Disappointment Stings

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Have we not all been there, at one point or another, where disappointment strikes…. and it stings.   We feel the sting of disappointment in ourselves, because we failed to make the right decision.  Or, we may feel the sting of disappointment by others who failed us in some way or failed to live up to our expectations.  We may even feel the sting of disappointment when God doesn’t answer our prayers in a certain matter, despite feeling as if we are being faithful to His word and commands.   There are even times we are disappointed not in ourselves, other people, or God….  but just in the outcome.  Everyone may have done everything just right, but the outcome simply didn’t meet expectations.

When I was a child, I remember asking my mother for a clock radio for Christmas.  I had pointed out the one I wanted several times in store.  It was really cool, to a middle school aged child.  Classic 1980’s bright colors, digital screen, lots of buttons to do a lot of different things.  It was amazing.  This particularly year would be the only year in which I decided to sneak a peak at what my mom bought for Christmas presents.  I can’t recall if she hadn’t wrapped them yet or if I actually went through the process of unwrapping the package… but there it was… a clock radio.  However, it was not THE clock radio.  I was disappointed.  Not only was I disappointed, but I knew it was too late to get the one I wanted.  On Christmas morning, I opened that gift and set it aside.  I didn’t have the reaction my mother expected because I not only already knew what it was… I already knew I didn’t like it.  At that time, I couldn’t really grasp the struggles my mom faced trying to give us what we desired within the realm of what she afford.  I just knew I didn’t get what I asked for.

As a child, I didn’t understand limitations.  I believed you asked for things for Christmas, and you got them.  As we become adults, we must be able to let go of that child like expectation.

My mother did the best finding compromise between what I wanted and what she could afford.

Fast forward a few years, to my sixteenth birthday.  For the better part of the summer, I was working with my mom.  Every day we passed a used car dealership and I saw this beautiful car that I desperately wanted.  I have an affinity for classic cars, and this one was a beauty.  It was a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback and it was in my favorite color… green.  I knew that my summer job wouldn’t pay for THAT car.  I didn’t expect anyone would buy that car for my birthday either, I knew it wasn’t a “cheap” car.  I did however have an understanding of how much money I would need, and was willing to work for it.  On my sixteenth birthday, I woke up to an empty house.  There was a card on the counter, when I opened it… it read… It is green.  It’s a horse.  It’s in the driveway.  Then tucked in the car was a key that had a Ford symbol on it.  It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out… and I ran out the door as fast as my feet could take me.

However, in the driveway there was NOT a 1967 Ford Mustang.  Instead, there was a 1976 Ford Pinto Station Wagon.  My expression changed, I turned around, went back to my bedroom and cried.   My grandmother called me ungrateful… but she didn’t know about the car I saw every day on the way to work with my mom.  It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the car I was given, or what it took for my mom to buy it for me. In fact, I had not expected a car in the first place.  I grew to LOVE that car.   However, the way the message was conveyed caused me to believe one thing… when something else was delivered.  So, yes, I was disappointed at the time.

Part of being a mature Christian, I believe, is the ability to see the best in others.   Most often others intentions were not to hurt me, but to bless me.

I can see now my mother’s good intentions and how much thought she put into it. She had no way of knowing that my mind would come to a different conclusion than she intended.  Truth is, it had never crossed her mind that I would expect something differently.

By my senior year of high school, I had interviewed and auditioned for a major scholarship.  I really wanted it, worked really hard to get it, and came in second place.  I was disappointed.

When I was nineteen, I auditioned for a pretty big deal that would have landed me a summer job doing what I loved.  I made a miscalculation that cost me the job.  I was disappointed.

Into adulthood, I’ve worked on cultivating friendships that have fizzled over stupid things… and I was disappointed.  I’ve asked for specific things, prayed for specific outcomes, tried everything in my might to work things out in my own strength… and I’ve been disappointed.

Do you know what happens, to people who constantly feel disappointed?  They make one of two choices.  They choose to believe the world is out to get them, that nothing ever good will come there way, and they simply give up and stop trying.  Or, a person can choose to go another route.  She will continue on with life, doing what she has always done, to the best of her ability, not allowing disappointment to keep her from moving forward.  She will learn to expect nothing, and eventually she stops being disappointed and moves into a place of being pleasantly surprised by what goes right in life … and not focused on what goes wrong.

That is who I have chosen to be, and how to live my life despite a sea of disappointment.  I choose not to give disappointment power over me because I know there are hundreds more things that are going right and working out for me (and I may not even realize it).

We can choose to become women who work in all things as if we are working for the Lord, not for men.

Colossians 3:22-24

Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically,[h] as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.

Recently, there was a moment where disappointment started to rear it’s ugly head and I was starting to feel that sting in my heart.  His Word burned in my heart, and I was reminded that whatever I am doing is for HIS glory and not my own.  Whatever the results are, they are the exact results HE needs for His plans … not my plans.

Even when…. my prayers are not answered the way I want.

Even when…. those you expect to come through don’t.

Even when…. the outcome looks totally different than you expected.

Even when…. I can point the finger of blame at myself, or others.

Even when…. I cry out to God because I don’t understand why….

Because I know that His ways are not my ways.  His understanding exceeds my understanding.  I may see the big picture, but He sees the Kingdom view.  And I can trust that His ways are good and beneficial, that He always holds true to His promises, and that He cares for me more than I could ever comprehend.

If we can hold on to these truths… disappointment doesn’t need to sting but instead open our hearts to knowing something bigger is in motion.

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Standing in the Gap

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I am an optimist.  Most days, regardless of what the world throws at me, I see the good.  I don’t even try hard.  I give the benefit of doubt, more than I should.  I forgive things that  others would hold onto.  I choose to focus on the good in the world, instead of the bad. 

Occasionally though, that bubble of optimism is burst by the harsh stings of reality.  It comes when real tragedy comes too close to home.  I arrives when I hear something on the news that goes beyond what I can comprehend.  When my optimism is challenged in such a way, it is quite honestly hard to shake.  It is where I find myself as I write this, my head spinning in circles.  I am unable to wrap my head around the things that happen in the world, and when I look to God’s word for answer… logically, I get it.  In my head I can understand why the world is what it is.  However, my heart doesn’t and seems completely incapable of understanding. 

I spent several hours on a phone with a mother who is in crisis, and it isn’t a crisis that can be counseled away.  I could hear the the desperation in her voice.  I believed every word that came out of her mouth about the recent events in her life.  She was scared, and she felt hopeless.  The tone in her voice was not something I have ever heard in my life.  She is angry at the system, specific people, and even God.  She is walking a road few understand.

Since our phone call, I find myself in a place where my heart breaks for this woman, and those who are impacted by this situation.  Something that never should have happened in the first place, let alone affect her family in such a way.  I am blown away by the lack of support she has gotten from those whom she felt closest too.  People who were at one time her biggest cheerleaders, became her greatest critics.  So, not only are people like her walking roads that others can’t understand… they find themselves walking them alone.

The reality of her situation isn’t something that can change without some sort of miracle.  People are praying for this miracle to happen, but to day… things are just getting worse.  Things are becoming more difficult.  She is becoming more broken.  She feels more hopeless.

And here is the clincher, there is literally nothing you and I can tangibly do to help in some of these extreme circumstances.  Our encouragement and advice sounds great, but we truly have no clue what we are talking about.  We can rely on the Bible verses that we cling to during times of trial, but these verse seem so very far from her right now.  We can have faith that God is working out something good, but for her things are getting worse.   We feel like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, when she feels like the tunnel is closing up on her.

It is truly heartbreaking.  When I asked her how people could support her, she said:

Listen.

Believe me.

And if you can, relieve me or the family.

When people are in true crisis, they tend to keep things close to the chest.  They find themselves confiding in those who are closest to them.  But, and I know I am guilty of this, we often attempt to problem solve instead of just listening to them.  I once read that the biggest problem with communication today is that people are listening to respond, they are not listening to learn.  When that person in your life is in crisis calls and they just need to unload, let them.  Shut your mouth, open your ears and listen.

People who are living in incomprehensible situations are often accused of making things up, exaggerating how bad things are, or treated as if they don’t know what they are talking about.  Good intentioned people give advice or guidance over a situation they truly have no experience in.  I too am guilty of this, but nothing in my life can even remotely compare to what this woman is dealing with.  Who am I to even think that solutions I have to my everyday common life issues would even touch the extraordinary situation she is facing?  Instead, what we need to ask is “What can I do?” or “How can I help”?  We can ask the person what their options are, and then evaluate if we are in a position to help them.

There are some situations where the person in crisis is in desperate need of relief.  Relief can be something as simple as coming in and doing her household chores or preparing some meals for her freezer (so she has one less thing to deal with that day).  Relief can be taking her kids for the weekend, and giving her some peace and quiet.  It could be sending her and her husband on a weekend getaway to a local bed and breakfast, and keeping her kids.  Or, it may be finances.  Maybe you have been financially blessed were you can reach out and offer a financial relief to medical bills that have added up, or that unexpected expense that popped up at the worst possible time.

For those we love, who are going through the trials that test their faith… when their loss and grief becomes so much more than they can bear, that their pain turns to anger toward God…

Stand in the Gap.

When she cannot pray, we will pray for her.

When the Throne seems so distant to her, we will stand before the Lord on her behalf.

Please, right now, take a moment and pray.  Pray for the men, women, and children who are walking through crisis.  The Lord knows their names, He knows their situation.  God knows their prayers, their needs, their wants, and their desires.  Pray for His hand to intervene.  Stand in the gap for those who’s voices have gone silent from all of the screaming and crying out.  Be the voice.  Be the intercessor.

Whenever I write, I take a break to read before I come back to proof.  It’s a way to freshen my eyes to my work.  Like when you sniff coffee beans between smelling perfume samples.  I’m not the only one writing on this subject today, and it reminds me that there is MORE hurt out there than we realize. 

Article from A Holy Experience

#Write31Days – Post 16 – In the Word’s of Elsa, Mom… “Let It Go!”

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Confession Time:  I can be a bit of a perfectionist.  I once had a friend refuse to let me into her home because it was a mess.  She insisted on talking with me outside.  I never realized the pressure my perfectionist qualities could put upon other people.  For whatever reason, she assumed that because I was a bit of a perfectionist… that I required it of those who befriended me.  Let me assure you, that is far from the truth.

Confession Time #2:  Right now, my house is a complete and total disaster.  I don’t want to say that I am totally ok with it, because I am not.  At the same time, I am not as neurotic about it as I once was … many, many years ago.

People who are perfectionists, or who have OCD tendencies, can often live on a pendulum.  Either everything is 100% to their liking (no room for error) or they can swing the opposite way and not care at all.  It is the epitome of “my way or no way”.

We can also expect these same tendencies from our spouse or children.  Which is funny to me, because we extend a lot more grace to those not related to us.  Perhaps it is because we have an expectation that those who share our DNA also share in our crazy.  Those expectations can cause us to be helicopter parents who are hovering over our children constantly expecting them to be just like us.  Organized. On time. Working ahead of schedule.  Clean/Tidy.   We tend to excel at so much that failure is just not part of our vocabulary.

However, children will challenge every bit of that thinking.

Mom just cleaned the house?  Awesome, let’s bring every toy we own out into the livingroom.

Project due for school?  No worries, I can tell mom about it at 9pm the night before it is due.

Failing Math?  It’s no big deal that I will get kicked from the team.  I’ll just run to mom in a panic three days before report cards come out.

These kids live in a whole other plane of thought.  As perfectionists we can’t deal in this plane… not at all.  We hollar at the kids to return the toys to their room.   We stay up working on the project for them because we can’t let their grade get docked for tardiness, nor can we let them turn in a project that is less than acceptable just to be on time.  We will implore the teacher to allow them to make up the missed work, spending ridiculous amounts of money on tutors to ensure the ace the exam.

Why?  Because deep down the perfectionist believes that their child’s choices reflect on us as their parent.  If they fail, we fail.  If they are late, we are late.  If they make a mess, we are a mess.  We try to control their behaviors because frankly we don’t want people to think less of us as parents.  Preventing their failure is more about saving our own face, than ensuring their success.

Let that sink in for just a second.

The thing is… we need to let them fail.  We need them to understand what accountability and consequence are BEFORE they are adults and the wages of those poor choices are much higher.  We need to teach them how to fail, how to process that, and how to get back on that horse.  Not only do WE need to do that for them, THEY need to learn it for themselves.  If we want our children to be successful as adults, we cannot come to their rescue.

We also have to accept that their choices belong to them, and are in no way a reflection on us as parents…. assuming we have done our best.  Plenty of children were raised in the “perfect home” and yet walked away and lived a contrary life.  Plenty of children were raised in less than idea environments and rose to the occasion, choosing to live a better life and being a positive contribution to society.

They are not us.

So mom, in the words of Elsa… LET IT GO.

I spoke to a friend who is older than I, and she shared about her perfectionist mother.  Every weekend, the entire family was cleaning the house.  Her mom was a collector of many different things, and it became the responsibility of the kids to help her maintain the cleanliness of her collection.

I wonder, how often I have burdened the kids with the responsibility of caring or tending to the unnecessary things I have chosen to bring into the house?  It reminded me of the turtle my husband brought home to the kids, that they didn’t ask for, but then he expected them to care for it’s needs.  Unfair responsibility.

I wonder, how often have I expected my children to have the same love of learning that I have?  Expecting their grades to be high, their projects to be done with excellence, and for them to have the same drive to start early as I have always had.  Then I reflect on the fact that I never actually TAUGHT my kids to be organized from an early age, I just assumed it would come naturally to them.  It did to me.  I wasn’t taught to be that way by my parents.  I just was.   Unfair expectation.

I wonder how many times my kids have missed out on fun or being children, because my priorities were different?  I wonder why I am not ok with a “passing grade” in a subject they hate.  I wonder how many times I pushed my own ideas on them, instead of allowing them to explore their own?  I wonder how many times I was controlling a child who wanted to be free to be there own selves?

It was time to stop.  It was time to let it go.

I’m not suggesting to throw caution to the wind and be a hands off parent.  Instead, I am suggesting that we stop trying to mold them into clones of ourselves.  Let them live, let them learn, let them grown.

So, I stopped hassling the kids about keeping their room to perfection.  They know the consequence is that no one comes over to play unless it is picked up.   That’s the consequence, and I stick to it.  I have found a compromise between what they think is clean, and what I think is clean.    I don’t get upset that they bring the toys out all over the house to play.  The consequence is that they know they need to clean it up, so don’t bring out more than you are willing to carry back.  I’m not helping you.

I don’t hover over their grades online every single day… but I check in.  They know the consequences of getting poor grades.  I no longer loose my mind over a “C” on the report card.  We reward good grades.  Consequences for poor ones.  I allow them to make the choice of how much effort they are willing to put in, and they know they will contend with the consequences if they drop the ball.  I have learned to accept their best, even when that best is a C- in math.

Doing their best is not being perfect.

My middle schooler is a very limited excelled program for Middle School.  If her grades drop, not only will she be removed from the program… she will have to go to another school.  She chose to be in the program and she’s knows that her longevity in that program is entirely up to her.  She can lose that spot, and I’m not going to rescue her if she drops the ball.  She knows that her ADHD is not an excuse either.

What I want is a child that grows into an adulthood who:

  • understands that her choices will impact her future, no one else is to blame.
  • is not an excuse maker.  there are no excuses in life, except the ones you make for yourself. 
  • understands they choose their consequences, becuase every choice has a consequence, good or bad.
  • believes doing your best is always good enough, even if it isn’t perfect, but who never underestimates their ability & is willing to be challenged.
  • can make mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.  there is always time to become more, become better.
  • will let go of the things that don’t really matter, and focus on what is important.

I do this by being an example of this for them.  Which means that today, when my 8 year old asks me to play with her at the dining room table… the dishes can wait.  When my 16 year old wants to watch a movie with me tonight, the mopping can wait.  When my 12 year old wants to go to the book store, my errands can wait.

My house will not look like a museum, but a home with a family of people who live there instead of existing there.  It will be clean and pest free, but you may find a pile of toys in the foyer.   I will happily spend an hour snuggling on the couch over scrubbing the kitchen.  My children will see me put friends and family above chores and to-do lists.

When you come over, things won’t look perfect anymore.  But, the cups are clean and the coffee is hot.

Being a perfectionist comes with a cost, and it is one I do not want my children to pay.

 

For the Love of Women’s Ministry

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This has been a very interesting summer, as I have been developing a Women’s Ministry college course.  I’ve been entrenched in books on every topic from Women’s Ministry leader books, to deeper books on the biblical stance on women as leaders in the church.  I’ve been digging into the scriptures, looking at historical evidence, and frankly…. my head is going to explode.  There is a lot of information rolling around in my head, and much of it has challenged and even changed the way I viewed certain topics.

It has also increased my passion for women’s ministry, but a different women’s ministry from what I have ever known.  It has also opened my eyes to some of the glaring holes we have in resources, as well as lifted my spirit as I have uncovered things in the works across the country that are going to turn women’s ministry on it’s head.

Women play a huge part in the life of their church, most recent surveys estimate women make up 55-65% of most congregations, additionally they make up about 80% of the volunteer force of the church.  This volunteer force are the ones responsible for teaching and leading other women, teaching our children in Sunday School, leading Kids Clubs, volunteering for VBS, and this is in addition to service like preparing meals for new moms, taking care of hospitality for Sunday morning, rocking babies in the nursery, volunteering for secretarial duties in the church, cleaning up the church, etc.

Yet, it is becoming more apparent, that the majority of these women who are volunteering to teach and lead are not being discipled for those positions.  Are we ensuring that our women are qualified to teach or lead, or thankful for the warm body willing to volunteer?  Are we encouraging our volunteers by equipping them with mentors?

Women’s Ministry has lost focus in recent years, becoming unbalanced in what they offer to the women in the church.  There are more social events, fewer study groups.  Study groups are focused on content from books, versus content from the scriptures.  We are studying books about the bible, instead of the bible itself.  We have lost our ability to interpret scripture on our own.  We come together for social events to foster community, which is important, but at the cost of spiritual growth.

Why has this happened? 

In part, it is because Women’s Ministry has no real support at the moment.

Women’s Minsitries are often independent ministries within the church, that exist in their own sphere.  Pastors, sort of leave the women to fend for themselves.  They lack invested guidance, and many are not truly clear about the church’s vision.  The goal of a women’s ministry should be to use their calender of events and studies to support the vision of the church.  But in order to do so, the leader team really needs to understand what that is.  We need our Pastors to not only allow women’s ministry to exist in the church, but also to step in and help mold it.  We need a Shepherd.

When it comes to resource materials on Women’s Ministry, much of what is available is very outdated.  There are books and websites that lean more toward party planning, and less about making sure our ministry is gospel centered.   Additionally, many of these books are out of touch with the current obstacles and difficulties women face TODAY.    We are lacking books of substance, that train us on how to be effective leaders, run effective and gospel centered ministries, how to minister to the women in our church, and with changes in societal norms…. these subjects are just going to get more confusing.

Women’s Ministries are being led off the cuff, wading the waters and uncertain of what to do.  We begin to mimic other ministries, or do age old activities because “that is what women’s ministry does”.  We are afraid to break those molds, because women won’t come.  Or, we want to… but we can’t get the support of church leadership because of the stereotype of women’s ministry in the past.

I spent the last week speaking to women’s ministry leaders across the country.  I wanted to understand what the greatest obstacles women’s ministry leaders face.  I received the same answers, state to state…. east coast to west coast.

1)  We don’t know how to reach the 20 year old women in our church.

2)  We don’t have a budget to work with, to get the materials we need.

3)  We don’t have support from our Pastors.

I reached out to a woman who wrote her doctorate thesis on Women’s Ministry, and sadly… she didn’t have an answer to these questions.  She confirmed that these are indeed real problems, on a board scale, but there hasn’t been an answer in the church.  She surmised in her thesis paper, the best way to address it was to step outside of the church and start a parachurch organization.

I was saddened that this was her conclusion.

Then I looked at the statistics on the number of women leaving the church, and began to wonder.

I dug a bit deeper…. why are women leaving the church?  Why are women not committing to bible studies?  What are we missing???

Spiritual Gifts.

We are missing the fact that we have a church made up of mostly women, where God has bestowed gifts upon them to use for His purposes.  We are not identifying them in the church, we are not developing them in the church, and we really are not using them in the church.  Women feel as if they have more to offer than child care and making coffee.  They have gifts of teaching and mentoring, that are being unused.  So they leave, looking for a place where these gifts will be embraced.

Spiritual Growth.

Women want to grow spiritually, they want to dig deeper in to the word, and they don’t know how.  We have failed in bible literacy for women, underestimating what they can and cannot do (or understand).  We offer them cake, but eventually they get tired of cake and then they stop showing up for study groups.  It’s because their spirit wants something more substantial…. they may not even realize that is what they are missing.  They do know the group is not meeting a need.  We need to create programs that address this need.   Not just asking for volunteers to lead studies, but identifying and training study leaders.  Give those without confidence, confidence.

Spiritual Community.

Something that really breaks your heart, is when you hear a woman from your church tell you that she is lonely.  Recently a well known author posed a question on her facebook page, she asked what was the one thing women felt they were lacking in their church.  The answer, community.  Women want to not just have a church family on Sunday, or bible study nights.  They want to go back to the earlier church days where we were a community who “did life together”.  Older women responded that they missed having lunch with the church on Sundays after services.  Another commented that in 10 years of being in her church, she had only been invited to dinner with another family ONE TIME, and that her invitations were going unanswered.   She lamented that she had a closer relationship with her “non-Christian friends” than those she worships with.

A women’s ministry needs balance, and needs to be Christ focused.

Have social gatherings, like brunches and ladies night out events.  This is where we begin to form community.  It is the place where we start getting to know each other, establishing trust, and building relationships.  Use these social gatherings as an avenue to tap into the spiritual gifts of the women attending.  As you learn of their spiritual gifts, funnel them toward study groups that will help develop their spiritual growth and maturity, and build closer tight knit community. It is here that women will begin to have deeper bonds and are given the ability to serve each other with compassion and love, counsel and guide, mentor and disciple.  Then, as we wrap it all together, we have built up women to serve the church.  Women who are committed to serving in ways that support the over all vision of the church.

As our Pastors begin to recognize this shift in ministry, where we are intentional about every event & study pointing toward Christ and supporting the church’s vision… I believe we will see greater support for the ministry.

The change must start with us. 

The great news is that there is a widespread recognition amongst women’s ministry leaders that there is a shift coming in women’s ministry.  The are organizations that are developing to train women’s ministry leaders, and provide support and encouragement.  Several are focusing on the Pastors, and getting them on board with effective women’s ministry.  Three books are currently on the market that should be in your Women’s Ministry library.

  empty  wordfilledwomenoftheword

As these various organizations and ministries complete their programs for Women’s Ministry trainings, and more support resources come available, I will definitely be sharing them here.

It’s time to look at our women’s ministry with new eyes.  There are many men and women who see a revival on the horizon, within women’s ministry, or at least with women’s ministry a contributing factor.  Churches can’t afford to lose their women because they feel unrecognized, under appreciated, and under valued.  And women, we can’t take a posture that we will just leave the church and do it on our own.  Let’s not divide our churches any further, but restore unity within the body.  Be a part of the solution.