Chronicling 40: Day 188 of 365

OPPORTUNITY(1)

Remember the word yesterday, new?  What did I say about it?  I said that new was an opportunity.

We are faced with opportunities every day.

Opportunities to act, to do something, to take an adventure, to try something new, etc.

Opportunities not to act, to do the the same old thing, to stick with the status quo, to be complacent about life… never expecting better or worse.

To me, opportunities are exciting.  Not every opportunity is going to work out exactly how we imagine it, but it’s still an opportunity.  We learn what works and doesn’t, what we like and what we don’t.  Some are opportunities that are done once and we move on with satisfaction we tried something new.  Whereas, other opportunities become part of our lives long term… simply because we were open to it.

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Conference, oh Conference, where for art thou?

I am back from my conference trip, and as usual… after a bit of decompressing and note reviewing… posts are coming in the future.  It was an effort to get there.  There was a lesson to be learned.  Okay, a few.  But I knew something big was coming because of how hard the enemy was working to keep me from getting there.  There were moments where the thought of going home crossed my mind.

This was me when I found out my flight was going to be delayed FIVE hours.  I had already been in the airport over two hours, and it took me an hour of drive time to get there.  Tired, but I was presentable.

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The second photo, below, is a comparison of me at the 2 hour mark and then somewhere around the 11 hour mark.  Still waiting for a plane.

The struggle IS real.  Physically, emotionally.  I was tired.  Bored.  Whining.   It would still be several hours before I left the airport.  I was supposed to land in Indiana at 1:40pm, it was 11:59pm when my plan landed.  I guess I don’t age well, ha.

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The beauty in the chaos?

The childhood friend who happened to be 20 minutes from the airport & showed up for a rescue mission.  Able to spend a little time catching up and giggling over the whole nonsense of it all.

Childhood friend’s husband giving me great restaurant recommendations for whenever it was I finally got to Indianapolis.

The one ticket agent who had compassion for me and did everything she could to get me on another flight.

Airports that have lots of outlets for charging your phone so that you can post funny updates, and take the world on the journey with you.  We do not struggle alone.

Arriving to an airport, getting into a taxi with a strange guy at 1am and seeing a cross on his mirror and a bible in the front seat.  Peace beyond understanding.

Talking with a chatty driver for the length of the drive who shared the realities of being a cab driver in certain area in downtown Indianapolis.

The honor of praying over him before heading into my hotel for the few hours of sleep I would get.  What a great way to end a troubling day, when you learn your troubles are nothing compared to those of others…. and being able to pray for protection over him and provision for his family. At 1:30am, on the streets of downtown Indianapolis.

Arriving to my hotel to find a friend I haven’t seen in 5 years open the door, hug me, laugh with me, and praise God with me.

I know I’ve whined a bit about this leg of my trip on social media, but Thank GOD that was not the sum total of it.  Everything can be redeemed to His glory.

Family Christian, Giving Back

For almost two years now, I have been writing reviews for Family Christian.  It may be books, movies, music, etc… and I really enjoy it.  BUT, my most favorite thing to participate in are their giving back campaigns.  In a nutshell, when a giving back campaign is launched, the bloggers submit who they would want to give a gift to and why.  Then a few of us are selected.  This is my second time giving back.  The first time, I was able to bless Una Esperanza with Bibles to take with them on their last mission trip.

This time, it is a little bit closer to home.

A few months ago my middle school aged daughter called me to pick her up from school early, she was feeling sick.  Bible study was just ending, and I headed straight to her school.  I was wearing a tshirt with a bible verse on it, and had thrown my wallet into my tote bag for the study.  Since the school needed my ID, I just grabbed the tote on my way in.  As I was waiting for my daughter to get to the office from the clinic, the school secretary read the verse on my shirt aloud.  The Dean’s assistant was standing next to her, and made a comment about it.  I responded that I had just come from our weekly bible study meeting.  To which they looked at each other, and the secretary said “Isn’t that nice.”

It was a tone I recognized all to well, the sound of voice we have when someone else is getting to do something we would enjoy but don’t have time for.  When Family Christian wanted to do a holiday giving back campaign, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I nominated these two women, who work tirelessly for our school.  I wanted to give them an opportunity to study together during their lunch break at the school.  I shared the story of the encounter and what I would give them.  And, I was selected to participate.

Family Christian sent me a $50 gift certificate to purchase items from their site.

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I selected Jen Wilken’s “Women of the Word”, some multi-colored bible study markers, and journals they could write notes in through their study.

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At our local dollar tree I was able to purchase some pretty paper, ribbon, and snowflakes to wrap the gifts in.  I wanted the gifts to look like something special, so they knew that extra effort was put into their gift.  (Usually, I am a gift bag kind of gal for gifts to teachers).

I stacked each package, putting the journal on the bottom since it was the longest.  The book landed in the middle and the markers on top.  It was perfect!  I wrapped a ribbon around the length of the package, and topped with the snowflake.  I used elmer’s school glue to ensure the snowflake would stay put.

On the day I delivered the packages to the middle school, I was surprised to be honest.  In the elementary school my youngest attends, I saw parents dropping off gifts to the office staff each morning leading toward the last day before break.  In the middle school office, there was nothing.  Ms. S, was at her desk as Christamsy as she could be.  Santa hat on her head, and a Christmas Light necklace adorned her school tshirt.  Yet, there were no gift bags from parents to be seen.  Apparently something happens when kids enter middle school and high school.  Less parents are giving teachers gifts, and even less (and in our case apparently none) were including the front office staff.

The Principal was standing near by, as I let her know I was dropping of a gift to her and Ms. Jones (the Dean’s assistant).  The look on her face, could not have been more shocked.   The Principal started showering her with accolades, acknowledging all that she did for the school.  All the while she was hustling her way around the counter to give me a hug.  As she approached there were tears in her eyes.  She was so grateful that someone appreciated her, that someone was acknowledging her, that she was remembered.  I don’t know much about Ms. S.  Is she married?  Does she have children?  Was she alone for Christmas?  What I do know is that I made her day, and I wouldn’t have done it without Family Christian giving me the nudge.

Ms. Jones was already out of the office for the day, but I left the gift for her. I received a card a few days later.

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The funny thing about all of this is that I thought Family Christian was allowing me an opportunity to give a gift that would encourage two women to study together when they can.  In reality the gift was more than that.  I was the one who received the greatest gift, because it opened my eyes to those who work tirelessly for our children… and often go unrecognized.

Whether it is Christmas, Teacher Appreciation Day, the end of the school year… or just a random Wednesday… take the opportunity to recognize the people in the schools working behind the scenes.  Especially so for our middle and high school support staff and administration.  Secretaries, Cafeteria Workers, Custodians/Janitors, etc are all people who are making an impact on the school your children attend.

A few days ago, my high school daughter shared that she wished the Cafeteria cashier a Merry Christmas… she replied:

“You are the first person to say that to me all week.”

This year is almost over, but the school year still has a few months ahead.  I challenge anyone who reads this (even if you kids do not attend school), what can you do in the coming months as a way to show appreciation to the people in your life that may be working behind the scenes… unnoticed, unrecognized?  People like:

The cleaning crew that comes in to the office after hours.

The teller at the bank who always serves you.

The grocery store cashier, the one you make a point of getting into his or her line because they do a good job.

The high school janitor.

The golf course grounds keepers.

The local police department or fire house.

School Crossing Guards, office security guards, the neighbor who always brings up your trash can, church secretaries, the mechanic who saved you a ton of money this year, etc.  If you are unsure who to recognize, pray that God will reveal the person to you.  Or, that He will provide the funds or means to recognize all of the people you desire to acknowledge.

Official Family Christian Blogger

#Write31Days – Post 13 – When the Church Says No

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I was reading the above article, on the website for The Gospel Coalition.  The gist of the article was that members of the body with artistic talents are often discouraged in using their gifts within the church.  It could be an art form that is not really understood, or that the church staff don’t know how to actually include it into the service of the church.  It isn’t always that they don’t want to, they just may not know how to.

But I would challenge that is discouragement isn’t just for those who have artistic gifts, but any gift or talent that isn’t being utilized.  I have been in churches that were welcoming of gifts and talents & would utilize them if the person was willing to commit.  I’ve also been in churches that will dismiss the gifts they don’t understand or can’t seem to figure out how that gift fits in to the vision of the church.

From an artistic standpoint, I can totally understand.  As a professionally trained actress, who also has ample back stage experience,  I have offered my gift to churches in the past.  Some embraced it with open arms, others dismissed it as something not relevant.  Dismissed so quickly that I never even had the opportunity to explain that expertise.  In 2005, I directed a Christmas musical for the church we were attending at the time.  It just so happened that at one showing there was a television producer in the audience.  He loved the show, and they came back and filmed it.  They ran it every few days, where they had an empty slot, all the way through Christmas Day.

That was an exciting day for me.  Yet, too often, when I share with a church or ministry that I have a theater background they instantly want to put me in charge of a children’s production.  That is NOT my specialty, it is not my gift.  They do not understand the impact that LIVE performance can have on a group of people.  Perhaps this is because too few churches have trained professionals, maybe they haven’t enough trust in the quality or commitment.  What saddens me is to be shot down before you even get a chance to try.  The Lord blessed me with a gift, specifically a talent, one that I want to use for HIS glory.   It is sad to see it get brushed aside because someone else doesn’t “get it”.

Being dismissed and discouraged is not only an issue with the arts, but can come about in many different forms.  I watched my husband’s spirit get completely squashed by a men’s ministry leader because he made an assumption about my husband without even getting to know him.  What most don’t know about my husband is that he has the ability to talk to anyone about God.  It’s really amazing.  I envy his boldness at times.  Every day he is out among the community, doing his job, and sharing the gospel where he can.  He has prayed with people, give them encouragement, and even his own Bible if they didn’t have one.

He can do this because God gifted him in that manner.  My husband also went through Evangelism Explosion training to learn how to present the gospel to every day people in a way that they would understand.  Bringing them through the steps from accepting Christ, to getting plugged into a church, and more.  When we were married and our family was growing, a huge burden was on my husband’s shoulders.  He became lukewarm, going through the motions.  One weekend he went with a men’s ministry to a conference, and my husband was ON FIRE.  He was ready to get back on the horse.

The leader of the ministry didn’t know my husband that well.  He assumed that my husband was caught up in emotions.  Since he didn’t take the time to really listen to my husband, to ask any questions about his experience… the man quickly extinguished that fire.  My husband said “I’m ready to serve.  Where can I plug in????”

The ministry leader patted him on the shoulder and said:  “No brother, where can we serve you.”   My husband wasn’t even given the chance to share who he was, or the gift that God has given him.  To this day, my husband has not stepped forward since.  He was rejected.  Instead, he has become my biggest supporter and advocate.    Instead, he has continued to share the gospel in his every day encounters.

One church damaged my husband, and he just hasn’t recovered.  Over the years, he has had ideas for ministries where he could serve people in our church or community.  However, that inspiration is fleeting.

I believe that we have to be very cautious as a church to NOT allow our vision for the church become tunnel vision.  We must be open to see how the different gifts and talents of the body can be used in that vision.  It is easy to see things our way, within our own understanding and abilities.  It is easy to see how things ought to go and progress, and make a list of what gifts and talents are needed to move that vision forward.  It isn’t always easy to see how the gifts of others can fit into that vision, or be molded into that vision.   If we see things too black and white, we miss the many gifts that fall in the middle.

As leaders we need to be careful with the gifts and offers of service from others.  We need to not just immediately dismiss a person because at first we can’t see how their gift fits the vision.  We need to not dismiss a person as a capable kingdom worker without taking the time to get to know them.  We may be throwing away the most amazing gifts… and affecting people in ways we never realize.

This doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind, accepting any and everything.  We can be judicious and gracious at the same time.

  •  Thank the person for offering their gift or talent to the church/ministry.
  • Ask them questions about their experience or training.
  • Get an idea of how they think their gift or talent could fit within the vision of the church, or help the ministry/community.
  • Take some time to really think about the conversation, pray about it.  Is there room for this ministry idea?  If not, is there an existing ministry that we can plug this person into that fulfills their desire to serve with their gift.
  • Follow up with the person, and be honest.  If you are not sure how it fits the vision, talk to them about it.  They may see something you don’t.  If now isn’t the right time, agree to revisit it in 3 – 6 months.  If you require more information, ask for it and take the time to review it.
  • If this is a brand new member of the church, and you are uncertain of commitment, have them go through the new members class and plug into a small group.  Let them know you want to get to know them better, and let them get acquainted with the church first.  Then you can talk ministry work.

 

If there is WILL, there will be PROVISION

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There is a belief that I have always held on to when making big financial decisions, it’s really quite simple:

If it is God’s will, then God will provide.

I truly believe that if God is calling you into a new place, new ministry, or new direction in your life… and that step requires some sort of financial need… God will provide the funds for that need.

I’m not suggesting that it means you can sit around and do nothing, and your bank account will suddenly grow by the amount you need.  However, I do not believe God will call you to action if it means you will acquire debt to do so.

It may be that God is preparing your heart, head and family for the transition or change, but you are not getting the finances because the timing is not NOW.   When the time comes to take those steps, the details will be addressed.

Too often, we try to force these things because we feel the call… and then we assume that it must happen right now.

But when we rush God’s calling, we are shorting the blessing.

God put a calling on my heart quite some time ago, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to unfold.  I knew God was calling me back to school, I needed to be equipped for something.  I wasn’t sure what.  Through a series of affirming events, I found myself enrolled in a certificate program. This worked for my family in so many ways.  I could work at my own pace, they had a payment system that was within our budget, and the certificates were the equivalent of a seminary degree.

I didn’t know at the time what God wanted me to do with this education, but I did know that going back to school was part of the steps to get me there.  As a mom, with young children at home, I had plenty of time to work my way through.  I was not in a rush to get a job.  So, I was just going to do what I could… as I could.

Then just a few classes in, the news broke that the school was in the process of accreditation!  They were going to start a degree program.  I was so excited. However, this was also going to be a bit more expensive.  As I stated before, I wasn’t really in a hurry.  So, I just kept plugging away at my classes.  Each payday I make a payment into my student account, because we agreed that there would be no student loan or credit card debt.  I believed if God was calling me, the money would be provided.

My first dose of reality hit when I had my transcript reviewed.  There were some classes from my old college that they were not going to count toward this degree.  I didn’t quite understand why, and I made a request to have the transcript looked over again.  I provided a bit more information on the classes, explaining why I thought they fit the degree requirements.

After a few days, I got a wonderful email that they agreed!  They credited me for the classes I questioned, and I was just thrilled.  I sat down with my course schedule to see the impact that would make on my degree plan.  Sure enough, I would be finished in ONE YEAR.  Super exciting, but I wondered…. how are we going to get the rest of the money in this short of a time?  When I didn’t have those classes credited… the end was far enough out, I wasn’t worried.  This changed everything.

But, I still held true to the belief that if this was indeed God’s calling, then the money would come.

And it did.

Within just two weeks, I was given a job opportunity that would take a few weeks of my time….but would pay for my school balance in full.  This was nothing I had done myself, but God doing exactly what He does best….

Being faithful to those He calls.

Equipping those He calls.

Providing for those He calls.

The Gospel Coalition National Conference 2015

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78 speakers, 49 workshops, 4 days, 1 gospel.
Hands down the best conference I have ever attended.

There are still some seats left, but they will be going fast in these final days to register.

Click through for more information on how you can attend this amazing conference.

#TGC15