Rebecca Burtram

Desert (and Dessert) Seasons

daylight-desert-drought-459319

I am devastated.

Okay, that might be a touch melodramatic, but I am seriously bummed. I applied for a job I really wanted, and I found out after work yesterday that I didn’t make it past the first round interview.

Now I’m sitting here wondering what to do with myself. Do I lick my wounds, work three times harder to make my writing dream come true, or put everything I have into my current teaching career and forget about writing, speaking, working for our church?

I think I made a step in the right direction by visiting The Cheesecake Factory last night and savoring some chocolate mouse and lemon raspberry cheesecakes. I’m not sure how it helped, but I know it did.

I have found that I can’t teach English full time, write part-time, work for the church part-time, be mom to my three very active kids, and be a foster mom. I know that realization might have seemed obvious to everyone reading this, but its harder to come to terms with when you are living it.

If I quit teaching, we will be poor and without health insurance. If I stop writing, I give up on my biggest dream. If I quit working with the church, I let my calling go. If Jon and I don’t make a home for kids without families, we neglect our convictions. If I give less time to my kids, I lose what is most important.

I wanted to be an instructional coach because working with teachers to improve instruction would have been an awesome job, and I would have gained endless hours of freedom through no longer having to grade a never ceasing stream of essays.

I love my students, and I love teaching English. I actually love everything I am doing. I just don’t have time to do it all.

Recently, I’ve been a rock star parent and a grading goddess because I have cut what I do at the church by 75% and I have barely written. We have also been between foster placements this month.

It has hurt my heart to watch the gaps at church and the dwindling blog views.

Despite my soul consoling visit to The Cheesecake Factory last night, the lesson might be that I can’t have my cake and eat it too.

Or maybe, just maybe, the lesson I am learning is to trust God that he knows my dreams and the calling he has put on my life. I can be sullen and disappointed for a minute, but then I need to remember where God has brought me. I need to quit acting like the Israelites in the desert.

They only focused on their present discomforts instead of remembering the miraculous rescue, the daily provision, and the promised future.

Man that stings to write. I feel so convicted.

God, help me to keep my focus on your great works, your presence in the mundane, and the promises for my future. I am sorry that I quickly forget all your provision when I spend a little time in a desert season. Forgive me for my fickle heart and help me to always see the daily blessing. Teach me to trust you with all of my life. Amen

 

CHURCH PLANTING

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

Afraid to Catch Feelings

Feelings

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5

I have 1,000 words or more begging to spill onto this page, yet all I can think of are the lyrics, “don’t be afraid to catch feelings,” from the song “Feels” by Calvin Harris.

Well, I have caught feelings, so, so, so many feelings.

Often, I sort my emotions out by writing here on the blog. However, I am a Pastor, an English teacher, and now a foster parent. In these roles there is so much I cannot put to the page for all to read.

In the last year and a half, I have listened to hearts poured out more than I ever had before. I have sat with and loved the dear friends of my church as life has done its work. I have also continued to read stories of students with broken hearts and felt the trickle of tears and the tightening of my throat as I marked punctuation and discussed structure.

Tonight, I am holding dearly so many words.

I am bursting with the great joys of burdens lifted and the deep sorrows of loss. I am lips sealed and fingers stopped from creating words on this keyboard. I am full of stories I cannot share and emotions I cannot fully express.

Dear ministry friends, teachers, and parents to those you have not birthed, I know and share the feelings you carry heavy in your soul without a place to whisper, shout, or write the jumbled words into a clear conclusion. I’ve read the same posts you have- telling women in leadership to keep a distance from members of the church. I understand the need for professionalism and clear lines in the classroom, and I know the risk that comes in loving a child that may leave.

Still, all I hear in my head, again and again, are the lyrics to a pop song I’m not even sure I like: “Don’t be afraid to catch feelings.”

Friends, let’s not live in fear. We belong to each other.

There is safety in not knowing the stories. Walls feel secure and distance allows us to live a life unscathed. But, I don’t want to live a life without all this feeling. I don’t want to miss the richness of tender hearts joined in all the beauty of living.

I have definitely caught feelings, or, maybe, feelings have caught me.

 

 

 

CHURCH PLANTING

GUT CHECK

GUT CHECK

I was punched in the stomach today. Not literally, but figuratively. I won’t get into the details. The essence is that someone I thought would be one of my biggest supporters basically said my book isn’t worth study.

Ouch.

Did I mention, Ouch? Yeah….. it stung.

The crazy thing is it came after an amazing, God ordained service based on the content of that very same book.

I’ve been working on a post for over a week about trying to keep my pride and my own aspirations out of the ministry God has called me to do.

Here is the best part of what I tried (unsuccessfully) to put into a complete post:

I simply know my own pride and the battle I face to keep my focus on leading others to follow God. I never stop wanting others to connect to Christ, but sometimes the desire to see my own success is just as strong or stronger than my desire to see people grow in relationship with God.

It’s not a pretty side of me. I’m not proud of my pride.

These reflections were God preparing me for gut punches and ego boosts. In ministry you experience both frequently. I know God gave me a message to write, and I wrote it. Who it ministers to is up to him. I know God called us to pastor a new church. Who will find life giving faith through it is up to him.

How I respond to the book’s reception and people’s assessments of our church is up to me.

I desperately want the book to minister to thousands (God sized dream), and I can’t get my own pride to be separate from that dream. It isn’t a greed issue; 90% of what I get goes to the church. It is a pride issue; I want to share the applause with God.

Not pretty.

God, thank you for the gifts, talents, and dreams you have given me. Help me to maintain a healthy perspective of who I am and what you have called me to do. You have commissioned me to live authentically before you and man. You have called me to demonstrate that we can be righteous through our faith not our ability to follow rules and regulations. This is a scary place to be because I know my failings, and I know how quick others are to criticize. It is hard to be open and vulnerable, but I know your acceptance is all I need. Help me to live that out, even when it is hard. 

This morning, before my gut punch experience, I read Romans 1-3. I had highlighted this verse:

 A man is not a Jew just because he goes through the religious act of becoming a Jew. The true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. The religious act of becoming a Jew must be done in the heart. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Law does not do that kind of work. The true Jew gets his thanks from God, not from men. (Romans 2:28,29 NLV)

God knows the words we need before we need them.

Maybe it wasn’t a gut punch this afternoon; maybe it was a gut check- a test or assessment of courage, character, or determination.

God, give me the courage, character, and determination to continually do exactly what you call me to do… and to do it for an audience of one- You.

CHURCH PLANTING

I DREAM BIG

sunny-summer-catcher-feathers

My poor husband is always trying to figure out how to converse with me when I get talking about my dreams. I am a dreamer, and he is a realist (which may as well be a pessimist in my book).

“I am going to write a book, and I will sell millions of copies. I will sell so many copies that we can pay all the people who currently function as staff at church.”

“If our tax return comes back x amount, and someone buys our house for x amount, we will be debt free again. I just know the house is going to sell without any problem.”

“That property is going to be the perfect location for our church, and they are going to give it to us for way less than it is worth so that we can afford it. Either that or the book will sell so many copies we will be able to pay for the space.”

I love to dream about the future (both distant and near).

This kills Jon. He doesn’t want me to get my hopes up about such big things that may never come to pass because he doesn’t want my disappointment to be equal to my excitement.

I, of course, think he should just join in on the excitement of the what ifs and maybes. He, of course, thinks I should come back to earth from time to time and analyze the possibilities rationally. My approach is obviously the right one. Who needs logic and reason?

I don’t care how many times the big dreams don’t happen. I love the excitement and the possibility. That might be why I pray big prayers.

I know that so many of my dreams are beyond my ability to accomplish, but nothing is beyond God. When you serve a God that big, why not dream wild and crazy dreams? If it is God’s will, anything can be done.

What are you believing for today?

 

CHURCH PLANTING

GIVE ME SPACE AND FREEDOM…JUST NOT TODAY.

SPACE AND FREEDOM

As a parent, life seems to be a fluctuation between survival mode and an attempt to capture the moments we never want to forget.

My three children of 8, 10, and 12 are on the edge of pulling away. We are teetering between the call of a social life and the security of weekends at home, and I am unsure of how to progress.

Freedom is so close I can almost taste it. The day to day pressures of three small lives is lifting as they grow.  With the lifting of pressure becomes space. Oh how I have wanted space and room to breath, and now…

Now I want to hold just a little tighter for just a moment longer the children I see in front of me on their way to youth and beyond.

A snapshot:

My baby moves with a bounce, a skip, and twirl. She is wild, savage fire and passion. She pushes and pushes and drives me crazy while making my heart burst with love.

My middle child, the dreamer, dancer, and entrepreneur, keeps me on my toes and on the move. With her nose in a book and her legs forming pirouettes as she moves about the house, she fills my ears with a stream of ideas of her next business, project, or club. I hear more work for me…. and a girl on her way somewhere before her time.

My almost man is sweetness and athleticism. He is quiet confidence in long strides. He is so easy I fear I fail him. He does not demand my attention or affection. He is steady and dependable, and I often forget to be soft and available as he races away from boyhood.

Tonight I capture a sentimental thought….

Tomorrow, I wash dishes, fold laundry, and dream of freedom.

 

LEARNING

Doubts, Fears & Preconceived Notions

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Doubts, Fears & Preconceived Notions

By Tabitha Caplinger

About a year and a half ago I was sitting in an arena full of women listening to Christine Caine speak. (PS I love her.) I had spent over ten years toying with the idea of writing a book. Then I wrote one. It was non-fiction, a collection of essays about youth ministry. I think ten people have read it. Its fine because it was my first book and I had no idea what I was doing and I self published it and did no marketing because I didn’t know you were supposed to do that. (Inhale.)

Fast forward a couple of years and two devotional attempts later and I started writing another book. This one was young adult fiction. I don’t know how I went from trying to write devotionals to a book about demons and angels and sword fights. Really I don’t, and that brings us back to that women’s conference.

I sat in my seat and told myself I was being selfish. I was a pastor and a wife and a mom, and taking all this time to write an imaginary story was wasteful. I should be focused on ministry. I should be spending that time discipling girls. I should go back to those devotionals because that’s what pastors who write, well, write.

God had given me a vision for my ministry and fantasy novels wasn’t going to get me there.

“Who says it won’t?”

That’s what my spirit heard so loudly as I sat in that arena. (I actually sat up straighter because the silent voice was so clear it startled me.)

It was a pivotal moment for me, God speaking to my personal doubts, fears and preconceived notions. For the first time since I had started writing my trilogy I knew that I knew that it was more than just a story that popped in my head one night, it was part of the calling God had placed on my life.

I wasn’t being selfish, I was being obedient.

Now, don’t think I’m tooting my own horn here because there are still days I struggle with the time I put into writing when it isn’t paying the bills. My family makes sacrifices for me to be obedient in a way that often still feels arrogant and selfish. (No one tells you about all that marketing you have to do and that it’s not for the book but yourself. It is weird and awkward and I worry I’m coming off self absorbed. I promise I’m not.) So I am constantly reminding myself of that moment where God whispered to me over the roar of several thousand women.

He whispers to you too…in the middle of cleaning up your kids’ mess, writing your blog, teaching that class, cooking dinner, taking that morning jog. (I can’t speak from experience on the jogging part, if you see me running its from bears, or dinosaurs, or zombies, but I’m sure it applies.)

We all have a purpose and there is no formula for which to figure it out. There is no template you have to fit within aside from God’s Word. So, if you have ever been like me and worried your dream was selfish or didn’t seem to fit, talk to God about it and take the time to listen for His voice of assurance.

Don’t be afraid of obedience that the world might not understand. After all we aren’t being obedient to them but to our Maker. In the end, it is Him we need to make happy and He doesn’t care about your, or anyone else’s, doubts, fears and preconceived notions.


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ABOUT Tabitha Caplinger

Tabitha Caplinger has been in student ministry for close to 15 years, and currently pastors at Faith Community Church in House Springs, Missouri with her husband Brian. They have two sassy daughters, Lila and Rory. Student Ministry is core to who Tabitha is; she loves discipling others and helping them see themselves through Jesus’ eyes. Her goal is for every young woman to be confident that, “she is loved more than she will ever know by someone who died to know her.”

When not working, Tabitha and her family like taking in a good movie or walking through the park. She also admits to being a little obsessed with TV.

Connect with Tabitha online:

Facebook: Tabitha Caplinger

Twitter: @pastortabitha

http://www.tabithacaplinger.com

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My little novel, if you’re interested, is The Chronicle of the Three: Bloodline. Its the first installment in a trilogy. The second book is releasing this June.

Available on Amazon| Barnes & Noble | iBooks

WRITING

I’m a Self Promoting Idiot

LOOK AT ME

Anxiety, uncertainty, and insecurity- I’m not sure which of these I feel more right now, and I know they are all byproducts of each other in some way.

We are 27 days from launching the church. We could have 75 people show up or 375 people. There is no way to know.

I submitted my book manuscript the first of the month, and today is the end of the month. The agent could love it or reject it. I don’t even know when I will find out.

My paying job, the one I never feel like I have enough time to do well, is asking me to make some decisions very soon about next school year that I am not ready to make (full time or part time/ English, Spanish, or both).

I’m forgetting to work hard and let the results rest in God’s hands. I keep forgetting my job is to be faithful.

The church will be what He wants it to be; the book will reach who He wants it to reach; I will work with the students God wants me to impact; and God’s provision will be more than enough.

It isn’t about me. It is about Him… why is this so ridiculously hard to live out?

I have hardly written this month. Instead I’ve tried to do some of the promotion new authors are supposed to do.

I hate it. The self promotion makes me feel like a failure.

I tried to boost my Facebook author page. It went up by almost 250 page likes in just a couple days, and many of the posts had huge jumps in likes also. Almost all the new page and post likes came from Brazil, yet my blog didn’t receive any hits from Brazil….

At least the almost 500 followers I had before were people who have read something I have written.

I feel like a self promoting idiot…. because that is what I am right now.

We are starting a church to bring people to God. I wrote a book because I was impressed with the words, “a book to build a church on.” I started a blog because authors need blogs. I kept blogging because I’ve been told, by the few people who actually read it, the words are something they can relate to in their own lives. I have loved the connecting with others while processing through my own junk to find grace for each day.

So, why on earth am I getting anxious about results, letting uncertainty throw me into a tailspin, and feeling insecure in my abilities?!?!?!

It’s time to do the only thing that makes sense…

Dear God,

Teach me, again, to keep my eyes on you. Help me to remember who I am in you and who you have called me to be. Forgive me for promoting my abilities instead of faithfully serving in order to see you promoted.

I am so glad you give grace abundantly because I am a woman in great need of unmerited favor. 

Help me to re-learn what true peace is and where it comes from. Teach me to rest in you and let each day come without worrying about tomorrow. I love you, and I thank you.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

LEARNING

ON THE PASSING OF A FORMER STUDENT

Passing

One evening after work, I heard the heartbreaking news that one of my first students had died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 19. My heart was heavy throughout dinner. As I was cleaning up from our meal, my husband was playing his guitar and singing while my middle child was dancing in our kitchen. I was overwhelmed in that moment.

The vibrance and vitality was highlighted by the loss of a young life, which had been characterized in many ways by a sense of motion. The grief was heightened by the stark contrast of life bursting at the seems, yet the joy of the moment was deeper because of the understanding of what had been lost. My heart was full and broken. The fullness caused the breaking, and the breaking enhanced the filling.

In my kitchen, my daughter bounces and spins

To music flowing from Daddy’s lips and fingertips.

The room is vibrant, full and dancing with life,

And in this room, the tears are pouring out

Streaming down my cheeks and upturned lips.

I’m smiling and crying, crying and smiling.

While she is twirling and kicking,

My heart is filling and breaking.

Because he is gone,

There is no music and dancing.

The world is spinning and bouncing,

And our hearts are breaking and filling.

-Rebecca Burtram

 

I have shared this poem with my English students the past two years. When I look into their faces as I read them the poem, I still see the young man (who was almost constantly in a cast of some sort) sitting in a middle school classroom. I see his energy and exuberance in their young and promising eyes, and my heart breaks again… and again… and again.

PARENTING
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