Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fine Line

At any given moment, we're walking a fine line.  It doesn't take much variation in our perceptions, actions, reactions, etc., until our line looks like a 3 year old drew all over our paper.   

I find this concept is lingering even in the simplest of things.  

California: I can very easily flip flop between loving and hating this place.
I love that 75% of the time we live in a beautiful, Mediterranean climate and don't have weather extremes most days. Yet, I hate that we pay so much to live in this area and we don't even have air conditioning on the days we do need it! 

I love that I can sit here and watch the fog roll in off the Pacific Ocean.  Yet, if I think about it too much, I get sad about the fact that I rarely hear the roll of thunder.   

I'm so thankful for and adore the group of families that have become like family to us here in California. Yet, I hate that the kids and I can't just run see our actual family in Tennessee anytime we get the urge....which.... is quite often.   

Children: Talk about a tight rope! 
Tending to a new baby is so exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time, especially for new moms.  Those little love muffins fill you with such joy and laughter each day and can drain you of energy and tears... later that day.    

It's like pulling teeth to get information out of our 15 year old twins and the 6 year old has no filter at all....rarely stops talking.   

One twin has a tendency to take things a bit too seriously.  The other twin probably can't spell or give you the definition of serious....at least not with a straight face.   

It's great when the kids are big enough to fix their own snacks.  Then, they eat everything in the house.  

It's so refreshing when I'm able to laugh and discuss life with my teenagers like I would a friend, but my primary role is always to be a parent.  (Let me just tell you, that's a hard row to hoe sometimes.) 

Caring for ourselves and others:  Word to the wise...we can really shank it and get way off course!

Where does being mindful of our own health, exercise, and eating habits cross over into a dark place of obsession, depression, or shaming ourselves and others?  

When does the God given drive to care for our families cross over into keeping up with the Jones's at all costs? 

Deciding between what's good and what's best.

90 mph in the fast lane, but spinning our wheels.   

Christian walk:  
Jesus said it Himself,  "Narrow is the way that leads to life". 
All of our fine line/tight rope situations in life can be worked out in this arena right here.  

James 1:5-8 
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double- minded man, unstable in all his ways. 

James must have been thinking about me with that one...unstable, double minded, wavering, tossed back and forth....not knowing what the right thing is to do.  I am learning to ask for wisdom, though. I may wait too late at times, but I'm asking more and more.  

Lots of fine lines to navigate in our walk of faith.... 

Love the sinner, hate the sin.....Love the things God loves, hate the things He hates.

Count trials as joy.  

Pray for those who persecute you.

We are in the world, but not of the world. 

We are to be salt & light to a dark and hurting world, but operate aware that bad company corrupts good morals.   

I could go on and on and I'm sure you could add quite a list yourself.  So, we’re all aware of the reality that there is so much that can go horribly wrong....and so much that can go beautifully right.  How do we find the balance to err on the side of that beautiful fine line   

Proverbs 3:6  
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.   

It has occurred to me that some of us may be so use to swerving in and out of the fast lanes and around twists and turns that we can't comprehend and accept the simplicity of a straight path.  If so, ponder on that later for sure, but for now...think of it this way..... 

Colossians 1:17 
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 

In Him, ALL things hold together.  My crazy, disarray of thoughts...my family...our future... ALL things. Our families, our minds, our relationships....in Him...ALL things hold together.   ME.  He can hold ME together, regardless of whether I'm trying to find the balance of friend/parent, or whether I'm loving or hating a particular situation.  That is so reassuring.  Now, if I can just keep remembering to ask for wisdom, maybe my lines will take shape and start looking more like Bob Ross's "happy little trees" instead of a toddler's finger paint project. 

Now....in helping us walk the fine line of faith day in and day out...Jesus may actually have us color outside the lines a little, but that's another blog for another day.  :D 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Twas the Night Before Easter

So, I'll admit it... Easter kind of snuck up on me this year.  I was somehow comforted by the fact that, when I went to Rite Aid last night at 9 pm to get candy for Easter baskets, there were MANY moms and dads there doing the last minute thing, too.   I didn't do much decorating this year.....Jude wasn't happy that I didn't decorate much for Easter.  She wanted me to go all out like I do at Christmas, complete with yard decor.  She'll have to settle for spring decor at this point.  I didn't even buy a new a Easter dress for myself this year. Some might start questioning if I'm even from the South! I didn't do much in the way of spiritual preparation like devotions with the kids, either.  This year, I just didn't give the occassion as much thought and preparation as it deserves. 

The Catholics totally get this right, though.  They reflect and prepare their hearts each year and give this it's due place in our personal history.  I, with my protestant self, have done better about this in the past.  This year, as I said, it kind of snuck up on me, though.  As James Macdonald said, "Only in retrospect can we look back and call this "Good Friday." "  Well, it hit me on Good Friday this year that it was almost Easter and we have much to celebrate.  Something came over me and I got my music out and got my worship on.  Jesus' birth is a beautiful scene and it's easy to get into the "Christmas Spirit".  His death, though, is horrible....and beautiful. It's beyond worthy of even more passion.  I went back through each scene and what I got stuck on was how lost His followers were after His death.  Their plight resonated with me almost like I hadn't read it before. 

Yesterday, I couldn't help but think, "If I were to put myself in the place of Jesus' disciples on day 2 of His death, how would I have felt?"  I'd be in the midst of some major despair, lost, confused, and terrified. That was not the way it was supposed to go down.  He was to become King, right all the wrongs, so forth and so on.  He certainly was not to die a brutal, horrible death! They must not have known which end was up at this point.  Yet, God was working.  As I look at the news and the terrible acts committed both at home and abroad, it would be easy to feel lost and afraid. Yet, as dark as things may seem in our world sometimes, I know He is working.

Prime example: We had a pastor from the Middle East as a guest pastor a couple of weeks ago. He said that as ugly as ISIS is...and it is ugly....it's because of ISIS that Muslims in Pakistan, all along the Afghanistan border, are leaving their faith and committing their lives to Christ in UNPRECEDENTED, HISTORIC numbers. They've never seen anything like it.  Even in the midst of immense darkness, suffering and upheaval, God is doing FAR more than our small minds can fathom.

How quickly I can turn to despair and forget that He is always working FOR us, not against us.  Is that not common to most of us? Even in the least dire of circumstances, worry creeps in.  ANXIETY takes over.  Anytime the least thing threatens our children, our plans, our finances, our dreams, or even our comfort, we quickly forget and turn to despair instead of Jesus.  I don't blame His followers for despairing the night before what we cheerfully now call, "Easter."  It was a situation worthy of despair.  His death was brutal and ugly....and they never fathomed that would happen.  They didn't have the full picture of the cross like we do.  Maybe some of our situations are worthy of despair, too, and we just don't have the full picture.  Yet, we have promised, everlasting hope this side of the cross.  Could we stop so easily forgetting our hope?   

Beyond Jesus' death and resurrection, nothing in Scripture illustrates this for me like Ezekial 37, The Valley of Dry Bones. It's my favorite passage in the Old Testament.  He restored those dry bones, complete with new tendons and flesh, then resurrected an army out of them.  DRY BONES, people....He was working with DRY BONES.  The chapter goes on to describe how He will restore Israel and the new "covenant of peace" He will have with His people.  Enter....Jesus.  

So, this Easter, in our daily anxiety, frustrated plans, or even in our own valley of dry bones or despair, may we be freshly reminded just how much we are loved and remember that NOTHING is beyond His restoring, resurrecting power to bring about good.  Today, I can't think of anything "gooder", as my little Jude would say, than my sin debt being paid in full and the hope that whatever goes on in this world....thanks to Christ's sacrifice for me....it is not my home.  

With much love, I wish all of you "peeps" near and far, a very Happy Easter!!

"For God SOOO loved the world, that He gave His One and Only Son, that whosever believes in Him, shall not perish....but have everlasting life." ~ John 3:16
"The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  I came that they may have life, and have it to the full." ~ John 10:10

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

For Real Hair Dilemmas

I saw a fabulous and rather brave Latino lady in Target the other day.  There I was, in way less than fabulous yoga pants and a long shirt with my slightly disheveled, short hair crammed under a baseball cap. (I did have earrings on though…you’ll rarely find me without them.  I don’t know why but they make me feel more put together than I really am.)  Anyway, I had just gotten my basket and was about to set out on my mission when she came gliding through the doors.  She was dressed to a T, perfect makeup and jewelry, and her hair was shiny, long, and flowing.  This is the point where you look at yourself thinking, “good heavens”, and pull your baseball cap down a little closer around your face and hope you don’t run into anyone you know.  She was that fabulous. The reason I say she was also brave is because the top half of her shiny long hair was her natural dark brown and the other half was blonde.  She was obviously letting the blonde color job grow out but refused to cut her hair to speed the process.  She was unapologetic about it, too.  I’m sure many people saw her and thought she needed to do something about her hair.  That wasn’t my take on it, though.  I thought it was bold and gutsy.  If that had been me, my hair would have been twisted up in a bun, the bun under a cap, and my clothes may have been chosen to match the cap. 

I had a similar hair revelation with one of the 15 year olds this morning about his hair. (Yes, I have two 15 year olds now.  Prayers always appreciated.)  He likes the soccer cuts that are shorter on the sides and back and longer on the top.  They are pretty fun looks and hair is one of the areas I rarely choose to engage in battle with my kids.  With two 15 year olds, there are plenty of other hostile territories I must conquer.  Anyway….lately he could care less about the hair and just leaves it all disheveled.  So, I told him if he wasn’t going to take the time to fix it, he was going to have to get it cut off.  For someone who has been so particular about his haircuts, he laughed it off and wasn’t worried at all about how his hair looked to others anymore.  Granted, his hair didn’t look fabulous like the unapologetic Latino lady but, part of me was happy to see a bit of an unconcerned, unapologetic attitude regarding his appearance.  Now, I’d rather he not leave the house looking like he just rolled out of bed but, there definitely was a bright side to the morning dilemma over the hair. 
That got me to thinking.  Dangerous, I know.

 Maybe I should have bragged on him a little more for not being obsessed with his hair (for once), and for being unapologetic about being himself.  Really, that’s what I want for all of my kids….to be comfortable enough in their own skin to strut through school, or Target, on days they aren’t feeling or looking 100% and not worry about what others may be thinking of them.  Of all the skills they can acquire or I can help them achieve, nothing will serve them better in this life than being comfortable being who they were created to be, inside and out…..and unapologetic for it. 

The thing is, as a Christian mama who desperately wants her children to follow Christ closely, I realize they are inevitably going to experience a certain level of ridicule and likely even persecution.  Our world that is so flawed and cruel anyway to those who are “different”, is especially and increasingly hostile to those who identify with Christ.  So, if I want them to live deep, rich lives and fulfill their purpose this side of eternity, they have to be able to see themselves beyond the surface and recognize the depth in others beyond two-toned hair, perfect hair, or no hair.  I want them to walk just as boldly and unapologetically as the fabulous Latino lady with the two toned hair.  So, even though it pained me that he was going to school looking like he’d just rolled out of bed, I guess on some level, I was glad he was cool with it.  (He’s still going to have to cut it, though.)

I think I can speak for most Christian mamas when I say that we don’t want them to follow Christ just so they’ll have the easiest life possible, be “good little boys and girls”, make good decisions, stay off drugs, and be wildly successful, well adjusted adults.  Much of the time, that can be achieved by being raised with consistent, healthy boundaries.  Plus, it’s a common misconception that Christians don’t make bad decisions or sin and it’s also a common misconception that the Christian life is easier because, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” So inaccurate.  He FREQUENTLY gives us more than we can handle.  Otherwise, we tend to walk around like we don’t need Him.  I’ll also dispel that sin myth right now and say that whether you’re 15, 38, or 88, you’re not going to get it right 100% of the time.  Sometimes we’re doing well to successfully navigate 10% of our day.  The only thing we have going for us is that we live under the guidance and conviction of the Holy Spirit.  (He just won’t leave us alone!) 

So, no... if I want them to live the safest, most pain free lives possible, being Christian is not necessarily the way to go.  After all, Jesus himself warns us in Matthew 10:16-17 that He sends us out as sheep among wolves and in John 15:18-19 that if the world hates us, know that it hated Him first…..and if we want the world to love us, we have to conform to their standards.  Once a mama has the mental image of sheep among wolves, raising “good boys and girls” just doesn’t seem to be enough pay off to warrant the risk.  So, if the safe, easy life was my ultimate goal for them, I’d simply teach them the importance of hard work, success, being nice, and how best to fit in.  

We aren’t MADE to fit in with the rest of the world, though.  For teenagers in America, it can be a constant and brutal back and forth battle.  Not that it magically goes away for adults.  We’ve just hopefully done more living and learning and God has given us more of His perspective on those things.  So, the question I have to ask myself is, “In what ways, both obvious and subtle, have I been making sure they simply fit in or have it easy?” and “Do those things work against my ultimate goal for them to be comfortable in their own skin as they embrace Christ and His path for their lives?”

I know, I know, it’s a lot to glean from hair dilemmas.  I’m sorry.  These are just the inner workings of an introverted mind.  I shouldn’t sound so apologetic, I guess….it is how God made me.  We are all wired differently, that’s for sure.  Even my 15 year old identical twins.  That’s a whole other blog post I’ve been pondering on, though.  Maybe next week.  After all, amongst all the other things we already have going on this week…..now I have to squeeze in haircuts!!:) 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Time to Unpack

Hey y'all!! This post today was originally a monologue submission for an upcoming variety type show called Expressing Motherhood. So, if it seems as though I'm just addressing California peeps, that's why. I'm sure many, many more mommies around the country have been in my shoes!!:) 
Time to Unpack
“You can't raise kids in California! You just can't. It’s Hollywood, fast living, dangerous, and you can't even mention Jesus out there!”  Growing up in the South, that was kind of my overall perception of life in California.  I guess what we’d seen in the movies and on the news just seem so wild, or risqué, to say the least.  It certainly didn’t seem like the best place to raise a family, especially when compared to the way I was raised.  I mean, take my mother and grandmother for example: Instead of seething out a four letter word when they stubbed a toe or realized they just totally messed up a recipe we would hear, "ohhh ssssssugar".  I mean, it wasn’t exactly Leave it to Beaver but, it was a relatively wholesome upbringing. 
My motherhood journey started off with a bang when our twin boys were born. You know, hospitals will let almost any woman deliver and a day or two later just leave with 2 babies!!  As we pulled out of there that snowy February day with 2 baby boys in the backseat looking all alike and unconcerned, all we could do was laugh. Craziness I tell ya!
No one told me, though. No one ever told me about the baggage that I would be bringing home with me that day.  The sheer love and joy, the fear, the guilt, the exhaustion, and the angst over Every. Single. Decision, kind of baggage.   I didn't have a place for all of that stuff!
I never really knew what it meant to pour into someone's life quite like this where every decision felt as though it could scar them for life.  Nearly every waking minute went into teaching them safety, manners, sharing, fairness, and Jesus, among other things.  I can't tell you how many afternoons I spent in the backyard throwing a tennis ball up in the air so they could learn to catch pop flies with their gloves instead of their faces. I can't tell you how many times I totally blew it with them, either.  Then, after almost 9 years, we started afresh when our baby girl, Jude, came along. 
She came home with just as much baggage and even though I was more familiar with it, I still didn't know quite where to put it.  This girl, you can’t imagine the doting she received. We had to have her birthday parties in the fellowship hall of the church because so many people loved our little spitfire. I taught her please and thank you, just as I had the boys. (Only, for the longest time she said, "nank you".) I poured into her little life just as much and weighed every decision just as heavily.  So, when a job presented the possibility of us moving our 3 kids to the LA area, you can imagine the contortionist type knots that formed in my stomach: "But, we are so rooted here." "But, but....it’s California! We can't raise our kids there!!”
Well, the short version is that we both realized that California was where we were supposed to be.  So, we loaded up our kids, our dogs, and all of our baggage and headed west.  While I was on board and “prayed up” about it, I had a few, "what have we done?" moments, too.    
We moved in time for the boys to start 6th grade and it was a few months before Jude's 3rd birthday. Her birthday was one of those “moments”. My parents came out to celebrate.  My dad and I went out to pick up the cake and when we got back, instead of being all excited about her party, Jude was in tears!! I asked what was wrong and she couldn’t explain it but had told my mom, "My friends aren't going to see me for my birthday." It had hit her…. and those tears hit me like a ton of bricks.
I scooped her up and talked to her for a while as she sobbed.  In a little while she switched gears and said, “But, you didn’t get me a cake.”  I said, “Aww, of course I did, baby!”  I pulled the cake out of the freezer and knelt down beside her.  Her tears stopped when I said, “See, this is your ice cream cake!” She threw her arms around my neck and said, “Oh, NANK YOU, Mommy!!” She just kept hugging and kissing me as we admired her fairy themed ice cream cake.  Words simply can’t describe the mixture of emotions I felt in those moments.
She had so much fun the rest of the night.  Her heartbreak had been painful to see, though. So, the next day, in concerned grandmother fashion, my mom suggested that it might be best for the kids if we considered moving home. In that moment, I didn't even have to think, the words just came out. I told her that if we were where we were supposed to be, then as the children God gave us, they were where they were supposed to be, too.  If I was supposed to trust God with our future, I should trust Him with theirs, too. Right then, without realizing it, I had begun unpacking all that baggage that I'd been wagging around with me for 11+ years. 
It goes without saying that we always miss our Tennessee peeps.   However, nearly four years later, we love it here.  California is home to us now.  Peter and Preston are in 9th grade, on the high school baseball team, and have a great group of friends.  Jude is totally rocking kindergarten.  I’ve been blessed with an incredibly awesome network of moms here and we’re just doing this thing together. 
When I take into account the major adjustments the kids had to make with this move, I see that God was working on all of our behalves and has done above and beyond all I could’ve asked or imagined, just as my favorite verse, Ephesians 3:20, always told me He was able to do. Whatever decisions I make as their mom in any given situation, whether I handle it like a pro or totally blow it, not even I can screw them up beyond the grace of God.   Our family itself has not only grown closer together here, we’ve grown spiritually. Here… In California….where you can, in fact, talk about Jesus! I’m continuing to unpack my proverbial bags in California. As I do, I can’t help but wonder, “What if we’d said “no” to California and missed all of this? And, What is He doing next?” 

To all of you fellow moms and lovely, California peeps, I just want to thank you. Or, as Jude use to say, “Nank you”, so very much.   

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I'll Miss You, Chips & Salsa

New Year, New Me.  We’ve all said it.  What does that even mean?  Do we really want a “new me”?  So many of us focus any New Year’s Resolutions we make on new bodies and being more physically fit. Especially women.  I gotta tell ya, I refuse ladies.  I simply refuse.  I don’t want a new me.  The Lord has done too much work on this Robin Brown in my 38 years and even though He still has His work cut out for Him, I’m looking forward to what He has planned for the rest of this Robin Brown’s days.  So, no….I don’t want a new me.   I simply want a healthy me, inside and out so I will be able to take on whatever He may have in mind.   

I know it’s been a while but, when I started this blog a few years ago, I promised we’d address some root issues.  This one right here is long overdue.
"”All things are lawful for me”, but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me”, but I will not be dominated by anything.” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:12
In this case, I'm claiming that focusing on weight, food, dieting, and our overall appearance…..can be enslaving.  I will not let this culture bully me into it and I will not be dominated by any of it.  The thought of weighing myself everyday makes me almost fighting mad.  I refuse.  It keeps our minds and far too much of our efforts focused on ourselves.  In my humble opinion, THAT is the point.  It is a ploy from the enemy that is alive and well in our materialistic, temporally obsessed society to keep us from focusing on what is real.  
For real, ladies….we are going to shed these bodies one day.  They are temporary and whatever size they may be…they are such a small part of our existence. 
Now, I’m not at all saying that all dieting is bad or that you shouldn’t exercise, etc.  By all means, if your health is holding you back or you need to tame the beast that is your appetite, please get after it. I have some things I’m going to be working on this year, too.   Just promise yourself from the beginning that you will not be dominated by it!! I am simply telling you my thoughts at the root of our food and body obsessions: I am convinced that if we just focused on Jesus and His business on this earth and simply didn’t think so stinking often about food, carbs, abs, bikini bodies, and whatever else our culture tells us we should focus on….most of our food and body image issues would take care of themselves. 

Having said all of that, I realize I need to tweak a few things in my daily living to make sure I’m physically capable of doing justice to the things that I’m called to do on a daily basis.  I'm addressing each of them by name and sharing them with y'all....An open letter, if you will,  to my bad habits.   Feel free to help me stay accountable going forward! Beginning now, January 2016, I'm committing to the following:

Facebook –our late night rendezvous habit is over.  My friends will understand and know me well enough to know I’ll be back the next day!
Netflix – you will no longer rope me into “just one more episode” past 9 pm.  Fine. 10:00. 
Books – I don’t care how good you are or what incredible new things you’re teaching me. I have to be disciplined enough to admit it and put you down when my time with you is going to infringe on my happy place disposition the next day. 
Peter and Preston – I love you both more than life itself, but I no longer feel sorry for you for staying up late to do your homework assignments.  Therefore, I will be leaving you to it, not hanging around and spurring you on.  Spurring ends at 9.  I know initially you will be glad to be rid of me and my hovering, but If you have a hard time focusing on your own that late at night or just want to go to sleep, you should get homework done in the 6+ hours of actual free time that you have most days.  Now - You may have to work ahead just a little on the weekends to make up for days that you get to do things like play baseball and soccer after school or hang out with your friends at church.  K?
Jude – well, you’re so good most nights and out by 8.  Thank you for taking it easy on me.  Keep up the good work sweet pea.  
Steven Brown – the rules don’t really apply to you, Sweetness.  Just keep in mind that part of the reason for the earlier bedtime is so I can be well rested for the next day which, makes me much nicer and less scatterbrained….in turn, making life better for all of us!:)

Back – prepare for strengthening.  You’re going to be reacquainted with our old friend, the big blue exercise ball 3 times/week. 
Arms – you haven’t seen any dumbbell action in a while.  Prepare yourself to work out alongside Back 3 times/week. 
Zumba Community – look out.  This sister girl is about to come up in there on y’all. My heart needs the cardio.  I’m hoping you will be more fun and nicer to my knees and feet than running has been (Don’t worry Back… I’ll try my best not to throw you out with any craziness!!)

Water – You know I don’t drink much of anything and far too often, I’ve replaced you with Coke, Diet Coke, Sweet Tea….anything but you.  I realize, though, that you are what my body needs.  So, while I will not completely abandon my favorite drinks, I am going to make sure that if I totaled up the numbers at the end of each day, you will come out way ahead of the others. 
Chips & Salsa – I’m not saying we can never see each other again – I’m just saying every night is not going to work for me anymore.  I may even see you occasionally at a restaurant for lunch!   Don’t worry though – Salad and Fruit will never take your place in my heart.   

So, I guess my New Year’s Resolutions are more of an overall mindset to be better to my body and to be an overall better servant.  I’m not depriving myself of anything, nor am I dreading the changes.  None of these things are drastic enough to produce fast results and I’m ok with that.   The lasting change that is able to increase blessings to those around me…..that is what I’m after.  Wish me luck!!

Happy New Year y’all!! May God Bless & Keep You in 2016!!!