How lovely You are, Oh Lord!

I am reminded daily by what I see, hear and witness happening in the world, how vital it is to have faith, trust in God, lean fully into Him! I cannot and will not make it a day in this life without knowing I have a Savior. Many of you have followed my blog and walked with us through some very difficult days, and I stop breathless, unable to speak except to say the name "Jesus!" when I hear of another dear friend's struggle in this life. How do we cope? How do we move forward? How do we rise above what seems to be insurmountable, impossible, inescapable? I received this wonderful passage of scripture via email today and it was like cool water to my soul, needed refreshment!

Psalm 84:1-2 (NLT) How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.

In the worst of times, in the best of times, let's enter His courts with praise! No matter what we must face today, embrace the Lord fully and determine to shout joyfully throughout your day! He is good, He will take care of You, He will provide, He is our Hope and Salvation! Where is our hope if not in Him? How lovely He is!

Somehow the hardest times are softened, muffled when we choose to let it fall away and fall into the arms of the Father! I need that every day, don't you?

Ryan and I have been on a journey, and as we have come away with lessons learned, experiences worth cherishing and some otherwise unforgettable, we choose to move forward, embrace the calling He has placed upon our lives from the beginning. There were days I honestly was ready to hang up my hat, walk away from church, and I told God, "I am so weary, so tired of being hurt, disappointed, disillusioned by what Your people are doing with what You've entrusted them to do as Your Bride! I can't do this anymore, ministry-it's just too hard. I don't want to be part of something that is so broken." So, you know what God has been speaking to my heart in response? I hear Him saying, "I get it. I know your hurt all too well. I understand what you have experienced and endured. But I also know far better than you do, what you are capable of, what you are called to, and what you are destined to become! Embrace the calling that I've placed within your heart from the very beginning! I am not finished with you yet!"

Life is hard, we are going to be hurt, disappointed, disillusioned, and we will reach what feels like the very edge of our endurance. It is at that edge, we have a choice to step out into the great unknown, risk it all and for what? For Christ and for His Kingdom. For my brothers and sisters, who some I may not like very well sometimes, and I may not get along with every single one of them, but I can let go of my inhibitions and expectations and embrace the attitude of Christ. I can love and care for even the worst of humanity, because Christ does. I can give above and beyond what I think I am capable of, because Christ did. God didn't send His Son to die on the Cross for a select few-He did it, He died for all! We have a brief time on this earth to impact the lives of so many so that they can know and embrace salvation in Christ. I am thankful, despite my inadequacies, my failings, my stumbling through life at times, that God still has hope in me. Because He has hope in me, I have hope in Him! Because of how much He has given to me, I will give all I can for Him. Let's make a choice daily to dwell in His courts, make the most of our time in this life! It won't be easy but I guarantee it will do your heart good!

Living life with a bit more hope today than yesterday. Let's get out there and give God our best!

2 Chronicles 16:9 NLT-The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

This blog entry comes in the midst of some particularly challenging days for me. I am not sure why but for some reason God has allowed circumstances, stresses in my life to come to a boiling point and my heart, my mind are weary. I know the grit of it, is simply my inability to find a peace with myself, with my life. I have been extremely unsettled and unhappy for a very long time. It is hard to say that but I am. I have come back to this realiziation on several occasions over the past two years. My work life has taken some interesting twists and turns. I have chosen each one for better or worse, and rode it out as best I could. I knew God intended for me to be in each one for a reason, and no matter how good or bad it was I made the best of it. I have found a certain level of satisfaction with each one, but never truly felt any one in particular was the career of a lifetime for me. I came into each one and through each one knowing in my heart and mind that I could do it, I could do it well, and it was right for the time being but I didn't see any particular one being a life long career for me. The only thing I was certain of and what kept me going was, this could work for me until the time is right, and God provides for me to have the freedom and blessing to be at home full time. That was my goal, that was all I wanted. God has provided some very interesting opportunities for me and I have worked toward it and attained more than I thought I would. I am proud of what I've achieved, but when I set that aside, I'm not where I want to be. My greatest achievement is my family, my pride is in being the best me God intends for me to be, and the jewels in my crown are my sweet husband and my children. It doesn't matter to me what my resume shows I did in life, because what matters most is my family. I am at another point in my life, a crossroads you could say. I know what awaits me, the realm of possibilities and I am excited to see what may unfold in the next few months for me professionally. It would be easy at my age, at this point in my life, the experiences we have had to say, "What is the point of changing anything now? It is better, it is safer, it is smarter to go with the expectations that have been placed upon me. It is better to settle and make the most of what has been granted to me now. It is better not to take any risks. It is better to put aside any lofty ideas, dreams of something different and the creative freedoms that may come with taking a less predictable road."

I don't like feeling unsettled, and I am tired of being unhappy. Don't get me wrong-I am very thankful for where I am today, but it is possible to be thankful for where you are and yet be unsettled, unhappy and itching to do something more! Don't you think? Some life lessons I stumbled across today:

Slow down. Rushing is rarely worth it. Life is better enjoyed at a leisurely pace.

Goals aren’t as important as we think. Try working without them for a week. Turns out, you can do amazing things without goals. And you don’t have to manage them, cutting out on some of the bureaucracy of your life. You’re less stressed without goals, and you’re freer to choose paths you couldn’t have foreseen without them.

The moment is all there is. All our worries and plans about the future, all our replaying of things that happened in the past — it’s all in our heads, and it just distracts us from fully living right now. Let go of all that, and just focus on what you’re doing, right at this moment. In this way, any activity can be meditation.

If you find yourself swimming with all the other fish, go the other way. They don’t know where they’re going either.

Mistakes are the best way to learn. Don’t be afraid to make them. Try not to repeat the same ones too often.

Failures are the stepping stones to success. Without failure, we’ll never learn how to succeed. So try to fail, instead of trying to avoid failure through fear.

Rest is more important than you think. People work too hard, forget to rest, and then begin to hate their jobs. In fitness, you see it constantly: people training for a marathon getting burned out because they don’t know how to let their straining muscles and joints recover. People who try to do too much because they don’t know that rest is where their body gets stronger, after the stress.

The destination is just a tiny slice of the journey. We’re so worried about goals, about our future, that we miss all the great things along the way. If you’re fixated on the goal, on the end, you won’t enjoy it when you get there. You’ll be worried about the next goal, the next destination.

Let go of expectations. When you have expectations of something — a person, an experience, a vacation, a job, a book — you put it in a predetermined box that has little to do with reality. You set up an idealized version of the thing (or person) and then try to fit the reality into this ideal, and are often disappointed. Instead, try to experience reality as it is, appreciate it for what it is, and be happy that it is.

Gratitude is one of the best ways to find contentment. We are often discontent in our lives, desire more, because we don’t realize how much we have. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, be grateful for the amazing gifts you’ve been given: of loved ones and simple pleasures, of health and sight and the gift of music and books, of nature and beauty and the ability to create, and everything in between. Be grateful every day.

Get some perspective. Usually when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. In the larger picture, this one problem means almost nothing. This fight we’re having with someone else — it’s over something that matters naught. Let it go, and move on.

Don’t sit too much. It kills you. Move, dance, run, play.

Do less. Most people try to do too much. They fill life with checklists, and try to crank out tasks as if they were widget machines. Throw out the checklists and just figure out what’s important. Stop being a machine and focus on what you love. Do it lovingly.

Fear will try to stop you. Doubts will try to stop you. You’ll shy away from doing great things, from going on new adventures, from creating something new and putting it out in the world, because of self-doubt and fear. It will happen in the recesses of your mind, where you don’t even know it’s happening. Become aware of these doubts and fears. Shine some light on them. Beat them with a thousand tiny cuts. Do it anyway, because they are wrong.

("38 Life Lessons I've Learned in 38 Years", Post written by Leo Babauta,

I"m no expert on life, and I believe we are each one destined for greatness but-that destiny is in God's hands, and it is up to you how you choose to navigate the path He lays out. I want to breathe life in, and not miss what may be right before me, the chance to tap into some hidden potential just waiting to break free! I am excited, hopeful, ready to see where this new direction in my path may lead. I don't know what lies ahead, but I know there is the possibility of something greater than what I have today. I do not want to leave a single stone unturned, and I am looking forward to seeing what God has for me.

Be my Everything....

Yet another Monday has smacked me clean in the face and I am slowly getting into a groove today. This weekend I had a meltdown, and it was brought on by several things that had piled up over the course of the week. I stumble daly, in particular with my OCD need to somehow be in control of my life, when in all actuality none of it is. My Father in heaven orchestrates every moment of my life without my knowing and understanding it the majority of the time.

We are still in somewhat of a holding pattern this season, several open doors for Ryan with new job possibilities. The new reality we are finding is that a full time worship ministry role is hard to come by anymore. A lot of churches, the majority of churches have had to improvise in this tough economy and go bivocational unless you live in an area that is thriving with several mega churches that can sustain a larger, more diverse staff. Ryan is still trying to find his niche, and rather than take a position where he feels he must be boxed in and conform to what a church thinks he should do as a worship pastor, he is waiting to find a position where he is able to truly spread his wings creatively, while being supported in his ability to do the job with excellence as well as not being burdened by a board's unrealistic and inexperienced list of to-do's for the day. I am thankful for the chance Ryan has had to share in ministry with both of his brothers, and experience worship leadership in some other venues where he's had a taste of what a healthier ministry and staff environment can provide for him. I admit there was a time and there still is a lingering thought that I'd rather Ryan not ever take a worship pastor job again. I watched and experienced the pressures and demands that come with being both a pastor's kid and a pastor's wife. I saw my Mom do it so well, but I am finding I am not cut out for it. Being under that microscope is a difficult task, and I am constantly amazed to watch how churches handle the admitted flaws of their pastors and reel in shock when something happens. Wake up churches! You are all human, your pastors included, and here's a given you better come to expect--at some point your pastor is going to make a mistake and hopefully that same pastor will do the right thing from the get go and tell you he is accountable to God first, and to the church body second. The same goes for our governing boards, elders, deacons, etc. With accountability in place, we can ride out the storm better than if there were no accountability in place at all. I am praying this for Ryan, as we continue to maneuver through this season of life, that he finds a position with a church that has a healthy and well-rounded expectation of the Worship Pastor and truly is unified as a staff team to not only do ministry well but do it in ever changing, transforming, and creative ways. This Summer and Fall have turned out to be seasons of real change for Ryan and I. Opportunities are coming and going, and progress is being made in this time more so that the length of time we waited while we were in Indiana. It is more evidence that our move to Missouri was God's plan all along, and He continues to reveal to us new and interesting possibilities.

This is only part of what set me on a course to a meltdown last weekend. We have been managing two aging vehicles for years now and out of necessity and the lack of funds to secure a newer vehicle, we chose to make having older vehicles and no car payments work for us as long as we could manage it. Several hundred dollars worth of repairs in the Spring and a lot of prayer and research led us to look into purchasing a replacement used vehicle. God provided, the stars aligned, however you want to look at it and a local and reputable used dealership had a used minivan that turned out to be just what we needed and could afford. Going from two vehicles to one was not easy but we could make it work because of the close promixity of our jobs, and the kids not having a hectic extracurricular schedule. What we didn't anticipate was the repairs that would come less than 2 months after and as I type this blog entry Ryan is taking that lovely minivan into the dealership today after having a lengthy conversation with their service department supervisor over the weekend of what we've had to do.
It keeps getting better-as the school year has begun, our son AJ has been having some issues with his attention span, getting his work complete, following basic directions, etc. Several phone and email conversations with his teacher and not even 3 weeks fully into the new year we are disappointed and uncertain as to what we need to do. At first glance it appears he is simply unmotivated and doesn't feel like doing the work, enjoys twirling his pencil and pretending it's a rocket ship rather than following the teacher's directions. One particular day, they had to get out their dictionary and workbook, and when he was asked to find the words on the list and write down the definitions, he said he didn't do it simply because he decided he could come up with more creative words. Anyone care to dig into this 8 year old third grader's mind and see what makes him tick because I can't seem to figure out other than he is simply bored and hasn't found the outlet for the creativity that he possesses! Awesome! Further into the talks with his teacher we noted he'd had some issues with seeing the board and being a bit slow in writing down what was given to him to copy on his paper. We made an appointment for the eye doctor, discovered he does in fact have issues seeing far away, and he came home proudly wearing a new pair of reading glasses. This morning I got a brief email from his teacher stating he is already showing signs of improvement, taking greater interest in his work and very proud of his new eyewear. We are hopeful the good reports will continue as the week progresses so he can earn back his priveleges at home in terms of play time on the XBox, tv time, etc.
To wrap up the week, I had a particularly challenging couple of days and it boiled down to a project that I have struggled to tackle. I am slowly getting it down, but it is just another one of those things that I have had to learn, and it is not coming as quickly as I'd hoped. Again, the OCD kicks in and I struggle with wanting to get it done right/perfect the first time, and if I don't get it right away, it can make me physically and emotionally ill. Add that struggle to a storm that began to brew late afternoon Friday and is still going but for the moment seems to be handled. I like my job, but I do not love it. I know, I know, most of you would say yep, know what you are saying and that is just how it is. Well, there's a depth to that small statement for me that has lingered for years and when I heard the messsage at church Saturday night it re-ignited some "stuff" that I've been wrestling for years.
I know what my calling is, I know what I am good at, I know what my gifts are, but how do I find a way to make that translate into my work life? Bottom line-I never wanted to work full time and never intended to. My dream was to be a wife and mother, be home with my children, possibly do some part time work/projects here and there but I never, ever intended to be in the position that I am now. My struggle is not with that so much as it is the necessity for me to have a full time career, then I want it to be something that I truly find worthwhile, enjoyable, and an investment in me and my best that I have to offer. I know what I am capable of, I know what I can do and what I am able to accomplish, but why does this question keep lingering in my mind: Is this it? Is this all there is? Do I really have to settle for this for the next 20 years or more of my life?
My heart says no, but my mind says yes--do what you have to do because you don't have a choice.
As I gulped tearfully through a difficult conversation with Ryan on Friday night, limped through the weekend emotionally and physically, back and forth between waves of certainty and uncertainty, all I could think was I must stop thinking about what God could have for me and focus on what He has provided for me today. I somehow have to force my thinking to relax and center in on how good God is. Somehow that has to be enough, I just need to let it all go. Why is this such a hard lesson to learn and why is it a neverending life lesson? All I know is I was confirmed in this very certainty as I came upon this scripture, and a song I heard for the first time years ago but was fresh in my heart this morning:

Psalm 63:5-7(The Voice) My soul overflows with satisfaction, as when I feast on foods rich in marrow and fat;
with excitement in my heart and joy on my lips, I offer You praise.
Often at night I lie in bed and remember You,
meditating on Your greatness till morning smiles through my window.
You have been my constant helper;
therefore, I sing for joy under the protection of Your wings.

"Everything" by Tim Hughes

God in my living
There in my breathing
God in my waking
God in my sleeping

God in my resting
There in my working
God in my thinking
God in my speaking

Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything

God in my hoping
There in my dreaming

God in my watching
God in my waiting

God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
You are everything

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
Be my everything

Christian lyrics - EVERYTHING LYRICS - TIM HUGHES 2007 Sparrow

I can't be my best me, I can't be fully in Christ if I am weighted down by all of this, so somehow, some way in my daily struggle to be the me God intends for me to be, I have to lay it all down and let Christ flow through me. I am so thankful for his mercy, for his grace because I am such a mess and I get it wrong so much of the time.

Thank you, Lord, for loving me! Be my Everything!

my Ebenezer...

“…Thus far the Lord has helped us.”-1 Samuel 7:12 There are moments in my life when I look back and can see how God in His perfect yet my...