Friday, December 06, 2013

Reflections on a life well lived...

Little did I know...

Little did I know that when I freaked out that the predictable course that my life was taking--going to Harding, rooming with my best friends, even having a guy (or two) picked out as possible potential mates--might not be what I really wanted or needed, that God was about to lead me on my greatest journey...

Little did I know that when I begged my mom to take me to see Alabama and Auburn's campuses in February of my senior year, that not only would I really like both of them, but that the Holy Spirit would convict both my mom AND me through tears of wonder and peace at a Sunday night church service that Auburn would be my new home.

Little did I know that the next morning I would be sitting across the desk for the first of hundreds of times from a man who would be my strongest influence, mentor, teacher, truth speaker, encourager, friend, champion, spiritual brother, ministry partner, and beloved campus minister...

Little did I know that when my dad and I visited Auburn a month later and went to Tuesday night devo that I would be sitting at the feet of my most influential teacher, that I was listening to a man who would teach me more about Jesus than I would ever dream possible.

Little did I know that when I got home from class one day, that a voicemail from Jim would change my course in the profound way it did, "Kristy, this is Jim. Is there any way that you can meet me right now at the Student Center. Someone called me and asked me to give them several names of candidates to interview for a youth ministry internship. I gave them one. Yours. Please call me, okay. God is pursuing you."

Little did I know that the summer adventure that I had never even dreamed of would introduce me to my best friend who would become my future husband, that it would awaken a desire in me to go into full time ministry, that it would change my life's goals and dreams.

Little did I know that when my world came crashing down from my experience in ministry in so many ways, when I had lost hope and trust in elders, the church, ministers, men, and was questioning if I ever could entrust my heart to a man in marriage, that his words would be the ones that healed me, and his words confirmed what I wanted so badly to believe. "Kristy, you have to know that Patrick's heart is good. He is kind, and he loves God. He chose you. You can trust him with your heart."

Little did I know that Patrick and I would quote his words from our premarital counseling almost weekly in our household and that his and Mary's instant love for and adoption of Patrick into our Auburn family would impact Patrick as profoundly as it has.

Little did I know that when he called me years later, that his gentle breaking of bad news would help me have closure and forgiveness and hope.

Little did I know that when Patrick and I went through the most difficult time in our marriage, that my husband would lead us to Jim for counsel, and that once again, his gentle and firm truth would affirm us and confirm us and reset us.

Little did I know that even after years of leaving Auburn, the consistency of he and Mary checking in on Facebook to "like" and acknowledge me and my family would mean so much to me.

Little did I know that I would be mourning his earthly loss this week.

Little did I know that I could experience the heartbreak I feel over his death at the same time that my soul rejoices over this good and faithful servant achieving his ultimate goal.

I would not be who I am today without Jim Brinkerhoff. I would not have dreamed the dreams I have dreamed. I would not have seen people like I do. I would not have been courageous and taken risks in the way that I have. I would not have known how much God was pursuing me. I would not have gone deeper. I would not have worshipped as wholeheartedly. I would not have known how to study the Bible with the lost. I would not have understood the Holy Spirit. I would not have as high of expectations of Heaven. I would not have gone to Auburn. I would not have met Patrick.

I am one of thousands who feel this way. Jim, introverted and quirky as he was, opened himself up to invite his college students into his family. I am forever grateful.

His legacy is eternal.

Last night, after sharing many tears and memories and lessons, Patrick and I fell asleep listening to one of Jim's sermons on Heaven. I can't think of anyone more excited to be with God, and I can only imagine how proud God was to welcome Jim home. Well done, good and faithful servant.

I will miss him every day, but I will remember him.

"Marriage is hard work."

"God is pursuing your heart relentlessly."

"I take joy..."

"When you make your choice based on your prayers and your convictions and your desire to be in the center of the will of God, God will bless that choice. Take courage, my friend."

"All you can do is be at peace as far as you are concerned."

"Welcome to ministry."

"We are heirs of the father. We are joint heirs of the Son. We are children of the Kindgom. We are family. We are one."

“There is one place I want to see that can be more than you can ever imagine. God purposely invites us to imagine what heaven can be like. We can only desire what we can imagine. God graciously gives us glimpses into heaven through the scripture….through valid references and concepts and clues….like gardens and cities and resurrected bodies and a new heaven and a new earth. How we will have new and energized responsibilities so tailor made and will resonate with you personally when we get there. All of our views of heaven are incorrect because none of them are good enough………………….God gives us glimpses of heaven because He doesn’t want you or me to settle for this fallen world. Our identity is not determined by our history but by our destiny. I wanted to do this series on heaven for my parents. This next year both of my parents will reach the wondrous age of 80 years old. We are reminded we are on the last stages of our journey – and the destination becomes a lot more important to us. I wanted to do this for them and give them hope. But also for you. This is a road that is paved only by grace. Stop bringing your efforts as you approach the end of your journey. You must embrace in your desperation, and there you will find your joy, that is only through Jesus.” Jim Brinkerhoff, "Imagine", October 2, 2011

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Mom who said "No" to EVERYTHING

Oh my goodness, has this been me lately.

The other morning by 9 a.m. I had this pit in my stomach as I realized that I had already said "no" more times than I could count.

"Can we play with play-doh?" 


"Can we get out our dress up trunk?"


"Can we paint?"


"Can we have some gum?"


With our house on the market and 31 showings under our belt, I am exhausted with keeping the house "Show Ready" with my 3 and 5 year olds under foot. Getting things out like paint and play-doh and Legos and puzzles make me crazy because I never know when the phone is going to ring...

It got the point where I felt like I had preprogrammed myself to say no just for the sake of saying no. Oh, I was being "that mom." Gag...

It's certainly not fair to my little girls to hear "no" over such unnecessary things... Since they hear it plenty with the non-negotiables... 

So I decided I better change my tune...

"Mom, can we play your guitars???"

"Yes! I can't wait to hear your songs!"

"Mom, can we stomp through the creek?"

"That sounds fun, my nature girls!"

"Mom, can we play dress up?"

"Yes, lovely princesses."

"Mom, can we puh-leeeeease paint?"

"Yes, you creative artists!"

"Mom, can we learn about the pilgrims and Indians and do Thanksgiving crafts?"

Er... That might have been my idea... ;) but aren't they cute!?!

But seriously, saying "yes" has made our days fuller and richer. I have taken pleasure in their good pleasure.

It made me think about how God views us... And how He lavishes in our God-honoring good pleasure... And how He loves to say "yes" to us so that we may have life and have it to the full...

I'm going to try to do better about making my "no-s" mean something... And my "yes-es" more fruitful...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Our escape

In learning about myself, I have discovered that I withdraw when I feel things closing in on me... 

And I like to run...away.

October, usually my favorite month of the year, was just a rough one for me. I struggled physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I felt like I was drowning in a dark abyss, and my hopes were dashed, and my dreams crushed. These feelings used to be alien to me, but over the last year in a half, they have crept in with cycles. The end of October brought everything to a head, and I was desperate.

November washed in with good news and renewed hope, and my sweet sweet husband knew that if I was going to run, that he and the girls should run with me. So he swept us away, and whisked us in the middle of the night to my happy place. Oh, how I love him.

This sight greeted me on my first morning out on the balcony.

And with it, this verse resonated in my soul... "Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and The Lord will protect you from behind." ~Isaiah 58:8

There's nothing like a change of scenery to bring you out of yourself and into the heart of your creator. At home, my spiritual disciplines had left empty coffers, my spirit dulled, but this morning, the Lord opened me up to hear and feel and be filled with Him.

And I returned to my favorite of the Lamentations...
21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

My girls joined me on the balcony for some quiet time as well...
while Patrick went to Publix for some groceries. We ate our breakfast of champions, brown sugar Pop Tarts, and then headed out to the beach...
This was our family's first voyage to Orange Beach, and we loved it. We have always been Destin/Seaside/30A people, so this uncharted territory made our adventure even more healing. A college ChiO girlfriend gave me lots of recommendations for food and fun, and we set our course with no agenda except for healing and bonding.

The girls amassed a seashell collection unlike any I have ever seen. They made seashell soup, "under the sea" Birthday cakes, and they adorned their sea sand creatures (in lieu of castles) with seashells.

We swam in a heated pool for hours...

And we dressed for dinner and sunsets...

and Breathtaking views...
The first night we tried a restaurant called Fisher's at the Marina. The ambiance was fun and relaxed and the food delicious. We even ran into another Auburn friend there whose husband was the general manager of the restaurant. I enjoyed Shrimp and Grits while listening to good music and watching Auburn roll over Arkansas.

The next morning was the first day of Daylight Savings time, and my big girl woke me up at 5:30. Groggy as I was, I am so thankful that I managed to capture this image before I sent her back to bed.
After we woke up and had some breakfast, Addison and I escaped out to the balcony. I did not know that Patrick took this picture, but I am so glad he did. My big girl and I are kindred spirits in so many ways, and this captures a unique aspect of our relationship. I think I will cherish it for years to come...
Little sister is never one to be left out on any action, so she soon joined us as well...
Then we went back to play on God's most beautiful playground. I loved that this was my view for much of the morning.
It was a little bit chillier on this day, so Patrick dug them sand holes to play in.

I went for a walk with my girls...
And enjoyed a day with my three favorite people in the world...
These three kept burying each other in the sand and making "sand blankets."
We trekked a little bit down the beach to eat lunch at "The Gulf." The atmosphere was so relaxing. We could have stayed there all day long. Patrick and I both got grouper sandwiches and sea salt fries here, and our simultaneous moans as we devoured each bite had our girls giggling.

After lunch, we reclined in this comfy spot and watched our girls play.

Then we headed back to the beach until sunset.

That night we got ready for dinner again...
And went to Cosmo's. Patrick and I shared a Savory appetizer: cheesecake with blackened fish and shrimp; I ordered blackened mahi mahi with parmesan risotto, and Patrick got a shrimp po-boy. It was delicious as well!
The best part of the whole night though was when the Auburn Women's Soccer team walked into the restaurant. At Patrick's urging, I mustered up enough gumption to start approaching them with my big soccer girl who was mesmerized by them. Thankfully, the coach saw our advance, intercepted us, and organized these athletes around us for a picture. They were super sweet to Addy-belle, and they told her to keep practicing her soccer skills so she could play soccer at Auburn too. It is all she has talked about since.

Our last day at the beach was overcast, but my girls still insisted on their sunglasses. I love these shots of them as such sweet sisters...
We got every ounce of playing out of our systems that we could and enjoyed another family walk on the beach.

That afternoon, we showered and packed up and stopped for lunch at Bravos Tacos for our last seafood--we got fish and shrimp tacos, and made the trek home.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to run. I am so thankful for the healing power of the salt water and sand. I am so thankful for new perspectives and fresh mercies. It is hard to come home and keep the worries and fears and pains from seeping back in, but thankfully I can bring these images to mind, reread those verses, and feel the peace I felt so clearly.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The one where I met one of my heroes...

I still am bewildered that it actually happened.

I met one of my literary heroes, and I will never be the same.

When I was twenty years old without a care in the world, right in the middle of my college career, I had the unique opportunity, the once-in-a-lifetime experience, of living in Charleston, South Carolina for the summer with three of my best friends from high school. Words really can't describe all the things I learned about myself, about the life I wanted to live, and the city that I fell in love with.

The reason I fell in love with the city: Pat Conroy.

I read his words as I walked the streets. Charleston seduced me just like he said it would.

“Charleston has a landscape that encourages intimacy and partisanship. I have heard it said that an inoculation to the sights and smells of the Carolina lowcountry is an almost irreversible antidote to the charms of other landscapes, other alien geographies. You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the lowcountry, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Charleston and her marshes.” 
― Pat ConroyThe Lords of Discipline

I have read all of his beautifully tragic and witty stories, and there is no one's craft of writing that I respect more. His words have power, evoke myriad emotions. His commanding voice incites and empowers me to keep striving to find my own voice.

When I finished reading all of the words he had written, I kept silently pleading for more... more stories, more descriptions, more raw beauty... When he did his book tour for My Losing Season in 2004, Dad and I had tickets to a book signing at the old Davis Kidd Bookstore, and I was devastated when he cancelled this leg of his tour due to illness. I devoured his words in this memoir like the pages were on fire in my insatiable quest for more more more.

When my parents called to tell me about an event he was scheduling for Nashville, I got reservedly excited, not wanting my hopes to be dashed again. Then, the week of the event, I was going through some personal struggles, and I honestly forgot all about it. Thankfully my parents and sweet husband ambushed me at work and took care of all the details for me to get to be able to go. I am forever grateful for them knowing me so well and their determination to make this night happen.

Nashville Public Libraries are partnering with our renowned independent bookstore Parnassus to bring authors to town on their book tours, and have named the event Salon 615. Pat Conroy's venue was Hume Fogg's historical auditorium. We sat on the second row, and the way his chair was angled, it felt like he was speaking directly to US. Mayor Karl Dean introduced this event, and when Ann Patchett, a local author and one of the owners of Parnassus, stepped out to interview him, my jaw dropped and my giddiness was palpable.
My parents had surprised me with a copy of his newest work: a non-fictional sequel to his first work of fiction, The Great Santini, that we were able to get signed!!! (My only disappointment of the whole experience lies in the still unsigned copy of my first addition Lords of Discipline that is packed up in a box somewhere while my house is on the market...I just couldn't pilfer through all of the madness in time...)

After waiting in line, I not only got to have my literary hero sign my book, but I also got to have a conversation with him--about Charleston, the city that we both love, about words, about writing... I still can't believe it actually happened...

But it did, and I am already engrossed in his new book that is inscribed: "For the love of fathers and Charleston." 
And because I just can't help myself, I will end this post with his words...

“I can't pass a bookstore without slipping inside, looking for the next book that will burn my hand when I touch its jacket, or hand me over a promissory note of such immense power that it contains the formula that will change everything about me.”
― Pat ConroyMy Reading Life

“Here's what I want from a book, what I demand, what I pray for when I take up a novel and begin to read the first sentence: I want everything and nothing less, the full measure of a writer's heart. I want a novel so poetic that I do not have to turn to the standby anthologies of poetry to satisfy that itch for music, for perfection and economy of phrasing, for exactness of tone. Then, too, I want a book so filled with story and character that I read page after page without thinking of food or drink because a writer has possessed me, crazed with an unappeasable thirst to know what happens next.” 
― Pat Conroy

“Great teachers had great personalities and that the greatest teachers had outrageous personalities. I did not like decorum or rectitude in a classroom; I preferred a highly oxygenated atmosphere, a climate of intemperance, rhetoric, and feverish melodrama. And I wanted my teachers to make me smart. A great teacher is my adversary, my conqueror, commissioned to chastise me. He leaves me tame and grateful for the new language he has purloined from other kings whose granaries are filled and whose libraries are famous. He tells me that teaching is the art of theft: of knowing what to steal and from whom. Bad teachers do not touch me; the great ones never leave me. They ride with me during all my days, and I pass on to others what they have imparted to me. I exchange their handy gifts with strangers on trains, and I pretend the gifts are mine. I steal from the great teachers. And the truly wonderful thing about them is they would applaud my theft, laugh at the thought of it, realizing they had taught me their larcenous skills well.” 
― Pat ConroyThe Lords of Discipline

“I prayed hard and only gradually became aware that this fierce praying was a way of finding prologue and entrance into my own writing. This came as both astonishment and relief. When I thought God had abandoned me, I discovered that He had simply given me a different voice to praise the inexhaustible beauty of the made world.” 
― Pat Corny

I stood face to face with the moon and the ocean and the future that spread out with all its bewildering immensity before me.” 
― Pat Conroy

“Carolina beach music," Dupree said, coming up on the porch. "The holiest sound on earth.” 
― Pat ConroyBeach Music

“I wanted to become the seeker, the aroused and passionate explorer, and it was better to go at it knowing nothing at all, always choosing the unmarked bottle, always choosing your own unproven method, armed with nothing but faith and a belief in astonishment.” 
― Pat ConroyThe Lords of Discipline

“No story is a straight line. The geometry of a human life is too imperfect and complex, too distorted by the laughter of time and the bewildering intricacies of fate to admit the straight line into its system of laws.” 
― Pat ConroyBeach Music

"I WEAR THE RING," Lords of Discipline