Sunday, July 24, 2016

He Sees Your Sighs

It's summertime and you plan a fun day for your family.  You envision all the laughter and bonding that will take place.  You'll get some great pictures to post on Facebook and at the end of the day will be overflowing with sweet memories.  But things don't turn out the way you had planned.  Instead the day is filled with whining, arguing, and eventually yelling.  *Sigh*

Your kids are at a friends house and the house is quiet.  Your husband will be home soon, so you try to do your hair and put on something nice.  You anticipate him coming home, pulling you into an embrace, and having some time to re-connect.  But then the text comes in saying he has to work late. *Sigh*

What causes you to sigh?  What unmet longings and expectations do you have?

I've been reading this book called Hope Unfolding by Becky Thompson.  She put into words something that I've felt ever since becoming a momma that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  She writes "True loneliness doesn't only come from being by yourself.  There is another type of loneliness that comes from not being known.  A loneliness that takes place when others see you, but they don't see you."  Have you ever felt that loneliness?  You get known and appreciated for your roles and responsibilities, but does anyone ever see you?  I feel that way. *Sigh*

A few years ago, I came across this verse written by David in Psalm 38:9

All my longing - to be seen, known, desired, accepted, needed - He knows them all.  Each time I sigh because of unmet expectations, He sees that too.  I find comfort in that.

I have a love/hate relationship with technology...especially smartphones.  It's great having the world at your fingertips, but it's not so great when it gets in the way of relationships.  I remember one night last year when my insecurity was at a high and I was craving some affirmation from my husband.  I just wanted to be seen and loved.  He gets into bed...with his iPhone. (Men - do not bring your phone to bed with you...ever!)  As you can imagine, that's where his attention went.  I didn't even have the strength to ask for what I needed, so I did what any good Christian woman would do...I had a pity party for myself.  Ever been there?  I went downstairs and was whining to God about my unmet needs and his lack of attention, and then the weirdest thing happened.  I got this picture in my mind of God with an amused look on his face, almost as if he were going to start laughing at me!  It was as if He were thinking "Really?  Look who you're talking to!  If anyone understands what it's like to wait patiently and long for my loved ones to give me their undivided attention and desire - it's me!"  He understood.  He saw me.  I knew right then that I was guilty of giving my attention to many things before Him.  I also get distracted by all the world has to offer and lose sight of important relationships.  This realization allowed me to give grace to my husband and to focus my heart on the only one who can truly fulfill my needs.  

Friends, whatever you may be sighing about right now, it's not hidden from His eyes - He sees you.  Seek some time alone with Him to share your heart and rest in His arms.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Acoustic Worship for My Soul

Our church has recently started a series called Church Camp.  One of my favorite things about this series is that the worship is all acoustic...for 8 whole weeks!  My husband loves rockin' it out with a full band, but something about acoustic music touches my soul at a deeper level.  Maybe it's because it feels less like a performance and more heartfelt.  Give me some acoustic guitars, sweet vocals, and possibly a djembe (which is an African hand-drum that my husband has made sure our family knows how to spell correctly) and I'm a happy camper.

Here is a clip someone recorded.  Yes, this is taken inside on our stage.  Isn't it awesome?

There are a few songs, including the one above, that I have been listening to a lot lately from Elevation Church.  If you go to iTunes, the only option is to purchase the full band version.  However, they recorded these songs acoustically and put them on YouTube.  I will link the videos in this post so that you can enjoy them too :)  When I get discouraged, the best medicine is to put in my earbuds, turn the music up loud enough to drown out all my other thoughts, and focus on these words.

I pray these songs bless you as much as they have me.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Hope Unfolding by Becky Thompson

I read a lot of books, and I must say this is one of my new favorites on motherhood.  It's not a "how-to" book that leaves you feeling like there are an endless list of things you need to work on.  Instead, it reads like a series of lengthy blog posts that in essence say "Me Too!".....You feel like a failure as a mom sometimes? Me too.  You are not alone, and there is hope.

Becky writes with an authentic voice that is easy to relate to.  She shares many stories from her own experiences and brings in some biblical insights too.   We all need to be reminded that God has a plan.  He is with us, and sees us, and loves us in our mess.  He can strengthen and help us when we allow Him to.  Besides finding encouragement for my own journey, I also kept thinking of friends who would benefit from this book.  In fact, I know exactly who will be receiving this copy in a few days :)

Chapter 6 was one of my favorites.  It focused on authenticity.  Becky writes "The messy areas of your life do not tell a story of your failures.  Those areas tell the story of your humanity, and they are a continual reminder of your need for a Savior."  As moms we tend to compare ourselves with others and we want others to see us as having everything put together.  We stress when company comes over or when our kids misbehave in public.  Why can't we just drop the act and give ourselves and other mommas some grace?  She goes on to say that "the minute we decide we're going to stop being defined by what we don't get done and instead take pride in what we ARE able to achieve, grace lets truth win and unnecessary shame gives way to hope."  Hope...that maybe we are good moms after all.

There are so many issues that we all struggle with, yet we feel alone in our struggles because we don't talk about them.  This book could start some great discussions, and would be a great gift for a mom you know who just needs to be reminded that she's doing a good job.

You can also visit the author's blog at for some encouragement today!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Confessions of a Pastor's Wife

Every now and then I have women ask me if I still blog.  It's at those moments when I wish I could say "Yep, sure do", but am left admitting that while my book reviews are still regular, my personal reflections have been few.  In fact, I just looked and it has been an entire year since my last non-book related post!  I feel like this is something God has called me to do, so why the absence?  Two reasons come to mind.  The first is one you might expect:

Yes, these boys keep me busy.  Trying to juggle sports schedules, homework, music lessons, and their social lives make my head spin.  Add to that substitute teaching during the school year and my times of peace and quiet are dwindling.  BUT I can't just use this as an excuse.  God does provide me with pockets of time that I could use to write if I chose to.

Now for the confession:  This past year as a Pastor's Wife has been a struggle.  Much of that has not been something that I felt I could or would want to put in print.  In my mind a Pastor's Wife should be positive and encouraging, and quite honestly my pessimism has been getting the better of me.  I strive to be authentic, so when I don't have something positive to say, sometimes it's best to just keep my lips (or in this case, my fingers) silent.  This past month I have again felt a stirring to write because God has been starting to reveal to me some wisdom that has been forged in the fire.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...let me first define the struggle.

When most people first start attending church, it's exciting (or at least it should be - why else would you want to return?)  There are new people to meet, ministries to explore, things to learn.  You anticipate each weekend wondering what will happen next.  Will the band play that song you love?  In what creative way will the pastor teach the lesson?  What new opportunities will there be to connect with others, to serve, or to grow spiritually?

Then you get in a little deeper.  Maybe you start to volunteer in a few ministries.  You commit your time, talent, and treasure to the cause.  At this level, you get a better understanding of how the church ministries function and learn that those leaders you put up on a pedestal are really just human, just like you.  You make the choice to "get in the game" and feel good about the role you are playing in the church body.  Sometimes you can commit too much and get burnt out, but you always have the option to step back a little if needed.

And then can come the next level of church staff.  There is no doubt that my husband has been gifted for and called to his position.  He LOVES what he does and never complains.  I, on the other hand, am taking longer to adapt.  Being a pastor is a 24-hour a day job.  It may be flexible as far as when he is physically "in the office", but with technology like computers and cell phones, he is always on call.  There is always work to be done.  So how do I protect the time we need as a family, without selfishly taking him away from his ministry?  It's a delicate balance.  I struggle with resentment towards the job, which is then followed by guilt for feeling that way.  When I hear about a new initiative at church, my first thought typically goes to how much time it's going to require of my husband....time that will be taken away from our family.  And then I think of the needs of others, and again feel selfish and guilty.   I love the people - they are like family.  I want my husband and I to be a blessing to them.  I want others to see Christ in us.  How can we ever find balance?  What do I do with all these conflicting feelings?  The church is now a workplace, and it's becoming harder for me to see beyond the programming and the tasks ahead and allow myself to just be and experience.  The struggle is real.

Now that you've seen a glimpse of this tension, let me share with you that God has been teaching me some things through this.  He's been asking me some tough questions about why I go to church. Do I go because of what I get out of it, or for what I can give?  Do I go because of a feeling that I get, or because of a commitment I've made?  Do we serve because it is convenient, or because Jesus asked us to?

I think that many times when people lose their feelings of excitement and anticipation about church, we assume the answer must be to switch churches.  Surely there is another church that will "feed" us better, or offer better programs, or contain less hypocrites, or would have more staff to share the workload.  We let our feelings dictate our decisions.  But would it really be different anywhere else in the long run?

My big revelation came when God showed me this parallel between church commitment and marriages.  When you first get married, it's new and exciting.  Then the deeper you get, your eyes are opened to new realities.  Feelings may come and go.  The problem we are seeing is that many couples are now letting their feelings determine their level of commitment instead of the other way around!  Their problems are not solved by switching spouses.  If you want the blessing of a long-lasting  marriage, feelings cannot be given the reigns.  The same is true of churches.  I believe there is a real blessing in store for those who remain a part of a church body through ups and downs - one that can only be realized after years of commitment.

I may not feel as I used to, and that's ok because feelings change.  What doesn't change is God's truth and His purpose for our lives. I may feel inadequate and unprepared for this role, but in time I believe there will be a great blessing after having stayed the course.  Even now, I feel a great connection and pride being able to say we've been at our church since opening day.  The memories we've made and the people we've met have been priceless.  I enjoy watching my husband thrive as he is doing what makes his spirit come alive.  I am thankful that he gets to bless so many people with his gifts. ( I just wish I could clone him!)  As our family struggles to find balance, I ask for your grace and prayers.  I may not be the woman overflowing with optimism, but I am willing to be real.  I know I can come to Jesus, and hopefully to you, just as I am.

Are you in a place in your marriage or your church where your feelings aren't in line with where you want them to be?  Unless there is abuse or non-biblical teaching, I encourage you to also stick it out.  Continue to love and serve right where you are, believing that God has a blessing in store for those who are faithful.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Mind of Terror by Tass Saada

Whether or not you follow the news, I think we're all aware of the threat of terrorism.  Maybe you've wondered as I have..."What would make someone want to hurt us and be willing to die to do it?"  This book captured my attention because it was written by a former terrorist to try and explain why this problem exists, how terrorists think, and what we can do about it.  Even though some details were over my head, I thought overall this book was written in a very easy to read and understand format.

This book is broken into three sections.  The first section explains how terrorists think and why they are inclined to act with such violence.  The next section outlines some reactions/solutions to terrorism that are often thought of, but that the author feels are not effective.  The final section reveals some strategies that we can use to neutralize terrorism. (Namely doing what Jesus taught us to do - praying for and loving our enemies). The author also shares some stories from the ministry that he is involved in to show how this strategy has been effective.

I have a rough understanding of biblical Islamic history and current events.  There are so many new vocabulary terms that are used when speaking of the Middle East that I sometimes have trouble following.  I thought this author did a great job of explaining some of the background information and history of the Palestinian and Israeli people.  I feel more educated and equipped to understand the daily headlines.  I have also grown in my compassion for the Arab people, many of whom do not agree with these terrorist tactics either.

 I can't imagine a world where the fighting stops - where people cease to strike back with violence - but it sure is nice to dream and hope for a more peaceful world.  This book has the ability to open hearts and minds to a better way, starting with creating peace in our own neighborhoods.  The author writes "Muslims are everywhere across the world, and the alert Christian will find openings to make show be the hands and feet of Christ in natural and acceptable ways.  Whenever and wherever this happens, the Good News moves forward.  Tension are eased, and light breaks through the clouds.  Regardless of where we live, this is our great calling."

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.