Welcome!

I'm so glad you stopped by! What you will find here are musings from my own personal Bible study, quotes from authors whose work I respect and other random items I come across. I am a Christian woman, the wife of a pastor, and the mother of four teenagers/adults. My deepest desire in life is to live a life that points those around me to the cross of Jesus.



Thursday, July 05, 2012

I'm Moving!!

I'm in the process of attempting to get a little more "blog-focused" and (for a variety of reasons that would bore you!) I am moving the blog to Wordpress.  I'll continue to share my updates on Facebook so hopefully you can still read what catches your eye!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Taking a Dare!

I know from conversations that I am not the only blog writer who occasionally draws a blank when trying to come up with material for a new blog entry. Besides this blog, I also keep a personal journal for those things that are not meant for consumption by the general public.  In an attempts to "build community" with other bloggers - specifically other blogging moms - I am a member of a website called "Bloggy Moms" and they have decided to do  something that I think is kind of fun - they are issuing one writing prompt each day for 2012.  I'm a little late to the party but having read through some of the samples, I think this could be interesting!  So here goes.


In today's prompt, I'm supposed to write about something I persevered through.  I can't really choose one specific thing.  Partly because I don't know if others would agree that what I dealt with required perseverance.  Partly because there are some things I've persevered through that belong in my private journal, not on the web.

I'm currently going through something that's going to require some perseverance.  What's waiting on the other side will lead to some very positive things, the most important of which is the strengthening of a relationship.  To get there, though, I have to confront some things about myself that are not necessarily pleasant, choose to change some behaviors that are a negative influence, and enter into some conversations that need to be handled very gently.

Do I have what it takes to persevere?  Maybe.  I got married and had my first child while still in college but managed to finish my education, getting my degree and never taking so much as a semester off.  Some might say that is perseverance.  I have a family member who is a recovering addict and we managed to rebuild a healthy relationship after he got clean.  Definitely some perseverance required there.

But do I have what it takes to make some needed changes, to confront some of my own shortcomings and try to make improvements?  I'd like to think so.  I know I want this more than I've wanted anything else and some baby steps have been taken with a very positive outcome.  I guess only time will tell.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

No More Turning a Blind Eye

Imagine a culture where sons are expected to spend time in a monastery after each family death so that he can "make merit" and earn a life cycle in heaven for the deceased.  Those same sons are not expected to be loyal fathers or husbands and the law does not protect the wives and children that they frequently, with little or no excuse, walk out on.

What about the daughters?  They are expected to be the responsible ones, to provide for their parents as mom and dad age.  They can either bring the family prestige by fulfilling their familial duty, or they can bring the family shame by failing to provide.  No pressure!



Imagine this - a man decides he's bored with marriage and walks out, leaving a wife and children behind. If she's lucky, the jilted wife has a 12th grade education.  It's more likely that her education is 9th grade or lower and she has absolutely no marketable skills so a job is going to be difficult to find.  In desperation, she and her children return to the village of her youth and move in with her parents.  Not only is she not providing for them, they are now having to take care of her and her offspring.  This is the ultimate in shame. 


Now let's imagine in that same village that there is a family who has a home with cement walls instead of wood and a tin roof instead of thatch, all of it provided by their daughter who is away in the big city.  This responsible young woman sends money and gifts home on a regular basis - even things like household appliances! - and has even come to visit once bringing with her a handsome, wealthy foreign man who was seen in the bar buying rounds for everyone.  This is a family that takes great pride in how well their daughter is providing for them.  She is a good daughter and brings honor to her parents.


The abandoned young woman is desperate to provide for her family so lavishly and turn their shame to pride.  So she does what the other dutiful daughter did and heads to the big city to get a job in the bar.  Her work responsibilities are simple and she knows exactly what she is getting into.  She needs to convince the men at the bar to buy her drinks (she has a monthly quota to fill) and she must convince a few of them to pay a $20 fee to the bar so that they can enjoy her company after hours (another monthly quota).  During her shift, she dances on a stage in a string bikini.  This is a woman from a culture that values modesty and she's probably never even worn shorts in public before this and now she is displaying her body in a string bikini.  At an appointed time each night, she is ordered to remove her top.  The customers are supposed to tip her $40 after she has rendered the expected services.  If she makes her quotas and her customers tip her appropriately, a woman can make as much as $3,000 a month, most of which she sends home to her family who can then hold their heads up high because they have a "good" daughter.

I wish this was fiction, believe me. I wish that I wasn't telling you about the actual cultural situation in Thailand.  This weekend, while attending a women's conference, I had the honor of hearing Annie Dieselberg speak.  She and her husband Jeff and their kids are missionaries with the  American Baptist Churches to Bangkok, Thailand.  Their focus is getting the women out of these deplorable working situations.  But merely getting these women out of prostitution isn't enough.  After all, they need to provide for their parents, remember?



NightLight ministries provides jobs, benefits, free child care, job training classes, leadership classes, Bible classes and a chance to make more than minimum wage and provide for their families.  No, it isn't the $3,000 a month they would make prostituting themselves.  But it provides far more dignity and self-respect!

Lest you think this is a problem in another part of the world,  NightLight has two branches here in the states - Los Angeles, California and Atlanta, Georgia.  The fact that they are here in the states screams a truth that breaks my heart because their mission is the nearly the same as the NightLight "branch" in Thailand - rescuing women from sexual slavery.  True, the women here in the U.S. don't usually walk into the situation with their eyes wide open like their counterparts in Bangkok.  But the degradation and hopelessness is every bit as real.  



Yes, human beings are being trafficked right here in the U.S.  And I can't simply sit back and feign ignorance.  I can't "unlearn" what I learned this weekend and I have to get involved somehow.  Relocating to one of the cities where NightLight is currently working is simply not realistic.  But I have to find a way to get involved.  In my heart, it would be absolutely unacceptable to know what I know and do nothing.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

"Our" Home

A young lady I know posted a statement on her Facebook tonight that did me a world of good.  She was referring to the fun that some of the kids in our Youth Group had hanging out at our house tonight after their weekly Bible Study and she said she loved hanging out at "our" house.


I have talked about our new home in previous blog posts.  I love it!  It's old and has it's quirks but I knew from the first time that we walked through it that this house was meant to be ours.  I know from conversations with family members that I'm not the only one who feels that way.  No, it's not in the nicest neighborhood.  Then again, I'm not sure we're an "upscale, posh" neighborhood kind of family.  


Hubby took his first youth ministry in January 1993 and from that point on one or both of us have been employed in a field that put us in contact with teenagers. As our own kids grew into their teenage years, that just meant a wider pool of teenagers for us to get to know.  Because of the jobs hubby and I held and our own kids, our homes have known a fairly steady stream of teens. This new house seems to attract them in even larger numbers with more regular consistency than our previous home.  My hope has been that it would be a place that kids felt safe to be themselves.  I wanted them to feel welcome to forage for snacks, pop a DVD in, find a television show, whatever!  


After reading the statement I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my first thought was 'my job is done here.' And I told her that!  I was reminded of two very important "quotes" that I hold near and dear to my heart.  The first comes from the pen of Forest Witcraft - "A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank...but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child."


The other important truth comes from scripture.  In Mark 9:36 & 37 we read, "He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”  Granted, teenagers are not "little children" but I'm sure that the principle still applies.  So I'll deal with the extra dirty dishes and the food vanishing a little faster than I expect.  If it makes one teen who is not biologically mine feel safe in my home then I'm happy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Truth be told . . .

As a teacher, I consistently run into people who assume that I only work with high school, middle school or college age students out of duress.  The looks I get when I assure them that I enjoy students in Middle School through College are pretty priceless.  It's as though I've suddenly grown a third eye or sprouted a horn out of my forehead.  And then I simply compound the issue by telling the person that I find it laborious to work with students below about 5th grade.  It's not that I don't enjoy one-on-one time with younger kids - I adored that time with my own four children and continue to do so with the niece and nephews- but large groups of students in the early elementary age-group is absolutely exhausting for me whereas large groups of students from middle school up is exhilarating!

What truly breaks my heart is the fact that it's almost unacceptable for me to say that I do not necessarily enjoy working with classrooms full of elementary students.  But when people say that they don't enjoy working with teens or pre-teens, that's completely understandable.  Why is that?  Do teens need less encouragement or support from the adults around them?  Definitely not.  Are they challenging to deal with?  Absolutely!!  They are starting to develop the ability to voice opinions that differ from the adults they know and they aren't always polite when doing so.

My experience has proven time and time again that teenagers not only enjoy meeting challenges, they also love to hear that the adults who work with them -teachers, coaches, directors in performing arts activities, etc. - are proud of the work they've done.  And let's be honest - their age and physical ability make them capable of more complex activities than their elementary counterparts.

Truth be told, I have a deep respect and admiration for teachers who work with elementary age students (mostly because I have absolutely no idea how they do it!).  As for me, I will continue to enjoy working with teenagers.  I will continue to set the bar high for them and let them know just how crazy proud I am when they exceed my expectations.  If I can convince just one teenager that there is an adult that cares about them, I will consider my life a success.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Holding on To the Truth

I do not feel obligated to keep people as Facebook friends.  I know, I know.  For many people the goal of Facebook is to see just how many "friends" they can have.  But I have been known to clean house occasionally, removing friends that I no longer encounter or have reason to chat with via the internet.  And on a few occasions, I have been known to get rid of Facebook connections when those people start becoming a detriment to my thoughts or my perspective on life.


I just recently went through the latter experience.  This person has had a VERY rough few years. But this person has allowed some really horrid experiences to make her a very bitter person.  She sees nothing good in her own life and does her best to make sure that no one else sees anything good in their own existence.  We hadn't chatted in quite some time and for some reason she just realized that we had left Pennsylvania and were living in Iowa.  She asked what I was up to career-wise and when I mentioned that I have a collection of part-time or seasonal jobs her reaction was laced with venom - "Well you're everyone's lackey aren't you!  Always taking orders from everyone!"  Actually, she used a much more "colorful" word than lackey but I won't put it in print!


There is much about my work situation that I love - working with teens and college students in the theater world, teaching at the collegiate level, etc. - but it can get exhausting at those times of the year when I'm running hard and fast with more than one of my part-time jobs.  Would I like a little more "control" in the workplace?  Maybe.  But with more control comes more responsibility and that can be annoying.  


Prior to speaking with her, I saw no reason to be dissatisfied with my work situation.  Yes, more money would be nice, but I love the jobs I work which is always as important (or more important) than money.  But after her little dig, I started doubting everything. With little effort, I started finding negative with each work situation I encounter.  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit provided me with some really positive experiences in one of those jobs and it quickly reminded me why I am doing what I am doing.  


The "friend" I mentioned before kept our Facebook conversation going, taking every opportunity to shred my sense of contentment.  So I deleted her.  She didn't take it well, sending me a Facebook message telling me that she was simply trying to push me to try to "make something of my life."  She went on to say that she understood that I might not like what she had to say but "sometimes the truth hurts".  What she didn't understand was she has no clue what the truth is about my life.


She commented that I had musical and theatrical talent and should be using it for something more meaningful than working with some small-town community college and podunk high school.  My skill, according to her, is being wasted if I do anything with it other than perform.


The truth?  I have former students who STILL call me mom and have stayed in touch for years.  They occasionally seek my counsel or kindly accept it even when they don't ask!  I have numerous friends with whom I have shared performance experiences that are a great source of encouragement to me and make sure to offer a sincere "break a leg" each time they know a show that I am involved with is taking the stage.  I have colleagues that treat me with respect and make coming to work every day a joy.  


If all I leave behind me is a legacy of students who know that somebody cares about them, I'm fine with that.  Despite what my former Facebook friend thinks, that will definitely mean that I have "made something of my life."

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Confession Time

I want more than what I am willing to give.  In other words, I'm selfish.  Shouldn't be a news flash.  I'm human and humans are inherently selfish.  Don't believe me?  Watch any toddler at her first play date.  She will knock another child over to keep a toy to herself.  It doesn't even have to be her favorite toy. 


I watched a child once walk around with a plastic box full of his favorite toys.  He wasn't playing with any of them, he just didn't want the other little boy that was there to play with them.  What he didn't get is the fact that his desire to keep the toys from the other child meant that he wasn't having any fun either!


I want grace extended to me when I screw up.  Whether it's a confession made in the privacy of prayer time where I am simply asking for God's forgiveness and grace or a face-to-face apology to another person that I have wronged, my purpose is always to obtain forgiveness, grace, and restoration.


So one would think that my desire to be forgiven would lead me to willingly, eagerly forgive others when they have wronged me.  Makes sense, right?  Unfortunately, my selfishness extends even to my willingness to forgive others. I am aware that humans will occasionally do things to hurt others and will need to be forgiven. In my selfishness, I want others to screw up less often - or at least in ways that effect me less! - so that I am not called on to extend as much grace as I ask for.


It's a tough lesson to learn.  Forgiving is scary!  We don't like letting people off the hook if they've hurt us.  But forgiveness isn't just about the other person.  Yes, you will occasionally forgive others who continue hurtful behavior.  Sometimes you might even find yourself having to forgive someone who doesn't even admit they've done anything wrong much less seek your forgiveness.  


But forgiveness is necessary.  It keeps us from nursing grudges or seeking revenge.  Ever met someone who can't forgive a wrong suffered in their past? Are they fun to be around? In my experience, not usually!!  They tend to be so angry that they can't let go of the hurt long enough to fully enjoy anything!


So my challenge to myself is to forgive quickly; especially in those moments where forgiveness isn't sought by the "offender".  The clincher for me is the portion of the Lord's prayer which states "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us".  Do I really want God to base his forgiveness of me on how I forgive others?  Do you?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tired and Blessed!

I should start by apologizing for the stretch of silence. We purchased a house and the work was finally done (remodeled kitchen, paint in nearly every room) and last week was moving week.  We have been sleeping in the house since Saturday night and it's Monday morning as I type this. If you've ever moved, you know that two days after a move I still have boxes in multiple places, nothing is hanging on the walls, and I seem to spend quite a bit of time standing in rooms wondering which project to tackle first!!  The good news is my kitchen is nearly completely settled, the bathroom is completely settled and our bedroom is one box away from being settled in!  So we can eat, get ready in the morning and have a place to sleep.  My kids are taking care of their rooms (love having teenagers who can pack and unpack their own stuff!) and hubby is  working on getting the supplies together for purposes of getting all the wall items hung!


Now that my excuse for not posting is out of the way, today is all about gratitude.  From the very beginning of this move, I have been surrounded by a church family more than willing to go out of it's way to help out.  The loan to purchase the house came from the church.  The house, a repossession that had been sitting empty for 2 1/2 years,  was assessed at about 69,000 and we were able to get it for around 43,000.  The church loaned us an amount that was nearly the assessed value so we could put new paint on most of the walls and completely remodel the kitchen.  Hubby did most of the physical labor on the kitchen, gutting it to the wall studs, putting in drywall, laying the new floor tile and painting the walls.  Hubby had friends from church help install the cupboards and the counter tops. Again, these men were giving of their own time in the evenings.  Choosing a day to move was made very interesting by the fact that I have something going on with nearly every Saturday in April filled with activities for me.  We decided that the 14th was the best choice because I would still be in town and could answer the occasional question.  So hubby rounded up help, reserved a truck and we got busy filling boxes.  A couple from our church showed up to help him steam clean the carpets on the main floor (they needed it!) and make them look new!  That same couple blessed us with a housewarming gift - a new Weber charcoal grill (hubby had been wanting to replace his gas grill) that was then used to grill burgers and feed the movers.  Again, that same couple did the leg work behind getting food donated and the burgers made.


I mentioned to someone that I intend to hold an "open house" type party for our church once the house is settled in.  They looked at me strangely and asked, "Why?"  I realized that this person would never understand how much my church family has blessed me.  They would never fully grasp that what I've been given is more than just a house - it's a definite display of their desire for us to feel like we are fully a part of the community. The fact that my husband was able to get help when I was not able to be there (directing a Spring musical with the high school ties up my nights!) meant the world to me.  I've even had offers to come help unpack boxes and get settled in!  If their intention with the help they've offered is to make us feel loved, mission accomplished!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reminder to Myself

I keep forgetting one very important issue - obedience is not about immediate gratification or making life "fun" in the short run.  This is true whether we are discussing a child obeying a parent, an employer obeying company policy, or a Jesus follower obeying the teachings found in Scripture.  But obedience will always lead to greater joy down the road.  We may not always acknowledge it as such but it is true nevertheless.


When a parent tells a child not to touch the pan on the stove, they are not trying to stifle the child's curiosity.  They are trying to keep the child safe from harm.  When my children were young, I was constantly having to tell one of my girls not to pull on the cord to my curling iron.  Did she listen?  Nope.  And, yes, she pulled it off the sink one day.  Thank God it wasn't on and she merely bonked herself in the forehead.  It startled her and it hurt so she cried a bit.  At her young age, she didn't understand how much worse it could have been but I did and I was grateful that it was only a bruise and not a burn!  Interestingly enough, she never pulled on that cord again!  She understood that pulling on that cord meant pain.  Mom wasn't trying to ruin her fun, she was trying to keep her safe!


It's tougher to convince kids of the importance of obedience when dealing with concepts like honesty and self-control.  But when a teacher makes a statement about the fact that he or she is trusting a certain student with a certain responsibility because that student can be trusted, the lesson starts to hit home a bit.


In case you haven't guessed, I'm at a place in my personal walk where I am having to choose whether or not to obey.  What I'm being called to obey doesn't really matter.  The truth is, I don't see "an immediate payoff" for obeying and I'm as prone to seeking instant gratification as the next person!  But I'm certain that obedience will lead to peace in a particular area of my life not so much for me but for others.  In all honesty, it may lead to some inner turmoil for me as I obey and wait to see if it bites me in the rear!  But I'm not called to take the easy way out, seek my own comfort, or do what makes me the happiest.  I'm called to obey.  Just like my children may not like obeying an instruction I give them, I sometimes don't like what I am called to do.  I would ask my children to trust that I have their best interest at heart in my instruction and I am POSITIVE that my Heavenly Father is all about building my intimacy with him.  The wise woman would obey even when it gets tough. The choice is mine - will I obey even when it's hard or will I choose to cut my losses and do what's easy?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Prayer from a Mother's Heart

Father - 


You loved her before I knew she ever existed and you love her more perfectly than I will ever be capable of.  I know she was only meant to live in my home for a time and in my heart forever.  The time has come for her to spread her wings and fly, putting into practice what she has learned during her years in my home.  


I'll miss her.  I mean, I'm not heartless!  But I can honestly say that I trust you completely to go before her and surround her with your love.  I've heard it said that becoming a mother means letting a piece of your heart walk around outside of your body and it's true.  It's not easy to let her go, but it is the right thing to do!


So I'm asking you to get her to San Antonio safely AND get my husband home again safely!  I'm asking for you to be unbelievably real and present in her experiences there.  I'm asking you to stretch her, to grow her, to challenge her, to draw her close to you.  Be her confidante, her strength, her support, her most faithful companion.  


Thank you for what you have already done in and through her and I'm excited to see what you have for her in the South!



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Piece of My Heart is Missing

I was raised by parents and grandparents who lived the truth that sometimes family isn't really about biology at all.  At a VERY young age I went from being the only child in the family to the youngest of 11!!  My parents became house parents for Navajo Missions, Inc. and that meant 10 foster siblings, all of them part of Dineh ("the people" - what we white folk refer to as Navajo!).  I didn't look anything like them, but they were suddenly family.  My grandparents were always opening their home for people to stay - travelling missionaries, a single teacher fresh out of college needing room and board, they welcomed anyone and everyone.  


My parents never came right out and said that we should care about everyone and not get hung up on their appearance.  But they lived it so loudly it couldn't be ignored!  As a result, I have several former students who have been unofficially adopted as "my kids" and I have welcomed numerous exchange students into my heart as extended family!  I have a "daughter" now in London and another in Moldova.  I have "niece" from Russia who is travelling the world as a model.  Yes, a model!  I have several "sisters" from Germany, Finland, the Republic of Georgia . . . and more!  And in case you are wondering, the quotation marks I used were for your benefit, not mine.  I consider those young ladies family every bit as much as my biological kin!


That brings me to the newest member of my family.  Arini.  I haven't met her. Haven't even spoken to her.  But she is family nonetheless!  She is the child I am sponsoring through Compassion International.  Her full name is Aprilini but her family - me included! - calls her Arini.  She is going to be five on April 25 and she has completely stolen a piece of my heart.  I may never see her this side of glory.  But I am praying every bit as fervently for the state of her eternal soul as I do for my biological children.


Shameless commercial plug - it takes only $38 dollars a month to become a hero to a needy child.  I know, I know, it would be nice if we could take care of the needy children here in our country too!  But it would definitely take more than $38 a month and I don't think I have those kind of funds available!!  According to the literature from Compassion, I am Arini's only sponsor and it is this sponsorship that will make sure she is able to go to school (once she is old enough!) as well as providing access to medical care, English classes, even sports activities and choir!  


So what's stopping you?!  Go to the Compassion website (I've included a link to help!) and start investigating.  You can find a child that shares a birthday with a family member, ask to sponsor the child who has been waiting the longest for a sponsor, or simply look at the photos of children in need until one of them steals a piece of your heart - like Arini did to me!  You are encouraged to write to them regularly and you will get at least three letters back a year. (And you can write your letters to them electronically via the website - I'm becoming a letter writing fiend!) You can have the sponsorship payment automatically charged to your debit card and you can even send financial gifts that will be turned into a birthday gift from their sponsor.  There is also the option to send a gift to the family that will be used to purchase much needed household items - blankets, cooking pots, etc..  And of course you can send Christmas gifts!  


Jesus told his disciples that when we do good to "the least of these", it's as though we are doing it to him.  I know that I'm only helping one girl in one small town on the other side of the world.  But it's a start!


To get more information go to http://www.compassion.com/default.htm

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

Seasons

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:"  In the following verses, the writer goes on to talk about specific seasons or "times" in life - laughing and crying, gathering and scattering, etc.  


Life is full of seasons - childhood, teen years, young adulthood, dating, marriage, parenting small children, parenting teens . . . you get the idea!  My oldest child is moving 17 hours away to seek job opportunities in San Antonio Texas!!  My baby sister lives down there so it's not like I'm sending her into the great unknown with absolutely no one!  My sister already has a lead on at least one job possibility; we'll see where it goes from there!


So here comes a new "season" in my life.  Of my four children only two are left in high school - one is a junior the other is a freshman.  I know it sounds cliche, but it really does seem like they were all too young for schools just a week ago!  


So, on Wednesday, my oldest daughter will be leaving my home and moving on to try her wings in the south. People keep making comments like "That's so sad!" or "How tough for you!" and I'm not really sure how to respond.  Will I miss her?  Duh!!! Of course I will miss her!  Do I think it's tragic that she's leaving?! Nope.  I love all of my kids more than anyone can possibly understand.  But this is a season that's supposed to come!  I will miss her and am VERY grateful for things like Skype and Facebook that will allow us to stay in touch.  But it's time for her to test her wings and see what the world holds for her.  That season has arrived and the best thing I can do is prayerfully step into it, rejoicing in what is to come!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Trust Rewarded

I have been feeling a nudge for some time to state, aloud, to myself and God that I would not teach a face to face class at the college this summer.  That doesn't seem like a big deal, but the class that I taught last summer paid for our family vacation.  But the class also complicated my life when it came to running Take 2 Summer Youth Theater.  I'm convinced and convicted that I am to give the best of my time and effort to Take 2 this summer.


So I did it.  On the way to the college this morning, I stated, out-loud, that I would trust God to provide for our travel funds (we're hoping to go to see my sister and her family in Texas!) in a way other than a face to face class.  When I got to the campus, I checked my e-mail and discovered that my dean had sent me an e-mail about an hour and a half before my verbalized commitment.  In the e-mail, she asked me if I would be interested in teaching 2 FlexNet classes.  These are classes that do not have a set time to meet and exist completely online.  In other words, I can make the class schedule (grading, etc) work around the rest of my life this summer.


I surrendered the option of teaching one face to face class and God handed me the chance at TWICE the number of flexible classes!  Talk about trust rewarded!

Monday, March 05, 2012

What is an Intercessor?

As someone who has grown up in the church, there are certain terms you hear often enough that you assume you understand what they mean.  Or you at least know how to use them in context!  The phrase "intercessory prayer" is a good example.  I've used it and heard it used enough that I've felt that I had a handle on what it meant.  Lately, I've begun to wonder.  There has been an undeniable pull from the Spirit to get critically serious about interceding for a very specific group of young people from our church youth group.  


This conviction has also tugged at an "on-again-off-again" personal study I've been working on regarding prayer.  Rather than simply collecting generic thoughts/concepts/applications of prayer from my search of scripture this recent pull has given me some very specific direction.  


So join me as I journey through scripture and see what I can learn about interceding in prayer for others in a very specific, Spirit-driven way!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Fueled by Passion

In the movie, "Chariots of Fire," Olympic runner Eric Liddell states, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."  The story, as I understand it, was that Liddell's sister was concerned that running in the Olympic games would distract Eric from his faith.  His statement is meant to reassure her that his running is actually a part of his faith journey.  Strange, right?  Running as an exercise of faith?  Then again, maybe it's not so strange after all.

I firmly believe that I was designed.  I didn't just happen.  My talents and personalities were placed in my being intentionally by a God who takes a personal interest in my growth and development as well as how I use the talents and abilities he's given me.  Psalm 139:13-14 says "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."  

I have been knit together.  I don't knit but I have tried my hand at crochet and I absolutely LOVE to cross-stitch.  I know from personal experience that such handicrafts take a very personal, intimate touch. The use of that mental image - of a hands-on involvement in the design - is powerful for me.  Part of the knitting that put me together included a passion for the performing arts, specifically music and theater.  I began playing piano at 4 1/2 years of age.  It's so much a part of who I am that I cannot imagine ever giving it up.  I began singing at a young age as well.  And I feel completely at home in the theater whether it's on the stage, sitting in the pit, or acting as director.  I especially enjoy having the chance to work with young people from middle school through college.

And I ABSOLUTELY get Liddell's statement.  God didn't make me fast but he did make me musical.  The last few weeks have been crazy busy as I've been playing in the pit for A Chorus Line at the local Community College as well as teaching part-time at the college and working at the High School part time.  That has occasionally meant 15 hour days.  And I've been completely energized by the experience.  I serve as the accompanist for the choral department at the local high school and serve as the Assistant Director for the Spring musical (which starts rehearsal next week!) and as busy as I've been, I would not have it any other way.  As I sat playing in the pit tonight, I was struck with the thought that I was more content than I ever remember being!

If I can be so bold, my version of Liddell's statment would be "God made me a performer and when I'm singing/playing/on-stage I feel his pleasure."  That's the only reason for the overwhelming joy I've been experiencing for the last couple of weeks.  Most of my life revolves around playing the piano - my very first musical love - or working to help get shows on-stage with young people from the area.  And through it all, I definitely feel the pleasure of the one who blessed me with a talent that I certainly don't deserve.  Acting on the passion he instilled in me leaves me content, fulfilled, and looking forward to the next opportunity I will have to do it all again!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Humbled by Their Courage

I've watched some young people I care an awful lot about take steps to open conversations of a spiritual nature with their school mates.  They were simple actions - my 17 year old daughter making a point of writing something on the back of her hand with the intention of getting people to ask questions, my son answering a question about the Latin phrase "Ad majorem dei gloriam" (For the greater glory of God) that was on the hoodie he was wearing.  No, they didn't jump up on a bench and start preaching.  They took one small step to start conversations of a spiritual nature in an effort to begin having an impact on their school.  They are being joined in these actions by the other members of the youth group who attended Dare 2 Share this past weekend. While I'm proud of their actions, I'm also humbled by the courage they display.


It can be very scary to share your faith; to talk about having a relationship with Jesus Christ.  I know I often lack the courage to speak up when the opportunity presents itself to say nothing of looking for ways to create opportunities.  So the question is, can I rise to the occasion and do at least as much as the teenagers in my church?  Can I be intentional in helping to create opportunities to share my faith?  It won't be easy to step out and sometimes people may give me grief for what I believe.  But I certainly can't encourage my kids to continue doing something that I'm not willing to do myself!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What Lies Ahead?

I’m in the van on the way home as I type this (thank you, God, for the brilliant inventors who gave us laptops and word processing programs!) and I’ve just had a tremendous two days with some pretty fantastic young people.  My husband and I helped chaperone a Youth Group trip to the Dare 2 Share conference being held in Minneapolis, Minnesota this weekend. 

Some of the young people in our group astounded me! They walked up to complete strangers in a Caribou Coffee and began asking questions in hopes of opening up a dialogue about spiritual things!  The youth leader, my friend Connie, challenged two of the girls to speak to a guy who was standing at the back of the store – near where we were seated – while he waited to use the bathroom.  So two of our young ladies took the plunge and spoke briefly with him.  Then one of the young ladies took another friend and went to speak to other customers and both the employees.  All told, there were four kids in our group involved in the impromptu, low-key experience and they spoke to five or six different individuals.

Their passion was challenging!  One young lady in particular was so much fun to watch.  She made a personal decision to become a Jesus follower at this same conference last year and her growth in just 12 months is exciting!  She’s fired up and ready to reach her friends with the Gospel.  She is actively seeking ways to grow and learn how to be more effective when sharing her faith.  She and three other young ladies asked Youth Leader Connie if she would consider attending a training institute in Colorado this summer.  This is an opportunity we learned about over the two day conference and when the teens were told to make eye contact with their youth leader if they were interested in attending the conference, four young ladies nearly gave themselves whiplash turning around to catch Connie’s eye.  Now before those skeptics out there respond with, “Sure.  Colorado is gorgeous – who wouldn’t want to spend a week there!”  let me clarify.  This would not be a sight-seeing trip.  The event is meant to be a week of training for teens who REALLY want to learn how to effectively share their faith with those around them.  Bonus – Colorado Christian University is offering three college credits for the experience as well!

They inspire me. The world would look at them and comment on how young and inexperienced they are.  “Wiser” minds would suggest that they grow up a bit before doing anything crazy like trying to win their friends for Christ.  But these four ladies want this!  I know, I know.  I said I was typing this on the way home so the emotional high of the weekend hasn’t worn off yet.  But something in the way they talk about the opportunity has me convinced that they are intent on going.

I want that kind of passion.  And their boldness!  As I watched the young ladies boldly approaching total strangers to start conversations about things of a faith nature, I was struck by how much braver they are than I am in such situations.

A year ago, the first time this youth group went to Dare 2 Share, there were five teens and two adults. This year, we had 11 youth and three adults.  Not bad growth in just a year.  A year ago, we did not really have an established “youth ministry” in our church.  There was something in the works and both hubby and I were excited to see plans come together (he is a former youth pastor, after all!) and the group officially started meeting this past fall.  We started with about 6-8 regularly attending.  Now it’s common to see 20 or so teenagers (not counting adults) each Wednesday.  And our Wednesday “agenda” is fairly simple – we eat pizza, chat about our week then have a lesson.  Not much in the way of flash or clever programming.  But the Spirit is moving nonetheless!  These kids are intense when discussing matters of faith and they aren’t afraid to ask difficult question!  They are very definitely seeking to grow and increase their understanding and I’m thrilled to be a part of the whole process.  I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reminiscing

Tonight was my first concert as the choral department accompanist at Fort Dodge Senior High. It was a privilege to work with friends and colleagues and their students!  It has become a tradition to announce the Spring musical - which I work with as well - at this concert each year.  This year we are doing a personal favorite:  Fiddler on the Roof!  I had the unbelievable chance to play Golde in college which was on my personal "bucket list" of roles I'd love to play.  To say I cherish those memories is an understatement!  

Since the announcement was made, I've spent chunks of time here and there thinking back to my college shows and those I shared the stage/backstage with. I had numerous chances to perform, student direct, music direct, and stage manage in college and it was really there that my love of theater had a chance to blossom.  

So as I look forward to revisiting a show that is a personal favorite of mine - this time as a director and not a performer - I am reminded of those college friends who left a little piece of themselves with me by sharing a show experience with me.  Or letting me share it with them!  Much of who I am as a performer/director was shaped by those experiences and I am forever grateful.  

If you are reading this and are someone I shared the college stage (or backstage) with, thank you. You are a part of a very important legacy in my life and I am eternally grateful for what I learned through working with you!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

More Than I Could Have Hoped For

After finally closing on our new house, hubby and I are faced with a plethora of redecorating projects; from simple repainting to redoing the kitchen from the walls out.  We spent a few hours at Menard's Friday morning getting the kitchen design handled (gotta love computer aided drafting tools!) and getting the cabinets picked out. Since I had to be at work by 1:40, we told the salesperson that hubby would be back after lunch to finish the purchase. At that time he was also going to add the appliances to the bill - new fridge, stove, dishwasher and microwave that will also serve as the hood for the stove.  Exciting?  Yes!  A little time-consuming and slightly overwhelming?  Definitely!


I've made it a priority to learn to carefully choose my words when speaking to my husband.  Trust me, I do better on some days than others.  But the over all goal is to learn to show my husband the respect he needs from me.  As if his need wasn't enough motivation,  the end of Ephesians 5:33 states "the wife must respect her husband."  As easy as it would be to tie some sort of "once he earns it" clause to that statement, the scripture does not say that.  I am simply told to respect him.  


I find that my "mommy brain" is often the cause of my disrespect.  I became a mother more than 20 years ago and have four children, the youngest of whom is fifteen.  Much of my time in the last 20 years has been spent using that "mom" tone of voice that is meant to educate, remind, and keep accountable. Unfortunately, I've spent so much time correcting, checking up on, and reprimanding my children that I forget to lose that tone of voice - and that attitude - when speaking to my husband!  In other words, I talk to him like a child who needs mom to check up on him. He is a capable, intelligent, funny, clever individual and does not want or need me to act as his mother!  I still slip occasionally but I'm (hopefully) getting better at it.


So what does buying kitchen cupboards and appliances have to do with respecting my husband?  When it came to the layout of the new cupboards and the appliances, my husband had some definite preferences.  Knowing that he is much more capable at dealing with spatial issues, I trusted him to make the best possible use of the space.  And I absolutely LOVE the layout!  I would never have been able to conceive what he has put together!  When it came to the actual type of cupboard to fit in a designated space, he left that to me.  Much of the power to decide the color and style of the cupboard doors - within reasonable financial limitations - was also left in my hands.  We had looked at a number of possible appliances and I had pointed out my favorites.  Again, I was assured that my desire for a specific color would be honored. As I said before I had to get to work and wouldn't be there to actually have a say in the final decision regarding the appliances.  Over lunch, we discussed going back later so we could pick them out together but I told him that I trusted him to make the final decision because I knew he would do what was best for our family and our finances.  When I saw the receipt later that day, I discovered that I had gotten my first choice with every single appliance! 


I know this may seem very superficial to some who read this.  It really isn't about the monetary value or the items themselves.  I see it this way - I could have nagged my husband, reminding him REPEATEDLY over lunch what I expected and asking him to repeat back to me what I wanted.  Wouldn't that have been a great way to let him know that I was sure he would fail without me there?!  Instead, I simply told him I trusted him - and I really did - to make the decision that would be best for us and our new home.  At the time, I was hoping for at least one of the appliances to be the one I wanted.  Instead, I got all four.  And his own words to me (and in a later Facebook post!) let me know that he loved doing something that made me happy.  Maybe there is something to this actively showing respecting to my husband thing!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Arrogance of Youth

Before you take issue with the harshness of the title for this post, let me explain.  I spend quite a bit of time around college kids and their absolute confidence of how much they know is amusing.  I can only call it amusing because I used to be just like them.  Can I tell you something?  So did you! There is something about leaving high school and heading out into the big wide world that leaves us quite convinced that we have all the answers.   During those years, young men and women are convinced that they know how to solve all of the worlds problems, that they will be the perfect parent once they start having children and they are quite surprised that their parents have managed to survive given their complete ignorance!  We can be rather obnoxious to be around at that age!

Somewhere along the way, we run into the wall of reality and have to come to grips with the fact that there is so much we have yet to learn! The wall might show up in a marital squabble.  As a young wife, I was often surprised to find that my husband did not want my unsolicited advice.  I mean, I was only trying to help him do it right!  (*gulp* Nothing like completely violating Ephesians 5:33 - "the wife must respect her husband.")  Or maybe you hit that wall as a parent the first time your little darling stomps a defiant foot and screams "No!" when you tell her to do something.  Whenever it happens - and it will happen - it can be a jarring experience.

But as a follower of The Way, I should not be surprised to learn that I have so much to learn!  Especially when it comes to the things that my Abba is doing!  He tells me as much in his word - " 'For your thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8).  In other words, I cannot POSSIBLY understand why God does what he does.

I've said to friends before that my spiritual growth has been like slowly opening a door into a grand ballroom that's all prepared for a party, full of things that will wonder, delight and amaze.  When the door is open just a crack, I see a tiny glimpse of the wonderful things that lie within.  After I have gazed my fill, I open the door a tiny bit further only to find that the new things I can see are even more wondrous.  The more I get to know of God the more aware I am of how much I don't know and can never know this side of glory. But the more I know of him, the more I stand in awe of the fact that one such as he would not only allow me to fellowship with him, he actually desires it!

In my family, as well as my extended family, there are a number of circumstances that leave us wondering just exactly what God is doing.  We have been trying to buy a house for a couple of months now (it's in foreclosure) and the company that currently owns the property has been dragging their feet.  Is that the Master's way of saying "This isn't the house for you" or is the enemy trying to interfere? My sister  - the middle one in the family - has been trying to train for a half marathon to support a cause she is beyond passionate about yet she keeps injuring and reinjuring an ankle, making it pretty much impossible to train despite the treadmill sitting in her basement!  My baby sister has suffered multiple miscarriages and finds herself 15 weeks into a pregnancy that looks like it might come to term.  So what is God doing?  I could go on with story after story - loss of jobs, relocations, job change - but I don't want to overwhelm anyone!

So what's the big answer?! What is God doing?  I don't have all the details but I can assure you of this - he is still in control, he is still busy educating those that want to know more of him, and he is definitely in the business of helping a once arrogant, know-it-all young wife learn more and more the value of humbling herself before her King and seeking only to please him with her words and her actions. And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I can trust him to take care of the rest!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Unexpected Joy

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord.  "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Last summer was rough.  Unbelievably rough even!  I watched two full-time jobs slip through my fingers and faced - I thought - another school year of stress beyond what I was capable of handling.  What a difference a few months makes!

I left one of my part-time jobs just before Christmas.  Hubby and I discussed the situation multiple times and the stress wasn't worth the income.  We took a bit of a leap and had nothing in place to replace that income; as small as it might have been, it still helped pay the bills!  Since that time, God has provided IN SPADES!!  I was offered the opportunity to play as the rehearsal accompanist and pit pianist for the musical production at the local community college.  I think college kids are a blast and I love musical theater - fantastic combination!!  As if that wasn't enough, they are paying me to play!  I also had the chance to play for some soloists at a Cabaret performance connected to the college.  This turned out to be another source of unexpected income!  Then I found out that the accompanist for the choral program at the High School was leaving to further his own education and I was approached about the job.  It fit perfectly around the college classes I was teaching so I applied and got it!! When I talked to my Dean at the college (where I am an adjunct professor) she changed my schedule for next fall so that both the teaching and accompanying will work together!

Long story short - I'm still working multiple part-time jobs but I love ALL of them!!  It's kind of a crazy schedule - especially the musical theater gigs - but I have an amazingly understanding family and I am blessed to get paid for doing something that has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember - playing the piano!

This is definitely not where I saw life going when my plans fell apart last summer.  But here I am, working rather extensively in the performing arts, and I'm honestly only responsible to "be in charge" with the college classes I teach.  In both the choral job and the rehearsal/pit accompanist job I'm simply there to assist the directors.  I don't have to make any executive decisions, take notes regarding performances etc.  (That type of responsibility starts in May when the High School musical gets underway which I will be helping to direct again this year!).  I guess what I'm trying to say is there really isn't much stress attached to most of my working hours.  I've been accompanying for 30 years and playing piano for 38 so it's kind of like returning to my musical first love and getting paid to do it!

Do you get the idea that I'm having a REALLY good time?!  Cuz I am!!