Courage and Obedience

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This is probably going to be one of the most honest blog posts I have ever written. The Lord has had me one a journey for 2 years now. Honestly, I still have no idea as to how all of this is going to play out over the next several years. It’s weird to be on the downhill slide to 40 and asking the Lord where I’m headed. I feel like I should be in the middle of my calling at this point, but feel like He is getting ready to write a whole new chapter for me.

The last 2 weeks our pastor has continued to preach out of Acts and has talked about stepping up to serve as well as courage. Last week Pastor Mark gave reasons as to why people won’t serve. These include “not feeling led,” “not having time” and “not wanting to take away from family.” This week, he talked about the courage of Paul and how Paul knew what was coming and was willing to go for the sake of The Gospel anyway.

As I have chewed on these sermons and looked at where I have been the past 2 years, I can’t help but think about other reasons why people don’t serve and why I am still sitting where I am. Yes, I have been actively involved in dance ministry, worship choir and Summer Jam. I have also been serving in a contract position as the Family Assistance Coordinator with responsibilities in our automotive ministry. If you asked me, I would tell you that when it comes to ministry I am doing what I need to do. Sadly, it’s not the truth.

4 years ago, this month, when my husband and I walked into The Glade Church we were church hurt and had walked through crises in 2 other churches. We were over the whole church thing. We knew our kids needed to be involved in a solid theological, evangelical church. We knew we needed to be surrounded by a solid body of believers, but didn’t necessarily think we could find a church we could trust. The Lord only brought us to one service at The Glade and we felt at home. It was scary, but we trusted. We needed time to heal. Up until the beginning of this year, I would have said I was completely over the hurt of our experiences. It’s funny how the Lord uses circumstances and conversations to show you that your aren’t really where you thought you were.

I acknowledge I have a wall around me, but didn’t realize how high and reinforced that wall was until late February, early March. When talking with one of the pastors on our staff about situation, I was hit with a startling reality. People at our church, even the staff around me, don’t know me at all and it’s all because I have refused to let anyone in. While I have been involved, I haven’t been serving with my whole heart. I have only been serving in partial obedience. I realized that I have an entire set of talents and skill sets that our staff and others at church have no idea even exist. I have kept my relationships at church on an extremely shallow level because it’s been the safe route to take.

Obedience. I am the Major’s Daughter. I know what it’s like to be the daughter of a soldier. I know the importance of receiving marching orders and then following them without question or hesitation. While I have always said I don’t care what others think about me, I realize my drive to be the “good girl” and “do as I’m told” comes from a desire to please those around me, but it’s not necessarily been to please the Lord even though I have acted as it has.

Around the time I graduated from college, I knew the Lord was calling me to eventually write a book. He called me seminary to prepare for ministry. While I was still working as a full time school based therapist, I knew the Lord was calling me to women’s ministry. I have only completed about 2 chapters in the book and am honestly terrified to keep on writing because I don’t know how it will be received. I am still waiting for direction on women’s ministry. I know that on the women’s ministry front I have not been completely obedient, but am earnestly seeking His face for direction.

Last summer, I knew the Lord was calling me to teach a ladies Connect Group on Sunday mornings and I gave the Lord every excuse under the sun as to why I couldn’t do it. In the past I have taught little ones through high school, but never adults. Yes, I have taught at conferences, but never taught adults on a regular basis. While I was never overly rebellious growing up, I did have my moments. My past doesn’t necessarily look how I think it should and have struggled with wondering why anyone would think I was qualified to lead in that area. I love singing in choir, but used it as a reason as to why I couldn’t step out during the first service and serve. This past spring there was a string of events and the Lord used those events to kick my tail. I said I would start teaching in May and ended up putting it off until the first Sunday of August. Yes, I am teaching class out of obedience, but it was delayed obedience and I’m not proud of that fact.

While I think Pastor Mark hit the nail on the head with some of the reasons why people don’t serve, I think there is also a different set of reasons why people won’t/ don’t serve. While he was talking about the courage of Paul this morning, I couldn’t help but think about how many of us sit silent because we lack the courage and confidence to serve. We don’t sit on the sidelines because we don’t desire to serve, or lack of calling. We sit on the sidelines because we lack the courage of Paul. We lack confidence. Too many of us sit sidelined due to fear, guilt and shame. We don’t think we have much to offer. We also sit sidelined because to get up and serve means to be authentic and vulnerable to others.

Where do I go from here? I have a document sitting on the Google drive at my computer at the church that needs to be turned into one of the pastors. I need to faithfully continue to teach the Connect Group I committed to teach. I need to continue writing the book the Lord has laid on my heart. I also need to pray the Lord would remove the fear I have struggled with over the past several years and move forward in confidence.

The verse that jumped out to me this morning and one I underlined in my Bible was Acts 23:11 which says:

“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

“Take courage!” Yes, courage. This means to put aside fear and walk boldly in what the Lord has called you and I to do. This means not worrying about our past or what others may think, but rely on the Lord and only the Lord. HE is the sole source of our confidence. Once we embrace the confidence that can only come from the Lord, we can then walk boldly in obedience. It may not always be easy, but we can know with no uncertainty that we are being 100% obedient and that is all He asks of us.

I See You

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Towards the end of spring I had the privilege of attending the Sandy Patty Farewell Tour Concert and then hearing Christine Caine speak at an event. There were similarities in both events. One of those was the worship. All I can say is the Spirit was moving in both sanctuaries. Lights were turned down low and they gave you the time to be “alone” with the Lord. The second thing both had in common was they talked about how the Lord says “I see you,” “I found you,” “I know you” repeatedly through out scripture.

“I see you.” How amazingly wonderful is that? Back in Genesis the Lord asks Adam and Eve “where are you?” It’s not that He didn’t know the answer, but the Lord was letting them know that He knew. No matter where we are in life, He knows. No matter the amount of running and hiding we try to do, He sees us. He sees all of us and knows everything there is to know about us. There is no thought or action we have that He doesn’t already know. The things we are the most scared others may find out, He knows and loves us anyway.

“I found you.” Like the parable of the lost sheep, the Lord comes and looks for us when we walk away, or are trying to run away. He sees us valuable enough to come looking for us and then rejoices when we are found. Personally, there are days when I want to run and hide. I may not necessarily want to run from the Lord, but circumstances in life cause me to want to run away, never to be seen again. The thing I find most comforting in those moments in life is that I know the Lord loves me and will never leave me.

“I know you.” That’s right. There is nothing the Lord doesn’t know about us! He knows it all because He created us. The deepest pain and biggest dreams we don’t dare to share, He already knows. Those things we long to say to another person, but are too afraid to speak, we can tell Him, because it isn’t a secret to Him. Those things we dared to speak, but no other person wants to believe, He does! He knows every single movement we’ve ever made, every thought we’ve ever had and saw every tear that fell in private.

As I reflect on all of the craziness in the world today, I take comfort in knowing the Lord sees all of us. So many times I think that’s what people want. We want to know that someone sees us, not just acknowledges our presence, but really sees us, the good, the bad and the ugly. We want to know to someone cares enough to really listen to what it is that’s on our hearts and minds. We want to know we are valued. We want people to below the surface and see into our hearts. Even when it seems not a living soul around is capable of this, the Lord is.

What would happen if we followed the Lord’s example on this? What would happen if we really took the time to see the person/ people in front of us who may be driving us crazy and even causing us to be angry? What would happen if instead of muttering under our breath when we encounter that one person/ group of people, we took the time to really listen to what it is they want to say without trying to rely on an auto response based on what we think we know?

What if we really took the time to look deep into the eyes of our friends to see what is beneath the surface. Too many of our friends put on a brave front every day. They work so hard to keep their hurts concealed, while hoping and praying someone loves them enough to see the past the mask. We have friends we interact with on a daily basis, but don’t take the time to have deep heart to heart conversations with. These friends not only need to hear from you that you see them, but more importantly that the Lord sees them. They need to hear the Lord loves them and took the time to seek them out, even if they can’t feel His presence.

Who in your life needs to hear their seen, found and known? I challenge you to take a look around you and find the person in your circle who needs to hear this message. Take the time to be the voice and the hands of Christ.

To Be or Not To Be a Lady?

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Before anyone decides to lynch me for this post, let me tell you a little bit about myself. People who have known me my entire life will tell you it’s all true. I am a Tomboy. I am a bluejeans, t-shirt and tennis shoes/ flip flop kind of girl. I’d rather be camping, hiking, or out on the water than in a mall shopping. I can’t stand wearing make-up, but will wear it only when the situation absolutely calls for it, maybe. I don’t enjoy wearing dresses and there is not a single pair of heels to be found in my closet.

I also support and encourage girls and ladies to excel in all areas. The valedictorian and co-valedictorian of my high school graduating class were females. My undergrad degree is from a Southern Baptist all women’s college, where I spent four years surrounded by intelligent and driven ladies. Several of them have gone on to excel in their areas of expertise. At SWBTS I had the privilege of serving as secretary, vice-president and president of the largest student organization on campus. I believe it’s possible for ladies to lead and be the top in their fields.

Now that I have cleared that part up, let’s explore my frustration with a growing trend I have seen on social media and on television. When did we decide that being treated and acting like a lady was degrading to our gender? When did we decide that men holding doors open for us, picking up the tab, leading on the dance floor, or even fixing things for us was bad? When did we as a society decide that men were another mountain to  be conquered?

Yes I have a strong personality and am extremely independent, BUT, and this is a huge but, I LOVE it when my husband does certain things for me. I love it when he opens doors for me. I love it when he kisses me on top of the forehead. I love it when there is an issue with our home, or one of our cars and he takes care of it. He doesn’t do these things because I am incapable of doing them. He does it out of respect for me. He doesn’t view me as weak, or dumb. He does it because he loves me and wants me to feel every bit a lady.

While I think we have come a long way in women’s rights, I think we have tried to overstep what that really means. We should have the right to vote. We should have the right to an education. We should have the right to excel at work. Granted, pay equality still needs some work. I don’t think we should push until we have turned men into the weaker sex. I don’t think we should push men out of their Biblical roles.

Eve was created out of the rib of Adam to be his helpmate. Adam was still created to lead. We are wired differently than men and I fail to see where that is a bad thing. In spite of my independent personality, I LOVE it when my husband takes the lead. I love knowing that I have a husband who isn’t afraid to lead and to wear the pants in our marriage.

I will raise my daughter to be strong and independent. I will encourage her to do her best in whatever field of study she lands. I will also encourage her to find a man much like her daddy. I will raise my daughter to know how to take care of certain things, but at the same time teach her that it’s ok if her future husband takes care of it for her. I want her to know what it means to be a helpmate for her husband and what working along side him means. I by no means expect my daughter to be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.

My boys already hear me say “be a gentleman.” My boys are being taught to open doors for ladies and to to watch our for and protect the girls around them. I will also teach them that it’s ok for girls to be smart and independent. I pray the girls they marry are strong and independent. I also pray those girls will allow my boys to lead their homes.

My husband and I function as a team. I have a voice in what happens inside of our home, including finances. Most of the time we will come to an agreement on how to handle things. This doesn’t mean that I will get my way, or that he will get his. Many times it’s a compromise of what we both want. There have been a handful of times in our almost 11 year marriage that we have disagreed and he has done what he felt was best for our family. Most of the time, that’s worked out well. There have been a couple of times where he has come back and said he wished he had listened to me. Regardless of what happens, my husband is still the head of our home. By allowing him to be the head, we are following the Lord’s guidelines for marriage and it means that I am the lady of the house, rather than the one wearing the metaphorical pants.

Being a lady doesn’t mean being dumb or being unable to do anything for ourselves. It means allowing the men in our lives to fulfill the roles they were given. By my husband taking care of certain things, it allows me to focus on our kids and our home. It even frees me up to write and to pursue my dreams.

Mothers Day can be Bittersweet

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Mothers Day can bring about a myriad of emotions. There are some who love it. There are some who hate it and others who feel everything in between. Even from where I sit, there are times when I struggle with Mothers Day.

For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you know my story. Those of you who are joining me for the first time, I will give you a brief overview of the path I’ve walked. I had my first miscarriage a week before my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple in December of 05. My 2nd miscarriage would come a week before Mothers Day 06. It would take a while to get pregnant again, only to have my 3rd miscarriage in August of 07. It would be September 08 before I would find out that I was pregnant with my daughter and she would be born 2 days after Mothers Day 09. I then had my older son in July 2010. It wouldn’t be very much time after was born that I found out I was pregnant with my youngest son. When we went in for the first ultrasound, I would have the joy of seeing twins on the screens. That joy would be temporary because the tech would tell me that baby B had no heartbeat and had passed the week before. His birth in May 2011 would be a bittersweet day because I knew I should be celebrating the birth of two baby boys, but would only ever get to hold one.

I have friends who have seen more positive pregnancy tests than they care to admit, only to have those sweet babies enter back into the arms of Christ before they ever made it into the arms of their mothers. Other friends have never experienced the emotions associated with a positive pregnancy test. I have another group of friends who have walked both of those paths and looked towards adoption to expand their families only to have the adoptions fall through and still have empty arms.

Having been on both sides of that coin, I struggle with how Mothers Day should be celebrated. When I was walking the path of miscarriage and infertility, I struggled with going to baby showers and eventually would only send a gift through a friend. I stopped going to church on Mothers Day and Fathers Day because it was just too hard to be surrounded by so many happy mothers. On those days, I would hide at home and watch my favorite chick flicks and order Chinese food.

I also wanted to honor my mother, my sister and celebrate my friends who had become mothers. I still sent a card to my mother and would call my mother and sister. They deserved to be honored and celebrated. My mother brought me into this world and raised me as a single parent while putting herself through nursing school. She deserves to be celebrated. My sister walked a hard path to having my niece and nephew. She deserves to be celebrated. I have several spiritual mothers who prayed along side my mother to get me to where I am now. They deserve to be celebrated. Churches should acknowledge and celebrate mothers in their congregations.

Yes, that means I think churches should give mothers a flower or small gift. The oldest mother, the newest mother and the mother with most the most kids should be recognized. The sermon should be geared towards mothers and what motherhood means. Mothers do so much and deserved to be celebrated. Without them, none of us would be here. Many of us wouldn’t have made it to where we are in life if those mothers hadn’t spent many hours praying for us, cheering us on and encouraging us.

Nowhere in scripture is the role of motherhood downplayed. Nowhere in scripture did the Lord say that mothers weren’t important. In fact, the Lord talks about women from the Old Testament all the way through to the end of the New Testament. There are some women who may have never been mothers, but they mentored those around them. He saw them all as important. The church should do the same.

Tomorrow, I will celebrate the fact that I have three precious kiddos who bestowed me with title of Mom. I will celebrate and honor my mother and my sister, who are both incredible moms. I will also think about the four little one whom I will never meet this side of Heaven.
Tomorrow, regardless of what side of the coin you are on, do what you need to do. For some of you it may mean spending a quiet day at home. For others, it may mean heading to church to celebrate being a mother and celebrating the mothers around you.

To those of you with empty arms, I pray for a peace that can only come from the Lord.

To those who are mothers, enjoy your day with your little ones.

To my mom and my sister, I love you both and pray you both have a wonderful and Happy Mothers Day!

Fear of Failure

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Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Failure: lack of success

As believers, why is it that we spend so much struggling with fear? Did you know that “Do not be afraid,” “Fear not” is in the Bible 365 times. That’s one verse for every single day of the year. It seems to me that if the Lord has put the much time into telling us not to be afraid that we’d be able to lay our fear at the alter and move on.

I’ll be honest, I there are several things that cause me to be afraid. Some are normal. Others, maybe not so much. I have learned that if I think I am going to fail at something, then I don’t even make the attempt to try. I grew up as a military brat. Failure at anything was never really accepted. This led me down the path of not even attempting to do certain things that I really wanted to do because I couldn’t handle the thought of anyone viewing me as a failure.

I have shared in at least one other post that I am a member of Christian Women in Media. I joined this group because I have a desire to be a freelance writer, author and hopefully, one day a speaker. After attending meetings for over a year, I officially joined and paid dues back in November. My husband asks me frequently “You want to write. What are you doing about it?” I’ll be honest. I don’t always have an answer for him, even though I have a long list of dreams associated with writing.

Fast forward to March. I attended a regional dinner of CWIMA. April was sitting at my table and was getting ready to launch a brand new online women’s ministry within the next week. She talked about her dreams for the ministry as well as talking about guest bloggers. I knew I wanted to be a part of what she was doing, but couldn’t find the words or the courage to speak up.

Our main speaker, Angela, talked a great deal about overcoming fear. It was almost as if she had been inside of my head, knew what I had been praying, as well as been a part of several conversations I’d over the past couple of weeks. There were several times while she was speaking that I honestly wanted to cry. As she was speaking, I felt like the Lord kept telling me that I needed to talk to April once the dinner was over. I argued with the Lord for the better part of an hour.

Once we had been dismissed I really wanted to run to my car and speed home. After all, who was I to ask to write for a new women’s ministry? My degree is not in journalism and all I have is a blog that I don’t keep up with like I should because I don’t think most people want to read what I have to say. Most of my writing is in my journal and those are private thoughts that I know no other soul is going to read. Yes, I gripped with fear.

I have to laugh how the Lord works. As I am trying to get to the door to basically escape, who should I hit the door with at the same time? Yep, April. At that point, I opened my mouth and tentatively asked if she was looking to add any more guest bloggers and would she consider me? I was shocked when she said “Yes.” I really wanted to ask if she was sure, but I didn’t. We ended up standing in the parking lot and talking until almost 11p that night.

The following week I sent her a link to my blog. We talked about a possible timeline for a post. Within about two weeks I had sent her a bio, a picture and a blog post. Honestly, I didn’t think she would like or accept it. When she actually posted it, I was probably little more excited than I should have been. This was the first time I had been published anywhere. If I had let the fear of failure grip me that Thursday night, this never would have happened. Yesterday I submitted my second post for the ministry.

What is it you are afraid of? Are you like me and the fear of failure has prevented you from truly going after your dreams? If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do? Do you have a dream you know the Lord has placed on your heart and it’s been there more years than you care to admit? What are you waiting for? It’s past time to take that first step! Go forth and do NOT fear!

Build Your Porch

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“Build your porch.” “Build your small group.” “Find the group where you can be completely open, honest and share your stuff.” These are all phrases I have heard more times than I can count in the past year and every time I hear them, it makes me stop and think. I have a pretty tight knit group of friends. If I was honest, I could list those in my inner core and then start moving to outer circles. In a way I have done this, but do I allow myself to be completely mask free when I’m with them, or do I still hold back?

I have 2 sets of friends who make up my inner core. 2 of those friends I have known since my single days. We have walked through the ups and downs of life together. We have seen each other through marriages, births of children and the other things that life has thrown our way. We may not see each other every week, but we don’t have to in order to stay connected. The 2nd group is also 2 ladies I meet with once a week. I have known them about 3 years give or take. While there have definitely been some life hurdles in the time I haven’t known them quite as long. I know that through the good, the bad and the ugly, we all have each others’ backs. The next ring in my circle of friends contains mostly ladies I have known for about 3 years and a dear friend from my seminary days. The next ring would hold friends I have known for a longer period of time, but don’t get to hang out with or get to talk with on a regular basis.

Even though I completely trust all 4 ladies on my porch, I know that there is still a part of me that I hold back. There are parts of my life with which I am an open book. Then there are other parts closed up tighter than Fort Knox. Since I started my blog, I have talked about and encouraged complete and total honesty as well as transparency with those in your inner circle. When I think about me personally, I realize that I have pretty much encouraged a “Do as I say and not as I do” mentality. I have encouraged my readers to be vulnerable, but haven’t been with the ladies on my porch.

In scripture we are encouraged to join with one another and live in community:

And if somebody overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

” Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Nowhere in Scripture are we encouraged to live life solo. This means that we share the ups and downs of life with those around us. Again, I encourage you to be careful about who you share certain pieces of information with. Now, go build your porch!

New Year. Now What?

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It’s that time of year where just about every adult I know is making resolutions. It’s the beginning of a new year. It appears to be the time of year we are all looking for a fresh start. We want to become newer and better versions of ourselves, or want to make a complete 180. We have somehow decided the way we have been is no longer good enough and we feel we must change in order to have a great or even slightly nominal year.

My question is, are these resolutions realistic? Do we put so much on ourselves this time of year that in a matter of weeks we are back at our old habits and gave up on any changes we really wanted to make? I also often wonder if we feel we are so unlovable or unlikable that we feel we need to make changes in order to make those around us like and accept us. While I will always encourage soul searching and getting before the Lord about our lives, I wonder how much of what we “think” needs to change, really does?

Yes, there are often changes we need to make. Too many times we let our diet and exercise slip by the wayside. That being said, make those changes realistic. To make the decision to run 5 days a week for an hour is not going to work if you hate running. If you vow to give up chocolate (my personal vice) for the year and it’s your favorite treat, you are setting yourself up to fail. I’m picking on diet and exercise because those seem to be the big changes most of us want to make. Make small changes and work your way up from there. For instance, if you have been a couch potato, or only walking every once in a while, try walking for 15 mins twice a week. As you can comfortably do that, then add time and distance. As you improve on that, then add weights.

On the diet front, do not, I repeat do NOT go on a diet because it won’t last. Make changes. Make a lifestyle change. Start making small substitutions and cutting back on certain things. I love my chocolate and sweet tea, probably way more than I should. There is no need to never enjoy either of those again, it’s time to not have them on a regular basis. Any diet that tells you to completely cut out something isn’t healthy. Your body NEEDS fat, carbs and protein!

We all want to learn and grow as the year progresses, just make sure it’s for you and you aren’t doing something  because you feel it’s what’s expected of you. If we only do what we “think” others may want or expect of us, we never truly learn who we are and what the Lord may have for us. Fight for your own personal authenticity. In the words of Dr.Seuss “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” If you feel the Lord is calling you to one thing, don’t go down a different path because someone else is telling you to, explore the calling from the Lord.

The last thing I want to encourage you to do this is year is to follow the advice of The Women of Faith and that is to “Build Your Porch.” This means finding 2-5 people who you trust more than anything with ALL of of your stuff. These people are ones who have seen you at your best and at your worst and love you just the same. These should be people whom you feel free to take of whatever mask it is you tend wear and can allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Share your goals with your porch, or put them out there where you will have at least some accountability for the year.

To practice what I preach, here are some of my personal goals for 2016:
1) Spend more time writing and update my blog at least once a month.
2) Be more deliberate about time with my husband and kids.
3) Spend more time with the ladies on my porch.
4) Get my eating and workouts back on track. This includes a 15K in February and hopefully at least 1 more half marathon, along with a couple of 5Ks.