He looked up at me with his big brown eyes, “Mom, will you color with me?” Who can say no to a sick kid with brown eyes? Not this mom. So we spread out the crayons and self-containing paint brushes and smelly makers. (Score! Remember when smelly markers were the coolest thing ever? And only the coolest teachers had them? Well, now WE have them, so if that makes me cool, then so be it.)
After drawing a few hearts and flowers I started this project. Dots. Small dots. Lots of dots. Dots that take forever.
By the 11th red dot, I was over it. As I was entering into my time machine, transporting myself back to the days of rainbow bright and unicorns, these dots reminded me of how much I HATE hate hate process. Before I even started this little piece of art, I envisioned the finished project. But actually doing the work is a whole other cup of tea.
I hate process. There. I confess. But I made myself finish. And the whole time, I felt the pain of Jesus trying to turn that switch on my heart. And it’s not a flip switch. It’s a turn-one (and yes, that’s the official and proper name for it). By the time I picked up the yellow (lemon) marker I was pushing myself to the finish line. Trying to enjoy every dot, every size, every moment of creativity. In order for me to learn to love the journey, I have to take myself on the journey, over and over, I have to walk that road.
So today I forced myself down another road, to teach me to enjoy the process. And I hated almost every minute of it.
I loved the finish product but by the time I sanded the first plank, I had to remind myself of the beauty of the journey. That there are moments of frustration, and moments you have to force yourself through. Even when you don’t feel like it, you have to take one more step. And each “one more step” brings you closer to the end.
I’ve decided that I will regularly push myself to learn how to enjoy the journey. Even if it’s forcing myself to make colored dots on a piece of paper, I will force myself out of my comfortable, and sometimes unproductive bubble. If I want God to teach me something new, I have to do things differently than I’ve done before. Are you willing to do the same ?
You Are Loved,
I remember when I first started in ministry. I had lots of naysayers, including people in my family. I was not the one expected to commit to full time ministry. That job was reserved for my much more “religious” brother who didn't commit as many sins as I did. Working in children's ministry was one of the only places in my life that made any sense at the time. Besides being a mom, it was the only thing that came natural and that I was good at.
Regardless of the comments from the doubters, I knew it was where I needed to be. But it didn't come without consequence or mistakes. I was so overwhelmed at that time in my life, trying to balance it all and be it all for Jesus that I lost a really great friend, and unfortunately hurt her in the process. I gave up opportunities to work elsewhere making more money, which as a single mom I needed.
No longer was I, or am I, able to make “gut” or logical decisions about my future. Every move I make or don't make involves prayer and more prayer and wise counsel, and often times tears. Me being in ministry has put my entire family in frustrating positions and financial difficulties.
Ha! I'm obviously not the salesman of the year when it comes to convincing you that ministry is awesome! Oh but it is! All of those sacrifices and struggles are worth it when you hear a teenager pray for the first time, or a kid run up to you and hug your leg on Sunday morning. When the kids in the neighborhood want to know when you will start a Bible study for them, and when teenagers don't want to move because youth group is so important to them. Then there are the proclaimed atheists who now know this Jesus that adores them. And the addicts who know that Jesus is the only answer.
It is just that in times like these, when me and my husband must make a hard decision where we don't seem to win either way, it is so hard not to feel guilty. Ministry is not just a sacrifice for me, but for my husband, for my children. I am so incredibly grateful that the sacrifice Jesus made was enough for my family to be 'all in.' But it is hard to swallow that in order for me to pursue what Jesus has for me, my husband must take a second job to support our family or work countless hours of overtime.
Ministry has these moments when you and your family must come together, completely unified, with faith in God that He will make all things right. It is ugly and beautiful all at once.
Don't give up.
What are some sacrifices you've made for ministry? Comment and let me know.
Without fail, almost every pastor we’ve sought “wise counsel” from during difficult times responds with this:
Well, first, imagine him sitting back in his chair, leaning into his thoughts with his head slightly cocked and his eyes of wisdom squinting as if he is squeezing spirituality out of his brain. Ok, the response is something like this:
Long pause. Slight shaking of the head up and down in agreement with our lamenting. “Just think of Paul who endured difficulties and rejoiced in all of his tribulations. He willingly sought after God and did his will no matter how this world made him suffer.”
To which my husband always responds, “But Paul didn’t have kids.”
You see, Paul was chained and beaten and persecuted, but would he have done the same if his 12 year old son was being whipped next to him? Would he have allowed his daughter to be publicly beaten and mocked and humiliated? And not for what they have done, but for what their father did? Would Paul have been able to continue in his ministry if his innocent children endured the consequences for his choices?
Michael and I know our “tribulations” are nothing, no-thing, compared to what Martyrs of the faith endure. But they are our sufferings, nonetheless. We stand in unity that the things we go through would be nothing if our kids didn’t have to suffer along with us.
It’s like those commercials, “A baby changes everything.” It’s true. Kids change our perspective and our choices. They also transform our faith, in some ways for good but in lots of ways for bad. Unfortunately, our choice in ministry means our families choice in ministry. It’s not something “they” signed up for, it’s a calling, really, on my life. But yet, they suffer. Jesus has asked me to dedicate my life, my time, my resources, my home, my talents and gifts to serving Him full time. This means my husband suffers through working at a job where he is vastly under-used, for hours that no single person should have to work, while in pain, with lack of sleep, without gratification or accolade.
Ultimately it’s our choice, and I am blessed to have a husband who believes in my calliing, sometimes more than I do. I am also blessed that my kids are willing to go alone for the ride, but I wonder if they will become typical “pastors kids” struggling with their faith and love of the church in the future.
Paul didn’t have kids, but I do. And it’s sometimes difficult to endure the calling of ministry. Sometimes I just want to throw in the towel, saying, “Whatever, I don’t care!” But I do, and it’s a daily struggle between the love of my Jesus and the love of my children.
A journey begins. This week, my family and I will be creating life long memories, that we will talk about in years to come in conversations that start with “do you remember that time….” My man, along with three kids in tow are on our way. We are driving to a conference in North Carolina with a pitstop in JAX to see friends, and a detour to South Carolina on the way home to see more friends.
Our drive started with…yes a nap, for me and the kids, we left Michael in silence to do the dirty work. We woke up and took a waltz through a citrus market, with free samples of pecans and oranges. I told the kids to eat up–dinner was served.
All this past week, I’ve been praying for God to do something great in our family through this trip. I asked for burdens to be lifted, his voice to be heard, and for us to draw closer to each other. So the van broke down. No kidding. On the way to church this morning, the van just turned off. So we are piled in the taurus, kids snuggled up next to each other, closer than they have been to each other in a long while. God answered my prayer, I suppose. Next time, I should be more specific, huh?
We should all be intentional about creating Remember-That-Time’s. One day, it will all be that is left of us. My family and I constantly recall the sayings, doings and itme spent with my grandmother. She helped shape and form us, and the memories of her are rich and deep. I want to leave that for my children. We should all strive to create moments with our kids.
We should not rush to get to the destination. We should not make them hurry to the bathroom so we can get back on the road. We should force them to look at the beauty of the trees while we drive, even if they roll their eyes. We should jam out to oldies, loud, as they beg in the backseat to “please change the station.”
Everyhing we do with our kids is not just about the right now. It’s about the forever. I want to pass on a little piece of who I am, and we we are as a family during this road trip, showing my kids how to push through difficulty and exhaustion, how to have fun in the process, and how to create a Remember-That-Time they can share with their own kids someday.
One of the things almost every Christian parent does is find VBS at any church you possible can so we can get rid of your kids for a few hours each day. We hop from church to church closest to our houses, week after week, collecting T-Shirts and craft projects in exchange for a few moments of summer peace.
I am of no exception to this rule. The only thing that is different about me is that I have been in full time ministry for 10 years, and am currently working on the staff of a church plant. What makes my qualifications pertinent is I become very in tune with the workings of every church and their ministry. I am looking for ideas, sensing the Spirit, and struggling with my nature that always wants improvement, so often I am critical.
One of the things I stay most aware of is how welcoming and inviting the church people are. I believe that the most important thing a church can do is show love with open arms. As a church plant, especially, every connection made is a possible piece of the foundation of our church. But really, the church as a whole should desire and strive to missionally reach out to every person who steps foot in our presence.
If a church in Africa or the Dominican had people walk on their property, or were going into the community to reach the out to the lost they would certainly ensure a warm smile, a welcoming hug or handshake, burning to offer a sense of hope. But in America, we tend to take for granted whether or not people “really” need Jesus or “really” need to be a part of our church– or even THE church!
I have attended 3 events at this one particular area church, each one meant to be outreach events to the community. I have filled out registration information at two of the three events. I have never been contacted and not once at any event has anyone approached me to shake my hand or invite me to a church service.
What if I was that mother who was drowning in addiction? What if I was that woman at the well? What if I was the demon-possessed man? What if I was afraid and confused about who Jesus really was and this was my ONE, meek effort to try and connect?
We as the church body should look at every person with this perspective. We should assume that every.single.person. that God brings across our path is someone that needs to be reached for Jesus. We should be self-less about our functions at church, and not get caught up in the business of doing church, but concentrate more on being Jesus.
I have three more days left of this VBS, and I am hoping to get an invite. If not, I will just allow this lesson to better me and allow me to be aware of every person’s need for Jesus. How about you? Do you invite people to meet with Jesus?