You Can’t Hurry Love

I’m sitting here in my bed, cuddled up in my favorite blanket, with a box of tissues, and a vomitting 5 year old next to me. Jealous yet? The only thing worse than being sick is taking care of a sick child WHILE you’re sick. As a single parent, this isn’t my first rodeo. When illness strikes, single parents make due. We do what we must.

As I try to coax my teenager to “man up” and cook dinner for a house full of sickies, I realize first how fortunate I am to have a young man who wants to learn how to cook. My second realization hit me like a ton of bricks… For the first time in a very long time, I have a desire to be taken care of. So often, our image of an ideal mate is more rooted in fantasy than reality. But the older and wiser I become, the more I long for the practical.

Today, I dream of a man who can cook soup and let me Netflix binge for the afternoon without too much complaint. Willingness to run to the store for tissues and TheraFlu wouldn’t hurt either. Haha!

I must pause here to say that I’m not a big baby when I’m sick. Normally, especially as a single mom, I would push those feelings down and say, “Suck it up, Buttercup!” Our society publicizes this idea that I should be a single, independent woman. I’m expected to prove that I don’t need a man for anything. No room for vulnerability. Weakness is not allowed.

But today I let the feelings of longing come to the surface and explored them with curiosity. Desiring to be cared for, to be vulnerable to another, and to possibly even be provided for are not bad things. In fact, they’re natural, human feelings. Perhaps even, uniquely feminine feelings.

God designed us to be in relationship with Him and with each other. To fall into the trap that we can do everything ourselves is just that: a trap. That way of thinking is actually self-defeating and keeps us isolated. It holds us back from the more of God that can be expressed within a healthy relationship.

“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” -Genesis 2:18
There’s a hole in our heart that only God can fill. He also called us to be a friend to the lonely. God even created us to be godly romantic partners. In the very beginning, as we see above, God created a helper for Adam called Eve. She was called to help alongside her mate. Not to run ahead and do everything herself. And not to fall behind all wimpy-like.
As I seek a deeper relationship with Jesus, I am also learning to pray that He develops me to become the helper that my future husband needs. I pray that God grows me into a supportive and diligent wife while I wait for His best.

Worship Where You Are

There’s significance when something is brought up for the first time in scripture. The first time a particular word is used, it gives us insight into the original meaning. Do you know when the first time the term “worship” is used in scripture? If not, it may surprise you. You ready for this? You better sit down. The first mention of worship is…

In the story of Abraham & Isaac. Just to clarify, it says nothing about singing or music.

Abraham was over 100 years old and finally had his son, Isaac, who was about 12 years old at this time. Isaac was the embodiment of God’s promise to Abraham fulfilled. God knew how much Abraham adored his son, this cherished, promised boy. So God chose to test him and commanded Abraham to offer his own son as a burnt offering to God. Sounds awful, right?! We know it was a test. Most of us know the end of the story. But Abraham didn’t.

Can you imagine?! Put yourself in Abraham’s shoes for a moment. Your son whom you’ve waited for many years is here, healthy and strong. And then God asks you to murder this precious gift as proof that God is first. Even over this innocent boy. That mountain must’ve looked like Mount Everest as Abraham knew what he was about to do. The weight of it mounting on his shoulders.

“Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” Genesis 22:5 

“We will worship there.” As far as everyone else knew, they were climbing the mountain to offer a sacrifice. Only Abraham knew that it was to be a sacrifice of his most beloved possession: his son. THAT was the first example of worship: putting God first to the point of sacrificing what’s most important.

Are you willing to do that? Would you sacrifice the thing most important to you to prove to God that He truly is first. What would that thing be? For some of us it might be an addiction or habit. Maybe it’s your work or what others think of you. Maybe it’s giving up control or letting go of the outcome. Oh how we like to think we can actually control things. Or perhaps it is trusting God with our kids.

We don’t need to literally burn “the thing” on a physical altar. But I would lovingly encourage you today, right now, prayerfully and honestly ask God to show you what you have allowed to take precedence over Him. Then (and this is the hard part), worship Him by letting go of “the thing” and put God first.

David & Garfunkel

I have played piano since I was 8 years old. I’ve sang since I learned to speak my first words. Literally. Ask my mom. I grew up in church and have been a part of worship teams off and on since my sophomore year of high school. Music holds a special place in my heart. It’s an instant soul connection. From writer to listener, singer to audience, soul to soul. My favorite thing in the world is to hear a song and “feel the feels” of whatever the songwriter is communicating.

I recently told a friend, “I’m a worshipper.” While, yes, all believers should be worshippers, I feel that some of us musician types get an extra dose of that thing David had. I imagine young, pre-king David hanging out with a flock of sheep, playing his lyre and writing music. I also envision him as a long-haired, Simon & Garfunkel type, chilling on the hillside, playing and writing. His desire was not to become a famous rockstar, but rather to write songs for the simple sake of worshipping God.

This whole scenario in my head got me thinking, “what was God’s intention for worship?” So I went on a super nerdy study journey. Cuz that’s what I do.

First, I narrowed it down by recognizing what worship is NOT. Worship is not entertainment for a crowd. It’s not a certain style of Jesus music. Worship isn’t an ego boost for musicians (that stings for the prima donnas). It’s not only for those on stage or for the most talented, trendiest super-clique at church. Worship is not a popularity contest.

So if that’s what worship is NOT, then what is it to be? According to Webster’s: Worship is to render reverence and homage to someone/something.

Most importantly, worship is a posture. It’s a heart response to God, Who He is, and gratitude for all He’s done. Worshippers exalt God to His rightful place. Exalt means to lift up, or make more important than everything else. As worshippers, our purpose is to bring God to the forefront and let everything else fade into the background.

Worship gets distorted when we try to make it about us. Musicians (myself included) are very good at being the center of attention. We want people to notice our incredible talent and sheer awesomeness. But worship isn’t about me… or you. It’s about God. Worship is about making Him the central focus because it is in Him that we live and move and have our being. It is only because of His creation that we are creative. It is only in and through God that we have the gifts and talents we do. Worship is simply using those gifts and talents back to Him.

So the next time you join or lead corporate worship, gently (or not so gently) remind yourself that it’s not all about you. But rather, it’s all about Who God is. And when you bring Him to the forefront and make it all about magnifying God in your focus, He can show up in your life in miraculous ways!

“I will praise the name of God with a song,
And will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30

 

Jonah Called. He’d Like His Whale Back.

“I love you. Come back home. I called you to ministry and you said, ‘no’…” As my dear friend shared these words meant for me from God, tears streamed down my face. “I didn’t say no… exactly,” I argued in my head. “But your actions didn’t say ‘yes,'” my heart tugged.

A little over a year ago, I felt very strongly that I was being called into vocational ministry. I was scared, anxious, and excited. God had been very clearly taking me down a path of preparation for full time ministry. I didn’t know exactly what that ministry would look like, but I knew writing, public speaking, leading worship, and ministering to broken and abused women could all play some part in it. This very blog was my first step of faith toward whatever it was God wanted to use me for.

But then my son started struggling in school. The preverbal crap hit the fan and suddenly we were in an all out war for his life. Depression and suicidal thoughts, lying, swearing, anger, and disrespect were causing more and more problems for my boy. Until, finally, we made the decision to homeschool. I stepped down from my ministry leadership roles and ultimately pulled back from everything ministry related. With the best of intentions, I chose to focus on helping my son deal with whatever was plaguing him. We eventually quit going to Celebrate Recovery altogether which had been my ministry field for nearly 3 years. Even church attendance became more and more sporadic as I tried to clean up the mess of our family.

Because of my son’s struggles and behaviors, I continued to isolate us and tried to handle it alone. This mess was too messy for church. People couldn’t possibly understand what we’re dealing with. Especially not church people. So when we’d go to church, it was like a secret mission: Slip in. Slip out. No one sees. No one knows. Incognito church attendance. Or better yet, watch the live stream online. Can’t get your messiness on people that way! I’m a single mom. I’m supposed to fix this on my own.

Isn’t it crazy the lies we’ll buy into to justify our unhealthiness? The devil is using the same tricks today as he did in the garden. Lies, manipulation, and isolation. He plays on our insecurities and then convinces us we can do this without God. He convinced Eve that just a little bite wouldn’t hurt and she didn’t need God anyway! And here I am convincing myself I can parent a troubled preteen without Him and the best way to do that is to desert my community?! Yep. That totally happened.

Every time I step out and try to pursue God’s calling in my life, something catastrophic happens that knocks me back 10 feet! (You’d think I’d figure out where those blows come from.)

The last year has been my Jonah in the belly of the whale season. God called me and I chose a distraction to focus my attention on and say, “See? I can’t do what You called me to. It’s too messy out over out there! I think I’ll just hang out in here for awhile.”

Many years ago, a very godly woman whom I admire a great deal told me, “You know God has called you to ministry. If you don’t step up and do what He has called you to, He will find someone else to pick up YOUR mantel.” Those words echoed in my head tonight like a movie reel stuck on repeat.

But I’m a mess! Look at me! I’m a mess! I’m supposed to get my crap together first. Make a million dollars so I can fund this ministry way off in the distant future doing I don’t know what yet… I’m not qualified. How can I lead Your people when I’m standing in the middle of my own pile of garbage?!!? I screamed at Him in my head as I sat in my seat. And then that gentle voice of Abba Father said, “I qualify the called. I don’t call the qualified.”

I leaned over to my friend sitting next to me and said, “I think it’s time for me to do another Step Study.”

“Are you volunteering to lead it?” she asked. Seriously? I KNOW she’s in cahoots with Him on this. I could’ve sworn that whole conversation was just in my head!

“Yes. I guess I am,” I said.

Fine. I submit to you, God. I’ll follow You wherever you want me to go and do what you want me to. Even if that means starting from this whale’s belly. I won’t try to figure out all the pieces on my own. I’ll trust you. I won’t put You off anymore while I chase the dollar. I trust You to take care of me just like You do for the sparrow. I’ll lean in to You and Your people, my village. I won’t try to control every step. 

And then I bawled and whimpered through the serenity prayer….

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time. Enjoying one moment at a time. Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace. Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will. So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

And right then, it was like God dropped the mic. #BOOM

Why Wait?

 Most people can’t remember their childhood prior to age 4 or 5. Usually those memories are happy, innocent and tender. Not for me. My earliest childhood memories were of being sexually molested by a man I knew as my grandpa. Some of the incidents I remember quite vividly happened in the same room where my mother was 8 feet away, chatting with her mom. In my young mind, I thought this was normal and acceptable. This was how grandpas loved their granddaughters. I thought surely my mom knew and allowed it, if not condoned these activities.

When it all came to light what he had been doing, I was around 5 years old. My parents decided to do what “good Christians” do: forgive and forget. In my family that meant we never spoke of it and we pretended like nothing ever happened. We still had family gatherings and holidays with my molester. He lived a long life next door to a daycare with no consequences for his actions. So that told me that what he did was acceptable; I wasn’t worth protecting or loving; and I was a sexual object to be used and discarded. I dealt with it by burying and repressing the memories. It wasn’t until many years later when I was married that all the horrible memories came flooding back.

 When I was a young teenage girl, I was very involved in church and youth group. At that time, it was trendy to wear a promise ring as a symbol of saving one’s virginity for marriage. It was a nice thought, but for many girls, that’s where it ended. A sweet notion. I wanted so badly to be an unblemished gift to my future husband. To wrap my sexuality up in a little package to be offered as my most prized possession on my wedding night. Isn’t that still objectifying?! My value was still wrapped up in what I could offer in the bedroom.

Alas, it seemed the only girls I knew that were virgins on their wedding days were getting married straight out of high school. I never had a boyfriend or anyone remotely interested in me during those awkward years, so I was a lost cause. I was the dud. Undesirable and worthless. Or at least that’s what I thought.

Two weeks after high school graduation, I moved out of my parents’ home. When I was 18, I found new friends outside of the strict church bubble I’d grown up in. Those girls took pity on my naiveté and made me their “project.” How cute and archaic of me to still be a virgin. No one did that anymore! They laughed and informed me that no guy in this day and age was going to wait for sex until marriage. That’s just silly and unrealistic! It would be unfair of me to expect a man to contain his sexual desires. So, I learned how to flirt, manipulate, and use my sexual prowess (apparently I had some of that) to my advantage.

Guys finally gave attention to me. They scrambled to be around me, chased me even. I was wanted, desired, and attractive. And I was completely objectified. Somewhere in my deep subconscious, I was acting on the thing I’d been taught as a toddler: I’m only good for one thing. As a result, I did things I’m not proud of. I made serious mistakes and chose the worst possible partners: abusers, cheaters, womanizers, etc. That’s the kind of man that is attracted to the type of girl I’d become.

Flash forward through all the ugliness and a couple of unhealthy, abusive marriages that produced 2 children. I left my last husband (that’s a whole other story) and realized maybe I’d been putting the cart before the horse. I worked on myself and started to actually lean on God for love, comfort, and healing. Initially, the thought of so much as going to dinner with a guy made me physically ill. No way would I ever remarry!! I thought I would be like the Apostle Paul: single and celibate for the rest of my life.

God showed me over time that He loves me for who He created me to be: His child. Not for anything I could do or “put out.” He loves me not because I’ve earned it or performed my way to a lovable level. He loves me simply because He IS love. Slowly and patiently He has worked a miracle in my heart and soul! He has given me a new identity.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “You are a new creation in Christ. All old things have passed away. Behold the new!” That verse has taken on very real personal meaning for me. The old me and mistakes I made are so far removed from who I am today. I write and share my story with emotionless detachment. Not because my tear ducts are underactive. Hey, it’s a legit medical condition! It’s because I don’t relate to the old me at all! It’s more like I saw this story on Lifetime once, not that I lived it.

Don’t worry, I’m not in denial. In fact, it was working through the Celebrate Recovery 12 Step Program that caused me to search myself and make the connection between my early childhood abuse and my previous poor choices in men.

Isaiah 61:3 is my life story in a nutshell: “To all who mourn in Israel He will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for His own glory.” I am not anything like who I was. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. I am not damaged goods. I am a daughter of the Most High King. I am not weak. I am strong in Christ. I am not unworthy. I am a jewel to be cherished.

In my past life, I used the analogy in regards to sex and marriage, “I can’t buy a car without test driving it first!” As if the primary purpose for marriage was sex. I had such a warped, sick sense of love, relationships, and sex because of the abuse I endured. I truly thought sex comprised 90% of the relationship. The other 10% could be fixed or muddled through as long as things were good in the bedroom. However, with that mentality if the sex became disappointing or lackluster, the relationship could be in trouble. In reality, I think most healthy relationships consist of the exact opposite: sex is 10% and not the main focal point. At least that’s what I hear.

In my early 30’s with two children (which, by the way, are living proof of my non-virginity) I decided to save myself (physically and emotionally) for my future mate. He will be someone who will love me for so many more reasons beyond physical gratification. A man who will love my children as his own. A man who will respect me and not try to bully me into caving to his whim. A man who puts his relationship with God first and will encourage me to do the same. A good man who truly realizes that anything worth having is worth waiting for. And I’m worth it.

Sex and The City

Have you ever been drawn to someone so much that you start making up excuses to see or talk to them? It could be a friend or romantic interest. I have a couple of those type of people in my life right now. Individuals that I absolutely love spending time with, whether it’s for a cup of coffee or just a phone call.

Every other week there’s a group of vibrant, intelligent and remarkable women that I have lunch with. Some weeks that lunch is my sanity. Most of the time, we simply gab about whatever is going on in life. And almost always, the conversation gets very deep and philosophical. We analyze human interactions through who we understand God to be. We overanalyze, we laugh, we eat and sometimes we stay for a few glasses of wine. I love the energy each of these ladies bring to the table (haha, literally). Now that I’m really thinking about it, we’re kinda like the ladies from Sex in the City. Except we’re not in NYC, our wardrobes are a little less fabulous and we’re not sleeping around. But otherwise, just like it!

My point is, I crave the time I get to spend with these women. I often feel like one hour every other week isn’t enough! In each of them I see a little of myself, but also something I’d like to have or be more like. I learn from them every time we meet. After lunch, I float away feeling mentally intrigued, spiritually challenged, and emotionally full! I catch myself looking for reasons to talk to them in between our scheduled lunches. I might even sneak in an extra lunch with one of them outside of our group luncheons.

I realize during this thought process that God created us to be relational beings… with each other and with Him. God craves that same kind of relationship with each of us. He sees a little of Himself in each of us. And He wants us to see Him in ourselves and to learn how to let more of Him shine through us. A five minute chat as our heads hit the pillow is not enough! He wants to have more time, more frequency. Not because He’s demanding, but because He likes hanging out with us. Did you know God loves spending time with you?!

I challenge you to do more of whatever connects you to your Creator. Whether that’s prayer and meditation, reading Scripture, or admiring creation. Take time to walk and talk with Him today. And remember, He’s pining for you, looking for excuses to be a part of your day!