Happy Independence Day

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Happy Independence Day America!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday. We’ll be spending the evening with our church family eating brisket, making jokes about how much better the good ol’ USA is, and how much better Texas is than that, blowing things up, fellowshipping, and probably staying up too late. Holidays are a blessing from the Lord, a time to get out of the normal schedule and celebrate the temporary things of this life. Enjoy yours!

Going Home

 

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Courtesy of Lydia Muniz.

 

It’s a unique experience to be part of the same church for an extended period of time. Before Texas, our church changed several times due to moving. Now, I’ve now been a member of Heritage Baptist Church for over twenty years.

When you’re at a church for only five or six years, you don’t really get a chance to see who will rub you the wrong way. You don’t experience the pain of sinning against someone, or being sinned against, in the way you do when you’ve been in the same church with most of the same people for most of your life. You really only get to see the nice sides of people in that short of a space of time.

When you are able to stay put, by God’s providence, and you endure in a church, by God’s grace alone, you often see people at their worst and most immature. I cringe sometimes to think of the behavior some of my fellow church members have had to witness as I’ve grown up. I’m so thankful for their love throughout the years. But, that is the other side of the coin. Sticking around means seeing people grow up. It means watching saints learn to serve. It means seeing people come back. It means the opportunity to rub edges off one another. It means different levels of sanctification all fellowshipping together.

And, it means watching fellow believers die.

In our little church alone, we’ve had Glenn, Harry, Aunt Vi, Ron, and now Robert go home. Some of them went slowly with their family gathered round. Some went too quickly. We weren’t ready. Harry lingered for several days, never alone, always a handful of us gathered around him singing, reading, praying, just being there. Robert got his diagnosis and instead of six months to two years, it was less than two weeks. But, he didn’t die alone. Two of our ladies were with him.

These saints who have gone before are missed terribly. Something will catch the corner of your eye and trigger an old memory of one of them. You look for them, but they aren’t there. But we have hope. Oh fellow pilgrim, we have hope. We will see our brothers and sisters again. They are gathered together in heaven with Christ and they are waiting for us.

They have shed the last of sin, glorious thought. They have beheld our Savior, and they are together. Someday, we too will rejoin their ranks.

Being in a church year in and year out, Sunday after Sunday, unites you deep down because some of your dearest friends–and some who you didn’t really know well, but love–are up there. The people at work don’t understand this. Many of your friends and family don’t understand this. But that person in the pew next to you, they get it. They get the strange mix of boundless joy as one more saint crosses the finish line. They get the sense of longing you have for the rest promised in heaven. They know who it is you miss, because they miss them too. 

Our church hosted another small memorial service for another small member. It was a different memorial than some of our others, because, in a way, Robert had shut himself off over the last few years. The memorial service included a confession of that, given to one of our pastors before Robert passed. He asked us all to forgive him, which we all freely did. Despite that, he was one of us, one of ours. We loved him and forgave him. Some of Robert’s family came, some friends from work, many we didn’t know. The gospel was shared. Tears were shed. Hymns were sung, and we few, we happy few, rejoiced to know Robert was in Heaven. 

 

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Courtesy of Pinterest.

 

Thanksgiving 7: Dear Woman of the Lord

Courtesy of Google.

Courtesy of Google.

Mom: How does one describe the blessing of having a wise and loving mother? I think every year, I appreciate more and more your efforts to raise us right. I’m truly blessed to have a mother who disciplined me, taught me a strong work ethic, gave me a solid education, and witnessed to me every day. Even more amazing is the fact that after your hands-on work was finished, you continued to work to be my friend. I count you as one of my dearest friends. I love you so much Mom and I’m so thankful for you and I’m honored to be so much like you! Also, thank you thank you for teaching me to read. I will always be thankful for that! What a gift. I never get to spend enough time with you, but cherish every moment! Love you Mom!

Wanda: I hear MIL horror stories all the time and all I think is, “Not me!” You are the most wonderful extra mom a girl could have. You have welcomed me with open arms, treated me as a daughter and friend, spent hours and hours and hours talking and giggling and I’m pretty sure crying. We share a love of a good TV show and a comfy back porch. Thank you for all that you do for me every day, every month, and every year. I wouldn’t want to be any other woman’s daughter-in-law. Love you!

Liz: I’m pretty lucky cause not only are you my best friend, you’re also my sister. I’m blessed by our years of shenanigans, our shared love of a schedule, Christmas music, Harry Potter, and Holocaust History (which sounds really strange). I’m so thankful for all the time you let me spend with your daughters and your dog. What would I do without you to text when I’m frustrated, annoyed, or feeling silly? What would I do without you to vent at? Thank you for all your care for me this year. Thank you for being willing to help me. Thank you for years and years of loving me even when I’m weird. I count on you. I pray for you. I’m always blessed by your wisdom and honesty in the small things like decorating and the big things like relationships and marriage. Love you Liz!

Emily: It’s not everyone who is blessed enough to live across the street from their sister, to have little boys pounding on their front door, and sharing food processors. I love you so much and am so glad to have you nearby. It is one of my great delights in life. I’m so thankful for you, for years of talks, shared recipes, and general silliness. Thank you for loving me and sharing your boys with me!

Joy: You are a blessing to me, dear sister. Thank you for all the liver pate you made for me this year. Thank you for texting me pictures of the girls and sharing all their busy comings and goings! Thank you for loving our family and always working to be involved with us. Thank you for your hospitality, courage, and faithful perseverance when life isn’t easy. I love you so much and are glad you are part of the Vincent Clan!

Ruth: My dear sister, what would I do without you? I love you so much and it’s such a joy to have someone to share all the geekiness, all the excitement of good stories, all the love of creativity with. Thank you for the honor, this year, of Shannon being my name sake! It just means so much to me. I’m so glad you are closer and that I get to see you at least once a month. I love you!

Denise: My dear sister you are a delight. I’m so glad you came on vacation with us this year and not just because you cooked breakfast and made coffee every morning. 😉 I love you so much, love your heart, love talking with you and spending time with you. I have been so blessed to watch your trust the Lord through many trials. I love how much you love your family. I love your faithfulness. I love you! Thank you for being my friend!

Rachel: You were once just one of the little girls who played baby dolls with my sister and now you are one of my dearest friends. I love you so much and have missed our adventures this year while I’ve been sick. Thank you for sharing your many talents with me, planning vacations, opening your home to us, and just being such a good friend. I love you so much and am so thankful for you!

Elayne: You are right near the top of the list of people I don’t get to spend enough time with. You are forging a path ahead of me, thank you so much for answering all my questions and sharing with me. Thank you for always giving me a heads up when you have a few minutes and we can grab a quick cup of coffee. I pray for you often both physically, spiritually, and as a mom. I love your artistic talents, your children, and your wisdom. Thank you for being my friend! Love you!

Deanna: You have been such a true friend for so many years, I don’t know what I would do without you. Really. I don’t. The trials you have born have only made you sweeter and dearer to me even though we haven’t gotten to spend as much time together as we would like. Your support of my writing is a balm to my soul. Your swift kicks in the rear, sense of humor, and willingness to always be available is a blessing and a wonderful example of how I want to be…though I don’t think I can match your sense of humor. I pray for you, love you, miss you, and am thankful the Lord put you in my life.

Leslie: Hey! I’m your soul mate and you and I both know why! I love you dearly girl and can’t imagine life without you! You always make me laugh but I also love your love of HBC. Thank you for serving us. Thank you for loving us weird Vincent girls for years. I’m glad we share a particular brand of humor!

Deanell: For years now you have invested in me. You have taken the time to talk with me, welcoming me into your heart. I love you dearly and count you as one of my extra spiritual Moms. Thank you for checking up on me, for sweet text messages, and for being a dear friend. I love you!

Brenda: I don’t know anybody as encouraging as you! You are so good at listening and investing in people. It just floors me. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. Thank you for listening to all my silly stories and caring. Thank you for just being a good friend. I never feel like I get to spend enough time with you dear sister! Love you lots.

Anita: I love you so much my dear! What a treasure you are. I’m so glad Rockey married you! 😉 Thank you for all your help this year, all your encouragement, all your support of my writing, and for welcoming us into your home. I love you, pray for you, and am so thankful you’re my friend!

Stephanie: My dear dear friend, what can I say for all of your support, encouragement, and you even coming to clean my house! I love you so much. I’m so thankful the Lord put you in my life and that we eventually got to talking about writing and how our friendship has bloomed. You are a real blessing to me! I love our conversations, our shared passion for Tolkien, and your beautiful way with words. I pray the Lord blesses you and look forward to many many years as friends! Love you!

 

These women are a special joy to me, but I love each and every woman at my church:

Patricia: You make me laugh! I love the way you see all the funny elements of life. Thank you for being my friend!

Rachel Naomi, and Arianna: Your enthusiasm and creative is inspirational. I love you all so much and I’m glad you’re my friends! I love the way you embrace fandoms, how willing y’all are to listen to a critique, and your every little expression of love. Your girls are just the best.

Heidy: I love your little family. You are such a sweet woman.

Lisa: Thank you thank you for your faithfulness to Heritage for so many years and for sharing your musical gifts with all of us!

Pauline: I pray for you daily and love your wild bunch of kids!

Cindy: Thank you for always making me smile and sharing a deep and profound love of coffee.

Jeanette: You are such a dear and wonderful example of a godly woman. May I be like you!

Jeni: I never get to spend enough time with you! Thank you for your love!

Sami: I pray for your protection while you’re gone and your growth!

Gabi: I’ve watched you grow into such a beautiful young woman. What a joy!

Maria: Thank you for sharing your wisdom and for your graceful, calm, and faithful love of our church.

Amy Dawn: Thank you for many meals, and your friendship for so many years! I love to listen to you sing!

Aletheia: You have grown into such a beautiful young woman! I love you dearly!

Abigail: Don’t let my food touch! Lol. Thank you for serving so faithfully. You are regularly in my prayers.

Lily: I love you so much Lily. Thank you for your steadfast love of your family, caring for Eddie, and loving all of us!

Jenny: You have grown into such a beautiful young woman. I keep you in my prayers and love you!

Jan: I can’t say enough how much I love you! Thank you for all your labors, friendship, and love over the years.

Michelle Hammond: It’s been quite a year for you. I pray for you all the time. Thank you for being part of our church family.

Andrea, Christina, and Bethany: I don’t know y’all as well as I would like, but I’m thankful to have you in our family and pray for you!

Joy: I’m so thankful for your friendship, your advice, and your love! You are a dear!

Bethany: Thank you so much for loving me and your friendship! Thank you for coffee and including me in your life. Love you!

Raelea: One can never have enough friends with shared geekiness. I never get to spend enough time with you, but I’m glad you’re my sister in Christ and friend.

Michelle Hodson: I love you so much Michelle and am glad to count you as one of my oldest friends!

Jean J.: This year has been hard, health-wise, I know. You’ve been in my prayers and I love you!

Jean K.: the Lord blessed us greatly by bringing you to us. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us and for serving so diligently! I love you so much!

Laura: How often you are in my heart! I love your crazy family and can’t imagine HBC without you! I pray for you often!

Kim: Thank you for so many years of service and hospitality to HBC! I can’t believe how long I’ve know you! What a blessing! Love you!

Christy: You have grown into such a delightful young woman! I love you and count it a great joy to have you as a sister in the Lord!

Melissa: Thank you for many years of friendship! It’s so wonderful to see your delight in your grandson! Makes me so happy!

Lydia: I’m so happy to have you back in my life. The little Lydia shaped hole is now filled. I love you so much dear sister!

Sumer: What a joy it is to get to know you. Continue to love all things geeky!

Maria: I don’t know you hardly at all yet Maria, but I’m constantly blessed by your faithfulness and joy!

Julie: Thank you for your friendship, your love for all the mothers and little ones, and for having such wonderful shoes! 😉

Katie: Your service through music is such a blessing from the Lord and so is your friendship!

Hannah: Thank you for being so willing to serve! I love your sweet and quiet nature!

Amy: You’ve been my friend for years and I love you dearly and pray for you!!! Thank you for loving me!

Bobbie: You’re like an extra Mom to me, and even more, a very dear friend. Thank you for being here for me for so many years!

Amy: I love you so dearly and delight in your wonderful family! Thank you for all you do!

Sarah: You have grown into such a beautiful young woman! Thank you for serving us all at HBC!

Rachel: I love how game you are for everything and your heart for children!

Emily: Thank you for loving and caring for Imogene! We love you!

Grandma: I love that you’re not just my Grandma, but my dear, beloved sister in the Lord. I love you!!!

Michelle S.: From friend to cousin! How wonderful! I pray for you often and miss you!

Sue T.: Thank you so much for your love and friendship and care and concern! You are such a dear!

Susan: I love you so much and am so thankful you keep the church building clean. Really! I am!

Jordan: You are such a dear and I love you and miss you always!

Glyn: You do so much at church and for each of us individually, I don’t know what we would do without you! Love you!

Rachel W: Thank you for your love of all the moms at HBC and for having such great kids! 🙂

Mary Ellen: I pray for you all the time. May your faith be strong dear sister! I love you and am thankful for you!

Sue W.: Thank you for your sweet and tender love of all of us for so many years! You are such a blessing

Jeanie: I love you so much and count it a blessing to have gotten to work on so many projects with you!

Flo: I pray for you often and am thankful beyond words for your years and years of love for HBC!

Outside of Heritage, there are some special friends:

Heather: I’m so excited for you and your book! It’s been an honor to get to watch you and help you as I can. Thank you for all your advice, help, and encouragement this year. Thank you for early morning text! I love you so much! Deanna did us a great service when she said we needed to be friends!

Emily Shiflet: I have loved getting to know you over the last few years. You have been a huge encouragement to me both as a writer, and as a sister in Christ. I appreciate your insight, your love of your family, your love of theology, and your love for our church. Thank you for all that you said about my book. I still go back and read your words when I’m feeling unsure. Thank you for being my friend. I love you!

Kathy Bebout: Even after all these years, Kathy, I still count you as a dear friend. Thank you for teaching me to play the piano and helping to encourage my love of music. Thank you for being my friend after all the years. I love you so much!

Leah Marley: I just want you to know how much I love you and how glad I am to have you in my life. I’m so thankful you and Liz are so close, and I’m so thankful for your encouragement, silly texts, love of coffee, crazy kids who are amazing, and just love the continuing love between our families! God know the Marleys and Vincents would need each other even into the second, and Lord willing, third generations! What a blessed friendship!

Lynne Renihan: I have loved getting to know you, Lynne, and I have loved sharing our love of books. I’m so glad to have you in my life! Thank you for being my friend!

Kim Renihan: Thank you Kim, for all your encouragement this year as I’ve struggled with my health. You have no idea how helpful you have been. I pray for you and hope someday we can spend more time together in person as opposed to Facebook! Love you!

Dana Goad: You are such an encouragement to me! I love you and really appreciate your friendship!

Sarah Smith: It was so wonderful to hang out with you during the ARBCA-GA and to email you this year! I love you cousin and appreciated you so much!

Aunt Becky: Thank you for all your love, encouragement, and prayers this year. I’m so glad you got to visit so often. I love you so much!

Aunt Claudia: Thank you for loving me, always supporting me, and for your care and concern! Love you

Ann McCormick: All these long years you have been my friend! I’m thankful for you and for all the years you’ve been there for me! I love you and miss you!

Bethany Jennings: I’m so thankful  for you! Your gentle heart is a blessing and you are a huge encouragement to me in the writing/blogging world. I’m so glad we’re friends. I am praying diligently for you and your daughter. Love you!

RJ Conte: Thank you for including me in all the fun things you’ve done for your books, for long message conversations about our personalities and writing, and for your love and support of so many people. I really appreciate you!

Tawna W.: I love you so much and your sweet family! I’m so glad that you are in my life. Thank you for working to stay involved and coming to see me so many times this year! You are a dear sister in Christ from a dear sister Church!

Sunday Thoughts: Facebook Syndrome

Facebook-logo-1817834_pngFirst off, this is not a rant against Facebook.  I love Facebook.  It’s the only way I’m able to keep up with my very large and amazing family.  It’s great for storing and sharing pictures.  More importantly, it’s helped me take steps to get to know my church family on a more personal level.  Seeing their status updates throughout the week allows me to pray for them, encourage them, laugh with them, and serve them better.

I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t rant on Facebook or even post negative things.  I try to be positive and light, focused on what activities I’m involved in, and share happy events.  These types of things seem more appropriate for a social venue with 200+ friends and family members reading my status updates.  When your audience ranges from pastors, parents, grandparents, kids, old friends and new it seems wise to practice discretion and limit the deep personal content.

Here’s the rub: sometimes we use Facebook, and its appropriate surface relationships, as a crutch and forget to get to know one another on a deeper level.  This is the Facebook Syndrome, or the, “Hi, how are you?”, “Fine.  How are you?” Syndrome.

My life is far more complicated and difficult than any of my Facebook statuses would ever indicate.  (This is a personal choice.  I don’t have a problem with someone posting prayer requests or negative circumstances.)  Because I choose to do this, I often wonder if others do as well.  Because I know some of my Facebook friends on a more personal, open level, I know they do.

This means we don’t know what a week has held for a fellow believer based on their Facebook status updates.  They may have experienced horror, joy, sadness, depression, struggles, or persecution.  Some things may weigh so heavy on a believer’s heart that posting anything about it on Facebook can seem flippant and disrespectful.  Sometimes things can happen that are so painful talking about them in the lunch line or between services is humanly impossible.  Behind the smile or the busy status update could be concern for a brother or sister overseas, a sister or friend’s miscarriage, a grandparent’s death, a long term illness, a chronically sick spouse, a difficult marriage, great loneliness, job stress, or aging parents.

Our lives are more than our Facebook status updates.  We want to share life’s blessings and wall up our tears.  It’s nice to be happy and busy.  We certainly don’t want to come across as whiny, needy, or depressing to others.  But, dear church members, if we don’t move beyond quick hellos and Facebook status updates we aren’t serving or loving one another.  Who will bear us up if we don’t share our tears with one another?

Go out of your way to get to know your church family.  You don’t have to be the only shoulder to cry on – we all have emotional limits – just don’t content yourself with a Facebook only relationship with your church family.  Don’t be satisfied with a surface relationship.  That’s a great place to start, but don’t stop there.  Practice hospitality.  Text, write a note, go out for coffee, visit, and share.  Be open with your own walk and needs, without gossiping, and listen to the person on the other side of the table.  Actively seek the unpopular, fringe members of your church.  You will find that when you seek to be a friend, you suddenly have many friends.  When you pour yourself out for others, you are blessed.  Don’t think about yourself, think about others and you will find that the Lord has fully supplied your needs.

A Rare Selfie of Grand duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna, early 1910

A Rare Selfie of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna, early 1910

We live in a culture focused on ourselves.  We can create our own online personas, take selfies at more forgiving and filtered angles, and we indulge in a fair amount of ‘me’ time.  With all this online exposure and all this time focused on yourself, do you ever feel alone?  Do you ever wish someone knew you, understood what was going on in your heart and head, and still liked you?  Dear friend!  If you want to have friends, be a friend.  We have forgotten about self-sacrifice.  Pouring yourself out for people is largely uncool these days, but it’s the mark of a believer in their church.

You know the popular passage “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”? Have you ever noticed its context?  It is in the context of our submission and humility in our local church!  Think about that!  Is it hard for you to reach out to people?  Is it hard for you to open up to others on anything deeper than your weekend and your favorite movies?  Do you talk to wise, older women and then take their advice?  Do you listen to your family?  It’s hard.  It’s very hard to be in an active, open, loving church family.  Why?  It requires work, planning, and purpose.  More importantly, it requires you to work with sinners.  It requires you to forgive and love.  It requires you to be a soldier of the Lord, to put yourself in harm’s way for the sake of the soldier next to you, and he might be the one hurting you.

hbctxThe good news, the silver lining?  Christ is the head of this family, our elder brother, our King.  He walks amongst His lamp stands, and He commands us to cast our cares on him.  So dearest family member, let’s strive together to shake of the ease of a relationship only as deep as Facebook, and go at the hard work of learning, listening, and loving each other.  You and I might be surprised to find we have plenty in common, even if it’s just grace – what a place to start!  My experience has been that my preconceived notions about my fellow church members are often wrong or far too shallow.  I have found that when I take the time to get to know my church family, they are the salt of the earth.