BLESSONS

For those of you who have followed this blog since it began, I am eternally grateful.  Your encouragement has been phenomenal, and I have cherished every exchange. I am so excited to tell you that I have turned this little blog into a book…and until September 13th @ 11:59p.m., you can get FREE SHIPPING if you preorder it!  Just go to our website (http://www.living-legacy-ministries.com/publishing) to order your copy today!  Books will be shipped after October 5th.

Here’s what some of my favorite people said about the book. (I cry every time I read their words):

“This open file of life experiences will be your go to when you need a fresh perspective during the most demanding of days.  You will laugh.  You will cry. You will not feel alone in your journey.”  
Adair Moorefield, fellow sojourner, mother of 2

In the breathless world of iPhone notifications and extracurricular everything, Blessons offers us a moment to stop, to catch our breath, and to remember that this world’s clock has not bound God’s timeless hands. ChristiAnna Coats invites us into her reflections on an ordinary life that feels close to home but helps us to see the God who often goes unnoticed when life stays ordinary and home stays close. If the Christian life is lived forwards but understood backwards (Kierkegaard), this is a book that demonstrates the possibility of hindsight in a world that puts life on fast-forward. In that way, Coats shows us what it means to think like a Christian and thus how to speak like a Christian–not through the mystical way of escape, not through the political way of protest, not through the pious way of perfection, but through the human way of remembering. The God in these pages is a God who is real enough to remember and true enough to transform our memory. I have no doubt that anyone who encounters these testimonies will remember this God as well, even if for the first time.”

-Jeremy Spainhour, fellow reflector, father of 3

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I’m so emotional about this whole endeavor. I cried when I read my ISBN number. I cried when I saw the cover. I don’t know what I’ll do when the actual hold-me-in-my-hands book arrives at my door….

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MARRIAGE

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I found out how strong my grandparents’ marriage was a few months before my grandmother passed away.  It was my wedding day.  We were all staying together at a church conference center; my entire family had driven from North Carolina to Indiana to help me celebrate.  My 84-year old granddaddy was the pastor conducting the ceremony.

I was in my room getting ready and I heard my grandparents talking in their adjacent room.  My grandmother was going over the ceremony with my granddaddy, who had retired from full-time pastoring a few years prior.  He, unbeknownst to me, had been struggling with early signs of dementia.  Unbeknownst to me, because my grandmother took such care of him.

“No, you have to emphasize this, not for, for this reason shall a man…”

and so on she went through the entire ceremony, again.  She wanted it to be just right (because she…

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KINDERGARTEN

For all of you moms, dropping them off for the first time – cry your tears. Those are good, hard-earned, well invested tears. Those first 5 years are the very most formative of all of his life. And look how much you’ve loved him. And prayed for him. And cherished and nurtured and snuggled and played with him!  He is ready! You are less so, but you are going to make it, Mama! I wrote this the night before I took Nolan to kindergarten 4 years ago….

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For the past 5 and a half years, I have had the distinct honor of mothering my precious son, Nolan.  I have monopolized his time, dictated his schedule, and orchestrated each and every social interaction of which he has been a part.  Tomorrow all of that changes as we begin a new era in our lives.  I couldn’t help to let my mind drift back tonight as I tucked him into bed (teddy bear still clutched tightly in his arms)…

His early days were spent being rocked (for hours) and nursed (on demand), sung and read to, and being toted to and fro…wherever I needed to go.  We cuddled and nestled and I distinctly remember trying to treasure those moments, as I could sense them fleeing right before my very eyes.

Once he began to toddle around, his personality emerged as a strong and curious leader, spontaneous and social…with a laugh that was simply infectious.  Those days seemed to last a little longer, but the moments I continued to treasure.  With each new discovery or word or milestone, we cheered him on.  Always ready for the next big challenge, be it potty training or pronouncing the letter “K”, which seemed to take forever!

I suppose in a sense I have prepared for tomorrow for the past 5 and a half years.  I knew this day would come.

Tomorrow.  Tomorrow, I give up extra long after breakfast snuggles (we’ll have to figure out a different time).  No more Tuesday morning playdates, Wednesday picnic lunches at the park that just last until whenever, or going to the zoo just because.  Tomorrow we will slip into a routine.  A schedule.  There’ll be checklists and homework and permission slips and things that are really important to keep track of (even more important than an oddly shaped stick or rock that have been discovered in the driveway).

Tomorrow I will let my little heart walk about in the world.  He’ll be influenced and instructed, challenged and changed.  He’ll grow and adapt and make good friends and have conversations (and I may not be privy to every word).  He’ll probably discover that his new sneakers are Nikes, not Sketchers (as he believes they are now), and that the hand held device that his friends have is a DSi, not a BSi.  He’ll probably discover that sometimes kids are unkind, and he may get scared.

I wonder if Jesus thought similar (although more sophisticated) thoughts about his disciples when he sent them out into the world.  I wonder if he reminisced about the first few years they spent together and hoped that His words would be the ones that would ring loudest in their ears.  I wonder…

His most formidable and influential years are already gone, just like that.  Tomorrow, I pray he will walk in the Truth when faced with adversity.  I pray he will stand for what is right, and resist what is wrong.  I pray he will allow the God of the universe to direct his path and ease his mind and calm any fear.  I pray will be the salt and light of the earth.  I pray he will be confident yet approachable, curious yet calm, motivated yet patient.  I pray he will grow in the fullness of who God created him to be, and that he seeks that above ALL else. Tomorrow.

Yes tomorrow is going to be a great day, because I’m shedding all my tears tonight!

CHECKPOINTS

I hesitate to write this post, as it leaves me vulnerable and open and human and fallible. But such is me and what am I if not all those things? Fake? A parading facade that gives the illusion of whimsy when I am in despair? Let me be frank.

I learned very quickly after committing my life to Christ that I shouldn’t attempt to make too many long-term plans. Our little charmed life seemed to be turned so easily on its head in a moment’s notice. And because we have had a lot of adjustment, shifting, transition, and directional change in the past ten years, Michael has initiated checkpoints along the way.   Our checkpoints are simple. It will be a conversation over coffee, a lingering Sunday drive, a weekend away, in the front porch rocking chairs, or during a routine trip to the grocery store. The setting isn’t so much the point as the content of the conversation.

Our checkpoints must answer a few basic questions. Where are we going? How are we doing along the way?

The checkpoints have been vital to our marriage and ministry. Sometimes they result in seasonal themes like “Family” or “Focus” (<— current). Sometimes they result in additional checkpoints to dig deeper to the root of a problem. Sometimes they result in change. Sometimes they result in staying where we are and feeling confirmed in that position.

I am having the best summer. It’s not only because I am poolside most afternoons. (Although praise God and hallelujah – and I am so sorry for last Sunday when my son puked in the pool and you had to shut it down for the afternoon…) Or because I am hammocking in my yard with my summer fragrance of choice, OFF: Deep Woods. (You can tell your deet-free Avon skin-so-soft that our mosquitos eat repellant like her for breakfast. Give us the deet. Period.) Or because I am getting to reconnect with my friends and family, with whom I have spent precious little time over the past year. I am having the best summer because I am me again.

Michael looked at me with all the intensity that there is a few weeks ago and said, “I’m so glad I have my wife back.”

I am having this best season because I had one helluva spring.

I had been gone. Not physically, but in every other way possible. I had been distracted, stressed, consumed, anxious, and elsewhere for far too long. It was during one of our checkpoint conversations that I had to face the grim reality that my actions were not consistent with my priorities, and I got scared about that. Not the kind of fear that brings about a good fight, the kind of fear that paralyzes. That renders its inhabitant useless. I didn’t know how to escape. I just kept existing and my dearest ones around me just kept suffering.

It was a hard, dark time.

I wish I could say that I came to my senses and escaped on my own. I wish I could say that I willed myself back to the important and back to the present and back to myself. But I didn’t. I had been utterly and completely swallowed up, and the darkness in that pit kept me from finding my way out. The darkness just kept me there…deep in the recesses of its all-consuming command.

Until a checkpoint came.

And my people told me I wasn’t me. And then my people got me out. They rescued me. They got down in that pit with me, hoisted me on their shoulders – they have such broad shoulders – and carried me up, speaking Life and Truth to me all along the way up. Gently and caringly they strengthened me. Strengthened me enough so that when we got to the top, the only thing left for me to do was stand up and walk away from the pit.

And I did.

And it was the bravest, hardest, bestest thing I’ve ever done. That last little bit, where I stood up, required absolute surrender to the Holy Spirit. The End. It was not an action I could have executed without His power. Those standing muscles had been so weak, having been crouched down in that pit and all.

Some seasons are so very light, and airy, and whimsical, and holy, and sacred. Those are the best seasons. Some seasons are so very hard. Some seasons are marked by tragedy, grief, monotony, solitude, despair, fear, or consequences of your very own actions, to be just an absolute truth-teller.  Should you find your season a difficult one, can I give you this little blesson I have just learned five minutes ago and find very worthy to divulge? Let your people in. They don’t want to see you this way. It is sucking the life out of them and it is changing who they are, and that is not fair.  And that is not the holy heritage you are to embrace, nor the legacy you wish to leave.  (Side Note: Your people are not your Facebook Friends List) Your people are very few. Those who know why you’re in the pit. Those who are willing to get in there with you when you finally admit you need their shoulders. These are your people. They are safe, and that is an incredibly important part of this.  They are offering their strong shoulders. Take hold. As you ascend, your strength will return. You will feel the blood course back through your life-giving veins. And you will stand back up on your feet and will walk away from that damnable pit. You will call on the Holy Spirit to help you, and by God’s sweet grace, He will stand you up. But you, my friend, have to do the walking.

I dare you to have a checkpoint conversation. Ask yourself, ask your spouse, best friend, or sister, how you are doing. Ask the person who will tell you the truth. And let him tell you the truth. Let her. Are you going where you want to go? And how are you doing along the way? Be prepared for the truth. The truth may be that you are doing swell! Bravo! Keep up God’s good work! You may be slightly off your intended trajectory – that’s no big deal! Just veer back on the rightful path!

But if you are in a pit (fill in whatever your pit is: unhealthy relationship, job, unholy habit, bitterness, unforgiveness, greed, you get the basic idea) – let your people help you up. Let our God stand you up. And walk the swearword away from that stupid pit.

PLAY

Remembering how much fun playing is as my legs throb tonight!

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So…I don’t want to put Shaun T or Jane Fonda out of a job, but I think I’ve found the most effective workout routine.

Play with your kids.

Michael has deemed this summer a summer focused on our family.  We need it.  Our kids have sacrificed a LOT of time with us because of seminary and our crazy schedule.  We’re saying ‘no’ to things that don’t fall in line with our summer theme.  We’re dating our kids.  We’re dating each other.  We’re loving one another extravagantly and specifically.  Our focus is each other.  Fall will come and bring demands and pull us away to things that are important and urgent and worthy of our time, no doubt. But for now, we are focused on our family.

Last week at the pool I was sitting with a friend who had let her children bring those squirter toys.  You know the ones…that…

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HEART

My dad would tell you that he made mistakes as a father. But I do not have the energy, nor have I the want, to spend time thinking about what went wrong in my childhood. Instead, I have elected to think about what went right. And particularly what went right with my dad.

Though my dad has many unique eccentricities that endear me to him, (like the fact that he never cared about sports but absolutely loved nature, or that he has given me at least 12 Swiss army knives and noted their country of fabrication each time, or that he is a history whiz, or that he can make a garden salad that will put all other salads to shame) there are three things that stand out as particularly formative for me. And they are the following:

  1. My dad never told me for whom he voted.
  2. My dad taught me to pay attention to my gut.
  3. My dad never, never one time, spoke an unkind word about my mother.

These three things, I have come to realize, have helped to shape and form me and how I understand the world. Let me tell you why.

1. My dad never told me for whom he voted. He simply went to the ballot and pulled the lever according to his convictions. And then he went on about his business. He told me that I have that same right; that I don’t have to ever share with anyone my political preference. I have formed by own thoughts and opinions, based own my own critical thinking. Dad has given me space to discuss those things. He has challenged my thinking, but has not pressured me into thinking a certain way. I find this an oddly important formative truth. He didn’t teach me what to think about politics or social issues, but taught me how to think about them.

2. When I would (do) rant endlessly about whatever perceived injustice is accosting me or the world at the moment, my dad responds by saying, “pay attention to your gut on that,” which is entirely different than “trust your gut”. Trusting my gut takes away from trusting my God. Trusting my gut will fail me, as my feelings are as shifting as a wave tossed involuntarily about by the force of the great sea. Paying attention to my gut will allow me the space I need to critically evaluate my feelings with my thoughts. To measure them up against the Word. To seek God’s response. My gut is not always to be trusted, but it is something to which I should be attentive. Sometimes my gut is wrong. And sometimes it is not.

3. Though my parents are divorced, they have been incredibly amicable about the whole thing. I was never a messenger. They had three children together and that was enough for them to understand that they would have to communicate a bunch about life stuff. I had friends who had different experiences than mine, and it made for a very tumultuous adolescence. Additionally, never did my dad ever utter an unkind word about my mother. Not once. In fact, the opposite is true. My dad often said, still says, what a wonderful person/mother/businesswoman/spiritual leader/friend my mom is. It’s true. Perhaps he’s said nothing bad because there’s nothing bad to say, but I think it’s more than that. I think he knows that she is a part of us and we her, and so in belittling her he would belittle us. And he wouldn’t do that. He really loves us. And a fun little dividend? In a way, that observation raised my own standard of how I expected to be treated. I have expected to be respected, and I am. I married a man who would not speak an unkind word about me, not to my children or to anyone else. In fact, should a sweet child of ours speak back to me in his presence…well, he handles it with immediacy. That is not permissible.

And Daddy always checked my heart. He would simply say, “How’s your heart?” During their divorce he asked me that a lot. It was a brave question to ask an already overemotional tweenager in the midst of her parents’ divorce. But he asked anyway, and he always listened to my response. Sometimes I was angry. Sometimes I was angry at him. Sometimes I teared up and sat quietly, staring out the window as we drove down the highway to wherever we were going away from our home. I didn’t always have the words to respond.

He still asks me that. But when he has asked me that as an adult, I have almost always had a contented reply. Because of Christ – not my dad, not my husband, not my friends, my career, aspirations, my home or anything else – because of Christ alone, I have resolved my adulthood on the side of contentment and not despair. So when Dad asks me how my heart is now, I tell him. Exhausted and content. Enthusiastic and content. Directed and content. But generally content. If I answer that I am sad, or confused, or stressed, he texts me encouraging scripture and notes until I am through the rough spot. But I know how to recognize if it my heart isn’t right. If something is amiss, awry, off kilter. I know how to conduct a heart check. It is a practice with which I am well rehearsed. It is a practice that has saved my life, in more ways than one.

My dad has taught me more than how to buy quality products made in countries that pay their employees well, although thanks too for that little lesson, Daddy. He has taught me how to reason. And how to recognize and respond to myself. These blessons shaped and formed and continue to help mold me. They help me to understand my Savior as well…to think rightly and not only emotionally about Him. And to get right with Him, when I have wondered away. To repent and allow God the Father to restore my heart to the fullness that He intends for it.

Daddy, I am grateful to God for you. And my heart is good.

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Happy Father’s Day

LOST

I attended a conference of sorts this weekend that was aimed at mothers with children. It was located in a city. And I, sweet reader, am a country dweller.

Cities make me nervous.  My fear is founded.  I have been lost and alone in both Chicago and Madrid, without a cell phone.  Both times I was too nervous to eat.  The feeling of being lost in an unfamiliar place is not a feeling I wish anyone to experience. And it does not get better with age. At least I now have Siri. Michael claims that the GPS makes the human race stupider. So be it. I will garnish my intelligence to feel the security that that little magical device provides.

In the country we have buildings with big wide parking lots all around them. In the city there are buildings with no places to park, except in another building – the dreaded dark, cold parking garage. The place where every Lifetime movie plot begins. Also, parking garages are made for Honda Civics and motorcycles. And this was a momference. We drive Suburbans, Yukons, Astro minivans and various crossovers. Also the occasional F-350 extended cab long bed.  The spaces are only wide enough for the vehicle to slide into, and then you have to go out through the trunk because there isn’t a viable alternative.

Finally, I got my crossover parked. On the third attempt. And promptly realized I was lost again. I spun around so many times in the upward ascent to the roof of the garage that I had become disoriented. No fear, I thought. Siri knows where we are. So, I loaded up the directions and approached the elevator.  The elevator was loaded with seasoned conference attenders – they were my people – and I promptly tried to turn Siri off so she wouldn’t embarrass me in front of the group of perfect strangers. In my hurry, I couldn’t figure out how to quiet her. Once you ask her to get you somewhere, she is committed. I finally shut my phone completely off, and followed my new friends to the conference.

Eleventy hours later, I exited the conference and was lost again. I had no idea where I parked…and there was no device to assist me! I had to rely on my faulty spatial memory.

Can I talk psychobabble for just 5 seconds?? The theory of multiple intelligence says that some people are good with words, some are good with music, some with art, some with dance, and some with seeing 3-D objects from multiple angles and orienting themselves accordingly. Let’s say, in a city, for example. I AM A WORDS PERSON. I was lost. 

Providentially, I at least had trusted friends with me. They drove me to the parking garage, and I got to the top, where my car was not! I was in the wrong garage. Feeling very, very small in a big, big city, I had my friends drive me to the garage around the corner, where I at last located my car. After paying my NINE DOLLARS to the parking attendant, I started for home.

Immediately, Siri tripped me up. She told me to ‘head north’…. I only know left and right. I don’t know north which is WHY I AM USING YOU – SIRI!!! Oh – we got into it. She drove me in circles for 15 minutes. With the one way streets and no turn on reds.  FINALLY, I was back on a familiar road. I was heading  home. I knew the way. It was away from the crowded buildings and heavy traffic and along the highway with trees, fields, and neighborhood dwellings. It was familiar and comforting and the security resolved all the dissonance that had been created by being lost.  I no longer had the anticipation of the next, as I settled in the present.

The most familiar hymn ever written includes the line, “I once was lost, but now am found.” It is the most familiar hymn for a reason. The writer, John Newton, knew the terrible unsettling feeling of being lost. And consequently the absolute security in being found. And it is a feeling that is as old as man and resonates with every man. And every mom. And every child and grandparent and everyone in between.

And the resolve that comes with being found is one that every person is created to experience. 

Grace does that. Grace finds you. Grace makes you feel found. It makes you head home and turn north, even if you turn south first. To all who are unsettled, to all who are lost, I pray you experience grace our Savior provides. The found-ness. It is like no other. It is like heading to the country after a weekend in the city…only infinitely and definitely better than that.