Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Love Is Hard

Matthew 22:36-40

  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”


1 Corinthians 16:14

  Do everything in love.


For as long as I can remember, love has been overflowing in my life.  My parents loved a lot.  My grandparents loved a lot.  My extended family loves a lot.  My friends love a lot.  My kids love a lot.  My husband loves a lot.  I have always felt the love.  Of course there have been times when I have not, but I've never thought love was a difficult thing.  I've never thought of it as a sacrifice or a burden or anything other than wonderful.  I've never thought it as hard.  In fact, I oftentimes find myself bewildered and in a complete state of confusion at the hate that exists.  Then Saturday, I went to a funeral.  Every time I attend a funeral, I learn something or hear something in a different way.  At this particular service, there was much shared about love and acceptance and kindness given from the amazing woman who has passed; but there was one statement that stuck out to me.  It's one I've heard many times before and have even stated myself, but for some reason; it hit me differently this time.  As her grandson spoke so tenderly about his grandmother, he shared his truth.  He shared that grief was the debt we pay for love.  He shared that at some point, he would be able to celebrate the victory his granny had won; but it was not today....the pain was too much.  I know that feeling, I know it well.  The honesty in his words rang true and pierced my heart, but it mostly made me think.  Love is not always easy.  Sometimes loving people is very hard, and yes the grief we feel as a result of loss is the debt we pay for love.  As I thought about his words over the next few days, I realized that this is true in any sort of loss of relationship...whether it be by death, divorce, disagreement, gossip, abuse, etc.  I started thinking about relationships that have ended and exploring my feelings for the people involved.  And although I have forgiven many who have hurt me, I had to honestly ask myself if I loved them.  Although I do wish them well and would treat any of them kindly,  I honestly had to come to the realization that there are some that I do not feel any sort of love towards.  In fact, there are some that I would be okay never associating with again, and there are some that I no longer associate; and I'm okay with that.  So today I start asking God to soften my heart and to allow me to genuinely and unconditionally show, not only kindness, but also love to relationships that are lost....even those I may never see again. A truth for me is that it may be easier to show love to someone I've just met than to someone who has hurt me in the past.  I guess that takes more work than I realized, and I guess love is not as easy as I thought; but I know God will be working. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Life Ever After

Sunday I had to dig through some stuff and find a death certificate for my mom.  When I pulled it out of the envelope and saw that it was one of two left, I had this weird feeling of not wanting to let it go.  I read it over a few times and found myself saying "Three years, already?" On May 5th, my mom will have been gone from this earth for 3 years.  Sometimes it seems like a lot longer but usually it just feels like a few days ago.  I still have such vivid memories of her last few months alive.  It's such an odd feeling not having my parents here with me.  Although I'm surrounded by people who love me, I oftentimes find myself feeling very alone.  God always reassures me, but I guess it's that empty place in my heart that leaves me feeling that way.  Things come along, like Mother's Day or Father's Day or Grandparents' Day; and life is bittersweet.  My children don't have any of their grandparents living, and that breaks my heart every time I think about it.  My grandparents were such instrumental and encouraging people in my life, and so were my children's; but they aren't here.  I believe that they are watching and are present in spirit, and that is what brings me comfort.  Sometimes I have to talk to myself and remind myself how wonderful it is that they are in heaven.  I don't doubt for one second that it is wonderful and that is where the peace comes from.  The grief and pain are always there....always....but they are more manageable when I am reminded of this life after earth, this life ever after, this life with Jesus!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Behold how He loved him!


Today Elliot read me the story of Lazarus in the book of John.  I've heard this story many many times before.  I've studied Mary and Martha.  I've even studied the book of John several times as it is one of my favorites.  But today as she read, I took notice of some words that I don't remember before..."Behold how He loved him!"  Jesus wept, not because of Lazarus's death; because He knew He was going to raise Lazarus back to the living.  He wept, because of the mourning and heartbreak of those who loved Lazarus....particularly his sisters, Mary and Martha.  I have thought about those two words, "Jesus wept", often as I've contemplated Jesus feeling sadness for us which I believe He does.  But I've never paid close attention to the words that followed, "Behold how He loved him!"  The Jews believed that Jesus was weeping, because Lazarus was dead which as I mentioned above was not the case.  They believed his weeping was a sign of his love for Lazarus, and yes Jesus did love Lazarus; but he also knew Lazarus would be raised.  As I read those words, I was reminded how death whether it be actual physical or by broken relationship or illness or any other way; and the grief we feel as a result is also a result of the love we shared.  "Behold how He loved him!"  Words like these have been in my heart several times as I've lost people I love so very much, yet I am just now noticing them for the first time in The Bible.  I've been thinking about and missing my parents so much, and isn't it awesome how God orchestrated this time on this day for me to take notice of these words?  These words that are a peaceful reminder of love.

Friday, March 24, 2017

FIVE CHILDREN



I have five children.  Although there are times when that feels like a lot of people, in all honesty I don't think five children is a lot.  I don't think a family of 7 is ginormous unless you are waiting to use the one tiny downstairs bathroom in the house.  If you think about it, five is one more than four and two more than three.  Now ten....that's a lot!!  When they were all little, it looked like a lot of people when we would go somewhere; and we would get all sorts of comments...some kind, some not.  Now that they are big, it looks like I'm hanging out with a bunch of friends and one 10 year old. Yes I know the average cost of raising a child is in the several hundred thousands, yes that's true; so one or two additional may have a profound financial impact.  In fact, I know it does.  For example, we have never flown anywhere all together.  In fact, Addi is the only Payne child who has ever been on a plane. We have a difficult time finding affordable places to stay that allow five children, going out to an "inexpensive" dinner is usually not really that "inexpensive", buying good tennis shoes for five is pricey, compact car is not an option, and I could go on; but there are also other profound impacts of having a house full of children.  They always have someone to hang out with, chores can be done much faster, car ride is never boring, they learn so much from each other, lots of stuff to share, many people to laugh with and cry with, but mostly so much love given and received.  Of course they don't always get along, but that's true in most families whether there's 2 or 10.  One thing I believe is this:  if you're thinking about adding another to your family, do it....you may always regret not adding one, but I bet you will never regret it if you do.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

To Love Like That

Last week was our spring break, and I was home for about 48 hours total for the entire week.  I did a lot of driving.  I took my 16 year old, Drew, and her friend Riley to Asheville North Carolina to visit their friend Ruby.  Asheville is like being in another world.  It was very different than Grapevine Texas.  Their adorable little house is in the mountains, and their adorable little town is quirky and endearing.  There are many homeless people in Asheville, and there are equally as many or more people there who come to their aid.  Every day that we walked by the park in the middle of the city, there was some sort of gathering where homeless people were being ministered to, through food or music or words.  It was heartwarming.  We visited the most adorable bookstore a few times, and I think I might go there every day if I lived there.  And then the dogs....dogs are welcome everywhere, and I mean every single place you go....even church.  We attended a church service unlike any I've ever attended before.  It was enlightening and uncomfortable at the same time.  There were many different types of people (and dogs) in attendance, and it was nice to be in a place where everyone was welcomed by everyone.  From the moment we sat down, I noticed this sweet little family.  I watched and listened to them nearly the entire service.  There was an expectant mother,  a teenage girl and another woman all who were white; and an adorable little boy who was black.  He was about 6 years old and very active.  His mama kept looking back at him as he lay in the aisle coloring to ensure that he wasn't misbehaving.  At first his focus seemed to jump from place to place and so did he, but after about 10 minutes; he settled into his coloring.  I kept finding myself staring at him in his bright yellow sweater and rain boots.  His skin was perfect and so was his beautiful curly hair.  As I watched him color, the sweetest thing happened.  He gently took the hand of the teenage girl, who was sitting in a chair beside him, and stroked his cheek with her hand.  Then he just held it gently to his cheek with his eyes closed and savored her touch.  She had been journaling and noticed his gesture with a sweet smile and then she reached down and tenderly kissed the top of his head.  No words were spoken, but their love was strong and so very evident.  There were no color barriers or age barriers or gender barriers, there was just love.  It was pure and whole and just like Jesus's love. Someday I pray our entire world will have a love like that.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lent

Yesterday I asked a dear friend what she was giving up for Lent.  She said, "Oh I don't give anything up, because I can never stick to it.  I always take something on."  I have done both in the past....given up and taken on, and I had decided to do both simultaneously this year.  I have been contemplating what to give up, because I wanted it to be something hard.  I had almost decided on giving up all sugar, but since yesterday I've been rethinking that decision.  I have thought a lot about my friend's answer, because she is truly one of the most selfless and serving people I've ever met.  I respect her 110%, and I know her decision is from a place of purity and honesty and knowing her strengths.  After meditating on this and praying, I've decided not to give up sugar.  Some people may think this is a cop out.  Deep down I know that I wouldn't stick to this wholeheartedly, and it wouldn't be hard in a "growing closer to Jesus kind of way" but more of in an "irritating and annoyed kind of way"; so I changed my mind.  Instead I'm taking more on.  My family had already decided some things we were taking on together and individually, as well as, some thing we were giving up; but I'm taking on more in my own way as well.  It will be something small every day, something medium every week and something large a several times over the next 40 days.  When we were discussing this tonight after church,  I felt the fire burning inside my spirit; and the longing for Jesus even more.  I think this is the goal for the Lenten season and really for all of our seasons....a burning inside and longing for Jesus!

Friday, March 3, 2017

March 3rd....The Best Day of 1997!!

Happy TWENTIETH Birthday to my first born, Addison Jo Payne! You were the one who started it all, my wonderful journey into motherhood. Life changed so much the minute you were born, and I've felt it all: hard, easy, happy, sad, best, worst, success, failure, confused, confident; but most of all a love like I had never known and so much joy. I remember holding you in my arms and weeping as I stared at your face for weeks after you were born. How could I love someone so much it literally brought me to tears. I remember calling my own mother and saying, "WOW!! YOU LOVE ME A LOT!" I really had no idea how much I was loved until you came into my life. You are quiet, hysterically funny, witty, smart, creative, generous....oh so generous, wise beyond your years, understanding, patient, kind and beautiful. Your heart is good. Your soul is good. Your spirit is good. You are good! You make my life better, and I'm glad God has let me borrow you for these past 20 years. Your pain is my pain. Your joy is my joy. Your sorrow is my sorrow. Your happiness is my happiness. I adore you to infinity and beyond! TWENTY....wow....I still can't believe it!!! What in the world? ;) Now let's party like it's 1999, or 1997 or 2017!!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Be In The Moment!


I was sitting in my car waiting for E to get out of her class today when this mama and her 2 young daughters pulled up next to me. I had the windows rolled down, so I could hear them talking as they got out of their car. The oldest little girl hurried out with her supplies in tow while her little sister (maybe 4 years old) lingered. Their mama was a little exasperated, I could tell it had been one of those days. She was rushing the littlest girl out of the car. When the sweet little thing got out, she was smiling and cuddling her baby doll. The oldest little girl turned to her sister and in a very irritated tone said, "Where's your stuff?" The little sister's smile started to fade. Then the mama harshly said, "You mean you didn't bring your stuff?" She had a scowl and a very irritated look on her face as well. The youngest sister hugged her baby doll close and started to quietly cry. 
As I watched this scene, it took me back. That season of a lot of littles was tiring and exasperating and hurried. I don't mean as in "in a hurry" (although that was true too), but instead I'm referring to it went by so fast. There were days when I hurried everything along just to get to the end. I remember times I lost my temper because we were running late or someone forgot their soccer cleats or underwear (true story), or didn't want to stop playing and had a tantrum. I remember going to bed many nights feeling like I failed hard that day.
Then one night, while rocking my 3rd baby, when she was a few months old; I made the conscious decision to be in the moment...the hard, the exhausted, the exasperated, the hurried, whatever it was...I wanted to savor it all. I'll be the first to admit that I am not a friendly person when someone wakes me in the middle of the night. In fact, once my kids figured this out; they would walk right past me to their ever so calm and patient daddy to help them get back to sleep. But this night, this sweet night; I remember looking at her sweet newborn face and thinking how grateful I was to have these treasured moments alone, even being exhausted out of my mind. Being the third, moments alone with her didn't happen often and were hard to come by. That night I realized that she too would soon be a toddler like her big brother and sister. 
From that night forward, I have made it a priority to find something every day to be grateful for. I get up daily and thank God for another wake up, and I give it my best effort to be in the moment. I still fail at this on a regular basis, but I am also very aware when I fail because of that decision I made that sweet night 16 years ago. When I'm failing, that decision helps me say, "I'm sorry I got upset with you. I'm sorry I lost my temper." That decision helps me tune in and really listen when I ask how their day was, and they actually say something besides "Fine." That decision helped me to slow down and let them play a little longer and give them grace when we showed up to dance class late with no tap shoes. That decision helped me to think before over reacting. That decision led me to walking with them instead of just walking beside them. As my children have grown and are growing, I still fail at being in the moment. I still fail at being grateful. I still fail as a mama, but I am acutely aware when I do. And because I learned to give them grace and look them in the eyes and tell them they are forgiven, they always do the same for me; and then we move forward and try again.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

PEACE

Life feels heavy and hard, and I've had a headache for three weeks.  I can't decide if it's due to allergies, the crazy Texas weather, too much sugar, lack of sleep or worse.  I saw my doctor this week, and thankfully all my tests seemed to have improved. However he did mention a few times that I have a vascular disease and how imperative it is that I stay on my medication, so the thought of another stroke is always in the back of my mind. UGH!! I begrudgingly agreed to try another medication for arthritis pain as well.  I'm not a fan of medication and have tried to avoid it as much as possible, but the pain is winning....I'm becoming defeated by it which may be another cause of the lingering headache.
I know that stress plays a large part in the headaches and even the pain.  Seasons of stress come and go, and I usually let it get the best of me when there are many heavy things happening; and right now...there are. 
I'm out of place where I am, and I keep trying to force myself to fit.  Sometimes I can maneuver and force my piece into the puzzle but more often than not, I just cannot make myself fit.  When this happens, I look around and take note.  I plead with God to guide me, give me peace where I am, to be gentle with others, to keep His light shining within me; and to be in the moment.  But oftentimes I fail, but especially when life feels heavy and hard. Then comes the guilt of taking things for granted, of not being as grateful as I should when there are people all over the world suffering things that I cannot even imagine.  The terrible things that are happening to people all over the world.  The suffering that is going on in my own neighborhood. This is a paralyzing state for me, and I feel helpless.  Why is my heart so heavy when my life is good?
Last night I lay awake in the middle of the night thinking about the world...the beautiful world that God created, the beautiful people that God created, my life and choice to be a christian.  Then I think about the arguing and ugliness over things I cannot grasp. I don't understand the arguing, the name calling and disrespect when there are people dying of starvation, people being sold into sex trafficking, people suffering terrible terrible loss.
In this beautiful world, where we are suppose to love each other as Jesus loved us (or at least try to); why are we acting this way? Why aren't we embracing each other?  Why can't I fit my piece into the puzzle?  As I lay there with my face buried in my pillow sobbing, I realized maybe not fitting in is a good thing?  Maybe I need to stop trying to force myself into a society I don't often understand? Maybe it's okay that I don't fit?  Maybe it's okay if I don't have the answers in my head and heart?  Maybe instead of being paralyzed by not solving it all, I should do what I've always done and just do something? One thing?  A few things?  That's what Jesus is for...He has all the answers.  He always shows me the way if I take the time to listen.  And then it came....peace!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5th....The Best Day of 2001!

Happy 16th Birthday to Drew Michelle Payne aka Drewby Lou. My smack dab in the middle, quiet, brilliant, vegetarian, thrifty, organic, deep thinker. The girl, who declared herself, "a tomboy who likes to wear dresses" when she was 4. The girl, who use to sit out under our tree, with handpicked flowers thinking about how to make the world a better place. The girl, who loves sleep, and asked me after her first full week of kindergarten; "You mean I have to go back? I'm exhausted." The girl who stays true to herself and has one of the kindest hearts I know. My observant, shy child who doesn't like any attention...even when it is well deserved. You are the child, who taught me about being in the moment and loving the simple life. When you were five I asked you what extra curricular activity you wanted to do, and you looked down at me (from that tree you had just climbed) and replied; "I just wanna be a kid."
You are a fantastic artist and a gifted writer. Hopefully someday you will share these beautiful gifts with others, because I promise you someone will benefit greatly from them. Being a teenager is hard, and you are doing it very thoughtfully and with integrity. Keep loving animals, music, nature, books, coffee, thrift stores, art, writing giving all the glory to GOD; and you will be a-okay! You're a world changer Drew Payne, and I adore you!