Rebecca Burtram

3 CUPS OF TEA

3 CUPS OF TEA

I never acquired the taste for coffee. I know this sounds like insanity to all my joyfully caffeinated friends. In fact, a few may have stopped reading after that first sentence.

Because I am not a coffee drinker, I don’t have a single hot beverage on most days. This is why Thursday was so unique. I had not just one, but three cups of tea, none of which was prepared or purchased by me.

By the end of the day I realized how special each cup had really been.


1. A cup of Service:

I had asked my neighbor if I could pick her brain about how to care for our church’s team members. She, like so many others, understands what it is to need a long break from serving at a church.

Not only did she agree to share with me, she opened her home and gathered several other women who are active in service. These women were each from a different church and a different denomination.

In this small Thursday morning gathering, a cup of chocolate mint tea was brewed, and I drank deeply of the sweet mixture.

These women from various religious backgrounds shared input on how to care for the people of Redemption Church. Their presence and open hearts were an inspiration and reminder of our need to reach out to each other.

We want Redemption Church to do all it can to prevent people from being hurt, undervalued, or burned out. We are humans working with other humans, and there will be failures. However, we are seeking to reflect God to the best of our ability as we come together and pour ourselves out.


 

2. A cup of Restoration


 

Life has been a little extra stressful recently as we are finalizing our preparations to launch the church (only 23 days left!). There are a million details to juggle, and so much is depending on us getting them right. This is on top of the normal day to day demands of running a home, caring for a family, and teaching.

I was holding it together really well…. until our finances hit the very bottom. The savings ran out months ago, and the credit card just maxed out with our second set of unexpected major car repairs.

Although I knew God would provide as he has again and again, I was beginning to crumble. When my phone screen broke without explanation, I just didn’t know where the money would come from.

On Wednesday, I went straight from work to the repair kiosk I had been at only two weeks prior. They refused to repair it without charging not only the full repair price but an additional fee to replace the battery they claim was the cause of the breakage. I left without repairing the phone. It was the proverbial straw breaking the camels back.

I came home, changed out of my work clothes, and, 15 minutes later, welcomed 12 friends from church into my home. When they asked how I was, my first response had been, “Fine.” Then, I looked at these people I know and love and gave the real answer.

Thursday afternoon, one of them came to our home to help match receipts to the chart of accounts. She brought me a chai tea and shared her story with me.

I had needed a reprieve from the stresses I was allowing to clutter my mind. Her presence and her authenticity were the connection I needed to remind me of why I am in this journey. It was restoration for my soul as she shared her life and warmth with me.


 

3. A cup of Gratitude.


 

Thursday evening, I grabbed a stack of papers to grade on my way out the door to take my daughter to ballet. On the way, we picked up my daughter’s friend. She came to the car with a to go cup of mint tea for me.

Her mother is a friend of mine, and she was showing gratitude for sharing in the task of pick up and drop off. She didn’t have to do a thing. Their home is on the way to the studio, and we often take turns getting the girls to and from dance.

As I sipped this extra token of gratitude, I realized it was my third cup of tea that day. I was suddenly the one full of gratitude.

These cups of tea were unique and simple reminders that I am so far from alone in this life.

I am blessed to be surrounded by people who will do life with me. I can share my hopes for the future, my concerns of the moment, and the daily tasks of living.


Our circumstance haven’t improved a whole lot. In fact, they have gotten worse. We still have a mountain of debt, the million details continue to depend largely on us, my husband’s grandfather just passed away, and, ironically, my phone (which could only function through Siri) was stolen by one of the students yesterday.

Yet, I feel the warmth and support of three cups of tea. God has us surrounded, and we can hold fast to his love and grace.

I pray that as you enjoy your coffee, tea, or hot cocoa today, you will remember you are never alone.

 

 

CHURCH PLANTING

A LITTLE TOO REAL…

Today, my friend and I had a really good laugh…. at me.

I had just described for her the utter perfection of my daughter’s friend’s house. I also mentioned how the mother wore pressed dress pants and crisp tops for errands around town.

None of that is funny. It is impressive.

The funny part was the description of me standing in their gorgeously decorated home speaking to this put together momma.

Here is a picture I just had my husband take of me to help you fully understand.

IMG_2576

Yes, that’s right. Very stylish. Those are, in fact, cut off sweat pants. The best part is I had just cut them off this morning. Thank God I did not wear the part I had saved as a headband!

Now, to add to this glorious picture…. My daughters who were with me were both incredibly dirty. My middle child had a huge brown patch of dirt on her shirt. Her hair was in a ratty pony tail that looked as if she hasn’t brushed it in days. My youngest had dirt caked jeans, dirty hands, smudged glasses, and dirt around her mouth- AROUND HER MOUTH! I don’t know how… it just was.

I chatted with this mother as if we were even remotely in the same world, but I cringed inside about how insanely messy and not put together my little section of family was in front of pristine beauty.

Not to mention, earlier in the week the father from the same family had been in our home  when it was full of random boxes from our church plant’s equipment opening party. Picture this, but spattered throughout the main living area of my home:

I had been mildly embarrassed at the time, but I had also patted myself on the back for not letting it bother me too much to let a stranger see my home that way. I thought I had come so far in learning to give myself grace and live authentically.

Now that I’ve seen their home, I take it back. I am not okay! LOL

This is why my friend and I had a good laugh. There was nothing else to do but laugh. This is me, and this is my world right now.

My home is destroyed and put back together every couple of days as we use it as a staging ground for a church where even messy people are welcome.

The girls and I were a dirty mess because we had gone with my neighbor and her family for a beautiful hike and picnic. During our little adventure, the kids had climbed rocks and trees, walked with arms draped across each other’s shoulders, given piggy back rides, and laughed.  Although they were not clean, I had thought they were a picture of perfection.

It is silly that I let my ego alter my perspective when the environment changed. Thankfully, I had a good friend to laugh at me and with me.

I have a feeling that as time goes on, this is a story the mother of my daughter’s friend will get a chance to laugh at too. I’m sure she, like anyone else, has her moments of imperfection, and that is why we will be able to get along just fine.

So, my dear friends, put on a smile. Rock your messy buns, yoga pants, cut off sweats, or what have you. This is real life, and we are living it together.

photo-16

CHURCH PLANTING

100 TIMES LESS THAN PERFECT

photo (3)

There is something in the numbers-the passage of time, the repetition of actions, the marking of milestones.

This weekend is a weekend of significant numbers. Today, I write my 100th blog post; tomorrow, I celebrate 13 years of marriage; and, (hopefully) in the next few days, I will reach 10,000 views on this website.

I have spent my life measuring myself against the numbers. They have been my constant companion, my greatest accomplishments, and my most formidable foes: test scores, school records, class rank, number of points, number of rebounds, GPA, my weight, my sister’s 5k time, 26.2 miles, 13.1 miles, and now… the number of views on my website.

It is funny how something so arbitrary and with so little consequence can drive me. I can’t stop the desire to be measured by a number. I know, deep down, my worth is not connected to numbers and accomplishments. Yet, I battle to live it out.

I recently took two final exams for some extra college courses I was studying. I knew I wasn’t prepared for both tests, but I had hit the end of my timeline. I earned a 94 and an 87. I was crushed because I was going to get a B….. a B!!!!

I couldn’t shake the feeling of failing. I had been measured as less than an A.

I wish I could tell you I felt just fine with my test results and that I didn’t give it a second thought. The sad truth is, for all my work to embrace the imperfections of life and to give myself grace, I was devastated. I tried to talk positively about it, but, inside, I was wrecked.

Here I am on my 100th post about giving grace and I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was when my final grades came. I had earned an A in both courses because of my final projects, but I still felt the success was tainted by the test score.

It doesn’t matter how much I know the the truth; I am still battling the lies. Somewhere, deep down, I believe myself to be not enough. I often look to the numbers to prove myself wrong. Thankfully, some numbers require nothing of me, and they speak a truth I desperately need to embrace.

Luke 12:6,7

“What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

Psalm 139

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!

I am still fighting to love every crack, wrinkle, pound, and speck of dirt. This might be my 100th time of writing to process through to the grace, but I am still learning to recognize the beauty and the worth of less than perfect.

Thank you for fighting along with me.

 

*Oh, and if you want to help me reach my arbitrary goal of 10,000 views (that honestly shouldn’t matter to me), share this post or one of your favorites.

 

LEARNING

Through My Daughters’ Eyes

photo

Today, my daughter sat next to me and played with the photo editor on my phone. It was a reminder of how my girls see me compared to how I see myself.

This is what my youngest did with a photo of me:

 

Maybe we should all put crown stickers on our mirrors so we can see our value not our imperfections.

My two girls will often tell me I am beautiful, but when I look in the mirror, I have to work hard to try to see past everything that is wrong.

My girls look at me, and they see beauty because they look at me with eyes of love.

I need to do the same.

I know my girls will spend their lives battling not to compare themselves with magazine covers and perfume advertisements. If they look at me and see loveliness, I had better start showing them they are right to see reality as beautiful. They are beautiful inside and out, and I don’t want them to ever doubt it.

Although I want my girls to be like me in many areas, I don’t want their vision to change to match mine. I want to see the way they see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PARENTING

NOTHING GOLD

Gold

Lately, I’ve been noticing how nothing goes from chaos to order without intentional work. Everything’s natural progression seems to be decay.

Take a perfectly spotless, in tact home. Now, do not do any work in the home for… I don’t know… let’s say three hours. Yup, three hours. In three hours time, you will see exactly what I mean when I say the natural direction of everything is from order to chaos. (If you do not have children, change three hours to three days.)

How do socks magically appear randomly throughout the house? How do books and papers find their way to countertops and all other exposed surfaces? Pillows must hate the couch. I am convinced pillows and couches are enemies. This is why pillows are always on the floor; they refuse to be touching couches.

Although this inclination toward decay may sound unappealing at first. There is something of great worth in it. A poem you may be familiar with concisely states what I might ramble on about for days:

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

-Robert Frost

As only he could, Frost brings in something we often miss. In the decay, there is beauty and life. The leaf subsides to leaf, and the dawn goes down to day. These aren’t bad things. These are life. Nature’s cycle moves from partial to full. There is growth and change in the subsiding and going down. Even the line “So Eden sank to grief,” can, in this context, indicate the fortunate fall (the idea that God, in his omniscience was fully aware man would fall, and he created the world anyway because his big picture plan was beautiful and best for man… including man’s ability to choose evil.)

What I’m trying to get at is life is beauty. Life is chaos and mess, and, yes, we have to work hard at it, but even in the decay there is something valuable. Perhaps, it is even something worth all the gold and luster being worn off so we can see it.

We all strive to be perfect, shiny, and golden, but that can’t stay. We should embrace the beauty of what comes in the moments after the shimmer is gone.

We can strive all we like to remain golden images of perfection, but the truth is order moves to chaos. And as much as we want to stay gold, we see the dawn has brought us the day, and that is pretty amazing, too.

We have been given a great gift to know both gold and what follows.

Hug the mess. Enjoy moments of perfection. Love the wrinkles. It is all life. Embrace it.

 

 

LEARNING

DROP THE WEIGHT

scale

Now that we are over a week into the new year, I think it is appropriate to address the topic on so many people’s minds: weight loss.

Some of you may be finding your healthy resolutions are proving hard to keep: avoiding sugar, getting daily exercise, avoiding carbs, lifting weights three times a week, etc.  Wouldn’t you like to find an easier way to cut some weight?

Recently, I have found the secret to real weight loss. (Actually, I knew it already, but, of course, I forgot it for a short time. There are some lessons in life we have to learn again and again.)

The key to weightloss is grace.

Grace releases you from life’s steady downward pull. Grace alone cannot remove the weight. You must master the art of extension and reception if you want to drop the pounds of regret, criticism, and self doubt.

When I live without giving grace, the world seems to settle on my shoulders. Spending my time focusing on the problems around me causes me to become tired and worn out. I need to extend grace to the situations and the lives around me.

When I live without accepting the grace that has been extended to me, I become pinned down by the pressures I place on myself to be better. So often, I forget that it is by faith we are made right. It is by God’s love and grace in action in our lives that we grow and mature. I don’t have to do everything on my own strength. I need to welcome the unmerited favor.

Maybe if I do enough reps of extension and reception my bathroom scale will reflect the weight that has been lifted. A girl can dream can’t she?

PARENTING

SHINE (Christmas Visions Part 4)

SHINE

Seventy-five degrees is not your typical December weather around here. We were not about to let this rare day pass without soaking up the warmth.

I have to laugh at what a sight we must have been throughout the day.

After picking up my middle child in the morning (without a shower, make up, or real clothes), I ran a few errands before dropping the same child off at her next play date.

At home, I joined my son and youngest child to hang out with our neighbors in the cul-de-sac. I was in yoga pants and a workout shirt, my son was wearing beat up athletic pants with his old play shoes, and my daughter was wearing a dirty shirt and her hair was a wild tangled flowing mess. Our neighbors were equally decked out in a mix of pajamas and casual day wear. The dad (barefoot) and some of the kids played football while the wife and I talked and corralled toddlers… as if this was perfectly normal for mid morning on a Saturday.

Later in the day, I sat (dripping sweat from my run with the same neighbor) with my youngest on the porch swing. She was carrying a walking stick and several small stuffed animals and wearing cowboy boots and a red cape. On top of this, she still had not brushed her hair and now had ketchup on her cheek.

It was the best Saturday. It was a rare day with nothing on the schedule other than dropping off and picking up our middle child from her various social engagements.

Instead of our normal use of free Saturdays- a mad attempt to clean the house spotless, we let ourselves embrace a little mess in order to soak up the sunshine.

Like my Christmas star decoration, we were messy and beautiful. We shared life together without attempting to create perfection and order. We allowed the strands and clumps to come together to form something warm and sparkling.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of a spotless house with bleach scented bathrooms. I also like wearing real clothes and make up on a daily basis. Somehow, though, the sun shining when it normally wouldn’t made all those things seem insignificant. All that mattered was gathering all of us together to bask in the warmth of the day.

Although it was not your typical advent season weather, there was definitely a gift in it. It was a reminder of how, long ago, a star appeared where there was normally no light to welcome beauty in the center of a mess.

What a strange sight it must have been: a young mother, a step father of sorts, and a baby in the middle of hay and animals.  It was not order and cleanliness. It was far from a picture of perfection. It was, though, a gift of a light sent to draw us together.

May your Christmas be full of shiny moments that draw you ever closer to the greatest gift and to one another.

PicMonkey Collage

 

Christmas Visions

TOY SOLDIERS (Christmas Visions Part 2)

Toy Soldier

I think the wooden nutcracker ornaments are ugly. Their hair looks ridiculous, and their teeth are absurd. However, all three of my kids love the nutcracker Christmas ornaments in our home.

I see the unattractive exterior, but my children see visions of something more grand in these toy soldiers.

My girls love them because they love the Nutcracker ballet.  They see a representation of beauty and romance. My son loves them because they are soldiers, and he sees the strength and the fight.

I need the eyes of a child to view this world. There is so much of life that is not pretty at first glance. There are so many moments that require eyes to look beyond what is glaring and apparent.

It is easy to see a place where people toss life in the trash in the name of convenience, slaughter it in the name of religious war, and end it in fits of rage. It takes effort to see beyond these, and many other, moments of ugly hair and teeth.

I want to see the beauty and the romance, and I want to believe in the strength and the fight.

I want to look in the face of the disasters and destructions of humanity and see those who are still dancing gracefully across the stage of life. I want to see the acts of love that outweigh the selfish and the profane. I want to focus on the ones who are fighting to bring love and peace.

Children see the world much closer to the way God views it. Humanity is a toy soldier, and God sees so much more than an ugly exterior. He has to, why else would he have been willing to send his son to live among us and bear the weight of our failings?

I am praying for eyes like my children’s.

God, help me to see the beauty in the hearts of others, remember the romance of your pursuit for us, and to always fight to help others find strength in you. 

 

Christmas Visions

LET YOUR CRAZY OUT

crazy

Deep down, I am a little crazy…. or maybe I should say still a little crazy. It is hard to say what level of crazy I am, but I know it is less crazy than I used to be.

I was so good at hiding the crazy for so long I actually had myself convinced the crazy wasn’t there…. until it was flying out making a mess of everything.

Recently at our Life Group, we talked about how burying emotions is like pushing a beach ball underwater. When you push a beach ball underwater, it often comes up in a somewhat unpredictable manner. The bigger the beachball, the harder it is to keep it under water….. so maybe my level of crazy had gotten pretty big.

Finding people to share the crazy with is so important. I have expressed this sentiment in previous posts. This little section from a post I wrote after time with my sister and my cousins sums up a good deal of what I want to communicate right now:

There is something healing in the sharing. We need to let people into our lives because shared experience is a mathematical phenomenon:  the weight of grief is divided and the celebration of joy is multiplied. Life was meant to be lived together.

You see, we need each other. We need to let the crazy out so it doesn’t build and build until we have no choice but to let it explode up out of the depths, splashing emotion and mess in our faces and on those closest to us.

Let your crazy out… in small doses. Let someone else in, so they can bring pieces of sanity and order to the emotions that get messy and tangled. You will find you are not the only one with emotions, and you are not the only one with a need to share. Don’t let your desire to appear sane and perfect isolate you from those who can help you actually be sane.

Let the crazy out.

I have not seen my sister in months, and I miss her greatly. In honor of our shared crazy, I am including the little piece from the same post as the quote above:

She folded my laundry, and I felt her love deeply. 

She carried some of the load so that I would not have to.

The filth of living was shared between us

And she created neat piles of order and sanity.

The load is too heavy alone. Share your heart, share your fear, share your dreams, share the crazy. It is worth it.

LEARNING
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