Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dispelling the Myth

I am not SuperMom.

I mean...I am super and I am a mom, but I am not SuperMom.  You know, the woman who flies around with a cape, does everything with a smile and has boundless energy.

Most days, I concentrate on what is the next thing I need to do and how I'm going to get there with the least amount of energy spent so that I can fall into bed at night, wondering how I got so little done.  I do try to do it all with a smile and a kind word to all those around me, but ... well, sometimes I don't do so well with that.  My buttons get pushed.  I forget to be thankful.  I have so many small interruptions that frequently I feel so scattered and discombobulated I can't even move the muscles on my face into anything other than a look of sheer frustration.

And while I am working on that and I'm learning to do things from a thankful heart rather than an overwhelmed-by-life attitude, I am still not SuperMom.

It doesn't happen as often as it used to now that we got rid of "the punisher" (subject for another post), but I have yelled at my kids.  And interestingly enough, since we got rid of that same thing, my house has gotten messier. 

But here's the deal, I hear a lot from other women: "I don't know how you do all that you do."

I don't either, but I do know that it's not because I am SuperMom.  Truth be told, I don't know how you do all that you do either.  Know why?  Because I am not supposed to know.  I'm only supposed to be able to do what God has told me to do, not what you are doing.

And there's this jealousy and comparison thing that is rampant among women, Christian or not, and it is eating our lunch.  It keeps us from connecting deeply and keeps us in a constant state of self-examination/self-deprecation that's neither healthy nor godly.

You see, God says to each of us: "Who have I called you to be today?" but if we're so busy looking at others to try to figure out who/what/why about ourselves, we are going to miss out on the greatest, most glorious, most fulfilling adventure on this planet: bringing God the most glory by being fully alive, fully engaged, fully the individual that God has created each of us to be.

I've suffered from this.  I still suffer from it, less than I used to, but it still crops it's ugly head up.

But I'm determined to fight this thing off.  I've decided that when jealousy whispers in my ear I'm going to ask Papa God what is it I'm lacking confidence in that He's wanting to speak to me about.  I've decided that when I see someone gifted and talented in something where I feel I lack I'm going to bless that image-of-God-shining-through moment in her and quit wondering why I can't be more like that.

It is good to have role models, and it is good to look up to people and desire to emulate virtuous traits we see.  It is not ok, though, to feel less-than or less-gifted or less-talented or less-amazing when we see the glory of God shining in someone's life.

You know that's what it is, right?  Those things you admire in other women are glimpses into who God is as revealed in each one's unique expression.  So when we walk in jealousy and comparison, we are missing opportunities to worship God for His goodness, His beauty and creativity, displayed through His creation.


Next time you see another woman (or, if you're a man reading this, apply it to your own issues with other men or encourage your wife or girl friends in this) and feel the urge to criticize her or yourself for not being more like her ask God these questions: "God, how is Your glory being displayed in her life?  What characteristic of Yourself are You revealing to me through her?" and then worship.  Worship God for Who He is and how He's created her to display His glory in this moment and time.  Then ask Him, "God, how do I display Your glory best?  What characteristic of Yourself are you revealing to others through me?"

I can't wait to hear what He tells you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How am I going to make it in the busy days ahead?

That is, essentially, what I asked God this morning.  And this was His reply:

Thanksgiving is going to be the key to staying in close connection with Me.  Thanksgiving positions you to hear My voice and to receive My direction in every situation.  Remembering past exploits and giving thanks bring your thoughts, that stray so easily, into alignment with Me.  

Give thanks. And again I say, Give thanks!

For your light and momentary troubles are working for you a righteousness that outshines the s-u-n and releases in you the brilliance of the S-O-N.

Thanksgiving paves the way to a life continually lived out in My presence.  Enter My gates with thanksgiving and My courts with praise. Thanksgiving gets you in the gate and helps you get in touch with the greater reality of Who I am in your situation.  

Thank Me for the air you breath.  Thank Me for the song you sing.  Thank Me for the clothes you wear and the shoes on your feet and the food on your table and the abundance of My blessing that you have not seen yet.

Don't turn your gaze from Me.  Keep words of thanksgiving in your heart.  And on your lips...thanksgiving.  When you focus on your lack or on what I have not done yet, you throw up a wall around your heart that keeps you from receiving the strength I have for you in trying times and  severely limits your ability to see the truth of Who I am in your life.

Knowing who I am will give you renewed perspective on the wind and waves in your life.  You will no longer fear them or shrink into self-pity and victimization.  No - through the discipline of a lifestyle of thanksgiving, you will rise above every circumstance in your life. 

You will stand on top of every wall of defeat and despair and discouragement and depression, and you will see My hope rising on you, and you will know the hope to which I have called you.  You will bask in the light of My glorious presence, of My Son, and you will rest, and you will know that I am God and that your problems are nothing compared to the Solution that you already carry within you: My precious and powerful Holy Spirit.

That same power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive and active in you to bring you to a place of hope where there is no hope, a place of peace where there is no peace, a place of dwelling continually in My Presence through a life lived in perpetual thanksgiving which keeps you always aware of Who I am, what I have done, what I am doing and builds strength and faith in you to wait patiently and expectantly for the things I have yet to do.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Cold. Windy. Leaves dance over lawn of stately, majestic, academic stone buildings. Aged window panes reflect retreating light.

I enter the prayer labyrinth, my hands tucked deep into pockets, and I begin to pray, to center myself as I walk to find The Center.

Others join me in silence, spaced out along the path, each one entering his/her own secret place with God. We crunch leaves beneath our feet.

I glance around, wondering if I'm doing this right. I remind myself that maybe there is no "right" way and continue on. Clumps of leaves obscure the path boundaries, so I kick at them, looking for embedded bricks that shape the way.

Pausing, I attempt to empty thoughts except to remember, to thank. Continuing on, the path turns outwards instead of inwards as I am expecting. A sliver of doubt pierces the peace within. I turn around, thinking perhaps I've missed the path somehow. But, no, there the bricks that shape the way mark the path, an outward turn.

A deep breath.

Another pause.

Steps to continue on this path that is taking me to The Center in unexpected turns in then out.

Each time the turn goes inward, I breath an inward sigh of relief. I know the point is to go deeper in, and assurance that I'm led aright strengthens in my heart. With each outward turn, the doubt returns. This feels somehow incorrect. It's deeper in, not farther out, I need to go to find The Center.

Insecurities rise.

I look around at others on the path, hoping to gain some insight into how to do this right.

And then a whispered word to me, "Why do you doubt the path before you?"

"I doubt because it's not right. I'm supposed to be going further in, not further out. I must've done something wrong. I think I missed a turn back there or crossed a boundary line obscured by leaves and grass," I reason.

"Who says going out is not also going in?" the gentle reply comes.

And then I see the doubt and worry, energy squandered when trust was required.

The revelation of the labyrinth of life that wanders in and wanders out and each inward pass I perceive as "right" and each outward one is perhaps erroneously marked as "wrong."

I start to smile; this analogy of life comes unexpected. All this time the outward turns have brought fear and doubt of something wrong. I've turned back, retraced steps to find the place where I belong. And usually, with time and toil, another inward turn arrives. 

I think, "Ah, I've found the way again" but maybe, just maybe the path was beneath my feet all along. I just thought out was bad and in was good.

A shift in thinking now occurs.

The inward times are equipping times, new tools released and strategies defined for coming seasons in my life.

The outward times are for walking out, for one must pass outward again to use and strengthen new tools in hands.

And then my feet reach the center of prayer labyrinth and  I smile to find The Center. I breathe a sigh of relief. Unexpected lesson in this short journey brings words of praise and thanksgiving to my lips.

I stand and marvel, now freer, now bursting, now more peace, now more resting.

How thankful am I to have this story, a rock of remembrance in my heart. This spiritual journey of mine mirrored in this ancient design. I hope to remember in this life-long journey to The Center to trust the steps leading out are bringing me inward just like the ones leading in.

Scarritt Bennet Labyrinth

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The rest of the story...

To read the story of how we met, got engaged, etc. you can click through these links.
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The rest of the story (or at least the part that's being written) can be found at my other blog .

Saturday, October 1, 2011

for 17 years: the big day...i-10

August 6th dawned bright and clear, preceded by a fun night with family and friends at our rehearsal dinner, preceded by all manner of showers and parties to equip us with tools to build a home and a life together.

We had premarital counseling with our pastor and an elder couple in our church. We went to an Engaged Encounter weekend through the Catholic Diocese of Dallas. We're actually not Catholic but had heard really good things about the marriage preparation weekend offered by the Catholic Church. I recommend it to every engaged couple I meet. So, so good.

We made it through the planning and the preparation and now were at the moment of execution.

Yep, that's right --- execution. The death of our old lives, our singleness, our selfish ways of living...

We had family and friends from out of town. I even had friends from my heartland of Spain attend, so we had a bi-lingual service, incorporating the help of my Puerto Rican friends.

The service itself was beautiful...so many people cooperating to make our day special - from the music to the flowers to the food...each part was a personal reflection of our lives and the people who loved us.

The best part of the service was when Lee sat down at the piano to play our song. Reminding the crowd that we were now married and that this was now a party (!), he played out the melody and sang to me as I stood by his side.

Then he rose, took my hand, and off we went down the aisle, now husband and wife.

After a flurry of pictures, we were off to the reception where we were greeted and loved on by our many guests. The food was good, the cake magnificent, and I was married to the best man in the whole world. It couldn't get much better than that.

Then finally the time came for us to depart in our blue Chevy pick up, decorated in typical fashion w/ shoe polish and streamers. Rice was thrown, more pictures taken, and with a wave, we were off to begin our new life together.

Next: married life
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Friday, September 30, 2011

for 17 years: wedding details...i-9

So, we set the wedding date for August 6th and began to get down to details.

Groomsmen and bridesmaids to notify. Colors to choose. A dress to find. Food. Cake. Photographer. Invitations. Guest list. Music. Musicians. Other participants.

I also needed to finish school and graduate. Funny how all of my classes suddenly lost priority and I got my first B in Spanish. Sheesh. The things love will do to a girl. ;-)

Our parents were great. My mom helped me endlessly, making phone calls, tracking down reception food, setting up appointments, helping me make decisions, etc. Lee's mom made our pew bows - huge, beautiful bows that took lots of time and patience to make. Our dads did the dad thing and handed us the checkbook. Ha!

[Interestingly, both sets of parents celebrated 25 years of marriage the year we got married. That seemed like such a long time back then. Now it is within sight which also means one of our children could have a wedding going on in not too many years...Help!]

Lee decided to compose the bulk of the music for our wedding - processional, recessional, etc. His buddies from trombone choir played the song for me to walk down the aisle to and other musically talented friends played a piece for woodwind quartet. Lee opted to play the song he wrote for me himself (the highlight of the wedding, to be sure!).

I don't remember too many stressful moments leading up to our big day. There was some tension when we went to register...Lee thought we should register for a computer and be done with it...forget the china and towels and bedding and household items. I adamantly vetoed that idea.

Next: the big day
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

...we resume your regularly scheduled program

Wow. I did not expect blogging to get derailed for so long. My apologies to those of you waiting with baited breath for the next installment of the Lee-Heather story ([i-1] [i-2] [i-3][i-4] [i-5] [i-6] [i-7]). I'll get right back to that.

We had a delightful 17th anniversary celebration in Austin - dinner at Zocalos followed by dessert on the roof of the flagship Whole Foods store ending with a walk down 6th street where we were stopped and asked to please dance "the Bernie" for a video scavenger hunt...

Then a week at Laity Lodge Family Camp where we relaxed and reconnected as a family while enjoying the Frio River Canyon and all the fun that family camp just is. (Red-Neck Games? Heck, yeah!)

Upon our return from camp, Lee's mom took a real downturn. We knew that her health was deteriorating rapidly and that we might even get a call during camp. But she held out until we got back. Suzanne got to watch a few Shirley Temple clips with her. We sang hymns to her, prayed over her, and said our good-byes...not sure which day would be our last with her.

Finally on Wednesday, August 17th, she peacefully stepped out of here and into the arms of Jesus. The kids and I had stopped by earlier that morning as the hospice nurse had alerted Lee to a change in breathing that indicated the time of her passing was most likely hours away. We cried as we prayed one last time with her, holding her hand and reeassuring her once again of our love for her.

Then we went swimming.

It's strange, but that is indeed where we went. Heavy hearts, wondering if maybe we should have stayed, but kids have a way of helping life to keep moving, so live we did.

On our way home, Lee called. Said it was over. Lee, his brother, his sister, and his dad were all with her as she slipped away. She was surrounded by those she loved most.

Thus began the next stage of grief. We had all been grieving for quite some time as she gradually lost mobility and memory. But there's just something about the finality of death. Lee and I both remarked that while we knew intellectually, short of a miracle, she was not ever going to recover to her former self, it wasn't until she died that we realized that we had held a bit of hope that she just might.

We had lots of family time together...telling stories, laughing, planning her service, remembering, connecting and reconnecting.

We miss her.

So, next post will be the continuation of our story, but to close I leave you with the eulogy I had the honor of giving at my mother-in-law's memorial service:

Bonnie Sue Stulken Harbaugh, or GeeMa as the grandkids affectionately call her, was one of the kindest, most loving people I have ever known and I am so blessed to have had her as my mother-in-law.

I know that there are many mother-in-law horror stories, but I have none of those to tell. You see, if Bonnie was anything, she was gracious and hospitable to all who had occasion to cross her doorstep. Whether it was Sunday dinner or a Thanksgiving meal or Christmas Day, she had a knack for making you feel welcomed, loved and part of the family. She wanted everyone to feel included and that most often happened in her kitchen and around her table.

I remember one of the first times I went over for Sunday dinner. She fixed a roast with potatoes and carrots, probably green beans with dill, maybe a jello salad, and some sort of delicious dessert coupled with Blue Bell ice cream…funny, when we were sitting around this week talking about our memories of Bonnie, many of them revolved around the food she would serve: buckeyes, More, Bagel Bites, Pizza, trash, popovers, cornbread dressing…

She loved to have people over. She loved to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and normal days. Even when she worked 12 hour days, she still delighted to host gatherings and knew which foods were must haves and was sure to carve out time to make them from scratch. She always had a yellow notepad with her list of things to do and the timeline carefully noted in her neat handwriting, so that each detail would be taken care of.

Time and time again she demonstrated a life of selfless giving. I watched first as she loved her sons, encouraging them in their interests (well, mostly – I think bull riding as a career stretched her a bit), embracing their friends and welcoming all of us into her home with open arms, welcoming me into her heart as she realized I was the special someone in her son’s life.

I watched her as she made 40+ bows, loop after loop formed by hands already tired from a day of wrapping gifts and making bows for customer’s packages. These bows beautifully adorned the pews on our wedding day.

I watched her as she cared for her sister, quick to be by her side no matter what. I watched her love her father, inviting him to live with them as it became necessary for him to not live alone anymore.

I watched her love her husband, working side-by-side with him for countless hours, miming turning the volume knob when he was getting a little loud (although the Harbaughs really only know one volume), always respecting, always loving, always kind, always gracious, nary a contrary word between the two.

I watched her faithfully, graciously serve the customers at the mail store, wrapping each gift with great care and artistic flare, carefully typing documents, patiently explaining cost of shipping and time til delivery. I watched her serve the kind ones and the not so kind ones (the ones that came in at closing and wanted their packages wrapped and shipped yesterday) without so much of a complaint or negative word about them.

I watched her fall in love with each grandchild that came into her world. With each pregnancy of mine, she would exclaim her joy at adding another grandchild and told me she would always welcome more. I never felt criticized or judged, though oftentimes the choices for our family were different from what she knew or grew up with. She embraced me the same way she embraced her own, always treating me as a daughter…not just a daughter-in-law.

She loved carrying on the Friday night pizza tradition with her grandkids. She encouraged each one with words and actions, always seeming to know which little toy from her run to the grocery store would be successful with the grandkids. She understood the importance of every child having a gift to open at birthday parties – not just the birthday child. She would get down on the floor and play with the kids or read to them. She let them take turns spending the night, serving fun snacks like cheezits with marshmallows, putting a little bell by the bed so that she could be summoned if something was needed during the night.

I watched as her health began to decline and she needed more and more assistance with everyday tasks. I watched as care givers would perform the most private of tasks and she would thank each one for their ministrations. Even when speaking became more difficult, it was rare for her to not express her appreciation for the care given her.

And as I watched, I have learned. I have learned that in the end, a life lived in selfless service to those around me is indeed a life well-lived. I am confident that as Bonnie stepped from this world into the arms of Jesus, He said to her: Well done, my good and faithful servant. You did nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. In humility you valued others above yourself and looked to the interests of others rather than your own. Well done. Well done.

We miss her. We miss her laugh, her “whoohoo”, her songs and her stories…the meals around the table. But I know that she now is healed and whole in the presence of the One she served so faithfully with her whole life. And I encourage each us of to carry on her legacy of loving, giving and serving that we might honor her memory until the day we meet again in Heaven.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

We interrupt this program...

...to wish my wonderful husband of 17 years a very happy anniversary.

17 years ago today I was starting to get ready for the biggest day of my life:
- fixing my hair
- eating breakfast
- doing last minute things with my sisters
- savoring the final moments with my parents before entering marriage
- relishing the thought of starting my new life with Lee

Lee is everything I could have ever hoped for in a marriage partner and more.
He is an extraordinary dad to our children and grows in his role every day with lots of grace
He is a good son-in-law for my dad who only had daughters (and now also has 3 sons-in-law to do boy things with, plus 3 nephews...)
He is an exemplary friend of many
He is a faithful, hardworking employee
He is an excellent provider as a result
He is my best friend and lover
He is a most loving, kind, and generous husband in every way
He is gentle and patient, oh so very patient
He is easy-going and caring
He is musically brilliant
He is humble, never flaunting his brilliance ever
He is motivated and self-disciplined

And I could go on and on and on about this man who has been rocking my world these last 17+ years and who will be rocking it for the rest of our lives.

I love you, Funny.  You are the best of all time!!!  Happy 17th.  I don't know what the future holds for us, but I know that I want to go into it with you by my side.

[...this progam will resume after some celebrating of said anniversary and some family time...see you in a few days!]

Thursday, August 4, 2011

for 17 years: wedding talk...i-8

Did I mention that there was something in the water at the campus ministry house where we hung out? There were 6 couples who met, got engaged and got married all in the same year. One wedding was in the spring, four back-to-back that summer, and one that winter. Craziness!

Back before we were "officially" talking marriage, Lee was asked to play piano for the George Strait song "I Cross My Heart" at a friend's wedding.

[Funny story: Lee had sworn to himself (kind of like he swore off romantic relationships) that he'd never date a girl who liked country music. He got in my car and 5 out of the 6 radio stations were set to country!]

As the friend's wedding drew closer, the vocalist backed out, so the groom asked Lee if he would also sing the song. Lee begrudgingly agreed only for the sake of the friendship. When I heard him practicing, I said "Hon, you'll have to sing that at our wedding someday." Did you ever see such a grimace?!?

Not long after, Lee said he had something to show me. He took me to one of the practice rooms at UTA, sat down at the piano and began to sing me the song he had decided to write for our wedding. He wasn't about to sing someone else's song!

I just found the original note he wrote the lyrics on.  It's dated 9/14/93 (guess we were talking marriage a little sooner than I remembered) and it says: "To my honey Heather whom I love and cherish very much.  I love you.  Lee.  P.S. This is for our wedding!"  Lyrics included below for your reading pleasure.

"I Thank My God for You" by Lee Harbaugh

From the day that I first met you
You've had a place in my heart
So what the Lord has set in place
Let no one pull apart

The Lord has been so kind to me
To bless me with someone like you
I never thought that I'd ever meet
Someone as lovely as you

You are the treasure in my life
You are the gleam in my eye
So from this day til eternity
I give to you all of my heart

'Cause I love you
Yes, I love you
And I thank my God for you
I love you

And with this vow I pledge to you
To love and see you through
All the time both good and bad
We'll be as one in the Lord

Next: wedding details
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

For 17 years: the proposal...i-7

As our relationship progressed, I realized that I might not be going back to Spain to stay for an extended time anytime soon, so I made plans to go over Christmas break. This was the catalyst to us having yet another DTR - this one including the "m" word: mahwag.

We officially decided without officially making it official that we were going to get married...sometime in August sounded good and we'd discuss the particulars when I got back from my trip.

It kind of blew my Hollywood marriage-talk/proposal image out of the water. It always seemed the girl was completely taken by surprise by the marriage proposal - as if getting married was something she hopes for but is not quite sure he thinks so too...until he pops the question.

But this conversation happened in the normal course of our time together...no surprises, no gasps of joy or fireworks or fanfare.

Now, mind you, this was not the official proposal. This was just the conversation that would eventually lead up to a proposal. But anyway...

I went to Spain for 3 weeks. This was pre-email, so Lee would fax me letters to a friend's business over there, and we would talk on the phone every couple of days. I told all of my friends about him and of our upcoming unofficial wedding date.

When I told a couple that had been spiritual leaders in my life, they handed me a $100 bill that someone had given them as a gift. They trusted me and my discernment and wanted to show their support. It was like Spanish kiss from God on this choice which would, at least for a time, keep me far away from my beloved heartland.

Upon returning from Spain, Lee and I went ring shopping. Someone had suggested we could find something reasonably priced at Gold and Silver Exchange. So that's where we went. I'll never forget the owner and his employee helping us look over rings. They told us: "We see a lot of people come in here, looking to get engaged. And we can usually tell if they're going to make it or not. You're going to make it. We're sure of it."

Nice to get a stranger's vote of confidence. Seriously. Another kiss from the Lord.

Knowing we had the rings, I kept reminding Lee that he would need to propose...and make it special. I must've nagged a bit because after reminding him probably for the 100th time, he turned to me and said: "What I'm going to do is just hand it to you on your back porch some day. That will be good enough."

My heart sunk. I just did not think he was capable of making it as special as I thought it needed to be. That whole Hollywood image and all.

One Sunday afternoon, February 13th to be exact, 1 year minus 1 day from the day he gave me that balloon, Lee was driving me home from church and asked if I'd like to take a walk in the park after while. I didn't have anything going that afternoon, so I agreed, and we arranged for him to pick me up in a couple of hours.

We went to River Legacy, one of our favorite places to take walks, and headed down the long trail. We talked about this and about that. I gave him a Spanish lesson which he dutifully engaged in. He took me on a side trip off the trail to explore and then back on the main trail again.

As we neared the end of the trail, I saw what looked like a group of musicians standing around with their instruments. I was turning to point it out to Lee when the musicians started to play. I turned back to the instruments and began to focus on the crowd behind the musicians, recognizing the faces of our friends from the campus ministry house, our parents, my sister, other friends...

And then there was Lee, down on one knee, ring in hand. He says:

"Well, here we are. Will you marry me?"

Shocked (not by the question but by the elaborate proposal I had just witnessed) I said, "Yes!" We hugged and kissed and faced the crowd of onlookers who were cheering and clapping.

You got to know I was feeling a bit sheepish after worrying it might not be special...

Lee had written out "Kiss the Girl" from Little Mermaid for a trombone quartet and asked his buddies to meet with him to practice (this is what he was doing between the time he dropped me off at home and picking me up to go for a walk) and then to come play for us at the park - walking a mile+ just to get to the spot. He arranged for our friends and families to come (also making the mile+ hike), orchestrating the timing of our walk so that it would all be in place by the time we got to the end of the trail.

And that little "off trail" jaunt? Just ahead of us, he could see the musicians hurrying with their cases, and he needed to do something quickly to distract my attention. :-)

For some reason or other, all of Lee's attempts to arrange for "hi-tech" equipment to capture the event on film went haywire - dead batteries I think were largely the culprit. Thankfully, Lee's mom had a disposable camera with her. Low tech and all, she captured the moment for us.

So while Lee may have seemed clueless when it came to planning a romantic proposal, he was anything but.

next: "wedding talk"
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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

For 17 years: the struggle...i-6

Technically speaking, Lee and I have known each other for 19 years this coming September. We'll have been married 17 years this coming August.

Just wanted you to know :-)

So, what was the struggle? To stay pure.

Both of us raised in Christian homes that valued sexual purity, we had committed long before meeting one another that we would stay sexually pure until marriage.

There are many who choose not too or who don't know better or who get tripped up in temptation. If that's you, don't read any condemnation into this post. None is intended. None is aimed at you. In fact, I know for a fact that God can restore virginity to any one regardless of mistakes. That's not a license to sin, but it is reassuring to know if you engaged in pre-marital sex and wish you hadn't.

But we did struggle.

We would draw lines, physical boundaries that we would swear to keep, because both of us really wanted to honor God and each other in our relationship. We understood that the lines God had drawn in the Bible were for our good, for our protection, and we wanted more than anything to enter marriage (because by now we both figured that's where we were headed and if not, well, all the more reason to stay pure!) having saved sex for after the ceremony.

We would try the "six inch rule" - not sitting any closer than six inches, especially if alone.

We failed.

We tried parting ways before midnight.

That helped.

Mostly we prayed and would re-direct after we felt we'd gone too close to temptation.

We also guarded our thoughts and our minds.

As a teenager, I read every teen romance the library had. Post highschool, I read lots of Christian romances and a few not-Christian romances. I watched "Days of Our Lives" after getting hooked during a stay with some friends when I was 13.

But the Lord convicted me of the danger of those things. The first line of defense in staying pure is having a pure thought life. It's hard to have that if I'm feeding on fictional romance and soap operas.

[I must confess that I didn't kick the soap habit until after marriage.]

If I had fed myself on a steady diet of shows like "Friends", "Sex in the City", or "Desperate Housewives", I don't know that my commitment to purity would have stuck. See, those shows promote a lifestyle that the Bible says is bad news. And watching them makes the enemy's voice louder and louder: "Did God really say?" and leads me down a path to where the absolutes of God's Word become "guidelines" at best or "options" at worse.

And not to say "hey, look at us!", but if we could do it, so can you. And if you didn't, but now you want to be pure, or have children and want them to stay pure, it's totally possible! You can do it! You can choose better things to fill your mind with and find a group of friends to hold you accountable. You can teach your children how and learn along side of them. Because staying pure is a life-long process that doesn't end after marriage.

You can learn how to have a disciplined mind, how to take thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ, how not to give in to every emotional roller coaster, how to pray and trust that God really does want what's best for you and for your children, how to root out the lies that might lead to making a choice to have sex before marriage.

You can also learn about grace for mistakes. There are consequences to the choices we make, but His grace is there, and He does redeem.

If you make the choice to stay pure, the road is not as rough in the long run. The price is high initially, but the returns are enormous.

Did we ever stray "too far"? We did. Too far into the place that stirred up feelings and emotions that it wasn't time for yet, emotions that made it especially hard to put on the brakes before we ventured into an area God had made clear was forbidden.

But waiting is so worth it. So very worth it.

And can I say yet again how amazing Lee is? He was honorable and gentlemanly at every turn then.

He still is.

Next: The proposal.

[i-1] [i-2] [i-3][i-4] [i-5]

For 17 years: A slight disagreement...i-5

I was taught growing up, correctly, the importance of not dating, not marrying, someone who did not believe in God. It would bring tension and division. It would cause us to be unequally yoked.

So, all my life, I knew that I needed to marry a Christian, someone who had a relationship with God and had given his life over to Jesus. In Spain I realized that it was not enough that he know and have a relationship with God, he also must be a spiritual leader and be, at least, as passionate about serving God as I was.

Then our campus ministry leader did a teaching on Christian relationships and how sometimes even all of that isn't enough if each individual has a different call on his/her life.

I had never thought of that before, but it seemed that with regards to call, Lee and I were on the same page.

Except when it came to foreign missions.

I have known since I was a little girl that I was called to missions of some kind. Living in Spain solidified that calling, and "my plan" after leaving Spain had been to finish college as quickly as I could and get back over there so I could serve amongst the people and culture I had grown to love so dearly.

God obviously had other plans. No sooner had I started on my fast track to finish college than I met Lee and Spain went on hold indefinitely.

But I still had missions in my heart and knew it was to be a lifestyle for me.

Not so with Lee. He didn't like missions. I mean, he knew that missions was for some people, just not him. He had the heart of an evangelist and preacher. He did not see himself going to foreign places to serve.

I remember one particularly heated conversation on the topic...me trying to convince Lee to get a heart for missions, he insisting that it just wasn't for him. And with our leader's words ringing in my ears, I despaired of our relationship as I could not compromise God's call on my life, nor could I ask Lee to.

And then I heard God say: "Just wait until he gets back from the Ukraine."

See, in the midst of this crisis, actually before the crisis ever came to a head, Lee had agreed to go with my mom's friend to the Ukraine as a keyboard player. They were going to do street ministry, and Lee with his amazing keyboard skills was convinced to go to "help them out."

He really is that kind of a guy. He will do something to help someone out, even if it's not his favorite.

It only takes willingness. And Lee had that, and so he went to countless meetings and practices to prepare for the trip, becoming friends with a group of people who were wild about missions and passionate about seeing God move in miraculous ways through them.

And he spent 3 weeks in the Ukraine eating borscht and mystery meat and hard bread, taking cold showers, getting his mullet cut off so that he could wash his hair more easily...and seeing God move in miraculous ways.

He returned a changed man, with a heart set on fire for the nations, and, incidentally, more in love with me. And I with him. And with God.

God took our hearts that seemed to be headed in different directions and gently showed me how He would continue to knit them together in areas where we seemingly differed. Sometimes it would be I who got nudged and sometimes it would be Lee, but as I am faithful to trust Him and not walk in fear, He smooths the way.

I don't want to get ahead of the story here, but for those of you reading, know that God is so very faithful. He has done this very thing time and time again. Many times it has been after I have tried to "force" it to happen through convincing arguments (obviously not so convincing as nothing changed) and impassioned pleas, finally getting past my fear to a place of trust and peace. And it is always from that place of rest that God moves. Fear hinders Him. Trusts opens up the way for Him.

So trust, dear ones. Trust. His plans are good. And the ways He works out His plans, well, they are very creative, often hard, but very definitely good.

Next: "the struggle"

[i-1] [i-2] [i-3][i-4]

Monday, August 1, 2011

For 17 years: "April Fools"...installment four

It was an interesting season in our lives. What season isn't. But even looking back, I have to say that it was unique. Is it because we were starting to fall in love? Perhaps. But something was definitely "in the air" within our group of friends. Several serious relationships springing up. I seriously wonder what was in the water at that house!

Moving from the disappointment of breaking up to the joy of being in a relationship with the man I hoped to one day marry was a bit slow at first.

Some have been in relationships for years, wondering if theirs is truly going to last. I had only been in this one for a few short months (with a small break-up period), but I really wanted to know if it was worth spending my heart on.

I knew he was worth it. But did he think he was the one?

Lee is one of the most authentic and genuine people you could ever meet. He is what you see. No guile. No masks. No hidden agendas. No games.

He wore shorts to the symphony and burped at the table (in a restaurant).

He played trombone at a campus ministry meeting and had a mullet.

All kidding aside,though, you always knew that Lee meant what he said and stood by his word. There wasn't any "reading between the lines" for hidden messages. Thankfully, he is still that way to this day.

So on April 1, 1993, sitting together on Basi's sofa, Lee turned to me and said: "I love you."

Taken off guard, the first words out of my mouth were, "Is this April Fools?"

I knew better. Well, I know better now, but then I was wanting to be sure that he really meant it...that it wasn't just an accidental choice of words...kind of like the balloon not being a random selection.

He smiled and reassured me, "No, funny, I really do love you."

With that settled, the walls around my heart came down. He had decided.

Next: "A slight disagreement"
[installment one] [installment two] [installment three]

Friday, July 29, 2011

For 17 years: the balloon...installment three

Not long after we met, I invited Lee to visit my church. He'd expressed some frustrations about where he was attending and since we had similar hearts in so many areas, I thought he'd like my church.

He did. In fact, on that first visit, the worship leader who was leading the following week needed a keyboard player and invited Lee to play. So his second visit had him playing keyboard on the worship team where, incidentally, he stayed for several years.

Before our break up, we had both signed up to attend a conference in late January out in Anaheim, CA with a group from our church. The conference fell just days after we "broke up."

This was both hard and good. Looking back, it was all good. God was working and moving in our hearts to unify them even more. And I felt a shift happening in Lee's heart, but I still didn't know if/when God was going to turn things around. The shared experience fortified our friendship even more, but, seriously, I was hoping for a husband. Not just another male friend.

Of course, God knew all that, and He gave me a tremendous amount of grace to just rest and trust. I remember clearly that season as being one of the most peaceful of my life. It felt like I was in a bubble which kept me buffered and yet allowed me to stay focused on the Lord.

The Sunday after we returned from Anaheim, several of us who had been on the trip served on the worship team. After the service, our associate pastor had a prophetic word for me out of 1 Peter 3 and called out the work the Lord revealed He was working in me.

Lee later told me that was the moment that clinched it for him. Unbeknownst to me, he said to himself: "I better not let this girl get away."

So, he set his sights to win me back. Not that he had to work very hard.

I was confused, though. We hadn't had a DTR in a while, not since our breakup, so I was unsure of what this pursuit really meant. I knew what I wanted: a husband. I wasn't sure that he was ready to commit to that. So, I kept my heart guarded.

The weekend of Valentine's Day, Lee volunteered at a Disciple Now at the church he grew up at as a kid. He kind of hinted around that he'd like me to attend the closing event with him, but I had already made plans and agreed to meet him at the house afterwards.

It was Valentine's Day and when I walked into the house, Lee handed me a card and a balloon. The balloon said "BE MINE." I did a double-take...was this really a message to me or had Lee blindly selected a Valentine balloon without paying any heed to what it said.

I tended to believe the latter. I just didn't want to get my hopes up.

Then I opened up the card and was equally confused by the message there, stating friendship and yet hinting at something more.

The confusion must have shown on my face because Lee put his arm around me and said something along the lines of: "I don't know where this is all headed or what this is going to look like, but I do know that I like us together and want to see where this all leads."


Well, not quite, but almost. I cautiously agreed to step back into a more-than-friendship relationship with him. And confidence grew each day as our strong friendship blossomed into a growing love and admiration for each other.

But could it really be true love?

Next: "April Fools"

[installment one] [installment two] [installment three]

Thursday, July 28, 2011

For 17 years: the break up...installment two

The more I got to know Lee, the more I was sure he was the one.

I fell in love with him, not for his good looks, although he is incredibly handsome. Not for his amazing musical talent, even though a girl could fall head over heels for that reason alone, such is his talent. Not for his athletic skill and ability, except for that one time in ping pong...

While all these and more attracted me to him, what kept me "stuck" on him was his deep, abiding relationship with Jesus. Ask anyone who knew Lee in that season and they would tell you that there were not many like him, with such an uncompromising passion for the Lord.

And I knew he was to be mine. I will even go so far as to say that God told me.

[Another funny story would be to tell you that I actually told him that not long after we started dating. His then roommate would tell you that it just about sent Lee into a panic and running in the opposite direction.]

When I mentioned to Lee that I was finally writing out our story here, he reminded me that our first "official" date happened on a weekend that he went out with 3 girls - each on a different night...rare for him since he had technically sworn off any romantic involvement. I was the final one on his "dating spree" and we spent an evening out at Joe Poole Lake where we watched the sunset.


He received no end of grief from some of his closest friends who were aware of his commitment to no relationships and absolutely no PDA, especially kissing. When one of his friends heard about our date, she blurted out, "Well, did you kiss her?!?"

For the record, I was the only girl he dated from then on. And no, we didn't kiss on that first date.

This date was followed by many more which almost always included a DTR (determining the relationship). So...what were we? How serious was this? Were we keeping healthy emotional and physical boundaries?

Maybe because I shared my heart too much or maybe because Lee's heart had to wrestle through some stuff first, after a couple months of dating, we decided to go back to being just friends. Actually, Lee said, "You'll make a good wife for someone someday." To which I replied, "I'll wait until God tells me I'm not for you."

And wait I did. And hang out we still did. A lot. Ping pong, racquetball, prayer meetings and Bible study...life continued "as usual" just without the dating element.

But it just about killed me.

Every time we met to pray, I would grow more and more convinced that this was the man I wanted to marry. I finally told the Lord: "Give him back to me or get him out of my life."

We already know the answer to that prayer. I have a ring and pictures and six kids as proof that the Lord gave him back to me. But how did it happen?

You'll have to come back again for installment three: "the balloon"

[installment one] [installment two] [installment three]

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

For 17 years...installment one

This August, my dear husband and I will have been married for 17 years. We don't feel old (most days) but somehow seeing how much life we've lived together makes us think: "Man, we're getting old!"

My friend Liz has been chronicling her story with her husband, and suddenly I was inspired to do what I intended to do when I first started blogging: share our story.

I first saw Lee at a college ministry meeting, not long after I returned from my second stint in Spain. I had told the Lord that I did not want to date when I returned to the States unless it would be the man I was to marry. Little did I know...

That night, Lee played his trombone to an accompaniment track which I thought was strange. I must admit my immediate impression of him was quite shallow as I thought to myself: "Who plays a trombone at a college ministry meeting? That's kind of dorky."

*sheepish grin*

A couple of weeks later, I had the opportunity to hear Lee talk at a leadership retreat. He spoke on prayer, and as he shared, my perspective totally shifted. No longer dorky, this gentle spoken, passionate-about-prayer young man had just gotten my attention. "Wow," I remember thinking, "I want to marry someone like that."

Later that day we spent hours floating on the lake, talking about all sorts of things, and I realized how quickly I had initially let outward appearances deceive me. I was smitten.

A dating experience in Spain had taught me that I needed a mate who was spiritually strong and a leader, one who shared my passion for prayer and worship. And as Lee and I talked and shared and spent time together on that retreat, I knew he was the one.

He loved God. He had a deep and consistent prayer life. He was a worshiper. And he was nice looking (mullet notwithstanding).

So, we began to hang out. He lived in a house near campus that housed 7 other guys who were involved in the campus ministry with us. It was the hang out for all of us. Lots of ping pong played, movies watched, and meals shared there amongst friends. If I wasn't working or in class, I was at the house. All of the guys living there were my close friends, but there was this one that I had my eye on.

But he seemed oblivious. He treated me like a good friend, a sister, perhaps, but I never could tell if he really liked me...I mean, you know, for more than a friend.

I went to every event I thought he would be at. I even became a pseudo Trekkie, heaven forbid, going to the weekly Sunday evening viewing of the Next Generation.

[Funny story: You know how I thought he was oblivious? Well, he says that once while giving me a ride home after a Star Trek viewing when I was talking about my bum knee, he thought to himself: "Oh great. She's got a bum knee. What happens if we get married and we have to pay for medical expenses because of her knee..." Go figure!]

Then there was the Sunday he invited me to the symphony. I quickly remembered my prayer to the Lord...that I only date the man I would marry. But was this a date? I couldn't tell. The invitation came in the form of everything else we did together - a casual "by-the-way" I'm doing such-and-such...do you want to come?

I took it as a sign anyway.

Then there was the Sunday that I invited him to lunch at my parents' house after church. Months later he would tell me this story: while wrestling with my little sister (who would've been around 8 at the time), he accidentally hurt her. He immediately apologized, to which she responded: "That's ok. Just as long as you marry my sister."

He almost bolted.

See, we were still just friends, neither one of us making a move towards a more committed relationship. I had no idea if he was interested, and he wasn't sure he was, having sworn off romantic relationships a couple of years prior. My sister, speaking out of a fear that I would marry a Spaniard and live far away, just wanted a guarantee that I would be marrying an American and staying close to home.

Our hearts, however, were already being knit together through friendship, prayer and Bible study, food, ping pong and racquetball matches...but that next step was a little intimidating.

I don't remember who made "the first move," but one night on our way back to Arlington from some event we had ridden to together, we held hands. And that broke the ice and made it official.

We were no longer just hanging out. A lot. We were dating.

Stay tuned for the next installment: "the break up"

[installment one] [installment two] [installment three]

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Essentials in Worship Values

for the Essentials In Worship Values Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

Why we lead worship, and who we lead worship for tells us much about how we lead worship.” [1]

Everything in life has the potential to become an act of worship, a response to God’s love for us. In the “gathered worship experience…our great desire and goal is to nurture a people who, through the vehicle of songs, prayers, liturgies, teaching and more, understand how to respond to God from a yielded heart” [2] that will extend beyond the gathered experience into their daily lives. “We create atmospheres that lead people to welcome the Spirit of God to change their lives, their motives, their choices. We open up languages of prayer for those who come, that in turn have the potential to open them up to God.” [3]

Connecting people to God is my passion. I love doing it through worship, art, prayer…over coffee, dinner, or on a walk. But worship is my primary “vehicle” to lead people to God. There is just something about a group of 2 or 3 or 300 come together…the “we” aspect that transforms a very personal experience into a community experience where we as individuals connect to God in an activity we do together.

When we meet, the expression of worship that lends itself most to community is song. Brian Doerksen says, “Why (do) we sing songs in the first place? We do it because it is something we can do together. There are probably other things that we could do to express our love and our worship to God that would be, in one sense, just as valid. But they’re not easy for us to do together.”[4]

But leading worship isn’t just about a set list or the people I sing/play with or the venue where I lead. The most critical substance of leading worship is the values from which I lead. In Essentials in Worship Values, Dan Wilt describes five foundational values that give structure to the worship experience God is calling me to facilitate within my local body. Having these at the center shapes the sound of worship that creates the atmosphere where we can be vulnerable and known to God.


“Intimacy happens when one heart chooses to make itself vulnerable to another, choosing self-offering above self-protection; self disclosure above self-protection.” [5] God is inviting us to a deep relationship with Him, one where He does not protect Himself from us and wants us to be open and vulnerable to Him. It is a “posture, a positioning, of one heart toward another.”

I must value intimacy with the Lord in my private life so that I might lead others to engage deeply with Him through the songs. I need to allow time and space for this to happen, not rushing through the moments when the Spirit is moving on each heart.


“Integrity in worship means that we are a consistent people – we don’t just sing what we believe, we sing what we already live.” [6] The way I lead or create or express worship has integrity if it flows from who I am in private. I become a parasite on the people I’m leading if I lead without integrity, taking my identity from them, from how they view me, from their praise and/or rejection. Leading needs to come out of the overflow of my life lived out before God.


Accessibility means creating access point(s) that facilitate people meeting with God. Often times this will mean laying down personal preferences so that I might “facilitate the communication between human beings and God.” [7] “We are playing and creating so that the congregation might find a clear way to lay down the burdens they walked in with at the feet of Jesus, and to meet with Him in worship through the vehicle of the music that we make.

We want our community to engage with God’s story on every level, and to enter intimately into that story as those pursued by a welcoming, accessible God.” [8] We stay aware of who it is that we are leading into worship and ask God how He can best make Himself known to them through our worship.

Cultural Relevance

Cultural relevance does not mean cultural accommodation. [9] Rather, it is leading the way to a connection with God that fits within the context of the culture where I lead. “[It] is the art of creating atmospheres that are authentic to our reality, style, age and goals that build a welcoming and engaging bridge for those who may not be able to build a bridge for themselves.” [10] I trust God to reveal the way to lead that removes barriers and reveals the truth of who He is within the culture.

Kingdom Expectation

Kingdom expectation is expecting God to be the same yesterday, today and forever; to expect Him to reveal Himself in the space that He has helped and led us to create. Jesus’ life was an example of bringing the future Kingdom reality into the present. He declared the Kingdom come and taught His disciple to pray for God’s will on earth as it is in Heaven.

In Heaven, worship is a multi-sensory, living, breathing, exciting, awe-inspiring continual event. We are His “holy, viral carriers of the Kingdom of heaven, reflecting the future day when ‘all things will be made new.’” [11]

God has told us to expect Him to “show up” for us. The way He comes is often a mystery, but in embracing the mystery of who He is along with the revelation of His heart, we experience more of His Kingdom truth in our lives that transforms us further into the people He has called us to be. To not expect Him to come is an “affront to what [He] has offered.” [12] We must lead from a place of belief, trust and Kingdom expectation where God’s presence is expected to manifest in our midst.

As I move into this next season of the formation of who God has called me to be, I desire above all else to stay deep. These core values of intimacy, integrity, accessibility, cultural relevance, and Kingdom expectation keep me centered on the One I am leading others to and demand that I expect God to empower me to do the hard work required for the great privilege of leading His people into a deeper encounter and relationship with Him…

An encounter that will, hopefully, leave them hungering for more of Him and desiring to meet with Him, not just in our corporate worship times, but during the week, as well, where they can continue to experience a connection with Him.

1 Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship Values, 4.
2 ibid, 4.
3 ibid, 5.
4 ibid, 5.
5 ibid, 7.
6 ibid, 8.
7 ibid, 12.
8 ibid, 12.
9 Dan Wilt, The Value of Cultural Relevance.
10 Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship Values, 15.
11 ibid, 18.
12 ibid, 18.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Does it look finished?

I measure whether or not a job or task is completed by how it looks in the end. If there was a mess to clean up, is that mess now gone? If there were clothes to be folded, are they now folded and put away? If the dishwasher needed to be unloaded, is it empty now?

Those are the measurable things.

But what about those things that aren't so measurable? How do I determine when those things are done? And how do I tell how well things are going? When God asks me to pick up a responsibility and then tells me it's finished, what am I looking for to tell me whether or not I've done a good job, completed my task?

Am I looking with natural eyes or the eyes of faith? That's really the question.

I've been pondering lately how as Jesus hung on the cross - His disciples scattered and disillusioned, his family weeping and grieving at His feet, the utter darkness and depravity of every sin and disease laid upon His back - He was able to hear His Father's voice above the din of unbelief and hopelessness that raged about Him, able to see past what His human eyes saw and hold on by faith to what He knew His purpose to be, and able to cry out in a loud voice:

"It is finished!"

We, of course, have the privilege of hindsight. We know, because we are looking back, that those words were indeed true. That Jesus' work was finished here on earth.

But to the eyes of those around Him, and, perhaps, even to His own human eyes, it looked anything BUT finished. Jesus had to hold onto the truth of what His Father had told Him and walk in faith and trust, not trusting what His eyes and emotions told Him.

What I'm learning in this pondering process is that a completed job, a task well-done, does not necessarily mean that all loose ends are tied up nice and neat. Sometimes it looks super messy and hopelessness and despair could set in if I choose to not hold onto truth instead.

So today I choose to see with eyes of faith. To look at the tasks around me and to not judge how well I am doing them by how well things are turning out. To look to the Father, instead, and to be ok with loose ends, messy finishes, and unconventional outcomes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Negativity Flood

For the last few months, I have been flooded with negative, stressful, overwhelming thoughts from almost the second I wake up. Mostly the thoughts are "reminders" of what needs to get done, of what I didn't get done the day before (or the day before that), of the mistakes I made and don't want to make again, etc.

I don't want to get up because of the day that these thoughts have painted for me and yet to stay in bed is to lie in torment, battling to not sink.

Usually once I get up the thoughts subside. I get busy on whatever needs my children have and start thinking about meals, errands to run, and fun things to do during the summer. They quiet. Because I'm busy.

The Lord did give me a tool last fall that has helped tremendously, but I had lain it aside...for no particular reason...it just fell off my radar. He reminded me that I needed to be writing in my gratitude journal every night before bed. He'd shown me that before during my negativity fast.

So, I started back diligently writing down things I was thankful for every night before going to sleep...even if it was just one thing.

And the barrage of negativity slowed, but it didn't cease.

Yesterday I was walking and asking the Lord to please show me how to make it stop. They weren't ruining my day, but I sure want to wake up to different thoughts so I can get a running start.

It wasn't until later in my day when I was cleaning out my inbox and came across an unread newsletter that the Lord revealed at least the next part of the process of ridding myself of the morning barrage of stressful thoughts.

In the newsletter, Trevor Lund says:
What do you do when all your thoughts are negative? What do you do when you agree with the voice of the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy more than you can agree with the One who comes to give you life and to the full?

I help people deal with this every day through http://LifeAbovetheNegativity.com but this week I felt hopelessness replace the joy and peace of the Kingdom.

So what did I do?

I asked God to forgive me for agreeing with negative thoughts and asked Him to show me what He thinks of me...

That was it. I had been, at least on some level, agreeing with those negative thoughts, particularly because they just wouldn't stop. It was true that there were things I didn't get done, needed to do, or had done poorly. But what wasn't true, and what I wasn't catching that was slipping in with those thoughts, was that there was any shame or condemnation in those things.

So I did what Trevor did. I confessed that I had come into agreement with the lies of the enemy about me and about my day. I repented and asked the Lord to come give me His thoughts about my day.

And something lifted.

This morning I woke up to relative quiet, and it stayed quiet in my head for the most part. I have a bit to go. I think there's another layer that the Lord will address at some point, but for now I'm so thankful to be walking in even greater freedom than before.

Friday, June 3, 2011

"I Don't Have Time to Be Busy!"




Or at least it feels that way. In fact, I would say over the last year the sense of busyness has increased dramatically. If I stopped and listed what I do, I don't think the length of the list would be that much longer than it was several years ago. Definitely not longer than when I was working full time. Or when I had babies to nurse and diapers to change.

But I feel busier.

So when I saw the chance to review "I Don't Have Time to Be Busy! a primer for simplicity" by Trevor H. Lund, I jumped at the opportunity. I need simplicity. I crave simplicity. I buy books on how to simplify, how to organize my time more efficiently, how to be more disciplined.

I keep hoping I will find that "magic" moment when all I know to do (declutter, say "no", don't schedule more than I have hours in a day, etc., etc., etc.) will click and my life will be more simple.

That's what I was hoping for when I picked up Trevor's e-booklet.

It is different than anything I've ever read on simplicity. Ever. And those of you who know me know that I read a lot. I have bookshelves and bookshelves of books I've read (and re-read) over the years.

And it's the best. Why?

Because Trevor didn't give me a list of things TO DO to simplify. He exposed the root of my busyness, and he was spot on. I already feel less busy just by revealing the root. And I'm actually more busy since reading it.

I'm not going to tell you the root because I really want you to scoot over to visit Trevor and buy the e-booklet from him and support what he's doing to help release freedom. Nothing happens for me whether you do or you don't.

If you do, though, greater freedom is at your door.

While you're over there, go ahead and sign up for his newsletter and download the free e-booklet titled "How to Steward Your Destiny." It totally rocked my world. And who doesn't like free? I also HIGHLY recommend his negativity fast 40-day emails. That's how I actually stumbled across Trevor's website.

And I'm so thankful I did.

To greater FREEDOM!

Monday, May 2, 2011

My friends Juan Carlos and Tere

My friend Juan Carlos had a birthday the other day, not long after mine, actually, and remembering him on his special day brought back a flood of memories of my time in Spain.

I'll never forget my first meal with Juan Carlos (JC) and his wife Tere. They invited me to come after church to their flat along with a few other people. Not having a table large enough to seat everyone, they pulled out 2 saw horses and a large piece of plywood, threw a tablecloth over it, and we had room to spare. What I remember most about that particular day was the warmth shown towards me and the coffee that I spilled all over myself, leaving me to borrow a pair of Tere's pants.

My new-found friends quickly became some of my best friends. At the time they lived in the neighboring town but soon moved to the town where I lived which meant more time together. I spent many afternoons drinking coffee and hanging out. Tere made sure that I savored some very typical Spanish dishes. One that stands out in my mind is gazpacho, except it wasn't called gazpacho because of how it was served - with lots of choices of toppings to add to the base (which was gazpacho)with cafe gitano and probably some sort of cookie for dessert. Oh, and migas...I will always remember the migas

We took a trip together with a few other youths from the church. I don't recall much about the actual event we went to, except that it was in a tent and we had to sit near the back. What does stand out clearly in my mind is the spontaneous flamenco class that happened at the church once we returned, and Tere laughing at my attempts to move my shoulders and feet and hips and hands like her.

Then there is the retreat we went on and the afternoon spent on the lawn learning how to play guitar, flamenco style.

And the hours JC spent walking me through the complexities of writing an analytical essay in Spanish on some very philosophical, heady Spanish writings.

But dearest to my heart is the time that Tere and Juan Carlos called me in for a real heart-to-heart talk. See, I had started to date this Spanish guy and was totally enamored by him. They knew his character (he had recently come back to the church and supposedly cleaned up his act) and knew that I might be a little blind to some things they saw. But in contrast to a few other people around me at the time who were critical and condemning, JC and Tere with great love and respect shared with me their personal concerns out of great love for my heart.

It was a bit painful...not because of how they said it but because my eyes were opened to the truth through the loving way that they approached me. Along with sharing their hearts, they also sympathized with the way others were maligning me with their sharp tongues and shared Psalm 31:10 and prayed it over me:

"In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues."

"En lo secreto de tu presencia los esconderás de la conspiración del hombre;
Los pondrás en un tabernáculo a cubierto de contención de lenguas."

The rest of the story is that that boy ended up showing his true character not long after my meeting with Tere and JC. But because they had loved on me and prayed with me, I could go to them in my hurt and know that they weren't there with an "I told you so."

Now distance separates us. Time separates us. But for me, it's as if it were yesterday that I was last with them enjoying fellowship and un cortado. I feel like if I saw them again tomorrow, we would pick up right where we left off, a little older, a little wiser, but our hearts knit together through love and the unity of the Spirit.

I love you, Juan Carlos and Tere. Your friendship means more to me than I'll ever be able to adequately express to you. I hope your English is good enough to read this, JC, and to give Tere a good translation. My Spanish brain is off for the night :-). Muchos besos a los dos. ¡Os quiero un montón!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Summary: To Know You More by Andy Park

for the Essentials In Worship Leading Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

To Know You More: Cultivating the Heart of the Worship Leader by Andy Park is full of wisdom and advice for those called to lead worship. Jumping into worship leading as a complete novice, Andy shares from the unique perspective of one who has learned through life experience and has successfully cultivated a heart of worship in his own personal life that has sustained his ability to lead in the public eye for so many years. Andy says, “The most effective trait of a worship leader is a deep love for God and a willingness to express it” [1]. It is obvious as Andy writes that this is what he has.

In the first section, he shares about his own personal journey and the importance of being a worshipper first and foremost in private. “…songs are simply a byproduct of a life-giving relationship with God” [2]. As a worship leader, I must give first priority to my own relationship with God and allow all other activities to flow from that place. Cultivating that place with the Lord privately shields me when temptation comes.

“Being content while others receive more opportunities and favor from people and God has to be one of the top ten most important issues for a worship leader” [3]. The enemy is quick to whisper words of competition and jealousy when someone else gets an opportunity that I have longed for. Trusting God to fulfill His plans and purposes for me over my fears helps me to stay focused on the Lord instead of on what I am not getting to do. Andy shares about his struggles in this area stating, “Rejoicing in the success of others isn’t easy when you feel you’re at the bottom of the heap” [4]. No, it isn’t. Doing it anyway, however, is an opportunity to grow in humility and trust.

Andy also knows what it is like to experience favor from God and man. “John Wimber used to say that tough times are not the greatest test for a leader – the times of exaltation and success are” [5]. Proverbs 27:21b says that “man is tested by the praise he receives.” In Dealing with the Praise and Rejection of Man, Bob Sorge says that ”Rejection and praise are opposite ends of the same continuum with identical root issues.” Learning to deal with rejection by creating the habit of going to God to see what He thinks will serve me well when I receive the praise of man. Regardless, I must go to God to see what He thinks. It is all that matters.

This is why it is imperative that we as worship leaders have our hearts firmly planted in Christ. Our identities begin and end there. Rooted in Him, we are able to portray to those we are leading a more accurate representation of who God is. “Having a wrong understanding of God’s personality is a huge barrier to the freedom and delight of worship” [6]. Through leading others into the presence of God, we help them find the freedom we have found in our own personal times with the Lord where He is revealing the truth of who He is. “To be really free in worship leading, I have to know that God is fond of me. How can I confidently worship and lead others if I’m not sure how he feels about me?” [7].

When we lead worship, we call people “away from the counterfeit realities of this world” [8] and into the reality of the Kingdom. We give people good, Biblical theology through our song choices that will lodge in their hearts and minds for the days ahead when they are tempted to reenter the counterfeit realities. “Through our music, the Holy Spirit writes on the hearts of men, women and children eternal truths of many colors and hues” [9].

Andy likens creating a worship set to a conversation with God. We bring together a group of songs with lyrical continuity that facilitates the community we are leading into a personal and corporate dialog with the Lord. One must always hold the set loosely, however, leaving room for the Spirit to move on us to change direction, linger a little longer, etc.

"The job of the worship leaders is to vigorously approach God in worship, thereby setting an example and clearing a path for the congregation to do the same" [10]. I love the mental image this quote evokes in me…a picture of one boldly entering the throne room, throwing open the doors and saying “Come on in!”

I need to be in submission to those God has placed in leadership over me. “Serving God is worked out by serving under the leaders he raises up. I trusted God to express his authority in my life through the leadership” [11]. I can rest and know that as He has called me to submit, He will fulfill His plans and purposes for me.

I also need to hone my craft. Taking lessons, practicing, working on skills gives God something “more” to work with. If I am blessed to lead a team, I need to create a rehearsal environment that is enjoyable and allows room for the creative expression of each member while directing the group as a whole. I need to be encouraging and willing to “unselfishly share the platform” [12], mindful of the importance of raising up and mentoring other worship leaders.

Another aspect of worship leading is song writing. Andy encourages us to allow God to use us in our imperfect state to be the conduits for His music. He tells us to write a lot, to guard against fear of rejection and false pride, to persevere in song writing, to worship with our songs, and to fill our minds with truth.

As a worship leader, To Know You More is a great reminder of how imperative it is to prioritize my personal relationship with God over and above all else and how all other aspect of worship leading flow most effectively from that relationship.

1 Andy Park , To Know You More: Cultivating the Heart of the Worship Leader (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 18.
2 ibid, 15.
3 ibid, 22.
4 ibid, 22.
5 ibid, 23.
6 ibid, 42.
7 ibid, 49.
8 ibid, 71.
9 ibid, 96.
10 ibid, 171-172.
11 ibid, 129.
12 ibid, 205.

The Importance of the Inner Life

for the Essentials In Worship Leading Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

If anything, the course on Worship Leading has reminded me of the importance of my inner life. "...my authority to lead people in public is rooted in my secret life with God" [1]. I can be a great musician, an incredible singer, and a super leader all rolled into one person. But if I do not have an intimate relationship with God, if don't prioritize the private stuff, the public work will become too weighty and a cave-in becomes inevitable.

"Lead worship from the foundation of a life that, both privately and publicly, resounds with love, obedience, and honor towards Jesus. Your strongest leadership instrument will become the sound of your life, and your worship leadership will manifest the favor and strength that only God can give" [2].

I've been working on that, or, rather, God's mighty Spirit has been at work within me to root up those things in my life that keep my life from resounding with love, honor and obedience. I'm so grateful for the community of people that He has placed me in that continually spur me on and are so faithful to call out the good work that the Lord is doing in me in the midst of this process.

The Essentials Courses through worshiptraining.com have been a primary tool in the Lord's hand to help strengthen my inner life. I have been challenged to think more deeply, to meditate on truth, to mine the riches of those who have walked this way before. He has given me many ways to commune with Him: music, art, reading, silence.

My favorite times have been those in the early hours of the morning when the house is quiet and the sun is not quite peeking over the horizon. I still suprise myself when I say that. I have not been much of a morning person most of my life, but the sweetness of those early times have left such an impression on my heart. I can't wait to get back to it.

Some of my favorite books that have led me into deeper study of God's Word and His heart are, in no particular order:

Devotional Classics edited by Richard Foster
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Strengthen Yourself in the Lord by Bill Johnson
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

What draws you closer to the Lord? What helps you to maintain and strengthen your inner life?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A hobby or a call?

for the Essentials In Worship Leading Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

In The Sound of Your Life, Dan Wilt says "Our interior foundations must be able to bear the weight of our spiritual responsibilities." An uncomfortable process, this strengthening of the interior foundations of my life requires allowing God to shine His light on hidden places in my heart. Unbeknownst to me, God would choose a trip to Guitar Center to expose a lie that was weakening my interior foundation.

I was going to pick out the guitar Lee and the kids had given me as a Christmas gift. Lee and my friend Shelby accompanied me to lend their more practiced ears to aid in my selection.

Lee bought me my my first official guitar for my birthday about 8 years ago, and I love it much. (Actually, my first guitar was a borrowed guitar that never got returned, so I don't really count that one. And lest you think I make a habit of not returning things, I did try to return that particular guitar to the original owner but to no avail. But that's another story...) However, one day last summer, my beloved guitar decided to pop it's bridge. I had it repaired, but the warping and bowing occurring on the face of the guitar was irreparable, and she has become increasingly temperamental. Since I am playing and leading worship more frequently, the need for a new instrument was becoming increasingly apparent. Thus, the Christmas gift.

At Guitar Center, we played several different brands and styles of guitars, Shelby and Lee each giving their more trained opinions about the sound of each one. And surprisingly as I played, I became more and more uncomfortable and overwhelmed...to the point of tears. My sweet husband's generosity and willingness to buy me a guitar beyond what I had imagined coupled with the increasing feeling of insecurity were almost too much for me.

Why are we spending so much money on a guitar for me? I mean, how can I justify the cost of an instrument when it's just a hobby? Doubts and fears and questions surfaced faster than I could process them, and I was ready to leave without the gift, the long-awaited guitar.

Shelby pulled me into a side room, looked me in the eye, and relentlessly pursued the lie (lies?) that she knew was lodged in my heart.

Lie: Leading worship is a hobby.
Truth: It's not a hobby. It's a call on my life.

Another lie: I'm not worthy of this guitar.
The truth: God picked this guitar for me.

And still one more lie: I'm not talented enough to play this guitar.
The truth: That's why I'm taking lessons...lol.

I was so thankful to my generous, loving husband and my discerning loving friend who were with me that day. I had no idea buying a guitar would cause so much consternation or bring up a deep-seated lie in my heart.

But now that it's out in the open and the truth has replaced it, I am gaining more confidence in my guitar-playing...and in worship leading. I am trusting God with this call on my life. His plans and purposes for me succeed. I am becoming all He's called me to be.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

God is fond of me

for the Essentials In Worship Leading Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

"To be really free in worship leading, I have to know that God is fond of me...How can I confidently worship and lead others if I'm not sure how he feels about me?" ~Andy Park in To Know You More,49.

As early as I can remember, I have known and sung the song "Jesus Loves Me." I have recited John 3:16. I know God loves me, have told others that God loves them, and have sung countless songs about the love of God.

What I didn't realize until a few years ago, however, is that my heart didn't really believe it. Intellectually I knew the truth, but truth that only resides in the head might as well not be truth at all as what I truly believe is lodged within my heart. I might be able to control my actions out of my mind, but my heart will dictate the motivation behind those actions no matter what my head might try to tell it.

You see, while with my head I believed that God loved me, my heart believed that His love for me is not as great as it is for others, that somehow I was flawed beyond love and that in order to receive His love, I had to be really, really good. Making mistakes meant less love. Doing things correctly equaled more love.

And these thoughts weren't things I could have told you were even there. I had no idea. As far as I knew, I believed that He loved me completely.

It was when I first did Beth Moore's "Believing God" online Bible study that I began to get an inkling that maybe an insidious lie or two about God were lodged somewhere in my heart. Beth says that we act on what we believe, whether those beliefs are in our conscious thought or not. She takes participants through a series of Scripture exercises designed to reveal hidden beliefs that sabotage our lives, however minutely.

And the lies began to surface. Lies like ones I've already mentioned and then some.

Then along comes Bill Johnson. On an apparent whim (I know now that it was totally a Holy Spirit set up!), I signed up for a conference in my area called Texas Ablaze. I didn't know much about the speakers, only that I had recently read an article by one of the them that had resonated strongly with me.

I was blown away.

Every session left me hungry and longing for more of God. Bible reading was revitalized; my heart was awakened to new levels of communion with God. The last night, Bill Johnson spoke. I had never heard of him, and I'll never forget how he started out that service.

"God is in a good mood. He might be angry but not at you. You are hidden in Jesus." The crowd chuckled, at which point he reiterated: "No, I'm serious. God is in a good mood."

Bill went on to drop nugget after gold nugget of profound truth, mined throughout a lifetime of being pursued by God and responding whole-heartedly to that pursuit. I could not write fast enough. My mind and my heart were being renewed at an accelerated pace.

And so marked a point in my journey towards more truth and greater freedom. I began to realize that I had been living under the constant pressure of not wanting to make a mistake so that God wouldn't be angry with me. As I read Scripture with this new, Spirit-breathed perspective, I became convinced that I am in Christ and that I am a new creation. Jesus' work on the cross paid for my sins completely, and His power at work within me is more powerful than the sin that so easily entangles.

God is not waiting to catch me doing wrong things, as my behavior indicated that I believed. Rather, as Beth Moore puts it, God is counting each time I believe Him and act on His truth. He celebrates.

The image I realized that I had was of God, finger poised, ready to shake it at me when I messed up. I was being motivated to make good choices out of fear of His anger rather than out of an understanding of His great love for me.

I could go on and on about the lies exposed and the truth God revealed to me about Himself, and maybe sometime I'll take the time to chronicle those. For now, suffice to say, I am on a journey into the heart of God. With each level I am becoming more and more convinced that not only does He love me, He likes me. He's fond of me and enjoys spending time with me.

And you know what? He is fond of you too. Super fond, really. You are His favorite. He's not focused on that mistake you made yesterday when you yelled at your kids or spent more time on the computer than you should have. He's not focused on your addictions, however horrible and debilitating they might be. He's not focused on your infidelity, your lies, your habitual sins.

No, He's focused on you. You are the object of His affection. And if He points out a sin, it's not to shame you and shake a finger at you. It's so He can reveal His love to you that sets you free. He sees your mistakes and your sins and says: "Hey, look at Me! I love you. You can be free. Let Me love you and show you how."

In "Believing God", Beth gives 5 truths that have been lifelines for me in this process:

1. God is who He says He is.
2. God can do what He says He can do.
3. I am who God says I am.
4. God's word is alive and active in me.
5. I can do all things through Christ.

May you become more fully convinced today of how fond He is of you. May you become increasingly aware of the light of His face shining on you. May you see His kindess leading you to repentance. And may you experience a deep revelation of His love for you that transforms you more fully into the likeness of Jesus so that you might lead others to worship Him in spirit and in truth.