Sunday, December 4, 2016

Jesus Is The Reason For The Season...All Four Of Them!!

I am not a big fan of the Christmas season.  If you have read my blog for a while or know me personally, you probably already know this.  I love Jesus, and I love birthdays; so Jesus' birthday is simply the brightest day of the year for me.  However for years, I've struggled with the true reason for Christmas being lost somewhere in all the hustle and bustle. I am self admittedly overwhelmed by busyness. There are so many wonderfully good things to do this time of year, and it can be so hard to say no....especially when you live smack dab in the middle of "The Christmas Capital of Texas".  But over the years, saying no has been the best thing we've done, in many aspects of life, but especially during Advent.  If I'm completely honest, I must admit that I've never been that into Christmas...even as a child. I was terrified of Santa, and the thought of him coming into the house was more terrifying than exciting. I never jumped up on Christmas morning to rush in and see what Santa left under the tree.  I always waited cautiously for my parents to come lead me into the living room, because I didn't want to accidentally run into SC.  The overall expectations during the holiday season were always stressful for me, and the focus was always on doing and going. In my childhood home, we really didn't talk about Jesus being the reason for the season. My parents were CEO church goers aka Christmas and Easter only, but we rarely did we ever go on Christmas.  I guess that makes them EO church goers.  In total contrast to my lack luster feelings surrounding Christmas, my mama loved Christmas.  She loved everything about it: the gift giving, the decorating, the tree was probably her favorite (it always had to be flocked); and of course Santa.  We went to visit Santa every year as long as I can remember, although I really didn't have any desire to do so.  I actually stopped believing in Santa in about 2nd grade, and I was honestly relieved.  When I was a teen, my dad, who was not as into Christmas as my mama, but was sort of a long for the ride; told me a story about a childhood memory of his at Christmas.  He was the second youngest of 8 in a very poor family, and his mama had died when he was 23; and I was one.  I never knew her. One Christmas when he was a little boy and anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa, his parents gathered their children on Christmas morning to tell them that Santa wasn't able to come; because he just couldn't see their little tiny house.  It was just too dark, and he just flew right over it.  My dad was very matter of fact when he told me that story, but I could see the impact that particular Christmas had had on him.  He never told me any other stories about Christmas from his childhood. Although the disappointment of not having a gift from Santa may have passed, I think it was eventually replaced with the realization that his parents just didn't have the money to buy their children anything for Christmas. That story has always resonated deeply within my heart and soul, and I'll never forget the look in his eyes when he told it.  Years later when I was a new young mother with a few small children, I vividly remember a conversation I had with my mama.  We were discussing the holidays and the things we were committed to, things she and my dad were committed to, and things we were planning to do together.  I had been very intentional on trying to keep things minimal as I was already self admittedly overwhelmed by busyness and now had added children to the mix. Honestly my kids didn't need another thing to do or play with either.  As I was listing the few things we were planning to enjoy as a family, one of them was church on Christmas Eve.  I remember her saying, "You spend too much time at church. When are we going to open gifts? Have you taken the kids to see Santa?"  After a few attempts in years prior, which resulted in terrified children in tears, I really didn't have a visit to Santa in my plans.  I had sort of figured if we were out and about and saw Santa somewhere, maybe we would attempt to sit in his lap again. If it worked out great, if it didn't; oh well.   But when she asked me about Santa, I remember thinking...hmmmm...I guess I should ask them if they want to go see Santa instead of assuming they don't.  I simply replied with, "No we haven't made it to see Santa.  I'm not sure if we will try it this year or not".  As we hung up the phone, her words lingered in my mind for days.  Did we spend too much time at church?  Is there such a thing as too much time at church?  I was working in the nursery then and also at the preschool, so we did spend a lot of time at church.  For the next week or so, I watched my children every time we went to church to see if they seemed like they had "too much church".  Lo and behold, they didn't.  They actually seemed very happy at church.  I asked them if they wanted to go see Santa, lo and behold they didn't....not even a little bit.
 I have thought back on my childhood a lot in recent years, and oddly I did love many things about Christmas.  As a child, my favorite part of Christmas was the time we spent at my grandparents' farm in west Texas.  We didn't go every year, but we did go often.  I was an only child and both of my parents' families lived in the same small town in west Texas.  My mamaw was the one who taught me about Jesus and about why we celebrate Christmas.  Maybe it was her simple and gentle demeanor, or maybe it was her lovingly confident way she always spoke; but I loved listening to her talk about her faith.  It was something that I longed for as a little girl....that joy, that confidence, that kind of relationship.  My mamaw and papaw had a tiny table top Christmas tree every year.  It was silver with a few decorations on it, and it was one of my favorite things in the whole world. It was simple and gentle like she was.  Doing Christmas up big is amazing, and I have done it up big many times.  I admire those who decorate to the max.  I think it's beautiful, and my eyes thank you for it.  But for me at this stage in life, it's something I said no to a long time ago.  Someday we may deck the halls to the max once again, but for now; this is how we roll.  I donated most of my decorations a few years ago, and I let my children utilize what we have left if they choose to. We have a simply decorated tree, our stockings; and we hang up our Christmas cards. Anything extra is up to them.
As for my mama, she was raised a christian; and she believed in the birth of Jesus.  Due to some other circumstances in her life, she didn't regularly attend church for most of her adultlife; but she was always a believer.  My mama was a wonderfully generous soul.  She loved giving and serving and did so with such joy, and she loved her family.  Deep down inside she knew faith and works go hand in hand. As my family grew, and my children grew; she saw how important our church family was to us and them.  As a result, she grew deeply in her faith and restored her relationship with Jesus.  Later in life, she always looked forward to attending Christmas Eve church service with us when her health allowed.
My grandmother's faith was instrumental in influencing my own faith.  Her utmost love for Jesus and the joy that lived inside her because of Him was definitely one of the reasons I wanted my children to love going to church.  I know many christians who don't attend church, who are strong in their relationship with the Lord; and I know that attending church doesn't define someone as a person of faith.  For me, it was the best place to start to learn and grow in my own relationship. Isn't it wonderful how God works...my mother's mother was my biggest spiritual influence as a child, which in turn guided me to want my children to grow spiritually, and all circled around when my children's spiritual growth had such an impact on my own mother. God is always working.  He is always bringing something good out of every circumstance.  We still spend a lot of time at church during Advent, and there are so many things I love about Advent.  We also spend a lot of time at church throughout the rest of the year, because really, when you think about it....Jesus is the reason for the season....all 4 of them!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

WISE WORDS

One of the best pieces of wisdom I've heard is this:  If you're feeling down, go find someone to serve.  I cannot tell you how true this wisdom has been for me.  I have shared this wisdom with my family, my friends and anyone who will listen.  I understand that there are very legitimate reasons to feel down, believe me, I understand...especially during the holiday season.  However I also understand, from putting this advice into practice, that it is some of the truest wisdom I've ever heard.  Serving can manifest itself in many different ways.  Sometimes it can be intentionally praying for someone who needs prayer.  Sometimes it can be inviting someone into your home for a meal.  Sometimes it can be mowing your neighbor's grass just to help her out.  Sometimes it can be providing food donations at a food bank. Sometimes it can be gathering a group of volunteers to do repairs in someone's home. Sometimes it can be teaching children how to play the drums at VAST.  Sometimes it can be doing the dishes when it's not your dish night. Sometimes it can be sending that hand written card you've been meaning to send. Sometimes it can be looking someone in the eye, taking their hand in yours and truly listening when they need someone to listen.   Jesus calls us to serve humbly in His name, every day, not just when we feel like it or it's easy.  In all honesty, sometimes the last thing I want to do when I'm struggling is serve. When I first heard these wise words and started to put this advice into practice, it definitely helped put things in perspective.  It didn't erase my sorrows but did help me focus more on gratitude. Although there is a time for sadness and despair, there is also a time for joy and rejoicing. I pray that this nugget of knowledge will help us remember to praise God in our storms....especially during the holiday season.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  Mark 10:45

There’s a season for everything
    and a time for every matter under the heavens:     
 a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
    a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,    
 a time for killing and a time for healing,
    a time for tearing down and a time for building up,    
 a time for crying and a time for laughing,
    a time for mourning and a time for dancing,     
 a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
    a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,   
  a time for searching and a time for losing,
    a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,    
 a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
    a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,   
  a time for loving and a time for hating,
    a time for war and a time for peace.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

ELECTION 2016

I'm not a political person....I'm not even sure what that means except that I am just not that into politics.  I'm just not.  I have a lot of faults and one of them is not being in the "know" about many things government related.  Now I could try to explain this, and I have spent some time recently trying to explain this to myself.  I've come to this conclusion....I stopped watching the news and reading the paper many many years ago.  It was right after the Oklahoma City Bombing, because I found myself consumed with sadness and fear and falling into a deep state of depression.  This has kept me out of the "know" for a long time.  However now there's social media, and I could be in the "know" about government related things if I chose to.  How accurate and truthful the information is...well that could be argued both ways.  However I am still not in the "know", and admittedly this is mainly by choice.  As I've thought about this over the last few months, I have thought a lot about my family.  My papaw and mamaw were die hard democrats.  In fact, my papaw was an elected official for as long as I can remember.  He served as county clerk and then county judge in his community.  My mama, their daughter, was a very much a republican; although she may have voted democrat at some point in her life....but I would be surprised.  They were all 3 some of the most influential people in my life for many reasons, but politics wasn't one of them; or maybe it was??  Growing up, I didn't understand the differences between democrats and republicans.  All I knew was there was a donkey and an elephant involved, and every time my papaw won an election; my mama would take him another donkey.  This wasn't for lack of my mom trying....believe me, she told me all about what it meant to be a democrat and a republican. I remember many intense discussions between my mama and her parents over this topic, and I remember feeling uncomfortable; because I am NOT A FAN OF CONFRONTATION...even a little bit.  My mama....oh she was a big fan of confrontation....and was not one to let her views lie unheard.  However I never remember their conversations being hateful or rude or egotistical.  They were matter of fact, respectful, and always ended with agreeing to disagree.   As I grew older and approached voting age, I started paying attention a little bit more to politics; so I could make informed decisions.  Honestly I don't really pay that much attention to who is running for office until it gets right down to it, and then....I will start doing my research.  Like many, I have certain things that I really want to go a certain way.  These are the things I look at first...which way does each candidate lean?  How do they plan on approaching these things?  How will it benefit or not benefit our nation and our world?  Then I try to listen to the rest.  However this election....it took it out of me.  I could barely start to research Clinton or Trump without all sorts of information spewing out.  I'll admit that I might have voted for someone in the past to try to keep someone else out of office, but usually I felt very confident in my choice.  This time....I did not.  Right up until I went to the polls and had the voting sheet in front of me, I wasn't sure what to do; but I cast my vote. It wasn't democrat or republican, but I was confident in my candidate.  Honestly if the line had been long, and I didn't have my adult daughter with me who wanted to vote in her first election; I would have turned around and come home.
As a Christian, I 100% believe that God is in control; and that He will bring good.  It is up to us to find the good, share the good,  love and serve Him by loving and serving others. I do find myself losing a little faith in mankind, from time to time, but I never lose faith in JESUS!   So no matter if you woke up with a big smile on your face or swollen eyes, remember who has our back!  Love like He loves us, and everything will be okay!

Monday, November 7, 2016

All Saints Day...Russ!

I've had a lot on my heart, my mind, my hands.  I know that if I don't write it down right that minute, it will never get written; so much of it will never get written.  This time of year takes me back to the death of my dad.  Today is the anniversary of his death 11 years ago.  So much of that time is a blur, but the things I remember were meant to be remembered and to bring me encouragement and peace. Yesterday in church we honored our saints for All Saints Day.  The first song played was "I'll Fly Away".  I immediately smiled and looked at my husband, and he knew what I was thinking.  We played that song at my dad's funeral on Nov. 11, 2005.  My dad was the greatest.  He was funny and kind and tender.  He had his faults and was not perfect, but really he was just the best I could have ever hoped for in a father.   I miss him like crazy, and I really miss him like crazy for his grandkids.  He was such a great Papa.  When he was diagnosed with lung cancer that summer, it had already spread to his brain and bones.  It was only a few short months later that he passed.  It's such an odd feeling trying to prepare yourself to say goodbye to someone, who is one of the biggest pieces of your life,  all the while trying to hold on to some hope that things will change all in a few short months.  The first time I saw him seize and then scream out in pain, I knew time remaining with him was short.  As hard as it was, I was so very thankful that I was there when he died.  I have found myself getting in a funk sometimes when I think about my kids without grandparents and Neil and I without parents, but God continues to give me peace and show me the blessings we have in our lives because of our saints.  Thanks Be To God!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Would I Change Him?

Lately I've had some ask me about my son, Callahan.  They want to know more about him, they want to know more about autism, they want to know more about Fragile X.  People are curious, because there's so much unknown that encircles autism.  When he was little, things were difficult.  I don't remember every single day being hard, but I remember a lot of the hard days.  However I remember rejoicing in the milestones and the firsts too, maybe even more than I remember them for the girls. As he has gotten older, things have gotten so much easier.  Transitions are easier for him, conversations are easier for him, people are easier for him.  I don't know if life is easier for him, or if he just copes better.  Sometimes I think life may be more difficult now, because I know that he knows he's different.  I remember someone once telling me about a class where professionals would help us learn how to explain to our special needs son that he was different and why.  I also remember thinking how ridiculous that was, because I thought he would never understand that or even realize that he was different.  Then one summer day while we were swimming (something I never thought he would do), it happened:  he walked over to me, looked thoughtfully into my eyes and asked, "What do I have?"  I immediately felt that tug at my heart and my eyes well up as I tried to decipher just what he was asking me...even though I knew exactly what he was asking.  He stared at me with a questioning look and expression of concern.  I took a deep breath and gave him the answer that I use to give the girls and other kids when they would ask me about Cal.  I said, "You have autism.  It means your brain works differently."  He stared at me a minute, nodded his head and jumped back into the pool.  My head immediately started to pound, and I fought back tears for a long time while I watched him play.  I was wrong....he did know that he was different.  Not long after that, I read "The Reason I Jump"; and I became acutely aware that my son probably understood much more than I had ever given him credit.  There were parts of that book that brought me joyful tears, and there were parts that brought me tears of sorrow; but the book was extremely insightful.  I have always been careful not to talk about Cal as if he is not present, just like I would not talk about my "typical" girls as if they weren't present.  Sometimes when he hears a conversation involving him, I can tell by the look on his face that he is listening intently; and I always steer it towards being appropriate for his ears.  Oftentimes, he will ask me about it afterwards, and I always answer him as honestly as I can.  Lately I've had a few ask me if I could, would I change Cal?  I've thought about this a lot, and I know most are wondering about the diagnosis and not the person he is.  One thing I know is this:  I want Cal to be happy, just like I want my "typical" children to be happy.  I know this is a very ambiguous answer, but that's because I feel like it would be very selfish of me to say yes I would change him when he is happy; but I also feel like it would be very selfish of me to say no I wouldn't change him if he is not.  Cal is a wonderful young man, and I'm not just saying that because he's my son.  Ask anyone who knows him, and they will agree.  He is very loved and very good at loving others.  And for now, he is happy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

September 28th....The Best Day of 2003!!

Happy 13th BDay Bryna Mae Payne. B-Nut, you're finally a teenager! My wild child who looks like one grandmother and is the life of the party like the other grandmother. They are looking down on you and smiling big today! We let Addi and Drew choose your name, and they chose the best name for you. Bryna which means "strong one" or "hope" was the perfect name for you, since you spent your first 8 days of life very sick in the NICU! Mae is lovingly after your 2 great grandmothers. You are so much fun and always so comfortable in who you are. We love that you smile so big your eyes squint up where we can hardly see them. We love that you keep music and dancing alive in our house every day. We love that you have the sweetest heart. We love that you are ours. Keep those creative juices flowing, keep smiling, keep dancing, and keep loving so big. I would say dance like no one is watching, but you always did like an audience.  ;) I adore you my sweet teenager. Happiest of days!!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

COLOR

Black, white, grey, orange, blue, red, purple, yellow, turquoise, brown, green, pink....and so on and so on.  Colors....they make things so lovely in our world.  Don't ya think?  In some parts of the world, colors can change the looks of things, depending on the season:  when grass goes from emerald green to light gold, or leaves turn orange and yellow?  What about the sky?  Texas has beautiful skies.  Some nights the sunset is the orangest of oranges, and some nights it's purple or pink.  On clear days, it's the loveliest of blues.  Then there's things like hair color: mine happens to be red in a house full of dark dark browns and blondes.  What about flowers?  I bet there's at least one flower from every part of the color wheel in the world.  Oh and of course animals, from black & white zebra stripes to brown & yellow giraffe spots to the most colorful of parrots.  Think about all the ways color adds beauty to our earth, and how well it all works together.  I think people are the same.  We are individual and unique and beautiful.  We add beauty to our earth by our colorful physical attributes.  I hope that someday we can all add beauty to our earth by the way we love,  and that we can work together the way it was intended.  I hope that people will be embraced and appreciated for what they are...another of God's beautiful creations.

UNCONDITIONAL

It was about 10 years ago when they became friends. They were in 2nd grade when these 2 boys approached their teacher and suggested that they be Cal's helpers in the class. She told Neil and I that she thought peers would be very successful with Cal in the classroom. He didn't know how to read, and she was having a challenging time trying to keep him engaged during the required 3o minutes of silent reading each day. We thought this sounded like an awesome plan. She was right, and Cal's first friendships were made. What started as reading buddies has grown into so much more. He was never invited to many birthdays, social events, sleepovers or parties. But over these past 10 years, these 2 boys have loved my boy unconditionally. They aren't embarrassed or annoyed by his quirkiness and his gazillion questions. They have embraced him and encouraged him, and he has learned a lot from them...like how to play baseball which he loves and how to be a friend. This year, they are seniors. They will all walk across the stage in June, and two of them will get their diplomas; and go on to college. My boy will start his years in transition, and receive his diploma few years later; and who knows...maybe he will go to college after that. He does keep asking us about college. Today, between their busy senior year schedules, we got together for about an hour to take some photos. It was like watching those three 2nd grade boys all over again. And when I was driving home thinking about these 3 and how us 3 mamas would clear our schedules and sit down together to look at these photos and probably cry, I cried all the way home. Cal just sat quietly and let me cry, and he didn't ask me one question. When I got home, I got the text that said, "I cried all the way home thinking about the sweetness of these boys." And I smiled and cried a little more. I think most parents want their kids to have good friends, to be encouraged, to be accepted. I have wanted that so much, it has made my heart physically ache at times. And although it hasn't always been that way for Cal, I can say that it has been since 2nd grade.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Growing Up

My eyes popped open, and I sat up in bed.  I don't remember what I was dreaming, but I remember thinking....she was a little girl just a few days ago and now she's not.  I remember the dream was about Drew.  Maybe it was because we had been watching old family videos where everyone was so little, or maybe it was because a picture of 2 year old Drew showed up in my Time Hop. Maybe it was because we've been discussing college options and with her and teaching her to drive.   I don't know why this particular dream was about just her, when they are all getting big.  What I know is that life was busy and full and hard and fun and challenging when there were 5 who were 9 and under. Although many things are easier now, there's still hard and challenging; and there's still fun and full.  Watching them grow into adults and have to make decisions is exciting and overwhelming.  Now, more than ever, I find myself questioning my parenting and praying I've done a good job.  I want them to be happy, kind, loving and productive people who give back and are grateful.  Puberty is hard, adulting is hard, growing up is hard.  I am thankful for these people put in my care, and I pray that they will learn gentleness, patience, peacefulness, self control, loveliness, kindness, goodness, joy and faithfulness through me. Galatians 5:22-25  Lord...hear my prayer.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Lean In!

This time last year was difficult....so difficult.  Although the story is not mine to tell, I can tell you that my heart was breaking.  This year things are soooo much better....sooooo much!  I almost hesitate to write that or say that or share that, because of that old worry about jinxing something that's going good.  What I really need to say is this....time can heal and in time, things can become new again.  I believe this with all my heart, however....I don't think time works alone.  I think the key to allowing time to run its course is leaning into God so much that there is nowhere else to go.  Leaning in and trusting with your whole being is the hardest thing in the world...especially when you want things to go much faster or much different.  I've known for a long time that I am not in control, but I still try to make things go the way I think they should.  Over the last few years, I've seen that oftentimes they won't.  Sometimes this doesn't make sense, and I'll admit that I still don't understand many things; but I do see something good in every circumstance.  Sometimes God is saving me from someone else, and sometimes God is saving me from myself.  Either way....HE KNOWS WHAT HE'S DOING, and I am thankful.