To The One Who is Finally Using Her Gifts

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a group of local creatives and just enjoy each other's company. We shared our stories, our backgrounds, our business and creative struggles and our hopes for the future. I normally love these meetings, but for whatever reason my heart just wasn't in this one. My brain jumped from thought to thought, not entirely sure why I was there or even if I fit with this group I normally love.

And then my attention was caught by the story one woman told. She is a women I admire and respect personally, creatively, and spiritually. I have never heard an unkind word from her. She is unfailing positive and kind, always encouraging, always offering a smile. She is one of the most welcoming women I know. Any one who meets her at the shop she works in, or a show where she is selling her beautiful work, walks away feeling like they have bee seen, like they matter.

She was telling her story about how she got to what she was doing now and how she has always been an artist and a painter. And yet, when she got to college she didn't study art, she studied ministry. She shared how she felt like art wasn't good enough because, "we have to do something big for God" and it was, "soul crushing." And I wanted to cry.

I think we all have felt that way at some point. I wonder how many women still feel that way. How many women are serving in ways they were never created to because they have bought into the idea that there things we do that are "ministry" and "God's work" and then  there is everything else? How many women are dying inside because they have been told that their gifts at passions aren't "right"? How many women are missing out on the work God has prepared for them because it doesn't look like what they, or others, thought it would?

I looked at this woman and thanked God that she listened to God's prompting. That she used her passion for art to teach children. That she paints beautiful things that brighten the lives of so many. That she is there, in that place, offering herself and her gifts to others. She allowed herself to see past a narrow interpretation of ministry and in the process found the work that God had created her for.


Instagram Summer

We are a few weeks into break and we have been summering hard. It's been a crazy week full of spontaneous activities and reworking plans. Nothing has been set in stone and we have been successfully embracing the spontaneous (not always my strong suite).

I have been having a lot of fun using my nice camera and I can't wait to show you all those photos. But until then here are a few of my favorite Instagram photos of our summer so far.

Happy mail coming and going.

Lots of time at the sewing machine. 

Legos, legos, and more legos

Reading for hours on end.

Lots and lots of time at the pool.


On Showing Up

I was cooking dinner with a dozen different, semi-related, thoughts running through my head. I stood over the stove, fork in hand, turning bacon and trying not to get grease all over everything.

My thoughts felt scattered and disconnected. Over and over I went back to the story of Jesus telling the disciple to throw their nets over the side of the boat.

I am horrible at remembering details so as the bacon drained I pulled up Bible Gate way to search for the story. Turns out there are two similar stories recounting two separate events.

The first one is Luke 5. After fishing all night Simon is told to go put his nets into the deep water. Despite having nothing to show for a long nights work, Simon did as he was told and ended up with so many fish he had to call for help pulling them in.

The second story takes place after Jesus is resurrected. After all the miracles and amazing things they saw at his side, Christ's disciples have gone back to fishing. Again they have caught nothing when Jesus tells them to put their nets on the other side of the boat. And again the take is to plentiful the nets almost break.

I stand back at my kitchen counter assembling BLTS (or rather BLs for the girls and I and a BLT for Josh) thinking about these men. Things weren't really going their way. Work was rough, and unfruitful. They had put in hours and hours of labor and saw literally NO return. It would have been really easy for these guys to have called it quits. What would have been the harm in calling things early? The fish weren't biting. Why not clock out and catch a few extra minutes of sleep? But they didn't do that. They were faithful. Even when things seemed pointless they showed up. And as a result they saw miracles, but beyond that, they saw Jesus.

Showing up when things are going well is easy.
People want to be part of something big.
As a church it's easy to show up when babies or born,
when the church is putting on a big out reach event,
when funds are being raised after a natural disaster.

It is easy to show up when God is clearly moving and there is revival.

It's a lot harder to show up to serve in nursery,
to clean the toilets,
to mop floors,
to fold laundry.

We all want to be part of the harvest. But being part of the planting isn't as glamorous.

My daughter wants to read her princess books, but doing sight word flash cards is boring.

I want to have deeper community with the body, but chasing a toddler around at prayer can leave me feeling frazzled.

I want to be close to my husband, but the to do list is long and by the end of the day I am too tired to spend real time with him.

I want to be closer to God, but I struggle to make time to open my Bible daily when I feel like He is silent.

I think about those fishermen and their faithfulness. I think about them showing up in the mundane every day. I think about what they would have missed out on if they hadn't.

I think about where God is asking me to show up. Not in the big ways. The conferences, the out reaches, the dates nights, and the school programs.

But the small things. The letter written, the meal cooked, the home work finished, the questions asked, the verses read, the hug given.

I think about what I a might have missed by not showing up.... and what might be in store if I do.


Changing Seasons.

It has been pretty quite on here. Not unusual I know. But it seems like a very long time since I have been here. Five months to be exact. It doesn't feel quite that long, but dates don't lie. The last time I shared here we hadn't even had snow yet. And now we are in the middle of a heat wave. We have already hit 90 a few times this spring and we are due for a few more 90 degree days in the next week.

When I sat down at the start of the year one of my few goals was to write more. Granted this is always a goal of mine but I had a slightly more concrete goals this time. Write a rough draft in 2015 and grow readership here so when I finally go to a publisher I have a decent size platform to present.  (You can read about my 2015 goals here.)

Best laid plans and all that.

There are a lot of reasons it has been silent here.

* In February and even a bit of March we had a number of heavy snows that kept my kids out of school for nearly three weeks. Not a whole lot gets done when you have three stir crazy kids stuck inside all day.

* I forgot how absolutely crazy toddles are. Tacy is in that into everything stage. She is amazing and wonderful but doesn't leave me a ton of time to sit and write. If she isn't into the toilet bowl she in the cat food and if she isn't in the cat food she is in my lap informing me that she "Wana bye bye." My family demands (rightfully so) to be my first priority. In this season and in every season to come they have to be what I think of first. Even if I some how manage to achieve my goal of being published and have the chance to do things beyond my current reach, to be the kind of writer and woman I want to be I cannot let go of that. Too many writers now become successful and as a result can no longer write about every day life with any sense of genuineness because their every day life looks NOTHING like that of their readers. Lord willing I want to write in such a way that allows other woman's souls to say "YES! Me to!"

* God has been calling me to other things. He has been showing me small ways to serve and minister to other's in His name.(You can read about that here.) In some ways this is hard. While I love what He has been calling me to do and know with out a doubt He using me, I ache for something bigger.  And yet, isn't that the very point of my writing? That God uses us right where we are, in our life stage, with our gifts. That living out the great commission doesn't require this big crazy extreme life. That a quite life in the suburbs can have as big an impact for the kingdom as one spent in an orphanage in a third world country.

* And so I find myself living with a tension of peace and desire. Peace with knowing I am serving how and where He has called me. Desire to minister and share and encourage on a bigger scale. Not always knowing how to share both of these sides with genuineness and transparency. Not wanting to preach contentment and being used where you are at, while my heart pines for something bigger. Not wanting to share about my desires and dreams for bigger things, when I think that in many ways this notion of doing "big things for God" has bred a generation disillusioned with the path God has placed them on.

* So that leaves me here. May 27th with only a few pages and a hand full of blog posts written toward my goal. Seasons are changing here. From summer to spring and perhaps the season of silence is coming to and end it is time for me to write again. Only this time I am reminded that seasons don't always come the way would expect. Spring here was all over the place. Sunny and 85 degrees on a Monday and rainy and 55 degrees the following Saturday. We can't always predict what the weather will be. This season of writing may not look like what I expected. Leaps and bounds, pages at a time, readership growing. Living out the great commission right where you are means knowing when it is a season to sit on the sofa with your kids, and when it is a season to push yourself and pursue opportunities God is giving you. Even if they don't look like what you would expect.

Here is to the next season. Whatever it may be.


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.)


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.


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!