Today is Day 1.
Yesterday marked the end of a school year that, as a wife, mom and a homeschooling mom, sent me into a total tailspin.
Sure, we had victories and some high fives. Yes, there were difficult school classes and fun but challenging assignments. There were projects and papers and tests. There was cramming and last minute deadlines. There were crayons and glue and scissors. But in the midst of all that normal school stuff and to-be-expected, we also experienced some normal *life* stuff: personal family loss and fear and out-of-the-blue-what-ifs and foundation-shaking moments from which we are still digging out.
Have you been there too? You know the ones I'm talking about? The school ones where you look at each other over tear stained text books and say 'how did we get here?' And those other times you stand motionless in each other's presence after unspeakable personal loss and say 'what do we do now?' Yeah. That was us. All. Year. Long. Blow after blow - school, family, personally, we couldn't seem to catch a break.
So tonight when the sun was speeding towards its resting place on the river's edge, I stood with those that my heart fights for and I stopped. I breathed deep the brackish air and let my lungs be filled not only with air..but hope... confident of the necessity of both to keep me alive.
I was reminded of the great promises that joy comes in the morning. That mercies are new. That faithfulness is great and comes every single day. That our worst days are writing the preface of the story of our best days to come. That I needed this sunset to set my heart on the anticipation of the sunrise of Day 2 and it would write a new better story.
It just had to.
So tonight at midnight as Day 1 of a new year turns to Day 2, not only does the date turn, but so does my heart. I'm thankful for the start of something new and confident in my declaration and proclaim with boldness, 'It's a new day now. Come on mercy, come on strength!' And to the precious ones for which my heart beats and fights ... hear me: We're going to make it little ones. Grab the hands of your family and let's walk this thing out ... together.
Day 2 is on the way.
Day 2 is here.
That’s how I heard the end of our weekend service once described. I took it as an overwhelming vote of confidence and as the upmost compliment. Our congregation was responding.
As Seacoast Church, we believe that the Word of God is living and active (Heb. 4:12). We also believe that as hearers of the word, it calls us to action (James 1:22). Worship, as an extension of the Word through song should be the same. When the two have an opportunity to collide; what God says plus a response to it through worship, there should be some action involved. While I agree that worship should be authentically expressed, I’m not talking about how demonstrative or not one chooses to be during the musical part of our services. I’m actually talking about simply actively responding to Jesus in an authentic way. In the Church today, I see worship as an active, living response to an active, living Word from an active, living God.
At the end of each of our weekend services, we give people an opportunity to respond to what the Lord has spoken to them during the message. Our speaking Pastor will end the message by saying, “What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it?”. That’s when the activity begins in what we call “Response Time”.
Throughout each of the rooms where the 13 campuses meet, there are what we call “Response Stations”: paper and pens where people can pin notes to a cross, candles to light for intercessory prayer, communion stations, prayer teams, and opportunities to give tithes and offerings. Each is optional, but each requires some kind of action. Some will stay in their seats while the first worship song starts, some will immediately move to a response station, but there is motion and purpose behind it all. The physical act of ‘doing something about it’ helps to cement what the Lord is saying in the heart of the hearer. We end our services with two or three worship songs as people are responding and finish with a celebratory declaration of all He’s done.
Worship in the Church today takes many forms and can be found in multiple sounds, styles and genres. All have a place and all, if appropriately expressed, can help to point us to Jesus. What I love about worship, as a lifestyle and as the musical part of our services, is that it absolutely demands that we DO something. Worship is an external response to a Holy God; the created expressing thanks to the Creator.
Demonstratively dancing and raising your hands or quietly sitting alone listening to the words of a worship song, worship in the Church today is all about actively pursuing Jesus. How you choose to express that actually isn’t as important as the extent to which you’re willing to engage. I firmly believe that what we choose to do with what God gives us today will determine the depth of what He can do with it tomorrow. I love the way our church has created space for us to be able to respond, act and engage with Him at the end of our services. It’s a beehive of activity but one that is making way for the Lord to do amazing things among us as we actively pursue Him.
This was written on the first day of Ethan's freshman year in high school in August of 2015.
Today is the last day of his freshman year of high school.... and we made it... and x=30 all. year. long.
(And he made a B+ in Geometry). -tb
It came today before my eyes were even open. As I peered out with one eye from behind the covers, I knew.
“Not today, Lord. Not today.”
A massive headache was already on the move. But I didn’t have time for a headache. Today was tightly calculated, which-parent-was-taking-which-child-where kind of day, and it all revolved around a day with no headache.
Maybe today a headache was actually the sweet grace of my Jesus who knew I needed to have a headache in order to keep my heart distracted. Today would be yet one more time in a series of years where I’ve had to let my vulnerable heart beat outside of my body.
In the still of this morning, as I walked into the dark room and sat down on the side of the bed of my first born, I saw a tiny baby in a 14 year old’s body. In a flash, I watched him learn to crawl, walk, run, speak, kick a ball, pack a lunch and study Geometry. And it all happened just that fast. Faster than I could make the memories out in my mind, it all happened. Today was the first day of High School. High School. He’s going to rock it like he’s done so many things before, I have no doubt, but as I look at him I can’t help but wonder, where has the last 14 years gone? How have we been so busy enjoying a great life that we went to bed and opened our eyes and woke to the first day of high school?
Last night he was nervous and the preliminary work he had been asked to do rattled him. Everything was different… teachers, school, expectations, friends, books, uniforms, schedules. Everything.
While working through a Geometry review to get him ready, he had slumped over his massive book in defeat, blonde hair falling over his arm that looked all the sudden shockingly large. He looked at me with those steely blue eyes and said, “Mom, I don’t know. I. Just. Don’t. Know.”
All his doubt over a Geometry problem and starting high school was the sum total of how I felt about him getting older. I.Just.Don’t.Know. that I can do it. I don’t know that I can let him fail forward and make decisions and watch him begin, ever so slowly, to leave the nest.
I said something motherly that I cannot recall at just about the same time his eyes focused on the polygon before him.
“Oh?” I said.
“Oh wait… I totally get it… this isn’t hard. x=30.”
(Smiling). “Yes love, x=30. You CAN do this. You know how to figure it out. God is with you and you are going to rock this. Not just problem #5, but all of it.”
“Yeah (smiling). I guess I will.”
So this morning, as I sat on the side of his bed, when my head was pounding as fast as the heart in my throat, I told the Lord that X was going to = 30 all year long. That I was going to rock this release and that my first born who was looking all of 25 at the moment was going to rock it as well.
Later that morning, we made a promise to each other as he shut the car door and walked into school. X=30. We would remind each other of God’s faithfulness. X=30. We could do this. X=30. When things were great…X=30. When things were completely falling apart…X still = 30.
We locked eyes. I pointed straight at him from across the parking lot and half shouted my charge.
“X=30, baby. X=30.”
He looked at me with those steely blue eyes, ran his hands through his hair, half smiled and said, “I love you, Mom. It sure does.”
A story to remind us what happens when we believe in a love that wins.
Once upon a time in a lovely southern town something terrible happened. It was the kind of terrible that people don't even talk about, for even thinking it would make you shudder. But it happened. And it was terrible.
The whole lovely town stopped breathing. Everyone moved in the slow motion of disbelief. People cried and prayed and questioned. It was terrible.
Then, something wonderful happened. The whole lovely town held hands. They sang together, prayed together, came together like never before. The town became a picture of what happens when fear gives way to faith. When hurt gives way to healing. Where tragedy gives way to triumph.
People forgave. People gathered. People loved.
The whole world watched that lovely town learn to find their feet of strength again and they were amazed at how strong they stood. You see, sadly, this town and the world it was in was not a stranger to struggle. It had fallen to terrible things before and there was a long history of simply getting it wrong. But this time, this time, the lovely town got it right because they led with love, not law. They led with honor, not hate. They led with their hearts outstretched in their hands, not held tightly in their fists.
The lovely town will forever remember the terrible thing and will always have it to tell. However, the lovely town will also remember that this terrible thing gave way to a wonderful thing: a love that knows no boundaries. A love that keeps on loving. A love that locks arms, gives free hugs, and stands strong. A love that is rooted deeply in the Giver of ultimate love who endlessly works all things for good.
A love that wins. Every time.
The Lord speaks to me in thoughts that turn into allegories. Today is no different. Today it's my garden - and He speaks - and I listen - and I hear him speaking about people and messy life and the way of it all....
Here's what I'm learning - feel free to make all the connections as you go:
It’s 147 steps to the water. Water where I can breathe. Water where I can think. 147 steps.
Sometimes I walk there. Sometimes I can hardly crawl. Sometimes I bust out my front door, leaving shoes or jackets or anything rational on the porch, and run frantic like my clothes are on fire to the very end. On the way, words, thoughts, conversations desperate for expression turn to water, and I realize, it’s probably the only way they will ever be spoken.
I breathe in the brackish air and it helps me reset. Like a jolt to the system, full lungs after gasping. I am met by birds and fish and little crabs that scurry back to their secret places. Curious dolphins stop by. Blue herons skim the reeds. All of us are searching. We are all looking for what sustains us, what will keep us alive.
I’m allowed to rest here. I don’t have to be on, I don’t have to behave nicely, I don’t have to wear the right clothes or makeup or do my hair. The people who own this precious path to the river, they don’t care. They just want me to come - it’s a gift they’ve given me - anonymity, privacy, peace. They know I’m bone tired. That regardless that I try so hard, I can never quite get it all done, be as brave or tolerant as I should, or that I will ever measure up to what people expect me to be. They see me wearing thin. They worry, but they let me breathe. They know that prayer and solitude is healing and they offer both. They also are fully aware that Jesus and salt water heal all wounds. They just let me come - and I love them for it.
I love the path to the river, the river that beckons me again today... 147 steps away
40 is promise and the 'what's next' and apparently the new 20. (I'll take it). 40 is also a shift in who I've been and allowed others to dictate that I am. I'm so me at 40.
There's a deep settling that is happening. It is coming slowly now but will descend like the rain in the weeks and months to come, I am sure. There is a settling into my skin, into who I am and who I was made to be. A resolve of heart and of purpose and mission.
Twenty was 'Who am I?'. Thirty was 'I can prove it'. Forty is 'I don't have to because I know.'
While I don't have everything figured out (far, far from it) what I do know is there are lots of growing pains that go along with this settling. Where those pains would have crippled me in my twenties and challenged me in my thirties, they are working something in me today that, I can only imagine, will craft my finest days.
She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25 NLT
I'm hearing myself ask questions like 'Why are we doing this?' 'What will this gain us?' and 'It is really worth it?'. All important questions that need to be stared down, not ignored as in days gone by due to a frantic unsustainable pace.
I get one chance. One chance to get this right. I don't feel pressure, I feel an obligation and an excited responsibiity to make the most of my days. They are indeed numbered.
And today is 40.
Often I'm asked, 'Hey T - what's your favorite song?' or 'What are you listening to these days?'. In the line of work I'm in this is a natural question and I usually rattle off the name of the most recent song that has wrecked my heart or a lyric that the Lord is using to undo me.
This week I heard some music in my own house that, although seemingly a bit unconventional, I realized was my absolute favorite song. Yes, we are music lovers in our house... there rarely is a moment where there is NOT music in one room or another, but these sounds that were building my perfect playlist were of a completely different sort. These were not Christmas carols that reminded us of memories we've made. These sounds weren't even songs on the latest worship release or ones we'd sing on a weekend... but filled with His presence nonetheless. These songs were much more precious.
It was sounds like: Ethan playing soccer with Brody in the kitchen complete with commentary and crowd noise, Brody's hysterical laughter... the one he does when he's watching Ethan and laughs so hard he can hardly breathe, the 'sons of thunder' playing upstairs so loudly that I begin to pray for the integrity of the ceiling, the sound of Greg's truck in the driveway and the garage door opening around dinner time, knowing my hardest goodbye of the day is getting ready to be my favorite hello, the washing machine never stopping, the back door and then the refrigerator door and then the back door again, Greg praying quietly over the boys at night before bed, words like: "Get your shoes on", "Can I please have more" and "Don't touch your brother". It's the kind of stuff that itunes can't replicate and if they could, I'm not sure anyone would intentionally search for it - but it's also the kind of thing that I would be willing to pay a million dollars for, everyday, for the rest of my life if I needed to. It's the soundtrack of my life and as I'm learning all the lines and lyrics, I'm finding it's the best set of songs I've ever heard.
These melodies are etched in my soul like that song that gets stuck in your head - but in the best way possible. These are songs I don't want to forget. Songs I want to be able to sing back when I'm 80. Songs I'm so glad I get to sing.
There are a few things that make us distinctly "Banks": how we all cheer for different EPL teams, the way we have a passion for music, the way we love all things Aloha, and the way we eat zucchini bread. Yes. In our family, it's an art form.
Once a week, for almost two years, I have made 2 loaves of zucchini bread (or "ZZ Bread" as it's called around here). Usually, one loaf is devoured in the first 24 hours, the second lingers for a few days, but only until the beginning of the next week, when two more arrive. I was looking for a way to pack in healthy goodness (all organic, full of veggies, fruit, protein, etc.) but without making my family eat something less than savory. After much testing in the kitchen, I came up with a recipe that my kids and husband adore... and they don't even mind that it's packed with more veggies, fruit and protein than most people eat all week. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack - ZZ bread is innately "Banks". Ethan has learned home school math and science making it, Brody has learned the art of "helping mommy" and Greg has learned precisely how long it takes for the loaf to cool to the perfect temperature so he can dive into the first piece.
Tonight, while Brody was helping me make this week's batch, the Lord began speaking to me. I was pouring the batter into the loaf pans and had already planned to give my little helper an opportunity to have, by far, the best part of the baking experience - a chance to lick the bowl - when this scene started playing out. You see, he had spilled a bit of flour on the counter and was busy poking his pudgy little finger in his little mess when he asked me if he could eat it. I answered, "Sure, but it's not going to be as yummy as you think." Brody's little nose wrinkled up after tasting the flour and he tried to muster a "mmm" sound, as he wanted to pretend he had made the right decision. I laughed, because it was just so precious, and handed him a huge spoon and the batter bowl. He scraped the bowl clean in a matter of seconds, said, "Thank you, Mommy!" and climbed down from his kitchen chair perch... with the remnants of the batter all over his face.
And that's when it hit me.
How much is that like us with the Lord?
He has these amazing plans and dreams for us and instead we're asking him, as we poke our pudgy little fingers in our own messes, "Can I have this?", meanwhile, he's got an AMAZING, YUMMY concoction of a plan just inches away that would be so much better than we could ever imagine if we would only wait on Him for the better thing. He's saying to us, in love and with a heaping cup full of mercy, "Sure, Beloved, you can have your little mess, but it's not going to be as yummy as you think...." Then, when we come away from the experience feeling less than satisfied, he never fails to offer us the better plan, the easier way, His highest will for our lives.... all in love, mercy, and without condemnation.
Precious, gracious Father, how I long to be like my batter-covered boy: having all over me the remnants of your blessings for my life ... and learning not to settle for the mess, but to be willing to wait for the chance to lick the bowl of all You've got for me.
I'm not sure if it's the season or an awareness or a sentimentality, but I'm sensing a great need to be single again.
I love my husband. He's my college sweetheart and my forever companion. He and I are bound by an unwavering covenant...a promise we will keep until death. But I'm feeling a need to be single in my focus when I'm with him. He needs a wife who supports him and is a safe spot to land. Instead, I'm troubled, fragmented, lost in life's deluge. I want my focus to be on him when we're together.
I love my children. They are the joy of my heart and my legacy to the future. They are the sum of my dreams and even when days are really, really hard, they are amazing kids. But I'm feeling a need to be single in my focus when I'm with them. They are growing up and out of my house far too soon and need a mom who realizes the finite days we have. Instead, I'm inattentive, preoccupied, out of my mind busy. I want my focus to be on them when we're together.
I love my job. It's really nothing I ever dreamed I'd have the chance to be doing. I have an opportunity to do what I feel like I was created to do with incredibly creative people I love and minister to people I have a heart for. But I'm feeling a need to be single in my focus when I'm with the people I work with and minister to. They need a leader and friend that sets Jesus before them and offers a steadiness they can trust. Instead, I'm sidetracked, unintentionally absentminded, frantic to keep up. I want my focus to be on my them when we're together.
I love Jesus. There are simply not words to say how much and for what. He has rescued me from the depth of sin and soul darkness, healed my literal blind eyes, broken voice and bones. He knows my heart and is closer than my own skin. But I'm feeling a need to be single in my focus when I'm with Him. He wants my focus and a realization that all else will be added. Instead, I'm torn in my attentiveness, living so loudly there is no quiet, so tragically distracted.
So. I'm breaking it off. I'm going to be single again.
I'm divorcing distraction. I'm shutting down the noise....all in an effort to be all-in, fully engaged, laser focused, eye-locked and purposeful in my relationships.
It will require my effort, and most likely my attachment to things that don't matter. How about you? Ready to be single? Come join me... let's be single, together.
Tara is Greg's girl, mom to two sons of thunder, a hunger fighter, big dreamer and worship pastor at seacoast church.