Finding my way to being "in the middle" of His will...

I read a great article today, confirmed some things in me. Most of you know by now but if you don’t, Ryan and I have an intense and very full schedule trying to balance full time work for us both, 2 part time jobs for him on top of that, 4 children in 4 different schools, balancing our time individually with God, each other, our family, extended family, and our church family and friends. There is community among us as family, friends, believers in Christ and there is necessity, responsibility and fellowship to be honored between us all to find ourselves at the end of our lives on this earth hopefully in a place of content and peace knowing we lived and served well. If you aren’t weary after reading that, well, I am. When I take a long look at my 42 years of life so far, what I have done, what I am doing now and what I have yet to accomplish ahead, I am tired in both good and bad ways. It is particularly tricky to balance a part time bi-vocational ministry position when we have so much we have to consistently complete to live the obedient and abundant life God has purposed us for. Yeah, it’s hard. Yeah, it is something we came into reluctantly because quite frankly we were so burned from bad experiences with previous churches. We’d given so much for what God had called us to, and it seemed to be cut off prematurely when we felt we were truly just getting started. Add to this the ongoing pull I have had to follow my passion to become a professional counselor for teens in our public school system, somehow trying to time that with our insane schedule and responsibilities we carry. It is enough to send me to the floor of my closet at home, turn off the light, close the door, and wrap up in a blanket to be hidden from the reality I’d rather not face today, thank you very much.

Do you know why that is such a welcome escape? Because when I am there, I find I can be still, truly quiet my heart and mind and let the God I love and respect and honor and long to know more deeply today than I did yesterday, wash me from head to toe in His peace. I can listen far better, know Him far better, and seek Him for the wisdom and guidance I need to step out into that reality with far more confidence than when I entered that closet in my previous weary state. I can find my way back to being “in the middle” of His good and perfect will for my life when I know I have found that balance that is right just for me. It is a balance we each one must find on our own, and cannot/should not be determined by anyone but our Father God. Not your parents, not your best friend, not your mentor, not your coach, not your teacher, not your pastor. When you have positive influences from others in your life that is healthy and vital and important to your journey to find balance, but ultimately you must find that place of rest and stillness to consider what is my Father God speaking to me?

As a pastor’s wife, for anyone who may find themselves in a pastoral staff position, the appointment comes with both a written and unwritten list of expectations and responsibilities. We find ourselves under a microscope, better be prepared to be observed, scrutinized and watched very closely. Whether we like it or not, it is what it is, and we have to be ready for any and every criticism that may come our way in the process. God calls us all to be set apart, in the world and not of it, and we all have a part in ministry whether we serve in a staff position or not, we have a responsibility to act justly, walk humbly and love unconditionally for the sake of our Father God. I am not perfect and I will screw up far more than I get it right, it is just the nature of my humanity. I have found lessons learned in those moments where my humanity got the better of me, and it has made me stronger, better, far more confident than I was before. I have also learned the importance in my life to this point that boundaries and balance is key, and I will not apologize for setting it according to what God is speaking to my heart. I watched my Mom serve and lead in so many roles over the years as a pastor’s wife and was truly amazed by everything she was willing to do for the churches we were part of. But I also found myself having conversations with her years later in which she shared her hope that I would find better balance in my life and my role as a pastor’s wife.

Too many yeses in the wrong places might cause me to schedule myself right out of God’s plan for me.
(Excerpt from “Smack Dab in the Center, Deidra Riggs, (in)courage: home for the hearts of women, August 20, 2014, http://www.incourage.me/2014/08/smack-dab-in-the-center.html)

I believe I have found that, but it is interesting to me how few people I have met along the way who do not understand it completely. So, it means I take each opportunity that comes to my attention, and I immediately pray first. I ask God, what is my part in this? What have you called me to do? How can I better serve you? My balance falls according to one simple rule:

1. God
2. Marriage
3. Family
4. Church

So important to note that the #1 priority, God, is all inclusive to myself. This is defined as all inclusive to what my heart/mind/soul needs in terms of nourishing my spiritual state so that I can be the best I can be for all the other priorities. If at any point I allow these priorities to get unorganized, then I find myself in a state of frantic bewilderment. I can potentially shut down at that point on my husband, my children, my extended family, my church family, you pick it and I am likely to be too far gone to reach. I am a very driven, organized, highly sensitive and detailed person so I thrive and find my inner peace by keeping life in a certain order. Those of you out there who deal with anxiety/OCD/perfectionist tendencies and personalities can completely understand what I am saying here. My point of focus begins with God though, not myself. God knows me deeply and understands me better than anyone, and so knowing my tendencies toward anxiety/OCD/perfectionism, I start by turning all of me over to Him, and He grants me the wisdom to lay out my priorities in a way that truly honors Him. It is a daily challenge though. If one thing doesn’t fall into place, the whole thing can come tumbling down. So I maintain that balance by keeping in tune with the Father throughout the day. I ground myself in His Word, in prayer, and in constant communication with people in my life who are sources of mentoring and encouragement to my spiritual walk when I need it most.
I value time at a much slower pace than a lot of people I know. For me, balance is realized both on God’s terms and my own terms.

I want my life to be a beautiful reflection of God’s abundant provision, honoring Him with obedience in all things, and consistent in showing compassion and love toward others. I hope He is pleased. I hope I can find myself “in the middle” of His will more often than not. It is a daily, life-long challenge and I don’t intend to give up easily.

How you found yourself “in the middle” of His will? What steps do you need to take to get there?
I am praying for you, my friend. We are all in this together…..

Search me, know me, test me……

Psalm 139 is on my heart today, just mulling it over in my heart and soul, pondering, “What does God have to speak into my life through this meditative scripture?” Break it down, here’s a sum up of what this chapter speaks:

He knows me…
He is with me…
He made me…
He will deliver me…


Verse 23 of the Voice translation of the Bible says this and it is my prayer this week:

Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am. Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain.

I can just imagine sitting with David while he scratched out the words, pleading, crying out to God, because isn’t this what we long for the entirety of our journey with Christ? To be known fully by Him and to know Him more?

As I walked yesterday across campus on my lunch break, I prayed unceasingly, “Lord, move in this place, move in my heart to be more of you in this world!”

I’m heartbroken this week for many reasons, and it’s hard to miss when the stories are blasted in the media headlines for all of us to experience. Robin Williams’ death was a painful reminder to us all that at any given moment somebody is struggling with an addiction, with depression, and we are still learning the best ways we can help them get through it without it resulting in a tragic end to a remarkable life. There is help and hope in our God, and there are resources available in our communities for support so we need to be a part of the solution and share it! I will be one of the first to admit there are times when God is not enough, when we need intervention and help from tangible resources that are available in therapy and counseling, doctors and specialists who can partner with us to help us get to a healthier balance emotionally and physically. We cannot judge or dismiss struggles in this life by telling one another, “You just need to pray more and read your Bible more!” or any number of things that are typical responses in our Christian circles. We need to recognize that God provides helps to us through these resources, and it is okay to admit we have a struggle, we are weak and recognize the brain is a powerful force to reckon with to the point that sometimes we cannot sense God’s presence in our lives. There is no shame in this, because ultimately God knows each of us best and He knows what tools will be the most effective in shaping us to the healthier and whole being He always intended for us to be! Don’t for a moment allow yourself to think you are alone in your struggle. Reach out to someone you know you can trust, God the Father and then your community of Christ, whether it is your church family, a family member or a friend who is closer than a brother and can be trusted like no other with your struggles. You deserve to be loved and embraced in the midst of your weakness, you deserve to be valued and you deserve someone to listen more than anything. Sometimes the best help we can offer to someone in their time of struggle, is to simply listen. Lend a shoulder to cry on, or a lap to lay upon. These are moments of release and restoration that can be our greatest comforts in our darkest seasons. If you don’t have that, message me and we’ll talk. We need each other, we need our Father God, and we can only get through this rugged life one day at a time successfully when we know we have someone to lean on.

I want to extend this challenge to whoever may be reading this blog entry today, to be light in someone’s darkness because you have an opportunity that should not be missed! God will use you, and let me encourage you in this very moment to consider it doesn’t mean you have to be eloquent, or have the entire Bible memorized, or a witnessing tool in your hand in the form of a trac or scripture guide. Start by lending a hand, lending an ear, sharing your story and the rest will follow. God has a purpose for each of us, so let’s get out there and follow up on what He’s called us to do. Be His light, be His love, striving to know Him and share Him with every single person who crosses our path. Live out His love and light, share Jesus, and invite the Holy Spirit to breathe through you and be a vessel He can use to touch someone’s life today.

I believe this and I am praying this for you.

my Ebenezer...

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