A few of you probably know that I used to have a blog. A blog that I posted on quite frequently. A blog that had a readership, not a large one, but people who followed and commented and got antsy when I went too long between posts. Some of them were locals who knew me, some were cyber “friends” and then of course, there were family members who could keep up with our particular brand of crazy from a safe distance. My blog wasn't cutting-edge or political or controversial; it was just about life and marriage and kids – my take on it all. I enjoyed writing, and it was always fun when someone liked a story or when they could relate to what you'd said. It was also a way to process things that happened, like when our house was struck by lightning, or a way to slow down and document the seemingly insignificant things, which are all too easily forgotten in the midst of our busy lives. And let’s be honest – sometimes writing was cheaper than therapy, like when the littles found and then dumped a brand-new container of baby powder all over their sister’s room … once the cloud cleared, we discovered from their toddler gibberish and gyrations on the floor that they were making “snow angels.” Oy. If I recall, my eye ceased twitching after about the third day, but the powdery, fresh smell lingered on.
I shared all that to say that somewhere along the way I think I lost my voice. Not in the literal sense, as in I needed warm tea with honey and lemon because I couldn't speak, but my voice – the expressive part of me that shared life’s experiences through words. It just slipped away. But it didn't happen all at once; it was gradual, by degrees. And the longer I was silent, the easier it was not to speak. It’s not that I didn't have anything to say. Something funny/interesting/noteworthy would happen, and I’d think – THAT is blog worthy, but when I’d sit down to write, the words wouldn't come. And if they did I would edit myself back down to a blank screen, rendering myself mute. During this time, even though I was not posting and only wrote occasionally (normally when a deadline that I couldn't escape loomed over me) I would tell myself how no one was really affected by my silence. Life went on, as it is prone to do, but there was an uneasiness, a discontent, that seemed to hover.
The little boys took swimming lessons last month, and as it turns out, I learned something too. On day one, he taught them to “Superman” by putting their face in the water, streamlining their arms and using only their legs to propel them. Next he taught them to reach and pull with their arms, in addition to kicking their legs, to freestyle. Then he taught them to float. To lie on their backs, relaxed, and just float. They were pretty proud of themselves and couldn't wait to go back. On day two, he had them jumping off the blocks into the deep end (9 feet) and swimming about one fourth the length of the pool to a “noodle” that he held out for them to grab. Over and over they jumped and swam, while he increased the distance to the noodle slightly each time until they were swimming almost half the length. But the next time they jumped, he said, “This time, don’t swim. I want you to tread water.” He got in the pool with them and showed them how to move their arms and legs just enough to keep their head above water. The next few minutes were spent jumping in, treading water, then swimming to the ladder and climbing out. At the end of the lesson, he sat beside them on the edge of the deep end of the pool and told them, “Today I taught you to tread water because it can save your life if you fall into a body of water.” One of the boys told him, “That made me feel tired!” But it was what the coach said next that struck me: “That’s right. You can only tread water for a short time before you become too tired and begin to sink. But that’s why I taught you to float. When you get too tired, just relax and breathe and float until you can tread water again or swim to safety.” Upon hearing his words, I quietly closed my book, and felt the sting of tears begin to well up because I realized that’s exactly what I had been doing – not treading water, but treading life. Treading through the day to day, through relationships, through loads of laundry and sinks of dishes, through parenting challenges, through responsibilities and expectations, through surgeries and life changes, through feelings of guilt and inadequacy, through preparing for a child to leave the nest … and the list goes on. Treading life. And it’s exhausting. That feeling of inertia, feeling stuck, because you know you should be moving forward but you aren't, either because you can’t, or because you don't know how? Painful.
But God never intended for us to live life like that, struggling to keep our head above water. I love how The Message reads in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
And because God is full of grace and mercy for His children and uses the people in our lives to bless us, one of my very best friends, Stefaney, invited me to do a summer Bible study with her. You’ll never in a bazillion years guess the title!!!
“STUCK: the places we get stuck and the God who sets us free.” I know!!! I’m sitting here in tears all over again thinking about how much God loves us and wants to free us, for our own good but ultimately for His glory! And I’m speechless … but this time in a good way. :)
So I promised when I introduced myself to you in my “meet the blogger” post that we’d be keeping it real here. I’m not sure you were ready for all this real-ness, but here it is. And while I am trying to once again find my voice, and to stop treading, please don't be offended if I ask for some warm tea with honey and lemon or for you to throw me a noodle occasionally. This life thing is hard, but God is good.
Keep it real,
Hi, I’m Bronie ... not brownie or brawny, but trust me when I say, I have heard many entertaining attempts at pronouncing my unusual first name. It’s really pretty simple, like Bonnie with an “r” or Ronnie with a “B”, but I’ll break it down for you –– it’s pronounced [BRA knee], and heaven forbid those two things ever meet! :)
I was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, the youngest of three kids in a single-parent household. Though I don’t think I have a particularly strong Southern accent, the inherent twang doth eek out occasionally, especially when I sing. And after I’ve been home for a visit. But mostly in my writin’ ... I often drop the “g” off the ends of words when I tell a story because that’s how I hear it in my head. I’m weird like that.
I was raised in church and came to Jesus as a six year old girl, and although I point to that experience as the beginning of my faith journey, it was not until my young adult years that I feel like I really took responsibility for my journey with Christ. I began a relationship with Him with a child’s understanding, which is all that’s required, but as I grew up, a little life experience taught me more about what I’d been saved from. That’s the part that is sometimes lost on a child. Salvation is instant when we ask, but surrender is a process –– letting Him have control on a daily basis.
As a kid I loved singing, playing piano, drawing, painting, playing tennis, writing poetry, and all things artsy-crafty, which I’m pretty sure can be attributed to a long line of DNA. I remember on many occasions (read: every time our family got together for holidays), we were craftin’ it up making dough ornaments, weaving baskets, decorating straw hats that were meant to hang on the wall (the 80’s, anyone?) ... but on one unlucky occasion I recall having to perch one atop my noggin on a long trip home from Myrtle Beach because the car was slap full of cousins and a plethora of hand-crafted masterpieces made during our visit. Good times.
I’m married to the most patient man and have been for almost 21 years. He truly is the better half of this union. He is kinder, more compassionate, way more organized than I am, and he still makes me laugh on a daily basis, though sometimes unintentionally. We have four awesome kids who are 18, 15, 8 and 6. The older kids, Ryan and Emily, were born in Tennessee and currently attend public school, and the littles, Wyatt and Elijah, are our Louisiana “baybays” and are still homeschooled. Jay made me two promises when we got married: 1) that we’d never have much money, and 2) that life would never be boring. My man’s a promisekeeper!
I have been a part of Total Woman U Faculty for the last several years and currently serve as Co-Executive Director, Director of Performing Arts and Editor-in-Chief. Okay, that last bit is unofficial, but a role I have inherited because my friends call me “Word Girl” (“Grammar Nazi” behind my back). I admit it. I love words ... reading, writing, doing word searches and playing word games in my spare time, and let’s not forget talking. My love of words carries with it an aversion to incorrect grammar and all things misspelled. I correct things, sometimes only in my head. This is what has earned me editor responsibilities. See? God can use even our quirks for the good if we’ll let Him.
Just so you know, I have been called on more than one occasion and in a variety of ways, “not very pastor’s wife-y” which just makes me giggle. “You’re just so ... *I wait while they struggle for the word they’re looking for* ... REAL.” Well, here’s the thing. I AM real. (And I really hope they meant it in a good way because that’s how I chose to take it.) I’m not big on pretense and prefer authenticity, even with its flaws. And flaws? Oh, I got ‘em. And if you’re honest, so do you. Everyone has challenges, things they deal with or struggles they face. For example, I live with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and have since I was a young adult. It’s not my identity, but it is part of my story. And it has stolen some abilities like opening pickle jars, playing the piano, and all prospects of making a living as a hand model. :) I am, however, profoundly thankful to our kind God that He still allows me the awesome privilege of leading in worship. All glory to Him! We were asked at our last TWU Faculty retreat to write a personal purpose statement, and while mine is still under construction, it goes something like this:
God has granted me the ability to find humor in the hard things and has lovingly showed me that brokenness does not equal uselessness; He does not waste our struggles and can use them to encourage others in theirs ...
And that’s my hope –– to be an encouragement to people. Life is hard, but God is good! If you decide to journey with us, you’ll hear real stories from real people striving to live their best life in obedience to a real God! And we just might share some laughs along the way!
Keep it real,
We had such a blast with you at Sending Her Equipped! We so enjoyed spending the day with you all! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thinking a lot about what we talked about together, the whole process of charting our course. I hope you’ve been paying attention to those road signs along the way. Remember, we can’t make the meaningful and permanent changes on our own, but we can choose this day who we will serve and allow God to change us! I am so comforted that I am not alone on this journey! We can only decide to do our best one day at a time. We can determine that today we are going to give Him the control He rightfully deserves so that we can decrease and He can increase! Only then do we make room for real love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Are you recognizing more spiritual fruit in yourself? Are you more aware of it in your daily interactions? Are you more appreciative of it when you experience it in others? I hope your answer is a resounding YES! But if it’s not yet, don’t give up! Remember ... one day at a time, and tomorrow is a brand new day!
If you recall, you got a little homework assignment to work on: your mission statement. I hope you’ve been giving it some thought. I wanted to share this story with you, to inspire you.
When Rick Hoyt was born in 1962, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and declared a spastic quadriplegic, and it was not expected that he’d learn to speak. Although many doctors gave up on him and advised his parents to institutionalize Rick, his parents refused, treating him just like they treated his siblings. Later, teachers discouraged Rick from getting an education; however, not only did he do so, communicating through a special computer, but he eventually graduated from Boston University with a degree in special education. One day, Rick typed out a message to his father, Dick, saying he wanted to enter a foot race. His father agreed to do it by pushing his son’s wheelchair the entire way, resulting in “the biggest smile” Rick’s parents had ever seen on his face when they crossed the finish line. After the race, Rick Hoyt told his father that he felt like his disability had “disappeared” while his wheelchair was flying along the course, which led his father to decide to train for, and enter, as many athletic contests as he could with Rick along for the ride (pushed in the running, pulled in the swimming, and connected in the cycling.) Since 1992, they have completed more than two hundred triathlons, including six Ironman competitions, as well as sixty-five marathons. As a result of the joy that came to Rick from feeling like a participant in athletic events, Dick Hoyt’s mission statement is magnificent: “To integrate the physically challenged into everyday life,” and he thanks his disabled son for giving him this worthy purpose.
Wow! I just love that story! That’s quite a mission statement! And it came from something he was already doing! He made it his mission to continue what he’d already begun! As you are crafting your mission statement, remember to consider these things:
* What are your most cherished values?
* How do you want others to remember you after you’re gone?
*What are you already doing that makes you feel accomplished or gives you a sense of purpose?
And here are a couple more thoughts to encourage you:
* A purpose in life guides our behavior and thoughts. It starts with our values, it shapes the goals we set and our reactions to setbacks, and it clarifies our future endeavors.
* A mission statement is a rich, specific way to compellingly telegraph your beliefs and inspires you to be your best self every day.
We’d love to hear from you! If you are willing to share your mission statement, please do! Not only does it provide accountability, it will more than likely spur someone else on to complete theirs!
One day at a time,
Practice makes perfect...
...at least thatʼs what my piano teacher used to tell me. I began taking piano lessons when I was six years old. And from what I remember, I really enjoyed playing but not “practicing.” I liked to play the songs that I liked and the ones I was good at. I guess thatʼs normal. Iʼd venture to say most of us prefer to do the things we feel we are good at as opposed to things that are difficult and challenge us. As I continued taking lessons (for many years), and as I matured, I began to see the wisdom in those words – “practice makes perfect.” As the musical selections became more difficult, more practice was required to master them. Even so, sometimes there still seemed to be a disconnect between my brain and my fingers. It took purposeful effort and concentration, and sometimes breaking down Bach Inventions into one measure at a time, or moreso, one hand at a time, to really play each rhythm and note correctly.
You may be wondering how in the world this is relevant. Well, at our last event, Stefaney and I referenced a book, The Fitting Room by Kelly Minter. The entire book is based on Colossians 3, taking off the old and putting on the new virtues we receive through our relationship with Christ. Here is an excerpt from chapter five:
“...I believe Scripture is clear that virtuous living requires effort on our part. As Dallas Willard so insightfully says, ʻGrace is not opposed to effort (action)–though it is opposed to earning.ʼ When we take the chisel to the stone of our old natures, thereʼs one piece in Colossians 3:9 that adds practical instruction for us: Paul says to take off the old self with its practices. We practice things all day long without always realizing it. The question becomes not are we practicing, but what are we practicing? Itʼs easy to get stuck in the pattern of our old lifestyles when we donʼt change our practices. Without coming at this from a legalistic perspective, we must make some tangible changes when weʼre learning to walk in the Spirit.”
So, if the statement “practice makes perfect” is indeed true, we could become masters at things weʼd never intend. I donʼt want to be “good at” gossip. I would never consciously select selfishness as a worthwhile pursuit. Or anger. Or bitterness. Or... (you fill in the blank).
We need to be careful and very intentional with what we practice. Knowing what the Scriptures say about the virtues (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, love), and that because we have been chosen we can now wear them, doesnʼt always make them easy to put them on. Just like the seeming disconnect between my brain and my fingers while learning a new piece of music, there sometimes seems to be a spiritual disconnect between my brain (knowledge) and my heart (practicing) when it comes to daily wearing my “new” wardrobe, designed by the Maker Himself. I am not a new believer; I came to Christ that same year I began taking piano lessons. Yet all these years later, Iʼm still a work in progress, and with His help, a work in practice.
With Christmas only a week and a half away, letʼs be mindful of what we are practicing. Letʼs practice patience when weʼre standing in the long line at the check-out. And how about practicing kindness to the cashier who may have been on her feet all day? And letʼs try humility when someone cuts us off in traffic; are we really in that big of a hurry? There are lots of practical ways we can show Christʼs love this season, and the benefits will far outweigh any negatives. Come back here and share your experiences as you are practicing. You may just encourage someone else along the way.
I hope you have the happiest of holidays as you spend time with family and friends and as you celebrate the greatest gift the world has ever known – The Light of the World, The King of Kings and Prince of Peace, our Emmanuel.
Can you believe itʼs been three months since our last SHE event? Wow!!! Time sure flies, doesnʼt it?
Well, I hope youʼve had a chance to rethink some of the things we talked about and to let them really sink in and become a part of your life, how you think and how you respond. I hope youʼve been cultivating your spiritual appetite and laying off the “spiritual snickers bars.” Old habits can be hard to break, but rest assured, God wants to spend time with you, and if you will seek Him and spend time in His Word, He will never disappoint!
Remember in the Swap Shop “Eat & Be Satisfied,” our key verse was, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matt 5:6) We talked about the word filled, how it comes from the Greek word “chortazo,” meaning “to be fully satisfied, to enjoy abundance.” Iʼd like to take a minute to talk a little more about the word filled.
You know, being filled and being full are not the same thing. The passage doesnʼt really say that those who hunger will be full. It says that those who hunger will be filled. The verb demonstrates continuous action; that is, you are continuously given in order that you can continuously give. Think of it this way - pipes get filled with water, but they donʼt stay that way ... unless thereʼs a clog, but thatʼs not really the point here. :-) Pipes fill with water, but they donʼt stay full. If a bucket gets full and stays that way, it stagnates. You know why the Dead Sea is dead? Because it has no outflow! You and I were not called to be buckets that sit around full of water, but we are called to be pipes. As the water flows through us, it fills the pipe. The filling of the pipe means that it is flowing through the pipe to accomplish a purpose on the other end!
Isnʼt that great news?! As we hunger and thirst for righteousness, God fills us.
I love the thought of God continually filling us with what we need. Fresh from the source! As we daily hunger and thirst for Him, He daily fills us with what we need to fulfill our purpose!
So what are you waiting for?
Eat! Drink! Be filled!
God is looking for men and women who want to be filled ... who will He find?
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