I must start this post with a disclaimer. I have always loved a great women’s event. I don’t get away often, but when I do...I purpose to have a great time. I find myself re-energized by the insightful conversations and inspired by the spontaneous laughter that erupts from just being among great company.
This past weekend, I had plans to go to a women’s conference with one of my closest friends. A few months ago when we made these plans, I was really excited. But after a busy fall schedule - full of school and church activities...I found myself more tired than usual. Then Philip admitted he was disappointed I was going away because it was our first “marching-band-free” weekend, and the joy fizzled out of my plans.
Friday morning arrived. Philip and I decided to run at 5 AM. Yes, I know you are thinking we are crazy. I am still undecided how I feel about these early morning runs. If you drive by me and I look like I am dying...I am. Honk and wave because I may need an extra pick-me-up. A few hours later, I drove 3 hours in torrential rain. When I got to the event, I had to park a good distance away from the building. By the time I finally sat in my seat, I was grumpy, exhausted, cold, and wet.
Throughout the sessions Friday, I was at war with myself. It was hard to enter into worship. I was painfully uncomfortable and I couldn’t engage. Instead, my cold body became the focus. I was praying for God to touch my heart and to end my grumpiness but the joy never came. To clarify...I absolutely loved being with my friend and it had nothing to do with her. It was all me and I knew it.
That night we went to our room and I was wiped. Usually we laugh and joke until the wee hours of the morning. This time...my eyes closed by 11.
Saturday morning came crashing through. My phone alarm seemed like a distant dream. I opened my eyes and within a few minutes, I determined I was going to get every ounce of whatever God wanted to speak to me that day. I was going to engage in worship and write down every last word I felt pertained to my life.
During the sessions on Saturday, I was still uncomfortable. I was still sitting in the back, still crowded in, and the vent was still blowing cold air on me (I brought mittens) but I was determined and set to hear, engage, and participate.
It was a good day. My spirit was revived by the powerful messages and the intimate worship. I am not going to fabricate more than what was there...it wasn’t a "knock my socks off" kind of morning. Instead, it was a gentle whisper that He was forever with me and that I was to keep moving forward.
I didn’t need an earth shattering message. Honestly, I didn’t need a conference to feel closer to Jesus. His gentle whisper during times of cooperate worship draws me to Him in a way I can’t describe. It isn’t about how loud I sing or even if I sing at all...it is about being intentional and putting aside everything else, including my own comfort, to be a part of a gathering of lovely women completely focused on worshiping him.
Driving home from the conference, thankfully minus the rain, I decided to learn a new song that we will be playing in service next week, Hallelujah Here Below by, Elevation Worship. The second verse rocks my soul...
Ten thousand angels surround your throne
To bring you praise that will never cease
But hallelujah from here below
Is still Your favorite melody
Does it truly get any better than this? He is the creator of heaven and earth...and He still loves to hear my feeble attempts to worship Him. Kim Walker-Smith this weekend described worship like this, “Worship is God pouring His love out on us and us responding back.”
I am so thankful God pours His love out over me every day. His love was showering down on me just as much on Friday as it was on Saturday. The difference was...Saturday morning I was ready to respond back.
Living Completely Undone
LEADERS WHO PARTY TOGETHER, STAY TOGETHER.
Let me first define “the party.” A party is any and every time a group of people get together in order to have fun. Fun is the goal. There isn't a defined ministry purpose, Bible study, or time of reflection. The only thing on the agenda for the evening is to smile and have a good time.
Who says that only the world knows how to define a good time? For 29 years I have been a believer and a part of several leadership teams. The teams where I grew the most, had the most fun, and formed the healthiest relationships were the ones who intentionally took time to have fun together.
Ministry is work. We have great days and amazing seasons. Then there are the “other” ministry days we hope to forget or seasons we pray to end. Ministry can become a drain and isolation is the enemy’s playground for our fears and doubts to take root and grow.
There is a lot of sweat that goes into creating an atmosphere for ministry to happen. 90% of the work goes unseen or unnoticed. As a team player, how do we prevent burnout? How do we shepherd and guide a team through dark ministry days and doubt?
Throw a party. Yes, you read that right. P-A-R-T-Y! Everyone loves one. Everyone wants to be invited. Everyone wants to be included.
But wait...what if we forget someone? What if someone feels excluded? Tell them to join the team and they can come to the next one. Then make sure to throw the next party with tons of fun and amazing food.
SERVE IT AND THEY WILL COME.
Cook it. Buy it. Solicit your friends. Do whatever it takes to get some tasty treats and then invite your team. Get some paper plates and cups, make some coffee, and enjoy your friends. Get to know someone new and if someone is struggling…pray for them right then and there. Don’t gather everyone around. Just pray. You and them. Be intentional. Be available.
This is church and we are missing it. The lost are looking in our windows and they see our programs and our services and they wonder why should they give up their only morning to sleep in to go somewhere to sit alone. They do that all week in their cubicle. The church has to offer something different.
When Philip and I first met, we were part of an amazing and imperfect leadership team. Some of my hardest ministry days happened with that team. My heart was broken and restored and then broken again. I learned how to treat people and how not to treat people. I rode the highs and lows of 10 years of ministry in that church. I honestly thought I was going to stay there until I died, but God had other plans for our family.
When I look back on that leadership team and the relationships that were formed in that place, one thing stands out more than anything else…we had so much fun. We laughed and joked. We went to dinner together. We regularly had barbecues, picnics, Christmas parties, and retreats. We told stories. I knew those people better than anyone else. They became family.
We worked hard. We stayed up late and got there early. It was in those days, Philip and I learned how to prefer others, work out differences, and apologize unconditionally. We learned how to do life and we learned that ministry was life-giving and a joy to be a part of.
Even though it has been 12 years since we moved, some of my closest friends today come from that leadership team. When we get together, we still talk about things that happened and the events that changed our lives. We laugh about our crazy pastor and how much he loved Christmas. We joke about playing Christmas carols on kazoos and things our kids did when they thought no one was looking. These memories shaped me as a young woman in the church. I fell in love with ministry and I fell in love with our team (even the ones that I occasionally fought with).
Was that team perfect? No. Life is messy and so is church. No church is going to give me everything I want. A church will and should give me opportunities to connect with God and to others…and to have fun.
So if you and your team are struggling and feeling blue, take a leap and throw a party. Cheesecake is always a hit and when people ask if they can bring something say, “Yes, whatever you would like to bring.” No need to be a martyr.
Then put on some lipstick, let down your hair, and look people in the eye and show them that they matter to you. Even more…that they matter to Jesus.
And that is how you throw a PARTY.
Karaoke is just a bonus, but not necessary.
Living Completely Undone
I have always been a talker. I apologize to anyone I have ever said anything to that was offensive. It really wasn’t my intent; it just took me 35 years to figure out that “Loose Lips Sinks Ships.”
Occasionally, I remember a situation or something I have said and I silently sigh and roll my eyes. There have been times my husband asks me what I am thinking. He will say, “You just breathed heavy.” My reply, “I just thought of something stupid I said.” His reply, “When?”
In other words, this is a typical conversation in our home and he no longer tries to help me feel better about the situation. Sometimes we laugh about it, although that lightens my modification, it does not eliminate it.
I can remember telling Todd in Kindergarten that I built Frosty the Snowman and he came to life. Good grief! Not even a good lie.
I can remember making fun of a kid named Dusty in the 8th grade. I was the poor chubby kid, I had no right on so many levels.
I can remember dumb things I said in high school and college. I wouldn’t even know which example I could throw your way since there are so many to choose from.
My mouth has been my biggest obstacle and yet when my words are used well, it is my best asset.
I identify myself as a woman of many words. Truly, there is no better definition. I just absolutely, totally, completely love words, both spoken and written.
Last week, I was asked to speak at the local Moms Next. It was a great morning and I walked away knowing I connected with women from my community. It felt like a perfect fit.
This weekend, I had the opportunity to be on a Mother’s Day Panel at church and I loved every minute of it. I loved coming up with the questions, deciding on the best chairs to use, finding the perfect pink bows (that honestly no one saw because we were sitting on the chairs, but I knew they were there), and hosting the panel. Today, I feel energized because I know God was with us and allowed all five of us to share parts of our own parenting stories to encourage other women.
This afternoon, I was watching a service from Church of the Highlands in Alabama. Pastor Chris Hodges was talking about how the Holy Spirit gives us gifts that enable us to make a difference. He shared how he was on a completely different path in his younger years and had no intention of being a pastor. Now he is the lead pastor of the largest church in Alabama and one of the largest in our nation. He said that he isn’t proud of what God has done in the church, he is amazed. He said, “I was made for this.”
That is how I feel today. Truly, I was made for this. I was made for ministry. I was created to be a woman of many words, not so I can speak my mind, but so I can speak his heart. I am not the best speaker out there. I can tell you all my flaws and all my habits that drive me nuts both in my writing and my speaking, but I am the best at telling my story. In fact, there isn’t anyone out there that is as good at being me…as me.
And when it comes to using words…I got this!
What is it dear friend that God has given you? What gift has he placed within you so that you can make a difference? Are you managing that gift well?
To be honest, I sometimes hit it out of the park and other times I hide under the bleachers. The enemy of my soul wants me to question who God has created me to be. Jesus is right there with me whispering that he knows I can do it, he believes in me, and he will never leave me.
He feels the same way about you.
So let’s leap towards what we were made for…and come alive in him. Let us throw everything off that hinders us from running our race. Pursue who God has created you to be and don’t stop until you find it. Don’t stop until you can say, “I was made for this.”
I am a girl passionately in love with Jesus, my husband, and my children. I am forever learning how to live a life completely undone for my God. This blog is about my journey and a few funny stories in between.