Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Freed From Church

It is no secret how much The Yankee and I love, not only our church, but our Pastor, Roger, who has become such a dear friend to us over the years. Offending anyone is never on my agenda.  This post may touch a nerve with some readers, and if so, I would ask you to ask yourself why does it? And then see if the Holy Spirit doesn't reveal an answer to you! God is good like that!!

We call ourselves, "The Church That Doesn't Care"....that does not mean we don't care about the people that come into the church.  Quite the opposite actually, it means a lot of things.  We don't care what you wear.  Prime example...I am part of the Praise and Worship team.  I can promise you there have been Sunday mornings where I have stood on stage and sang in jeans and a sweatshirt.  Amazingly my voice sounds the EXACT same as it does when I am dressed up!  We don't care where you came from or how much money you have or don't have. We just want you there, learning about Jesus right along side us.  We also do not care about "churchy" things.  If it is your goal to be a deacon or a committee member, then our church might not be for you, we don't do either.  If your idea of going to church means you just have to attend a business meeting every week, then you probably wouldn't like our church either.  We don't do business meetings.

Maybe you are wondering how we survive without all of the normal "church" things.  Truly you haven't even heard the two biggest things yet.  One, we do not pass an offering plate.  Ever.  And two, we will never have a building.  Ever.  We meet at the local middle school and I can tell you that after all these years, I leave that middle school feeling closer to God and having grown more than I ever could have in any church building.  "Why would you not have a building?" You might be asking yourself.  Simple.  All of our money goes back to the community. Since our church has zero bills, we are free to help out those in need as much as we can. I am presumptious enough to believe God might just be totally on board with this concept!!!

Do you ever feel like "church" has lost the meaning of what "church" is supposed to be about?  I shudder when I hear of the fights over things that happen at churches..but the amazing thing is, when there is no building, no committees, and your focus is actually on Jesus and helping others (where it is supposed to be, if I am not mistaken), then there is nothing to argue about to begin with.  Suddenly the church becomes "free" to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit without the "nagging wife" in the background always griping about something.

This may be news for some folks, but success isn't about how many people come to a church.  Success isn't even about how much money that church brought in that week.  From a church stand point success should be about how many people grew closer to Christ that Sunday.  That's it.  Period.  NOTHING ELSE.  And if no one in church is growing closer to Christ because they are worried about how many people to get through the doors or how to spend the money, then the flat out truth is "church" isn't doing it's job.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

This is How I Do It

It happened again yesterday.  For the four hundredth time (probably more than that), I heard someone say to me, "I just don't know how you do it!"

They  were, of course, referring to my marriage.  Specifically, our circumstances.  For those of you unfamiliar with us, The Yankee's career only allows he and I to be under the same roof two, maybe three (if we are lucky) months out of the year.

Words fail me when people ask me this for I clearly do not see the situation as difficult as those around me see it. What amazes me is how quick people are to say "I could not do what you are doing." I believe we are all stronger than we believe we are. Many, many of you out there would be able to do this and do it successfully I might add.

So I thought I would just write it down....this is how I do it..and from here on out, when I hear that phrase "I just don't know how you do it." I will skip the explanation and refer everyone to this blog :)

1.  Our faith - God brought this career to my husband in a remarkable way.  The details will have to be spared, but short version, his first time overseas some years ago now, he saw something he wanted to do..what would seem like an unattainable dream to most, especially considering his age at the time.  The word unattainable flies out of the area when The Yankee enters the room.  Fast forward a  few years later he received an email that he was wanted to do the exact same thing he had been wanting to do.  And after a grueling process, here we are more than a couple of years into our newest adventure.  During the process we watched God open door after door after door as we prayed for Him to guide us into what was really supposed to be done. We listened hard enough, and were willing to wait, making it extremely difficult to deny God's will for our life. It was so clear to us that I often try to explain to people I would most certainly be more afraid that my husband would be hit by a car if he were here than I fear for his safety in his job, because we know he is where God wants him.

 2.  Our kids - We have two kids who, yes, help me when their daddy isn't around, but it is so much more than that.  Witnesses will tell you that you could drop these two children in the middle of ANY situation and they adapt, immediately.  We took this into great consideration when deciding whether or not this path was for us.  He is their world.  He is the fun one, the smart one, he cracks them up and they take everything he says and soak it in.  Our daughter will be traveling to Paris with her French class in the upcoming year or so and she can only take one parent.  She did not hesitate to say it was Daddy she wanted on that trip with her! But their adaptability was a huge factor we felt God used to show us that The Yankee is where he is supposed to be.

3.  Hard times? - People look at us and think this is hard.  The crazy thing is, we have been through hard. God delivered a marriage ministry right to my front door last year.  To date I have had the privilege of being there for four or five different relationships but I will tell everyone I mentor on this subject, you can tell me how hard your time is, but I am not going to feel sorry for you, because I have been there and survived.  You can tell me you are not happy, but  I certainly don't care about your momentary happiness, I care about your future blessing and the JOY you will receive from learning and growing in Christ no matter how bad your marriage is.  I have seen hard and this life we are living now is not it!

4.  Skype - Men have gone overseas for hundreds of years.  In the past, women have had to wait weeks, months, however long for a letter that was more than likely blacked out in parts leaving the wife unable to read it in its entirety.  I can't fathom the torture of living day to day not knowing if my husband was ok.  My neighbor, Mr. Long was in Viet Nam.  He has told me of once a month phone calls that lasted five minutes and cost him $10 a pop.  I have an iphone.  I can pick that iphone up and SEE my husband on Skype no matter where I am.  Yesterday I saw him twice.  We have been known to talk for two hours at a time. And most days are a minimum of an hour.   I often wonder if he were home, doing a 9 - 5 job, would we talk an hour to two hours a day face to face like that?  Would we send goofy emails that we will forever have as proof for our children to reread and relive their parents love for one another someday?  Or would I just get through every day the best I could without truly appreciating who this man is?  Nothing will make you appreciate your husband like having him work on another continent!  But the trick is appreciating him that much when he is home..appreciating him that much if he ever does switch to a 9 - 5 career.  I would like to think I would.

5. Attitude - My cup is half full.  That's not to say I don't have bad days.  I can promise you that there has been a day when you could drive by our house while I am mowing the lawn and see a tear run down my face because I am missing him and mowing the lawn makes me miss him even more! (Crazy, I know!) But I try my best to turn it into a positive and use the yard as a workout and then am so proud of myself when I am done to see how well it looks and I got a workout in to boot!  I am sure my closest friends have seen me get choked up a time or two when they ask me how he is, simply because I miss him. But I promise you this is not hard. One day my husband got on an airplane to go away from us for the first time.  I watched his back get smaller and smaller and I looked at our two babies, little at the time.  I said to myself, "I can make this hard on them, or I can make it easy on them by staying positive." And do you know that MY attitude actually made it easier on those little creatures God blessed us with! You know how big I am on choices.  My attitude is not only my choice, but it has the side benefit of showing great respect for my husband! Bonus!  The worst thing that could happen is that a lot of things could go wrong in one day and I would get tired.  But you know what?  Even when The Yankee is home, my rest doesn't come from him! (Matthew 11:28)

So I think that pretty much sums it up!  I hope it makes sense, and if you have any questions on how we do it, or if you are a spouse of someone whose job takes them away for great lengths of time and have questions on more specific ways to handle things, please comment below and I will go into anything I might have left out!  But more importantly, remember that you are stronger than you think, and even when you don't feel so strong, there is an almighty God just waiting to give you the rest you need!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Price Tags

So I came across this online the other day.  Supposedly it was a quote from Jillian  know, the tough as nails Biggest Loser trainer.  Before I go any further, let me say, I really like Jillian Michaels.  I used to watch The Biggest Loser and was always amazed at the way she seemed to get right to the heart of what was bothering people.  It seemed she could always just see into a persons heart and diagnose what was causing their eating problems and BOOM, one quick session on the steps outside the Biggest Loser gym, and problem solved!

But when I saw this, a shiver went down my spine.  She is so influential.  And what of the people reading this?  The wife whose husband didn't do anything to encourage her happiness that day, or that month, the person who feels stuck in a dead end job but doesn't realize their hard work is getting ready to be paid off with a big promotion..and happiness....ugh, there's THAT word again!!! What if they choose to walk away just before they receive their reward?

So my opinion differs with Jillian's a bit....we are supposed to concentrate on serving others, not on how well we can be served.  I am convinced that should we decide to spend our lives looking for things and people who serve US, we will live a great life of misery on this earth. If you follow my  blog, you know I have been there.  Both sides.  And if this is your first time reading, I invite you to browse around a bit. I PROMISE you, based on the life stories you will read here, the side of serving is WAY more rewarding than the side of always looking for someone to serve you or looking for things and others to make us happy. 

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45)

Jillian states that it is "you that tells people what your worth is"....this statement alone made me jump for joy that my worth is in Christ and Christ alone...amazingly, I don't need to tell anyone what my worth is.  I know because I am His.  Don't get me wrong, I am happy when my husband and kids acknowledge things that I have done, but even these three humans whom I adore don't define my worth and I feel zero desire to tell them what I am worth.  It isn't that I don't care what others think of me, I truly believe, as Christians we can't say, "I don't care if anyone likes me or not!".  But somehow, when I rest in knowing my worth is in my relationship with Christ, I take my feet out of the mud of proving my worth to others, and actually begin to see others appreciate me for who I am.

Believe it or not, I do agree with her last statement, though I can't say with what intent it was written.  You are a child of God, you were never intended for the clearance wrack, and if you believe that you are not valuable, then you are most certainly telling God Himself that He made junk.  If you can believe God made junk, then there is a lack of understanding there for who He actually is.

So for the wife or husband who just read "Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy", I say just the opposite.  Don't walk away! Fight, grow, learn and change to become more like the person Christ intended you to be! 

This message seems to promote the "It's All About Me" attitude that I could build my soapbox on.  It's not all about us folks, in fact, it's quite the opposite! It's about those around us, helping others, and choosing to NOT think so much of ourselves. It's about humbling ourselves and realizing the ONLY price tag that matters is the one He has given us.  It reads "Child of God- Paid in Full".  And that my friends, quite simply, is the only price tag we need!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Southern Deliverance

I guess if I am baring my soul on this blog, I will confess what those who know me best already know about me.  I never fit in too well in New England and never truly felt like I was able to be myself.

I read one book a day as a teenager, most involving romantic stories that would often take place on seaside Cape Cod homes or beautiful Colonial homes on huge pieces of property.  Having grown up in Florida, in my mind, I thought those four seasons were going to be so incredible.  And romantic? How romantic and cool and life changing would it be to go work for a publishing company which was something I had always wanted to do?

So I got the four seasons, and I got the Colonial on 2.5 acres, I got the weekends in Hyannis and I got the job with the publishing company...but I would speak, and The South would tumble out.  People made fun of my accent (which is funny, because people here don't even think I have one!).  And a rare few liked to talk.  Of course, mind you, my definition of talk is sit down, tell me your life story, I will tell you mine, and you had better have a lot of time on your hands..... because I LOVE to talk! I wish I didn't have such a memory for bad things that have happened to me, but I can distinctly remember people trying to get away from me because they just didn't really know what to make of this person who shared her whole life and didn't really hold back too much.

I was also never a fan of beating around the bush.  Once we were having a miniature crisis up there and I just went to the person involved and said, "Hey, come on, this needs to be done and it needs to be done now."  To which another person in the room responded, "Your delivery is absolutely horrible, you could have found a much better way around that to get the results we needed."  I remember thinking, how else can we get results if we don't just tell the person outright what is needed? Going AROUND something to get what was needed never really seemed like a great idea to me when there was a straight path right in front of us waiting to be used!

And for a long time I thought my delivery WAS horrible and doubted my own way of doing things.

Then we came here.  After my first hour here, I sat on the porch with some new friends, watching our children play in the yard, and these folks were telling me about the area as we looked out over the mountains in the distance.  They were telling me exactly how things were and I recall sitting on that porch grinning thinking "This is how it is supposed to be! This is real."  And for the first time I knew that I hadn't been wrong all those years, I had just been me living in a place I wasn't supposed to be.

This week I had the wonderful opportunity of traveling to North Carolina to visit a lifelong best friend while she was at her vacation home there.  As I was driving, I was on the phone with another friend who lives out West.  I needed to switch lanes on the interstate.  The second I put my blinker on, the person in the fast lane slowed down so I could get over.  Man, I just LOVE that!  And it happens here ALL of the time. The person on the phone with me said, "Wow, I don't even put my signal on out here because when you do, people purposely speed up and will never let you in!"

As I left North Carolina, I had to stop to fill the car up with gas first.  I was in such a hurry to get back here and pick the kids up from their after school activities, but, as happens in the The South, an old timer stopped me before I could even get the nozzle in my gas tank.

"Let me ask ya somethin'.  I see you got a West Virginia license plate there, you from West Virginia?"

"Yes sir." I said with a smile, even though my heart was racing inside because I knew what would come next, this old timer wanted to talk and what should have been a five minute stop at the gas station turned into an additional fifteen minute conversation about WV coal mines and old West Virginia license plates! (I know nothing about either topic!) Though my mind was racing with the responsibility of having to get to my kids, I just couldn't let the old timer down, for what he represented was what I love so much about The South.  The South is inherently kind, naturally giving, and even with its imperfections, as real as real can get. (Even the cop who would, thirty minutes later, write out my speeding ticket for driving too fast while trying to make up the time I lost with the old timer, was the kindest cop I had ever met and gave me that ticket with an APOLOGY that he had to give it to me!  I told him it was ok, it really wasn't his fault I was speeding!) But you know what, that old timer NEEDED to talk, and I understand that need.  Stopping and listening to him was worth every penny I will pay for that speeding ticket! (and let me tell you, that is A LOT of pennies!!!).

I am well aware that many of you reading this are from or living in, New England. Please don't misunderstand.  I met some of the most wonderful people there who I still keep in contact with today.  But life is just so unbelievably different here. And this life isn't for everyone.  God made us all different and He made a place for each of us as well.

I was recently doing some research on California towns as our nephew is moving and I was looking into where he is going.  I came across a town in California (and I wish I could find it now, but I couldn't find it when I went to write this blog) that calls itself "The Kindest Town In CA".  The towns website goes on to describe how they make kindness a priority every day and teach the importance of kindness in their schools. I hate the thought that this whole idea of being real and kind doesn't just come naturally, as if the town has to make a point of doing it, but at the same time, I am thrilled that someone recognized the need for it enough to base an entire town around it! I am dying to visit this place to see how it stacks up with The South I have grown to love so much for just this reason.

So what if we all decided to make every area of the worlds we touch today kinder and more real?  If we wanted to live in the kindest, most real town in America, wouldn't it have to start with us? How can I do that?  How can you do that?  Let's listen today when someone talks to us, really listen, and talk back for as long as they want to talk!  Let's allow someone to pull into traffic even if we are in such a hurry we think it will make us late. Give someone your parking space instead of rushing into it yourself...I could go on and on..any act of kindness, any act of being the real genuine you that God made you to be is showing Him honor and giving Him the glory!

Let me know how it works out for ya!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Funny Man

The other day I ran into our sons Spanish teacher.  I didn't introduce myself so much as I said "Watch out for that Lampert kid, he can be a handful!" (Ok, I have to stop here for a minute.  Contrary to popular belief, I do NOT think my children are perfect....that's their grandparents seriously, my next statement is a statement of fact, NOT the biased opinion of a mom).  Our son has been in trouble one time in school for defending himself against a bully.  There was a point in time where I found that I almost had to apologize for having well behaved kids. As I have mentioned before, my parents taught me how to behave, and that everything wasn't automatic, and we just passed that on to our kids. 

So anyway, his teacher looked at me and said "You know him?"  I fessed up that I was in fact his mom.

What the Spanish teacher said next really got me thinking.  He ran his hand in front of his face and, in his broken accent said, "Serious kid.  Serious face."

I was about to reply, "Oh no, you must be talking about someone else," when the teacher turned to my daughter, whom he knows, and said , "Should have known.  Same eyes as your brother."  We get this A LOT in our house, A LOT.  So much so that the kids sort of roll their eyes at it anymore.  But I knew with those words that we were in fact talking about the same boy.

Before I could say anything, my daughter said, "Serious?  My brother???  No WAY!"  But the teacher confirmed that he was in fact as serious as he could be in school.  I could attribute this to the fact that he isn't a big fan of school.  He was a huge fan of the whole homeschool routine when we did it.  Sleep in as late as you want, do your work in two hours a day, etc, etc.  He still makes straight A's, but a fan of school he is not.  He goes for one reason and one reason allows him to train for and play football eight months out of the year. I am convinced this is an inherited family trait passed on from my brother!

There's this magical thing that happens in our house.  At 3:15 on school days, our son turns into Kevin James, his acting hero.  He can act out all of "Here Comes the Boom" and "Zookeeper" (which happen to also be the only two Kevin James movies we have allowed him to watch) . I knew he had never been in real trouble at school, but what I did not realize was that he didn't let any of his teachers even see this hysterically funny side of him.  It saddened me a little bit because this kid has literally kept us cracking up since he was two and I caught him sitting in the middle of the kitchen table holding a chestnut over a lit Yankee candle at Christmas time.

"Oh my gosh son, what on earth are you doing???" I said as I yanked him off the table.

Tell me you can see this response coming from a mile away..."Roastin' chestnuts over a open fire momma!"

And from then on, the laughs have not stopped.

I voiced my concern to the Yankee over what the teacher said..does he hate school so much that he just doesn't want to be his funny self there?  You know, all those useless worry thoughts that just naturally go through a mommas head constantly?  I thought of all of them.

"Let's go with, he know how and when to behave properly."  The Yankee said.

Oh, yes, that makes sense.  Of course, the Yankee always makes logical sense, frustrating really :)

Then I felt blessed.  And I thanked God and I thanked our son when I saw him later that day.  For as much as I would love for him to hone his craft .....the one that he says will someday take him away from us and to Hollywood where he has been determined to go since he was five.....I feel like God must have given us the skills to do something right if this child, who loves so much to make people laugh, just automatically knows not to use the classroom as his audience.

And I don't think I care anymore if people accuse me of thinking our children are perfect.  I know my children aren't perfect because this home is where they get disciplined and I see each and every imperfect step they take. They will mess up in life, a lot probably, but my husband and I have one major responsibility with these kids God has blessed us with and that is to:

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

We are trying our best to do what God has called us to do, and no one should ever apologize for that!