June 23, 2014

70 Years

Thursday, June 22, 1944. The average annual salary was $2,600. A family could purchase a car for $1,200 and fill her up with gas at 21 cents a gallon, stock the pantry and fridge with bread and milk for less than $1 combined, and drop a letter in the mail stamped with 3-cent postage.

Just two weeks after the Allied Forces’ D-Day invasion, the eyes of the world were fixed on the events of World War II. But a family in Needham, Massachusetts, only had eyes for their newborn son, Gary Neill Thompson. William and Fanny Thompson held their son as President Franklin Roosevelt signed the GI Bill of Rights to provide financial aid to veterans returning from the war. And later that evening, the Phillies beat the Boston Braves 1-0 in the longest shut-out in Phillies’ history (a mere 15 innings).

Gary made his debut in 1944, along with Danny DeVito, George Lucas, Diana Ross, Tony Orlando, Gladys Knight, Barry White, Joe Frazier, Roger Daltrey, and, yes, even Jerry Springer. Benjamin Green invented sunscreen for the troops’ protection and went on to found the Coppertone Company. Bing Crosby held five of the top ten spots on the US Billboard charts with hits including “Swinging on a Star” (#1), “I’ll Be Seeing You” (#3), and “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra” (#9). Capturing four Academy Awards, Casablanca was awarded Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.

The 1940s were indeed a special decade. The men and women of the Silent Generation have been deemed “the Lucky Few.” They grew up during an era of stifling conformity, yet bursting with postwar bliss. Peace! Jobs! Television! Rock ‘n Roll! The ‘40s certainly made their mark on world history, but more importantly they were the first page of what would become my history.

  

On January 25, 1981, I gave Gary Thompson a new name: Daddy. They say there’s something special about the bond between fathers and daughters, and that has proven true in my experience. The landscape of my childhood is dotted with countless memories of my dad. From my very first birthday cake, lovingly baked from scratch and expertly carved into a teddy bear, to the countless school lunches consisting of sandwiches of exquisite precision and craftsmanship that were the envy of the lunchroom, my dad has been thoughtfully involved in every aspect of my life, right down to the smallest details. In fact, if my calculations are correct, my dad made over 2,000 lunches during my school career, even into my senior year of high school…and that was in addition to the mornings during elementary school when he woke up extra early to crimp my hair from roots to tip.


My mind is flooded with my father’s thoughtful touches all over the pages of my life story. The small plastic Christmas tree he placed in my fish tank during the holidays so even the goldfish could celebrate the season. The Saturday mornings spent at Putt-Putt’s Super Saturdays over a game of mini golf, a slice of pizza, and a coke. The countless basketball games and sporting events, cheering proudly from the stands, even though I was a mediocre cheerleader and an even worse basketball player. The hours spent filling up my car with gas, changing my oil, balancing my tires, and even making a custom bud vase for my Volkswagen Jetta after I eyed the vases that came standard in the Beetle. The time he stopped to build a snowman on an out-of-town business trip and put it in a cooler so he could bring it home for me. Or the time He drove from Albany to pick me up from yearbook camp in St. Petersburg and then turn around and drive me to youth camp in Toccoa Falls. And all these merely scratch the surface of 30+ years. If it’s true that “love” is spelled t-i-m-e (and it is), then my father has loved better than any other I know.


But even beyond the expressions of his love, my daddy has taught me countless life lessons that have made a lasting impact on my life and the life of my family. He is the most fiercely loyal man I know, and he is steady and consistent. I watched him work honorably for the same company for over 25 years because he believed in commitment and honoring his word to the man who offered him the job. Every Saturday since we opened the Prayer Chapel (now the Prayer Tower) at Sherwood, he has faithfully filled his 7:00am time slot week after week. And this Sunday, on his 70th birthday, he’ll stand behind camera #3 and serve behind the scenes on the media team as he has since Sherwood was founded (okay, maybe not quite that long).


My dad has taught me the value of hard work and wise financial stewardship. He is extravagantly generous in giving of his time and his resources. He taught me to balance a checkbook and make sound financial decisions. I’ve watched him give again and again, from money to meals to building campaigns, mission trips, scholarships, and more. He has held money loosely, viewing His financial blessings as a means to bless other people. I owe all of my perfectionist tendencies to my dad. And though frustrating at times, he has always modeled excellence in every project or assignment he undertakes. “Measure twice, cut once” applies not only to his carpentry skills but also to going above and beyond to be sure things are done correctly the first time. If better is possible, then good is not enough – my dad has lived this, whether shining his shoes and cutting his own hair or reassembling a lobster body for my 5th grade project on the state of Maine.

I have enjoyed watching my dad love people. He’s kept a standing “appointment” to visit his best buddy Nathan every other Saturday for years now. He lovingly and selflessly cared for Mrs. Beard, as his weekly chauffeur service to church turned into frequent visits to the nursing home sharing a Whopper Junior. He fiercely defended and provided for this precious woman without a second thought to his own conveniences. He has loved his pastor and supported him wholeheartedly through his prayers, service, and giving. My dad has “bought into” every vision, every new endeavor, and every step of faith, not blindly following but loyally supporting the man of God at Sherwood. And I’ve never heard him speak ill of Michael – “roast pastor” was never on the menu for Sunday lunch at our house. And, as these small snippets can attest, he has loved and provided for his family with extravagant devotion and thoughtful expressions over and over and over again.


Dad, I can’t possibly summarize the impact of your life in a couple of pages, and my attempt falls miserably short. I honor you on 70 years of a life well-lived. You are an incredible father and friend, and I’m so grateful to be your daughter. Happy Birthday!

I love you,

Stephanie

October 13, 2011

happy first birthday, thompson!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Dear Thompson,

It’s 11:12pm on the eve of your first birthday. Daddy and I have been sitting here looking through pictures of the day you were born. My mind is flooded with memories of that day—the sound of first breath leaving your lungs, the look of pride on your dad’s face when he saw you for the first time, the feel of your soft skin against mine, the tears running down my cheeks as I whispered “thank you” to the Lord, the sight of you tipping the scales at 8 pounds, 11 ounces, the praise from doctors and nurses who were amazed I had birthed you without any pain meds :).

You’ve brought such joy to my life! And oh the countless things you’ve taught me in your short 365 days. Your dependence and frailty have taught me to depend solely on my heavenly Father and lean hard on Him; He alone is enough. Your wonder and awe at the most common of daily occurrences has taught me to bask in the beauty of simplicity and ponder the great God behind it all. Your smile and laughter have taught me to lighten up and not take myself too seriously. Your childishness has reminded me what it truly means to have childlike faith. The older I get, the more I realize the less I know…and each day that I grow older, I hope to grow more childlike.

In one moment you changed my life forever. You did what no one else will ever do—you made me a mother. It’s a new hat I wear proudly, and you’ve been incredibly gracious and easy going during my inaugural year. You’ve been a channel through which God has poured out measureless grace and wisdom without reproach. You’ve been the means through which our heavenly Father has demonstrated His faithfulness, provision, lovingkindness, longsuffering, strength, power, and consistency on a daily basis.

I’m so grateful the Lord taught me to breathe deeply and soak in every moment of your first weeks and months of life. They were difficult as I navigated the world of motherhood, but I cherish so many tender moments in my heart—reading Scripture over you as I fed you at two o’clock in the morning, pleading for wisdom from the Lord when parenting a newborn took an unexpected turn, singing hymns and other melodies to you as you drifted to sleep in my arms, praying aloud over your life as I held you before bed and naptime, singing with Daddy each night as he played guitar before bedtime, prayer walking through our neighborhood as you snoozed in your stroller, sneaking back into your room after you fell asleep just to stare at you (I still do that!).

The prayer I pray most often for you is that you will come to know the Lord at an early age and that you will follow Him with your whole heart all the days of your life. I pray the lessons you’ve taught me in this first year will be lessons you learn early in life. I pray the Lord so captures your attention and affections that the allurements of this world do not fascinate you. I pray you live up to your namesake, that you would be a fiery warrior for the sake of Christ. I pray you would have a tender heart that is compassionate and caring, but a fierce spirit that is tenacious and unyielding to stand for truth without compromise. I pray you don’t enter into any seasons of rebellion and that when you sin you are caught quickly. I pray you develop such a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that you respond to His voice immediately when He beckons. I pray you learn obedience through the examples set before you and not through your own mistakes. I pray you have a passion to follow Christ and a maturity to pursue holiness that far surpasses your years. I pray your heart breaks for the least of these and that you share the hope of the gospel with those around you. I pray that you would grow in your knowledge of Christ, coupled with wisdom to make godly decisions. And most of all, I pray you would love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Happy Birthday, T-Rice! It’s such a privilege to be your mom. But with that privilege comes great responsibility. I pray for grace and wisdom to steward your life in a manner worthy of the Lord. I love you, not for what you do or how you make me look, but because you’re my son. Thank you for the most amazing 365 days…I look forward to thousands more.

I love you to the moon and back,

Mama

June 30, 2011

silence

Ask any woman in society today how she’s doing, and most often she’ll respond, “Busy!” Forget “joyful,” “productive,” “blessed,” and so on. Career women, stay-at-home moms, college students, and senior adults are pulled in so many different directions that their first response is, “Busy.”

I myself find the word rolling off my tongue as I juggle a full-time job, marriage, and new mommyhood. And of course we spin the plate of “faith” along with all those titles. In all the chaos and busyness, there’s a lot of noise: the phone rings, the television blares, the computer hums, text messages beep, traffic buzzes, the washing machine whirls, children sing (and sometimes whine), friends chatter, sirens scream.

Where’s the quiet?

Unfortunately in our society today, it’s probably the most rapidly declining commodity. It’s the rare gem amid the rubble of living, yet for some it’s the awkward silence that frightens us…still all the more beckons us. We’re raising a generation that stumbles around silence, not knowing anything else to do but to snuff it out. So we turn up the radio in our car, and we let the television drone on in the background, and we crank up iTunes in our office, and we mindlessly ramble meaninglessness so as to not deal with silence.

And in the plate spinning and circus juggling and mind numbing and noise blaring, we lose sight of the eternal value of quiet. To be still. To listen. To be wrapped up in silence.

Through the whisper of a summer breeze in the trees, the sunlight cast across toy-strewn floors, or the still moment of silence that hangs heavy in the air and in our hearts, there we find our God. Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying we can’t find God in the busy, chaotic, noise of life. But too often He gets forced into the mold of our routine, and we crowd Him into our conveniences, rather than letting Him invade our agenda.

Furthermore, I believe meeting God in the silence is biblical. Remember Elijah’s great victory on Mount Carmel against the prophets of Baal (see 1 Kings 18). A huge display of the magnificent power of God as fire fell from heaven amidst the groanings of the people uttering empty pleas to a make-believe god. I’m sure it was quite a noisy sight.

But a few verses later we find Elijah on the run from Jezebel, crumpled in a cave in fear.

“And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:11-13)

In the obvious, thunderous places, Elijah didn’t find God. Not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire. Ironically, it was the low whisper that caught Elijah’s attention, and there he heard the voice of God.

The prophet Isaiah also understood this truth:

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” (32:17)

Let’s dig further into this passage. Look back at verse 9:

“Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice; you complacent daughters, give ear to my speech. In little more than a year you will shudder, you complacent women; for the grape harvest fails, the fruit harvest will not come. Tremble, you women who are at ease, shudder, you complacent ones; strip, and make yourselves bare, and tie sackcloth around your waist. . . . For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks; until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (vv. 9-11, 14-18)

The context of the quiet and rest found in verse 17 is the result of complacent women being stirred to action. I have a feeling that these women weren’t just sitting at home all day watching soap operas. Much like women today, they were probably incredibly busy, spinning lots of plates. But they were deemed complacent about the things of the Lord. Frantic and frazzled about things that didn’t matter, yet lazy for eternal treasures. Wasn’t this true of Mary and Martha? Martha hurried about the kitchen, while Mary sought quiet rest at the feet of Jesus.

Just because we’re busy doesn’t mean we aren’t complacent. Too often we cloak our spiritual apathy with the designer dress of activity. We’re involved. We’re committed. But we’re pulled way too thin, and we can’t remember the last time we enjoyed silence in the presence of the Lord.

This is hard for us because God’s economy is so contrary to the ways of this world. Advancement in righteousness comes peacefully through time spent alone with God. It’s not a frantic, hurried pace that impresses God. Richard Swenson wrote, “We’re all running, but God’s not running after us. He knows that speed does not yield devotion. The presence of God is in inverse proportion to the pace of our lives—meditation, wisdom, and worship are slow, mellow, and deep.”[1]

Notice the reason for the change from complacency to quiet resting places in Isaiah 32: “Until the Spirit is poured upon us…” The shift from our frantic pace to the rest our souls long for is found through the lavish gift of the Holy Spirit. And this gift births within us peace and quietness and trust.

“It first produces quiet; yet how different is this quiet from the slumber and confidence of the inhabitants of Jerusalem who were lulled into a false security! This is a quiet of blessedness, flowing from righteousness, a supreme reposing in the wondrous grace of God. Together with this quiet there is a certainty, so different from the confidence or certainty of the careless women of Zion, for this certainty is founded upon the sure promises of God; it is the work of His own Spirit. And this condition will endure forever.”[2]

Now I know many of you are wondering how in the world you could ever manage to find quiet in your hectic days. Laundry piles up, children demand your attention, dinner won’t cook itself, and you’re in a covenant relationship with a man you haven’t spoken to for longer than two-minute snippets.

Call me na├»ve or maybe even idealistic. But I believe we can carve silence into our day. It is said that Susannah Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, spent one hour each day in prayer. She gave birth to 19 children, and ten of them lived past the age of two. If she couldn’t find a quiet spot in her home to pray, she would pull her apron over her head as a sign that the children should not disturb her.

If we can teach our children to eat solid foods and tie their shoes and even surf the web on our smart phones, then we can certainly teach them to observe periods of silence each day. Whether it’s putting your infant or toddler in their crib or playpen with some toys or teaching your children to play alone in their rooms, I believe we’re capable of instilling this type of discipline in our children. We expect other things from them, many of which won’t matter in eternity. So why not teach them now the priceless beauty of silence?

Or maybe it’s during their nap, or maybe you teach them about a special spot where you spend time in quiet reflection. Regardless, not only will your soul be refreshed, but the imprint will be burned on the hearts of your children as they see you setting aside time for silence. Turn off the noise, and attune your heart to hear the voice of God.

"We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature--trees, flowers, grass--grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. . . . We need silence to be able to touch souls."
– Mother Teresa


[1] Richard Swenson, “Living Inside the Margin,” The Torch, Spring-Summer 2011, p. 5.
[2] Edward Young, The Book of Isaiah – Volume 2: Chapters 19 to 39, accessed via WORDsearch.


May 13, 2011

seven months old

Thompson, you are seven months old. Where has the time gone? This stage of life with you is so much fun! You are eating everything in sight and prefer "table food" over anything else. You still love avocadoes and bananas, but we've also added strawberries, blueberries, chicken, turkey, cheese, yogurt, artichokes, rice, bread, squash, waffles, and much more to your expanding palate. You love it all! The only thing you've ever turned your nose up to was peas. :)





You are rolling all over the place, and occasionally you get one leg underneath your body and try to push off. It won't be much longer before you crawl, but Mommy is happy to keep you immobile for a while longer. You love to chatter and squeal, as you are a very vocal baby. You still sleep 13 hours at night and take two 2-hour naps during the day. You're wearing size three diapers and your clothes are 6-12 months or 12-18 months. You weigh 20 pounds, and you're nearly 30 inches long!


 


Your hair keeps getting lighter, and it's finally long enough to lay down without too much coercing. You are sitting up all by yourself, and you love to spread out and play in the living room floor. Phineas is probably your favorite member of the family, and you absolutely love his puppy kisses.


During the last month, you had the opportunity to meet your great-great-grandmother from Missouri. It's incredible that you have four living grandparents, five living great-grandparents, and three living great-great-grandparents! The picture below represents five generations of Bennetts.




You've become quite the wiggle worm, particularly on the changing table. We keep you distracted with a toy so we can get you changed and dressed. You love to read books and play with your blocks. You still love the bathtub, but you especially enjoy sitting on the floor of the shower while Daddy takes a shower. You laugh and play and splash in your bumbo seat.



 


We can't believe that in a few short months we'll be celebrating your first birthday. Mommy may have already reserved the location for the big event!

We love watching you grow and change and learn new things each day. You brighten our mornings with your smiles and giggles. You are honestly the happiest, most content baby we have ever met. You've spoiled your parents rotten! You've been an incredible gift to this family. We love you, Thompson!


May 6, 2011

a beautiful mess

The longer Ryan and I are involved in ministry and doing life with other people, the more we are reminded that people are messy. Life is messy.

My life is messy.

Grace covers our self-inflicted messes. And love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

How grateful I am for a loving Father who makes beautiful things out of my mess. And even more, He allows me to walk alongside others as He crafts masterpieces out of their messes too. Galatians chapter 6 paints a beautiful picture of our responsibility to one another as members of the body of Christ.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. . . So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
– Galatians 6:1-3, 10

We’re called to restore. We’re called to shoulder the burden. We’re called to do good. God will handle the consequences, repair the heart, forgive the sinner, and restore the soul. But we have a part to play in this mess.

It’s a sad indictment of the church that many who find themselves in a mess fear the church is the last place they can turn. We’ve met too many messes with condemnation, ridicule, gossip, and hate, instead of gentleness and good as seen in the passage above.

A friend recently reminded me of these wise words:

“Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.”
– Proverbs 14:4

Where there is life and fruit and growth, there will be messes. Clean, neat, tidy lives come from hollow souls who aren’t really living. I’m not saying that Christians should be flinging messes right and left. But our maturity in Christ comes with its fair share of messes and growing pains and stumbles and failures.

There was a mess in Abraham’s adulterous rendezvous with Hagar. There was a mess in David’s rooftop proposal to Bathsheba. There was a mess in the belly of a great fish. There was a mess by a charcoal fire as a rooster crowed thrice. But in each story, there was greater grace and redemption beyond the mess. And there have been messes along my journey…and probably a few more in my future.

But it’s one of the beautiful things about community. My favorite part of Galatians 6 is the word “opportunity” in verse 10. In the Greek, this is the word “kairos,” and its meaning will blow you away. The word implies not the convenience of the season, but the necessity of the task at hand, whether the time provides a good, convenient opportunity or not.

Read those words again. Slowly.

The word implies not the convenience of the season, but the necessity of the task at hand, whether the time provides a good, convenient opportunity or not.

The truth of the matter is that other people’s messes are usually not convenient for us. They interrupt our schedules, get in the way of our plans, and disrupt our routines. They require more of us than we’re often willing to give.

But Paul instructed us “as we have opportunity,” knowing it wouldn’t be convenient. Or easy. Or fun. But it’s necessary. And’s it’s costly. It’s the embodiment of love and grace. It’s a picture of God in flesh.

So slow down. Make eye contact. Listen. Become involved in someone else’s mess. And find yourself caught up in a beautiful, thrilling display of the creative, redemptive abilities of our God.

April 20, 2011

six months old

Thompson, you are six months old! I'll start with one of your five-month pictures, seeing how I neglected to do a blog post on that milestone. :)



You are growing up so quickly, and you continue to be the sweetest, happiest baby on the planet. The biggest change over the past month has been your introduction to solid foods. I prepare your food myself, and so far you've tried avocados, bananas, mangos, pears, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. Your favorites seem to be avocados and bananas. People can't believe you eat avocados...even the nurses at your 6-month visit were shocked! You tried baby yogurt for the first time yesterday and LOVED it. And Daddy and I might have snuck your first bite of a vanilla cupcake over the weekend. (But that's our little secret...you probably liked it too much.)


You are still rolling all over the place, and you're getting better and better at sitting on your own. We think you'll have mastered it very soon. You "swim" on your tummy, and you've just started pulling your knees up under your body, so you'll probably be crawling in no time. You talk and coo and babble constantly, and you're starting to string syllables together and sound as if you're talking in sentences. I'm convinced you've said "Mama" a few times, but Daddy's not buying it.

Daddy has found your best tickle spots, and he can make you laugh louder and harder than anyone else. You are also incredibly fond of Phineas, and you laugh whenever you see him. I think you guys are going to be good friends.



You have transitioned to a 4-hour feeding schedule beautifully. You still sleep from 7:15pm until 8:00am...and some mornings you even sleep until 8:30am! You nurse four times each day, and you eat three solid meals that line up with our family meals. Daddy and I enjoy our time spent around the dinner table with you each day. Some days we are incredibly blessed to share all three meals together as a family of three! You take two 2-hour naps each day, and occasionally you'll catch a late afternoon catnap.

I mentioned this on my Facebook page last week when you officially turned 6 months old. Six months. It feels like an eternity when waiting for something or someone with much anticipation. Yet it passes like a blink of the eyes when enjoying that long-awaited gift. Happy six-month-iversary of your birth, Thompson! :) God has revealed great measures of his grace and limitless depths of his love to us through your precious life. We are honored and overjoyed with the privilege of being your parents.

March 1, 2011

thompson's nursery

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Joni, is amazingly talented and creative. A few years ago she launched her own company, Chocolate Butterbean, where she creates stationery, invitations, signage, and more that will make you swoon. Having been friends for nearly 25 years, Joni and I had the privilege of walking down the aisle a mere four weeks apart. Plus, we welcomed babies into the world just five weeks apart!


Since having Vivi Charles (who is absolutely adorable), Joni has started a new venture in all things baby. Her website, Lay Baby Lay, offers daily creative inspiration for modern nurseries, featuring unique style boards with Joni's impeccable eye for design and stunning detail.


Today she is featuring Thompson's nursery, and I couldn't be more thrilled! So scoot over to Lay Baby Lay and take a sneak peek at our fabulous (and uber budget friendly) nursery.