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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Lasting Reminder

Months ago I smacked my thumb with a hammer during a special church service. We were nailing small slips of paper with lists of our sins to a wooden cross to symbolize Christ's payment for our debts. As the weeks passed, the wound turned black, and began to slowly inch upward as my nail grew.

At Christmas, the black spot cracked and popped off - right out of the middle of the finger nail. The process was quite disgustingly nasty. Now I have a bizarre hole in the middle of my finger nail that annoys me greatly and catches on everything. Shawn's grandmother noticed first the blackened spot, then the gaping hole. When I told her about what had happened she spoke quiet words of wisdom, "Whelp, I reckon some of us needs a bit more reminding 'bout thangs than others."

How true - every time I see the remnants of my mishap, I remember that church service. I remember what I wrote on my paper - a long list of sins, covered by a huge word, "REDEEMED." I am reminded daily that Christ took my punishment so that I could experience life in God's presence.

Maybe, just this once, hitting myself with the hammer was more of a blessing than a pain.

Monday Morning Update - Advent Conspiracy

I have been silent for many weeks, strongly impressed to keep my opinions about Advent Conspiracy to myself. In praying about posting Monday Morning Updates, I decided to wait and let others hear from God during this series without my opinions and thoughts weighing in on what God was telling them.

If you are asking, "What is Advent Conspiracy?" Well, it's a book, a movement, and a way of life. Chris Seay wrote a small book entitled Advent Conspiracy that has sparked believers to rethink the materialism at Christmas. Shawn spent several weeks walking through many of these principles with our congregation. You can find these principles and more information online at

We have long felt that we were missing something valuable in Christmas. The year that our children cried because they were tired of opening gifts sort of clued us in that we were missing the point. We love to shower our children with gifts to demonstrate our love, but then in a matter of weeks or months we are hauling off their discarded stuff to Goodwill. Every year we experience great stress attempting to find the perfect gifts for people who don't need or want any more stuff. Then there are the gifts that we buy out of obligation - for people we don't even really like. And then there are the bills - the massive piles of bills from going overboard with money we didn't really have.

So this year, Christmas changed at our house. We only bought gifts for our immediate family. In an effort to be responsible to our budget, and to prevent our dollars supporting slavery, we bought most of our stuff used this year. My daughters and I all received $10 bikes. Katie received a $25 dollhouse that retailed for $200, Grace a $500 drumset for $150, and James a mountain bike for $85. We also bought fair trade items online at Many of our purchases were probably not fair trade, but at least it is improving.

For Shawn's family, we decided to give the gift of relationship. We all committed to spending a week together this summer on vacation. We will coordinate our time off in such a way that we can stop our busy lives and connect. Looking at the relational aspect of Christmas also made me rethink our holiday. We made the effort this year to see all our parents. It was a long trip, all the way across and around Arkansas, but definitely very rewarding to visit my family.

This last Sunday, we spent time telling our stories. The stories of how God showed up this Christmas. We heard from families about serving the homeless, helping others, and astonishing accounts of blessing. The power of the stories of our people was incredible. I loved getting to hear how God had worked in others. However, I am more excited to see how God continues to work over the next few weeks and months as we continue to rethink how we live. To worship freely, give more, and love fully.

Monday, December 13, 2010

36 and counting

In fifth grade, I had this thing for paper dolls. I played obsessively long games of pretend, you know the type - the princess is rescued by the prince and lives happily ever after. In all these games of pretend, the princess was 16 or so. After all, 20 was just soooo old to find true love.

Last week, I celebrated my 36th birthday. Maybe I should feel old. After all, my natural hair color isn't red anymore and the laugh lines around my eyes don't fade when I stop laughing and rollover doesn't refer to minutes on my phone. But instead, I feel as though I've just begun to live. Don't get me wrong, the 20's were cool - having babies is a blast. But in my thirties, I've found new acceptance with myself. I like the person I'm becoming, and enjoy my marriage.

There are nights when I lie awake and doubt myself. I wonder about my crazy decision to pursue a ministry degree this late in life and try to launch a new career. But most of the time, I am excited that I am comfortable in my own skin, laugh way too hard, and love way too big. I wish that I could pause the clock and spend a few extra minutes enjoying this phase of life.

I am excited to see what surprises, challenges, and blessings this year will hold. Happy Birthday to Me!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

14 years of motherhood

James, my oldest, celebrated his 14th birthday today. He is a low key kind of guy. It's been years since his last party. I tried to convince him to invite his buddies over to hang out, or to go to a movie, but he answered, "UHUUNUH." I think in 14 year old grunting, this translates to, "No thanks, mom." When asked what he wanted for his birthday, he responded, "UHNU." I think in 14 year old male grunting, that translates to "I'm not sure what I want, mom."

Finally after much discussion (I used words, he grunted), we bought him a new video game, and added a phone to the family plan so he no longer has to share with his sister, since sharing isn't really how I would describe their phone arrangement. She typically keeps the phone and allows him to make calls while she stares at him and waits. James was thrilled to get his own phone.

We gave him the choice of anywhere he wanted to eat, and the boy chose CiCi's pizza. I am not a fan. James however loved the idea of unlimited pizza and soft drinks. We came back home to an amazing Reese's peanut butter cup cake that Shawn made from scratch. YUMMY!

As we ate cake, we shared our favorite James moments. There are so many - the little boy memories of mudpies, imaginary friends, and sweet kisses. There's also the memories of him finding himself as a teen. We have had a lot of laughs the last few years on our commute to school and back.

It all made me think about how blessed I am to celebrate 14 years of motherhood today. It's not always an easy road, parenting four children. However, I love this crazy life. As I sit on the couch tonight and watch them play rockband, I remember the overwhelming love that I felt as each of them was laid into my arms. The years have flown by and I no longer kiss scraped knees and sing lullabies at night. Instead I mentor them through life impacting decisions and try hard to be their biggest fan. I am looking forward to our future as a family and am incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to be a mom.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Second Best

Cold weather is finally creeping into Texas. The grass was wet with a light frost Saturday morning, and my breath froze in a delicate fog. The fire crackled comfortingly in the fireplace for the first time this weekend. As the cold weather hits, I am reminded to be grateful for God's provision for my family. Tonight as I snuggle under my well worn comforter, in my toasty warm house, I am well aware that I am privileged to enjoy such luxuries.

This morning the chilly air sent me searching for a coat to wear to church. I reached into my closet and pulled out a dark red wool coat. This coat has hung in my closet for the last 18 years. 18 years ago, it was a beauty. I bought it at Dillards, and wore it with pride for many years. Today it is down to a single button, the lining is tattered, and the pockets torn. Though no longer very fashionable, it works great at blocking a cold wind.

This summer I heard of a family who lost everything in a fire. As I collected clothes from my closet to share with the family, I reached for the red coat. I knew that it wasn't anything special, but it would work if you didn't have anything better. I took the coat from the hanger, only to hear the Holy Spirit speak to my heart, "When are you going to stop giving me your second best?" I was not excited about this particular urging. Giving away things one no longer wants is painless. But the Bible teaches that God receives sacrificial worship. I placed the red wool coat back into my closet and pulled out my nice, black, favorite leather coat and added it to the pile.

I do not tell this story to receive glory for myself. I tell the story to illustrate that God wants our very best. In my case, he wanted me to be willing to "get by" with the red coat and give away my favorite coat to someone with great need who would probably have been thankful to just "get by". For me, this was a mile marker event in my Christian faith. I have since begun to realize that my idea of sacrifice for Christ is embarrassingly tiny compared to the type of giving spirit demonstrated in scripture.

This winter every time I wear my old red coat, I want God to remind me about how he sent his very best for me.... Jesus. I want to remember that God is never selfish, and definitely never gives me anything that is second rate. I want to learn what it really means to live as a child of God. What does it really look like to live as though everything I own is simply on loan from God? What does it look like to simply be the steward, not the owner, of all that I have?

I have so far to go in this area of giving God my best. I tend to give God my left overs. He gets whatever time is left over at the end of my day, whatever energy I have left, whatever ministry I can squeeze in around my own personal schedule. I say this not with guilt, but with excitement. I am excited about how God is going to work in my life in this area. I am excited to see how God might use me for the kingdom if I become a little less selfish and a little less attached to my stuff and a little more free about giving to others.

I am silly, giddily excited that I kept the red coat for myself. In hindsight, it seems that giving away my best gave me the best blessing. So this winter as I wear my ancient red coat, I am looking forward to seeing how God is going to change my heart!


Monday Morning Update(s) 11.7.10

Being a student again is definitely getting in the way of my blogging habit. I seem to have time fitting in writing "just for fun" when I have long papers and projects due. I miss my blog time, the opportunity to unwind and empty all the crazy thoughts from my head.

The last two weeks at The Crossroads have been really great. Last weekend we hosted our third annual trunk or treat. I was amazed by the turnout this year. We gave away two hundred hot dogs in the blink of an eye (graciously donated by our local Brookshire's). The employees of the bank where we held our event counted over 400 people that visited their booth. But most amazing was seeing people linger and visit with their neighbors. When we first came to Anna the number one need marked on our 1000 door to door surveys was the need for community. As we continually host community events and get outside our walls (because we don't have any), I see community growing. Our city and other churches are also seeking to meet this need, and I think that families connecting is going to have a great positive impact on the community.

Our entire family dressed up this year for Trunk or Treat. It's been a very long time since we were all in costume. The oldest kids used to be too cool to dress up, and when they were all little, I was too cool to dress up. Check out the photos of our family- unfortunately they are a little blurry from my phone.
James was werewolf, Katie a vampire, Grace a flapper, and Abby was Dorothy.

Our little Dorothy didn't make it all the way to her bed, collapsing in exhaustion in the middle of the living room floor.

Shawn and I dressed as Two-face and bat woman. It was a last minute switch. The flapper costume was originally mine, but was a little snug. I appreciated my friend loaning me her bat woman costume to help me out. We had a lot of fun seeing our students and friends at the Trunk or Treat. My students were giggling for days on end about me being Bat woman!

The last two Sundays at The Crossroads have been great. Shawn preached last Sunday about the monster within us all - our sin nature. Then this week we started a three week series from Dave Ramsey about conquering debt so that we can use our finances for kingdom purposes. We want our people to get serious about tackling their financial bondage to credit cards. I know that we have struggled with debt in the last few years, and just in the last two years have been able to pay it down. I just now as I am writing realized the strangest thing - we took a gigantic pay cut to become church planters, and at the same time have not only paid our bills and got groceries on the table, but we have nearly paid off our debt. How cool is that! God definitely honors obedience!

I would ask that you pray for The Crossroads. We have been through hard times lately, and want to continue to serve faithfully. Our people are hurting, pray that we can help them to find healing in Christ.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Morning Dawns

Saturday morning, I laced up the sneakers and slipped out the door for an early morning run. As the first pink fingers of light touched the clouds, Paul Baloche's, "Your Name," played on the ipod. The opening line of the song is, "As morning dawns and evening fades, you inspire songs of praise." It was such a fitting moment that I stopped still in my tracks in awe. I watched the pink spread all across the sky and the evening roll away. I saw in that moment a reminder of how God works in life.

We have recently experienced rough times in our family, as well as our church family. We have had friends lose a baby, have another church member's teen son diagnosed with cancer, others confronted with debilitating illnesses, financial distress, and failed marriages. It has been an extremely dark time in our life and in our church family's life. Not that we are distant from God's presence, but we have suffered great amounts of crisis and pain.

I was reminded Saturday morning that MORNING DAWNS and EVENING FADES. Light comes, and darkness dissipates. I cannot allow discouragement to hold onto our lives. We must all press forward in the firm expectation that morning is on its way.

I thought about the story in the Bible about how the women with the hemorrhage pushed through the crowd, desperate for an opportunity to touch Jesus' garment. She did not give up until she was successful. I felt a very real sense of urgency to be that woman. Pursue God's presence with desperation and urgency. Do not be dissuaded from seeking his presence!

As I watched that sunrise, frozen in time and space, I saw the beauty of the light against the darkness. Without darkness, there is no beauty of a sunrise. It is in that first glorious moment of the light breaking the darkness with stunningly gorgeous color that is most amazing. If life was eternally sunny, we would not have the opportunity to fully recognize the beauty of the light. I am not saying that God delights in sending us difficulty, but I am saying that as we experience the difficulty that is a part of the normal human existence, it affords us the opportunity to more fully appreciate the beauty of God's love, mercy, and peace.

Monday Morning update 10.24.10

This morning Shawn opened a two week series entitled, "Monsters." I heard it was a great sermon about spiritual warfare. I think sometimes we underestimate the spiritual battles waging around us and wander through life unprepared and defenseless.

I was in children's this week. We were learning about how even a great hero like Moses still needed help in ministry. I enjoyed visiting with the children about what their favorite super heroes and their favorite real life heroes had in common. It was cool to see how many kids listed their parents as their real life heroes.

Tonight we had the opportunity to take part in a community service. It is always a great experience to worship with the other believers in our community. I especially enjoyed seeing a lady in her 90's still able to rock the baby grand. She slowly teetered to the piano carefully balanced on her walker, sat gingerly on the edge of the bench, and took a deep breath, and then magic flowed from her gnarled, arthritic fingers. I hope God grants me the ability to play until the end. What an amazing blessing in life!

It seems impossible that it is time for another week to begin. I am so far behind with my homework and term papers that it's not even funny, and at the same time I am swamped with work. Pray that I will find a way to get done what needs doing and the ability to make that discernment.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Do Over

As a kid, when something went wrong during a game at recess, somebody would holler, "Do over." That meant you got a second try at the game. In playground law, it was assumed that you deserved second chances.

As an adult, it seems that do overs are few and far between. It seems that our choices are weightier with tougher, more long term consequences. Maybe that's why getting a second chance is such a beautiful thing.

We have recently had deep, dark times with our teens. Without betraying their trust, I will simply say that it's easily been one of the hardest months of my life. However, the light at the end of the tunnel is that God handed me a do over. So many times with teens you don't have the opportunity to repair what is broken, therefore I am very grateful for a second chance.

The catch of second chances is that they don't come easily or without sacrifice. For this season in our life, our children have expressed their primary need is more time at home - lots of time with our family. This means that I have given up journey groups, ministry opportunities, and friendships. For this season in our lives, I am digging in deeply and investing into my children. While I desperately miss my friends and getting to minister alongside Shawn, I am already seeing changes at our home.

Tonight I skipped James' game to bring the girls home. We picked up a few groceries at the store, turned on some music and danced, sang, and cooked supper together. As we laughed together at the dinner table, I realized that the lights are shining again in my girls' eyes. They are starting to feel loved and valued again. I have to say that the sparkles in their eyes make the sacrifices easy.

Tonight I was thankful that God is still a God of second chances. And that He gives us the good sense to seize them!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ode to the metronome

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Fast. Slow. Steady beat. Such was the voice of my metronome. It was ancient when it first came into my possession, belonging first to my older brother, and if memory serves me correctly, my grandmother before him.

It was not the modern metronome - a slick black box with a tiny battery that makes it click. Instead it was a wooden triangular box with a wind-up key on the side. If you wound the key nine times, the metronome had enough power to last for over an hour of practice.

When I left home, I didn't bring a lot of my childhood things along, but I did pack the metronome. As we have moved many times, I have kept my metronome. When we stored stuff when our house went on the market, I left the metronome in a kitchen cabinet where I could see it daily.

Maybe that seems like a strange item to keep, but my metronome and I have been through much together. Rhythm is not my strongest gift. Many times over the years, I became extraordinarily frustrated by complicated measures of music. I have yelled at, hit, and thrown my metronome. Then I would retrieve it, reset it, and try again. It has been many years since I last needed to know the exact difference between 64 and 72 beats a minutes, however I still open the cabinet to look at that metronome frequently.

My old metronome is a strong reminder of persistence. Even though rhythm doesn't come naturally for me, any song can be mastered with enough hard work and discipline. My metronome is a reminder of where I have been. When I see the old beat-up case, I remember the hours of frustration over music that is now simple. I remember the hours of time I invested in something that I have grown to love. I am reminded that I am human as I examine the dents in the case from the angry outbursts as a teen.

Tonight, I opened the metronome one last time for my kids to use for band practice. Their fancy slick little black box needed new batteries, so they were willing to use my antique. Unfortunately, my metronome has starting counting off beat - like me. 1...2...........3..4...........1......2..3.4......1.2.3.........4........

Instead of throwing it away, I gently replaced the cover and set it back on the shelf. I decided that I needed it, even if it wasn't able to help me count anymore. I need the reminder that anything is possible if you have the persistence to daily refuse to accept failure. While my metronome may be a little off beat, it is still dead on with its life lessons.

Monday Morning Update 10/17/10

I just realized that I skipped last week's blog. I had great intentions of writing, but somehow life got in the way.

Last weekend was phenomenal! We met at the school for an opening song, and a short devotional. Then Shawn dismissed our congregation with a grocery bag and a list of needed items for our local food pantry. Our members went to the store, purchased some of those items and returned with 660 pounds of groceries for hungry families in our community.

It was great to see our people engaged in missions and realizing that service is worship. Worship is so much more than warm fuzzy feelings from singing awesome music. Worship is about loving others and loving God.

This week Shawn sat in the "hot seat" and answered people's questions about life and the Bible. I am always amazed by his expertise in these moments that he has a grasp on the Bible to be able to go to the chapter and verse that he needs for the answer. I am so much more of a generalist. "Well, somewhere the Bible says...." Over the years, this has always been one of my favorite services because I have the opportunity to hear from people's hearts about what bothers them, and because I think it makes people realize their full accessibility to their pastor to have the freedom to ask questions more often.

This week we also played with a new band. There has been much transition over the last two years in our worship band as members have moved away or felt led to attend other churches. I miss my old friends very deeply, but I am thankful that God is providing for our needs at this moment. Our worship pastor, Robby, had even placed ads seeking band members without success, but apparently God planned to meet that need by bringing in musicians as church members. I am very excited about working with these new musicians and expect to see God move in huge ways in our future.

We are facing many other transitions in our near future, but we are confident that God has things under control and has plans to meet our needs in ways we can't even imagine at this time.

I would ask my prayer warrior friends to spend some time on your knees for The Crossroads. Our families are in great distress. We have many experiencing severe financial crisis, marriage problems, addictions, and illness. One dear friend lost her preterm baby and another is sitting in ICU tonight with her teen son who just had a brain tumor removed. It feels like we are fighting against darkness on many fronts, and definitely need prayers during this season.

At a personal level, we are struggling hard with our teens. They are fighting against depression, discouragement, and anger. I have yanked back from many commitments in order to spend more time at home, which seems to be helping them, although it leaves me (a people person) rather lonely. Pray that God will raise up those who will help us walk alongside our children, to encourage them in ways and times that we aren't able. Pray that we will be wise as we seek solutions. Pray that God will give me the ability to let him be my "Enough" as I walk life a bit more secluded than usual instead of at my husband's side in journey groups and other events.

I want to be clear here: I love what we do. I love being a part of The Crossroads. I am glad to be a church planter and wouldn't trade it for the world. I am simply asking that as we walk a tough road in a rainy season, that you would lift us up before the Father as a part of your regular prayer time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My son's fashion mandate

Riding in the car, merging into traffic on 82, my 13 year old son randomly announces his latest fashion mandate. "Men should NOT wear anything that has to have the word 'man' inserted in front of it. That means it's really girly, but they just want to wear it." I snickered, but didn't start snorting with laughter until he began the monologue list.

"Like a kilt. It's a MAN skirt. It doesn't matter if it has the word man in front, it's still a SKIRT!"

"Or a Man thong. That's just weird. There is NOTHING manly about a thong. Who even invented a man thong? Who wears that?"

"Or Manpris. They're still girly short pants, no matter what you call them. Unless you're in the British army. Then it's okay."

"Or a MAN purse. That's just a purse. Men carry backpacks. Women carry purses. Definitely leather over the shoulder screams, 'I'm a girl.' Maybe a big brown bag with lots of pockets for your computer is okay."

"Or MANscara. That's just wrong."

I thought you all might enjoy just a slice of life in the Kemp car on a random Monday afternoon. Supper was even better. We started with conversation, but somehow it degenerated to all the different noises and faces they could make. Such is our crazy life.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Monday Morning Update 10/3/10

I have thoroughly enjoyed the worship message series this month. Last week we spent the service time in prayer. I had the opportunity to move through the four different prayer stations based on the Lord's Prayer with my daughter Grace. It was a beautiful, moving experience to have the opportunity to spend the morning in prayer with her after a hard week.

This week the service was entirely on music and the various postures of worship used in the scripture. We set up the chairs in the round and the band came off the stage so that it had the feel of a big jam session. I thought it was great to spend time actually communicating to our new believers what worship looks like and why we stand and why we kneel and why we lift hands. I think it will help them to feel freer in their expression and more comfortable during worship in the future.

I enjoyed having the children with us in the service this week. I thought it was good for families to have the opportunity to worship together.

Here it is - the end of another weekend. I am certainly not ready to dive into another week of teaching. Please pray that God will grant me the ability to love and minister to my students and colleagues this week with a positive attitude.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Night Lights

A pair of worn out sneakers on the feet, a little coldplay on the ipod, and the Friday night run begins. The weather is perfect - a cool breeze whipping through my hair and blowing across the sweat slipping down my arms - leaving goose bumps in its place.

But the most incredible part of the run is the lights. Not the streetlights, not the halloween lights on the neighbors' houses, but the stars. The stars are indescribable. They are crystal clear, distant, and bright. Running under the Friday night lights melts away the stress of life. For a few minutes there is no career, no parenting, no papers to write, nobody to please. For a few minutes it's just God and me, enjoying the stars.

Love me some Friday night lights - and you thought I was going to blog about football!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Monday Morning Update 9/20/10

We began a new series today at the Crossroads called "Experience Worship." The service was about the cross and how our redemption leads to worship. We opened with "Made to Worship." Then Shawn took the stage to talk about the work of the cross. When Christ died he set us free. Shawn challenged us to think about what we are still carrying - sin, guilt, sorrow, burdens - that Christ already paid for. Next we wrote those things down and nailed them on the wooden cross with square nails and walked over to the communion table to remember what Christ has done for us.

I knew this service was approaching, so I spent some time last night really praying about what I would need to put on my paper. God revealed lots of areas that I am walking in disobedience or lacking in faith. It was a breaking point for me last night to really think through what's going on in my life right now. This morning after practice, I picked up a slip of paper from the front pew and slipped backstage to read through scripture and pray about the specifics of what to write on my paper. I wanted to have it ready before the services began so that I could quickly return to stage to pick back up playing the keyboard.

After I filled my paper with tiny microscopic print, I spent some time on my knees praying that today we would experience the reality of Isaiah 6 - that we would be completely confronted with God's holiness, and feel the desire to be made clean in his presence. After praying through that passage and reading about the angel cleansing Isaiah, I remembered that no matter how much black ink was on my paper, God has paid the price and fully redeemed me. So on the flip side of the paper, I wrote "redeemed" in big letters and throughout the service as Shawn spoke, I stared at the side of my paper that said "redeemed" rather than all the stuff on the back. I think that as believers it is important to remember just how big and complete that "redeemed" is in our lives - no matter what is on the flip side.

When Shawn opened up the time for us to come to the altar to nail the papers down, I went first. I wanted to be the first to nail on my sins, because Jesus would still have died, even if mine were the only sins on the planet. As I humbly, and brokenly began to nail, the hammer slipped and I whacked my thumb. To my credit, I kept my mouth shut, (because there wasn't any room to add more sins to my piece of paper), moved the nail to a better location and swung again with great force. This time I heard "ping, ping, ping," as my nail went flying across the stage. I resisted the urge to spoil everybody's holy moment with loud laughter, and the guy waiting behind me discretely slipped me another nail with a subdued snort. Shawn (who oddly finds my clumsiness adorable) said later, "That was such a you thing to do."

I moved to the communion table, and spent time on my knees thankful for God's work in my past and my present and very thankful that He will continue to work in my life in the future. It was a very beautiful service to see our people kneeling and nailing. There was something about the sound of the hammer hitting the nails that made it very real that while we were nailing paper slips today, there was a day a couple thousand years ago when a hammer drove nails into my Savior's hands and feet.

I am grateful tonight that I can live my life on the redeemed side of my paper. That no matter what is on the back side of my paper, it is not who I am. I am God's masterpiece, created for a relationship with him. I am thankful that my mistakes, my failures, my past, my pains, my sins, and my struggles are not the end of who I am, but only a reminder of how great God truly is.

What a beautiful day at The Crossroads!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Monday Morning Update - just a little late

My life is currently the absolute craziest its ever been. I am up before 5, falling in bed late, with no down time at all. This leaves me living in a constant tension between great excitement about all the great stuff happening at The Crossroads and near tears from being overwhelmed with work when my heart is in ministry. I know that this season will pass, and life will settle down a little as school gets into a groove, the journey groups get established, and we find our routine for family time amidst the chaos.

All this to say, I haven't had the minutes available to even consider blogging this week. Last Sunday was a superb day at The Crossroads. It was a curious morning at our home. It was like we were trapped in a time warp. The alarm went off at the regular time, I hit snooze, got a shower, got myself and all the kids - plus an extra - ready for church. Then we cleaned up the house, started laundry, and drank a cup of coffee. It was still nearly 30 minutes before time to leave. This has never happened, ever, since we had children. Shawn and I decided to head on down to start the set-up, thinking that it would be great for the set-up team if we already had the heavy stuff unloaded, and they could have some extra time to visit with each other before services.

Sunday we signed up for our fall Journey Groups. We are doing a study called the "11th Commandment". It's an excellent study about how we are supposed to go about practically loving one another. I am excited about all of our people getting on the same page with a Bible study. I think it will be cool and give people from a variety of groups something spiritual to dialog about.

Shawn closed out his message series using "The Book of Eli" to discuss the importance of scripture in our life. I heard it was a phenomenal sermon, but I missed it while I was leading my children's small group. It is always great to be a part of that awesome ministry in our church!

As we come into another weekend, I am exhausted. I would appreciate your prayers that God will make it possible for me to efficiently stay on top of the things that I must do at work, so that I can devote more of my life into the ministry that I love.

Friday, September 10, 2010

When God's glory doesn't feel glorious

I love being used for God's glory. I love those moments when I realize that I am involved in a plan much bigger than my wildest imagination. It is extraordinary to be in a particular circumstance performing a task or ministry that I do not have the ability, talent or strength to do alone. Then when lives are transformed afterwards, I know that it was God using me for His glory, and it feels glorious. I feel renewed, amazed, awed, excited, and joyful when God uses me to do things for His kingdom!

But sometimes, God's glory doesn't feel so glorious. There are times when God uses tough times for his glory. There are times when what I want or desire or would have happen to make my life easier is not necessarily what is best for the kingdom. One of my all time favorite songs is Mercy Me's "Bring the Rain." I absolutely love the heart of this song, that no matter what, I want God's glory.

I am no stranger to tough times. There have been many dark days in my past, much harder and darker than what I am currently struggling through, but the last couple of years my life has been fairly easy. I am married to the love of my life, I have 4 great kids, a steady job that pays decent, a phenomenal ministry as a church planter, and the opportunity to pursue my musical passions. Then last month my life shifted in the blink of an eye. Closing out week 10 of P90X, I was going down for a push up and didn't come back up. A migraine suddenly slammed into the back of my head, and I woke up several minutes later in the floor. After that, I have dealt with strange and sometimes severe short term memory loss. Things like I don't remember what kind of car I drive to even look for it in the parking lot, heading to work at the wrong school, and forgetting all kinds of important random information like my students' names. I have sticky notes everywhere, just trying to function through my average, typical day.

When I went to the doctors, they began to talk seriously to me about the big things that could be wrong. All of these suggestions were scary, to say the least, all involving early expiration dates. I remembered that God doesn't promise us tomorrow, and that none of us are guaranteed a long walk on this planet. I tried hard not to panic, just to live in the moment, breathing deeply and loving my family hard and not thinking negative thoughts. I have spent more time in the MRI tube than I care to discuss, getting to personally know the technician and his family issues. After thousands of dollars of testing, the doctors can't pinpoint what is going on, but the memory issues continue to interrupt my life daily.

On my last trip to the neurologist, I couldn't remember where his office was. I had no idea whether it was in McKinney, Allen, or Plano. I googled directions again, even though I've been there before. When I arrived, I kept waiting for at least a sense of deja vou, but did not recognize the building, the halls, or even the large fish tank of colorful tropical fish in the small office. I became extremely frustrated that I am losing my mind. In fact, you might say I was pretty pissed about the whole situation. Then I heard that still small voice, "Baby girl, this is all for my glory."

I did a complete double take, stopping dead still where I stood. What the heck? How is this got anything at all to do with God's glory? It seriously interferes with my ability to independently do the ministry that needs doing at The Crossroads. It means that I have to lean hard on my husband and my kids and my friends to help me get through life. How does that bring God glory exactly? How can God be glorified by me being confounded and confused? It sure doesn't feel very glorious!

Well, I don't have any answers. I know that compared to what many people face, a little memory loss is a minor glitch in life. But for me, this has been frustrating beyond measure. Tonight at band I couldn't remember a song that we have sung a hundred times. It felt completely brand new. When I got home, I hit the pavement. Running a little under the stars listening to some jazz seems to bring some peace. Again as I ran, I heard that still small voice, "Baby girl, trust me. This is all for my glory. I got to do this. Trust me."

So tonight, God's glory doesn't feel glorious. It ain't pretty, fun, exciting, or beautiful. However, I am sitting here surrendered. I am willing for God to bring the rain if it will somehow bring him glory. I am simply asking that I am able to serve him with all that I am - with or without my memory! I am hopeful that this cycles through to a successful end sometime in the near future, and that God will restore mind. But in the meantime, I'm still available - however God wants to use me. Even if it doesn't feel so glorious tonight.

Monday, September 6, 2010

When the Lights go Out

The cool thing about my college courses is that every week the professors post devotional thoughts and prayers for us to read before we dive into the grueling homework assignments. Today my systematic theology professor posted a devotional about Ps. 119:105, "Your word is a lamp for my feet and light for my path." I've heard that verse my entire life. Like my professor, I remember quoting that verse at VBS and even singing the song. Today however I came to a new depth of understanding of that verse. It was like reading it for the very first time.

My professor talked about needing a light at night in the woods as an illustration of the verse. It reminded me of the stories my dad tells of coon hunting at night with a lantern when he was a kid. While I missed out on all that fun, I have been in the woods many times at night. It is a great thing to have a flashlight, and a very scary turn of events if that light burns out. A tiny light can make the difference in finding your way safely through the woods back home or getting lost and confused in the gloomy darkness.

Then I thought about just how dark it was the other night when I came home after a storm and the electricity was out on the entire block. The stars were covered by clouds and there wasn't a streetlight as far as I could see. It was extraordinarily challenging to just find my way from my car into the house. I ran smack into the glass door. Once I got in, Shawn had a few candles lit for me. As tiny as the flickering flames were, it was still a huge difference from complete blackness.

But I had a new thought tonight. I never know when the electricity might go out, so I keep a stock of candles and matches in a cabinet in our laundry room. In life, I never know when I may find myself in a place of great darkness and need to find my way out. If I am in advance familiar with God's word, then I have my candle with me, ready to be lit so that I can see. However, there is a much greater opportunity for me to get off the path if I am caught off guard and forget that light is the greatest weapon against the darkness.

God's word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. Every moment in my life can be illuminated by God's word. Measuring my thoughts and actions against God's standards in his word can help me to find the right path and keep me from falling off into darkness. I realized that studying the Bible, meditating and memorizing scripture during the good moments in life is very important so that I will have the tools that I will need when the lights go out. I need to work harder at being consistent with spending time daily in God's word and memorizing scripture.

When I was in the MRI tube for the 3rd time the other day, I decided that I would go over all the scripture that I knew to pass the time. It was an embarrassingly short list. I became aware of just how little I remember. So that's definitely something I need to work on!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Monday Morning Update 9.6.10

Today is our two year anniversary at The Crossroads. We went full time two years ago on Labor Day weekend. We celebrated with a pool party and baptism at the Collin county adventure camp. It was a neat thing tonight to sit out at a picnic with a ton of families and remember back to our meager beginnings.

When we launched, I envisioned this journey so differently. I thought growth would be fast, and that the church plant would just explode overnight. I thought in no time our house would sell, we would relocate, and all live happily ever after. I knew hard work was involved, but I never dreamed it would be this hard. I love church planting, don't get me wrong, but it's an unparalleled hard job. I have laughed longer, cried harder, hurt deeper, and loved stronger over the last two years than ever before. I love having the opportunity to work with broken and struggling people.

Over the past two years, I have at times done a great job walking alongside others, and at times, I have made huge mistakes and failed miserably. Learning to forgive my own mistakes and keep pushing forward has been one of the hardest lessons in church planting. I expected to learn a great deal about ministry in the church planting process, but I have been amazed by how much I've learned about myself. Church planting has made me deal with lots of sin and personal issues in my life. It is impossible to effectively lead without being surrendered. There have been seasons where I have been good about following under Christ's authority, and there have been seasons where I have attempted to lead in my own strength. It has been crazy to see how much God has changed me over the last two years. I have floundered often, trying to balance work, home, and ministry. I have also experienced what it is like to soar on the Eagle's wings as God uses me to do the impossible.

Our children have bloomed in church planting. They love the responsibility. They talk about how valued they feel and how needed at The Crossroads. They have grown in learning how to relate with other people and how to love during the hard times. They are beginning to understand the value of hospitality and what it takes to make others welcome in our home.

I will say that while the last two years have been incredible and best two years of my life, they have also been probably the most challenging. Keeping our marriage hot through exhaustion, stress, and busyness has been tough. We have had to get very purposeful this year about guarding our time together and working hard at staying connected. 17 years of marriage has helped us to downplay some of the issues that have arisen and to work through new challenges as we go.

Bottom Line: The last two years have been incredible. I at times feel overwhelmed by all there is to do, but I love my life. I am excited about what God has in store in the next two years and can't wait to see where we are then!

Oh - and the sermon was great, and we had new families, and worship was good and all the other stuff I normally say in the update. (sorry, got sidetracked on being excited and reflective on our two year anniversary)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Monday Morning Update 8.29.10

Some days in church planting are beautiful diamonds in a collection of ministry jewels. Today we had an incredible day at church. The worship set was amazing. Shawn's sermon was superb. We enjoyed visiting with several people who are back from vacation and busy summers.

However, my favorite part of the day was seeing the new faces at our Peak 1 new member class. I love the excitement and exuburance of new members. It is exciting to see God add to The Crossroads. Today 13 people committed to being a part of The Crossroads. They had the opportunity to hear the vision in detail and find out ways to become involved in ministry.

I had a really tough job this afternoon. I had to hang out by the pool with a couple of other friends and supervise all the kids. It was suffering to have to lay around in the pool on a hot summer day, but I am willing to sacrifice when needed. Seriously, I enjoyed the chance to visit some with the kids. It was neat to watch them practicing baptizing each other. I had to crack up at some of the words they said in the pool. "I baptize you in the name of Jesus and somebody else and congratulations and hold your nose, I'm gonna dunk ya." I had to work hard not to laugh out loud.

I'm looking forward to another busy week. I am swamped with homework for my graduate classes, the kids' sports have started, and first grade is back in full swing. It's a fun life, but the chaos is a little crazy. I am excited about where the The Crossroads is headed. I think this will be a fantastic season in our church's life.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I am not a big proponent of dreams and visions. While I have heard of many examples of divinely inspired dreams, I tend to believe that most of my crazy dreams are just my brain dumping the day's garbage. However, last week, I had the strangest, weirdest, scariest dream that I've had in a long time. Whether it was a vision that God gave me to clearly illustrate an important truth he needed me to hear, or whether it was just a random weird dream that God used to help me see truth, I don't know. In either case, the truth that smacked me in the face is worth sharing.

I was beside a small lake with a large group of friends. We were having a party, enjoying the afternoon. A film crew was sitting up for a reality TV show nearby, and we were watching with excitement and anticipation. They were securing divers with underwater cameras and setting up for multiple angle shots.

Then the crew trailer opened, and people were led off in lines, tied together at the feet, and hands bound. The ages and races spanned across the spectrum. We cheered loudly in frenzied excitement as the festivities were about to begin.

Then the TV show began to throw the tied people into the lake, following them with cameras, broadcasting their death throes on a big screen to the crowd. People cheered as if we were watching a football game. As babies struggled and moms gagged, we laughed and slapped each other on the back.

I startled awake, shaken by the violence and the graphic nature of the dream. I stumbled into the bathroom for a drink, trying to dismiss the dream as just a freaky crazy dream. It was 3:36 when I laid back down in bed and heard God speak to my spirit.

"People around the world are drowning in desperation. They are drowning in sin, in poverty, in hunger, in slavery, in chaos, in war, in disease, in abuse. Most of the church is content to watch from a distance and enjoy their parties and their wealth. What about you?"

Whoa. That was tough. Wow. Ouch.

I walked away from that moment reminded that I am a missionary. Right here, right now. I can use today to speak truth over friends, minister to those in pain, and love the unloved. Today is my opportunity to make a difference. Making a difference may require sacrifice of comfort, wealth, and time on my part. Ministry matters.

I am burdened for and praying about the American Church. I am asking God to consume us all with passion for the "least of these" and create in us a desire and an ability and a knowledge of how to make a difference. And that we would act. Now. While the time is here.

I know this one is heavy, I know that tonight I'm supposed to do a Monday Morning update. But this is the blog that I have been greatly burdened to share, if nothing else just to remind myself that the world's needs are much bigger and much more important than all the stuff I try to accumulate. Watch for the Monday Morning Update soon. I have school tomorrow, so maybe on Tuesday.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Monday Morning Update 8-16-10

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. Two years and counting in the church plant, and I still love serving at The Crossroads. The first year was exciting. Everything was brand new, we were just getting off the ground. The hardest part of the first year was the labor intensive set up and tear down every weekend with a small team of workers. The second year has been intense in other ways. While the set up and take down is significantly easier at the elementary school, other challenges have arisen. We have dealt with a lot of pain this year, whether broken marriages, difficulty raising kids, or relationship problems with other adults. I have many times wished that I had experience as a counselor and much greater wisdom than I currently possess. The second year has been more exhausting as we try to lead multiple journey groups and create meaningful relationships with new people, all while maintaining a strong marriage and raising 4 kids. The time that we put into the church plant is much greater than it was the first year.

But every Sunday morning when I step up onto the stage, I am grateful for every late night, every early morning, and every weekend dedicated to ministry. When I stand on the stage and watch our people worship, I am awed that I get to be a part of changing lives. It is exciting and rewarding. I love that God has done bigger and better things at The Crossroads than I imagined. My dreams were awesome, but God is bigger than my dreams!

Shawn brought it today as he preached his second sermon in the "God at the Movies" series. He preached about choices, using the movie "Twilight:Eclipse". He talked about the importance of making wise choices based on things like unselfish love and eternal value. He also talked about the importance of recognizing that Christ is the ultimate love of your life. You cannot find complete fulfillment in another being - even a vampire.

Tonight marks the close my busiest summer on record. I am disappointed that I did not have more time with my family, but the money from teaching summer school has definitely come in handy. I had a long list of goals to accomplish, that never happened - learning to play blues, learning to play the guitar, upping my mileage on my runs, writing a couple of Bible studies, painting the living room ..... Nevertheless, school is here, ready or not. I have to get my mind in gear and get prepped for my 22 students! I'd appreciate your prayers as we face a new year, still commuting. Pray that I would use that time wisely to pray with my children and grow them spiritually, to listen to their hearts, and to love them beyond their highest expectations. I would also appreciate your prayers as I go to see a neurologist on Thursday about the nasty bad migraines. I am hopeful that we will find relief, and my life will greatly improve!

I appreciate my readers who make this post a regular stop on their Monday morning. I know that you are busy people with big things to accomplish. However, I am deeply moved that you choose to read my rambling randomness and pray for our family and our ministry. Thank you!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back to School

Today I officially registered for classes as a graduate student at Dallas Baptist University. I am excited to finally be moving forward after spending nearly 2 years waiting on God to point me in the right direction. I will be pursuing a MAWL - funny degree for a girl who doesn't even like to shop. (sorry, couldn't resist)

MAWL = Master of Arts in Worship Leadership, with a concentration in media/journalism. Let's just dispel all of the rumors up front. This is not a singing, lead the band, and direct the choir kind of degree, but a writing, publicity, media, public relations type of degree. I have no idea exactly how I am going to use it in the future, but I decided that I will worry about that when the time comes. Going part time, I will have plenty of years to decide what type of career I might be interested in pursuing.

I have appreciated the dean of the department, Dr. Brooks, walking me through each step of this process. I met him at the National Worship Leader Conference, but I didn't realize he was the dean of the Worship Leadership department. When my application came across his desk, he remembered me, called me up to touch base, and since then has worked hard to make sure that my return to school goes smoothly.

I am nervous about doing well in school. It has been a long time since I was a student, and my brain doesn't function quite as well as it once did. I am also nervous about financial stuff. My financial aid application is on hold because I am missing a college transcript from a school where I took one correspondence class back in 1993. (For my younger readers, this is how we took classes at other universities before the internet. The instructor mailed us questions, we wrote down the answers and mailed them back. In an envelope. With stamps. At the post office.) I am hoping to have all my paperwork in place within the next few days. I had to make a huge downpayment today....don't know where the rest is coming from.

However, I am certain that God has a plan. I would appreciate your prayers as I prep for a new school year with a new team, work diligently alongside my husband in the church plant, parent four kids, and now go back to school. I want to make sure that I use my time wisely, that I don't have a lot of regrets about how I spend the hours of the day this next year. I tend to be scattered, and I need to find focus. So here I go, both arms up, ready for the roller coaster ride of my life!

Monday, August 9, 2010

I like wrinkles and gray hair, too

I like my husband's snoring. Wrote about that in the last post. But there are other strange things that I really like about my husband. The list is quite longer than any of you want to read, but here are two of my favorites.

Wrinkles. Shawn has fewer than I do, but he does have some. I love to catch him when he's watching tv and check out the lines that have started forming on his face.

The beautiful thing is that he is getting laugh lines around his eyes and at the corners of his mouth. This is beautiful because it means we laugh a lot in our home. Our voices are almost never raised in anger, and overwhelming joy is prevalent more days than not. As I see those laugh lines forming, I know that the kids and I have had a large part of making those fun memories with him.

My other favorite thing is his graying hair. He hates it and has been known to sneak down the just for men aisle and look longingly at hair dye. But for me the gray hair reminds me of all the water under the bridge. I am reminded that while we once were children watching Saturday morning cartoons together, we are now adults facing down teenagers together. (thus the gray)

In the gray, I see forever. It reminds me of how long we have been together, and that we still have a lifetime left to share. It reminds me that we've stuck it through some tough times together, endured great loss and pain, and come out okay on the other side.

I guess the wrinkles and gray hair bring back good memories from our past, but they also reminds me that we can face whatever the future holds. I know that even tough times can lead to joy if you just hang in there long enough.

That's it - that's what I see in the wrinkles and gray hair - victory. We've fought some tough issues and come out still on the same team. That's why those are two of my favorite things.

I love a good snore

As I lie awake late tonight, unable to sleep, I am reminded how blessed I truly am. Next to me, snuggled up under our old worn out comforter, is a giant snoring lump of man.

I know lots of women complain about their husband's snoring, but it is one of my favorite things. There is something beautiful about being awake late at night and hearing Shawn's contented snoring. For me it is the sound of happiness.

When Shawn isn't snoring, it means he isn't sleeping. He rarely struggles with insomnia, so if he's not sleeping there's a crisis. When I hear that chainsaw buzzing sound in my bed at night, it's a sound of security. It means that my husband went to bed a happy man.

For me, it is a reminder that God has richly blessed me with family. I have heard many great love stories over the years, but I don't know that many rival my own. I am grateful that God has given this to me.

That's what I hear tonight as I listen to the rumbling in my bed. I hear that I am blessed.

Monday Morning Update 8-9-10 (postscript)

I had the sudden brilliant idea to go to a Sunday night service. Lots of churches still have those! I could slip in, worship, meet with God, and be ready to face a new week. I looked online to see where I could attend, and decided that I would really like to try The Village, where Matt Chandler pastors. It is an hour's drive to Denton, but off I went. I had the idea to go at 3:44, I was sitting in worship at 5:00.

I could talk about the technical aspects of their service, discussing what could be improved, and also what could help take our services at The Crossroads to another level. However, since the original update focused on my heart, I think it is fitting that the postscript does as well.

The worship band played one song, "The Wondrous Cross." I was just beginning to worship, but then we sat down and the sermon began to play on the screen. I was surprised and very disappointed that I didn't get to really release in worship. But God knew what my heart needed to hear. Matt Chandler spoke from Col. 4:2-4. He talked about prayer and about obstacles to praying. He talked at great length about spiritual warfare and about being alert. He reminded us to live like we are at war against evil, and to not be lulled into sleepy apathy. I also loved his statement that God is not waiting for us to be good enough to love us. He loves us today, right where we are. There was lots of great stuff in his message that just washed over me and filled up my hungry soul.

Then after the message, the band came back on stage and played about 5 more songs. It was a great opportunity to worship with a full and grateful heart after the message. I don't know that I have ever done a worship set after the message before, but it was amazing. I had heard from God and was ready to lift up some praise. Instead of the music making me ready to hear from God, hearing from God made me ready to worship with music. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to take communion. I needed that moment to remember what Christ has done - that his righteousness now covers my sin.

As a staff member who is always involved in ministry, I would highly recommend to other ministers finding a service occasionally where you don't have to carry any responsibility so that you can be still and hear from God. I love being active in my church. I love ministering to others. I am very thankful that God uses me. But it was amazing to be invisible, and to be refilled and refreshed. Not only did I come away with new ideas that we might be able to use, but I came away ready to face down the dragons. I am ready to face the work week, and I am ready to pour out my life again in ministry. It was a great end to a rough day.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Summer Vacation

Another summer vacation has ended, all too soon. I enjoyed an unplugged week of relaxation in Missouri. The cabin at The Brook of Bethpage was incredible. I am excited that several couples in Southern Missouri saw the need for a free respite for pastors and worked together to create this beautiful retreat. I read through the stories in the guest book in our cabin and was moved to tears. So many pastors and their wives have slept in that gorgeous cabin, desperately seeking God's face after terrible hurt and burnout in the ministry. Many of them left renewed and refreshed. What an incredible ministry! I am touched that people saw the need to minister to pastors in such a practical way!

The retreat was created for pastors to be able to spend hours in quiet reflection and meditation. While it would be a perfect place to go as a couple to seek God's face, especially when facing a big decision, or even alone to be able to just sit and write, it was a little boring for the kids. They enjoyed reading, watching some movies, and swimming in the pool. However, we were in the middle of poison ivy season, so we were unable to do any hiking.

We drove the hour and a half over to Branson one day, did a little school shopping and watched the Noah's Ark Musical. Our four year old, Abby, loved the musical. She was excited to see the animals and hear the story of Noah. She was curious about why God was living in the big flashlights. (The spotlights were used to represent God speaking to Noah.) The older kids tolerated the show, but it was a little over dramatic for them. They have some hysterically funny impressions of the actors, however. (No offense if any of them are your relatives or friends)

Thursday was probably the kids' favorite day. We found a river a short drive from the cabin and took them swimming in the icy cold water. If we ever have the opportunity to return to the cabin, now we know where to find better hiking and outdoor activities. It was a beautiful state park, with great fishing and hiking.

I would say that Thursday was my favorite day as well. Thursday morning I was sitting in a rocking chair on the back porch having my quiet time. I was meditating in Ps. 150, 149, 148, and 147. I don't know why I randomly started reading from the back of Psalms, but as I was reading thunder began to boom in the distance. I continued to read about the God who forms the rain clouds and waters the thirsty earth as clouds rolled across the valley. I read about the God who controls the lightening as it began to flash over the hills in the distance. As the drops of rain hit the porch roof, I was captivated by the language of the Psalms and began to just sing those words back to my Creator.

Yep, it was probably a cheesy song. Most of you would have laughed at my off key voice belting out the melody over the booming thunder. But I was absolutely in God's presence Thursday morning. I enjoyed the time of worship, just me and God hanging out in the storm. I enjoyed a moment alone, to remember just how mighty a God it is that I serve.

Who blankets the heavens with the clouds
Sends down the rain to the thirsty earth
Who counts all the stars within his hands
Fixes their number and gives them names
Our God is great with mighty power
Let's sing to Him our joyful praise

Let the music begin
praise his name
Open up your mouth
give him thanks
Sing praises to the eternal one
Our Lord is great
Let's give Him praise

He binds our wounds and heals our hearts
Hears our cries and brings us peace
He raises us up and gives us strength
The Eternal One is listening
Let's sing to Him our joyful praise.

I would say that one of the other highlights of vacation was starting devotionals with our kids. We spent time every night around the dinner table talking about a Scripture and taking turns praying for each other. I loved hearing the kids' ideas and thoughts and prayers. My other favorite thing was visiting with my cousin today. It is good to rediscover family after many years of being away from home.

I am excited about what's next for The Crossroads and what's next for our family. I know that life is about to hit us hard and fast, but I am thankful to have had a week to catch my breath before the race begins. I am praying that God will use me this year in ways bigger than I can imagine for His glory and his kingdom. I am praying that our family will be guarded from evil and that we will find the time to create memories, laugh, and love each other.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why Vacation?

Until recently I have never questioned the tradition of a summer vacation. Since I was a child, my family always took off a week or two and headed out on the open road. We primarily took destination vacations - seeing lots of sights and spending tons of hours on the road. As adults, Shawn and I have continued that tradition. We have taken the kids to Disney World and Disney Land. We have seen the Grand Canyon and the Sequoia National Forest. We have been to Sea World and multiple destinations in Arkansas, our home state.

This year, with finances a little tighter than usual and much to do with our home, school, and the church plant, I questioned that tradition of the family vacation pretty hard. Is it really that necessary for our survival as a family? I think that answer may vary from family to family, but I think for us, that answer is "YES!"

A few years ago we stopped doing the majorly busy, go, go, go vacation. A slower economy, a bigger family, and a smaller salary forced us to rethink how we vacationed. The turning point for us was 2006, the year Abby was born. Under great duress, we felt that we needed time away from the ministry, but Abby was too little to travel far. We rented an inexpensive Condo in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a week. Our only agenda was to eat ice cream every day and go swimming. It was the best vacation of our lives. We relaxed, there was no rushing, no early mornings, no stress. I could sit and feed the baby without feeling like I was holding up the rest of the family. We returned to what was a difficult time in our ministry refreshed, renewed, and enabled to continue for another season.

Since that time we have stayed in a cabin in the Ozark mountains, road tripped to California with family, and camped in a variety of beautiful locations in Arkansas. We have amazing memories of lazily laying in cold mountain rivers and letting the water rush over us. We have great stories about the crazy stuff that happens to us when we are camping. We have spent many late nights roasting marshmallows over the campfire and laughing at our feeble attempts at ghost stories. We have hiked amazing trails to beautiful locations, using the opportunity to show our children the beauty of God's creation. We have invested long days and late nights into loving our kids and just being with them, without any distractions. Our kids love to tell our vacation stories, creating a sense of tradition for them. A tradition of magically beautiful moments.

This summer it would have been easy to stay home. We had originally planned a massive roadtrip across the West to Yellowstone, but our schedule didn't work out for the extended time away from home this year. With only two weeks left before I start back to work, I have tons to do here at the house, and many reasons why it would be more practical to just stay home.

However, I know from experience that on August 23, our lives will crank up to an entirely new level of crazy chaos with sports, school, fall church events and small group launchings. I know that I will not have a single extra minute to breathe for the next several months. So that is what this next week will be. An opportunity to breathe. We are staying in a cabin in Southern Missouri. We plan to swim, hike, lay in hammocks, read, strum the guitar, and play board games. It sounds boring - no amusement parks, no shopping trips - but it is an opportunity for our family to just breathe. It allows us to regroup, recharge, and return to ministry with the energy and focus that is necessary for success. It is possible for us to pour out our lives for others when we have spent time as a family getting filled up. We will spend this week doing lots of laughing, but we will also spend time praying together, reading God's word together, reflecting on the year past, and looking forward to the future. This week is one week that is just about us and our family and our God. I can't wait!

Monday Morning Update 8.2.10

Today the Mexico mission team shared in our services at The Crossroads. I think that capturing and sharing the impact and heart of a mission trip is incredibly challenging. Our team did a great job of sharing how the trip impacted their lives and how they saw God at work. I appreciated their honesty and focus. It was great to hear about the lives that were changed, and the 28 salvations that took place. I love that God is using The Crossroads both at home and around the world. It also really meant a great deal to me that several ladies volunteered to cover children's so that I could stay and hear about the mission trip. That was such a huge gesture of love!

I was so impressed with our worship team today. They all arrived extra early (without being asked) to help with set up, knowing that we would be short handed on stage. I appreciated their willingness to pitch in and work a little harder and a little faster than usual. I don't know how many times I turned around to run a cable or check a sound issue, and it was already being handled. Rachel did a great job leading the set, and I thought we did okay even without our fearless leader. I was proud of the team and how well they worked together this week to make this worship service happen.

Overall today I felt a little like a proud parent, I guess. I saw our people loving on each other, supporting one another, and giving testimony about how God is at work in their lives. I heard people praying over each other and watched them hug their friends. It is good to see people living out their faith in very real and practical ways. It makes me glad all over again to be a part of The Crossroads.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monday Morning Update 7.25.10

After a beautiful, but exhausting week at The National Worship Leader's Conference in Kansas City last week, I hit the road for home. I needed to be home by Friday night because I had new music to learn for services on Sunday, laundry to do, a shower to attend, and many other items that needed to be done. All week I felt urged to visit some cousins that lived about an hour out of my way. I ignored the urging because I didn't have time. I had new music to learn.

Well, I guess God needed to get my attention on that one. I was in the middle of praying through and thinking about my calling that He had finally clarified while at the conference. However, I was arguing that I was too old, too untalented, and too poor to take the next steps of obedience when I suddenly realized I needed to go to the restroom. I pulled off the highway and slowed down to turn into a gas station. As I slowed, my timing belt broke, my car died, and I coasted into a parking spot at the station.

After several hours of being stranded, a mechanic came to check on the car, but couldn't do the repair until mid next week, leaving me still stranded. My phone rang. My cousin (that I didn't think I had time to visit) was coming with a trailer to get me and my car. I spent the weekend visiting with him, his wife, and kids. I absolutely enjoyed the time together. I was drifting off to sleep on their couch when God said, "You really must learn obedience...." Okay, okay - next time I will just go for the visit. But more than that, I realized that God was talking about being obedient to pursue the calling he had revealed. No more excuses.

Shawn came to pick me up in Kansas on Saturday, leaving my car. Repairs are now completed, so we have an excuse to go back for another visit. Our long ride home gave us time to talk about the "what's next" steps. Shawn was just as worried about all the reasons that this is crazy as I am, but we are still going to be obedient.

So Sunday morning, I was bleary eyed, stumbling exhausted. I made it through set up, practice, and the service. I don't have a lot of details to share from the service due to my sheer exhaustion. We muddled through the Buble song that I didn't have time to learn since God sent me to visit my family instead. The worship set was fine, although I played very little since I was completely and totally brain dead. I couldn't even begin to tell you what the set even was. I remember thinking at the time it was good - in that foggy, tired sort of way.

Shawn concluded his family message series with a message about singles. I loved what he said about singles pursuing Christ completely while they wait. So many singles are so busy pursuing a potential mate they don't take advantage of the unique ministry opportunities that are available to them. I also agreed that being single allows people an opportunity to allow Christ to complete them - to be "their enough", developing a healthy character that will someday be ready for a great relationship. So many singles are seeking a mate because they want to be complete, but only Christ can totally complete someone. So good stuff, I thought.

Sunday afternoon, we drove to Arkansas to pick up our kids, then back home again to crash. I am still dragging, but I am starting to feel human again. I am excited, and nervous as I pursue the future.

Monday, July 19, 2010


The smell of hot rubber and sweaty men assailed my senses as I pulled the door open to the sound of a tinkling bell. The oversized tractor tires were piled higher than my head. I felt like I had entered a scene from "Deliverance." I maneuvered my way through the maze to the back counter. The owner was negotiating a deal for large tractor tires. His accent was deep country redneck. "Well, William, I reckon I could knock 10 more dollers off them thare tires if youse is a gonna mount'em your own self."

I wound up in the dirty tire shop today after a stranger left a note on my car that there was a nail in my tire. When I came out of MacDonalds after lunch, there was the note. The town was small enough that the local wal-mart didn't have a tire department, but it was also a small enough town that the cashier hooked me up with a tire shop.

I had my doubts as I entered the smelly shop, but Sam, the owner, took good care of me. They emptied a bay and pulled my car right in. I guess they don't see a lot of Dallas women in the remote country shop, because all the mechanics took a long smoking break while I was sitting in the shop. They stared at me through the plate glass window like I was a foreign animal on display at the zoo. Not in an interested, attracted way - just like I was an odd novelty.

About an hour later, and $8 poorer, I left the shop and found my way back to the turnpike. After many more hours of driving, and laying hands on my little car, I finally arrived in Kansas City. Unfortunately my car is not excited about traveling through the mountains. It coughed and spluttered its way over each one.

I am registered, settled into an overstuffed chair amongst a crowd of bloggers. I am ready for an amazing night of worship with Phil Wickham. It should be incredible.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Monday Morning Update 7.18.10

It was a crazy morning at the Kemp house. We had an open house scheduled from 1-3, which meant the house had to be pristine before we could leave for church. The twist on this is that Shawn and Grace rolled in from Mexico last night with their luggage and dirty clothes. We hid all that stuff in the garage this morning.

By the time we left for church, my temper had gotten the better of me. Somehow since yesterday, we had a huge stain in the carpet in the entry that I couldn't get up, no matter what I tried. The kids disappeared into the bathroom and outside to avoid the cleaning, which made me frustrated. I completely lost my cool on James, and I will say that I could not describe my attitude as worshipful by the time I was in the car and headed to church.

The great thing about set up in the church plant is that it gives me some buffer time before worship. By the time we actually began services, I had cooled off. It was good to have our Mexico mission team back with us. I am looking forward to hearing them share soon.

Shawn preached about the seven essentials for a successful marriage. This was a great sermon, looking at how to apply 1 Cor. 13 in our marriages. Whenever I look at 1 Cor. 13 and try to measure my love for Shawn against that standard, I always find areas that need improvement. While I am strong in perseverance and commitment, I struggle with being patient and unselfish.

My favorite part of the service was the closing prayer at the end. Shawn, on impulse, asked me to join him to pray over our people and their marriages. I love to have the opportunity to intercede for these people that I love. I was honored that Shawn allowed me to join him. For many years I supported Shawn's ministry both publicly and behind the scenes, but at The Crossroads it seems to be more of a team effort.

We enjoyed lunch with a few families after church, having the opportunity to visit a little with our friends. I love how the families at The Crossroads love to spend time together. I am excited about the future of the church plant. I can't wait to see what God is going to do next. I am never fully prepared for the depth and the might of his power.

This next week I will be at the National Worship Leader Conference in Kansas City. I am crashing at my cousin's house and commuting about an hour to the conference. While I am stoked about this opportunity, I am also very nervous about traveling alone and spending the week alone at the conference. It is most definitely outside of my comfort zone. I am hoping to improve my skills on the keyboard, but I am also hoping to hear God speak as I dedicate a week to worship without distractions. I am thankful to have a borrowed laptop to write while I am gone, since ours no longer holds battery power. You can read those updates on my worship blog. I would appreciate prayers for safe travel, and for direction about what's next musically for me.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Be a Missionary day 9

The Mexico mission team is on their way back home today. They are absolutely exhausted after a busy week of ministry. I have heard from all involved that this was the most amazing mission trip any of them have ever experienced. I am excited to hear their stories.

In ancient times, when Moses went up on the mountain and spent time in God's presence, he returned with such a glow on his face that he had to wear a veil. I imagine that we may see God just through the glow on our mission team's faces.

Here is their last devotional thought for the trip. A challenge for us all.

Day 9

Tonight you will sleep in your own bed. Tomorrow you will resume your normal, ordinary life. We are all called to be missionaries, every single day of our lives. Some people do that by living in other countries, but we do it as we go to work, as we love our neighbors, as we share Jesus with our friends. How can you continue to live your life as a missionary, seeking to fulfill these verses when you get home?

1 John 3:16-18, “We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help - how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.”

Matthew 25:35-40, “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and fee you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will tell them, “I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”