Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve 2010 "The Unfolding Grace of God"

Merry Christmas from Bethlehem. As I sit in the renowned town square of the Little Town of Bethlehem, I reflect back on this past year of challenges in Austin that we will long remember. 2010 ranks as one of those exigent years, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because a very good God showed up. We found grace in our desert. Beautiful Wild Grace! We met a God Who was out looking for us in the desert – Jeremiah 31:2. We faced serious health issues, unexpected unemployment, and mounting financial pressures. 2 Cor 4:16-18 (The Message) reads my heart: “We aren’t giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His Unfolding Grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the Lavish Celebration prepared for us.” “The Morning Star is visible when the darkness is deepest” - 66 Love Letters. There’s far more here than meets the eye. And it’s all because of the baby born in Bethlehem---a God Who has so invaded our lives and brought immense peace and rest in the midst of confusion and chaos.

It was a year of “letting go” of people and decades. Bob had the immense honor of marrying our oldest son, Barrett, to the lovely Lauren Bailey of San Mateo, California on a cold sun-kissed Sunday in Austin. We recovered slightly and then Bob married our youngest daughter, Blair, to the honorable Patrick Walsh of Atlanta, Georgia on a rainy but stunning Dallas day. A few weeks later, we sent our youngest, Britt, off to college at the University of Texas with much gratitude for a full ride. Brooke is at the other University of Texas in Arlington serving on their BSU staff. We have had children at home tugging on our skirts and hearts for the past three decades in a row. No more. Bob and I miss them so!

The real battle of this decade was not fighting for good health or landing in financial peace or finding the fulfilling ministry or job with benefits. No, the real battle is what is going on inside of me as I face life, face my loss. I jogged this morning along the Sea of Galilee thinking about the disciples frantic in the middle of a raging storm while Jesus slept through it. 2010 was a liminal place for me where God was speaking to my fears, even this very day, just as He awoke in the boat to speak to the disciples’ fears 2,000 years ago. I am on the 66 Love Letters Tour in Israel---an unbelievable gift from a dear friend. The message Larry spoke here was: “Groan inwardly. Wait eagerly. Romans 8:23. Demand nothing. And He will sustain you with joy based on hope. The degree to which I can love means my hope has nothing to do with how others treat me.”

Phil 3:12 says: We are all not yet what we long to be. We are waiting and watching with you, dear friends, in Hope for a very Good God to show up this Christmas and New Year – Lamentations 3:21-23.” God has been good to us to this very day and will keep on doing us good for all our days of 2011 - Jeremiah 32:40. I’m longing with you to love well this coming year. I long to finish well! I long for many to find the peace that only our God can give! My prayer for each of you in 2011 is found in Philippians 1:9-11 – We pray that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but love well. May we see our lives from His perspective. “The unexamined life isn’t worth living.” Socrates

We are very grateful to have had the privilege of knowing you. We decided not to send out Christmas cards this year---for the first time in three decades. We did want you to know that God has used you in our lives to stir our faith. Because of the Baby born in Bethlehem, we are standing with you in the Wide Open Spaces of God’s Grace - Romans 5:2. May His Unfolding Grace be multiplied in you in 2011. There is so much more here than meets the eye. “The hopes and fears of all the years, oh come to us This Night!”

We’d love to see you in 2011. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. Written by Bev for The Brandons
Bob, Bev, Barrett, Lauren, Brooke, Blair, Patrick, and Britt - sixbrandons@gmail.com
P.O. Box 90814, Austin TX 78709 * Bob’s Cell 512.541.5772 * Bev’s Cell 817.915.6769

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Simply Irresistible"

My two boys are at the Heisman in New York, compliments of Wendy's.  Britt finished his first semester of college and they left Thursday.  It's weird not having children at home anymore after three decades.  Britt comes home on Monday from New York and I just cannot wait.  They are all coming next week for Christmas and the 8 of us will be together here in Austin for Christmas week.  My prayer is out of Phil 1:9-11 (The Message) that this Christmas we not only love much, but that we love well. 

We don't have extra money this Christmas to spend cause of just going through cancer. And I have to throw in that the latest health update couldn't be any better.  Cancer bills did deplete our savings and we had to go to creative means with being in job transitions as well.  God knew.  No surprise there.  God has so blessed us with earthly blessings unimaginable but they are "second things" as C. S. Lewis calls it.  It's the spiritual blessings, those "first things," that have me on my face before a very Good God this Christmas!

I write to say that a Beautiful God showed up for me in Bethlehem 2000 years ago and He was back there again last week.  God so took me by surprise in Israel.  HE so stirred up some things in my heart.  I've never been more attracted to the possibility of becoming a more meaningfully mature Christian.  More than ever!  I'm more spiritually ALIVE than ever!  Paschal wrote:  "The Gospel to me is simply irresistible."  It is.  More so than ever.  I wonder why?  Chalmers said:  "It's the expulsive power of a New Affection."

In 66 Love Letters, the author writes that the joy Christ offers grows in the soil of emptines and brokenness.  That's where I've been.  "In My Spirit's Hands, your felt emptiness will become a consuming thirst to know Christ.  Your agonizing brokenness over the ongoing corruption in your soul will transform into overwhelming gratitude for My Son's forgiveness.  It is empty and broken people, who at the same time are thirsty and grateful, who discover the power to live in ways they never thought possible."  That's it.  I couldn't put it in better words what God has been doing in my life these past couple of years.   Empty.  Broken.  But God is allowing me to wrestle with Him over the sin in my soul that is transforming me.  Overwhelmed in gratitude for His Forgiveness.

God is helping me to see what is clearly wrong in me more than what is wrong in those closest to me or what is wrong in the churches I am familiar with---no, it's what is wrong in me.  And He has been so gracious to help me experience the Power to face what's wrong in my own heart and discover His Power, Resurrection Power, to grasp how long and wide and deep and high is His LOVE for me.  Eph 3:17-19.  I have a long way to go.  And it's His Kindness that is leading me to repent. Romans 2:4.  I love Him so!  He is deeply encouraging me, way down deep, in the midst of some unsettling circumstances.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from Bethlehem

Day 8 in Israel
Stooped into the cave where Jesus was born.  Surreal surroundings.  Oh Little Town of Bethlehem in such disheaval. The Shepherd's Field nearby.  I wept as I faced my own sinfulness.  Romans 2:4 - it's His Kindness that leads us to repentance.
 
Shared a Thanksgiving Meal with my 134 new friends.  Quite the feast from a 50-foot salad banquet table to succulent artichokes to tempura turkey to an array of 22 desserts and Roman gelato.  But it was the conversations, the precious people who shared what God was forming in their hearts this week, and Larry's word to us that meant so much this Thanksgiving Day.  For 2 Cor 4 says God is shining Light in our hearts so that we can see the Glory of God and reveal His Glory by the way we relate.  "Being committed to the well-being of others at any cost to ourselves."  Repentance is in order.
 
May you reveal Christ to others.  May you release the Beautiful Christ in you this Thanksgiving Day! 

Went to the Tomb---HE was not there!

Day 7 in Israel
Stood inside the tomb at the Garden.  HE was not there!  Mark 16:5 We looked to the right, yes we did, inside the tomb, and there was a young man sitting on the right side dressed in a white robe and they were alarmed...Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth.  He is not here.  He is Risen!

Visited the Pit where Jesus was lowered down into the prison as he awaited interrogation by the Sanhedrin. 

He carried a 210 pound six-foot high crossbeam down Palm Sunday Road.  My Savior, a Man of Sorrows and Courage. 

I only have about 2 minutes to write this blog today...but I will be back.

Larry shared with us the 7 sayings as we sat in the Garden.  We stood in time past.  We are in a battle present.  He will return.  So we lean forward.  It was not possible for death to hold Him back. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Managing My Life or Glorifying My God"

Day 6 in Israel
Saw the cave where David hid from his father King Saul.  Amazing that a child has to hide in fear of his life --- from the hand of a father who really never came around.  David learned to love his father.  He didn't shrink away.  Didn't distance himself.  Didn't hide in his heart.  The wilderness is amazing.  To think that the Israelites wandered 40 years when it could have been an 11-day journey is, well, just like me and what I deal with. 

Jogged down to the sea and ... Stood at The Dead Sea in its surreal salty stinging sea as the sun set.  The Lowest Spot on Earth.  Surrounded by blistering vast spanse of hundreds of miles of desert.  We had just been to Masada, a desert stronghold, where they holed up to protect their very lives---but it didn't work.  Read Psalm 62 standing in their little church.  My soul waits on God.  I shall not be shaken.  On God my Glory rests.  Pour out your heart to God.  He Alone is our stronghold.  Pillars crumble.  Earthquakes shatter.  God is my Refuge.

Larry spoke tonight on "The Managed Life."  Here is what he said:
What does it mean to be spiritually formed?  Truth can feel offensive at times cause something in us needs to die.  Am I living a managed life?  If it's working---there's no way to avoid pride.  We can't keep all of the law.  We have been given a better hope.  Put first things first and 2nd things are thrown in.  Put 2nd things first and you lose both (C.S. Lewis quote).  There is a better hope by which we draw near to God!

God gives us trials and people in our lives for sanctification.  Do I turn to spiritual disciplines?  Lexio Divina?  Do I manage my life, my wounds? So wanting my children to turn out right---for me to do it right.  Wanting my ministry to turn out right.  Or am I glorifying God...there is something underneath my pain.  When I am in trouble, how do I get out?  You know, I got stuck in the elevator yesterday for 10 minutes.  Alone.  I was literally screaming for help.  Could this be from God a forming experience for me?  Where sin abounds, grace abounds.  Radical Repentance.  Celebrate Calvary. 

Hosea 7:14 Am I wailing on my bed or crying from my heart?  Do I have a right to certain blessings?  Have Mercy rather than fix me.  The more we are formed, the more we relate like Jesus.  Radical Christianity --- committed to the well being of others.  Brokenness.  Repentance.  Release the Life of Christ. 

What is the center of our soul?  The center that I feel is terror.  But my center is a longing for the Hope.  There's more to you and me than our sin.  Search the center to long for God and persevere and not be controlled by my fear of elevators, my fear of failing, my fear of not making an impact.  Have Mercy, O God!  Fill us with Hope to lead a resurrected life!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Groan Inwardly. Wait Eagerly. Love Well.

Day 5 in Israel

The tears fell when we descended the steep Palm Sunday Road. Jesus did this for me, for you. The Garden of Gethsemane---no words to convey the 2,000 year old grotto of betrayal. More tears fell as our eyes fell on the Rock of Golgotha symbolizing the crucifixion. More tears fell at the Wailing Wall. To stand there with your face flat on the wall hearing the wailing of those nearby caught me so off guard.  Thousands of people come here every single day 24/7 to pray to our God.  Jesus loves Jerusalem.
 
Larry shared with us on the steps of the Psalm of Ascent as the sun set in Jerusalem this Sabbath Day. 
Here are some quotes that touched me deeply:
"You have been graced with a disaster that your soul requires to find its way back home."
"Does your thirst for God sustain you more than your experience of God?"
"You will experience God by the ways you relate."
"The richer the Spirit's work in you,
the deeper our ache will be.
The deeper our ache,
the stronger our hope,
and the more certain
our sustaining joy
which is Spirit produced
and not reliant on blessings now."
"Groan inwardly.  Waith patiently.  Demand nothing now.  And God will sustain you with joy based on hope."
"The degree to which I can love others produces Hope that has nothing to do with how others treat me."
The sun set and the words remain.
 
Back at the hotel...
I got stuck in our hotel elevator for 10 mins. on the 9th floor in Jerusalem about an hour ago.  I have claustrophobia.  It was a l-o-n-g ten minutes.  There are places where I am not free and that is one of them. 
 
Groan Inwardly.
Wait Patiently.
Love Well.
 
 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The White Words

Day 4 in Israel
"God fully revealed the Truth we must know and believe to the Servant He chose to most greatly suffer."  Walking in his well-worn paths this day is overwhelming.  The beauty these people sought smacks so much like our day, our times.  Yet they missed the most Beautiful One of all.  The King of Kings was not honored on the ancient expensive Beit She-An city. lined with marble and mosaic floors and walls and towering Roman columns.  Today it lies in expansive archeological ruins.  Saul was killed and hung on the hilltop.  I climbed up that hill----gives you chills to see the spot. 

Armageddon---a dreadful word.  The Valley of Megiddo holds such significance as the Last Battle between Good and Evil will be fought here.  Rev. 16:16.  Seeing the past, experiencing the present, beholding the future. 

Joppa...home of the beautiful Tabitha.  Peter brought her back to life.  Oh my goodness.  We stood at the home of Simon the Tanner.  It is an amazing thing to experience the black words of Scripture and the white words of Scripture---all those gaps, all those blanks that we must fill in and live.  Truly live!

Friday, November 19, 2010

"The Black Words Come Alive"

Day 3 in Israel
On our way to the Sea of Galilee.  On my left is the city of Migdal---that's where Mary Magdalene is from.  On my right is the Gennesaret Valley.  Oh how the stories come alive.  Larry said someone told him that it is the "black words" that come alive when you walk into Israel.  We all know the "red words."  As we entered Capernaum, Home of Jesus, we found the ruins of Peter's 4,000 square foot home where Jesus reclined most of those 3 years according to Israeli lore.  And Jesus' second public miracle was here.  Remember, the royal official's son was healed as he lay in this town and Jesus was in another city.  The black words come alive. 

Tabgha is on the western side of the Sea of Galilee, 3k south of Capernaum.  Everything is so close in proximity.  Jesus walked over here and found his first apostles.  We stopped to pay homage to the place where Jesus multiplied the Loaves and Fishes.  This verse has meant so much to me over the past 4 years because as I pondered what on earth I would do to find God...HE was finding me, and protecting me from harm and carrying me.  Nothing touched me that He didn't allow and He stood me back up again!  5 Loaves and 2 Fish. I wept as I witnessed the stone set under an altar in a chapel symbolizing the miracle.  And it was a miracle that God lifted my head and stood me up.  And stood me up He did indeed!

Larry's sermon on the Mount of Beatitudes was this:  Larry drew me to the heart of God just as that leper sat on that hill listening to the sermon on the mount knowing that he was not healed.  The leper found Jesus after the sermon not knowing what He would do.  God healed him.  But the point of this is that the leper was drawn to the heart of God even before he was healed.  Ohh!  Larry humbly spoke:  You are blessed if you are poor and down to your last dime (I can relate to that one) and if you are spiritually a beggar for you are in a protected place where no harm can reach you.  Larry went on to say:  "Life doesn't consist of relationships but it consists of getting people like you to better relate.  He told of a friend of his dying from cancer who said:  "This is my last chance to love Jesus Christ in pain." 

Larry asked, Where are your markers?  Are you no longer demanding fair treatment, offering mercy to those who don't deserve it, martyred to your own narcissism?  He said his professor said in his old age and Larry says the same:  "I'm just beginning to understand."  Jonathan Edwards:  "The purpose of the Gospel is to communicate the happiness of Jesus to His Followers."  Was Jesus only happy at the Canaan wedding and with Mary & Martha or was He happy not because of His circumstances but because of His willingness to obey God on that Narrow Road.  Do we reflect the character of God and serve His Purposes not matter how our spouses and children act. 

I visualized that leper listening---I'm just like that leper needing to be healed.  But I am a little more dependent on Him than ever before and that's a very good place to be.  We ended today at the Jordan River and several of us were baptized in the cold still water.  And the dove rested---incongruent for our character but not for His.  Larry said at the baptisms:  "You rise up out of the water never to a God Who will never have an ounce of anger towards you.  You are loved.  Your future is guaranteed.  The pressure's off.  You no longer live to get it right." 

We closed the day with a boat ride on the noble Sea of Galilee looking into the towns on the hill where we had just walked, just a mile away.  The waves of this sea carried both Peter and the King of Kings as He walked on water to rescue his sinking disciples screaming for help in their fishing boats in the midst of a terrifying storm.  It was pastoral and peaceful on this day.  But our hearts hold a few storms and our Master showed up as we sang and wept aboard our boat "Worthy is the Lamb." 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Standing in the Past, Present, and Future

Day 2 in Israel
Standing in the palace that remains of Herod the Great and the story comes alive.  This palacious place is painfully breathtaking and heartbreaking.  Paul was sentencted to 2 years in prison right here.  It's a narrow road for Paul following Christ.  And it's a grateful invitation to join the Bigger Story, the Unimagineable Work that Christ was doing in this place for me and you to truly live this day. 

We are in Caesarea and it's the place where Cornelius accepted Christianity and opened a door to his own people.  On to Mount Carmel, 25 miles long and 20 miles wide.  We stand in this present moment at the very top of the mountain, looking at past days gone by from Galilee to Tiberias to Nazareth all in one panoramic glance.  The towns are so close.  And our minds go to the future day when HE is coming back right here.  The Present, the Past, the Future in one frame.  And Jesus says to me what He said to Elijah who stood on Mount Carmel praying for rain:  "Come Near."  It's the cry of my heart and yours....come near, o Beautiful God.  Today, let it be known that our God will answer us!  And if you can't find God in the place where you are, Amos 9:2,3 says:  If you climb to the stars, God will find you and bring you down.  If you hide out on Mount Tabor, God will find you even there and bring you back. 

We passed through the valley where the chariots of Barach assuaged the footmen of Deborah, Judges 4.  The footmen had sticks for defense.  But it was the rain that turned the terrain into mud to confound the chariots and riders.  And it was Deborah who said:  Don't be afraid.  God will deliver you.  I don't know what you are going through this night but our God is saying to you and to me to not be afraid for His Deliverance draws your way this very day.

We arrived this evening at a gorgeous Tiberian hotel to a delectable buffet, really.  The end to an 85 degree day that lasted long and imprinted our hearts.  Come Near to Me and I will Come Near to You.  And I'll end with the question Jesus asked in Caesarea:  "What is the reason you are coming to Me?"  The answer found on those pages in this palace:  We are here in your Presence to listen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Sin Can Destroy My Desire for God

1st Day in ISRAEL
Arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel today. The airport overlooks the Joshua 10:13 verse...it's the place where the sun stood still and the moon stopped til the nation avenged itself. Kind of takes your breath away to see the beauty in the moment.

The hotel is increible overlooking the Meditteranean Sea. The buffet was like cruise quality---unbelievable spread. But what draws me in tonight is the people on this tour. 134 friends of Larry Crabb for this 66 LOVE LETTERS tour. Have already wept with old friends and laughed with new friends even shedding a few tears with them too. Loved meeting Lisa tonight at supper---the conversation is just so good with people who are so willing to deal with what is stirring in their hearts. The old and new yet seems like we've known each other all along the way.

This is an Israeli computer I am on. Everything reads/types from right to left so I am a little dyslexic plus time-driven. But what captures my soul this night is a quote from the 66 LOVE LETTERS book: “My Power is more evident than ever in your desire for Me that no agony of soul or fall into sin can destroy.” What a Good God who understands our frame. NOTHING can separate us from HIM. So encouraging to me as I gaze into the endless sea to know that my sin is counted against me. And all these desires within me that are good ones are from Him. He is drawing me to Himself in spite of myself.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Britt is Out of the Hospital

CT Scan showed secondary infections.  Pray for Britt that his body responds to the IV antibiotics he has been on for the past 48 hours.  To watch a strapping 6'4" kid turn lifeless overnight has been pretty scary.

Britt was released from the hospital and is on his way back.  The otolaryncologist admitted Britt to St. David's Hospital Thursday morning, drained the abscess on his tonsil, and hooked him up to a couple of IV antibiotics and potassium chloride.  I've never seen any of my children so sick.  How did it happen so fast?

You know when you send your child off to college, you've been with them every single day of their life since birth.  You know them through and through.  And in one send-off, it's not that way anymore.  But, it is what we raised them for---to be independent and move into life on their own.  I just loved the chapter we just closed.  And we don't have any more kids around the table at home for dinner each night!

Britt called Monday night and said he had a sore throat and fever.  His dad took him over to the college infirmary on Tuesday and they diagnosed the flu.  Wednesday night he called me back and said he was about the same and needed another doctor's appointment. Kind of odd---he never wanted to stop long enough to go in for a doctor's appointment.  So, I canceled work on Thursday and picked him up at 9am and he looked awful.  Our family doctor took one look in his throat and said:  "Bad news.  You have to have this abscess on your tonsil drained.  It's an emergency because it is blocking your breathing and eating."  And that was just the beginning...

The otolaryngologist put him in the hospital.  Britt had not been able to eat since Tuesday.  I watched my boy literally sink way down deep in just 24 hours.  You see how much we are not in control even if they are with us every day.  He belongs to God and He is watching over his every breath.

I just received a text from a good friend that her brother-in-law just lost his battle with cancer.  Oh my!  As we waited for the CT Scan to come back, I remembered how just one report changes things for you.  This CT was good news for Britt for the multiple infections he has are treatable. 

I don't want to live by good news/bad news and find my rest in that.  I texted my friend back 2Chron 20:15 that the battle is God's and He has already won.  Won for all of us whether we face good news or bad news.  I will have no fear for my heart is steadfast trusting in the LORD.  Britt looked up at me at one point on Thursday with tears in his eyes and said:  "I am costing you guys so much money right now.  I'm so sorry."  Are you kidding?  I'd sell everything I have to help my boy get well. 

I've been reading through the Gospels and so many came to Jesus begging for healing.  As long as we don't demand in the Presence of a Mighty God, we can keep on asking and asking and asking. Can't we?  So, here's my request, dear God.  Would you make my boy come back to his full health again????  Thank you so much for raising him up.  And thank you to each one of you who prayed for him.  He is on an array of meds for the next two weeks.

I've been thinking a lot about this quote:  "Because of My Son, no failure of yours can block My Plan for your life."  I think it's on my mind because I've been up against several failures in a row.   "He is Worthy of your losing everything you value in life in order to know Him, to serve Him."  We've just lost things like stuff---like health insurance and tangible things. "The more clearly you see Christ, the more willing you will be to suffer any loss for His Sake.  Kingdom living consists of radical servanthood (the end of entitlement to personal comfort) and self-denying suffering with the hope of joy forever." 

Waiting with you in Hope for a Beautiful God to show up.  He is!  So grateful for my boy and what God is doing among us.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

GOD'S GOT YOUR BACK

Looking for another opportunity this Sunday.  God is moving us on.  A softer way to say we both need new jobs.  Opened my Bible to the reading for the day and it was Lamentations 3: 22-30.  God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I'm sticking with God.  He's all I've got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It's a good thing when you're young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face. The "worst" is never the worst. The Message. 

I took to heart the words to "Go off by yourself.  Enter the silence.  Bow in prayer.  Don't ask questions.  Wait for hope to appear."  I drove down I-20 in Arlington looking for a quiet place.  Drove around for about an hour when I saw a Starbucks with no cars in the parking lot. It was kind of a country road. I slipped in to order a sparkling water and solitude.  Alone but humbled by a Presence.  Fragile but full of Courage.  While waiting for the teenage girl to ring up my order, a male voice behind me spoke up forcefully across my shoulder addressing the barista.  "Ma'am, I just want you to know that I came in here to sit at your table right there.  Is it all right if I just sit?"  The barista graciously nodded her approval and offered the gentleman a cup of water.  "No,"  he replied, "I just want to sit at that table."  The table he was referring to was right next to my table and he proceeded to sit with his back toward me.  He sat rather still for about an hour.  Never moved.  Didn't talk on a cell.  Committed to that chair. Couldn't tell you what his face looked like but his back is imprinted on my mind's eye.  He wore a dark grey t-shirt and jeans.  On the back of that t-shirt were very large letters with a saying that I'll probably remember for the rest of my life. In fact, it took my breath away when I read it. The back of his t-shirt read, in ALL CAPS, in about a 4-inch font, the following words:

 
2 Chron 20:15 came to mind.  The battle is not mine.  He's watching my back.  It's His battle. 
 I long to be more taken with my unholiness than my pain. 
"Do not live to arrange for your own satisfaction.  Repent of your self-provision. 
Trust Me, in every moment of suffering." 66 Love Letters
2 Chron 20:30 - And God will give rest on every side.  He's got your back! 
All I can deal with is my own stuff in life.  My motives.  My intentions.  My failure to love.
It's a good thing to quietly wait in Hope for a Good God to show up. 
He was at Starbucks today and I think I heard Him say that He's got my back.
Waiting in hope with you as we walk through hard times.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bye-Bye Baby Britt...Gone to Texas

For the past thirty years in a row, I have had little feet pitterpattering around.  Never a day without children at home until today.  My youngest boy will walk into his first college class at the University of Texas at 8:00am tomorrow.  This day always seemed so way out in the future.  When Britt was born, they said it would cost $100,000 to go to college and we gasped---well, it can be even more than that at private universities.

I have loved every single second of being a stay-at-home mom.  I could have had 20 kids if God had let me. I did have 10---I lost 6 to miscarriage.  I adored my babies!  I had Barrett, Brooke and Blair in three years. Three in diapers.  It was the time of my life!  After a tumultuous childhood, I never dreamed God could put me back together like He did.  After three kids in a row, we became infertile...Britt was born seven years later.  Kind of like starting another family.  He hardly remembers his siblings at home.  But you adore them now...here they are today ~

So what comes to my mind as I am immersed in my own boxes packing up lifelong possessions as we are moving.  This is what I think, surrounded by a lifetime of memories.  Look at your life not your stuff:  "An unexamined life is not worth living."  Socrates.  Listen well to what wars inside of you, my children!  Psalm 131 has three short verses.  "My heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.  Still and Quiet my soul like a weaned child, which you all are now.  Put your hope in the LORD, today and forever."

Memories flood my mind as I pack up things you have touched.  Britt, as a toddler, you loved Steve Green tapes (ha!!) and memorized them effortlessly.  "When I Am Afraid, I Will Trust in You" was one of the songs.  Michael was your best buddy---he called you Bit.  When a life-sized Barney came walking in the door of Michael's 2nd birthday party, you all screamed crying and ran out of the house.  Your sisters and brother loved you so much when you were a little boy!  I'm weeping at that one!  I had to fight them to get you back, they so wanted to hold you.  That reminds me of one of your favorite statements as a little one:  "Hold Me."  I think there was so much falling from the hands of the siblings...ha.

I remember well your first day of kindergarten.  You met Ben and Andrew and Greg and Ethan.  The famous four became your lifelong friends.  I took the 5 of you to the circus and museums and parks and Fix Flags (that's what you called it).  You swam every day of your life and that took a lot of determination and courage.  School Days with all four of you were full of delight and drama.  Like when the fruit flies hatched in our custom van overnight and rode with us to school the next day because someone left their fruit under the seat.  Or when the lock broke and we got locked inside our home and you four had to crawl out the bay window to catch your carpool.  You worked hard Britt all the days of your life.  You all were such a joy to me! 

High School was the best!  Pine Cove.  Italy.  Kanakuk.  Thailand.  Orlando.  Endless basketball games and swim meets, even football games!  We were so touched by you when you waved your last good-byes to Ethan and Greg and Ben and Andrew and jumped into our car for the journey to move to Austin.  Dad said if you couldn't leave your life of 11 years at the same school in Fort Worth, we'd stay.  But no, you trusted a Good God to bring you on this Hyde Park journey.  And it has been a hard one in some ways.  But God has been here with you every step of the way.  And He brought Nash and Dillon and some incredible girl friends into your life!  They will be your lifelong friends!  And He stirred up faith in you!  My last words as you shut the dorm door the other day:  2 Tim 4:7 "Fight the good fight of faith.  Finish the race.  Keep the faith."  And you will!

So, this mom thanks the caboose, Britt, for giving me the best life ever! You were uber successful in everything you touched in high school.  God gave you those gifts!  What's real success anyway?  It's pretty quiet here.  And no one is eating up all the food.  I will miss you more than you will ever know.  But you know what, I'm doing really well! This is what we raised you for---to be independent and find the God Who is coming to meet you---Jer 31:2,3.  Just wanted to say that I have so enjoyed my past three decades.  Oh my word!  I won't see you that often but, remember, I am just across town, right around the corner from Mighty Fine, and I'll always be in the battle for your soul!  Isaiah 37:26  Haven't you gotten the news? God says: HE is behind all that is going on.  His Plan A for your life is good!  HE will personally take care of you. 

Bye-bye Baby Britt!  Gone to Texas.  GTT
I have so loved being your mom!  Madre

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dark Night of the Soul

Providential Blessing and Providential Suffering happen to every one of us.  This year has held both for us.  Since Christmas and its happenings, it has been a dark night of the soul for me.  And yesterday was no exception.  And I am writing to say that we are holding fast to a very good God in the midst of confusion and pain.  I am more privileged by the high calling of my Christ to leave behind 30 years of life in Fort Worth and come to a place where we knew barely no one.  We know way down deep God called us to Austin.  And our God has been very good to us in the midst of both blessing like marriages and suffering like cancer. We'll stay here until God moves us someplace else.  We are more privileged by our calling than unsettled by our pain. 2 Kings 20:1-3 God observes my tears and I am leaning hard on Him.  And that is a very good place to be!

When Bob lost his church position of 27 years four years ago, I was way more unsettled by my pain. I had a major meltdown, severe depression.  But God broke through and I am still drawing near to Him, and more alive in Him than ever.  No more living by my pain but rather a greater resolve to be holy and deal with my own stuff.  There's something inside of me standing up right now in the midst of this dark night that is singing praises to a very good God! Isaiah 28:21 The LORD will rise up.  He will rouse Himself to do His Work, His Strange Work.  John 20:29 - Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.  Life itself is grace.  And I am listening to my life this day, this moment as my God is fleshing out His Incarnate Word in my life and yours, no matter what the crisis.

I think far too many people do not deal with what is really going on inside of their hearts.  Psalm 28:3 --- they speak peace to you but they hold onto evil in their hearts---a friend of mine calls it "courtesty without connection." We all have evil in our hearts. It runs straight through all of us.  Isaiah 30:11 - I am confronted with the Holy One and I am dealing with my stuff!  Pascal once said:  "True Religion accounts for the greatness and wretchedness of humans."  Oh wretched man that I am!  Praise God there is hope for our sin.  Covered.  I am dealing with my demanding spirit---my priority to place justice for us rather than glory for God.  No, I am more taken with His Glory than my comfort, my will.

Isaiah 50 talks about not lighting your own fires but letting God do His Work.  Life is hard---Job 23:10---and He knows the way we take.  Bob shared 2 Thes 1:11 in church yesterday:  May God count us all worthy of His High Calling and fulfill every desire we have for good and every work of faith, with power.  Strengthen all of us in the inside where it really counts to walk by faith.  Expose our arrogance, our foolishness.  Stir our appetite for holiness and fill us all with hope whether we walk through dark days or joyful ones. 

A good friend told me:  "Don't be afraid of failure or you will live for success...God is detaching me from everything that numbs my sacred hunger for Him and makes me feel hungrier for something other than God." 

I still have cancer but there's something far worse than cancer.  It's cancer of our soul.  But I have such Hope!  There is something far worse than a difficult life---it's distance from God and not finding Him in the midst of our mess.  God is changing me in the midst of some significant pain and loss and I could not be any more grateful to Him.  We are all "curved in on ourselves" as Augustine once said. 

Bob and I ask for your prayers as we make some decisions about our future.  Britt leaves for college tomorrow.  We gave up our apartment lease to be creative and pursue exchanging labor for rent money.  God gave me the idea and we'll see where it takes us. If you're in Austin and you know of a situation where we could work as caretakers for senior citizens or someone trying to sell their vacant home or watch their property in exchange for rent, let us know.  We have moved all of our belongings into public storage.  We'll have to get rid of our sweet dog again, a border collie who loves his mama.  Losing my boy to college and losing my dog tomorrow is added on top of all of this. 

If you focus on the smaller story of your life, you'll misunderstand what really matters in life.  Crabb says:  Things that feel awful will be seen as tragedies to reverse if possible, endure if necessary and prevent.  That's not what we're after over here---not trying to just endure tragedy.  We all are being lifted to the Higher Story of God---it's not about us. 

To God be the Glory!  He has been good to us to this very day.  Jer 24:6.  His Eyes are now set on us to do us good from this day forward, even in this dark night of the soul.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Father-of-the-Bride Marries His Little Girl Tonight

Tonight your daddy will perform your wedding vows before a holy God and in the presence of family and friends who adore you and have come to honor you, sweet Blair.  It's a day where the mother-of-the-bride reflects back on the goodness of our God in giving you to us.  What an honor, what a joy to have been your mom!  I'll always be here for you, baby girl!  I'm weeping as I write thinking about mistakes I've made as a mom and how I've "missed" all of you at times.  Repentant tears.  Tears of joy.  Thinking back this morning on the day you were born and what indescribable joy it was for me.  However, your birth did just about kill me.  Had to have a blood transfusion back in the day when blood wasn't being tested for disease.  Long recovery for me.  But we never recovered from having you. We are so very very grateful to God for your precious life!   From childhood, you have embraced your world, your God.  You have enjoyed life to the hilt. 

When you were about two, you found a clown costume in our hall closet and donned the outfit including the clown hair to greet the next guest who came to our door.   And you greeted your world well, always.  Your big sister, Brooke, said if she ever wanted to meet anyone, she would just stand right behind you and she could meet the world.  You probably know someone in every state of the U.S., seriously.  Your school years found you helping your classmates again and again.  Your older siblings may have been hard acts to follow---or so they say--- being first and second in their class, but you allowed your beautiful God to carve your nitch.  I think your brothers got all the math genes.  But God paved a good way for you to attend the University of Oklahoma.  You were chosen to be in the President's Leadership Class---only two were selected out-of-state from all their admissions applications.  Your hard work in high school paid off for you and you became a Witherspoon Fellow in D.C. right after college.  Your college years in political science also opened a door for you in Washington D.C. where you served the people as a Legislative Correspondent for the gentle and kind Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma.  Your long stay in Washington D.C. proved to be a very good start to your young adult life trusting a very good God.  And the precious friends you have made along your way are here today with us.   They have come from Washington D.C., Charlotte, Atlanta, and too many towns up north to list. 

Yesterday, I shared with you, Blair, a photo memory book I made for your 2nd birthday .  In it were 7 verses that we had worked on memorizing that year.  One of them was I Sam 2:9 - God will guard the feet of his faithful ones.  Even this morning, God gave me a verse in Psalm 121 for you that He will guard you as you go out this day and leave us.  If you turn around when you drive off, you'll see me crying, probably a lot.  It will be tears of joy and tears of sadness for me in closing this chapter of our lives.  I have so loved being your mommy. I have so loved having my kids at home---I'll trust God with this as I let you go.  You'll just never know until you have your own kids.  Another verse in that 2nd Birthday Book that I shared with you at your Rehearsal Dinner was Joshua 1:9 - God is with you wherever you go!  As you become Mrs. Patrick Walsh this day, know that it is your Beautiful God Who holds your hand & will meet the deepest needs of your heart.  You adore Patrick and we love him because you do.  He has been so good to you.  He is a gentleman in the true sense of the word.  We welcome Patrick who works at Louisian Tech in their sports department and the entire Walsh family of Atlanta into our hearts.  You're going to live in my home state. 


You will always be my girl!  I'll close with this thought.  One day we'll all lift our glasses to toast the One for Whom we live.  But tonight, we lift our glasses to toast you both from Psalm 131.  Wait for God.  Wait in Hope.  We wait with you on a Beautiful God to show up.  Hope Now.  Hope Always. 

photos sent from my cell phone (will have to find a scanner someday).  I'll Love You Forever, Mommy

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Britt

It will be lonely going through the drama of life without the birthday boy!. You ran back to get your backpack out of our car and accidentally locked me out of my car on the UT campus yesterday in the POURING RAIN.  It ended up being a God moment for me.  Really.  I pulled over my head the body-size UT garbage bag they were doling out to the Longhorn parents and walked aimlessly in the rain as my cell was dead.  Thought about Susanna Wesley pulling her apron over her head every afternoon to pray in the midst of umpteen kids.  Stopped in my tracks and prayed for you, Britt, on that UT campus, your new home for the next four years.  I'll miss you so!

Today is your birthday.  We prayed 7 years and God answered in His timing.  I lost 3 babies the year you were born and didn't think I could carry you either.  But God carried you, gave you life...and is still breathing life into you every day.  We're so proud of the young man you are becoming.  You're an absolute delight and joy to me, no matter what!

Your elementary years were full of determination to do what was right.  Full of joy and you honored us so much.  You swam every day of your life and gave 100% of dedication and passion.  You always wanted a brother your age.  God gave you Nash...

Your high school years were a dream.  You jumped on board with us to move to Austin during your junior year in high school and trust a good God to help you.  HE did! Your Austin friends became crazy about you and that was answered prayer too!  And, your God was here before we got here.  And HE has been moving in you ever since.

You are answered prayer to me.  You have touched deep places in my heart.  Your questions have brought me great joy.  You know more about me than most.  You've been a great son!  You were worth the wait!  I'll always remember touching your big toe seconds after you were born to see if you were really alive. I didn't think I would make it through the pregnancy.  That last week I hadn't slept for about 3 or 4 days straight.  I was lost in such gratitude to God for your birth. We checked out of the hospital and went straight to the Fort Worth Fireworks celebration. 

I have a college prayer for you I'm offering up on your birthday!  2 Tim 4:7
Fight the good fight of faith...
Finish the race...
Keep the faith...

Your parents and family and friends ADORE you!  You're one of the best thing that ever happened to me.  I love you more than I could ever find words to say.

Love & Happy Birthday, Mom

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Baccalaureate

There I sat at my baby's baccalaureate.  Never had been to one.  I went early and sat quietly alone in this beautiful pristine church building graced with gorgeous stained-glass arched windows.  The afternoon sun peeked into my heart of memories.  Thought about the church where I grew up with its stained-glass stately windows that I would gaze at every day of my life as my parochial school required us to attend church every morning.  Even in those quiet moments, prayers under my breath went up to a then-distant God.  Not anymore.  He's near to me this day and I'm so grateful.  Somehow, HE has filled me with the Knowledge of His Will and I know things today I didn't know even last week.  How those shifts occur, IDK??  But, it's happening and I am ever so grateful to a Good God in the midst of some confusion and a little chaos.

So, I celebrate this precious boy God has given to his dad and me. This high school graduation is not what I live for---it's just a page of his life turning.  He has been such a joy to raise.  It was a miracle Britt was born.  We went through 7 years of infertility.  Then, one day, I touched his toe for the first time.  Ecstatic.  The troubled pregnancy had about done me in with fear I couldn't manage.  Overwhelming pain.  God was about to step in...and HE did! I was far more concerned about being delivered from my pain than delivered from my darkness. Not right.

Britt attacks life with humility and kindness and such respect for his parents and others.  I couldn't say enough good things about this child and all the good that God has stirred up inside of him.  He's faced his hard times and come through well.  I've thought a lot about 2 Thes 1: 11,12 in raising him that God was answering every desire for what's right in his life. Today, I think a lot about 2 Tim 4:7 and will pray that verse for him til I go to my grave.  May he fight the good fight of faith in his young adult years.  May he finish the course God has set for him.  May he keep the faith!

Britt started swimming when he was 4 and competed for the next 13 years. He met his lifelong friends Ethan, Greg, Andrew and Ben in kindergarten.  The fab five will forever be friends. His junior year was interrupted by a Great Divide.  A very unexpected turn-of-God-events found my husband no longer on the church staff where we had served for 27 years or so.  We had nowhere to go and our Good God moved into my life in ways I could have never imagined.  But first, he brought me to another end of myself while Britt watched.  We were "graced with disaster that your soul requires to bring you back home." (SJoC).  I became alive in ways I had never been!  Then God moved us to a new church in Austin in one week's time.  Bob said we wouldn't go if God was not in it for Britt.  Britt saw it as part of his journey. We were only here a few short months when I was diagnosed with cancer.  Again, you watched and wondered if I would make it to your graduation. We found Hyde Park Baptist School, one of the largest private schools in Austin.  We knew no one.  Britt walked into the junior halls and hearts of kids like Nash and Dillon and the girls.  Unbelievable what God has done for us all. Nash will be his lifelong friend and they are going to be Longhorns together!  Here's Dillon, Britt and Nash at their 2010 Baccalaureate.

Son, your journey is not to graduate and get into the best schools with the most advantageous scholarships.  Your journey is a story in a Story.  There's a Divine Hero in all of this!!!

Britt's progress is not measured by his many achievements like getting a full-ride to the University of Texas or recognitions by huge companies like Coca Cola National Scholar or even being so loved and accepted by his Hyde Park classmates.  No, this journey is all about detaching from what claims our affections, what rules our lives, and attaching to the One Whom we were created to enjoy. Rev. 4:11.  This child has been so willing to deal with what's going on inside of him when he gets off course--- and live humbly.  Oh, that our Christ continue to be formed in him.  Gal. 4:19.


So, congratulations Britt as you walk the stage this Friday night.  I'll be there thinking about a kid in footed pajamas who stole my heart as a baby, and kept on loving his family for the past 18 years.  You've done what has been asked of you and so much more.  You spent about 2,000 hours in community service, not an easy thing to do while achieving all-state in four sports.  You raised over $5,000 and delivered good stuff to help displaced kids in Thailand.  You went to Boys State and HOBY and Youth and  Government every year.  And you didn't complain about such a heavy schedule, even SAR!  One line you wrote in your admissions essay stands out to this mom:  "Life is not about achievements but it's about making a difference in the life of a child.  It's about seeing the smile on the faces of kids like 11-year-old Nat whom we were able to help learn to walk for the first time in his life."

This mom will miss you more than you will ever know!  You'll be in the same town, but I'll just pretend that you went to the University of Nebraska like Barrett did and give you some space to learn and live and love. And if you ever want the best burger and shake, I'll meet you at Mighty Fine in a sec.  There's a new chapter to be written in your story in a Story!  As David's last words about his son, Solomon, say:  God, please give Britt a "true heart" that He may know you more.  1 Chron. 29:19.

2 Chronicles 36:23 - You belong to God.  Keep on returning home to Him!  May your God be with you at UT! Move forward!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cancer, College, and Choices

.This past month, our lives have been both beautiful and broken ... and bursting with opportunity to trust a very good God!   Here is the short text version:  Blair had a benign tumor removed from her thyroid. Britt chose UT and God so showed up for him.  And this month marks my one-year anniversary since being diagnosed with cancer.  My Love & Gratitude to each one of you!  The rest is just details...

  • Blair Faces Surgery...Met Blair in Dallas last week to have a rather large tumor removed from her thyroid. My nephew found the best surgical oncologist! He had some help!!  The Great Physician was in that operating room.  And, it could not have gone any better although the incision on her neck is much larger than we anticipated.  And what a great attitude Blair chose to have about that!  He removed half of her thyroid as well. The full pathology report came back yesterday and it is benign! We camped at my sister's house and God provided peace unbelievable!  When you watch your child suffer, there are no words.  Blair faced this with such courage and trust in a very good God.  She flew back to D.C. yesterday and went back to work today.  So grateful!!!!  Am I more concerned about being rescued from our pain or rescued from the domain of darkness?  Col 1:11-12
  • Britt Chooses UT...Britt ran his last track meet EVER this weekend. I have so LOVED being this kid's mom!  In just a few weeks, God will close the chapter of SCHOOL DAYS!  Britt graduates from high school on May 28th.  He will make the decision FINAL tonight that he is headed to the University of Texas.  A Longhorn---the team we always cheered against.  We even cheered for any team playing against UT, even if we didn't know them.  So, this one's a surprise.  We just want Britt to be where God wants him to be...our hands are open to Him.  Where does Britt's little life fall into the "Great Story of God's Mission"?? C.J.H.W. Praying for him to find a beautiful God at UT.
  • God Provides for Britt...Financial Peace is a course we worked on last year...we found out all the stuff we had done wrong.  Kind of hard to correct a lifetime of mistakes.  Grateful to a Gigantic God Who intervenes.  Our home has gone back to foreclosure again.  Trusting Him!  Meanwhile, Britt just interviewed with the Terry Foundation and was named a Terry Scholar.  This unbelievable philanthropist provides ginormous scholarships through the UT admission application process.  Little did we know that God was providing all along for Britt to be financed through his four years of college.  Plus, he has won some smaller scholarships---he has done well!   
  • God Carries Me Through Cancer...April marked my one year anniversary having cancer.  And, yes, I still say the word because my tumor markers show that it is still there.  And yes, I am asking HIM to say the Word and I will be healed! And, YES, I am doing very well!  But there is an evil greater than cancer within me.  If I choose to live for myself and to get my own way and make my life work...it's called selfishness, greed, arrogance.  A friend of mine calls it:  "courtesy without connection, laughter without love, weeping without worship."  Having cancer has been one of the best things that could happen to me as far as my relationship with God goes.  I'm not saying that I would ever want to go through it again.  I am saying that nothing has engaged me in the real battle in my soul like suffering has.  I just finished reading the story of Solomon in I Kings and in 66 Love Letters.  I think a quote from that book captures for me some thoughts deep from my heart.  "The lesson to be learned from the wisest of men [Solomon] who became the greatest of fools is this:                     Leadership without a priority concern for personal holiness over effective management at best produces only outward success."  Life is not about faring the up's and down's.  The rejections and acceptances do not define who we are. We are His and HE is committed to our holiness!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Coram Deo Merry Nell!

Tonight was Merry Nell's Celebration Service.  The Franciscan-esque Evangelical Free Church was packed to overflowing.  Lisa shared on behalf of all of those in our cancer support group that Merry Nell led.  Dr. Lisa has Stage 4 breast cancer metastasized to her liver, like Merry Nell.  They are both alive!  Lisa's with us and Merry Nell is Face-to-Face with Him.  I wept as Lisa's beautiful words on behalf of all of us flowed from such a good place in her heart.  She talked about the Hope we found in our darkest days.  And nothing, not even cancer, can take away that hope.  Rom 8:37-39.

Merry Nell's husband, Clif, spoke of his warrior wife who had battled breast cancer over the past three decades defying all odds to live.  And live she did---in His Presence here and now there!
She led well.
She lived well.
She loved well.
She suffered well.

At the Reception in the Community Hall, Clif came up and introduced himself to me and thanked me for coming to his wife's funeral.  Amazing.  He wanted to know how I knew the love of his life.  I told him about the first cancer support group meeting where I met Merry Nell.  I had started radiation the day before and was terrified of it.  One of the darkest times of my life to surrender to the 3-foot thick door that shut like the sound of thunder to me.  God gave me Exodus 14:14 that morning before I attended the group.  "The LORD will fight for you.  You need only be still!"  Then I met Merry Nell.  It was my turn to share my story.  When I finished, Merry Nell shared with a sparkle in her eye: God wants you to know Exodus 14:14 "The LORD will fight for you.  You need only be still."  Over 31,000 verses and God brings that one to her mind.  Merry Nell offered me hope that dark day as she brought that Word to me.  And as I came to know her through the group, her story gave me such courage to surrender in a very dark time for me.

Tonight, as I shared with Clif about his precious wife, he beat me to the punchline.  Clif said to me:  "There's a verse that you remind me of that meant a lot to Merry Nell that I want to share with you...Exodus 14:14. How did he know?  I had hours earlier written the verse in their guest book.  With tears streaming down my face, I thanked this new friend who just lost the love of his life.  He said they had shared a million moments of love.

Well Done, Merry Nell.  Enter the joy of your Master, Redeemer, King, Blessed Assurance, Rescuer, Healer.  Coram Deo!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Britt is playing in March Madness

High school kids have their own March Madness on Zinch.com.  Britt was selected as a State Finalist in Zinch’s March Madness scholarship competition. He has the potential to win $20,000 depending on the number of votes he gets. Over 150,000 students from around the world applied to compete for this scholarship. 64 students were selected as a State Finalist in Texas. Britt is one of them.  If you'd like to help him, click on the link below and vote.  It will only take a second.  The students with the most votes in each state advance to the next round of 32 in Zinch's March Madness. THANKS SO MUCH!


Vote for Britt by clicking here:

http://www.zinch.com/Voting/Regionals.aspx?GroupId=67#Britt-Brandon





Thanks for supporting me in my quest for $20,000!



Britt

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Baby Blair

UPDATE on Blair's Biopsy: 
The radiologist was not able to perform the full biopsy today due to the size of the growth on Blair's thyroid. The complete biopsy will need to be done out-patient at a hospital.  The radiologist was able to take one sample of tissue and fluid.  Blair did very well tolerating that procedure.  Pathology report will be back in a couple of days.  Thanks so much for praying for her!  Bev

Dear Blair,
Happy 25th Birthday Baby Blair.  I remember the day well.  I bled profusely after giving birth and needed to have a blood transfusion. I didn't want it---who does---but they were not testing blood for AIDS yet.  God protected!  And your daddy went and ran the Cowtown Marathon.

You were the cutest baby girl with an intriguing personality.  Like a blonde Shirley Temple.  Brooke would say that if she ever wanted to meet anyone, she would stand right behind you. Even at an early age, you knew everyone in the neighborhood!  Now, you probably know someone in every state!

I remember your first soccer game as a four-year-old.  You grabbed your teammate's hand and ran off to the playground instead of to the ball.   Do you remember dancing in MayFest?  Stage fright!

You have always adored your sister and brother.  When Britt entered the world when you were 7, you met him at the front door in your clown outfit with rainbow clown hair.  Awww!

You loved school because you loved people.  Teachers would want me to get you to stop trying to help others and do your own work.  You have always had such a big heart for other people!

I can't remember your middle school years??  My mind is blank....hmmm.

High school was so much fun for you!  You'd say, you were grounded for all of high school.  But this mom says you just enjoyed yourself to the max!  You cared deeply when your friends messed up.  You prayed for them.  You talked to them.  You walked with them.  And you followed your God to this very day!  I think your high school days were a dream!

OU was a perfect God-ordained match for you.  You tackled political science and you met many more friends to fill your world with joy and love.  Your dad and I were so proud of the young woman you were becoming!

The Witherspoon Fellowship was another great match!  And then working on Capitol Hill is a calling and love and an opportunity you have seized well.  Your daddy and I have never had to worry about you for you've always been responsible and diligent at whatever you've tackled.

And now you're engaged to the love of your life.  A great guy who adores you and will care for you forever.  A guy who is so committed to you and to making the most of your lives together.  An accomplished guy who knows where he's going in life.  And we love you both more than words can say.

I wish I could upload one of your baby pictures with your gorgeous hair.  Instead, here's one of the last pictures we took before we moved out of our home of 20 years where you found a Secret Room and climbed out of the window behind us to get to school one morning and sang yourself to sleep every night and found a good God and left us with beautiful memories of a young life well lived!  Happy Birthday Sweet Girl!!!!


Pray for Blair on her Birthday:  Blair is having a needle biopsy on her thyroid today.  Pray for our girl on her birthday today that God's Hand once again protects her precious life!  She's a beautiful girl and she'll always be our Baby Blair!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lenten Devotionals

Like many, I grew up observing Lent for the first 18 years of my life.  For me, it was more about giving up stuff. But tomorrow, as we begin the Lenten season, it will be more about "letting go" of things and looking truthfully at what is happening in my heart as I walk through life.  It will be about finding God in the midst of my mess.  A Good God.  A Holy God.  A Glorious God.

Larry Crabb has a new book called 66 Love Letters and there are about 20 of us reading through the Bible together and using his 66 Love Letters book as a devo guide to unpack the truth in each book. You can click on AString of Pearls blog in the top left column of this page to still jump in and join us there.  

But I wanted to let you know that Larry is offering daily excerpts from his 66 Love Letters book through a free e-mail service, a short reading for reflection every day during Lent's forty days (except Sundays) starting Wednesday February 17 and ending on Easter April 4th..  Just click (or copy and paste) the following LINK and subscribe by e-mail:  http://www.66loveletters.cgrantandcompany.com/

I am free today in ways I never dreamed because of my friend, Larry Crabb.  Larry has given me courage to face what is going on in my heart and has helped me find God in ways I could have never imagined.  I encourage you to take a look at his new book by subscribing to the free Lenten e-mails as we prepare our hearts for Him!

I'll end with one of the lines from the first chapter of his book 66 Love Letters:  "I want you to realize that I never underestimated how thoroughly you'd mess up your life or how painfully you would struggle and suffer, and I don't want you to underestimate your failures or struggles either.  They're all part of the story I'm telling.  But neither have I underestimated my determination or ability to enter the mess you've made and the pain you feel and turn everything around.  I can, and I will, make everything good again.  Never underestimate Me!"


Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Saved Mess

The radiation oncologist sent a letter last week. After reveiwing my scans and comparing them to the scans from MDAnderson, he changed his January prognosis from suspicious mass to benign mass.  Hmmm. That was the 4th opinion on this scan.  If I put my confidence in a good report or things turning for the better, then I'm missing God.  Isaiah 30:15 - In Quietness and Confidence our Strength is in the LORD, not the solution to our problems.  A quote in 66 Love Letters puts it this way:  "The issue is worship and intimacy with Me, not health or wealth or personal comfort."  They were supposed to do more diagnostic scans but my case has slipped through the cracks as I've lost my oncologists due to current financial trends.  Humana dropped Texas Oncology for the entire state of Texas.

We're back again in Corpus Christi this weekend to play the only team that beat us this season---and it was only by 3 points.  If we win out, we win District.  That would be cool for Britt. He's wrapping up his senior year.  This mom is wrapping up memories of a lifetime as we'll say goodbye to our boy in just a few short months.  I keep wanting to incessantly inundate him with everything he needs to hear before he leaves.  Poor kid!

There's another quote in 66 Love Letters that has so gripped me this day.  "You want me to be holy in any situation more than You want me to figure out what to do to improve my situation."   I spent way too much time yesterday trying to improve a situation I am in.  Improve my friends. Improve my family.  I need to deal with my own stuff!  Isn't it amazing that in all of our MESS, HE delights in us.  He's enthralled with us (Psalm 45:11) and longs to make Himself known (Isaiah 30:18) and make us holy!  I need Him so!  What a saved mess I am!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

HELP HAITI

Hi, this is Britt Brandon and I'm a senior in high school. We have all heard about the devastation caused by the Haiti earthquake. I want to help the people of Haiti. It is my firm conviction that those who have more than they need should give back to our communities both locally and globally. Life is bigger than my own little world.

I am selling gray T-shirts from Aaron Ivey to raise funds to send to some workers in Haiti that we know about. 100% of the profit of each T-shirt will go directly to two organiztions we believe in: Real Hope for Haiti and Heartline (which is where the Livesay Family serves in PAP). We want to support the people already there that are working hard towards immediate relief needs such as food, fuel for generators, and medical care.

"HELP HAITI" t-shirts are $25 and printed on American Apparel. Order by leaving a comment on this blog. Please leave your name and size of Adult/Child T-shirt(s) you are ordering. Your T-shirt will be mailed to you by USPS as soon as I receive your payment. Please send checks made payable to: Britt Brandon 5701 South Mopac #2012 Austin Texas 78749), I will mail you your T-shirt. I will need you to e-mail me your address for shipment.

Please join me in giving to the people of Haiti.

ORDER:
LEAVE YOUR NAME AND SIZE OF T-SHIRT.
E-MAIL ME YOUR SHIPPING ADDRESS.
Adult Sizes - XS S M L XL XXL
Children's Sizes - XS S M L XL

Thank you so much for giving a little hope to Haiti! Britt

Aliens in Austin!

Bev & Lindsee Lou
I drove non-stop 336 miles round trip to get to the SMT and spend two hours seeing bloggers like my Lindsee Lou with the most beautiful heart for HIM! You see, my son got married last weekend at a destination wedding and we were finished celebrating or so I thought! I was all set to come to SMT and stay at the hotel. The day after his wedding, my son came to me on Monday and said that he wanted to give me his "miles" so I could come to their California wedding party celebration with 100 of their California friends. I had to say YES to my boy. We hadn't planned to fly to California because of our money situation. No-brainer. He could fly me out of Houston on Saturday morning. So I came to SMT for two hours on Friday night and it was so worth it!

I was a tad late out of Austin trying to help my senior boy in high school with some "senior stuff" deadlines. But I made it to Houston without stopping! Amanda greeted me at the door---the mastermind/heart behind all of this blogging stuff. I'd never seen her within 100 feet before. All I could say was 2Cor 2:14---you are so the fragrance of Jesus to us all! Annette, always beautiful and svelte, ran down the hall to find me and I teared up as I laid eyes on my bloggy lifelong friend. She sat me next to Sylvia and whispered who it was---a siesta full of Courage and Compassion right next to me. And on the other side was humble honest Angie B. We read the Bible together a year ago all the way through---she has such a hunger to grow!  That's me with Annie's Eyes.

Beth's words about Psalm 119 fell on my heart, stuck in a wilderness, but Exodus 15:26 HE is my Healer in this wilderness that I walk through. HE has used blogging friends to meet me in my weakness.. Abby (she couldn't come!) just texted me a few minutes ago words of tremendous hope for me for this moment. I've found a community that God has used to carry me through some difficult times with relationships, and our finances, and with my having cancer in the midst of living in a new place.

When Beth shared Psa 119:25 - "give me discernment that I may understand," I felt God stirring my heart that while I'll never understand all the difficulties we face this day, HE will show me better how to think about all of this. She shared Luke 24:45 that HE will open my mind to understand. And then I was so taken back when she prayed Isaiah 50:4 for all of us as she closed: Oh that our Beautiful God would awaken our ears to hear as we have been taught. Then she prayed that we would "stand still" and Exodus 14:14 has so been on my heart this past week as I've wrestled with a Good God in my mess. Stand still and HE will fight for you. So what does that mean? I just think it's amazing that there are over 31,000 verses in the Bible and God brings to Beth's mind the same one He drew me to---that's so like Him!

Twinkle, Bev & Georgia Jan
A mass exit to the Lobby and the first person to cross my path was Twinkle with an accent! How was I supposed to know that? It's funny how some bloggers you don't have a clue what they look like, just their heart. And she has a beautiful one---we're reading the Bible together and I know! Up comes Big Mama with the cutest jacket EVER! Made me so miss boomama Sophie!!! There's such humility in bigmama Melanie's presence! Turned around and there's Patty---one of the first bloggers I ever met who shared a Word from God that I remember to this day. Behind her was Lora and her words touched me deeply. Next to her was Suzi and I had actually been afraid to follow a suggestion and "friend" her on Facebook cause I only friend people I know or I think it's stalking---where did I get that from?

I spent the night with Annette. She got up at 5:00 AM to take me to the airport. And she still hung on to every moment of the weekend. I made it to San Francisco for the wedding celebration even though my plane had mechanical failure and they had to move us to another one! Another story.

Moving to Austin has been a huge transition for us as we left our home and lifelong friends of 33 years in Fort Worth. Resident Aliens in Austin! And that's where the blogging community came in and it's these bloggers that have touched my heart deeply. My radiation oncologist let me bring Travis' music on an Ipod into my 36 radiation treatments cause I was so scared to pieces. Seeing Travis on Friday night and hearing the voice that I've come to find such Comfort and Grace and Love meant more than I can say. Bloggers have so brought God to me as I have faced cancer in these past few months.      Thanks Travis!

And as Beth shared Psalm 119:57 "YOU are my portion..." HE is enough as He continues to detach me from anything that I depend that brings me joy other than HIM. This blogging community has meant much to me. What an honor to walk alongside those of you who will never know the impact of your posts until heaven because you are living letters written on hearts. So humbled to be at the       SMT with you all!
For His Glory!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

California HERE I COME!

My son is married to the love of his life, lovely Lauren Brandon. I guess I'll stop crying soon and very soon. Hopefully! It's just that he is one of the best things that ever happened to me and it's a different chapter. You'll awlays be my boy, Barrett! It was such an honor to witness front-row seats, the vows before a Holy God, delivered by his daddy. Lauren took my breath away when she walked down the aisle flanked by her Dad and Step-Dad.

We toasted the couple at the Reception and watched two families come together. And in my heart I thought of that ONE FINE DAY when all of us will hold our glasses high to toast the King of Kings along with people like Adam and Eve who started all this leave and cleave stuff. It was a beautiful moment for me as God seemed to say to me: I am behind this. I am on their side. (Genesis 21:20)

I thought of the verse I had just read that morning: Genesis 50:20 - Do I act for God? I so want God's best for all my kids. Way more than awards and achievements, it's about the person Barrett is becoming. An unbelievable young man! I couldn't have asked for a better son! Love him so! And my prayer every day continues for both of them: 2 Tim 4:7 "Keep the faith...run your race...fight a good fight..."

Barrett came over this afternoon and swept me off my feet. We were not able to go to his California Wedding Reception due to finances. He offered me his miles. He wants me to be there. Houston was already in my plans for the weekend---Houston, I have a problem---I'm going to California this weekend! What a surprise!

I'll be in Houston for Beth's thing on Friday and Friday night. I'll stay with Annette and then fly out of Houston on Saturday morning. Best of both weekend worlds. See you in Houston to lift a "Siesta Toast" or see you in San Francisco to lift a "Wedding Toast."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Son's Getting Married!

The beautiful bride-to-be arrives in about one hour, Lord willing! I'll run down the hall and jump up and down and scream like crazy just to see her alone, coming to find her groom. I've been a slobbering soul all this week, even as I write the first sentence. Lauren will marry Barrett this weekend. It's right. It's the moment we've raised Barrett for to seek God's will for his life and move on. It's just,--- he's my boy! I like that I'm gaining another girl though! I LOVE THAT! But something in me wants to hold on to that precious boy I so ADORE! Seems like I have so much more to say...ha. He has made some awesome choices to get where he is today.

I vividly remember the day he was born. 27 hours in labor at the hospital. I never thought I'd have a baby and a happy life but it happened. I remember his first word: lawn mower. When he was a toddler, we'd take lawn chairs and go to construction sites and sit and watch tractors do their thing for hours. He began memorizing verses, like chapters, when he was a toddler and I have it on tape somewhere. (I get so much grief from my kids for not having pictures and videos accessible---someday I will, ha.)

When he went to grade school, I remember a mission trip to Costa Rica he took with his daddy when he was in 3rd grade. It was really a vacation for him and he rode horses through the jungles, literally and scared me to pieces with his young brave self. He begged us since he was 5 to swim year-round and we finally made the plunge in 3rd grade and he trained every day with FAST for the rest of his life.

High school was such a joy and a whirlwind with 3 children in high school and a toddler at home. Barret's #1 goal was to be valedictorian and he missed it by a hair of a tenth of a point. Salutatorian. He walked out of the office when Mrs. Delp broke the news (and he didn't tell me for days). Barrett told us: I'll just set some more goals in college. And he did. He swam for Nebraska and when they unexpectedly cut their 80-year-old legacy men's swim team, he switched to triathlons. Didn't take him much time to rise to the top. He's traveled the world and competes on the U.S. National Olympic Development Team. He finished Nebraska with an MBA. It has been a storied life for him. His God has been very good to him.

Barrett came to Bob and me in May, right after my first surgery for cancer, and said he wanted to marry his college sweetheart and be with her for the rest of his life. I think I cried for 24 hours. That's why some of you may be surprised to hear today that he's getting married. I was in the middle of my own crisis and some things didn't get done or communicated. There were moments I didn't even think I would make it to the wedding.

So that precious boy who is forever imprinted in my mind and heart towing his little red wagon in the front yard, riding his bike relentlessy and continually is leaving his dad and mom and cleaving to the sweetest girl ever. Barrett & Lauren met 7 years ago at Nebraska but she's a Californian. She is one of the best swimmers Nebraska ever had. In fact, she won the NCAA Graduate Scholarship beating out all those Nebraska football players as the NCAA only awarded one full ride for grad school. And so, compliments of Nebraska, she just finished her Masters in Education. She also made Olympic Trials...and this m-i-l thinks she would have made the Olympics if she had not been hurt on the day of the race.

So welcome, darling Lauren, to our crazy loving family. We adore you and love you so much! And bye Barrett, my faithful son! I'll try to be a good mom to a married kid but I don't know how. I'll trust HIM! Isaiah 40:4. I'll pray for the both of you every day for the rest of my life as long as I have breath. I love you more than you will ever know! You've made this mom so happy and so proud. My everyday prayer for you and Lauren will be 2 Tim 4:7 Fight the good fight. Finish the race. Keep the faith. There is a crown being held for you---a crown for being right with God.

I am putting together a book for Barrett and Lauren with memories and quotes and would love for you to leave a word, a thought, a memory to add to the book if you know them or not. Thank you for all the parts you have played in the story of our lives! I had always hoped that we would have big weddings for all my children but I don't think we will. Next to follow is Blair! Our youngest daughter is getting married this summer.

Barrett and Lauren's wedding will be a beautiful intimate family wedding at a gorgeous resort. It would really mean something to me if you shared a comment for Barrett and Lauren here.

Praying for Our Friend Joanne Psalm 131:3 Waiting on God. Hope Now. Hope Always.

House of Blessing Tribal Childrens Home

House of Blessing Tribal Childrens Home
"Whoever welcomes a little child in My Name, welcomes Me." Matthew 18:5 We have posted pictures of the orphans receiving their gifts from you. Scroll down to the post entitled "Today Was the Big Day." Many orphans didn't own anything of their own, but now do, because of you.

My Family

My Family
Britt, Blair, Bev, Bob, Brooke, Barrett

Contact

I've met some amazing women through blogging. I would love to hear from you. My personal e-mail is:
sixbrandons@gmail.com
I have another blog where I blog daily as a small group of us read through the New Testament this year. It's called A String of Pearls. We carry each other on mats (when we just can't walk anymore) to Jesus and sweet things like that.

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