Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Remember

As I was beating eggs, mixing in sugar and folding in pecans yesterday I couldn't help but think upon the blessings that have come our way in the past year.  While recounting my blessings my mind wandered and I couldn't help but remember. I couldn't help but remember that while I give thanks there is a world of people who are suffering.

The truth is, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a season where we give thanks and praise for all that God has done, but there are people everywhere who are begging for something to be thankful for this year.

The father who lost his job and doesn't know how much longer the savings account will carry them through.

The mother who lost a child.

The woman who has tried for years to conceive and still waits to rejoice in God's provision.

The dreamer whose dreams have been shattered and doesn't even know where to start life again.

The couple whose marriage has been torn apart, who are caught between love and hate yet only want peace.

The college student who is suddenly searching for life's direction.

The elderly man who can't remember his own child's name.

The refugee from a war torn land that struggles with starting life in a culture vastly different from their own.

So many people, so much loss.  Our world is full of people who have known heartache far worse than I will ever experience, people who have every reason to rebel this week and not feel thankful.  Someone is missing at the table, dreams have been lost, reality has changed for many and they just don't feel thankful at all.  I simply cannot blame them.  But I also can't just leave them sitting there in their loss.

Friends, my challenge to you this holiday season, is to remember.  Remember those who are hurting, and love them in their hurt.  Stand beside those who grieve and allow them to grieve.  Be the reason they can have hope and be thankful.  Be with them in their loss and walk the road toward healing beside them.  Give them a piece of your joy, give them a reason to give thanks.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Mom friends: my kid needs me to have them.

It happened fairly naturally.  We had a baby and I stumbled upon some pretty incredible relationships with other women at our church.  We got together for "play dates" for our boys who could barely hold a toy at the time, and would glean any parenting insight we could from one another about sleeping, eating, poop consistency or frequency, you name it.  The tiny little humans were throwing us mommas for a loop and we needed each other.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that I survived the first 2.5 years of parenting in large part because of these women.  

What I'm realizing now is that these women are not only instrumental in my life but they are vital in the lives of my children as well.These women impact my kids in numerous ways.

1. My children are learning that other people can love and care for them by the example set forth by these women.  There have been many occasions where one of these women has hugged or kiss a boo boo for my child and he's learned that other people can comfort his pain.  They've prepared allergy friendly foods for my kids and embraced them as they would their own.

2. While our discipline styles may be different from each other I love the fact that my son is learning to listen to and respect other adults and other ways of parenting.  These women love my kids fiercely enough to redirect poor behavior on my kids part.  I do the same for their kids and we have a mutual respect for each other when doing so.  

3.  My parenting and the pressures I put on myself (and my kids) are directly impacted by my other mom friends, in a good way.  They inspire me to live out grace and patience.  They challenge me to love fiercely even when it's hard.  They've got my back if I'm carrying a screaming kid out to the car and as I drive off give me that look, the one that says, "you're going to survive this tantrum, I know, cause it was my kid yesterday."  

The list goes on, really.  I could go on about how these women help me keep my sanity, the mass quantity of texts and emails that go back and forth giving me encouragement to press onward, how I sleep better at night because of their words and support, how they remind me that God listens when we pray and that if I seek Jesus with all that I've got he will be found in the midst of the chaos of two babes.  When I learned I was pregnant a little over 3 years ago I didn't expect that I'd gain the gift of such life altering friendships, for me, or my children.  You see, as much as I need these women in my life, my kids need them too.  We wouldn't be where we are without them.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Seasons

I'm a four seasons kind of gal. Not the hotel variety, but the kind you experience when living in northern climates...Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. I love the hope and the changes that come with each new season, even the ones that accompany my least favorite season: Winter. Each season has its glory. Springtime has the green grass, the rain that renews and the flowers that remind us that the cold, drearyness of winter cannot stop new life. Summer has the warm weather, the summer thunderstorms, and flip flops. Fall brings about soups that simmer all day, football, crisp mornings and cool evenings on the porch, while winter brings that fresh blanket of snow that so vividly reminds us of how Gods mercies are new every morning. While I create my lists of the gifts that come with each new season I'm reminded of the "gifts" we would rather not have. For example, Sringtime can bring floods, Summer heat waves can steal the joy of the gift of warm weather, the drearyness of Fall can linger and let's face it, Winter can become downright miserable when a snowfall leads to months on end of brown slush on our streets. Growing up in the Midwest I learned that sometimes the best way to make it through a season is to simply embrace it. Bemoaning the snow won't stop it from coming, neither will complaining about the heatwave that shows up every August. Survival simply came with preparing, acknowledging mad embracing each season as it came. And I'm realizing that this is the same with the seasons of life that God puts in front of me. I've lived a variety of seasons from working with homeless youth, doing street outreach and searching abandoned buildings in the middle of the night to walking slums in east Africa learning kiswahili and making friends with women as I learned their way of life. No matter what I did I seemed to land the job of a lifetime and claimed yet again to do so as I packed up and moved to North Carolina (which doesn't have the harsh fourth season of winter I might add) to serve as a Missions Pastor, then Care Pastor. In each season I experienced grand moments of Gods faithfulness, His presence, His provision and joy. I'd be lying if I said there weren't also those dreary days or those times when those seasons were hard. Fast forward to 2014... my last season came unexpectedly like that hurricane that arrives before the noted "hurricane season." It caught me by surprise and if there was ever a time when God was trying to instill in me the task of embracing the season I'm in it is now. My job these days does not require me to have performance evaluations (although that might be nice) or report to someone in leadership above me. It doesn't have me traveling to distant lands, except in storybooks and make believe. My charges are 2 babies 18 months apart who have their own whims and desires. They have their own idea of adventure and my job is to love them, lead them and help them grow into world changing adults. I won't lie, this has been one of the hardest seasons to settle into. This season that has moments of full hilarity and full chaos all in a two second time lapse has been a tough one for my adventurous, independent and sometimes selfish spirit to submit to. But like other seasons, I'm learning the blessings of embracing it for what it is. As my passport collects dust, for the first time ever, I'm learning that God has prepared me for this, he has called me into this, and that it is, much like my other career moves, likely just a season. My babies won't have health issues that require my presence quite so regularly forever. My son will one day walk into school and not look back. My daughter will use those big brown eyes to speak straight to my heart without words and one day they will look into the eyes of another while she says "I do." This season we are in is chock full of joy. It overflows with laughter and good times and it is also speckled (or slathered depending on the day) with moments of challenge, heartache and frustration. But it's a season. One that God has put us in. And one thing true about every season, is that He is very present in the middle of it. He still speaks to me like He did in the plains of Africa. He pulls at my heartstrings much like He did in those days talking with kids living under bridges in Indianapolis. He has his arms wrapped around me as I navigat this season of parenting two babies who need their momma. We have choices in the advent of a new season. We can moan, complain, strategically think of ways out of it or around it or we can embrace it and seek to learn and experience all tha God has for us in the season we are in. I think I'll choose the latter. I may be forgetting Kiswahili, but I'm becoming quite an expert at translating 2 year old gibberish. It's a season worth embracing. It's the season He has me in.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wife, Mom & Missions Pastor?

Even before Will was an idea in our minds, people were letting me know that most likely I would not continue to be in ministry when he came along. They told me that having a child changes things. They said it was near to impossible to be a mom and be in ministry. I grieved. Oddly enough, growing up, all I wanted to do was be a mom. I had visions and dreams of a white picket fence, of green grass, a handful (I was a kid people, give me a break) of kiddos, and all of that glorious perfection of motherhood that society paints for us. Five years ago I landed a dream job, one that was perfect for me and fit my heart, skills, and passions perfectly. Honestly, I could not have dreamed up something better. Then I landed the perfect husband and almost 9 months ago gave birth to the sweetest, most adorable, most awesome little boy a mom could dream of. With all of these changes I have learned that sometimes visions and dreams change. Sometimes by choice and other times not. One thing remains the same, God loves us and meets us in those places where dreams and visions are transformed. To be clear, my dream of being a mom hasn't changed. I LOVE being a mom. I adore every moment I get to spend with peanut. Watching him learn, grow and explore the world around him is a highlight of each and every day. Never in my life did I think I'd find pureeing various fruits and vegetables rewarding, or the regulation of a tiny persons bowels so important. Never did I imagine that I would find such peace and hope in allowing another woman to come to my home and give my son such tender, heartfelt care in my absence. What changed, is my insistence that I would never be a working mom. The person who once thought there was no way she could work and be a good mom is now seated on her office couch working on task-lists, dreaming of how to help our church do missions better, and at the same time wondering how peanut is doing back home. My heart and brain have been challenged by the idea that perhaps I can be a great wife and mom, while at the same time serve God and our church community as their Missions Pastor. Perhaps my being a mom will help me to be a better pastor, and perhaps vice-versa. Perhaps instead of sacrificing greatness because his mom works, my son will have a larger world view because of the church family we work with and because of the experiences he will have being a part of it. Honestly, sitting on this couch is several months in the making. Returning to work has been a challenge and adjustment for both peanut and me. I don't know what it means to be a missions pastor...and how to be a wife and a missions pastor... let alone be a wife, mom and missions pastor. But I do know one thing, Just as God loved and met me in that place where visions and dreams are transformed, he will meet me in this place of not-knowing what I am doing.

Silence.

Well, this ol' blog has been silent... for almost TWO YEARS! A lot of life has happened since March 2011, and there is no way I could sum it up sufficiently in a blog post... let's suffice it to say that it has been a much more Glorious adventure than I could ever put into words. There has been a lot of good, and a lot of hard, and I lacked sufficient words for both. While I find myself not even sure where to begin again, there is a piece of me that is ready to come back to the surface. Ready to start putting all of these thoughts in my head and in my heart into words, again. I have NO IDEA where this will go, or how long it will last, but I think I'm ready. I think I'm ready to break the silence, and open up about what I'm learning and discovering in life.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wrecked.

A year and a half ago I was described as: adventurous, on the go, loves to travel, free spirited, and my personal favorite, "hesitant to let grass grow under her feet."

In those days, if I was asked to go to Kenya or Haiti there was little hesitation, my response was always filled with excitement, and I would count down the weeks, then days, then hours, and yes sometimes the minutes until my plane took off.

Today I fly to Kenya, and there hasn't been a countdown.

I'll be honest. I am a WRECK. A complete and utter embarrassment as I shed tear after tear and keep asking for one more hug and one more cuddle on the couch. I've commented several times that I remind myself of a two year old with separation anxiety.

It's not because I don't love Africa anymore... cause it still holds, and always will hold this amazing place in my heart. It's always on my mind, and I carry the people with me wherever I go. The same goes for Haiti. And lest the elders or my co-workers get worried, it's not because I don't like my job anymore, because that couldn't be farther from the truth. I LOVE what I do.

It's because my heart has grown 10,000 times in the last year and a half. It's because I found this place where I can be loved fully and wholly for who I am, and I opened myself up to it. This wonderful guy, has created a safe place for me to be me, the good and the bad, the lovely and the ugly (and sometimes my soul can be quite ugly). I've found this security, this support, this safe place in this man and I've been allowed to sit there and grow for the last 18 months. I've found great comfort, learned more and more about trust, been loved more than I can possibly imagine, and now I have to walk into the world... for 8 days.

I'm a wreck, but its a good thing. I would rather be a miserable snotty mess saying goodbye and have this greater capacity to be loved, and more importantly, love others than be who I was a 18 months ago. I'm looking forward to Kenya, but in a new way. I'm positive that everything Jason has taught me about grace, love, and serving can go with me and I will be better at what I do for it.

Thank you Jason, for tearing down the walls I used for protection of my heart. Thank you for making me a wreck.

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Traditions...

We've been having a lot of conversations between the two of us about what Christmas should stand for in our little family. As newlywed's its been interesting to learn about the different ways our families celebrated Christmas, and we're finding ourself in this little place of choosing what that will mean for us. It's been fun, challenging sometimes, but always ending in laughter and reminding ourselves what Christmas really means...

So a few new things happening in the Markley household...

1. We're staying in NC for Christmas! I've typically boarded a plane around 6am Christmas morning and went to my brother's house. We've decided that for now we will always spend Christmas morning at our house. There are many reasons for this, but the big one is related to tradition #2.

2. We're going to always be a part of Christmas Eve at Crosspointe. Yes, it is sorta my job, but even if I didn't have to be there, I wouldn't want to miss it for anything. Today we're wrapping up the final 4 of 7 services this week. We expect to be exhausted, so why wouldn't we spend some time at home on Christmas?

3. We're heading to Durham Rescue Mission tomorrow morning to celebrate with the men in the shelter as they receive their Christmas gifts. The folks at Crosspointe generously gave all of the presents for the men, women and children in the shelter. We figured it would be fun to be a part of actually "giving" them their gifts... So in our exhaustion we're getting out of bed and going to the mission at 6am. As painful as the early wake up sounds, I'm getting more and more excited about it by the minute!

4. We're hosting friends! We have a few friends who don't have family nearby, so after we serve, we're having brunch. It's a treasure to have friends who are like family!

5. And we're anxiously awaiting news from friends and family. I'll admit, as excited as I am to be "home" for Christmas, there is grief in my heart about not seeing any of our relatives and close friends from outside the area. A few weeks ago the cards started coming in, and we had an idea... let's not open one of them and instead put them on our tree until Christmas morning. So, we're excited to see the faces, read the stories, and hear from our loved ones Christmas morning, even if it isn't in person.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Identity

I find that I'm in this weird season of re-discovering who I am, and more importantly, learning "whose" I am.

I got married. And my world has drastically shifted. I knew it was coming (we had a few months of planning) but what I didn't know how to plan for was the new identity that came with my new role of "wife."

First, let me say, I LOVE marriage. I LOVE my husband, and I wouldn't change anything, even if it meant more comfort in my heart through this transition.

But, this new identity, is hard one.

No, its not about names, as I've already mentioned to some of you that I still often times correct myself... "hello, my name is Pam McKerr... I mean Markley" is a common phrase.

It's the new role. Let's face it, I've NEVER been a wife before. And like other things, I really want to be excellent at it. But I'm not sure how to do that...

I'm not sure how to be a friend that is "married" or a pastor who is "married" or a wife who is a "pastor."

I'm finding that this change also brings about thoughts of who I want to be and what type of person I want to be. I am redefining what matters most, and what takes precedence in life. It's confusing. difficult. and sometimes makes me want to hide under the covers.

But I find myself incredibly thankful that my friends, co-workers, and husband are all quite patient with me as I figure out how this new role affects all other areas of my life. I am more so, incredibly thankful for a God who has planned this for me, who knew where I would be, and chose this man for me, and will guide me through the process.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

World AIDS Day

I was in 8th grade when I first heard the phrases HIV and AIDS. I remember the panic, and I remember the "talks" we had in class. I also remember when Magic Johnson made public the fact that he had HIV. I remember hearing a lot of statistics, and really HIV/AIDS was only a bunch of statistics to me... until I moved to Tanzania in 2006. When I started walking around Unga Limited with mama Diwani, I started to see the faces and hear the stories of people affected by HIV/AIDS, and the lack of education on how to prevent the spread of the disease.

It was in Unga Limited that I met Elizabeth. The girl who will forever for me be the face of AIDS. I met her a few months before AIDS took her life and I am forever changed. It will forever break my heart to think about the fact that a disease that can so easily be prevented has taken the lives of so many like Elizabeth.

Waiting...

Simply put... I'm impatient. When I desire something... I often lack the desire to wait for it. Sometimes you don't really have much choice to wait, and recently, a desire of a lifetime was filled. And while the wait wasn't always fun, I will say emphatically that it was worth it. Well worth it.

I was that girl. The girl who was always watching her friends in relationships. I didn't date much in high school. I had a very protective big brother and most boys in school were scared to come near me. Even with a big brother I still managed to date the wrong guys, the guys that no one wants their daughter dating. By the grace of God, and with the protection of an older brother, I made it through. I was the girl who watched her girlfriends as they were "wooed" by this guy, adored by that guy. As I approached college, I watched a handful of them fall in love and get married. And I stood. Waiting. I won't dare say it was easy. I believe God created us for relationships... and this is only one type of relationship, but for many girls, it is THE relationship they are waiting for.

I didn't date much in college either. My girlfriends were always dating, but after high school, I became much pickier. Not long before graduation I discovered Christianity, and my world changed drastically. I had a new found purpose and a new identity. Up until this point my desire for a significant other was out of the overflow of a heart that felt incomplete, and out of a heart that desperately longed to be loved. But now, I found wholeness in who I was in Christ. That didn't change the desire to one day find a man to share life with, it just changed the motivation, and to be quite frank, the criteria. I didn't want to date just anyone, but at the same time, there was a lot of grief around my girlfriends always "having someone" and me being alone. I'll be honest, it was hard. I can remember one summer where 8 of my girlfriends got married, and I was still waiting.

Then came life after college. And I continued to wait. I went out with a few guys, but they weren't "the guy." I watched other friends get married, the previous friends have babies, and I continued to wait. I can remember the paradox I would experience, great joy for my friends, as they found "the guy" or held little bundles of joy (it is no secret to those who know me that I have always looked forward to being a wife and a mom.) I was so thrilled for my friends, but inside I would grieve, and I would ask God, when is it my turn?

Then I hit 30. And honestly, I was shocked that I was still Miss McKerring as I entered my 30's. All of my girlfriends, save 2, had married. Most of them had children. And when I reached 30, the high school students I mentored in college were now marrying, some of which having children... and I waited. And sometimes in my waiting, my attitude wasn't pretty. There were some pretty un-glorious conversations between me and God. Ask me sometime, I'll tell you.

And now I am going to be "that girl." The girl who has crossed "that line" into marriage and says, I am SO glad I waited.

By waiting, I have had some of the most AMAZING experiences in the world. I've traveled among a variety of cultures, I've been able to love people in many different languages, I've been unhindered in my ability to go and serve when opportunities arose.

By waiting, I learned that I really can talk, kick, scream, throw a fit, beg, plead, trust, obey, listen, rejoice with God about anything.

By waiting, I don't have as many regrets. I willfully admit that I did have a few things about my dating life I would have changed before I met Jason, but once I became picky, and changed my perspective on what I was waiting for and why... I had none. If only I had that perspective in high school. I'd have no regrets.

And the best part of waiting... is the man in the picture.
He is EXACTLY the perfect man for me. He pursues me. He loves me for me. His heart for others mirrors mine, and his quirkiness matches my quirkiness. We aren't identical, if anything we are quite opposite in many ways. Our approach to problem solving is different (engineer meets social worker?), our approach to time management is different, he thinks logically and linearly, I'm all over the place. But when we meet each other where the other person is at, the most beautiful collision of personalities occurs. Never in my dreams did I imagine God doing something so beautiful in my life. I am so glad I did not settle earlier in life. This adventure I am on, couldn't be matched. Jason loves me, for me, not for someone I might one day be. He cares for me in ways that I need caring for. He encourages me to pursue my passions and my heart, even if it might affect our plans. He embraces my free spirit, but also helps me to ground myself a bit. His committment to Christ, outshines that of any man I have ever dated, and inspires me in my committment to my marriage and to my own walk with Jesus.

There was a point, when I thought all the "quality guys" must have been taken. And I figured I would just have to give up on that dream of marriage and one day parenting cause settling still wasn't an option. And even as I doubted in my waiting that it would ever be possible, God stepped in, and put this wonderful man in front of me.

He was well worth the wait.