The Last Time...

This time of year brings a heightened awareness of changes in our lives - especially the losses we're facing: Separation after graduation,  friends moving across the country,  new jobs.  We're experiencing that here in our tight-knit little Family Talk Broadcasting department right now, as in the past few weeks alone we've said goodbye to three key staff members -- each of whom is moving on to embrace new family commitments.  And in one short week, I'll join that group. 

As women, we're deeply impacted by these farewells.  My friend's firstborn son is graduating from high school tomorrow and, as such, has been barraged with 'lasts' this month:  "This is Josh's last day of high school; his final choir concert; the last time he'll drive his siblings to school."  On and on it goes.   Ironically, just as she was coming to terms with the season, a well-meaning friend at church piped up, "Hey, tonight's the last time your son will be here helping with Awana, right?"  Sigh.  Uh...thanks for pointing that out.

(By the way, I guess it's not just us females.  As I'm writing this, my 22 yr-old son bounded out the front door grinning, "Hey, Mom, this is the last time I'll be heading up to my college apartment as a resident there!") 

Then there are the 'lasts' we never see coming:  the last time your baby nursed from your breast, the last time your daughter crawled up in your lap, the last time you made your son's sack lunch.  Tragically, there are seven mothers in Moore, Oklahoma right now who had no idea that Monday morning, May 20th was the last time they'd pour a bowl of breakfast cereal for their son or daughter, as an EF-5 tornado (the highest scale possible) would rip through the Plaza Towers elementary school just hours later.  Heart-wrenching.

It's human nature to look in the rear view mirror, I guess.  After all, the past is all we know.  While there certainly could be a bright future ahead, it's completely uncharted; we can't fathom it. We have no understanding of it -- no point of reference.   As a result I seem to focus only on what I can't have any more, instead of what's on the horizon.  Only an omniscient God knows the future.

The Lord understands my predisposition to fixate on the "has beens."  That's why He gently admonishes me to look out the front windshield when I insist on glancing backwards.  

Song of Solomon, chapter 2:  
"See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.   Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land."

Isaiah 43:   
"This is what the Lord says—“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"

...and Philippians 4:13-14
"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

In one week I'll wind up thirty years of ministry alongside Dr. Dobson.  I'll undoubtedly have moments of looking back -- and there's a place for that.  But I'm keenly aware that after a time of poignant reflection, I'll need to brace my back to the wind and choose to squarely look ahead to the vast unwritten slate before me.  I must ask, "What new thing are you doing, Lord?  I want to be a part of it!" 


So...are you feeling it yet?  The harried, hectic, near chaotic pace of May?  Every mom of school-aged children knows the feeling.  As the academic year winds down, the activities, obligations and year-end celebrations ramp up.

Your calendar is full:  classroom parties, concerts, spring plays and art shows.  Baseball, soccer and track tournaments.  Then add in the academic stress of tri-fold projects, classroom presentations, term papers and scholarship deadlines for secondary students.  And if you dare have a student who's graduating....double everything and top it off with a heavy weight of anxiety about the future.

And while these activities and events are all wonderful (who doesn't love sitting in chairs half our size at a Mother's Day Tea!?), we're exhausted.  Exhausted because these activities are added on top of an already-overloaded calendar filled with the mundane tasks of laundry, doctor's appointments, haircuts and grocery shopping.

For me, I've added the reality that in the next two weeks I'll be tying up 3+ years of ministry leadership here at Family Talk.   So yes, I'm easily overwhelmed right now.  Busy.  Stressed.  A near frenetic pace.

That's why I must consciously monitor the frenzy.  I must constantly fight to restore a sense of balance and rest to my soul.   Let's face it:  us multi-tasking "Martha" women have an especially hard time laying down the schedule and soaking in a "Mary' moment at the feet of Jesus.  (Luke 10:38-42)

Perhaps that's why I've worn out Track #6 on my new Firm Foundation CD.  Two-three times a day I play this song and let the truth of these lyrics wash over me in the car, on my IPod, throughout our walls at home as I'm making dinner:

Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain
In you I rest, in You I found my hope
In you I trust, You never let me go
I place my life within your hands alone
Be still, my soul

Take a few minutes with me right now and find rest for your soul: Be Still My Soul by Kari Jobe.  It's a sure cure for the mayhem that this month brings for moms.

It's Time To Go Home

Three years ago the Lord unmistakably called me to work more strategically alongside Dr. James Dobson to help a small team launch Family Talk.  For the previous 26 years I had primarily been a flexible worker for him -- fully supporting his ministry to families, but doing so in a different capacity and with a varied schedule.  So a full-time, on-site co-hosting opportunity was quite unexpected.   However, after much prayer and discussion, and with the full support and excitement of my family, I joined up. And oh my, the blessings have been abundant!

Miraculously, astoundingly, the pieces flowed together.  My husband was thrilled that our family was on the front lines of defending our Christian faith in the marketplace of ideas and even managed to flex his job a bit in order to assist with car pool and errands.  Our two teenage sons were grappling with worldview issues at school, so when I'd return home at night after a day in the studio, some incredibly relevant conversations ensued; they were discovering first-hand what it might look like to walk out their values in the days ahead.

In addition, our college son had surprisingly accepted a position in student government on campus.  I loved dialoguing with him about how to be a godly leader and make tough decisions, and would often share about my own successes or failures in the workplace that day.  Even my married daughter who lived in another state enjoyed this season because via our Family Talk broadcasts she could hear her mom's voice a bit more often across the miles.  (That's a precious thought that still brings a smile to my face...thank you, Lord.)  For these reasons and more, I'll never doubt my calling to this ministry and God's people over the past 3 1/2 years.

But's time to go home.

You see:  first and foremost I'm a wife and a mom.  I'm a woman called by God to serve my family.  And when those family dynamics change, I'm called to change with them.

Last fall when our third child departed for college, we faced a new frontier:  fewer drivers for our remaining son's school schedule and sports practices; a scarcity of family members to cheer at his games and concerts; less voices echoing through the hallway at the end of the day.  But above all, it revealed a stark and undeniable realization to my heart:  this mom only has three more years to serve in an active and vital role with a child at home.  My days of tripping over sneakers at the front door and climbing around backpacks on the stairway are fleeting.

Let me put it another way:  I'm 51 years old.  The US Census bureau reports that given my gender and generation, I could realistically live to be 82.  That means that, if I am so blessed, I may have another 3 decades left here on this earth.  My son will only be in our home a tiny portion of those.  In a very real sense, the Lord is simply asking me, "LuAnne, will you tithe your time?  Of your remaining 30 years, will you give Me the next 3?  Will you set aside your own dreams and aspirations to devote a mere 10% of your future exclusively to your family?"  When considered in that context, it's a pretty easy answer:  "Yes."

I'm keenly aware that as women we profoundly live in seasons.  This was confirmed to me recently as I was sharing my decision with friend and broadcast guest Dr. Meg Meeker.  Dr. Meeker cited an unscientific study she conducted which revealed that major life changes occur for women much more often than for our male counterparts.  And guess how often our seasons typically last?  Three years.  Hmmmm, looks like I'm right on track.

As I prepare to make this transition at the end of the month, my mind is swirling with emotions and ideas.  I wrestle with how this concept plays out for so many women in differing scenarios:  What about the single mom?   Is it wrong to work outside the home?  Can I still live out my unique skills and talents on a lesser stage?  How will our financial future be affected?  What about my female peers who feel they've been called to public ministry?  Lots of questions.  Ones that I'm looking foward to diving into more here on this blog in the days ahead.  I'd love to hear your thoughts as well.

For now I'm comforted by the assurance that as I head home and embrace the next season, there is a God who sees me and He's already directed every step on the path ahead of me.  And what He does for me, He'll do for you.  I pray that as women we will each have the courage to walk the individual path that He's chosen for us. Ahhh, the blessings of obedience!

What's In Your Back Seat?

Last week I drove a successful professional colleague to lunch.  I grimaced as we approached my decade-old, disfigured, un-vacuumed minivan.

Opening the door, I stole a quick glance in the back seat.  My shoulders drooped further.  Yep, the muddy soccer ball from a week ago was still there, and it would soon be playing pinball throughout the car as we headed to the restaurant.  In addition, an end-of-year care package for my college son was spread out in the back seat ready for assembly.  A second box containing a late birthday gift for my son-in-law sat next to it -- also awaiting a long-overdue trip to the Post Offiice.  To top it off, sitting on the floor was this morning's cereal bowl holding crusty oatmeal remains from my son's hurried breakfast.

Before I could open my mouth to apologize, I heard my passenger exclaim, "Oh, I feel right at home!" Bless her.  A true kindred spirit.

Right then we both realized how our cars represent a microcosm of our entire lives as moms.  Think about it. What's in your car right now?  Groceries...a gym bag...crayons.  A left-over backpack...outgrown baby clothes ready to be dropped off at a crisis pregnancy center...maybe even parking receipts from an unplanned trip to the hospital.  Or perhaps the best of all:  your children's car seats.

When I look in my back seat I see only busyness. An unfinished to-do list.  Clutter. But God sees life; life brimming with the rich relationships with which He's surrounded me.  That stained soccer ball represents an impromptu trip to the park.  Those cardboard boxes carry messages of "Hurray, I believe in you!" across the miles to young men I love.  Even that stale oatmeal bowl reminds me that not only does God provide daily sustenance for the Crane family, He also gives me the privilege of a 20-minute conversation with my favorite teenager before he faces the hallways of school that day.

Once again I'm drawn to that Genesis 16 description of the Lord as "the God who sees me."  Yes, God sees me.  Not a messy package or a dirty dish...ME.   Oh, how I want to look past the clutter and debris and truly see the people around me.  In fact, right now I'm reminded of a favorite impromptu family photo snapped just as two of my kids were getting out guessed back seat.

What's in your back seat today?  Turn around, take a look, and enjoy.

"How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?"  I Thessalonians 3:9