Friday, October 28, 2011

Seasons

Hello, everyone!  Did you wake up this morning (at least in Central Texas) to a chill in the air?  It gives me such a jolt of energy when the weather changes!  There is just something joyful about a change of season.  Summer’s carefree pool days and aimless afternoons eventually wear on our sun-kissed skin and our routine-starved souls.  It’s amazing to me, but even good things can become tiresome things in big doses!  Isn’t God gracious to give us a change now and then?  Isn’t it comforting to know that there truly is a time for every purpose under the heavens? 

 As many of you have noticed, I have experienced a “season” of staying out of the cyber-world…as is evidenced by the date of my last post!  I think that those of you who are still hanging on and checking my blog now and then deserve an update!  Let me say up front that I am grateful to those who have checked on me and who have encouraged me to get to writing again.  I have not stopped for a lack of ideas or for a lack of desire.  My hiatus was simply this: I was in a different season for a while. 

As more and more time passed since my last post, I fretted over it a bit.  Many had told me that once I started this blog, I had to keep it going or I would lose my readership.  But, God reassured me by His Spirit.  If it is HIS thing anyway, what difference would time make?  This whole endeavor has been HIS idea, and He is bound to do with it what He wills.  So, I am confident that the best thing I could have done was to ride out my life’s seasons with purpose, joy, and peace…all the while hoping that God would bring back the inspiration and the time to write when He saw fit. 

I want to let you in on a great little secret: God may push the “pause” button in one area of life for a while, but that only means He has something else for you to do in another area!  When we are turned toward spiritual things, there is never much chance to “stop” entirely!  That is exactly what has happened in my life over the last five months.  Here’s a brief summary…

My parents moved here from Dallas in June.  They sold their house in May (it’s a cool story, too)…but they had nowhere to live when they got here!  So, in faith, they moved in with our family!  We enjoyed a summer full of Mimi-and-Papa-time and house-hunting.  I am pleased to report that God provided a home for my parents only two streets away from us!  We spent the summer months helping them remodel the house and prepare to move.  And, we helped them move in only a week or so before school started again.  It was a whirlwind, but it has been fun. 

We are only now beginning to adjust to living in the same city (the same neighborhood!)—a privilege we have not had in over 18 years.  I love having my parents so close.  Bryan and the kids do, too.  Now, our visits do not consist of an entire weekend complete with a 3-hour drive up and down I-35.  We get to enjoy day-to-day things (kids’ activities, weeknight dinners, running errands).  We get to worship together on Sundays and share lazy Sunday afternoons.  Mom and I are even attending a Bible study together on Revelation.  (Look for future posts influenced by this great study!)  We can exercise together, cook holiday meals together, and share more of our lives.  I truly believe that God set aside this summer for our family to adjust to this big change, and I believe it is part of our whole family’s healing process after many years of grief and loss.  God is fulfilling His promise to us to “give us a new song” (Psalm 40:3), “do a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19), and allow us to see “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).

This summer also brought a string of Vacation Bible schools for my girls.  Caroline, in fact, attended 3 different VBS’s with the same curriculum.  I thought she’d get bored, but I think that God had a plan to get some of His truth firmly planted in her mind and heart!  Mary Claire, too.  Just two nights ago, I found MC in her room with her Bible open, all of her own accord.  She called me in to show me how the lyrics from her VBS music CD are “actually in the Bible”!  She was so excited that she could look those verses up for herself.  And, she exclaimed that she needed to take her Bible to school the next day so that she could “memorize it”.  I told her that would be an excellent pursuit—the best, in fact.  And, I encouraged her to keep after it.  She responded, “Why wouldn’t I?!”  Music to my ears.  Thank you, local churches.  Thank you.  Praise to God’s Holy Spirit who never quits pursuing my kids.  I don’t have to do all the work (in fact, I am kidding myself if I think I have the power to convince them of anything anyway…).

Our summer VBS circuit also inspired a new passion for me: community evangelism.  Since before Bryan and I had children, we planned to send them to public school one day.  Our hope was that we would have the opportunity to be salt and light in the community where we lived, spreading the hope we have to many who do not know the Good News.  That dream sat in the “someday” category for a long time…probably a decade.  But, this summer, when we invited one of my daughter’s friends to VBS, I discovered how easy it really was to talk to people about Jesus…how many people are not completely closed off to talking with one real person about their real-life faith.  That positive experience coupled with a successful impromptu Bible study in my living room one evening with my children and some friends’ children inspired me.  God opened my eyes to the need for Bible study for elementary-aged children.  Churches have summer outreaches (VBS) and Sunday school.  There is little else provided until middle school.    But, 9-11-year-olds are intelligent, curious, and hungry for truth!  Could I address that need?  What could God do?

I decided to start a Bible study in my home with Caroline’s friends and classmates.  Mary Claire, I determined, wasn’t quite ready.  (She wanted to do the fun activities, but requested we not do the Bible study part!  Next year, I’ll invite her friends, too!)  Anyway, we emailed a few people and decided to use that same workbook I had tried out with my own kids in my living room (Between: A Journey Through Proverbs, by Vicki Courtney).  I knew I had some friends who would send their kids to my home, so I figured we might gather about 6-8 girls.  But, God had other plans!  What started out as a simple idea has turned into something way bigger than me or my little inspiration.  We now have 26 girls enrolled in what we are calling “Tween Time”!

Tween Time meets once a week (still in my home…for a while longer).  We sing songs, memorize Scripture, study the Bible, have snacks, and do crafts and play games together.  We participated in a service project together, took a field trip to Texas Baptist Children’s Home, and hosted a Family Fun Night at the park.  I have been unapologetic about the fact that I am a Christian and believe that the Bible is true…and that I intend to teach it.  Many of the girls who come attend church and belong to families who profess faith in Christ.  I think those families see Tween Time as an opportunity for their girls to learn to take their faith out of Sunday and out into the world they live in from day to day.  But, many of the girls have families that are unsure about Christianity or who have had negative experiences with churches or Christians specifically.  Still, they are sending their girls to my house.  And, many have purchased Bibles for their girls for the first time so that they can use them for our study.  I have told these families that I would like to show their girls what it means to be a Christian and teach them what the Bible says so that they can determine for themselves whether or not they think it is true.  They know that we are also learning universal values of friendship and encouragement.  They agree with me that our young girls need solid emotional, spiritual, and social skills to successfully navigate their rapidly changing world. 

I am quite honestly blown away by what I am seeing in my community.  I am so encouraged.  God is at work.  And, He multiplies our time, talents, and other resources when we are just willing to jump in and try something.  I am learning SO MUCH from this process about what God is doing in the world right now, about myself and my fears and hang-ups, about evangelism…and, that only scratches the surface.  Needless to say, as we have grown, we have had a lot of adjusting to do, so Tween Time has taken up a lot of my time.  I am building relationships with my neighbors, and they have blessed me tremendously.

Tween Time is merely ONE of the ways my summer season bled right into my fall.  September brought with it football, and that is kind of important in my household.  Bryan and I joke about how, as college students, we dreamed of the day we could afford season tickets to the Longhorn games.  Well, last year (15 years after graduation) was the first year those elusive tickets could squeeze into our budget…and we had our first losing season in a long time.  Humble pie, my friends.  But, we decided to give those Horns another try again this year.  We even traveled to Los Angeles with some of our good friends in September to see UT play UCLA in the Rose Bowl.  It was a fun and relaxing get-away for Bryan and me. 

Moving on to October…I think October may go down as one of the busiest and most productive months in Moran family history.  This month, we repaired a car, sold a car, researched and purchased a new car, participated in a family mediation for an entire weekend, traveled for a family wedding, put our whole house through a tech refresh, and Bryan had surgery…IN ADDITION to our “normal”, “everyday” activities.  I feel like I have been hit by a train, but I also feel satisfied.  We got a lot done.  Much of it was fun.  Some of it was not.  But, ALL of it was purposeful.  God used this month to free us of some brokenness that has been hanging over our heads for a long, long time.  And, He also provided some opportunities to move forward on some dreams He has planted in our hearts that we believe will lead toward healing.  Let me elaborate…

Earlier this summer, Bryan came home from church giggling.  Curious, I asked him to let me in on the joke.  “Oh, it was just funny,” he said, “I was sitting in Sunday school this morning.  Before it began, I pulled out my iPad and started a list.  I named it ‘$*#@ I Don’t Want To Do That I Have To Do.’  My good friend came and sat next to me, casually looked over my shoulder, and said with a straight face: ‘I need to make one of those lists, too.’” 

Well, that $*#@ list (as we have affectionately, if irreverently, come to call it), has been a real blessing to our family in the last few months.  When you face lots of pain at once (some of it as a result of falling into a pit--as Beth Moore so aptly states in her book Get Out of That Pit--and some as a result of jumping in with both feet), there is a lot of work to do to heal.  Bryan and I both had a very long list of unpleasant things we needed to do in order to move through our grief and through our mistakes, and through our pain.  We still have some work to do, but I am elated to say that we have made a hefty dent in that list in the last few months.  It was like the lightbulb went on for Bryan.  I think he realized that if he didn’t act on what he knew to be necessary, he might not experience the abundant life Christ had planned for him.  And, I am so grateful to God that my husband listened and obeyed.  His obedience freed ME from that same bondage.  After all, as a married couple, we are one flesh.

One of those places in our life that was holding us back was a broken relationship with Bryan’s dad.  For four years, we have, admittedly, had some serious conflict.  We did our best to deal with it as it brewed, but we were all under a tremendous amount of stress.  As our counselors from Live At Peace Ministries said, “We have never seen a family before who has experienced as much trauma and loss in recent years as yours.”  No kidding.  And, it was complicated.  Add in decades of some unhealthy patterns, differing personalities, suspicion, judgment, and Satan’s craftiness and POOF!: You get brokenness.  It took great courage on the parts of 6 different family members to enter into an agreement to spend a weekend hashing things out.  All of us Christians, we could not figure out why things had to be this way.  But, there was a tremendous amount of fear and doubt discouraging us from facing our problems head on.  How much more pain could any of us take? 

Despite many obstacles, God led us all to a conference table at the airport Hilton for the weekend.  It was horribly painful.  The process was grueling.  And, to be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for the outcome until about an hour before it was all over.  But, God knocked our socks off.  His heart is reconciliation and restoration.  And, He can do a lot with willing hearts and obedience…in spite of all of our sin and brokenness.  Thank you to all who prayed for our family as we went through this time.  I have confidence now for a future serving Christ together and enjoying our families with one another.  I am sure I will write more about this later, but it certainly counts as one of the most important parts of this “season” for me…

Last, but not least, for a few years now Bryan and I have been discussing adding to our family.  Immediately after Audrey died, we felt that we would not ever want more children.  But, God’s work in our life has changed our minds and hearts.  This decision to open ourselves to whatever God may have in store for us has been a complicated one.  Initially, we wanted to make sure that we were not trying to replace Audrey.  That is impossible.  Then, there were marital issues to resolve and fight through.  And, there was the not-so-small issue of a necessary medical intervention.  After we had three children in three years and I began to have health problems, we got sort of scared of each other.  Prayerfully, we made the decision to have a vasectomy.  I still don’t think we did the wrong thing.  We were operating on faith—and on all the information we had at the time.  But, these last few years have changed us tremendously.  A vasectomy reversal would be expensive, though…and invasive.  And, Bryan, especially, wasn’t very excited about that prospect.  So, we waited.  A long time, it seems.  And, after about a year of hardly mentioning it at all to each other, Bryan made the appointment to have a consult with a surgeon. 

We met with that surgeon in August (a day after our 13th wedding anniversary).   He had what you would consider to be the typical bedside manner of a surgeon…business-like.  He walked into the room, head down, with a laptop in hand.  He did not greet us, shake our hands, or introduce himself to us.  I got worried.  But, as he “reviewed our file” and began to talk with us, he proved to be more human than he seemed at first.  I don’t think he sees many patients in our situation.  It took him a minute to understand that I am the “original” wife and that we already have three children between us.  Once he “got it” and he heard of our loss, he began to cry.  And, the tears were real.  He had to keep apologizing for not being able to collect himself.  We found out he has a child Audrey’s age.  After he told us about what HE can do, and after WE told HIM what GOD can do, we scheduled a vasectomy reversal for October 24.  With money down, our decision was made. 

When the surgeon greeted me in the waiting room on Monday after the 2 ½ hour procedure, I was preparing myself to get news that I didn’t want to hear.  I told God that if it didn’t work, I would still say He was good and I would still tell people He is in control and has our best in mind.  But, I begged Him not to require that of me…again.  And, in His mercy, He did not.  The surgery was a success, and the surgeon said it could not have been easier.  I cried tears of relief and great joy…even though I really don’t have any idea what God will do with our crazy decision.  It was a leap of faith.  We felt led to go that direction.  I asked God not to let us spend the money if He didn’t want us to do so.  And, we still saw that green light telling us to “go”.  Only time will tell what this little adventure has been for…

As I type, we are four days post-surgery.  Or, I suppose I should give credit where it is due… BRYAN is four days post-surgery!  He is still somewhat immobile, so as I write, he is parked in front of the Play Station.  I took a break for lunch and sat down with him.  “You know what is almost as exciting as playing ‘Batman’?” I asked him sarcastically (all the while preparing my rhetorical answer: “Watching you play ‘Batman’”.  But, before I could finish, he replied, quite seriously, “Being Batman?”  That pretty much sums up my husband.  And, it is one of the things I love most about him.  He has that childlike quality…that ability to dream, to imagine…and that translates well when it comes to his manhood.  It makes him an excellent dad, a wonderful husband for a type-A like me, and an all-around great person to know.  I would be honored to go through all this crazy mess with him again…ALL of it…so long as we keep moving toward victory in Jesus!  And, by His grace, we are.

Thank you for all of your support in the past, for all of your encouraging emails and Facebook messages.  Thank you for your patience with me and for still reading after that long break.  Trust me, if you have enjoyed anything I have written so far, there is much more where that came from.  I have jotted down about 10 ideas in the last month alone…on napkins, on my phone, on random junk mail….whenever and wherever the inspiration has struck.  And, God is NOT done with this blog or our story.  Our story is HIS story.  And, HIS story is wonderful…and creative…and so complicated.  How could it ever just stop?!

I hope you will get back in the habit of checking “A Confident Hope.”  Tell your friends about it!  And, I pray that whatever season you find yourself in, you will find that God is right in the middle of it with great purpose. 

Remember: He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Ecclesiasties 3:11 a

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 NIV





6 comments:

lana said...

God is good to those who faithfully seek him. You are always an inspiration to me. So excited for your Tween Time ministry and look forward to hearing how God continues to work thru you!

Amy T. S. said...

This reader never left you or forsake you! Glad to see a new post - in His perfect timing!

Gina said...

Ditto, Amy! I am a friend of a friend and have been so blessed by your blog! Have been checking in, hoping and praying for your family all the time. So glad things are going so wonderfully for your family. Lots of love from Massachusetts!

Shelly C said...

So glad to see you back my friend.. looking forward to our lunch next week and some time to really visit. Thanks for allowing us to be such a big part of your life and walking this journey with you. Love ya!

Dyann said...

Sarah,
I am glad to read your post again. Thank you for your prayers months ago. I continue to pray for you and your family too. I will continue reading and sharing your beautifully blessed words with others. May His truth always shine through and may He be glorified.

beth williams said...

As always, blown away by your writing...your story! Thank you for sharing with us all, Sarah...it is such a gift. I sent you a msg on FB :) Beth