Rebecca Burtram

Every Day New

Like many of you, I was thinking about this New Year as I woke up today. I have chosen Proverbs 31:25 as my verse to focus on for 2019. It says, “She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Here is the deal though; I didn’t feel as though I rang in the new year with strength or dignity.

Of course, I was feeling a bit down about that… until I ran on the boardwalk. I watched the waves come one after the other along the shoreline without stopping. Again and again the sand was wiped clean.

I was struck again by God’s creation and his message of grace in the patterns of nature. Each day the sun rises and sets without fail; the seasons follow their cycles; and the waves continue their movement.

In it all, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and the manner in which he has provided us opportunities for fresh starts. Your low moment is not the end of the story. Like salty water smoothing the sandy floor, a sunrise hitting the reset button on opportunity, or the first budding flower indicating a new season, God’s grace makes every day new.

Here’s to a year full of opportunities to live with strength, dignity, joy, and confidence that God holds my future.

LEARNING

Running From the Old Woman

woman wearing black and white run printed pullover hoodie
Photo by EVG photos on Pexels.com

I’ve recently begun to train for a marathon. Don’t panic, the race is over six months from now. Also, let’s be realistic, I am not running a race. I am entering an event, which I plan to finish.

I am clearly a young, fit, strong, fast, insert other positive and healthy adjectives here, woman. Here is the deal though: every time I go running, only a chubby, old, slow, lady shows up. She is the same woman whom I see in glimpses as I pass my reflection in the grocery store windows or the security monitor.

At first, I didn’t recognize her. However, the more often I see her, the more familiar this strange woman becomes.

I’ve decided it might be time to contact the authorities because she has started to hold me hostage. No matter what I do, I can’t escape her. I can’t run enough to get away from her.

I try to avoid restaurants where I might see her, but I get a craving for Chick-Fil-A, and God knows that aging woman with a soft round belly is there. She is getting old, not stupid.

You would think I’d be able to get away since she is always tired. However, by the time I get through work, helping with homework, cleaning from dinner, and driving the kids all over, I realize I don’t have time or energy to do anything but meet her on the couch and snuggle right in with her.

I know age is just a state of mind, but someone should tell that to my body because she is pretty sure that I am pushing 40 when my mind is still hanging out in the late 20s. Good thing running is a mental sport.

If you see a slightly graying, chubby woman running at a “relaxed” pace, be sure to cheer loudly for her. Somewhere inside, trying really hard to come out, is a young woman ready to conquer the world one mile at a time.

PARENTING

STILL DREAMING

STILL DREAMING

Right this minute, the first snow of the season is falling. Everything feels right as the dryer is whirring and the light flakes dusting the roads are shutting my commitments for the day down (I was supposed to coach my daughter’s youth basketball team this morning…because I needed something else to do…lol).

Although I’ve been up for a couple hours, everyone else is in the house is still fast asleep. We are all doing the same thing: dreaming.

We have always kept a busy schedule, but the addition of a teenage foster child has us running a little extra with meetings, home visits, counseling appointments, and trips to the doctor and dentist. In the past two months, we have had to reprioritize in order to make room in our lives for another family member.

My writing has been at a stand still, tasks at church have gone undone, and my pants have definitely felt the squeeze of our new normal.

Once again, I find myself in a place of trying to determine what is most important.

What have I learned?

I want a simplified life: work for the church, write books, speak at events, and have more time to spend with the kids and manage the home.

How is it then that the things I want most are the very things that I have set aside in order to keep myself and my family running? Of course, I mean figuratively running since my sneakers have seen little to no action. See above comment about pants.

The practical always wins over the dream. The daily schedule demands the dreams are set aside until a rare interruption, like a snowy Saturday, allows me to work a little toward the goal.

I started this post before everyone was awake, and I had to set it aside to finish when everyone had gone to bed. I used my unplanned freedom to spend 4 hours working at the church, watch a movie with the kids, make rice pudding (a snow day tradition), and write this blog post.

The dryer is whirring again…. because we are a family of six and that machine never rests. There is a light frosting on the trees, and everyone in my house is back to dreaming.

Christmas Visions

Old School

OLD SCHOOL

My grandmother paid me to memorize some of the Psalms. One, in particular, was the 23rd Psalm.

She would sleep in the extra bed in my room when she would come stay with us. As we would lie there, she would say, “Do you still remember the 23rd Psalm.”

“Yes, Grandma.”

“Let’s say it together.”

I was so tired, I just wanted to sleep, and I didn’t remember it perfectly, but she was my grandma whom I loved deeply…

“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He leads me beside still waters…”

“I’ll say it with you.”

“Okay, Grandma.”

And on we went until I was saying it correctly. Only then could I sleep. I actually complained to my mom once that Grandma keeps me up late by making me say scripture!

She was a tiny woman, but she was a force. She was wise too. She knew what I would need long before I did. She taught me to focus on who God is and to remind myself of his guidance, provision, peace, protection, presence, blessings, unfailing love, and hope without end.

Today I went for a run. I burned calories and pounded pavement with top 40 beats pacing me. I exhausted myself. When I finished, I decided to walk in the woods with worship music in one ear and birds in the other. 

Suddenly I was in awe of my God. I wasn’t driven by what I could do or surrounded by the modern world. I was feeling a little old school. 

I was carried back to a remembrance of who makes me rest in the green meadows and guides me along right paths. I was in awe of his blessings.

I don’t do my devotions in the King James Version, but today, I had to read it the way it was ingrained in my head and my heart.

Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Thank you, Grandma, for teaching me to hold on to a truth that never changes. Thank you, God, for being exactly who you are without fail.

CHURCH PLANTING

Never Having to Explain

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There are people in my world who understand the word defying emotion I feel… particularly now- shortly after Mother’s Day.

It is playing cards and laughing about a song written for a funeral.

It is the melody of “It is Well With My Soul.”

It is an unused diaper bag in the closet.

It is Thanksgiving with a smaller crowd and 4th of July fireworks by the pond.

It is a rundown barn and buttered rolls.

It is
“Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?”

Putting words to the thoughts and feelings cause them to become shallow, broken, and incomprehensible.

I need a cousins’ run. I need the exertion, the sweat, and the simple joy of being with those to whom I never have to explain.

Sorry to my readers who do not have Richardson blood or close ties to it. This post is gibberish to you, but for some, there is no explanation needed.

 

 

running

SEVEN MILES IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

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I have a long way to go.

I am supposed to be training for a half marathon (13.1 miles). With only nine weeks before the half, my friend asked me to join her because her running partner had to bail. I knew I wouldn’t be ready in time, but I agreed anyway.

Life didn’t get the memo that I needed more time to run. I have only gone running here and there, doing my typical two or three miles. A couple of weeks ago, I snuck in a little over four miles.

Let’s skip right over what I should be running to train for this and talk about my run from earlier this week.

I ran 7 miles… maybe.

We were on vacation in Florida, so I decided to use some of my free time to get some good distance in. Here is how it went:

.5 miles- I love the flat Florida terrain

1 mile- I feel great. Vacation is amazing.

1.25-1.75- Mapmyrun thinks I’m the fastest person alive, “Time: 15 minutes, Distance: 9 miles, Pace: 1 minute 30 seconds per mile”…. Okay, time to turn that off. I know I have run for 15 minutes…. I’ll just assume I am an 11 minute mile and run for 77 minutes.

30 minutes- I love the new scenery. This nature preserve is gorgeous.

35 minutes- Am I really going to do this for another 42 minutes?!?!

40 minutes- Maybe I’ll go on this little grass path that is obviously not part of the official trail…. Wait, are there alligators in here?!?! I’m getting back on the real path.

45 minutes– How can we increase our team’s commitment to praying for the church? Is there a way to get us all praying consistently without adding meeting time?

50 minutes– God, thank you for this amazing weather and your gorgeous creation all around me.

55 minutes- I’m sick of this nature preserve! I am not sure about venturing into unknown neighborhoods. I’m too tired to run away if I get into trouble. Another lap here it is.

60 minutes- My achilles are tight. I just want to finish this run.

70 minutes- I’m really doing this. I can run 7 miles or so….

77 minutes- I feel great. Vacation is amazing. Thank you, God for the ability to run.

Running is amazing. It lets me think about everything and nothing. I plan lessons, work out frustrations, pray, and think about nothing more than running the distance.

When I am done, my head is clear, my body is wonderfully exhausted, and I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to….. Like run a half marathon for which I haven’t trained properly.

I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m moving in the right direction, even if it includes going in circles a few times to avoid the possibilities of alligators and people looking for tired, unsuspecting travelers.

 

running

LOST SOUL

lost-soul

“I once was lost, but now I’m found”-Amazing Grace

Recently, I have been lost.

I have been clinging to my faith and trying to find my sanity. I have been burnt out and weary. Judge if you like, but for every one person looking down on this feeling, there are three to five thinking, “me too,” or, “I’ve been there.

I am doing things I love, but I am doing too many of them. I have become trapped and lost in the world of obligations, and the joy has become stress. Of course I have joyful moments, but the default setting lately has been empty, tired, and sad.

Logically, I know why. I am over extended, a female with hormones, and it is winter (give me some vitamin D please). Because I have been able to identify the factors, I have felt it is okay to let it slide for a little longer.

Here is when I realized I let this go too far:

-At Christmas, my sister-in-law said, “I feel like I always have to fail somewhere,” and I wanted to curl up on the floor and cry because someone else finally said the exact thing that weighs so heavily on me every day.

-Staying in bed with a movie was starting to sound better than being with people…. always…. but I couldn’t because every break means something else falls through the cracks.

-I read my “About the Author” section while checking the interior proof for my upcoming book, Our Broken Hallelujahsand I realized I wasn’t the same person who wrote that section over six months ago. It says, “Rebecca is a lover of God, a wife, a mother to three, an avid runner, a chai tea drinker, and a recovering perfectionist. She has found great joy in owning her flaws and learning to rely on God and his great grace.”

I know this might not make sense to a lot of people, but the part that really got me was “avid runner.” Something I have identified as a part of who I am since elementary school was no longer true about me.

I know we are more than what we do, but runners reading this will understand that there is something about it that is part of who we are. It is our balancing mechanism. It is our restorer of sanity. It is our daily challenge and victory. It is one foot in front of the other for another day.

Yes, I am a little crazy. I have no problem admitting it. The part about “finding great joy in owning her flaws and learning to rely on God and his great grace” is still true.

You haven’t heard from me here since mid-December. I haven’t run since Thanksgiving. I let my desire to do everything right take over, and I have continually let something I love, something that is important for my emotional and physical health, sit on the back burner in order to get everything done.

A Thursday night conversation with some friends encouraged me to embrace the “Holy C.” They were saying it is okay to give only what you are capable of giving at the moment. If all you have to give is a C, it is Holy.

With that in mind, I did my Friday (and started today) differently. I played basketball with my son as soon as I got out of the car after work. I didn’t even bring my laptop into the house. I let my daughters watch way too much t.v. while I took a nap next to them. The house was not cleaned or even touched up. My husband got the kiddos hot and ready pizza on his way home, and we went out to dinner on a gift card from friends.

This morning. I woke up and chose to let the tasks of the day wait. I went for a very slow 3 mile run, and I wrote this post. I will do my daily devotions after I hit “publish.” Then I will set aside two hours for cleaning and bills. I will stop when the time runs out whether the laundry is folded or not. I will spend this day with my family, and I will hang out with friends tonight.

I am finding my soles and my soul.

God didn’t call me to minister to others and lose myself in the process. He has called me to find myself in Him. He is the priority, and he has commanded (yes, literally commanded) me to rest and to find my peace in him. I don’t need to do more. I need to follow him and remember that he can do miraculous things. Even if my efforts result in a human C, he can make it holy.

If you need permission to start doing that thing you loved again in order to care for your soul, for what it is worth, you have mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHURCH PLANTING

CONFESSIONS OF A POTTY MOUTH

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Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)

I’m a pastor, and I swear sometimes.

I try not to, but sometimes there are no other words that can quite express exactly the sentiment I want to convey.

For example, I might let a word or two slip when I am out running with my dog, Bruiser. Running is my quiet, stress burning, me time. It is where I go to be completely in control and alone… except when I forget that bringing Bruiser ruins all of that.

The first few stops for him to christen the bushes, trees, stop signs, etc. don’t get me too worked up. However, I give up all hope of using language that is “encouraging to those who hear them” when I am only a mile out and Bruiser decides he is done running. That freaking dog pulls backwards on his leash and refuses to run with me. This is when I lose my sanctified mind!

I know this makes me sound like a mildly crazy person, but that is because I am a mildly crazy person. The running is the thing that helps me stay sane, and that damn dog won’t let me have control.

I truly am sorry if the language is shocking or offensive to you. I promise you, I really do try not to swear, but I also try to keep it real. So, you might as well know that I am a crazy lady with a tiny bit of a potty mouth.

Thank God for grace and forgiveness. I need those things… A LOT!

Sometimes I stub my toe and momentarily forget about my salvation as the F bomb drops from my lips.

Sometimes I can only think of one response to ridiculous parent emails complaining about things that don’t even make sense – WTF?

I pour my time, energy, and emotion into your kid, and you are upset that of the 137 students (and their parents), I didn’t take the time to send you a special message despite the fact all the information is in three other places online?!?!?!?

Yeah, I swear sometimes.

Ah… that feels so good to confess to the whole world (you know, the maybe 100 to 200 people who will read this… whole world).

I don’t try to pretend to be perfect. I try to be perfect, but I fail at that. (If you have spent long enough around me in person, you already knew that.)I am a devoted follower of Christ. I’m just still working on the whole righteousness thing.

The good news is that it isn’t my righteousness that counts. I am counted righteous because of my faith in what God can do- not what I can do.

I truly am working on not swearing. I would love to get to the point that I never swear. I know this post isn’t a great example of my efforts to only speak things that are “good and helpful.” However, I think some people need to see the mess in order to understand the level of the grace that is available.

My imperfections and God’s grace make for a beautiful mix that only God knows what to do with.

I hope you will also have some grace for me as I work to avoid “foul and abusive language.”

Since I am trying to get to the point that my words “will be an encouragement to those who hear them,” could you please plug your ears if you see me out running with my dog?

Thanks!

 

*Photo was found at http://nos.twnsnd.co/post/151194502526/a-man-and-his-dog, which is said to provide free public domain photos. Here is some more information about the photo: Title: Artist and dog arrive by Melbourne Express (taken for J.C. Williamson) Photo can be found at http://archival-classic.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemDetailPaged.aspx?itemID=21913 ….. Please don’t sue me. I don’t have any money, and I looked up free stock photos.

 

 

LEARNING

CHUB RUB AND SWIMDRESSES

CHUB RUB

I have lost ten pounds since our church opened Easter Sunday and I committed to less of me, more of Him. I’ve been working to be healthier, less prideful, and more reliant on God.

The ten pound loss was not enough to beat my old enemy and intimate companion- chub rub. There is nothing like a good patch of chub rub to keep you humble.

If you don’t have thigh gap, you might be familiar with chub rub. Chub rub is the raw, painful sore caused by the friction of chubby thighs rubbing together during athletic activities- in my case, running.

Last Monday night, chub rub caused me to choose between walking a little funny while wearing a dress and heels to keep my thighs from touching or walking normal and pretending my inner thigh was not on fire. Not a proud moment.

Tuesday night, I had to choose between my cuter tankini that would expose a red patch of raw skin or a swimdress. Neither option screams hot mama.

Yes, I own a swimdress. I bought it to be more conservative and possibly to hide the chubbiness of my thighs….

My neighbor mocked me pretty hard (with love of course) when I told her I bought a swim dress.

I am in this weird place of trying to be fit and healthy but still appreciate my body and the beauty of exactly where I am. I’m also trying to balance how to be a hot wife for my husband and an appropriately conservative pastor’s wife (and pastor)/ woman in her mid 30’s/mama of three.

Thus the mix of a renewed pursuit of fitness and the purchase of a swimdress.

I stand by my claim that the swim dress I bought is still fashionable.

I swear, it is.

No, really, it is cute.

I promise.

As I age, I am finding myself in a weird mix of accepting the realities of chub rub and swimdresses while still fighting the body’s natural inclination to get soft and relaxed.

One of the lessons I am learning is the less I focus on the media image of who I should be and the more I focus on the Biblical image of who God says I am, the healthier I am overall.

On my good days, I run without feeling the need to prove anything to anyone. I run for health and for fun rather than to prove to myself that I am worth something more because I can achieve a pace or a distance. I eat better because I want to take care of the body God gave me, not because I am trying to look like a fitness magazine model. I wear many styles of swimsuits because no one at the pool cares if my thighs are chubby, but also because I don’t need to look “hot” in front of anyone besides my husband.

When pride and ego win out, I do most all the same things, but for the wrong reasons; and I feel a lot less joy in doing them.

As I navigate between pride and humility, I find myself in a love hate relationship with chub rub and swimdresses. I am a work in progress. Maybe I’ll get it all figured out when I am in my 40s… or maybe my 50s.

In the meantime, I hope you will give me an encouraging smile at the pool when you see me in my swimdress or in any other type of swimsuit. Because, really, aren’t we all just trying to figure this life out together?

 

 

 

 

CHURCH PLANTING

SMALL BEGINNINGS

SMALL BEGINNINGS

The church is officially off the ground. We had a relatively small start in the church planting world (125 on launch Sunday). However, I wouldn’t change a single thing about the way the service went. People connected to God and felt loved by a community of believers.

The only thing wrong was my hurt pride. I wanted a big launch for a million pure and good reasons and for one ugly one- pride. Pride is an issue I have learned to reign in…. most of the time.

I wanted to post to our church planting groups on Facebook about our really big launch. I wanted the numbers to prove we are a success. This reason was about me and the man I married; all my other reasons for wanting a big launch were about God and the good of others.

I have been working to live authentically and honestly. I have shared openly about major failure, shame, a messy house, insecurity, etc. However, I have struggled to post some of the “honest” pictures from the events leading up to launch and the launch. The pictures show me as I am right now, which is heavier than I have ever been (pregnancies aside). Again… a pride issue.

This realization of my prideful desire combined with a recognition with how unhealthy I have become physically have led me to begin a new process- less of me, more of Him.

So, the Monday after our first service, I began to live to intentionally be less and to let God be more.

What does that look like?

It looks like gratitude for the opportunity to connect others to God’s amazing grace, a grace I constantly need.

It is letting go of what I used to be able to do physically and embracing what I can do now.

It is eating for health rather than convenience, entertainment, or to cover stress.

Less of me, more of Him is not caring what people think about Jon and I as church planters because of the numbers. Instead, it is only caring that people connect to God and the church, discover who they are created to be, serve their world, and grow into fully devoted followers of Christ… because of the work we do at Redemption Church.

It is, like all growth, a process. The first step was admitting my prideful attitude and my need to make a change.

I am a week in and loving it. I am 5 pounds less of me and making room in my heart for more Him. I am celebrating the 76 people who came week two, the lives who began to relate to God as a redeemer of broken circumstances, the children who understood God is love, and the authentic community of our amazing team.

Celebration and gratitude don’t leave a lot of room for hurt pride and selfish ego.

Part of letting my pride go is admitting where I am at. I’ll be sharing my journey of less is more here and there as the church grows, I shrink, and God is given more of my life. I hope my small beginnings will be an encouragement to you as you journey to accept grace for all the imperfections of life.

 

Letting go of pride by sharing some pictures of myself I really don’t like…

preview less and more

PicMonkey Collage

Focusing on what matters…

CHURCH PLANTING
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