Rebecca Burtram

CALLING ALL ANGELS

CALLING ALL ANGELS.jpg

My mother is a saint. Maybe she is not exactly a saint because I just looked up what makes someone a saint according to the catholic church, and she is disqualified because, well, she isn’t catholic or dead. She did meet the other two requirements though:

1. Live an exemplary life

My mom is maybe the most exemplary woman I know. She loves unconditionally, and she gives and serves without asking for anything in return.

2. Perform at least two miracles

My mother came to visit me for a week. In that week she performed many miracles. The most notable of which was she made a mountain of laundry disappear. She also made my garage floor appear. See? Miraculous!

Since she can’t technically be a saint, I guess my mom is an angel. She is a messenger of God. She proclaims his love in all she does.

My last post was about how incredibly stressed out and lonely I was beginning to feel. In the past few years, I have been learning to share my struggles and ask for help. The post was an admission that I am not perfect, and I can not do this alone.

Now that I am 35, I finally get that struggling alone is a losing battle. I asked for help, and God sent me some angels.

My college suite mate, who I had not seen in person for at least 6 years, came to visit. My husband picked up some extra duties so I could spend time with my dear friend. Despite the fact that I had to work while she was here, it was refreshing to connect and share life with someone with enough history to just know me.

A couple days after my friend left, my mother arrived. I had called her right after I wrote about what it is like to be me right now.

She booked a flight immediately. She didn’t ask why I needed her; she didn’t hesitate. I called, and she came.

My mom cooked; she cleaned; she read with the kids; she played games with us; she listened; and she restored my peace.

I thank God for the angels among us- the people who show up and tell us with their actions and their words that God cares for our every need.

Don’t struggle alone. Call your angels.

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.

CHURCH PLANTING

WHY I HAVE BEEN QUIET

QUIET

I am a white, middle class, christian, American woman. I have watched and listened the past couple of weeks as people have demanded to be seen and heard. I have remained quiet.

I have not remained quiet because I do not believe black lives matter.

I have not remained quiet because I believe our police force is corrupt and racist.

I have been quiet because I need to listen.

I grew up in a very small town in Central New York. I graduated with a class of 76 students in a public school. We could name the non white students in our 7th-12th grade building because everyone knew everyone, and there were less than ten students in our building that didn’t look just like me.

I only heard rumblings once or twice of any racist remarks being made to my classmates, and it was something people were upset about. It was not condoned or applauded. I didn’t think racism on a broad scale existed.

I went to a small christian liberal arts university in Springfield, MO. I had friends of color. They didn’t tell me about experiencing racism. It didn’t come up. I have a brother-in-law, nieces, a nephew, and cousins that are black. It never occurred to me that their experiences have been much different than my own.

I am not racist, my friends and my family are not racist, so I have thought racism was not a problem.

The past couple of weeks, I have read articles, watched video clips, and viewed many people’s posts and opinions on recent events, and I have remained quiet.

I observed shootings that have struck me us unjust losses of life, yet I am not convinced the police actions were due to racist beliefs…. nor am I certain they were not. I am certain that if the actions taken were due to racism, not all police are racist.

The numbers and the statistics on police shootings have been presented 50 different ways to demonstrate both that police are shooting blacks and whites in a manner that it is disproportionate to the population statistics and that is proportionate to the violence and threats of each racial grouping. I can not say for certain if our police forces are dealing justly with all races. I can only say I hope they are. So, I have remained quiet.

I have observed protests of individuals demanding justice and a voice. I have seen people passionately and eloquently argue a change needs to occur, and I have seen others act in a manner that can only be causing a greater problem. I have not been able to fully understand, and I have remained quiet.

I have been quiet because I grew up sheltered and privileged.

I do not apologize for my whiteness. I do not apologize for my privilege. It was not my decision. Just because I do not apologize for these things it does not mean I defend or condone those who may treat black life with contempt or disregard. I have not been exposed to this treatment, and I cannot speak to its level of existence.

I have been quiet because I recognize my lack of understanding in a situation that needs understanding.

I have remained quiet because I need to hear the voices of those who feel they have not been heard.

I have remained quiet because black lives matter, and I want to learn how I can be a part of the solution to the problem I have not experienced.

I cannot learn or understand if I am busy defending my lack of racism and assuming it is true for all whites and all systems. Just because I do not see it or because I am not quick to believe we are a society bent on keeping one people down does not mean it is my turn to speak.

Please forgive me if you want to talk about these current events and I do not bring much to the conversation. I have been represented by a dominate voice for my entire life. My lack of exposure has led to a lack of understanding, so it is my turn to listen.

If your voice has gone unheard, I am willing to listen. Please give me time to be quiet and learn.

 

 

LEARNING

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

OH, ALMOST

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I know you see it-the shirt just in front of the hamper.

Although finding a piece of clothing on the floor next to the hamper is a daily occurrence, in the moment, I was struck by how that shirt looks similar to so much of my life.

The laundry almost makes it IN the laundry basket; my house is almost as clean as I like it; the papers are almost graded; and my clothes almost fit the way I like.

The feeling of almost has been particularly acute in my life recently. We are almost to the first Sunday for our church plant, I am almost done with the two classes I am taking (2 final exams today!), and I am almost done writing my book.

I look at all the areas of almost, and I am grateful.  I am tired, but grateful. I am grateful for clothes to wash, a house to clean, and a healthy body. I am also grateful for big dreams and upcoming accomplishments.

Almost can be a great place, and it can be a tiring place. This is why the shirt caught my eye. It was the thing that was almost right, but not quite. At least it was until I came along and brought it the rest of the way.

When life feels stuck in almost, and I just can’t bring myself the last few inches, I can throw my hands up and say carry me. I have God who will carry me; I have a family that will support me; and I have friends who are right there with me.

I might just be a dirty t-shirt on the floor occasionally, but that is okay by me. I can be carried the rest of the way…. which brings me back to grateful. I am not alone in the never ending flow of almost moments.

I’m looking forward to another day of almost.

 

CHURCH PLANTING

RUNNING IN THE DARK

RUNNING

As a female runner, I have not spent much time running in the dark. However, I have recently connected with some women that enjoy running before the sun comes up.

Running early in the morning is definitely a test of will power, and it really does take the support of at least one friend to make it seem like something I can do.

The night before, it is extremely hard to convince myself to set the alarm early enough to meet with the other ladies.  I can always come up with several reasons I would benefit from the extra sleep. It takes a bit of self talk to swipe the alarm button from off to on.

Eventually, the desire for health and my knowledge that I am in it with others wins out. The alarm is set.

Then, there is the challenge of the wake up signal. The great temptation is to ignore it. All I have to do is tap a button. The pillow is so soft, the blankets are so warm, and my husband would be so lonely without me there. Is that a tickle in the back of my throat? Maybe I’m sick and need to sleep more. I can text to let the others know to go on without me.

The pull to stick together and achieve health drags me out of bed.

Once I am up and moving, the dread disappears and the day is set on a course for success. Upon gearing up and meeting the ladies, I am instantly energized by adult, female conversations. There is nothing like starting your day with the emotional and physical health benefits of group exercise.

Every runner knows that running with a partner is often like going to counseling. You work out the crazy- physically and verbally.

This morning, I was planning to run with one of the women from the group, but she texted early to let me know she couldn’t make it. I considered going alone since I was ready to run. Then, I remembered it was dark outside. There is something scary about being alone in the dark.

There is safety and support in numbers. Our relationships help us to get up when it is easier to stay in one place, move us forward because there is someone striding along beside us, and bring us peace as we share our stories.

Life, not just the morning run, is meant to be done together. You don’t have to run alone. When things get dark, for your health and theirs, call someone, make a plan, and share the journey.

 

LEARNING

KEEP YOUR CHIN UP

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Tired? Hurting? Stressed? Battered? Join the crowd. If you aren’t there at the moment, you can recall the sensations with ease. We have ALL been there.

Recently I have been reminded in many ways of the importance of community. Community is what helps us keep our chins up. Sometimes it is the kind word, someone standing beside us, a listening ear, or even a hand under our chin holding it up. It is also the thing that allows us the opportunity to share kind words, stand beside someone, or hold up someone else’s chin.

I think we can be quick to forget how much community we actually have. We live in a world that celebrates the independent thinker, but we forget how much we can, and need to, rely on each other. I know I found it hard to reach out when I was hurting. I didn’t want to seem weak or needy. I cheated myself out of the benefits of shared experience.

I said it a couple times, and it is rare when I really think I’ve said something really good, so I will repeat it:

“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.”

There is always someone willing to share your experience and be a part of your community. Reach up and reach out. You are never alone in life. Pray, call your family, call your friends. If you don’t have family and friends, get your butt to a church and make some. March up to a welcome center and say, “Plug me in, I need a community.”

Life is not meant to be lived in solitude. Keep your chin up. If you can’t, I’ll hold it up for you.

LEARNING

SLIGHTLY OFF KEY

SLIGHTLY OFF KEY

On a recent car trip, I decided I really like to sing. More precisely, I like to sing loudly.

The problem is I’m not a very good singer. I often miss the right notes, but I keep on singing. I just try to hit the note that comes next. The fact that I am a terrible singer does not hinder my enjoyment in the least. It used to, but then I decided life is too short and I am getting too old to worry about singing perfectly in order to enjoy the song.

This might actually say a lot about me as a person. I’m someone who enjoys living. I do it loud, and I do it fully. I sometimes make mistakes along the way, yet I keep on going. I used to get hung up on perfection, and now I am more focused on just enjoying the moments while doing the best I can.
In life, and when I’m singing, hitting the wrong notes can be hard on the people around me. Although I can keep on going and try to do better with the next note, it can still be damaging to those close to me.This is why I appreciate those who stick around while I’m singing my songs. They don’t leave even though it doesn’t always sound pretty.

Thanks to all those whose ears are slightly damaged but still love me!

This reminds me to be there and listen when my friends are singing too. Sometimes they’re going to hit the wrong notes, and they need someone who will be there with them still. Singing together is even better than singing alone, even when we miss a few notes.

LEARNING

SO SICK

SO SICK

My baby girl has been very sick all day today. Baby is a relative term since she is 7, but when she is sick, she is really my baby.

It is heart breaking to see my child in pain, especially when there is very little I can actually do to heal the sickness. My role today was to comfort her as she went through it.

All I could do was say things like, “I’m so sorry, baby. I know this isn’t fun. I know your stomach hurts. Mommy is here.” As I squatted beside her tiny body curled over the toilet seat, it hit me that what I was doing and saying right then is what people need when their hearts are sick.

I am not suggesting you follow your friends and loved ones into the bathroom and hold their hands while they sit on the toilet. I am suggesting, though, that you make yourself available to them right where they are hurting.

We are often aware of the pains and struggles those close to us are facing, but we aren’t sure what to do about it, especially for things that cannot be fixed like loss or a broken heart. So many of us choose to pretend that everything is normal or ignore the obvious heartache of our friends and family because there is no solution.

What we need to do is be present and available. We can’t bring back lost loved ones or undo the hurts caused by others, but we can say, “I know it hurts. I’m sorry you are hurting. I’m right here.”

PARENTING

13.1 LIFE LESSONS

lesson 1

Context: Before the run, we trained, we bought the right shoes and apparel, and we even had our nails done.

Life Application: Most things in life require a little forethought and energy. Do the work if you want the pay off.

Lesson Two

Context: Running 13.1 miles can be very hard work, but we have a blast doing it.

Life Application: Work doesn’t have to be drudgery. You can have fun if you put your mind to it.

lesson three

Context: The first time we passed the Lincoln Memorial we paid attention, but I didn’t notice the Lincoln Memorial on the way back because I was focused on getting a picture with the mile marker.

Life Application: Pick your head up so you can see the world around you. Don’t allow the small things in life to prevent you from seeing the bigger picture.

Lesson 4

Context: My friend might be the most positive person in the world. She had cheerful and positive commentary the entire race. I think some people around us wanted to punch her, but we had a blast seeing all the good in the rainy, long run.

Life Application: A positive attitude can help you to see the silver linings.

Lesson 5

Context: The two half marathons I ran alone were significantly harder for me than the two I ran with friends and family.

Life Application: Although we can do hard tasks or go through difficult situations alone, the support of others make them much easier.

Lesson 6

Context: There were around fifteen thousand participants in the half marathon. Each one of us had the financial means, the physical ability, the freedom, and the time to participate. We each had so much to be grateful for.

Life Applications: There is so much to be thankful for in life. You have more than you may realize.

Lesson 7

Context: The sign in the picture was at the top of a lengthy hill between miles 6 and 7. We were tired by they time we hit that sign, really tired. Our bodies would have been happy to stop there. However, a little distance later, we realized our bodies could keep going. In fact, our bodies were able to go the same distance again.

Life Application: Life can be tiring and hard. We can face some things that make us feel like we should just quit. However, if we just keep going, we realize we are capable of more.

Lesson 8

Context/Life Application: If you take yourself too seriously, you will miss out on some of the joy around you.

Lesson 9

Context: Three weeks before this run, my plantar fasciitis became almost unbearable. I decided then that I needed to stop training until the run. I knew my body was both capable of the distance and in need of a break. In the past I would have foolishly kept training. After the race, my body felt better than it ever has after a big distance run.

Life Application: It is important to know your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to attempt difficult tasks, but be aware of your limitations as well. Give yourself permission to rest when you need it.

lesson 10

Context: My cousin had never run more than 10 miles. She stood behind the mile marker, and we celebrated the fact that she had officially run farther than she ever had before. She still had 3.1 miles to go, but we took the time to celebrate the victory on the way to the final goal.

Life Application: Celebrate your accomplishments even if you have larger tasks ahead. It will give you confidence and joy as you go.

lesson 11

Context: By mile eleven, legs are tired and people’s joints are aching. Focusing on the pain can make the run miserable. It can even cause some people to give up.

Life Application: I’m not saying we should pretend the pains of life are not present. We simply have a choice as to whether or not we let our focus remain on the pain rather than how to get through it.

lesson 12

Context: The best way to take your focus off the pain is to focus on the goal. While running, I had to decide to think about how close I was to the finish line rather than the ache in my feet. Focusing on the goal helped me to remember why pushing through the pain would be worth it. I also knew I would get a chance to pamper my aching feet after the medal was hanging around my neck.

Life Application: There is a time and a place to deal with the aches and pains. Focusing on your goals helps you remember why some pains are worth it. In order to achieve great things, you have to push through some discomfort.

Lesson 13

Context: No matter the distance or the pace of the run, I always push harder at the finish. I can’t understand walking across the line. There is something about giving it everything you have to the very end.

Life Application: If you are going to do something, do it well. Don’t finish a task with regret. Cross the line knowing you gave everything you could.

lesson 13.1

Context: Normally, I run to see how I can do. I try to beat my own goals. This race was different. I ran with my cousin to help her reach her goals. Her goals were to 1) not die, 2) finish, 3) finish in under 2 hours and 45 minutes, and 4) possibly finish under 2 hours and 30 minutes. The first three were simple without me, but my support aided her in reaching that final goal.

Life Application: Life is better when you live for more than yourself. Sometimes others are there for you, and sometimes you are there for others. Life is meant to be lived in community, and you can’t participate fully in community if everything has to be about you.

Finish:

Whether you are going 13.1 miles or surviving a marathon of daily tasks, look for the lessons you can learn along the way.

running
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