wrong with people?!  This baby is no less important than this little girl.  Yes, her fight is important, no question, but you would really say that you won't pray for a baby in need of a transplant on a page for a child who has had to have multiple transplants?  After hours of prayer and trying to remind myself that not everyone sees the world the way I do and some much needed sleep I woke up refreshed and with a new resolve.   If people will begrudge a baby prayer on another child's prayer page, then why not open a page where all families can come and ask for prayer for any problem, from being afraid of going to sleep away camp to those families struggling with illness, learning disabilities, divorce, you name it, why not pray for it.  Didn't Jesus say, "Let the little children come to me?"  He did and he valued children and families.

So we started the prayer group Praying for Children and Families All Over the World.  Anyone can ask to join, anyone is welcome, but we keep the group closed so that people feel more comfortable asking for their requests. 

As the mom of a little girl with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, I definitely understand that there are some requests you'd prefer to not announce to the entire world.  Anyone who has read my blog for the last few years knows all about our adventures in Lizzie's finding her happy place.  I wrote that blog and warned people before they clicked the link and before they began reading, it was a sensitive issue.  There are some things you fight that you don't want the world to know.  Maybe it's an addiction, maybe it's something that you never thought you'd find yourself fighting?  Maybe things are unravelling in your marriage.  I definitely understand not wanting to share that publicly.  Some things are private. 


Several weeks in, I love watching how those who love Christ are joining together to offer prayers.  Some of those I asked to join asked to leave.  There is nothing wrong with that - you have to have a heart for this one to be able to take it.  We have a lot of families whose children are very sick, and it can be heartbreaking to read about their struggles daily.  So I just asked them to send me a private message and I'd remove them and no hard feelings.  There have been only a few people who have asked to leave, the rest seem eager to pray and join the group.   It is truly a blessing to see how God is at work in a small group and it all started because of one sweet little baby who is still fighting and finally got well enough to be on the transplant list.

Have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Remembering

"One day my world came crashing down, I'll never be the same. They told me that my child was sick. ... I thought, "am I to blame"? I don't think I can handle this. I am really not that strong. It seemed my heart was breaking, I have loved her for so long. I will..."  - Unknown Author

Just reading those words, brings back a rush of the weeks and days leading up to Elizabeth's Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.  Although the author is talking about an ill child who is battling for life, it doesn't mean I don't get it any less.  The moment when all of your dreams of a perfect (remember it's a dream) child are shattered.  Suddenly what you thought you knew doesn't exist and you find yourself spiralling down into a new world an unknown world.

This is the world of parents whose children are diagnosed with illnesses or disabilities.  Facing a change in what you thought would be and facing what will be is always a challenge.  It is also heart breaking and sometimes rewarding.  It brings new opportunities to see God at work.  Children who defy odds (some don't, but some amaze even medical professionals), children who you used to dream one way and you find that your dreams aren't really gone, they just have to change and adapt.  Sadly, some do not make it, they go on and become angels in Heaven and leave behind brokenhearted families.

No matter what you face with your child - the journey leaves you changed.  Hopefully it leaves you more compassionate, more empathetic, more thoughtful of what you say to people or how you say it.  Hopefully, it doesn't leave you bitter, angry and unable to look to God for the strength he is willing to provide to you.  Alas, this happens sometimes and I'm sure it breaks God's heart as much as those who watch you unravel. 

Reading those words by an unknown author will not be every one's reality but it gives great insight into the heart and fight behind those parents who will go to battle for their children.  Maybe you are one - or maybe you have the privilege of knowing one.  Either way, you may find it changes your world forever too. 

Have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen