Superwoman

October 22, 2014

If there is one thing I have learned in the last 3 months of being married it is this- I am not Superwoman. I am not capable of doing everything, and when I try, I continually find that I can’t juggle everything well.

I woke up the other day to my alarm going off. Lately I think it takes me about a whole minute or 2 to actually realize that the jingling sound I hear is not the soundtrack to my dreams but the alarm on my phone. I don’t think I use to be that way. But when I woke up the other day and I went to turn off my alarm, I had that moment (that many people experience) where I laid in bed with a half-sleeping brain trying to figure out why my alarm went off, what day it is, and if I can roll over again and go back to sleep. My brain ran through the days: Tuesday? no, Monday… that would be nice (my day off) I could sleep… no, not Monday… Saturday (another nice thought)… still no. Finally I came to my senses and realized it was Sunday so out of my bed I stumbled.

Someone at church asked my husband if I wake up as cheerful as they see me at church. Surprisingly my husband just smiled (instead of laugh, which would be much more realistic). I am not a grumpy morning person, but I certainly have that person fooled on my eagerness to wake up.

On days when the alarm feels like it went off way to early I find myself thinking this repetitious thought:is it really morning already?… followed by I can’t do this again. Then I start to list off all of the things I need to accomplish. And no matter how many days have passed and how many check marks are on my to-do list, it never seems like I can keep up with it.

It’s an uphill battle.

A race against the clock.

Me against the world.

And again I realize… I’m not Superwoman.

I can’t wake up every morning and feel ready to face the day. I can’t keep a clean house (especially during the middle of the week- so please don’t stop by for a grand tour then). I sometimes think my refrigerator eats my leftovers… then I realize- no that was just me again and I need to cook… again. And don’t even get me started with the dishes that seem to always be there… even after I’ve just finished washing them.

I think about people who have to juggle a whole lot more than I do. The other Superwoman (and Supermen), and I wonder- how do they do it?! Maybe they are just stronger and more capable than me. Maybe they have a secret weapon… like coffee. Or maybe we are all just fooling ourselves that we can do everything when we weren’t meant to do it all.

It’s moments like this when I actually sit down and breathe and realize how much I miss this feeling. And I’m reminded that I don’t want to be Superwoman. Because the Superwoman ideal that I’m chasing after doesn’t have time to enjoy the autumn leaves changing colors. She doesn’t have time to soak up the last sunshine of the season. She doesn’t have time at the end of the night to dance under the stars. She doesn’t have time to read a book, take cat naps with her husband, enjoy a cup of tea or write blogs. I like all of those things (+ many more) way too much to be Superwoman.

Today I made an observation: Being Superwoman is over-rated. Having a clean house, 5 star dinners, clean laundry, and committing to one more thing at church will not make me a more complete or more godly woman. So from here on out, I’ll try something different- I’m going to just enjoy being the woman God made me to be. The other things- the pile of laundry, the items on my grocery list, the Christmas planning at work, the un-hung decor around my house can wait while I just enjoy the things God has given me. In the meantime I’ll be outside soaking up the last rays of sunshine this fall.

woman-not-superwoman

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Sing it loud and proud!

July 20, 2014

I’m sitting at a concert. Just 2 singers, a guitar and a harmonica as the sun is slowly setting in the background.
Those two singers invite us to sing part of the next song. All we have to sing is “hallelujah” 3 times. It actually sounds pretty good for a large group of people (who probably don’t even know this song).
At the bottom corner of the stage stands a young lady signing all the words of the songs for those who are hearing impaired.
As we sing those 3 words “hallelujah” I see that that young lady is not the only one signing those words.  Not far from her I see a group of people signing along with her the familiar sign of “hallelujah.” The motion lifts the hands up giving you a visualization of what that word truly means. This group of people who can’t even hear the beautiful music are singing in their own way.
I am reminded of how we all sing in our own way.  On the typical Sunday morning I wake up and lead people in singing.  Even if everyone is moving their mouths at the same time I know we are each singing our own song. Some are singing through their woes, or with joy and sometimes confusion.
Our singing goes far beyond the voices we have.  Maybe its a motion. Or an act of service.  A dance.  A gift.  Or even silence.
These are the songs that God understands better than anyone else.
I’m seeing the beauty of song through those who are signing in the corner,  through the little girl who can’t stay seated because she is too eager to dance, through the silent prayers that are going up through various people in the crowd and of course the songs from the 2 singers. All are beautiful in their own way.
I talked to a sound tech today who smiled proudly after running sound for a worship service. He said- this is how I worship.
Maybe that isn’t the way I worship but I celebrate that he knows how he sings best- through making other musicians sound their best.
I hope you too find your voice to sing however God uniquely gifted you to sing praises to Him. I firmly believe that each person’s song is absolutely gorgeous because that is your song. Sing it loud and proud!

Lessons of ministry

June 30, 2014

I love celebrating events. Birthdays (even half birthdays), anniversaries, so when I looked at the date and realized that this marks an anniversary for me I couldn’t sit back and do nothing.

 

This month marks 3 years I have been at my job (specifically as Worship Director).

I remember stepping into this unknown place full of joy and passion about this new job. But I have to admit, I couldn’t ignore the voice in the back of my head. I first heard that voice in college. I remember sitting in classes with people who had similar worship desires as I did and hearing the challenges and the difficulties that laid ahead of us (and that was if we could find a job in leading worship that could cover our needs). I often heard how hard being in ministry is and the high stats of ministry leaders who leave ministry… or the church all together. I tried not to dwell on those difficulties but take that information as a lesson. I knew I didn’t want to be someone who shied away from ministry especially on the basis of fear (fear of failing, fear of messing up, fear of the unknown..). I knew going forward would be a learning experience. As I reflect on 3 years of this ministry, I remember the three things I have learned.

 

1. Never underestimate the power of prayer. When you are in ministry, everyone says pray (books, magazines, blogs, speakers, teachers… everyone). So don’t just blow over that. Even when you are crazy busy, make time to pray. I have actually found that the craziest times (when I thought I had no room for prayer) were the times I need the most prayer. And when I’m talking praying, I’m talking about authenticity. In ministry sometimes this kind of praying is passionate, sometimes it feels worn out, sometimes it is with such joy and celebration, sometimes in the mundane meetings, and other times it feels like you’re crying these prayers out. But never underestimate them and don’t let a moment pass when you know you should be communicating with God.

2 Always be humbled. I remember after the third time of leading worship (before this job) I had these moments of complete humility, mostly because I was pretty nervous- not simply about playing things right, but knowing that I had a big job in my hands. I was leading God’s people in worship. That shouldn’t be taken lightly! To know that I am preparing something for the King of creation is a BIG DEAL! So don’t take it lightly. Don’t roll out of bed…. even when you wish you could have gotten a better night’s sleep and simply drag yourself into church. Ministering to others requires more than showing up. Even when you have had a terrible week, God is worthy of our worship (on Sunday mornings and in every other moment). In those early days I remember writing in my journal that I hope I never lose this sense of humility when it comes to worship. I’ll admit, humility can be a battle. When you start to feel more comfortable and more confident, that feeling of complete reliance on God can be dulled. But Humility is a battle worthy fighting. God doesn’t want people ministering who are full of themselves and what they are capable of, because honestly- they aren’t of any use to Him in that condition. Lesson: Always be humbled.

3 Keep your eyes open- Because you never know when you are going to see God move. It’s easy to show up to a job that you go to everyday and go through your duties. But when you actually stop and look at what’s happening, what has happened, and what you see unfolding, you will see God’s hand moving. In big and small ways. Never underestimate the power of God. And when you see God moving- celebrate that! Share your stories so others can celebrate with you. Never forget to thank God for these moments. These are the moments that fuel ministry. Remember where they came from and give your praises back to Him in return for what you see Him doing.

 

I have spent a good portion of the last three years at a church, but as I look at these three things, I realize they aren’t limited to a church. I might have learned more about these areas in ministry but I think they can be applied to any job (paid or not) or place God has placed you.

It was around noon 18 months ago that I was driving a short drive to a small restaurant. I parked my car. Entered the restaurant where a guy I didn’t know greeted me.

I remember ordering a small salad and he ordered a tiny bowl of soup. He sat across from me with good posture. He seemed serious, formal, and reserved- none of the things I was looking for in a man.

In that moment I would have had a hard time believing that 18 months later I would be writing this blog.

Some people put a lot of stock in first impressions. In the last 18 months have learned better. Because the shy, super nervous guy on that day has turned out to be the biggest surprise of my life.

Let’s just say the best surprises come unexpectedly. I have always LOVED surprises, maybe God thought this would be a fun one for me. 18 months ago I arrived to meet a guy… not expecting that our meeting would go far. I think God likes working best through the unexpected because it makes us let go, grow, and learn. Boy have I done a lot of that in the past 18 months.

For some girls there is a moment in time that they can point out specifically. As one girl at church said- I knew he was the one when he showed up with flowers and opened the car door for me. 

Let’s just say it takes me a longer than most people to figure these things out. Because in the last 18 months I have had probably over 100 car doors opened for me and more flowers that I could ever dream in my house (see the bottom). Within the first month alone I had a man picking up my dirty kleenex when I was too sick to get up, and willing to clean up the leaking sewage in my basement when he thought we were going on our third unofficial date. He has taught me that goofiness is the best medicine for stress… that a man who promises he will never leave you (even when it’s hard) holds to his word,… that a man who loves God will read the Bible with you, pray with you, and pray over you,… and that love is worth fighting for, chasing after and enjoying together.

As Song of Solomon so eloquently puts- “I have found the one whom my soul loves.”

And in 37 days I will be marrying him.

Perhaps 18 months doesn’t seem all that long. But when I look back and see all the things that I have learned in the past 18 months, I can only imagine that a future with this man by my side will be one of growth of adventure, surprises, goofiness, and so much more. Looking forward to 18 months times many more to come. 18 months flowers

Ahh… peace

May 28, 2014

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received when it comes to decision making- “Many people have a hard time figuring out God’s will. When you can’t hear God’s actual voice speaking, remember that He often speaks through three different ways: 1) the Bible 2) other people 3) His peace… I find His peace to be one of the greatest assurances of God’s leading.”

I have reflected on that advice many times through the years. There comes a time when we need to make decisions and you actually humble yourself to see if ‘what you want’ is in accordance with ‘God’s will,’ but boy can that seem like a tricky thing to figure out.

When it comes to the Bible and making decisions, it’s easy to feel stuck. Although there is Scripture that clearly says what you should not be doing or striving after, God has given us a lot of freedom and the Bible doesn’t give us word for word directions in our decision making. He has given us minds to think and to make sound decisions, therefore He allows us to use them. Take for example a new job. A door has opened (is that a door that God has opened?). Let’s open up our Bible. It says things like- work is good, we should use the gifts God has given us to do the things He has called us to do, and to those who follow Him He will guide in whatever we put our hands to. But did that just tell you if you should take the job? … Uh… not exactly.

Then there are friends. I love the advice of friends. But don’t we all know- that isn’t always reliable. Let’s say an opportunity is laid before you to move and follow a dream that you’ve always had, but this is a big risk. Take 5 people that you know and ask them their opinion. 1 says “Wonderful! You’ve always wanted to do it. Don’t let anything stand in your way!: 2 says, “What about your family?” 3 says “What about money? This just doesn’t seem very rational.” 4 “It’s about time you took a risk.” 5 says they don’t want you to move, they will miss you too much.

Is any of that of God? Too often we as friends don’t give godly advice but advice that benefits us. And when we receive it we feel just as lost and confused as before we started. There have certainly been times when I have had someone tell me something and it opened my eyes. I knew it was of God. But to always rely on this wouldn’t be right.

For a long time I have leaned on God’s peace. When I couldn’t hear His voice, that was the most specific way for me to find assurance through my decision making. I figured- If I felt peace, then it was of God. If I didn’t feel peace- it must not be of God.

But here is the fault I have found in this. The devil knows that God brings peace. Although God can put His stamp of peace on a situation, the Devil will surely try to help us not see this peace. While God’s peace may be present, we can be distracted by fears, insecurity, &/ doubt. Those things are not of God. 

I have at times told myself – This must not be of God because I don’t feel His peace. When really I am so overwhelmed with fear, doubt and insecurity that I couldn’t see peace if we were in a staring competition.

The King of Lies knows that over-riding peace is pretty easy. Consider a classroom of 30 children. One child sits peacefully listening to directions while the other 29 are running around making World War III. Do you see the peace in the situation? Probably not because the lack of peace in the 29 students is so distracting. One probably wouldn’t take such a moment to thank God for the peace He has given them in that moment.

But I do believe every sound decision that is looked at with humility and godliness will have peace to it. Peace might be hard to find, see or feel. I think of Elijah on the mountain. This is when the queen had put a death sentence on him. Elijah had done everything God had told Him to do, and this is where he found himself. He was done. He just wanted it to be over. He wanted to die. While sitting in the wilderness God tells Elijah to go stand on a mountain where He would feel the presence of God. In such a moment, don’t we all need this? When we are at the end of our rope and can’t go on, to just be in the presence of God is one of the most inexpressibly beautiful things. Elijah goes on the mountain and a powerful wind came over him (but God was not in the wind). Then an earthquake shook the mountain (but God was not in the earthquake). Then a fire came (still God was not in the fire). Finally a gentle whisper came- and that was God.

Perhaps this doesn’t help directly with decision making. But from experience I know that paying attention to the wind, the earthquake and the fire is a lot easier than the gentle whisper, but the whisper is exactly where you will find God.

Fear, insecurity, and doubt do not mean that God is not leading you in a certain direction. It simply means you are human. But God is bigger than any of our fears, insecurities and doubts. His gentle whisper might not be loud, but when you focus on Him and all the things He says are good: (Love, joy,peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control etc), I do believe you can hear the gentle whisper.

 

 

(Disclaimer: I do believe that the Bible and friends can be extremely beneficial to our decision making. In this post I focused more on the confusion when it comes to these two areas. But don’t get me wrong- the Bible always speaks truth, and godly advice can be the fresh drink of water that you’ve been craving).

You Are Here

April 25, 2014

I have never been fond of maps. The kind of maps that mark a destination and then a red dot says, “You are here” often leave me standing and staring wondering which way to turn. Thank goodness for things like GPS (although you map lovers probably just cringed at those 3 letters). 

One of my first road trips had its challenges (and that didn’t even include a map). Mostly due to this gadget I called “Gypsy.” This was back in the day when I actually owned a GPS (instead of just had one on my phone), and the name “Gypsy”… well that was due to the fact that Gypsy loved to roam. When I say roam, it’s not in the way a GPS should. When my three college roomates piled into the car I warned them about Gypsy and her love for roaming. They didn’t take me very seriously. 

That was until barely a half hour later when we were half way between Jackson and Kalamazoo and Gypsy boldly proclaimed, “You are now crossing the state border into Michigan.” There was an awkward silence in the car. Everyone glanced around at their surroundings recognizing nothing but some fields on a highway that only goes east and west. We all knew we had not crossed any border. Better yet we had not even left the state on our adventure to Kentucky. 

That was just the beginning of our journey. Gypsy definitely gave us an adventure on that trip. And let’s just say that there were plenty of jokes about how the girls were going to pitch in money to buy me an accurate GPS. In the end I think we probably would have done better with a map that marked our destination and a red dot that says “You are here.”

Sometimes on a journey with God I find myself feeling like God and I are those markers on the map. God=destination. Me=the “You are here” dot. To reach God seems to be a maze for a person who is directionally challenged, and more like an adventure of roaming with Gypsy. When it comes to our faith, it feels like we are all directionally challenged in one way or another.

Perhaps that’s where we get held up. We are so busy trying to reach God that we fail to realize that God is with us always. 

I think if God handed us a map it would say “You are here…. and so is God.” 

Because no matter where we are in our spiritual walk… No matter how much or little faith we have… No matter how strong or weak we feel, and no matter the circumstances we face, God is no further than he has ever been. 

There have been times when I have been known to say, “I feel so close to God,” when truth is, God couldn’t be any closer than He already is. And even when God feels distant, it’s reassuring to know that He hasn’t moved. 

Some people say- If you realize that God feels far away, it’s not because He moved, but because you did. I’m not sure if that’s it either. Although we can certainly put ourselves in situations where it is harder to see God and experience His presence, no matter where we go God is always with us. 

Even in the valley of the shadow of death

Even when you are sleeping

Even when he doesn’t ‘feel’ close

Even when you are lost

Even when you can’t see Him

Even when you feel completely alone.

There is something reassuring in knowing that “You are here” and “God” are not a distance that can be measured. And no matter where life takes you, God is always with you. 

In the words of A.W. Tozer- “Wherever we are. God is here.” 

a time to dance

April 14, 2014

Tonight I danced.

in the middle of the living room

in my slippers

where I nearly tripped over the bins and and crates that have yet to find a home in my new house.

In that moment… none of that mattered. It didn’t matter that I was all by myself, that I only had about 4 square feet of room, or that the song I was dancing to was found through a quick youtube search. 

There’s something about the way a ballerina never forgets her steps. There’s something about the way my breath and heartbeat quicken together in some magical rhythm. There’s something about singing a song through movement. There’s something about using the bones, the joints, and the muscles that God so perfectly crafted to dance before him.

But then I realize this can mean absolutely nothing to someone who is what many call themselves- “not a dancer.”- the people with 2 left feet, no rhythm, zero flexibility, and stiff joints, etc. 

I get that… well not entirely, but I understand why those things would hold you back. Still, that isn’t my point.

The other night a friend from college called me up and said “I thought of you tonight. I was dancing outside in the rain, and knew if you were here with me, you’d be dancing right along side me.”

That is the kind of dancing I’m talking about. I’m not talking about triple pirouettes, fouettes on pointe, or a pas de deux. I’m talking about authenticity. I’m talking about facing life and whatever that may look like, and choosing to dance. 

Sometimes it looks like dancing in the rain. 

Or dancing through the pain.

Dancing for joy.

Or dancing away your shame.

It’s about dancing through the long days

The good and bad ones too

Sometimes with a partner … or just before God.

I guess it’s best put- “There is a time for everything… a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3)

Today I choose to dance. And I find a freedom in that. 

 

Worry wart

March 1, 2014

I have a bad habit of worrying. I worry about the future, I worry about the present, and although I know I’m not supposed to worry, I still do. 

To me there are two kinds of worrying. There is the worrying about little things that aren’t a big deal. Then there’s worrying about the things that are a BIG deal. For some illogical reason, I feel like I can justify worrying over the BIG deal things. 

Ever shared a worry with someone and they just say, “Don’t worry!”? For some reason I don’t find those two words very comforting. When things aren’t a big deal, it’s easier to take the ‘don’t worry’ advice. But when my worries are about life altering things those two words just don’t seem very realistic.

I just stepped back and counted all of my big time worries over the last year. And you know what I realized?…

All of them have been taken care of, and it had nothing to do with me worrying or actually working to make these things work out. These were all things that were out of my control. As I counted these things… 1, 2, 3… I quickly came to the number 12. 12 worries in the past year. 12 things that felt life-altering. 12 things that I thought deserved to be worried about because they were out of my control. 

12 things that only God can take care of… and He did. 

I’m reminded of how even when you don’t see it, God is working in every situation. Even when you feel like you can justify your worrying He isn’t giving up. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above…

To any other fellow worriers out there, please remember that God is ALWAYS bigger than our biggest worries. 

The Chase

February 8, 2014

There was a rule at my elementary school that you could not play tag.

I always thought that was a stupid rule during recess. Sure, the game of tag may cause some trips and falls and bumps and bruises but what kid doesn’t want to run and chase after something/someone when they find a wide open space outside?

As a grown up (or so I’m called) there is less of a desire to play that game of tag. However the chase involved in that game doesn’t seem to go away. Maybe the chase doesn’t include chasing people (although it sometimes does), there are still plenty of things that we just instinctively chase after.

The game of tag for adults looks like this: If life is an open field like in the game of tag, there are plenty of things to chase after. For some it may be a dream, a job, a goal. Some people still choose to chase after people, but when you grow we often call that ‘dating.’ For many the future seems pretty scary, but at least it’s something to chase after, something that makes us not give up on the present.

Then you add God into this picture. What does the game of tag look like when it comes to God? Some say in order to have a fulfilling relationship with God we must chase after Him. But the idea that we must chase after God gives us the impression that God is running from us.

Maybe it’s more like this…

In life we long to chase after something… sometimes anything… That’s how God made us. Perhaps God’s intention for us to chase after something is what the journey of faith is all about. God didn’t want us to be complacent couch potatoes. He gave us desires, dreams, and goals. He wants us to see a bigger picture than where we are at right now. But chasing after things and goals isn’t enough.  We are only truly fulfilled when we choose to chase after God. (Not in the way that God is running from us, but that we are choosing him over all of the other things we could be chasing after.) When you chase after him all of the other things just seem to fall into place.

For some reason we think if we choose to chase after God we are going to be missing out on better parts of life. We aren’t going to be able to chase after those dreams and desires that ‘we’ want. But don’t forget, God has this all figured out.

He knows our dreams and desires… He actually knows them better than we do. And He knows that those things can only be fully accomplished when we are chasing after Him.

God has been teaching me that when thing’s are hard- chase after Him. When things are unclear- chase after Him. When you can’t see what’s ahead of you- chase after Him. When you are stuck in a rut- chase after Him. When in doubt- chase after Him.

 

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Waiting… ugh!

January 18, 2014

I don’t like to wait. Sometimes I don’t think it’s so bad, but when I step back and look at how many times a day I am waiting (and unhappy about waiting) I’m reminded of my impatience. 

-Waiting at a red light

-Waiting in the line at the store

-Waiting for the gas pump to fill up my car

-Waiting for the snow to stop so I can shovel my driveway again

-Waiting for an internet page to load

-Waiting for my next appointment

-Waiting for weekend plans

-Waiting for the ice to thaw off my car

-Waiting for food at a restaurant

-Waiting for warm weather

Wow, that’s a lot of waiting! I think of myself as a pretty patient person. I work with kids. Doesn’t that require a lot of patience? But when I look at the list above, there isn’t one thing listed that I’m comfortable waiting for. 

These are supposed to be the simple things in life. If I can’t wait on the small elements of life, how in the world am I going to wait when I have something big before me? 

I’m thinking of…

-having a small bank account-and waiting for the day you stress less about it.

-having a baby, and waiting for the nine months.

-being sick and waiting to be healed.

-waiting on God’s plan for the next step in life.

-waiting on a storm of life to pass.

Those daily moments of waiting are more like practice for the big things. I read a Scripture this morning that says: ‘Behold this is our GOd; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’

That caught me off guard. I know waiting on God requires patience, and I’m reminded of the other components that are vitally important- trust and joy. When I’m waiting, I’m thinking… thinking a lot- thinking about if God is taking too long, if maybe He gave me the answer already and I should spend time thinking about what that may be, or analyzing what I can do to make God give me His answer faster. Sometimes I even wonder if God is going to make me wait forever. This verse reminds me that when we wait for God (and wait without the baggage) we know that He will save us and that everything will work out. While we’re waiting (and not fretting or clenching our teeth with impatience) we are filled with joy. Because we know when the waiting is over, we’ll be filled with joy seeing God’s faithfulness. 

I’m remembering God’s faithfulness. I’m remembering the joy I’ve experienced in the past after long waits. I’m trusting… and trying not to fret. And I’m firmly believing that even though waiting stinks… the best is yet to come.