1/22/15

How Sending Mail Has Become My Ministry.



I only have  short window of time while dinner cooks and the kids watch Hercules, but I felt the need to write a bit more after Tuesday's post.

Like I said in my last post I am slowly finding a balance between serving in my local church where I see a need, and finding other ways to use my gifts and talents to minister to others.

Obviously serving looks different for every one depending on their church, their gifts, their talents and their life phase. But I thought that maybe it would help to see what that looks like for me right now.

Aside from serving in our church nursery and, of course, taking care of and ministering to the members of my family these are a few ways I have found to serve God, bless others, and worship Him with my life.

I have taken countless spiritual gift tests over the years and the outcome varies. I do believe that, in part, God equips us for a task at hand. But, I also think many just have a God given bent toward certain things. While I have had a number of different outcomes both "mercy" and "encouragement" tend to crop up in my top three gifts.

(There are times when I roll my eyes and shake my head because what I see is my short tempter and tendency to be critical. But I have to remind myself that spiritual gifts aren't about me at all but God's work in me.)

Over the past month or so I have found a rather fun way to combine my spiritual gifts of mercy and encouragement with my God given creative talents, and my love of writing. Through Facebook and Instagram I have been able to participate in a number of swaps, secret sister groups, and Random Acts of Kindness with other like minded women. I have been able to send letters and small packages of creative goodness to other women who needs a reminder of God's kindness and goodness. And it is brought me so much joy!



I've enjoyed it so much that I find it extending beyond just strangers on the internet to people in my every day. I find myself picking up a card at the store because it reminds me of so-and-so or grabbing an extra notepad because I remember a friend saying they were looking for one.



I find myself praying over the letters and packages I send. Praying God will give me the words to share. That seeing a package in the mail will bring a smile to some one's face and remind them that they are loved and a valuable part of the church. I pray that God will prompt me to include the perfect items that will speak to their hearts. I pray that they will feel known. I find myself praying for people I have never "met" that they will come to find a relationship with Christ.



I realize that to many sending out mail and care packages may not sound like serving. It may sound silly and unconventional and not at all "ministry" but for me for now it is a perfect fit.

What are ways you can use your gifts and talent to minister to the body and bring glory to God? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Some gifts given to me lately that have made me feel loved and known and show God's grace and goodness. (Exactly what I hope to do for others.)



1/20/15

When You Don't Know Where To Serve



I have been having an ongoing dialog/struggle with myself for the past few years. Mostly it takes place in my head or journal. Occasionally it will spill out and I will include my husband in the conversation. But lately I have gotten just a teeny tiny bit braver and started to share bits and pieces of this conversation with other women. And I realized is that I'm not alone.

In fact, I think a LOT of women are probably having this same conflict with in themselves. But it's not an open conversation yet. It's shared in whispers in the hall, quite sighs in our living rooms and guilt ridden confessions over text messages. More and more I am hearing women cautiously admit that they don't feel like there is a place for them to use their spiritual gifts in their local church.

It's an awkward position to be in.

It can happen for a number of reasons...

*Really big churches where there are so many people that it can be very difficult to really plug into active ministry.

*Smaller churches that are still growing so the ministry opportunities are fewer and less varied.

*Ministry needs don't line up with spiritual gifts.

*Season of life (college, your job schedule, your spouses job schedule, young children ect) make it difficult to serve in an "official" capacity in the church.

And here is the thing none of those things are wrong. But they can be hard to deal with and can lead to a lot of frustrating situations.

*Feeling guilty for not serving.

*Ineffective ministry from serving in an area you aren't meant to.

*Keeping some one ELSE from using their gifts by serving "just to serve".

*Burn out from serving an in area you aren't well suited for.

*Resentment from serving where you feel pressured into serving.

*Pulling away from the church body because you don't feel like you "fit" or "belong".

*Using your gifts out side of your local church, but worrying that people are judging you for not being more involved.

I grew up being actively involved in my home church. I loved serving and was involved in a number of different ministries. But since graduating college and getting married I think I have experienced every single one of those frustrating situations. And, for eight very long years, I thought I was the only one. I kept my mouth shut and my heart closed and played "good little church girl."

And then, in the past few months, I started hearing whisperings from other women and started adding my own. (To the woman who let me speak these things out loud or over text thank you!)

I made room in my life for the conversation and in time an answer.

The Conversation.
In many ways that is what this blog post is. This is me putting the conversation out there in hopes that other women will realize that they are not a lone and that it's ok if you don't know where you "fit". God can still use you, He still has a plan for you, and you are still oh so important and valued.

Some Answers.
I think answers look different for every one. Maybe you need to step out of your comfort zone and start a new ministry in your church! Maybe you need to push a little hard to get involved in an existing ministry you feel called to be part of. Maybe you need to let go of the guilt of "not serving" and focus on your family or your own healing. Whatever the answer is I am sure it will involve a lot of praying and perhaps some counsel.

Personally my answer involves a few things....

*Serving in my church where I see a need:
I may not be great with kids, but I can change diapers and rock babies. Every church I have ever been part of needs nursery workers. Rather than feel pressured or resent serving there I am choosing to do it with a content heart because 
a) I believe in the local church and contributing to the body.
b) I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for the people who love on my kiddos so I can sit in the worship service clear of distractions. Being able to be simply a child of a God for an hour and not worry about the role of "mom" is what keeps me going most weeks. I want to offer that to other parents.

*Letting go of what serving "should" look like:
I am learning so much lately about my spiritual gifts, my love language and, and my God given talents. I'm also learning to accept the limitations (and opportunities) that arise from having two grade school kids, a toddler and a husband who works unconventional hours. The more I embrace all of this and open my eyes to opportunities around me the more ways I am finding to bless others and honor the Lord. They may not look like what I was expecting or even what other's may see as "ministry" but they are the things He has placed in my life.

Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Come back tomorrow and I'll share some of what my unconventional "ministry" looks like.




1/15/15

Hello Again




Well with out meaning to I seem to have taken a three month (!) break from blogging. It definitely wasn't intentional, but it was very much needed. 2014 was a crazy up and down year and the last two and a half months of it were a crazy whirlwind of busyness and processing. It may not have been a "quiet" season but it was good to take time to think through things on a more personal level and not share every thought that came into my head. (I have always had a habit of oversharing).

We are now two weeks into 2015 and while dealing with a crazy case of cellulitis in my ear I was able to do some thinking and reflecting. God and I have been talking a lot about what the future looks like for me and while I still have some things up in the air I feel like for the first time in  long time I have a little more direction and focus.

I have always struggled with a bit of creative ADD and have a habit of picking up every new craft trend that crosses my path. There is something in me that just HAS to try every new sewing pattern and paper crafting technique. It's fun and crazy and means I am always learning something new. The down side to this is that I am a little scattered and can feel a little stressed when my perfectionist/driven side takes over. It is impossible to be amazing at everything. I often let my need to turn my hobbies into more than that take away my enjoyment and pleasure in making pretty things.



The fact is if I look back in 20 years and never take Goose Beary Shop further than it is I will be ok. If I never make it onto a design team I won't have any regrets.



The flip side of that coin is that there is something I will regret no doing. Writing! When I think about all the things in my life writing is the thing I cannot NOT do. I could sell all my fabric and give away all my paper crafting supplies and be ok. I would miss the hobby, but I would find something else to fill my time But if I couldn't write... well I wouldn't be me!



So where does that leave me for 2015?




* Well, I am still selling my dolls at Pastiche at Main because it has opened up doors for me to meet people and be involved in a creative community that has enriched my life in so many ways! Not to mention it lets me play with new patterns with out my house constantly being cluttered with rag dolls. Not a whole lot will change other than my heart and attitude.



* I am focusing more on combing my natural talents (creating) with my love language (gifts) and my spiritual gifts (encouragement) and have started participating in more swap and random act of kindness. It makes me smile and allows me to use my unique combo of gifts and talents to bless others and honor God.



* Finally, I am really focusing on my writing this year. After years of my husband and I pray for a project for me to work on we finally had and answer this past summer. This is the first time I have shared this project publicly! It has taken a lot of guts for me to work up the nerve to talk about it beyond a few close friends.  I am hoping to have a rough draft for my first book done by the end of 2015. I also will be blogging here more and working on marketing to that when it comes time to take a project to a publisher I have an audience behind me.
 

So that's what I am hoping 2015 looks like for me. Hopefully I will see you all back here soon!

10/10/14

Your Will Be Done.


It seems like this has been my prayer over and over. "Lord, if it is Your will, let it be." I breath out my questions and breath in this prayer and move through my day trying desperately to trust that whatever happens this prayer will be answered. 

But then answers come that aren't what I had hopped and I find myself living the tension of disappointment, but striving to trust.  When jobs change, and plans fall through, and ministries I long for seem to out of reach, am I still praying "Your will be done." 

When I look at the story He is writing in my life, will I trust that it is the perfect one for me. Will I cheer for victories in other's lives and not  sulk that they aren't my own?

When once again my kids go to bed before their Daddy get's home. When we eat more dinners apart than together. Can I trust that even in this God is good and His will is being done? When thoughts of "this isn't what I signed up for" run through my head can I hold fast to the truth that, if this is God's will then yes, this is in fact, EXACTLY what I signed up for.

9/17/14

How God is Using NOT Going to Influence Conference to Grow Me

Fall seems to have hit full force this week at least on the East Coast. My day has been full of soup in the crock pot and folding laundry with the windows open. It's also been full of checking Instagram and felling a slight pang every time I see the #influenceconf. This is the third year of the conference and once again I am watching it from my computer. 

Four month ago just days after my 30th birthday I sat down at the computer with money in my bank account ready to buy my conference ticket. Josh had recently been promoted at work and for the first time in our marriage money wasn't really an issue. And yet, for some reason I couldn't explain, it just didn't feel right. I talked it over and over with my husband, he was all for me going, but didn't want me to go if it didn't feel right. I desperately wanted to be there this year but couldn't shake the feeling that something was gone.

Fast forward to the end of August. My husband went into work one day and called me a few hours later. For reasons totally out of his control his position in the company had been down sized. Thankfully they were able to find him a different position in the company but it mean additional hours and a pay cut.

As I sit at home today watching woman across the country prepare for Influence Conference my heart hurts a little bit. But, I understand why I am not there. Last month our lives tipped sideways and we are still recovering a bit. I know if I were trying to get ready to leave town and getting ready to get on a plane and travel nine hours away from my family it just wouldn't feel right. I know I wouldn't be able to enjoy this weekend if I was there because I would be worried about our families finances. I know God protected me and my family when He put that nagging feeling in my heart back in May.

I deseperately, selfishly want to be at the conference this weekend. My soul yearns to be surrounded by like minded women and to be encouraged and motivated in my passions. But more than that I want to be where God has called me to be. And today, He has called me to be home. This isn't an easy "yes" to say but it is the right "yes".


I want to be go to Influence Conference. I wish I could say that if God wants me home that's where I would rather be. I am not sure I can say that. Maybe wanting to be able to say that is enough for now. I know this, I know that NOT being at Influence Conference is what God wants for me this year. Not being at Influence Conference was His was of protecting me this year.

Maybe being ok right where I am is a lesson I need to learn, before He can teach me other ones.

Every Day Beauty

I was reading a friend's blog today when I was hit with a pang of jealousy. Not of anything she has, but simply a moment of "why can't my story be more like that"? It was a silly passing thought, but one that I am sure hits most of us more often than we would like.

Because there are nights like tonight when the notes home from school aren't what you would hope, when the toddler is sick, when home work is met with blank faces, when the toddler refuses dinner but eats cat food. Because nights like that it makes it hard to see the beauty in your own life.

We are in a stretching season right now. A season that has me so exhausted at the end of the day that looking for and finding the beauty in my life is a bit challenging. But the beauty is there, I just have to look for it.


A beautiful gift from a stranger. 



A chance to actually enjoy a local festival as a family. 
 

More time studying my Bible in a new way. 


Waking up to this happy face every day. 

Here is to finding beauty in the every day.

9/12/14

Why I don't Plan on Teaching My Daughters "True Love Waits"




I want to preface this post by saying I am all for purity and modesty. I in no way want to communicate that I am against these things, or that I am encouraging girls to run around in skimpy clothes and make poor choices. That being said, I am not sure I will make a point to teach“modesty” or “purity” to my daughters. 

I grew up when the “True Love Waits” movement was really gaining momentum. I read “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (begrudgingly) and Secret Keeper. I even worked at a Rebecca St. James concert on her “Wait for Me” tour. I have, very literally, been there, done that, and have the t-shirt. 

I think the intent behind all of these movements, conferences, and seminars is great. The parents, youth workers, and Christian leaders of the time had firsthand experience with the results of the sexual revolution. They wanted to protect the young people they loved from making painful mistakes.

The intent was great. The message was good. The delivery was flawed. 

Satan has a way of taking good intentions and messages and twisting them, and the minds of young women can be fertile ground for lies.

See, when the message we heard over, and over, and over was to cover up and “save ourselves,” a little lie crept in. Some girls were able to combat that lie with truth, but others weren’t so lucky. Many began to believe our value and worth laid in our closets and behavior. We may have had the right actions, but they were motivated by fear of being rejected rather than out of an understanding of God and His desires for us. 

We found our identity not in Christ, but in our virginity. We found our worth not in being a Child of the King but in what we wore.

I have had this conversation with dozens and dozens of women. So many times I have seen girls who “made the right choices” left feeling confused and hurting. A generation unsure of who they were anymore, after losing what had become their identity.

Focusing on one aspect of a holy life style can lead to disastrous results.
 
I’m not sure what we were actually taught, but as a group what we heard was, “Wait,” not, “Honor God.” So when the waiting was over, we had no idea what came next. 
I don’t blame our churches, our leaders, or our parents. We live in a fallen world. Truth gets twisted and Satan takes pleasure in planting confusion.

I want to teach my daughters that they are sinners, but God loves them any ways. 
 
I want to teach them that He made them, and that He has an amazing plan for their life. 

I want my girls to see the big picture. 

The fact is true love DIDN’T wait. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
He didn’t wait for us to change how we dress, or talk, or spend our weekends. 

That is what I want my daughters to understand. I want them to see Christ and all He did for us in the center. When we have an accurate understanding of who we are, and who God is, obedience flows out of gratitude. 
 
When our hearts are inclined toward God, our wardrobes and actions will be too.