Me and My Petunias

Today I spent some time deadheading my petunias- again. It seems like the hotter the summer gets, the more I have to pull those dead blooms off these plants, otherwise they look pathetic. I've learned that if I don't do this, the plant doesn't thrive and grow new and bigger blooms. 

It's a tedious job, often time consuming- and sticky- and I don't particularly enjoy it. 

So it is with our lives. We need those dead things pulled off in order to grow, to thrive, to bloom. Carry enough of those dead things around and we get weighed down. The process is tedious, time-consuming, often sticky and unpleasant. I don't particularly enjoy it! 

Life gets hotter than we'd like at times, and the heat can wilt our hearts, causing things we need to let go die. 

This feels bad, it hurts and it's hard! Sometimes the process seems like it goes on and on. But in the end it will bear greater things when we continue to choose growth in courage, wisdom and faith- no matter what that looks like next week, next month or next year. Sometimes it means we sit still for awhile, other times we need to move on to the next thing with more courage, wisdom and faith under our belts.

But one thing is for sure:

Nothing is wasted in the hands of our Redeemer.

We may not always like it, but God knows what He's doing.
Remember the Petunias.


Choose Courage

Have not I commanded you? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, nor afraid or discouraged: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. 
-Joshua 1:9
One of my favorite scenes in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy is when Eowyn (a woman of royalty) looks at Meriadoc (a.k.a. Merry)- about to embark on the biggest battle Middle Earth has ever seen- and says "Courage ride with me." She sweeps him off his feet and on to her horse and ride off into battle. You can just see the courage rise up within him as he makes the decision of a lifetime. Although a small and untrained hobbit who has made his share of mistakes along his journey, he decides to choose courage in the face of most certain death. 

The stakes were high and he knew it.

Sometimes as humans, we forget to choose courage. We look around at our circumstances and wonder how we ever got ourselves into this mess.  We worry that we're not good enough, pretty enough, talented enough, strong enough or even a good candidate for what God is asking us to do- or go through. Life is altogether too much sometimes. We get overwhelmed, discouraged and tired.

Whether it's ministry stuff, people stuff, family stuff or just plain lack of sleep, God is encouraging us to be strong and choose courage because HE is with us wherever we go. We can confidently choose courage because we are not alone. I love the comfort I find in that.

I find myself praying, "God! Please change these circumstances... or change me!" Usually He wants to change me. Honestly, I hate and love that all at the same time.

Many of the women in my life are the most courageous people I know. They don't usually see themselves that way. They have gone through things that would nearly kill the average person, yet they still stand. I admire these women! I know that it's by the grace of God that they stand.  They know it too, because they are not average women. They wrestle with fear often and know it well. But they also know that their strength comes from the Lord and that they have a daily choice to make. Yes, daily.

Give in- or fight.

Not because they are so great, but because their God is so great. And He has their back.

Courage friends. You do not ride alone.

Life in the Banana Bowl

Life in ministry can cause this condition: 

Yes, you heard right. Ministry life can cause a woman to join the banana bowl.

In my ministry life, I have joined the banana bowl many times.
At times, voluntarily. Other times, out of sheer necessity.
You see, although in reality I might feel like an apple, 
sometimes the situation calls for a banana.

I totally believe that we should seek out, understand and embrace our God-given gifts.
Our wise Creator has built into our DNA to passionately serve through these giftings and our ultimate purpose is, in part,  lived out using and growing these gifts. 


There are times in ministry where we are called to step out of our "comfort zones" and function in areas that we don't necessarily feel strong or comfortable in. Perhaps we haven't had appropriate time to pray about it or even prepare in advance. Maybe the situation completely took you by surprise.

But God might be saying "I want you here- doing this- right now." 

It might make you feel like you're going bananas.  Trust me, I've had many moments like that!

The truth is that when God asks you to become a banana- even for a season- He will give you the strength, courage and yes, even passion, to do the work He's asked you to do.

Feeling a little bananas?

That's okay. God has a plan.

Disappointment Valley

As a woman in ministry, you will visit this place often:

Because we are in the people business.

People are human, like us.
People make mistakes. Sometimes very painful mistakes.
People will hurt us and those we love.

It causes us to ask the proverbial question- why is this happening?

But there is a flip-side to disappointment.

If you find yourself disappointed, it's because you love.
If you didn't love, you wouldn't care.
The deeper the love, the deeper the disappointment.
All because you love...and that's a good thing.

I've been choosing lately, to go ahead and feel my disappointment instead of denying it's there. To do the work of examining my heart and ultimately giving it over to the Lord. Next, I choose to thank God for giving me this love for them in the first place. To deepen it. To widen my vision. 
To show me how to proceed.

Does this make the feeling go away?

Does it change the circumstances?

But it offers me a different perspective.
Reminds me of the frailty of our humanness.
 Offers a detour from the road that disappointment 
can emotionally take me on.

...and causes me, once again, to run to Him for dear life.

Disappointment Valley will always be on our map,
but we don't have to live there for long.

We know the One who owns the highway. 

No One Sits Alone

I'm not sure why this is, but it is.
I've observed this over and over throughout our ministry lives:

Pastor's wives. Sitting alone in church.

I've been trying to figure this out for a long time.  Partly because I'm a pastor's wife, and a pastor myself. Partly because, more often than not, I've sat alone for many years too.
Partly because I'm an observer of people. It saddens me and fascinates me all at once.

I know- weird.

But why?

It's probably logical right?
The pastor is usually busy doing his thing on Sunday morning and his wife is left to navigate on her own, deal with the kids and often do ministry work as well. People have their own families, and usually, their fiercely claimed weekly pew (or chair).
Let's admit it folks- we are creatures of habit....and comfort. 

And there sits the pastor's wife. Usually towards the front somewhere- alone- or maybe with some kiddos to keep quiet. Usually Sundays are not the sabbath for her.

Secretly, I usually have a deep desire to sit in the back somewhere...I know...
Rebellious! Scandalous! Anytime I go to conferences or places like that, guess where I'm sitting.I just can't help myself. I want to disappear in the back.

Anyway, for those pastor's wives out there that often sit alone- we see you! (think Avatar)
 We don't mean to appear like we don't care or are ignoring you on purpose. It's often hard to may want your privacy. You may not.

For those that love their pastor's wife- pay attention. Pastor's wives are people too.
They may not have the energy or courage to ask to sit with you.
They might be having a great week...or going through the fight of their lives.
If they want to sit in the back- let them- without judgement.
This may or may not even be an issue in your church. I hope not.

Nevertheless, God may be asking you to encourage them...
and it might only take the simple support of being- no words necessary.

We Are Not Superheros

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase:

God says He wouldn't ever give me more than I can handle.

It makes me pause every time I hear this. It's actually not Biblical.

The verse that people tend to get this idea is from I Corinthians 10:13:
 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (NIV)

This verse talks about temptation in particular. If we were strong enough to handle temptation on our own, we wouldn't need God to provide a way out so we could overcome it.

 The New Living Translation puts it this way:
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
If there's one thing I've learned in this's this:
  Life will hand me much more than I can handle on a silver platter.

There are times that I've felt crushed under the weight of it all.
My spirit utterly broken. My heart in pieces.
Wondering if I can get up and face another day.
Each day is a new problem...a new temptation.

Where did we get this idea that God would never give us more than we can handle?
We are not super heroes.

The truth of the scripture says that most certainly- the world (our lives) will be full of trials. 
But take courage...I have overcome the world.

The truth of the scripture says that although we will face trials of all kinds...
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

The key here is this:  there is only one Savior. 
It is not you.

When life hands you days, weeks, even years of overwhelming problems and temptations- we can acknowledge that it is indeed more than we can handle. But we don't have to "handle" them on our own.

The scripture says...Fear not, for I am with you always. Even unto the end of the world.

In other words, we can give it over to Him. Without Him we cannot handle much of anything.

We are weak. He is strong.
He will provide a way for us to endure.
He is our Superhero.

Pastor's Wives are People Too. A Poem.

Pastor's wives are people too.

(A pastor's wife may actually be a guy- a pastor's husband- which brings unique challenges of it's own. But for the ease of writing, I'll just say "she" for now, but please know that the "she" really could be a "he" and the point is the same.)

There are a lot of demands on her time and energy- just like you.

She carries many burdens and try in earnest to give them to the Lord- just like you.

She struggles with all the same stuff you do- yes, this is true.

She may not play the piano or sing. She may be a welder.

She feels loneliness, sorrow, worry and fear- just like you.

She makes mistakes and has regrets- just like you.

She worries that she's bringing up her kids right- yes, this is true.

She may not be an extrovert. And that's okay.


She is often asked to do way too much- just like you.

She often wonders about the future- just like you.

She crawls back to the cross on a frequent basis- yes, it's true.

She may actually need a vacation, and that's the truth.


She may need some time to herself or laughs with friends- just like you.

She really needs encouragement from others- just like you.  

She isn't perfect or a saint- yes, it's true.

She isn't responsible for her husband's ministry.


She may love life or have days where she wonders why she didn't stay in bed- just like you.

She works on her marriage and family in good times and bad- just like you.

She probably doesn't shout her needs from the rooftops- yes, it's true.

She needs your prayers more than you know.




Find a Way

While watching an interview of Diana Nyad the other day, I was captivated. What an incredible story! Diana's story is one of an unrelenting spirit. 
Pursuit of a dream. Making it work.

This former marathon swimmer, after 30 years of not a single lap in the pool, reignited an earlier dream of swimming from the US to Cuba without stopping.
 AT ALL. 103 miles. 
At 64 years old, she fulfilled that dream. 

Just. Wow.

Diane's story is such an inspiration, and reminds me of how God created us with such potential. He has instilled in us this will, this drive that propels us on no matter what obstacles come our way.

The thing inside that says: find a way.

She tells of a time when she was sharing her story to a large group of people, which included her abuse by a former swimming coach. After her talk, she met a woman in her late 80's at one of the tables. As they were talking, she noticed the series of numbers tattooed on this kind woman's forearm. This mark was the one she received from a concentration camp during WWII. This woman watched her father shot, her mother and siblings taken (and never seen again) and was hauled off to a concentration camp at age 3. She shared her story with Diana that night. After hearing her story, Diana felt like her story was nothing compared to this woman sitting beside her.

In response to this, the woman had this to say: we all have our unique story- you have yours and I have mine- and we only have this one life. Find a way to make it the best life. Let the past be the past and cherish the now. It's all we have. Embrace this beautiful life and find a way to be the best you that you can be.

Find a way.

That thing inside of you that shouts purpose, that whisper that propels a dream, that moment of inspiration: listen and find a way.
I believe God plants those things within us for a reason.

Be the best you that you were created to be. Find a way.

To hear some of Diana's inspiration, check out Diana Nyad on TED TALKS


First Thing in the Morning

What's the first thing you do when you get up?
Me? I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination.
Those of you who know me are probably laughing right now!
I've tried to convert, I really have! Alas, it just doesn't work for me. And to be honest with you, overly joyful morning people are annoying...well, to those of us who- let's say- are not. I've had other "non-morning" people tell me that it's fingernails-scratching-a-chalkboard annoying.
I can relate.
(dear morning friends and family, I love you)
There is a beauty in that though. We all do our best work at varying times of day and we are simply built differently. Some work their genius in the morning, while others deliver genius at night. I appreciate the variety, because if everyone was built like me, nothing would ever open before noon!

I read an article recently that proposed this thought: the most defining moment of our day is when we first wake up. The reasoning is that we have a choice about the first information we expose to our brain. Apparently the first 30 minutes after waking are key.

For me, the first thing I desire to expose my brain to is some strong coffee! 
I can see the value in this thinking. By meditating, exercising, writing in a journal, or doing something reflective for those first 30 minutes, we make a choice about what the foundation of our day will be built upon.

We expose our brain to something that sets the stage.

In King David's day, they might not have had brain science research, but he certainly knew something about this concept:
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. (Psalm 59:16)
But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. (Psalm 88:13)
Proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night...
(Psalm 92:2)
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. (Psalm 143:8)
There's something to this morning thing!
I'm sure you morning people knew this all along.
So as long as it is accompanied by some strong coffee, count me in.
Even if it's 8 minutes, it's better than none.
Let the morning stage setting commence!
What do you do right after waking up?


Hold On to What is Good and True

Not a sparrow falls to the ground without God’s knowledge, but sparrows still fall. God works all things to the good for those who love Him. But He still allows His saints to suffer.
And He doesn’t always tell them why.
I read this quote recently in a blog on how to help those with depression.
(you can find the whole blog by Anna, click here)

Have you ever felt like that sparrow?

When it seems like all the people you see are smiling, but you are just too tired.
When leaving the house seems like a momentous chore.
When things look dull and your life seems the same day after day.
When you've been cheated, betrayed or slandered.
When all the nice Christian answers are hard to believe.
When this current season of your life is difficult, and you don't see any end.
When you wonder who your real friends are.
When you try to hear from God and there's only silence.

He doesn't always tell us why.

I tend to believe that the desire to know why is built into us.
If we can just put our finger on it- the cause, the reason, the expected outcome-
maybe then we could have a justified reason for going through our suffering.
Maybe we would get through it easier, knowing the "why."
But suffering comes to all, often without warning or explanation.

I still believe.

Last night our family attended our youngest son's band and choir concert.
While taking in the choir songs, I was brought to tears by the words to one of their songs.
 (Trust me, this doesn't happen very often in this public school venue. Well, except for when my boys were in Kindergarten and they sang "What a Wonderful World"- but that's another blog for another day!)
Anyway, The song was about hope and holding on.
One particular stanza said something like this:
...when love is absent, I still know it's real
...when God is silent, I still believe He's there for me
What a timely reminder of hope... and faith!
When you are the sparrow that's fallen, hold on to what's good and true.
God is still there for you even when He seems silent.

Watch for the little, gentle reminders.

The song that reminds you that God sees you, loves you and is there for you.
The friend that sticks by you when the going gets rough, and offers their heart.
The sunny day and warm breeze after a long winter.
The timely card, email or Facebook message that comes just when you need it.
The hot meal waiting for you when you get home.
An unexpected kindness.
The sunrise and sunset.
The hug from your kids, your coworker or your spouse- just because.
Sparrows still fall and we rarely know the purpose.

But if we look carefully, we will see hope breaking through, regardless of the why. 



Grace in the Grey

It would be nice if the world were always black or white, 
where issues and circumstances were either one way or the other, right or wrong, 
good or bad and so just might be easier to navigate.

Don't misunderstand, I do believe there are absolutes in this world. 
Good and evil. Right and wrong. I believe this with every fiber of my being. 
I also believe that these things are instilled deep inside of us. 
Things such as a true sense of justice, crimes that turn our stomachs 
and leave no doubt in our mind, actions and words that hurt, steal or wound.
There are all kinds of right and wrong.
I believe that God himself created us to know it.

But while there are black and white issues in the world, 
there are also circumstances that live somewhere between the black and white. 
Somewhere in the blur of the grey.

We don't typically like the grey.
The grey is nebulous. The grey doesn't offer quick and easy answers. 
The grey can present itself suddenly, or very slowly over time.
And the grey isn't always wrong...or always right.
There isn't always a cut and dried practical, or spiritual, answer.

One of the problems with human nature is that we are often too quick to jump to conclusions about other people and their grey. Too quick to look at a situation we think we know a little something about and call it black or white. Too often, I've witnessed people quoting scripture to "prove" their judgement of what they perceive as right or wrong...for everyone else.

Without knowing all the facts.
Without walking in their shoes.
Without understanding their journey.

Truth is, real life is lived in a variety of colors.

Remember when you were a kid playing with watercolor? 
Sometimes when certain colors were mixed- or mixed too much-
they would blur together to make a not-so-pretty, unattractive mess.

Sometimes our life is like that. Messy.
Okay, maybe more than sometimes!

This is where grace comes in.
Giving people grace and time to work through their grey.
And the beautiful thing is that God is in the grey, walking along side,
gently leading us into clarity.


Listen With Your Heart

Do you listen with your heart, your head... or both?
When others ask you how you're doing, are you honest?
Sometimes pasting on a smile with a "positive attitude" is a great cover up.
Sometimes behind that smile is a heart that is actually withering away.
Or cursing, in conflict, devastated, angry or confused. 
Sometimes that forced positive can even take the form of denial.
It's okay to face the facts- healthy even.
It's happened to me several times recently.
 I was being honest with someone about how I felt about some hurts inside of me that have impacted me deeply. I didn't go into the gory details, just in general.
Well, they asked.
But what I experienced from them was interesting.
Instead of empathy                      I received "well, at least you....." and "you think that's bad"
Instead of compassion                 I received platitudes.
Instead of validation                     I heard about how I should try to see it from the other side.
Instead of a hug                           I received uncomfortable silence.
I'm not sure what I was looking for, but I instinctively knew those things weren't it!
I don't blame them. They probably didn't know any better.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't embrace a positive outlook on life. Of course we should!
We choose our response to things that happen to us.
But when that's all we offer to encourage others, it falls flat.
It's like putting a little Band aid on a gushing,
bleeding wound and expecting instant healing.
Honestly, this experience was actually good for me though.
(although it left me disappointed)
It was a good reminder to really listen when people confide in me.
For most of us, it takes an enormous amount of energy to spill our guts.
It takes courage to trust someone with our heart, because it's risky.
I was reminded to:
Listen and respond with empathy                                 Resist the urge to compare hardship
Flood them with compassion                                        Resist the quick fix answer
Validate their feelings, even if they are skewed           Their feelings are very real, hear them
Sometimes all they need is a hug and a prayer           Show simple comfort and love   
For most people, hardships will see an end. For others, their battle may never end.
So let's spur one another on with encouragement and compassion.
And when you take the time to ask, take the time to listen with your heart.


Just Show Up

All of us have unique gifts and talents. 
The Creator is a creative God- just take a look around you. 
Even the Bible starts with God as Artist- all of it magnificent.

Since you are created in His image, you have His creativity in you.

And get this...

He wants to flow out through you in a unique way 
that He won't through anyone else. 

You have been given this one unique life.
You have been asked to show up.

You have been given your hands, you mind, your personality, your insight. You have been given your sense of humor, creative expression, your sense of right or wrong, unique problem solving skills, an ability to love and receive love. 

You may have been given your sick parents, a diagnosis, a disability, a leaky basement, a rusty car, a challenging child, a lonely house, a crabby co-worker or a layoff you didn't expect. 

You have been given a passion for something, perhaps a heart for the homeless, justice for the abused, compassion for the needy or a desire to bring a light to dark places.

You were born and given life.
You have been asked to show up.

There isn't necessarily one big thing you were meant to accomplish.

Rather, there are most likely a million little things that you were meant to 
bring forth- and all these little things add up to big things that matter.
Your touch, creative expression, contributions, prayers and other things that are uniquely yours touches another life...
...then another
...then another
...then another
until the connections cannot be measured through the generations.

There is no retirement plan for showing up. It's not someone else's turn to show up. As long as you have breath, you are asked to show up.

He has creatively given you life. 
How are you showing up?