Thursday, April 23, 2015

Don't put a period where only a comma should be.

I love Monday mornings! I typically go into work later in the day because I stay late in order to be in our Prayer Room's Monday night set. So I enjoy taking my time on Monday mornings. It gives me lots of space and time to ponder stuff like this - a time when I hated Mondays.

A couple of years ago, a childhood friend commented on a post I wrote and what she said has stuck with me ever since. She said, "Cheryl, you really lead a charmed life!" That comment took me by surprise and I was speechless for a bit, something I rarely am. I think it shocked me so much because I don't paint my life as rosy. I share the good with the bad and if you know me, then you know that's true. I prefer to dwell on what's right in my life, not on what's wrong. So I responded to her, "Not charmed. Just blessed!"

What she didn't know is that I'd spent several years in a place of constant struggle - hearing from others how much more was in me than what I was currently doing and pouring out, feeling in my spirit that if I spent one more day not doing what I loved that I would simply shrivel up and die. She didn't know that I had just come out of an intensely difficult job situation at a place I once loved, doing something that paid bumpkus, but a job I absolutely loved until others began to make it too difficult for me to remain. She had no clue that at the time of her comment I was actually serving in a position I detested. I was good at what I did. I was very thankful I had a job, but my heart was not in it because my tasks where among the bottom rung of things I liked to do. I was absolutely miserable there! In fact, almost every Sunday this ominous feeling would settle over me as I began to think about Monday morning. Sometimes, I'd even cry myself to sleep on Sunday evenings. It was that bad. (I think it's important to note, I refused to give pity more energy beyond the one day. It really didn't even deserve that much time.)

But what I think my friend saw was that none of that mattered. Sure there's not a word strong enough to described the loathing I had for what I was doing at the time, but I realized my situation at that juncture in my life was only temporary. I would not be stuck forever, doing something I detested because the gifts inside of me absolutely, positively had to find a place of expression or I really would shrivel up and die! I could feel it in my physical body.

The Lord had gave me a word approximately one year before I started this job and I was holding onto it for dear life! As I was leaving the job I'd loved for so many years because of all the turmoil surrounding it, the Lord said to me one day, "I am creating a space for you."

I knew exactly what He meant. Knowing it was time to make a change, that summer I had been job searching. With all my skills and connections, I came up empty. Then that word came and with it came peace. I ended my search, left that job soon after and then finally landed in the position from hell! Less than three years after that. the Lord created a space for me where I am today. I wasn't looking for it or expecting it, and I think I should mention that it came right after I surrendered my Sunday night pity parties and my desire to be somewhere else. I repented and gave into whatever the Lord wanted to do IN ME and through me while in that difficult place. Two months later, I was in a job where everything in me, every gift and talent had a place of expression.

I learned something from that previous job experience. Only I am responsible for my happiness. My joy level is not dependent on my current circumstances. It's dependent upon my relationship with Jesus and my willingness to choose joy. I can work at a task I detest and still have joy. I can walk through life with unfulfilled dreams and closed doors everywhere I turn, but still be grateful for the opportunities I've had. I learned that I may have at times put a period where a comma was what was actually required.

I may have given up on me a time or two. Others might have discounted me and my significance at times, writing me off; but I was not done yet. Why is it that we sometimes make things a level 10 when in reality they are between a level 3-5 in significance? 

I'm not prone to drama. In fact, I tend to shy away from people who are. It seems like some people go from crisis to crisis and it's always a big deal. we know this because they don't mind telling everyone! Yet I can look at my life and see times when I, myself, made a much bigger deal out of a crisis than it really was. I didn't have things in their proper perspective, so all hope was lost. Why do we give up so easily, on ourselves and/or on others? Why do we write off what's only just a work in progress? Period vs comma...

I turned to Psalm 16 as I was pondering all of this. It's one of my favorite passages. So much so that I did a Bible study for our ladies on it. Go ahead and read it. The entire chapter! It's pretty short.

For me, Psalm 16 is both a book of remembrance and a promise of what's to come. I have not lived a charmed life, but I have been blessed beyond measure, because now, after all that waiting and aching for more, the Lord has been gracious to me. I do not take for granted where I am because I remember where I've been. Yet even then, in the midst of that difficult season, I embraced contentment and the joy in that journey, with thanksgiving. I put the comma in it's rightful place and left the period out all together.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.  ~Psalm 16:6

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lead Where You Live

Have you ever had a word so stuck in your mind that you knew it wasn't just for you? I mean stuck like it's at the front of your mind ALL THE TIME. Yeah. This is that.

I thought I might share about this in my weekly devotional - Wednesday's Washing, but if I did I would be giving away too much info about an upcoming event we're having in our Ladies' Ministry, and I like secrets! In truth, I'm just scared, and that's largely what prompted this post!

I attended a women's conference last weekend at another church. Their Women's Ministry Leader and I became friends after I asked her to lead worship at one of our ladies' events. So when she invited me to attend their conference I did not hesitate and I brought a few of my team members with me, something I love to do.

Right at the very beginning of the conference the guest speaker encouraged everyone to just go all in - no holding back, allowing the Lord to do whatever He wanted in us during our time together. Well, I came to support my friend, hopefully get a few ideas, and I came in hopes that my team would be encouraged and inspired. But in that moment, I decided to do what I should've done before I ever entered the building. I opened myself up to receive all that the Lord had for me, and to do that I had to be all in. That should've been my first posture, but sadly it was not.

Here's a little back story which is going to help you make sense of what I'm about to share.

At our last planning meeting, my team decided to host a special night of ministry. We've done these before and its always such a sweet time in the Lord's presence. For this event, they thought it would be nice to have an outside speaker come in to share with our ladies instead of someone in-house. So I began my search, coming up empty so far, but not really sensing the Lord pointing out anyone in particular. The event is moths away but people's schedules fill up with stuff and life so quickly as I'm sure you can all relate.

Now, jump back to last weekend, sitting there on Friday night and listening to the speaker while she's giving her talk and just as sure as I'm breathing the Lord drops a bomb in my lap. "You do it." What the what? He didn't have to explain? I didn't have to ask what He was talking about. I knew, and I also knew that I probably shouldn't have prayed that prayer! (Just kidding.)

What few know about me: I come across as very social, an extrovert and the party waiting to happen, no matter where I go. That's all true to an extent but I am the world's biggest homebody! There is no more pleasant or lovely place to me than the deck in my back yard or the big comfy chair in my living room. None other! I am happiest in my space, and while I'll go up and talk to anybody (if I have to) I do not like speaking to crowds and it's my job! For years I envisioned myself speaking to the masses, but if you put me in front of them now, I might cry. I get over it after a while but the "before" is ridiculous! 

So for the Lord to tell me that I'm to be the speaker for this event, was a BIG thing. He knows me and the process I go through of calming myself down and all that entails. So He too, knows how hard this will be for me. Yet, I am always the one encouraging others to do hard things, to go farther than they've gone before, to press in, to step up, to be bold... I can't ask of them what I'm not willing to do myself, and everyone who knows me knows that I'm bold. Just look at my hair! I went from hair flowing down several inches past my shoulders to hair just a quarter inch in length, even though it took me over a year to take the plunge. All of this was going through my mind Friday night after I said, "Yes," to the Lord about speaking at our event. Then came Saturday.

Friday I had no topic and no idea on what I would speak about. I thought maybe I would share my story, but I wanted it to be from the Lord so I just asked Him to speak. 

In the midst of the speaker's message, just one word triggered something in me and it was like a faucet got turned on. That one word was my topic and the words were coming faster than I could write! I wish all of my writing experiences were that easy! I wrote for the remainder of her message and then missed the break-out session because I sat out in the lobby to finish writing. Every word, and every idea the Lord had for me to share is now written on the back of the map they gave us when we checked in at the conference, and scribbled onto a couple of sheets of borrowed paper from a friend. I look at those sheets and I am simply in awe.

The Father knows everything is there to know about each and everyone of us. He knows my desire to see my ladies and those He's put in my path, to be challenged to go farther than they thought they could, to press into God with everything they have and to do the impossible, or at least what seems impossible to them. He knows this about me because he put this desire in me, and so He is the One who pushes back and says, "Now it's your turn. Go farther, Dream bigger. Press-in when it hurts. Do the impossible!"

We need to be careful that as leaders, moms and dads, friends and confidants, that we are living what we telling others is good and right to do. Are we taking our own advice and showing up when life makes us wants to stay hidden? That whole "do what I say and not what I do" thing ain't gonna fly. People need to know we believe what we say we believe. I want to be that girl - leading where I live and blazing a trail for others so that they might believe they can do the impossible because they see if happening in my life.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

I am two people. So are you.

I have the honor and the privilege of serving where I work. Let me rephrase that. I've been serving at my church, also where I work, long before it was ever my job to do so.

Serving comes naturally to me. I've always done it - wherever I saw a need I stepped up. I rarely needed to be asked to do something. I simply offered or just did it. It's part of my make up and I love that about me. (You know it's okay to love the good stuff about you.) So whenever I was asked to do something, it was most often an honor to serve in that capacity because it affirmed that gift in me. Someone else saw that I was good at it.

Oh, but there is a trap we servant-hearted people can often fall into, even those of us in leadership and especially those of us who serve where we work. We can find our Martha taking center stage if we're not careful.

Today is Easter Sunday! That alone calls for an exclamation point. So please don't critique my editing skills in this instance. Our church hosted our very first Easter Egg Hunt and it was a huge success! We didn't know exactly what to expect and we were pleasantly surprised by how well it went and how well attended it ended up being.

We served a light breakfast to the masses and yours truly was one of the volunteers recruited to help with that. This was not my event, meaning, I wasn't in charge.  Even though I had to be there very early this morning, I was grateful I didn't have to be in charge. I'm in charge a lot!

As we were setting food out and preparing for the morning, the worship team was practicing. I could feel my heart stirring. It was Easter, and while they typically "bring it" every Sunday morning, this morning on Resurrection Sunday, they were pulling out all the stops and my Mary was beginning to show.

Once things began to wind down from the festivities and worship began, all of us  Marthas got busy in the kitchen putting things away and cleaning up. We had the super crew (all the single women in the church, just about) and a few others who know how to get stuff done. So it was going pretty fast. However, I warned the ladies when we first began clean-up, that once the worship team began signing a certain song, I was outta there! It didn't matter to me where we were in the process. I would be gone and they were welcome to come too, after which we'd go back and finish. (You can say things like that when you're usually in charge even though you're not in charge that day.)

I left the door open so I could hear the music and when the first chord struck, I said to our team, "I'll be back!" One other followed suit. I left Martha behind to go be Mary. Or you could say, Mary kicked Martha to the curb and that would be more accurate.

As one gifted in acts of service, it is easy for me to allow Martha to dominate much of what I do. I sometimes find myself getting caught up in the trap of serving and forgetting why. Mary gets hidden beneath the immediate of what needs to be done. I fight that battle on a regular basis. I am task driven. I admit it. but that makes me a great servant. I get in there and get things done, and that's my job. Who doesn't want that?

However, underneath the surface Mary is crying out for a little breathing room. Some days, like today, she has no problem asserting herself and just doing what she does. It sounds crazy. I know, but can I just say that we need both in our lives.?

As believers, we're all called to serve. No exceptions. It should be a natural overflow of our walk with the Lord. Some, like me, have a gift of serving which means I operate out of that place more regularly than most. My natural bent is to serve others. Yet if there is no Mary in the mix, our lives will become shallow. There's no depth of relationship with the Lord because we're always doing and never being. That's not what He wants.

Today, while serving, my Mary came front and center. She refused to let Easter Sunday go by without worshipping the One we celebrate. Sure dishes needed washing, food needed storing and things needed some order, but my soul needed tending. Worship does that. Time in the Lord's presence does that.

I've said quite a bit of this in jest but the truth is, I believe there are three people living inside of those of us who believe: the Holy Spirit and both Mary and Martha (the latter two figuratively).

Jesus demonstrated a life of service. He is our prime example of what a true servant looks like. Yet, He knew how draw away from the crowd and feed His spirit. He was friends with Mary and Martha and He dearly loved both of them.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this. We get to live  life doing both - serving and adoring. We don't have to choose! Both are necessary to a fulfilling life as a follower of Jesus Christ. However, it's easier for the one, Mary, to serve out of the overflow of her adoration than it is for the other, Martha, to set aside the tasks and other immediate things to spend time adoring.

Be mindful of this when you fall into that trap, and give yourself space to stop and remember why it is you serve. It was Mary that caught the Lord's attention even though Martha was doing needful things to "bless" him, all the while becoming agitated that Mary left her to them! Hmmm... I think Jesus would've been more blessed by a cold pastrami sandwich and a bowl of olives made right there in His presence after He was through speaking, than with a full spread laid before Him when He was done.

We who serve so relentlessly need to give Mary her space more often and first thing. She knows what it's all about and can help us keep things in right perspective. I need more Mary. I'm glad she refused to sit idly by today.

Oh, and by the way, I did go back to the kitchen to help finish up. It all got done, just as I knew it would.