relationships

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Making Room (2016)

Published December 26, 2016 by joypatton

“No room!”  Place after place, inn after inn, and all with the same reply. Bethlehem was crowded and bustling with people trying to abide by the orders of the census. Mary and Joseph searched everywhere for a place, and yet there was no room. Panic began to rise in Joseph as he knocked on door after door hoping to find someone who would pity this poor young man and his young pregnant wife.  His need to protect and provide began to take over about the same time that Mary’s need to settle down and nest could no longer be suppressed. Finally they found someone who was willing to make room for them, not in a house or an inn, but in a barn. Was this really God’s chosen place for His Son to be born or was it a default location?  How could a stable and a feeding trough be God’s perfect provision for the Christ child?  At that point, it didn’t matter how big or how small the room was.  God provided a space in a town with no room, and there was a place and a space for them to abide, even if for a short time.

It sounds so simple and so easy to welcome someone in or to make room for them.  However, making room is often a painful process that requires sacrifice. In order to make room for Mary and Joseph, someone would have had to give up their comfortable room. An innkeeper would have to give away a room without being paid.   When the angel told Mary that she would become pregnant with a child, it came with much sacrifice and pain. When a woman’s body makes room for another human to grow, it’s a painful process.  Not many women describe pregnancy as easy and comfortable.  Even my friends who have adopted children have gone through painful waiting processes as they tried to make room for a child, often much longer than nine months.

Making room for Christ in my life is a painful process that requires sacrifice.  I remember working in my flower beds in the front of our house.  I had these pretty little bachelor button flowers that just grew and grew.  They became these big huge bushes of adorable little flowers that took over the garden.  They were crowding out the other things that were growing like my mums and tulips, the flowers that would grow year after year.  So these perfectly fine flowers had to go; otherwise, the perennials wouldn’t get the sunlight and soil they needed.  It just didn’t feel right when I threw those precious little pink and purple flowers on the compost pile, but I knew it had to be done for the long-term plan of the flower bed.

God reminded me that sometimes in order to make room for the things he has for me, other things have to go.  At first for me, it was having time to do crafty things, like knit and scrapbook and decorate cakes.  As I asked Him about how I was supposed to find time to write and teach, he reminded me that I had time to do everything He called me to do.  I began to realize that my precious TV time for my favorite shows became less important as my desire to do his long-term list for me grew.  Sometimes the things that go are really good service opportunities at church or for my friends.  But when doing those things comes at the cost of a stressed out mom who is mean to her kids, the cost is too great.


This year, I was at a Christy Nockels Christmas concert and the word “room” kept sticking out to me. I remembered the above blog post that I had originally written in 2010. I was reminded again that making room is not easy, but I know that God only needs a little bit of room to be able to work. I was reminded of a time this past summer when I thought my marriage was over. I could not see change; I could not see progress, even the marriage counselor had quit. My parents and my brother asked us to give it one more try. They even offered to pay for us to go see a new counselor, something that would require sacrifice on their part.

Reluctantly, without much hope or faith, but with lots of boundaries, I agreed. I knew that I didn’t want to walk away from my marriage wondering whether we had tried everything. I gave God a small sliver of space to work; I gave my husband one more chance to show up in our marriage. I gave God a little bit of room to show up in a crazy, unpredictable time. Like the first Christmas, this was all God needed to make a miracle. God took the little space in my marriage and turned it into something glorious that only he could do. This Christmas we were all together as a family experiencing a new kind of marriage we never thought possible.

This Christmas I’m also making room in other ways. We’ve decided to sell our house in order to get out of debt and be able to live on less money until my husband finds a new full-time job. We need to make room in our budget and in our lives for whatever God is bringing next. I look back at the things God asked me to sacrifice to make room for him in 2010 like crafting and TV, and those sacrifices seem quite small compared to selling a whole house. But I realize that that is how God begins his work and shows himself to be faithful. He only gives us the next step of obedience. As we make a little bit of room, he shows up in all His glory to do more than we could ever imagine.

So as we go into 2017, how is God asking you to make room for Him in your life? What are you willing to sacrifice? Are you willing to be uncomfortable, in pain or heartbroken in order to make room for Him to do His work? I can tell you this: making room, no matter how big or small, is never easy, but it is always worth it.

 

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To young families at Christmas

Published December 25, 2015 by joypatton

IMG_0710For all the moms who are just beginning families: be intentional about the traditions you begin. They will be the things your kids remember, and it becomes very sweet as your kids get older and take over.

I remember one of the first Christmases we had as a little family. I tried to do all the things my family did and all the things everyone else said we should do. From big meals to Santa to Elf on the Shelf. I was exhausted at the end. So I decided to start some new traditions. The only rule was that it had to be easy for me. Yes, it sounds selfish, but going into Christmas with an exhausted mom is no fun either.

Fifteen years into making our family, I wanted to share some of the ones that have stuck, and the payoff is good.

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Joy, Hope and Faith in 2009.

Christmas Eve – I remember coming home from Christmas Eve service after getting everyone dressed. I wanted a big meal, but I didn’t want to make it at the end of the day. So I started doing a pot roast in the crock pot. All you have to do it warm rolls when you get home, and you have a great meal. This year was ingenious because I used stew meat instead of a roast. Delicious! (See the recipe below) After dinner, everyone opens one gift: a pair of PJ’s. Everyone has a new look for Christmas morning, and the little ones satisfy the urge to open a gift.

Overnight Breakfast Casserole – What I love about this one is that you make everything the night before and let it sit in the fridge. On Christmas morning, I just wake up and put it in the oven while we open gifts. This is one of my kids’ favorite traditions. My oldest told me this morning, “This casserole is the only reason I get up on Christmas morning now that I’m a teen.” The best part is that this morning I got an extra hour of sleep because my 13-year-old helped me make it last night, and I told him he could start baking it in the morning. I got out of bed, and it was all ready to go. Merry Christmas to me! (See the recipe below.)

Kids Giving Gifts – One of my favorite traditions is having my kids buy each other gifts. I used to think everyone did this, but I have found out that it’s not very common. When we do our Christmas budget, I include enough for each kid to buy each of their siblings a $10 gift. It helps them to think about each other and keeps them focused on others…a little. This Christmas we used our Citicard Thank You points from my husband’s business card to buy gifts on Amazon. All the kids made wish lists, and shopping was really easy. Each kid sat with me at the computer and picked out gifts for each other. When they came, they helped wrap them. It was so sweet to watch Faith’s face light up as she watched her big brother open the gift she picked out for him.

I love this because it teaches my children how to give good gifts and think of others. This year we didn’t have enough money in the budget for them to buy gifts for mom and dad, but my oldest used some of his own money to get gifts for Andrew and me. They were things we actually wanted. He has learned to watch and listen to see what people need. He has learned that giving gifts is as satisfying as getting them.

As far as Santa and Elf on the Shelf, I’ve tried to avoid them, partly because we didn’t do either one in my family of origin. I don’t like that Santa gets credit for the best gifts, and an Elf that goes around the house and makes more messes for me to clean up is insanity defined.

We dabbled in Santa with my boys, but when they figured it out, we decided not to attempt it with the girls. However Faith, my six-year-old drug me back into it this year and her older sister Hope (age 8) played along with her. They each got one gift from Santa, and the stockings were filled after the kids went to bed.

I’ve learned that inviting some close friends over for Christmas dinner in the evening is just right because by that time we are tired of each other, and we prefer to travel to Ohio at Thanksgiving so that we can have our own family traditions for Christmas at our house. Last night we had our own little candle-lighting service. My boys instinctively started humming “Silent Night” because that’s what we always sing at church.

From left to right: Faith, Hope, Kyle and Connor

It’s so rewarding as a mom to watch these traditions become a part of the fabric of our family. The kids did most of the decorating this year because the decorations always go in the same spot, and they know where to put them. When I am old and tired, they will carry on. When they start their own families, our traditions will help them enjoy the holiday as parents.

I’ve seen the reward of being intentional about these things. As a young mom, sometimes you wonder if the day will ever come. I’m here to tell you that it will. When it does, it’s very sweet and fulfilling to a momma’s heart.

 

Saying Good-Bye to Camelot

Published March 20, 2014 by joypatton


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Today is my youngest daughter’s fifth birthday.   It has been five years since I was pregnant.  Four years since I have nursed a baby.  Five years since I have held a sleeping infant of my own on my chest, which is the best feeling in the world.  It signifies the end of an era.  No more kids to potty train.  No more Mother’s Day Out programs.  No more play dates.

Last fall things  changed in our family.  I was working full-time for the first time in 13 years.  I had a conversation with my close friend.  Her youngest was going to kindergarten, and she was looking at having her days open and free, wondering how she was going to fill them.  We were both lamenting the fact that it had been weeks since we had seen each other, since we

have sat down and talked while the kids played.  “Who knew the preschool years were Camelot?”  I commented.

In the preschool days, I carpooled to Mother’s Day Out with friends.  And during the drop off, we would sit and chat for an hour or two depending on the day.  We would have play dates or swap childcare.  We were constantly in and out of each other’s homes.  During the preschool years, I went to Bible studies and enjoyed two hours of kid-free adult conversation.  I even taught Bible studies.  I remember climbing the stairs one morning, very pregnant, asking God to give me the strength and the words for the study I was leading at the time.  It wasn’t easy, but I don’t regret it.  Looking back, I’m grateful that I took advantage of the opportunities that I had then.

The other day I was driving to work, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for those years.  A gratitude I don’t think I felt most days of those years.  But that day, I was grateful for my Camelot.  For the friendships formed.  For the foundation in God’s Word.  Because now, in the real world, I need those friendships and that foundation more than ever.  I don’t have time for two hour chats over tea and weekly Bible studies at church.

I’m not in Camelot any more.  Most week days my only goal is to make it to the end of my day, and the weekends are about getting the house set up for the busy week ahead.   My youngest daughter will grow up with a working mom and not a stay-at-home mom like my oldest son knew.  This is where God has me now.  This is his provision for me and for my family.  It is good.  It is just as much God’s provision as it was for me to be at home during the early years.  We are all still adjusting, but things are going well.  I’m sure that when I say good-bye to this era, I will be even more grateful for it than I am today.  

So if you are in Camelot today, enjoy it.  Take every advantage to know your kids, to know your friends and to know God’s Word.  You won’t regret it.  

A Love Story Worth Telling

Published October 11, 2013 by joypatton

I recently read a story about gospel artist Bryan Popin and how he and his wife met.

Bryan&SusanPopin-30 CROPPED AND EDITED copyPrior to the release of his latest album “You Can Make It,” gospel artist Bryan Popin experienced many difficult moments through which he learned to persevere.  Perhaps none was more life-changing than when performing at a conference just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana. After playing his first song, he scanned the audience and his eyes were instantly drawn to a girl named Susan.

“She just glowed,” Popin says. “I was stunned. Watching her worship with her hands lifted to God was about the coolest thing I’d ever seen—at least to a 16-year old boy that was in ministry.”Immediately following service, Popin proclaimed to his mother that this was the girl he was going to marry. 

Two years later, he returned to that church in Indiana, but Susan wasn’t there. Instead, her father informed Popin that she was now living in Los Angeles. Another two years later, Popin visited a different church in the Fort Wayne area and amazingly saw Susan’s parents again. This time, the 20-year old musician took decisive action. He asked the father for her phone number.

 “I called her the very next morning,” Popin says. “In fact for four days, she didn’t even call me back. So then I started sending her flowers every day. By the seventh day, she called me and asked me to please stop sending flowers because she wasn’t in a good place. It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting, but at least I’d gotten Susan to talk to me.”

Popin then poured out his heart. He told her how he had missed his opportunity four years earlier and how desperately he wanted the chance to pursue a relationship with her. But then Susan had something important to say.

 “Eight months earlier, Susan had gotten married and was now pregnant,” Popin explains. “When her husband found out, he closed their joint bank account and left her. She was moving home to Indiana to be back with her family.”

Over the next several months, Popin consistently traveled to Indiana to visit Susan. “When I finally got to hold the newly-born Isabella Grace in my arms and look into her big beautiful brown eyes, I fell deeply in love for a second time,” Popin says.

 About 18 months later, Popin married Susan and they have been together ever since.  Popin and his wife Susan now have four beautiful children.

 “I wasn’t planning on getting married and having an immediate family, but I loved Susan and fell in love with Isabella,” Popin says. “She has totally changed my world. She showed me what true love was. When you’re a dad with a little girl, it’s pure, innocent love. But as much as I love my four children and my wife, even more than that, God loves us. It’s just mind-boggling.”

I loved this story, and thought it was such a beautiful picture of God’s persistent, pursuing love for us.  There’s part of us that says, “I wish someone would love me that way.”  Whether you are a teenager, a single woman or a married woman with an imperfect husband (I think that covers everyone), the heart of a woman wants to be pursued and valued and chosen.  You may look at their story and want what they have, but the good news is that you already have it.

Jesus has chosen you.  He saw you across time and picked you to be his.  He is sending you flowers every day all around you to let you know he wants a relationship with you.  The problem is that many of us feel like Susan probably did when Bryan called her in L.A.  We feel like we have messed things up and that no one could possibly choose to love us again.  We believe we are damaged goods because we are “not in a good place.”

This is me.  I reject the good news of God’s everlasting love because I know that I don’t deserve it.  I reject his love, not because of who he is, but because of who I am.  I put him off and tell myself we will get back together when I’m in a better place.  Do you see how the story would have changed if Susan would have done this?  Do you see all the love she would have missed had she refused to let Bryan in?

Jesus is standing there telling you that he loves you with arms full of flowers even in your “bad place.”  Often we act like the gospel story begins with “Because we were such great sinners and made such a big mess, God sent His Son into the world.”  I hear this version preached from the pulpit very often.  And while it is true, it is not the beginning of the story.  The story really begins with “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Don’t leave the love out of the gospel.  Don’t forget that you have already been loved, chosen and pursued by God.  Do not reject his advances toward you and his voice that gently calls you to love him.  Instead return his call and receive his love.  You don’t have to be in a “good place” to be in a relationship with him.  “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16)

Popin’s album “You Can Make It” will be released October 22 through a partnership with eOne Music and will be the first national debut for this piano player who is dedicated to bringing his listeners closer to the heart of God. Check it out here: http://bryanpopin.com/

Two Worlds

Published July 30, 2013 by joypatton

A baseball game in July in Tennessee. An all black team versus an all white team playing for the World Series Championship. Two black umpires. LaVergne versus Brentwood. One loud crowd and one quiet. One with chants and cheers and one with jeers and golf claps. I hate it. I hate the bad calls. I hate the tension. I hate the division.

We are almost at the end of the first game, and we are losing badly. Another bad call, and the parents are complaining loudly. “Bad call! That was horrible!” And then I heard someone make it personal, “We know which side you are on.” The umpire warns our coach that if he can’t control the parents, he will get thrown out of the game. I hate it. The tension is too much. We should win this game because if we don’t, we have to play this team again with the same umpires. I don’t think I can do this again.

Faith brings me out of the tension by announcing that she has added a new friend to her club. Her name is Cora, and in a few minutes she is sitting in the shade of our tent. She’s an adorable black girl with pigtails, and these little girls have no idea what’s going on in the rest of the world around them. They only see friends to play with. I smile and welcome her under our tent and ask her if her mom knows where she is. I’m reminded there is a bigger game to play than the one on the field.

We lose the first game and take a break before the next game. Some parents go to inquire about whether we can get new umpires for the second game, but there’s no resolution. The parents pace and stretch, and Connor sits under our tent trying to re-set for the next game. “Are you going to be able to put that game behind you?” asks one of the parents. “Yes, sir,” Connor replies.

Second game begins, and we come out swinging. For the other team, this is their third game in a row. Everyone is tired. Then they hit a homerun, and we slowly lose our lead. The chant comes from the other side, “Uh, oh…Stealers, Stealers. Uh, oh….Stealers, Stealers.” We clap a little harder and yell a little louder. We come back and tie, but in the next inning, they pull ahead. Connor throws fourteen pitches to end an inning, but the next one, he is tired. The coach pulls him after he hits his third batter with the ball. Another good hit, and they are ahead 12-8 going into the bottom of the fifth inning.

The moms can’t take it. We leave the stands and go for a walk. Two of the moms have walked down to the end of the fence and are smoking. Another mom is looking for a strong drink. One of the dads says he forgot his valium. We are all discouraged; some even turn on the coaches and on each other. Two of the moms can’t handle the tension and leave in a hurry before they start to say things they will regret. It’s ugly. I hate it. I find another conversation to distract me from the game for a few minutes.

Our boys held them in the top of the sixth. As they come to the dugout, we cheer for them and encourage them to stay in it and not give up. Even though in our hearts, we have mostly given up. But the boys have not given up. They hit the ball, the other team makes costly errors, and we are tied. Connor goes in as a sub runner on second. He makes it to third and watches for a chance to steal home. His chance comes when the catcher misses a wild pitch. Connor slides into home for the winning run. In minutes, the team piles on top of him.

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Both teams stand on the base lines for the award presentations. I linger for awhile and then head to the stands to start packing up. I didn’t know my proudest moment was yet to come. They called Connor’s name, and I stand to watch him. He heads toward the other team to congratulate them like his teammates before him. But before he gets to the coach and the team, he stops at the mommas standing on the field. I see my talk, lanky white son giving big bear hugs to each of those beautiful black women who have cheered their team on all day. Then he hugs the coaches and goes down the line congratulating the team. “Uh, oh…Patton, Patton. Uh, oh… Patton, Patton,” the women cheer.

Then I hear, “Where’s Connie’s momma? Which one is Connor’s mom?” These women have come looking for me, and I go out to the field to meet them. They embrace me with the same embrace they gave to Connor and tell me how they love my son and how sweet he is. We laugh and congratulate each other on a battle well-fought. It’s good for the boys to see. It’s good to leave it all on the field. They even try to teach me the cheer, so we can use it at Cooperstown. “Uh, oh…Sting, Sting. Uh, oh….Sting, Sting.” My husband assures them that I don’t have the rhythm for it, and I try to prove him wrong.

I walk off the field smiling. I’m so glad my kids don’t see color, that they understand so little of what the world used to be like. When we watched the movie “42,” it showed a world that seems so strange to them, so unfathomable the way that black people were treated. I’m so glad it’s 2013, and thankful for all the hard-fought battles that came before. Battles that allow black and white girls to be in the same clubs and teams to play on the same fields. So thankful for open hearts and open arms that take us in. My heart is full.

Let Others Tell You Who You Are

Published April 29, 2013 by joypatton

This video made by Dove has been widely viewed online. It was a very interesting experiment with a forensic artist. He sketched women as they described themselves to him and then he sketched the same woman based on how someone else described her. The difference was very telling. We don’t do a good job describing ourselves. We make ourselves out to be much worse than we really are. I was reminded of the importance of being known.

Only through community can we see ourselves as we really are. If we relied solely on our own perceptions, our picture of ourselves would be incomplete. I always hated when someone said you are your most rue self when you are alone in the room with no one watching. But The truth is that I rely on others to tell me who I am. Teenagers are always told this is a bad thing, but it is the way God wired us.  I would argue that our interactions with others show more of our true self than isolation.

This past week I struggled with what I was telling myself, and I needed my community to help give me a more accurate view of myself. I decided to step down from a leadership team. After I announced that I was leaving, five of the six leaders also resigned. I told myself it was a reflection of my poor leadership, that I hadn’t done a good job raising up other leaders to come after me. I felt it confirmed that I was not a good shepherd who looked out for the others on the team. It showed that my strong personality made it difficult for anyone else to shine.  The conclusion: I am a bad leader, and I should never lead again. These are the things I told myself.

But I want to share with you what the other five members of the team, my community, told me.  Not as a way of boasting, but as a way of seeing the situation more clearly.
“I forget how good at this you are.”
“You have been such a blessing to me. You are such an example of honesty and authenticity.”
“I keep reflecting on how good you are at this. Not just this, but overall since I have known you.”
“We have all worked well together and I’ve very much enjoyed serving with you.”

Two very different pictures. While the things I told myself may be valid to some degree, they are certainly not the whole truth. I needed my friends to remind me who I was, to show me what they saw. This is what happens when we are known. I have been living in community with these women for over three years. While I am very sad that our time of serving together in this way is ending, my heart is humbled and full of gratitude for these women.

And I also hear God saying to me “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  I have been taught that His voice is more important than all the others.  Yet sometimes he uses other people to get His message across.  I know that I can’t trust my own perceptions to tell the whole truth.  I need community to speak truth to me.  I need God and His Word to remind me who I am.  All of these work together to create an accurate and beautiful picture of who God has made me to be.

Lessons from the Wasteland: The Ache

Published February 26, 2013 by joypatton

The Ache is the gap between how life is and how I think it ought to be.  The gap between Eden and reality.  The longing for perfection and justice that is never fully satisfied this side of heaven.  No matter how much I hate it and want it to disappear, the ache never goes away.  I tell myself if this happens, then life will be good.  If my life were better, then it wouldn’t hurt so much.  But the Ache never goes away.  In so many moments and situations, the Ache remains.  Will ever stop?  Is its defeat even a legitimate goal?

In the life of Jesus it seems that the Ache was constantly with him from the very beginning to the very end.  He was born in a stable and his mother felt the ache of wanting a warm, safe, clean place to bring him into the world.  And yet God’s provision was a stable.  The Ache of wanting the whole world to know, but his arrival only known by a faithful few.  Everyone in the story instinctively knew that this was no way for a King to be born, and yet it was exactly how the King was supposed to come.  The Ache is the gap between how we think it should be and how God made it to be.

As he chose his disciples, the Ache of knowing that Judas would be the one to betray him.  And yet, he chose Judas.  He walked with him.  He ate the Last Supper with him.  We see this gap in John 6.  He asks his disciples if they too would turn away.  Peter makes a beautiful declaration of belief, and yet Jesus feels the ache of knowing that one of them is a devil.  The gap between good and evil.

And how does Jesus deal with the ache?  Does he run away from it?  Does he pursue happiness hoping to remedy the ache?  Does he exert his power to force people to change, to make them right?  Does he cut off and cast out those who add to the ache?  No.  Instead he pushes in.  He stays consistently true to who he is and what he is called to do.

This is so contrary to everything inside of me.  I chase happiness and peace and perfection.  I cut off anyone who threatens that.  I run away from hard relationships and hard conversations because it’s just easier to ignore the ache.  I am satisfied with moments of happiness from my favorite escapes that take me out of the present: shopping, television, movies, and fancy parties that make me feel important.

And yet Jesus seemed content in sadness, chaos and imperfection.  He is at peace because he has submitted all things, including himself, to His Father.  He asked Judas to be one of the Twelve because that’s what the Father asked him to do.  He knew the Father had a purpose for the ache: His glory.  The Ache is what makes Jesus beautiful, unfathomable, supreme over all.

Jesus shows us that we don’t have to be afraid of the ache.  We don’t have to run away from it or try to fix it.  That the pain of life is mixed in with the joy.  Like the joy of sharing a good meal with good friends and the pain of knowing that it will be the last time.   The joy of feeling life in your womb and the pain of knowing it will be short lived.  The joy of being who you were made to be and the pain of being rejected and misunderstood.  Both exist in life simultaneously.

It is because of Jesus that the biggest ache, the biggest gap between God’s righteous perfection and my unrighteous imperfection, has been bridged by the blood of Christ.  Every other ache is temporary.  Every other ache will be remedied in His eternal Presence.  This is the hope we have: that because of Jesus, it won’t always be like this.

But for now…it is.  Like Jesus, I must trust the good hand of the sovereign God who is working all things for good.  In the ache, I remain true.  I pay attention to my heart.  I push in to hard relationships and hard conversations to know Him more, to follow in his steps more closely.  So rather than run from the ache, try to fix it or change it, because of His example, I embrace it.

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