I haven’t blogged in a long time. For me, writing is very close to my heart. In brings me in touch with who I am and it helps me make sense of the world around me. When sense can’t be made, it allows me to at least express my emotions in the midst of chaos. I don’t know why I have not blogged. I have thought of it every day. Everyday. My confidence in writing has been kidnapped. My ability express my thoughts temporarily hijacked. I have felt like I have had nothing to say…nothing worth any “value.” This morning, I believe I may have turned a corner. Why am I afraid? My words, my writings are me. They are my thoughts and emotions and ideas. And yes that leaves me feeling vulnerable and exposed…but that’s ok. My words have value because they are mine. They may not come out in the most eloquent manner – but according to who?
Over the last many months, I have found such a treasure in reading Ann Voskamp’s words. She inspires and challenges and pretty much blows me away with every sentence she pens. And while I am so thankful for the time I spend reading her thoughts, and for the peace and joy her words bring, I have allowed her words to make me feel like I just can’t write. I have said it jokingly often that after I read Ann’s beautiful musings, that I will never write again. She can make doing dishes sound poetic! But those little quips of mine actually became my reality. I have let comparison kill my desire to do what I love. I will never be a great writer. I will always be…just me. But that’s got to be okay. I love writing. It makes my heart happy. It brings peace to my soul. I can’t allow myself to be shut down because someone else does it so much better. I have to learn to turn those feelings of inadequacy into feelings of inspiration. My thoughts are important – if to no one else – to me. My desire is for my writing, in a way, to be a form of worship to God. I can’t let any feeling of “less than” hold back that desire.
So here I am…typing furiously, tears flowing, convincing myself with my own words that its time for me to write again.
Hi there! Me again. It’s been 3 months since my last blog. I am ashamed of that but I’m back and starting again. I think I have had lots of thoughts and ideas for posts in the last three months, but I haven’t allowed myself to sit long enough and make them happen. But then today, something that I said to Brian after lunch kind of collided with a few things that Pastor David spoke about in his sermon this morning and I knew I needed to explore them here.
Brian’s dad, Dennie Suman, is battling cancer. He has been for a few years, but about a year ago it was “under control” and he was on monthly “maintenance” treatments. Recently it has begun growing again, and now the doctors are finding new tumors. He is rapidly losing weight and honestly, things do not look good. It’s sad to watch. Brian was moved to go spend some time with his daddy and really ask him where he stood with the Lord. He was able to pray with Dennie, and invited him to church today. I’ll admit I was a little surprised when I turned the corner this morning and found he and Pat (his longtime “girlfriend”) in the lobby. I had feared that he would just be too tired to get up and out the door for church – but he made it! I did my best not to let the shock of his sunken face and dramatic weight loss show on my face. I was thrilled they were there to worship with us.
Pastor David continued his series entitled “Who We Are” and spoke of how the world views us as Christians. Are we a people who would walk to the other side of the road and right past someone in need? Or do we stop and help people out of their ditches and love on them and let them see Jesus in us. (Okay…there was much more to his sermon – this is what really resonated with me). Are we, as Christians, telling people what they need or are we showing people Jesus in our actions and in our lives?
So – here is where these two parts of my world came together today. After having lunch and a tearful, tough goodbye to Dennie and Pat, Brian and I quietly came home – both kind of fighting tears (he may not admit that). I told him that I just feel helpless and that we need to do something for his dad and Pat. Maybe I could cook some dinners, maybe we could go do yard work or clean their house. Whatever!?!? I just felt like we needed to DO something. But why? Of course any or all of those things would be nice things to do – and I’m sure they would be appreciated and helpful to them. But those things were really about me. Why did I feel the need to just do and do and do? I guess because I don’t know what else there is…If I could run out and find a cure for this horrible disease, I would certainly do that. But I don’t know what else to do! And then I was reminded of this morning’s sermon…maybe I don’t need to necessarily DO….maybe I need to show. Perhaps what Dennie and Pat need the most right now is to be shown the love of Jesus. Maybe they need to see Him in the midst of our prayers and tears. Should we be showing them our belief that if it’s God’s will that he will heal Dennie. Can we show them God’s love for them through us in a prayer-filled visit?
As these words flow through me to this screen, I’m thinking – well isn’t helping them with daily chores a way of showing them Jesus? Can’t we be the hands and feet of Jesus through small acts of service? Yes – those are ways of showing love – but what if what they need is more than simple chores done around their house! To me that is showing – and doing out of love. But I think that sometimes there is more. Can we show them our faith through this storm by not wavering and by leaning in to God through these scary times? We can show them our worship and praise to a God whom we KNOW is bigger than any of this on earth. I believe that if we really need to DO something for them at this point, it should be by SHOWing them that we believe in our heavenly father and will follow him and trust in him to make all things good, so that he may be glorified.
Yesterday, we said farewell to our Pastor, Paul Mills, and wished him well as he and his family begin the next chapter in their journey. As I prepared for the service, I placed a travel pack of tissue in my pocket, and went easy of the application of my mascara. I assumed that there would be lots of tears as Pastor Paul spoke his “Last Words” (his final sermon series for us). I pictured a sorrowful service with tears and memories of the past 8 1/2 years of service. What I got instead was far different. I knew as the worship team started the first song that this service was not going to be about a sad farewell, but rather it was going to be a celebration. NOT celebrating the fact that we were losing (or getting rid of) our beloved Pastor. Celebrating all that God had done through him for our church family. Worship started with an upbeat song that was loud and happy…and it included the entire congregation jumping! It was an amazing display of God’s people jumping for joy and happiness. I was simply blown away by such joyful worship. The remaining worship was powerful (for lack of the right adjective to describe it). It was during this time of worship that, for me, the tears came. Not sad tears…but tears of peace and comfort. Tears that come from begin overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was incredibly moving. Worship truly speaks to me. Seeing a room packed full of people with hands raised to God fills me with peace. Hearing voices of all ages singing praises to our God fills my soul. Being so filled with the presence of God became so overwhelming to me that the emotions came out in the form of tears. And then – as if that were not enough for one day – Pastor Paul delivered a beautifully spoken message about love. His words were heart-felt, but not weepy. For a farewell sermon, I thought it was just wonderful. He combined some memories from the past with wishes and thoughts of our future with a new pastor. It made my heart happy to be there and to be a part of such a special service. It made me joyful to be a part of a church home. I am so thankful that I serve such a loving God who knows our needs so intimately, and fulfills them as he knows we can accept them and truly appreciate them. Brian and I had prayed for such a long time to find a church home. Not just a place to attend church…but a church home complete with a church family. After such an amazing service, I was overwhelmed with joy to belong to such a loving home, and a welcoming family. I am thankful to God for giving us somewhere we belong, and I am confident that God will guide our future as a church family as we welcome a new pastor.
This is not going to be a newsflash to anyone who knows me or who has read my blog on any type of consistent basis. I am a control freak. I have a very hard time sitting back and letting go. Instead I try to micro-manage, script, control, and dictate the way I think things should go. And may I just say that its not working out so great for me. I get so frustrated and discouraged with the fact that when I do try and control the outcome of things it doesn’t work. Things are going to happen the way they are supposed to happen according to God’s plan – he doesn’t need me to “help.” Secondly, my need to control things, situations, people, etc. hints to me (or screams at me) that my faith really isn’t where it should be or where I claim it to be…or want it to be. It’s so easy for me to tell a friend who is struggling that “everything will be ok…God is in control.” Shame on me for speaking it into someone else’s life when I barely allow it in my own. Truthfully, the last month or so has been extremely trying and difficult in my life. (Everything is relative – and even as I type “extremely” I know that there are others suffering much greater hardships than I). Brian and I have been married 6 months this week, and while we truly have an amazing, relationship built on God first, there have been challenges along the way. But it is only when I take things into my own hands – when I lean on MY own understanding – that I think things seem tough. One of our biggest challenges has been the blending of two families. Raising children is hard. Raising 5 children…hard. Raising 5 children – 4 of whom are teenagers…yep….hard. And throw in the fact that some are his and some are mine and the bar is raised even higher for difficulty level. And the thing about it is – we are blessed. We have really good kids who make good decisions and stay out of trouble,etc. Reflecting on the last month, I realize that things are toughest when I try and make things be the way I think they should be. In the last few days, I wasn’t sure how things would work out, where it would all end up, and how all of us would fare through it – but I WAS certain that all of it be ok – because we love God and he promises us that all things work together for good for those who love Him. I kept telling myself that over and over. Its in His hands. It will all be ok. Over and over – almost as if I was still trying to control the outcome. But I do believe in God and I know that He loves me. I do trust in His word. This morning, I went to church broken. I was at the point where I just had lost the energy to fight anymore. I was finally ready to turn it all over to God and truly ask Him to take it. (And all along God is waiting for me to get to this point. You would think after a while I would learn to make it easier on all of us and just give it all to him all the time.) At the end of the sermon, we stood and began to sing the following words…
“I lean not on my own understanding.
My life is in the hands of the maker of heaven.
I give my heart to you God
Trusting you will make
Something beautiful out of me”
At first, I couldn’t even bring myself to sing the words. They were a lie. I have been trying to do things my way – all on my own. Lately, my life has been in my own hands – not in the hands of the one who created it all. I have given God my heart, but my late actions have not shown a trust in God to make me into who he has planned. As the song went on and the words were repeated over and over I could feel the weight I’d been carrying around being gently lifted from me. As I began to sing the words, I truly was making a vow to lean NOT on my own understanding. If I earnestly believe that my life is in HIS hands, what am I so fearful of? Why am I worried? I’m always amazed at the way God works. He knows me so well. I am so moved my music and by lyrics. Today he chose that avenue to really speak to my heart. He knew I needed not only to hear the words of that song, but He knew I needed to let it all go and to sing the words from my heart to Him. Will this be my last blog about my inability to “let go and let God’? Probably not…I’m not perfect and never will be. And I’m sure my need to control will be something that I continually will have to ask God for help with. God knows my heart and he knows exactly how to speak to me. And right here and right now I am letting him carry the burden. I’m confident my life is in His hands and I do trust that He is making beauty out of my messes.
As we pulled into the driveway and began to unload our bags, I already wanted to go back. Back to Happy Church, with its big yellow smiley-faced sign, and it’s peaceful setting, surrounded by the beautiful mountains of eastern Kentucky. But even more beautiful than the mountains are the people. It’s funny…I always say I’m not much of a “people person” but I do believe that God is changing me into one. And I am becoming attached to the very special people that I spent time with this weekend. God is pushing me out of my comfort zone and asking me to step out in faith. And I thank him immensely for the nudge. While in Breathitt County we got to visit with our friends Randy and Janet and meet new friends, Mike and Connie. They all work/serve at Happy Church and are all amazing, obedient people of God. We cooked out with some families from the community, sat around the campfire and sang songs and made s’mores, played cornhole, and just relaxed. And began to build some great relationships. Sunday morning Brian and I got the chance to lead worship and walked away so blessed from that experience. It was a spirit-filled time with new friends and with God truly moving in that place. In a county that is one of the poorest counties in the nation, there is so much pain and sorrow and hopelessness. But there is also so much to be Happy about, there are so many blessings and God is working through the lives of several dedicated servants. Children are hearing His word, they are signing songs of praise, they are learning to live their lives with His guidance, and they are being loved like Jesus would love. I’m praying tonight about what Brian and I can do to help in some way to support that Happy effort. I’m praying that God gives me a heart to love on people more every day. I’m praying for our friends in Breathitt County. And I’m praying a prayer of thanksgiving for our time there.
Ok, when I sat down to blog, I had a certain topic in mind…but when I opened my computer yahoo news popped up and a headline caught my eye. It was a news story about a high school senior in South Carolina. He was his school’s valedictorian and had just stepped up to the podium to address the graduation crowd with his “pre-approved” speech. What he did next was awesome. He ripped his speech up. Rather than give it, he began to recite the Lord’s Prayer. In the video you can hear people joining in and applauding. This young man was taking a stand against his school district that had recently voted to remove prayer from their graduation ceremonies. This young man took a stand and did what he thought was the right thing to do. It makes me hopeful and happy to see young people speak about their faith and stand up for God. I often wonder what gives teens the courage…because we all know that teens are so often driven by the need to fit in, or to be like the world. To stand up and speak up about faith is such a commendable act! About a year and a half ago, Brian and I were singing at a Toy Drive on a Friday night. Several teens came in and worshipped with us. They were truly worshipping. Standing, hands raised to God, singing and totally engaged in the moment. I was especially struck by this. Here it was a Friday night and they had chosen to spend it in that manner. Should that be such a big deal…? Perhaps not, but to me it was. Maybe its because I don’t see the same conviction in my teens – and I wish to? I love my teens with all of my heart…and I truly believe they are special, wonderful people with beautiful hearts and minds. I just pray that someday they will be convicted in their hearts to stand up for what they believe in. I hope and pray that someday when the opportunity presents itself that they will do what they know they ought to do – for themselves and for God.
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. James 4:17
Recently I made a day trip to Columbus to attend a workshop for school (people who think that teachers don’t work in the summer are wrong). As I was driving home enjoying the quiet of the car I noticed a GIANT billboard that read, “If you died today, do you know where you would end up?” Less than a mile later was another GIANT billboard that read, “Hell is for real.” I thought about these obnoxious signs most of the way home and for several days since. Now, before I go any further, let me say that yes, I do believe that hell is real and that it is serious, etc. That debate is not my purpose here. Continue reading →