15 Apr

It Was Never About Me

Bible & Notes

Face down on the bed. I keep reminding myself to breathe and unclench my jaw.

Whose idea was this?!?!?! 

Bible open. Notebook open. Notes, lists, pens, highlighters all stacked around me.

What was I thinking?!?!?!?

Miles from home. I didn’t even drive here. There is no escape. None. I accepted the invitation to teach and now I had to teach.

This was no ordinary retreat. There was pain here, an open wound of a church trying to heal. The whys are unimportant, but the heaviness of following God when it is difficult and painful was evident. The pain of brother against brother — of infighting and backbiting — hung on their hearts, was evident in the tears in their eyes, and palpable in their sighs and heavy silences.

And all I had were a few words on a page.

I felt like Moses….Lord can’t you send someone else, I can’t speak well. Isn’t there someone, anyone…please???

I found myself drawn back to a passage in 1 Chronicles 28 (a small passage I’ve sorta been obsessed with lately). David is talking to the officials of Israel about building a temple and he turns to speak to Solomon. Father to Son. Man of God to man of God. And this wisdom packed passage just keeps drawing me back, but this day as I lay on my bed wishing for an escape from this task FAR above my pay grade I see words I haven’t noticed before.

Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work. (1 Chronicles 28:10)

For the Lord has chosen you…..be strong and do the work.

It was the whisper to my frightened heart I needed and my prayers began to change. I went from “why me” to “please show up….be here…be real…be the words of my mouth, the thoughts in my heart, the peace in the room….overwhelm us with you.”

Normally, when I prepare to teach I write it out. Every word. Every line. I’ve timed it. Edited it. Memorized it. Over and over until it is part of the fabric of who I am. This time. I had a few words on a page. That’s it. No script. No page after page of notes and highlights. I had definitions, a few questions and that was it.  I felt lead…I was positive that God hadn’t wanted me to do the extensive preparation this time. I used only what I could find on the internet (not all the resources on my shelves and computer) and kept it super simple. Although, admittedly I wasn’t sure why. Even as I sat down to speak (cuz a girl with a busted up foot can’t stand and teach, but that is a story for another day) I wasn’t sure where we were headed…..I didn’t even know my intro.

But when I opened my mouth the words came. When I looked at my notes I knew what was important and what wasn’t. As I outlined the weekend for this group of strangers-yet-sisters I began to tell how the Bible is like a puzzle and we can see the picture on the box, but it isn’t until we start putting it together piece-by-piece that we really know the picture, the colors, the texture, the details. And this weekend we were going to take Scripture apart to put it back together so that we can see God when we are done.

When it was all over…all the days…all the sessions. I exhaled and all I could pray in an amazingly tired and yet somehow excited heart….You showed up.

And that was the reminder this weekend…it was never about me, or my words. It was about the God of the universe showing up to love on His girls. It was about Him soothing wounds with laughter, it was about Him whispering to weary hearts in the context of a verse, it was about His girls seeing Him in each other. God had something for each of the women in that house….even me. I can’t tell you how much I learn when preparing to teach — I walk out the lessons in real life that He’ll have come out of my mouth to the women.

But this time He had another message for this girl who struggles with doubt, who sometimes wonders if she’s good enough to be loved, this girl who spent much of her life feeling unlovable and just wants to be liked….I love you, I’ll show up, I’ve called you to things bigger than you, I’ll never leave you….

07 Jun

Lessons the Ladies Have Taught Me

320623_10151351862471753_660991136_n

It will end as quietly as it began. In a small Bible study in our home.

For most people the day will be unremarkable, but for me, even the square on the calendar is already full of memories, lessons and an unbelievable cast of characters.

Next week, I’ll teach my last women’s Bible study, putting a period at the end of one of the most beautifully life-changing seasons of my life…serving in women’s ministry. 

I got into women’s ministry, because I thought women needed a safe place to exhale and allow Jesus to love them….and I thought God was going to allow me to help Him love on them. And while, I’d like to think, that is what happened along the way, the truth is women’s ministry changed me, taught me, molded me. This Jesus girl needed to learn how to love and be loved and there were some lessons I had to learn along the way.

Lesson #1 – Where there are women, there is food

Be it a Bible study, a movie night, a retreat or anything else Jesus girls can bring some vittles now. Tables, counters, and plates piled high with deliciousness prepared and served with a whole lotta love and good bit of laughter.

 

Lesson #2 – We all need a place to just be women

Wife. Mother. Sister. Daughter. Granddaughter Friend. Ministry Leader. Executive. Teacher. Bookkeeper. Hostess. Maid. Neighbor. Servant. Helper. Driver. And SOOOOOOO many more. Women wear so many hats and take on so many roles everyday that it is often difficult to just set everything down and exhale.

And the truth is, most of us, don’t create space to exhale in our lives. We push and rush. We forgo sleep and beat deadlines. And we are tired and hurting. Unfulfilled and overworked.

This is where women’s ministry comes in — it gives us a space and place to allow women to just sit — to worship, to pray, to breathe, to feel God. A woman grounded in Jesus blooms in ways that people cannot miss. When women are refreshed and healing. When they are filled to overflow with the sweet truth of Jesus they pour out.

As women ministry leaders and teams it our responsibility to give women a safe place to immerse in the Word, find discipleship opportunities, and receive the love of Jesus from their eternal sisters.

 

Lesson #3 – We have got to get real

In the beginning I wanted women’s ministry to be pretty. Cute little parties. Music. Flowers. Decorations. Prizes. Pretty. But I soon found that life isn’t pretty. And ministry isn’t speakers, programs, or budgets. Ministry is life….it is a couple of Jesus girls looking for answers…for Him.

We need to stop entertaining people and start engaging. We need to be bold and brave, and take on topics like domestic violence, food addiction, parenting. We need to dig into the Word and help women make sense of it, apply it…GET it!! We need to turn off the movies, disconnect the sound system, and get women talking to each other…ministering to each other.

We need to put on our Jesus girl t-shirts and lay ourselves bare. Share our struggles, speak up about what we don’t understand, and pray for each other. No more prayer request gossip line sessions where we write it down and promise to pray later. Grasp hands, ugly cry if you need to, intercession for each other.

We need to learn to pray, laugh, learn and talk with unabashed honesty and be real with each other.

 

Lesson #4 – It is like herding cats

Somehow it doesn’t matter if there are 5 women in the room or 150, women are hard to lead. God harnessed incredible power and put it in women — passion, love, excitement, drive — and wrapped up in beauty, hormones and emotions. Then we wrap it all up our latest Kohl’s super-cheap, wicked-cute sale find.

You have to have the finesse of a well-seasoned politician; the moves of a Super Bowl receiver; the sense of humor of Betty White; the thick, tough skin of John Wayne and the wisdom of Solomon all wrapped up in one broken and flawed girl who is just trying to follow God. Cuz, us Jesus girls, we can have opinions (that we don’t mind sharing), and drama (Steel Magnolias ain’t got nothing on us), and comfort zones (and if you change something or move us out of it you WILL hear about it), and we have IMPOSSIBLE standards (how the church used to do it or how the church the down road did or how it looked on Pinterest).

It’s like herding cats — they go where they want, with claws and a sometimes a bit of hissing.

 

Lesson #5 – If it is not about Jesus, we have failed

 

I don’t care what the topic is. I don’t care what the point of the gathering is. I don’t care why the church/ministry/Bible study/group has decided to do it. If it isn’t about the Gospel — living it, teaching it, breathing it, learning it, sharing it….it isn’t important.

We don’t have to make Jesus flashy or fancy. There need be no entertainment or show. People need Jesus. They need us…the church…the leaders…the Jesus’ people…to live like Jesus works and help them find His Truth for their lives (in Word and in deed).

If we aren’t giving women the chance to learn about Jesus, equipping them to share Jesus in their lives, and loving on them like Jesus (through TRUTH and SERVICE) then we have failed.

“…one thing is needed….which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

 

Lesson #6 – God always shows up

No matter what we plan. It isn’t about us or our plans. It is about God and His girls. Year after year — church after church – event after event — woman after woman I have seen it. When we help women carve out time in their schedules to seek God — He shows up!!

He touches a hand lifted in worship.

He whispers to a weary heart surrendered in prayer.

He speaks in the testimony of His daughters.

He breaks through pain, He repairs friendships, He places the “right” person in our paths.

He is the comfort of a meal cooked for a hurting family.

He is in the laughter when His girls gather.

He is in the reflection of stain glass window when your knees are knocking as you speak.

He is in every detail….we need just look.

And that, really is, what I’ve come to know through this journey. That God is in every detail. That it isn’t our time or talent that make anything successful…it is the pure and holy love of our Savior wrapping around us.  He is reflected in every woman I have been blessed to laugh, cry, pray, talk, debate, learn, lead, follow, study, hike, play, serve, worship,  and love with over the years.

 

 

28 Sep

This is God’s House

me and my house

Piles of dirty dishes in the sink.

Dust bunnies…no dust monsters gather in the corners and under the couch. Plotting world domination or at least to rub all over my black pants.

Chairs need to be moved. My notes need to be highlighted. The kids aren’t dressed.

Have I mentioned I’m not a morning person.

It all seems to pile up on Thursday mornings. The stuff I haven’t done, the stuff I don’t want to d…it all looms big and ugly as the clock ticks the minutes away.

Bible study starts at 10, right here in our living room and I’m not ready.

And a breath before I get upset, before I let a bad attitude be the attitude that prepares for Jesus’ girls, I flash back to another house, another time.

Snow was piling up outside…literally feet upon feet. The kids had such a bad case of cabin fever that the wiggles, giggles and drive your mama crazies had set in. Our stuff was in storage. We were pulling groceries up the driveway on a tarp (as it was too deep and slippery for our cars to make it). This was not how I had planned this move to go.

Every call about the new house (the short sale we were waiting to go through) was confusing and disheartening. Stories changed. Price went up. Days…months…ticked by and we were still waiting. While we were blessed to have some place to stay and we were warm and dry…it wasn’t home.

I would sit in front of the large picture window in the silence of the afternoon naps and pray. I knew the fate of our house purchase was in God’s hands, and if it went through it would be for His glory and His use. And in those moments I would promise the house to Him…”if you give it to us Lord, we will always use it to honor you and further your kingdom…homeschool, women’s ministry, life groups, and more.” I began to picture that work done for God in the house….

God blessed us with the house. And within months we stopped doing anything for God (except homeshooling) within our walls. Overwhelmed. Too tired. Full of excuses.

This year, I recommitted my life, my calling, and our house to the Lord. Bible studies, ministry, dinners, mentoring and more have begun again.

On Thursday mornings (yes, almost every week) God reminds me of our agreement and I stop grumbling. I pray while I sweep, worship while I make coffee and smile as it comes together. I need to get out of the way, open the door and let God meet with His girls.

 

 

 

What do you have that God has given you? A house, a car, a phone, a heart for service, a business, etc.? How can you (or are you) using it serve God? God blesses us with so much, how can we use those blessings to serve Him?

Father, thank you for our house. Thank you for your house. Help me to remember when our doors and hearts are open we are serving you. Thank you that the moments you have planned with your children in our home aren’t dependent on whether I’ve dusted or if there is fresh coffee, but instead you look for open hearts and willing spirits. Help me to be that woman. May I always say, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Amen.

 

11 Jul

The Shoe is Supposed to Fit

cinderellas_step_sisters-1670

Clunk, clunk.

Wobble, wobble, wobble.

Clunk, clunk, clunk.

Do you remember trying to walk in your mom’s high heels when you were a kid? They made a ton of noise…clunk, clunk, bang…as you tried to walk. And keeping your balance meant sticking your arms out tight-rope-walker style and stopping to wobble every now and then.

Those cute little feet swallowed up by those big heels. A physical exercise in wishing and hoping, as you imagined your somedays when your foot filled the shoe and your gait would echo a quick “click, click” like your mom when she walked in the heels.

Fast forward 20 years (or way more…hold that button down a little longer) and I have found myself trying on other shoes. This time there are no cute feet. This time, picture me Cinderella’s step sisters style, trying to cram my foot into a shoe that not only doesn’t fit…it isn’t even mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have the incredible blessing, and often envy inspiring curse, of being part of a terrific network of women’s ministry leaders, writers/bloggers and speakers. Cruising the interwebs and scrolling through Facebook I see update after update on book deals, speaking engagements, blog posts, hundreds of followers, retweets and more. Successes to be celebrated! Victories for the Kingdom! Reasons to envy.

And as this fire of envy begins to burn in my gut, what have I done? Oh, I begin to try to be someone I’m not. (picture me, step-sister style grunting and grimacing as I shove my foot into someone else’s shoe) I try to use more flowery language or write about things that don’t weigh on my heart (more from the weight of a should or keeping up with Miss Jones). I try to brag about the engagements I do have and turn them into grand plans I don’t have.

I work so hard at trying to be someone I’m not, that I forget to be the woman I am. I am blessed. God has called me to certain work for Him — marriage to hunky hubby, homeschooling momma to two little peanuts, and to love on and encourage His girls through opportunities He provides (blog, Bible studies, and now speaking/teaching). And, I begin to believe the whispers of lies (from the world, from Satan, from my own insecure lil self) — that I’m just a wife and mother. That 15 blog readers or retreat attendees is not enough. That I’m small potatoes.

Like that stepsister with her gigantic foot folded into Cinderella’s custom designed glass slipper, when I put on someone else’s calling I’m rendered ineffective. There is no walking or moving when you are desperately just trying to keep on this thing that isn’t you…isn’t yours…wasn’t custom designed just for you.

God has something to say about that…

walk in a manner worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1)

Your calling. Your calling.

My calling.

God made a calling just for me. And as sure as Cinderella’s slipper fit on her tiny little foot, you better believe God’s calling for me will fit just as snugly! Perfectly.

So here I sit, my sweet friends, humbled by the thought that you are reading my words. That you chose today to take time out of your crazy busy life to pause with me and look for God in our lives. I pray, that every time I put finger to keyboard it is with grace and love…in the way God designed me to do.

I am learning to let go of my comparisons. If the God of the Universe custom designed a calling me for…designed me for my calling…then shouldn’t I focus on that? Easy words to type, but what does that look like in real life…well….

It looks like a woman who prays for her husband (instead of complaining about him). Like a woman who now settles into the comfort of shared silence, working as a team, and hugs after a long day. A woman who studies her husband and with God’s help tries to be the woman who compliments the man he is in Christ!

It looks a like a momma who sees everyday with her precious peanuts as a new opportunity for discovery and learning. That relishes parenting and homeschooling for the God-sized gift stuffed into little bright-eyed bodies that wiggle, giggle and love that it is!

It looks like a woman that cheerfully writes what God lays on her heart (for the 15 to 75 that might click it). It looks like a woman who will pour over translations and commentaries and get all wound up in the meaning of one word, in hopes of teaching even a whisper of the Grace that lines the pages.

It looks like a Jesus girl that wakes up every morning, and before her feet hit the floor she whispers, let me walk with you today Jesus.

 

 

20 Jun

I Don’t Want To Miss the Water Walking

sunrise

I leaned on the counter and just watched. Listened. Drank in the moment.

This is what ministry is about, I mused in a sing song voice in my head.

Colorful tables. Door prizes. Food. Speakers. Music. Jesus’ girls.

{Oh, and chocolate.}

That was a beautifully exhausting night but it was not my destination. Oh trust me, at the time I thought it was…I had unpacked by bags and set up shop. God had called me to women’s ministry and when I got there I quickly settled in.

But I prayed a prayer, somewhere in there that God honored…and continues to change my life. Turns out women’s ministry was not a destination it was a journey and we were just getting started.

We had a Pastor once that talked about the most dangerous prayer to pray. “Use me.” That asking God to use your life…your skills…you,  would lead down roads that we can’t even imagine. I was inspired. Challenged and completely naive.

I prayed that prayer. Over and over. In my heart I really wanted to become a woman that followed Jesus…wherever that lead. In my head, I pictured where it would lead — to the pink and frilly worlds of women’s ministry.

In my head, being in ministry meant Bible studies (or LIFE groups whatever you want to call them), brightly colored themed events and meeting all the women at church. And sometimes…in real life that is part of the picture. But through a series of set-backs, changes and God-sized miracles I’ve come to know a different side to ministry — loving women through the hard moments of addiction and rage; searching for words that speak Jesus to weary heart in a chemo-ravaged body; Bible study into the wee hours of the morning and pages of notes in hopes of teaching others about God’s Word; putting my problems on hold when the phone rings during someone else’s crisis; holding a woman’s hand while she receives her Savior. And it is here…in the depths of “ministry” that I thought I found what God’s called me to…His girls. His Love.

Funny how often I think I’ve arrived to where God and I are going….I forget the journey part. I forget that my only destination is Heaven and everything on my road there is just drawing me deeper into Jesus so that He’s what the world sees in me.

As the waves crashed against the sides of the boat and the other disciples still shook with fear, Peter had his eyes on Jesus. “Lord…tell me to come to you on the water.”

What??? A lot of things have been said and written about our dear friend Peter, but can I just say, WOW! I would not even have had the thought to ask to walk on water…let alone get of the boat (but I’m getting ahead of myself)!

And what does Jesus say? “Come.”

You know, that’s the truth of our relationship with Christ right there. That He wants us to join Him in the extraordinary, the supernatural, the only-God-can-do-this-kinda-stuff stuff! And I would be willing to bet that there are opportunities all the time (daily even?) that Christ sets out before us to get out of the boat…to join Him in the really?? did that just happen coolness of Christ’s love….but do we get out of the boat? Geesh, I know I don’t get out of the boat…I don’t even ask for the chance.

That dangerous prayer that pastor talked about. That “use me” prayer…that was my Peter moment. The Lord let me join you request. But when I prayed that prayer I didn’t dawn on me that God would answer it in the only way God does things…with a choice. With an opportunity. A chance for growth. A get out of the boat moment.

I have had the pleasure over the past few years to attend a conference called She Speaks (for writers, speakers and women’s ministry leaders). Last year I took some of the speakers classes…and walked out thankful that God didn’t’ call me into speaking!

So, back to Peter. Jesus has just told him “come”. And what does he do? Well, my translation says “he got down, out of the boat”.

Got down? Oh, yeah, we’re not talking a canoe here, this was a decent size boat being tossed around in the waves. Most research I found said the sides were 3′ to 4′. He had to step over and/or climb down off the side of this boat that was moving around in the waves. Go stand on your dining room table…now imagine you are in the middle of a large body of water in a storm, imagine climbing over the edge down on to the stormy waters. Hmm….

But oh the triumph on the other side of that momentary fear…walking toward Jesus!! Eyes on your Savior. Doing something only He can do through you!! Right there, that is the gift of ministry.

So this year, I’ve stepped out of my boat. Remember that whole, glad God didn’t call me to be a speaker thing?? Yeah, well. This past school year God has opened the door for me to do a couple of devotions at a local homeschool support group, and while my nerves upon saying yes nearly killed me. I have been amazed by how easy the speaking came; how the message was just what someone needed to hear; and how crazy sweet and support the ladies have been. Climbing out of the boat nearly did me in, but walking with Christ in what He calls me to is worth every vulture sized butterfly flying around in my stomach.

But, my ankles are getting wet.

You see, Peter walked on water as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. But when he let life and doubt (and, oh, um waves and wind) distract him he began to sink.

God has opened another door for me this fall. And wouldn’t  you know, it is a speaking engagement for a ladies retreat. When I focus on Jesus and His girls, of sharing whatever He wants them to hear…I’m fine. But the minute I begin to focus on the billions of other details (number of attendees, length of messages, what I’m going to wear, whether they will realize I am bundle of nerves wrapped up in an awkward, fragile package….) I hear the wind,  I watch the waves…I realize my ankles are wet.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that my Jesus will (and always has) reached His hand out to touch me, to hold me, to save me, whenever I call out to Him. I don’t fear drowning. I fear missing the water walking with Jesus!!

So where are you? In the boat? On top of the water? Or trying to ride out the storms of life with your eyes on Jesus? Wheverever you are, I hope that you pray dangerous prayers and get ready…because we were made to follow Jesus (even across the water)!

{by the way, you can get down off the dining room table now….he, he.}

05 Jan

Whispers of a Dream

I don’t want to open my eyes. Or move. Or speak. Perhaps if I linger here, between sleep and awake just a moment longer the dream will come back. I’ll be there again.

I wait. I hold my breath and scrunch up my eyes trying hard to ignore the sun peaking through the window. Back to sleep. Back to dream.

But alas, within seconds the dogs are a wiggling mass of wagging tails and slobbery tongues. They know I am awake, even as I try not to be.

The last whispers of the dream dissolve into the blue walls of our bedroom.

It is morning. I am here. Not there. Gone to soon from a dream I can’t let go of.

Even now, as I sit here writing to you, I close my eyes and hope that images, feelings, sounds…something…will float back into my memory.

Nothing.

Do you dream when you are sleeping? Do you remember your dreams?

I dream a lot. And I can remember many of them. Strange mixes of reality and imaginings. Vivid colors and wild scenes.

When I was little I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be a veterinarian.  I drove my Winnebago (my bed full of stuffed animals and all the tools of the trade) thousands of miles rescuing strays, training animals (those stuffed animals could stay better than anyone elses!), and imagined myself a modern-age Dr. Doolittle.

I grew up. Life changed. I wanted to be many different things and tried my hand at many careers. I learned lots of skills, but never found what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Yet this dream that hangs just past the veil of my memory it seems to whisper another dream. A heart’s cry. A you-were-made-for-this-kinda moment.

And for just a second I remember….

Bright eyes that still hold an impish spark.

Hands reaching toward heaven.

Smiles. Laughter. Dancing. Playing.

Toes buried deep in the dry, dusty ground. 

I don’t know where they were these children that beckon from my dream. But I do know that I was taking pictures of them. Sitting off to the side. Shutter closing silently capturing the beauty of childlike hope and joy.

I want to be there. Where that dream is. So much it makes me cry.

Perhaps when you grow up it is not about becoming something you dreamed of as a child (or as least not for me). Perhaps it becomes about chasing Jesus. Running into the places He calls you. Being the woman He is making you. Stretching your skills, your heart, your life to fit the Jesus-sized adventures.

And while I don’t know where this place is that dreams come from. I do know where Jesus is calling me today. Into our home as a wife and mother, into our homeschooling, into mentor relationships with young women walking a road I’ve been down, into women’s ministry. And perhaps, if I show myself faithful in these things, like the servant with the talents, God will entrust me with more. Perhaps the place in my dreams is a glimpse of a someday when I work with Jesus there.

I don’t know what my head and heart are longing for. But I can be sure that if God is planting desires in my heart He will be faithful to water them. Grow them. Fulfill them. In ways I cannot even dream of.

What do you dream of for God?Are there places He is calling you? If money and logistics weren’t a problem (and they aren’t for God!!) what would you do with Jesus? 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: