Friday, August 31, 2012

I'm going to lose friends over this one...

So I feel like I should say why I've been absent, yet again... family. rest. vacation. family. blah blah blah.  Summer is OVER! (well for us, ha, not so much! It's like so hot, I don't even shower anymore because I sweat more after the shower and hardly anyone who isn't in a million $ home has ac by the beach.  And, let me tell ya, the little window units don't really do anything for our set up - open living, dining, kitchen...too big of space to cool down.  First world problems, yep!)  Anyways, I'm so ready for the fall.  Our summers are crazy busy and this fall is hopefully one of rest (idiot - you have three kids 4 and under.  This does not equal rest).  But I tell you, I have only committed to 3 things a week.  Nurture, (my mom's group at my old church, yes old - shut up, I love that group and I'm not leaving them.  My best friends are there.) And my new mom's group (at my new church- YES, shut up.  My "going to be" new best friends are there.  Haven't you heard the song, "Make new friends, but keep the old...")  And thirdly, being a life group leader at our new church.  MMMMmmmm... I LOVE my new church.  I kinda wish I could french kiss it, I love it so much.  I'm just so excited about what is happening at my little community.  Jes and I were asked to share a little on Sunday morning about caring for orphans and adoption (in our series, Who Is My Neighbor).  I can't say much more or I'll spoil it, but I'm just really excited.

Ok, so our church. Series. Who is my neighbor. Last week we talked about loving our vulnerable neighbor, including our undocumented neighbors.  Yes!  And I LOVE it.  (Lets not debate this now - lets just be Jesus to the ones who are here)  This spurred on a thought, accompanied with conversations I have had with new and old dear friends, let me tell ya lovies, that I CANNOT get out of my head.  This is where I'm going to lose friends... wait for it.

Background A, brief. ha! Sammy, to send or not to send to K next year at 5.5?? Thinking maybe yes, instead of my original plan of sending both my twins at 6.5 and 6. (another debate for another time).  We are in an amazing school zone (not all schools in our district are deemed "amazing" by others).  We might get kicked out of our home if our new owners knock our place down to build million $ town homes in place of our single family home and the duplexes that surround it.  Where to live?  Half of our friends live on the east side of town (where we are now) Half live on the other side of the freeway 1 mile from us in an area we'll call C.P.  Beautiful homes.  Amazing community of people.  School in the neighbor that NO ONE SENDS THEIR KIDS TO.  Why?, you ask.  Well, lets go back to our undocumented neighbors.  Rumor has it, that the majority of the attendance of the school is Spanish speaking with no to little papers.  MY GUESS, is that there isn't much parent involvement due to a) fear of judgment, b) don't feel equipped, c) doesn't know that they are needed or wanted. Pure speculation.

Background B. I'm a teacher.  Credentialed K-8.  I taught in this district.  Not at CP school.  I did do my student teaching at a school "like" CP.  At the time, my thought was "if ever I have a blond hair, blue eye babe - they will not go here because the one that does is pushed into a corner and does busy work all day while I try to get the other 25 kids in my 2nd grade class to learn their colors and letters IN ENGLISH."

Background C.  (where I might begin to lose some conservative friends....) Totally off topic, but a "must know" for this.  Jesse and I LOVE the LGBT community (is that PC anymore?).  We HATE how the CHURCH at large treats this community like the "least of these" because they are absolutely NOT.  And, I'm so sorry to all my friends who have been damned by the church.  Sometimes I think, man - the JESUS that the "Church" is portraying is not the Jesus I know.  Another post for another time.  I also know some of my friends in this community who HATE Jesus because of how the Church has treated them and I HATE that.  I think Jesus mourns over his children treating his other children like sh*t.  All that to say, Jes and I have thought about (don't make plans because God always changes them... yata yata yata.) uprooting our family one day and getting 10 of our friends to uproot their families and all move into the middle of this community in San Fran to do nothing but live and do life and show them a different Jesus with NO strings attached.  To become their friends because we want to.  To live in their community because we WANT to.  We would not be moving there so they will lose the lifestyle (is it wrong even? again, another post on my liberal thoughts another day ... and I just lost more friends. haha.).  And we wouldn't be moving there to make some straighties...hahahaha! NO.  That's a preposterous thought, if you ask me.  We just want to radiate the love of our Jesus, so that our friends can meet this Jesus and love this Jesus that I know.  HE gets to do the changing if any changing needs to be done.

Wrestling thought now (and here's where I lose a bazillion friends...friends that I lose now, I LOVE YOU, don't hate me, I'm not judging, I'm not in your shoes yet... but I'm praying to be in your shoes, I think??!)... If I'm willing to uproot my family and 10 other families and plant us in a community that is liberal in every way possible (I'm not just talking about lifestyle), then why the hell am I not willing to uproot myself and 10 other families to invade this school.  OH WAIT, 10 of my friends live in that community already!  Why hasn't this happened yet?  I know that my community (friends) pour into this school, but why won't they send their kids there?  Couldn't much more be done to further the kingdom if we reached out to this school is such a radical way. (I have done absolutely 0 research, haven't talked to the principal, haven't visited the school.  These are just questions I am having).

I hear this from most of my friends, "But my kid loses out on good education."  ok, I get that, but the school is going to have to change if we all send our kinders there next year - all 10 of us.  Plus, again, coming from a former k-8 teacher and a reading specialist, it's kindergarten.  You can supplement at home.  You CAN.  You can probably supplement until 3rd grade pretty easily.  5th grade, maybe not so much for the typical parent.  This is NOT to say that kindergarten teachers are worthless.  They are absolutely valuable.  There are parents everywhere that in any given month would rather take a gun shot to the abdomen then to have their kid plus 25 other 5 year old kids over to teach them every day.  Not me, I LOVE kindergarten.  In 5 years, if you're hiring... pick me!

My question:  What is education?  Is it merely reading, math, science, writing, art, oh ya - history, I hate history?  Or is it life skills as well?  Is it kingdom teaching?  Is it teaching diversity?  Is it befriending these kids who aren't like your family and then maybe one day that will have an adverse affect.  Can I dare say, "Johnny's" whole life course could be changed because his parents and him know YOUR family.  One less gang member?  One more college student?  One more teacher one day?  One more soul in Heaven???? One more teacher blessed by the extra help and love from our families?  One more family (you?) learning what it means to "love your neighbors?"  To do LIFE with your neighbors?  

This ISN'T a "WHITES, LETS TAKE OVER THE CP SCHOOL!" (duh, Sammy is black guys)  It's a call to Christians who live in that community to come together and do life together.  Not just with the other white, middle class folk, but life WITH YOUR NIEIGHBORS... ALL OF THEM!  It's a call to stop lying about your address so that your kid can attend another school in another district.  It's a call to love on our neighbors, all of them, despite WHO they are or what documents they have. (again, don't start flooding my blog with comments about border control)  Regardless if you like it or not, they are YOUR neighbors and Jesus is very clear that we are to love them.  Yes yes yes, and to follow the rules of the land... but lucky for us, we make those rules!  :)  So, go to your local town hall meeting and fight for them to stay here now. (wow, the blood is just dripping from my heart tonight!)  (I might need to tame down if I'm going to be a pastor's wife, but I'm not one yet... not until March baby!)

But, seriously, what's it going to do if 1 family doesn't transfer out?  Very little.  What will it do if all of the families that I know DON'T transfer out and send their kids there?  More than very little . And, from one planner to the next,  Jesus could come back before tomorrow - so why the heck are you worrying about what high school your kids are going to in 9 years?  He IS coming back before my kids hit 13 because dude, I can't deal with teens.  Karma's a b*+@h and we all know what kind of teenager I was.

Easy for me to tell you what to do, huh?  Yep, totally is.  But, I kinda pray that the Lord leads us over there so that I can partner along side of you and send my kids.

KNOW, that I don't look at you with judging eyes, although you don't believe me right now.  I swear to you.      I love you all.  And, I hope that you let me wrestle this one out loud.  You might laugh at me one day, and I might laugh at me one day about this.  Or, you may never speak to me again.  I definitely told Jesse last year before we moved to our house now, it HAS to been in the east side because of the school.  I just wish that I would have thought about that more.  And if you take NOTHING away from this, well, at least you gave your eyes a good workout.  Don't hate me, please give me grace.  I'm just stumbling down this road called life, trying to decipher between rebellion by my nature and this thing called conviction that looks like rebellion sometimes to the world's eyes.

x, b

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Miss Me Much?

Oh my, this is quite laughable.  Literally the last post I began to write, like 2 weeks ago ended with "and shoot, I'm dreading this media fast that I am a getting ready to embark on.  Lord, I need your help." and CRASH my computer came down.  Seriously, shut off, wouldn't turn back on.  Luckily, our dear friend is an IT guy (didn't know that, although there's a hint of dorkiness in him - shoulda known. ;) j/k Matt).

Anywhoo... Saint (when I just typed it, I accidentally spelled Satan...whoa, haha) Matt laid hands on our computer and prayed because there was stuff that I just couldn't lose, like pictures, Jesse's homework, adoption stuff, etc.  Apparently there is maintenance that one is supposed to do with a computer to make it last.  Well, clearly my cool husband and I are far above this dorkiness to hold this nonsense in our mind.  But, nonsense it's not.  Apparently, our computer history had never been cleared...and guess what Matt said... "It would totally explain their problem if I find a ton of porn on here."  But, ye of little faith, there was no porn... just adoption stuff.  Thousands and thousands of adoption sites, cloth diapering online stores,  a few articles on how to make your own laundry soap, the occasional theology website and homeschooling blogs.  haha... want to know who someone is, look at their computer history.  Guess we're not that cool after all.  We're (Jesse will argue it's not him, he just lives with me) a big bunch of passionate dorks who are ignorant in how to take care of a computer.  And funny thing is, we don't even have our computer back.  Jesse borrowed Matt's wife, Shannon's, computer so he could do school work and while J's at work, I high jacked it.  Now, how smart is Matt really???  Letting us dumb-ass ignorant computer people use HIS/Shannon's computer.

Well, let's catch up friends!  What did you do the last 2 weeks?  Well, for me - it's been quite eventful, but I wish there was still less of a presence of tv.  Seriously, I'm not an alcoholic, not a drug addict, but I really think I'm addicted to television.  Why can't I be addicted to working out???   More on that in a few.  I'll just hit the BIG points.

1) I'm CANCER FREE!!!  Maybe I mentioned that in my previous post a couple of weeks ago, but guys, it's worth mentioning again.  I was terrified it was back, the doctor made me nervous, and I seriously thought this round I was going to die.  I was seriously, intentionally giving my kids "good memories" so if I died, they would remember how much fun mom was, although I'm not that fun.  But, this scared mom let them have Popsicles for lunch one day and we ran through the sprinklers with our clothes on and then rolled around in mud.  And, one day, we didn't even get dressed.  We just read books and watched movies while eating popcorn in our pjs all day.  Why does it take me thinking I'm dying to let loose sometimes?  That's so stupid.  So, I hope to continue to pull the stick out of my own butt more often, and drink more wine.  Maybe there is a correlation?  But who knows, maybe the cancer was back and God took it away?  All I know is that God met me in my fear and my heart even began to soften and think, "I really do want Jesse to be happy and for the kids to have a mom if I die, so maybe I'd be okay if he remarried."  But here's the real issue, I don't want to share my mansion in Heaven with Jesse and the other woman and ALL our kids, bc I'm sure they'll have like 5 of their own... seriously?  NO.  He's my man, and he's not supposed look at another woman the way he does me, even if I'm dead, right?  Jealous much?  Well, really, I'm not jealous now, but the dead me is totally jealous.  God and I need to work this out.  But, seriously, I'd rather Jes just fine a lovely, gay woman to give him companionship and love on my kids.  I could totally share my house with her in Heaven.  Just no bed sharing in Heaven.  Man. I. NEED. TO. STOP.

2) We had 2 of our nieces, 9 and 5 spend the night with us for a cousin sleep over.  Please shoot me in the foot if I say in the next year that I'd like to adopt 2 more kids.  (haha, as I'm proof reading I noticed I just said the next year, I didn't say ever! :) )  My nieces are amazing.  I love them.  They are the best behaved and HELPFUL little girls ever.  It's just that 5 is WAY more than 3.  My sister-in-law deserves mom of the year award.  5 kids 9 and under and she is so grace filled and doesn't even drink.  She's nursing right now and is SO not like me not the mom who would have a glass of wine while nursing.  On the way home from the beach with all 5, I made J stop at the store to get us more booze just to make it through the night.

3) this is a big one guys.  "Bug (what I call J), I'm ready.  If you feel like God can use you and grow you here, us here (at the new church, previously called the other woman), if you feel like this should become our new family and new home, I will jump in feet first with you."  Tears are seriously pouring down my face as I'm typing because there is excitement but so much mourning going on inside me.  I don't have to tell you again, but I LOVE my (not quite old) church, my family there.  It feels like home.  It feels safe.  It feels like Jesus to me.  It's really where I first encountered Jesus and KNEW it.  I feel like God is giving me a picture now, this very moment... so I'm going to type it:

I feel like at my old church, Jesus started to really shape this plant, tend to this plant who was in a little clay jar.  And by no means is the plant beautiful in her own eyes, but yet God is still pruning it and loves it, and calls it beautiful.  But this plant has almost outgrown her little clay pot.  It's now time for her gardener to transplant her into a larger clay pot and it hurts, it disrupts her.  But here, in this large clay pot, there is room for her to grow, room for her to learn that she is exactly who her God made her to be.  Not a tiny stem with a little bud, but maybe a full plant with life.  There is room for her to see herself beautiful as she starts to see the fruit that is able to be born from her, because there is room and because God moved her.

Now that I'm totally bawling, this encourages me.  Makes me want to throw up a little, because so often I forget that God actually sees me, cares about me, loves me, could call me by name... not just Brandi who went to RockHarbor, but Brandi his precious daughter whom He created to love. So if you hear nothing from this whole post, hear that GOD LOVES YOU.  YOU.  HE MADE YOU UNIQUELY.  AND HE KNOWS YOU BY NAME.  And keep reminding me of that because I forget all too often.  I just wonder how many times in my life, I've tried to be someone else because I look up to them, because I think they hear from God way more than I do, because I love their clothes and shoes and self confidence.  But I wonder how many opportunities were wasted for kingdom work because the ME he made me to be, I was not confident in and I missed it because I was trying to be someone more spiritual, more cool, more dorky even, who would never go "there" or talk to "him" or do "that" for a job.  There is grace from our Savior, I know, so I won't dwell on the missed opportunities, and neither should you.  But I want to be encouraged, I want you to be encouraged, that God made you YOU so that He could use YOU and your uniqueness to touch unique people who would respond to accepting His love through the very unique, YOU. 

Not at all where I saw this post going... but I want to stop there.  That is enough for me to process and sit with for one night.  I'll get to the not so perfect media fast soon.  Ironically, I'm going to need some accountability from the blog to hold me to less media. ha!  I'll explain later.

Much love to you not only from me, but from God.  He genuinely loves YOU, even if you don't quite love him yet, or even like him at all.  He's okay with you where you are right now.  But He longs for you to know his love, even if it's on your terms for right now.  It doesn't change how he feels about you.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"7" things I hate about you...

1.  YOU'RE challenging me.  2.  you're. challenging. me.  3.  You're KILLING a part of me, making me die.  4.  You're changing me.  5-7. you're challenging ME!

However, those are all the things I love so far about the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  It's a total vacillating kind of relationship - me and this book.  "I hate you, this is stupid, but I want more because this is so good for me."

Premise of the book:   Jen, an affluent pastor's wife in TX is rocked by the Holy Spirit when confronted with 7 areas of her life.  She is an all or nothing kind of gal, so to experience the feelings and somewhat lifestyle of the marginalized (whom they are now in community with) she takes 7 areas of her life, one per month, and totally lives radically.  For example on the clothes month, she only wore 7 items, for food month - only ate 7 foods, etc.  It's her journal of what God does with her and her family and the  journey they take to become poor in wealth.

I have a dear friend who is leading our bookclub through this book and to see woman who live in Orange County be challenged in radical ways is so powerful.  We take 1 chapter a week, we come and discuss, and we fast the following week.  My prayer for this book journey is that God gives FREEDOM and that we see clearly our idols and areas that have strongholds on us.  We are not quite 1/2 way through, but I'd love to share some thoughts with you on how this has affected our family.  I will just do one post per chapter, otherwise you'll be reading til next week! 

Food:  *disclaimer, we're processing still over here at the Gibbs house and love this journey and frankly - aren't asking for any input in this area yet.  Please let us struggle and love us where we're at.  This one is a biggie for my family.  I think we eat relatively healthy.  However, we have a ton of slip ups - and lets be honest, I'm 20lbs more now than I was on my wedding day.  For the food week's fast, we didn't do anything radical like some of my friends did, but what we did do was educate ourselves on what we are putting in our bodies.  As I was reading the chapter, questions began to pop in my head.  Ones that have before, but this time I wanted to give them space to sit and percolate and give validity to them - because after all, they are MY questions that obviously my subconscious wants to know about. ;)
     Did God create us to eat meat?  In Genesis He told Adam and Eve to eat from any tree except the "one." I don't think he said, see that lamb over there, kill it and eat it in the Garden of Eden.  And I know that after the fall, people ate meat bc it talks about how you shouldn't eat pork if it causes your brother to stumble, but were they only eating meat because they didn't have enough plant based food?  Is it evolution that has caused our bodies to be able to process meat like it does?  And why was it that when I had cancer I felt the best I'd ever felt when we switched to soley a plant based, whole grain diet? 

When I was diagnosed with cancer in December of 09'  Our doctor had told me to become vegan to slow down the rate of the cancer growth so we did and I felt amazing!  We were originally going to "live" with the cancer and try to slow down the growth naturally and even possibly reverse the tumor size, and this is the route that a few of my doctors suggested.  The vegan diet is what they put terminally ill patients on to give them more "time."  And right then and there should have been enough to make us stay that way forever... why in the world would we not eat a diet that was so good for you (as long as you do it right!!!).  BUT, then there was this beautiful little boy whom we got a call about on Dec 28, 2 weeks after I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma, and he needed a mama who was cancer free (or the courts would look favorably on NO cancer) so as fast as we could go, we used medical intervention and cut that sucker out and followed it up with radiation.  And then we went to a country where it is incredibly hard to eat a plant based diet and still get all the nutrients that one needed. (and at this time, I had little to no thyroid hormone in my body, so I needed lots of energy to power through).  And then I just never got back on the bandwagon.  But, during my 10 weeks on the diet, I had so much energy and remembering telling Jesse - I feel SO good, yet I'm sick, but I have never felt this "whole."  In fact, it was hard reversing and coming back to meat... there was a period that I just couldn't digest meat and dairy, I'd throw up, be in severe stomach pain (esp with red meat) but I kept working at it until I could have my tri-tip and milkshake. (hence the extra 20lbs!)

I brought up my "theological" questions to the hubby that's a pastor, and he didn't have the answers.  Little did I know, my lovely meat eating husband was having the same questions, but knowing how granola I am, he knew I would jump at the opportunity to become vegan once again and he wasn't quite sure if he was ready to give up his steak and cheese so he never brought it up.  Kinda don't blame him, a double double is pretty tasty esp with extra cheese.  So, we went to where all good researchers go to... NETFLIX.  And we began watching documentaries.  We totally understand that all documentaries are heavily one sided, however we found one that we thought was pretty fair.  Forks over Knives.  Watch it, tell me what you think.  We know that there are some things they didn't take into consideration... they focused on mass produced meat and dairy and not the cows my great-grandmother raised, milked, and then fed us growing up.  But, we're guilty of not buying free range meat/eggs/dairy, so I felt like they had a good argument for us.

Are we vegan today?  Well, not exactly.  But, we did go shopping and bought no meat.  Yogurt, yes.  We have planned an all vegetarian menu, properly balanced with plenty of protein, for the next week.  However, I am waiting on some results that I get on Thursday, and laughably, we both said - if my cancer is back - out goes all the dairy and meat products along with processed food and sugars.  HAHAHA!!!  Again, why wait for bad news to radically do what's good for one's body?  I guess good is relative. Now, don't think I'm a crazy mama who will never let her kids have cupcakes or hotdogs at a birthday party, but I may be that mom who makes gluten free/ healthier versions of desserts for her kids at home and give them carrot sticks instead of chips for a snack.

My challenge to you:  No, it's not to become vegan. :)  Although if you did, lets swap recipes!  But, to ask yourself, "What am I putting into my body, into my kids' bodies, into my husband's body?  Does it have an affect on our health?"  It never hurts to educate yourself and NO ignorance isn't bliss!  I told Jesse that if he were to die of a heart attack related to how he eats, I'd resuscitate him and kill him again. And friends, don't think I won't resuscitate you just to kill you again if your diet causes you to have a heart attack, or if you overdose on doughnuts.  I love you too much.  


Friday, July 13, 2012

I'm a B*+@!

Alanis Morisette's song rings so close to me, and I think I kinda made it my theme song for a long while, maybe up until today.  But it's kinda written about me, to me, from me.  Just ask Jesse.  Although he'd NEVER call me one, I'm sure the thought may have quickly passed through his brain a time or two or twenty.  I alluded to feeling suffocated in the Midwest growing up, always feeling as though I had to be perfect, which clearly I am - even my blood is A+.  All this to say, I think when I "started a fresh" in CA, it was the perfect time to let it all hang out... Hence the "This is me, take it or leave it baby."
            I’m a b**** I’m a lover, I’m a child I’m a mother, I’m a sinner I’m a saint, I do not feel ashamed.  I’m your hell I’m your dream, I’m nothin’ in between, You know, you wouldn’t want it any other way.
And, although I love being real and raw - a straight shooter, I am beginning to realize that sometimes I can seem or even be selfish.  "I don't want to, so I'm not going to," or "If I have to then I'm going to totally let the whole world know how super duper miserable I am doing it. BOOM.  I bet that's the last time I'll ever be asked to do..."  As my life is being purged at this very moment... (hating and loving the book 7, I'll write another post just on that later), I am beginning to see this selfishness and dare I say, poor attitude that can accompany my personality sometimes.  And, may I even be braver and say, I am beginnin' to think God's going to refine part of this to b*+@!iness into being more like Him which is going to suck and hurt A LOT.

At the new church, the babes learned this stupid new Bible memory verse, "Nobody should seek out his own good, but the good of others.  1 Cor 10:24. (I actually didn't take time to look up the reference or the actual wording, I'm just taking my 3 and 4 year olds' word for the accuracy of the verse - ha!)  Adalee, especially, has been reminding me of this constantly because she is SEEKING out the good of others over her own, and it makes me sick.  "Here Sammy, I think you should pick out the cd tonight because I want to make sure you like it."  "Hey mom, where is my bike?  I think our neighbor would like to ride it instead of me because she doesn't have one."  How old is this 3yr old really??? 

Anyway... I hate the thought of getting to know our neighbors, let alone love them like Jesus asks us to.  I most definitely have NOT sought out their good over mine.  In my defense, I had sucky sucky neighbors who made me and my children cry multiple times daily at our old place.  Have you ever lived by a crazy old woman who HATES children?  I really think she had anger issues and if I would have ever turned my back, I wouldn't have put it past her to hurt one of my kids.  And then we shared walls with a man who abused his wife, physically and emotionally and who blared his music into my kids room 24hours a day and then complained when they cried too loudly at noon (because they were over tired from his blasting music).  So, when we moved (a year ago tomorrow) I made a pact to myself... do not get to know your neighbors, keep to yourself, being a good neighbor means minding your own dang business and not getting in the middle of any domestic disputes.  "Love my neighbor" could just mean waving hi to them and being polite if they asked to borrow an egg.  Yeah, not so much.  Over the last month, the annoying voice Holy Spirit has been giving me opportunities left and right to love my neighbor, to be Christ to them, to show their kids God's love.  And I have literally kept saying, "NO - not now, I've got 3 kids, I'm tired, my time is precious, I need to see which guy Emily gave the boot to, I need to see how many likes my picture of Sophia playing in the sink got, etc."  And then today happened. 

"Mom, you keep saying that we can play with our neighbors only if you're outside with us, can't you please come... don't you want us to share God's love with them?  How can we if you don't let us play with them?" This coming from my 4yr boy.  Our neighbors are a little rough around the edges... 7, 8, and 11 and they use the F bomb a LOT and don't exactly withhold their body strength when wrestling w/ my 4yr boy.  Not to mention, sometimes chase him w/a bat (all out of fun, really) saying, I'm going to beat you up.  So, yes - supervision is needed.  Our neighbors' parents don't speak English so it's a little hard to have the "make your kids behave or I'm going to slap them" conversation.  So today, after I was guilted into loving my neighbor (way to go Jesus, use a 4yr old to get to me), we walked over to Ruben, Ruby, and Issi's house and asked if they could come play. 

Those kids' eyes lit up, they were so excited at the invite.  They quickly ran outside and immediately there was laughter and organized chaos in our backyard.  After an hour, we were all pretty sweaty.  It was humid and hot here today (not the normal, we're spoiled I know).  The sweating and panting kids - all 5 of them begged to come inside. I was thinking... Inside? hell no... I did my part by letting the kids come over in the first place.  I think that's enough "love my neighbor" as I can handle today.  But somehow the Holy Spirit grabbed a hold of my tongue and said, "Sure, but the baby's asleep, so lets just play games together. WTH games??? Seriously Holy Spirit??  This means I have to sit down and play with them because my little kids will need help and they might not know our family rules, boo hoo me!! Literally I was kicking my feet inside my head.  I wanted no part of this.  But here we were.  We sat down to play Chutes and Ladders, a fav at our home.  You spin the wheel which lands on 1,2,3,4 and that tells you how many spaces to move.  There are a hundred numbered squares on the board and you just follow the numbers, in numerical order until you reach the top.  If you land on a square w/ a ladder, you get to climb up to the higher numbers, if you land on a chute, then down you go to lower numbers.  Simple, right?  My 3 and 4 year old can do it w/o supervision.  But no, the 7,8,and 11yr old couldn't.  They didn't know how to count 4 spaces over or which numbers were higher.  Does it go 28, 29, 30 or the other way? (Granted the 11yr old has some special needs and is more on an 8yr old level - but still).  Immediately I had to choke back tears.  I had to literally excuse myself to the bathroom and I wept.  How Lord can I be so unloving, so unwilling?  How did it take me this long to open my hearts to them?  This broke my heart.  I am so convicted.  I'm a teacher... I AM A TEACHER!  Of course. I. am. a. teacher. Okay, God.  I have all the knowledge, resources, and passion to help kids learn.  Why didn't I know they needed help?  Oh, because I'm so selfish and not seeking the good of others over mine?  Sigh.  Then a big picture kind of question popped in my mind..."Could you want to do more with me than just use me to tutor these kids?  Could you want to love on them through me?  Do they even know you?  Is their kids' education, or lack of understanding their education, their biggest need?"

Neighbors aren't just families who live in close proximity to us, but they are people who have needs.  Will we ever really get to know our neighbors well enough though to find out those needs??  If we are supposed to be missional in our communities, then I think we gotta do the uncomfortable and bake some cookies and go knocking on doors.  My thought isn't even "SHOOT" after that swift kick in the booty, but now a, "Lord, forgive me for not doing this sooner.  Please redeem the lost time... the time I could have known them but chose not to.  Help me not get stuck in the past and the whatifs, but show me your grace so I can try tomorrow."  Life is messy for me, for my family.  But it is also mesy for my neighbor whom I haven't met but KNOW they just brought home their first baby girl last week, for our neighbors who yell at each other at 1a.m. in the middle of our alley, for our neighbors whose kids are getting left behind at school, and for our neighbors whom I know absolutely nothing about, except they have a little girl the exact same age as Adalee and we've never had a playdate.

Do you know your neighbors?  Could God be stirring up something in you?  Could He want to use you in their life to be His hands and feet to them?  Could he want to use THEM to change your heart, to bless you?  In the book Mark, Mark says to "Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (which I suck at).  He also says, "Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30-31  The two greatest commandments in the Bible and I suck at both of them.  But now, I at least have a desire to not suck at them as bad. 

My prayer for you is that you find grace from Jesus in what you have not done, and courage in Jesus to do what He leads you to, and for self control to not eat all the cookies that you bake your neighbors this weekend... you in it with me?  Want to bake this coming week and take some yummies to the neighbors?  I'm in.  I hope God uses our kind gesture to open up a line of communication.  So often I find myself getting sucked into this OC mentality and then wanting to totally rebel by running away from it all - lets move to Ghana (my heart's home) but then again, I think I'll probably have neighbors there too.  So, I should practice Mark 12 until God moves me.

Please let me know if you go and meet your neighbors.  I'd love to be encouraged by your stories.

x, b


Monday, July 9, 2012

Part 2, My thoughts on the "other woman."

Oh dear.  I'm now trying to be careful of every word written down because I just received my first comment from a reader who I personally don't know, yikes.... what is she going to think if I say this, or that... shoot, what if my parents are reading, my in-laws. ACKKK... in my last post I said Jes has a fine booty and the s word.  But, haha... reality... this is who I am, perfectly imperfect.  And, I made a promise to myself that I would be raw and honest and try to have no filter, although filtering might be nice sometimes...Sorry folks, thank you for embracing me.  And, how humbling knowing that more than my bff is reading this.  Sip of wine... let's continue.

A little background, our home church has this brilliant philosophy that they rediscovered from the early church called "missional communities."  With the thought that one should attend church in their physical community, do life with their neighbors, and serve to meet the needs of those in their neighborhoods.  We love this way of thinking as a couple.  Well, with that said, there was a church replant that came out of our home church which is within walking distance from our home.  So when Jes and I considered visiting another church, this one stuck out in our minds as a no-brainer to try.

Okay, I cried like a baby before I got out of the car, we all know that I can sometimes be overly emotional. But once I made the leap and actually got out, I saw this car and anyone who really knows me, knows that I would die to have this.  Although Trooper, the name of the owner, had a vw version that was a 1977 model.  Yes, Trooper.  And seriously folks, that is who I needed to see.  I am a hippie to the core, granola loving snob who makes her own laundry soap - so it was refreshing to see one of "my kind" there with NO SHOES!! 

There are just some things that come with being at a mega church, and one is a polished worship set.  I have so many distractions in my own head that I LOVED not being distracted by someone off beat or out of tune... to me, when I worship at my home church, it automatically takes me to this far off land where it is just my Jesus and me (yes, very narcissistic, but sometimes I need to be loved on by Jesus and need to give him my love and heart and during worship at my home church, is the easiest place for me to reconnect with my Savior).  So, I was nervous going to a church where there are only 4 people on staff and 100 people max at the 1 service that meets at an alternative high school.  Selfishly praying, Lord, worship is where I KNOW I will meet you, please meet me and help me not focus on the unpolished worship.  Help me not resent not being at my home.  Essentially thinking, if the music isn't good, I'm not staying.  (YES, I get it - totally self-centered, but people... just hold your horses.)

We drop the kids off to their classrooms and Jes and I walk in.  I have massive ADD, so I'm not going to hear one word if I'm not sitting up front and J knows this... however, I really wanted to sit in the back today, I didn't want to be noticed.  But no, Jes marches right up front and sits right behind the pastor.  So, I have NO idea what is practiced for worship, do you raise your hands?  Do you close your eyes?  Do you stand/sit... who the heck knows because I'm sitting right up front and can't really turn around without everyone looking at me.  Wow, okay.  Already I'm uncomfortable.  J sees communion set out, so he's already stoked; something our home church practices, but not every week together.  However, if J had it his way, we'd take it every day together, not just every week.  So I was happy for him then.  The music starts, I just stand, in silence, eyes closed and pray.  I'm so uncomfortable.  And I hear a whisper, "Can you still worship me?"  I don't answer, just stand.  I don't even know the answer to that.  I look, I hear the music, not in perfect rhythm, not in perfect tune, actually, quite perfectly imperfect.  As service goes on, I'm captivated by every word the pastor says... it's like he's talking to just me, well, because he kinda is.  It feels like we're having a conversation in a coffee shop.  He walks us through John 18.  I didn't realize how much I missed going through a chapter of the bible.  Oh, it was so sweet.  And communion time came.  What you may not know about Jesse and I is that we hold very tightly to the sacraments of baptism and communion - we believe in infant/child baptism and know that something divine takes place in both sacraments, they are not just a symbol, but much more (for another post, another day).  It's been a challenge to be at a home where the majority of people there don't share in that same belief, respect our belief - absolutely, but that's different.  When Phil, the pastor spoke about communion, he caught us off guard because he spoke what we believe the truth is about communion.  How refreshing.  I got a glimpse of one of God's babies... a little, healthy plant that is seeking out his sunshine and I began to get excited.  I felt myself begin to let go and worship my God for the sheer opportunity of getting to.  What an amazing site to see, to witness, his beauty.  His beauty sure does come in all shapes and sizes, and in the most unexpected places sometimes.  I feel like maybe God wants to challenge me in meeting with him.  It is so easy to be drawn into a beautiful, reflective worship set.  I love that.  It's easy, it's yummy, it's like someone spoon feeding me dessert.  But here I felt like Jesus was saying, "Brandi, you're not going to get your whole meal here at this worship set.  I get to now teach you what it is like to worship me without the big training wheels.  This might require you putting forth some effort to prusue me, like cracking open that Bible of yours so I can speak to you, or pulling out your journal so you can write to me and see how I'm really here with you.  I might ask you to sit and be still and know that I am your God throughout the week, not just during a magical worship set."

After the service was over, the people were so friendly, I totally felt like the new kid, but people made us feel welcomed.  We actually knew quite a few people who attended there that we hadn't connected with in a long time.  Jes and I made a 6 week commitment to this community to learn about this community, to get to know this community, to seek out relationships there.  I can't think about where we will be at the end of 6 weeks, that's too burdensome for me right now, but I can think about Sunday.  I am finally at a place in my life where I am beginning to enjoy the journey.  I used to be, "God, just tell me where I'm going to end up and I'll deal with the car ride there." But not knowing, is kinda fun. 

Wow, if you would have heard the conversations that were happening not even a year ago b/t hubs and I.  "I don't care where you end up being a pastor at, just don't ask me and the kids to come with you if it's not our home church.  I mean, I'll go, but my home church will be where I really worship at.  I'll just come to support you."  See, I've come a long way.  God never ceases to crack me up.

x, b

Sunday, July 8, 2012

a not so secret affair

Confession: I'm having an affair.  I pull up this morning, to a home that is not my own and tears fill my eyes.  I feel like I'm not being loyal, like I'm going behind my family's back.  All these emotions inside of me, I literally feel nauseous, I think I'm going to puke.  I feel a hand on my thigh, a sweet kiss on my cheek, and a soft whisper in my ear... "We don't have to do this if you don't want to, but babe, we're only visiting another church." 

Clearly, you don't know my husband if you think I'd ever cheat on that stud... it don't get any better than that piece of ass his handsome charm and sweet, caring heart.  But truly, the above is an account of what really happened this morning. 

*DISCLAIMER, I LOVE MY HOME CHURCH!!!!  And I think that is why I felt so disloyal this morning.  I had to struggle and am still processing what it means when I feel "disloyal" in this context.  Who does my loyalty belong to?  I KNOW it's not a sin visiting other churches and my home church sends its staff on sabbaticals and tells them NOT TO COME TO OUR CHURCH, but be refreshed by other churches and big C church.  But you don't understand, I L.O.V.E. my church, my community.  I've been there for 10 years, faithfully serving, praying, and for a short time working there.  I literally don't have 1 friend in my closet circle that I didn't meet at my home church.  I grew, I met Jesus there.  I was baptized into Christ as a child, raised in the faith, believed in Jesus, but I encountered the living God in a way that I never knew existed... He LOVED me despite all my crap, my sin, my shortcomings.  Maybe it's because I grew up in the belt buckle of the Bible Belt, but it was NOT okay to sin... and if you did, you were a horrible Christian.  It wasn't a safe place to struggle with anything (or at least I felt that way).  But at my home church, I learned that Jesus walks with me through my struggle and I didn't have to get my sh*t together before I came to him.  He took the nasty and made it white, He is molding me, growing me, and pursuing me in ways I wasn't open to before, because I didn't think I was worthy.  My church has been through the most difficult times of my life with me, when our first year of marriage sucked and I wanted to give up had its little trials, when we thought our daughter may be born only to die, when our son was "stuck" in Ghana, when I had cancer, when we had "lost" our little Sophia for 2 hours after she was born (our birthmom had a change of heart for 2 hours at the hospital after her birth)... we had hundreds of people stop and pray, carry our burdens with us, cry in relief when God met us.  This place is my home, aside from our little 3 bedroom, our church is my home.  But that's just it, it is MY home and my husband has never really felt like he completely belonged. 

He'll tell you he loves our church, loves our community, loves our pastors.  Some of his best friends, he met there.  He won't say 1 negative thing about it.  He is just unsure if it's his home.  Unsure where he sees himself in our 5000ish person church.  He's so close to the finish line of school we can almost see the light.  However, man I'd be pissed if Jesus came back the day he finished school... seriously, WTH - why not 7 yrs before!!!  Anyhoo... I'm sure I'll be singing his praises and forgetting how much we've stinkin' sacrificed for Jes to become a professional Christian just for Jesus to come back.  Wow, selfish much... where was I, oh yes... with J finishing school so soon, he's looking at where God might have him, thinking about what kind of role fits his gifting and which don't.  J is a huge visionary, totally plans years before things happen, knows what he's doing tomorrow even for lunch...hahaha...APRIL FOOLS!!  NO, J is the farthest thing from visionary or strategist as you can get.  Event driven church, we love - we're at one, it's totally brought us to where we are - but for J to work at a church where the valued staff is all visionaries who empower the lay people to care for, to shepherd people, to love on the flock - maybe not a good fit for J??  If you have ever had a conversation with Jesse, you probably thought 1 of 3 things the next time you saw him, 1) is he going to make me talk about my feelings again???? or 2) I CAN'T wait to sit and talk with him, he hears me, he gets me, he challenges me, he cares about me or 3) wow, he's so hot and I probably shouldn't talk to him again because he's Brandi's man.

Um...time out, if you're reading this still...praise to you.  This is so frickin' long...

Long story short... Jesse is a shepherd, he's a pastor of people, he cares for his flock and he's unsure where he fits in a mega church who delegates that task to lay people (which hear me when I say, NOTHING IS WRONG WITH THAT MODEL, but is it the right fit for Jesse?)  So we are exploring churches where Jesse's gifting could possibly be utilized more, one that hopefully we can get plugged into and that he can maybe do a 9mo internship at if in the end Jesse doesn't feel our home church is best suited for his giftings, hence the "affair" today. (awkard sentence, I know, but it's 11p).

You will have to come back tomorrow for my reflections on today.  (man, because I'm tired of writing and I'll do it injustice to sum it up while I'm this tired.  But it was good, I thought we were going there for Jesse, but I think God had something else in mind.)  I'm definitely being pruned, and it hurts, but I will leave you with this profound image Jesse had today (which I'll totally botch)...

"There is an unrecognizable shape that resembles something that used to be human which is covered in this hard, rocky shell.  But God is diligent in picking away at it and when a piece falls off, you can see this vibrant, new, green life trying to push its way through.  And that is beautiful."  I challenge you to ask along with me, "Lord, what is it that you want to chip away today so that your beauty can shine?  What is your beauty today in me?"

x, b

Friday, July 6, 2012

let us start, yet once again...

Hi.  I'm Brandi, and I am trying to be a recovering "task not finisher" person.  YES, I suffer, WAIT, my husband suffers w/ my ADD.  I'm pretty darn good at having great ideas, not so great at finishing them all, hence the blog that hasn't been kept up with.  So, as you have noticed, I haven't written in almost 2 years because frankly, I've had SO much on my plate - mostly great stuff, but the blog was not a priority, so it fell by the waste side.  The blog used to be about our journey in bringing our sweet little boy, Sammy, home from Ghana and our journey that lead up to his homecoming... oh wait, I was a first time mom who had an 18month old girl (or somewhere around that age) and I was so that mom that thought life was SO hard w/ one kid - I'm laughing at myself out loud right now, because moms of multiple kids knows how so sweet and easy it is with just one, I was also trying to deal with my heart which was in Ghana at the time with my boy longing to be with him and worrying about him every moment, and I had this little thing called cancer (I'm all good now!) and lets just say, I sucked at juggling.  But, here I am.  And I want to start again.

Lets recap:  I'm Brandi, mom of 3: Sammy, 4yrs, Adalee 3yrs (really only 4mo younger than Sammy), and Sophia, 7mo.  We have 3 kids from 3 different vehicles: birth, international adoption, and domestic adoption.  We've been through the ringer with a gamete of emotions with all of the homecoming of our kiddos and know the heartache and joy of each experience.  I am so lucky to be a stay at home mom- however, by NO MEANS am I a homemaker - unless you consider making my home messy with crafts, sewing, art, kid books, toys, lots of kids, laundry, etc.  And, I'm married to the hottest, most sexy man on the planet, who is my biggest supporter, encourager,the best husband/friend, and daddy anyone could ask for, Jesse.  Oh, and he is a pastor, which makes me a pastor's wife - YIKES.  Don't judge me, you know you are, because I kinda am.

Lately, I have been feeling a stirring inside that there is MORE; more to me, more to this life, more to God than I have experienced.  I am feeling like God is getting ready to revamp me (maybe bc of the aforementioned)  I have an idea as to what He might do and I am thinking that there is going to be a LOT of pruning in these next few months... so, what do you say - want to sit back, totally stalk our lives, laugh at my stupidity, smile at my cute kids, cry with me as I discover what this more is?