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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)