In the Right Time

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One of the difficult things about announcing that my book was picked up by a publisher is the “why me and not her” thoughts.  At She Speaks I met a lot of amazing women, who are writing amazing things.  I know that the doorway into publishing is small.  I am still feeling an incredible sense of “why me”, almost a month later.

Writing a book is an incredibly personal thing, and you set it before eyes to judge it’s worthiness.  So rejection stings deep.  Truth be told, this very book was rejected years ago.  This was not a new creation of mine, but something built up over time.  About 4 years ago, I submitted it to one publishing house.  They didn’t want it.  And so, I tucked it away.

With the encouragement of my husband, and several friends, 2018 was the year to try again.  In fact, my husband was so behind it… he said “if we have to, we will publish it ourselves”.   It was this encouragement that led me to She Speaks, where I would have the opportunity to pitch the book in person to publishing houses.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that it is not wise to rush blessings.  The Lord is orchestrating so many things that we never even see, preparing ways, setting the stage for things that need to happen.  Some things take time.

In twenty years of ministry leadership (and probably 25 in leadership in general), the Lord was preparing me for this day.  I had no idea the first time I stepped up to lead anything, that down the road I would end up signing a book contract.  It was not even on my radar.

I needed 25 years of lessons.  The ones we learn easy, the ones we learn the hard way.  I needed to go through some things, as a leader, in order to understand the complexity of leadership from various angles.  I needed to be led.  I needed to lead.  I needed to be hindered.  I needed to be stopped.  I also needed to be encouraged, trusted, and allowed to serve in the fullness of my gifting.

Even as I set out to prepare the book for the proposals that I would share with the publishing houses, I was finessing the sample chapters.  In the years since I mailed that first proposal, I’ve learned even more.

In Esther 4:14, Mordecai speaks to Esther these words:

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Ecclesiastes 3 imparts to us that there is a time and a season for everything.

For whatever the reason, 4 years ago was not the right time for this book.  Perhaps because I had more to learn.  Or, perhaps the people who need to read the words were not ready to receive.  I can’t say, may not ever know on this side of heaven.

What I do know is that God does not show up early or late, but always on time.  And, when He does show up things move in ways we can’t even fathom.

If I was to remain silent, and squirrel these words away in a drawer, the Lord would get them out there through someone else or in some other way.  Who knows but that I have come to this point in my life… for such a time as this.

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A quiet reason….

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It’s been a bit quiet here, and there is a reason for that.

Previously, I wrote about my experience attending the She Speaks Conference.  At the conference I was able to pitch my book on Women’s Ministry to several publishers.

I am happy to finally, and officially announce, that I have a contract on my desk from a publishing house for me to sign.  I’m reading through it now… exciting and surreal.

I do not have any hard fast dates, yet, on when this book is expected to hit shelves.  I’ll let you know as soon as I do.  We are just beginning the process.

Also, in the interim, I’ve signed 2 additional contracts with Chicken Soup for the Soul.  My contributions will be included in an edition about the best advice ever received, and in an edition about holiday traditions.    Best Advice, I’m waiting for the release date.  Holiday Tradition, will be in the 2019 edition… so you’ll have to wait for a bit.

With this news comes a lot of work.  There is editing and formatting to do, conference calls, viewing mocks ups of book covers, etc.  Whew.

I am excited.

But, mostly… I am humbled by this.

I pray that my words on these pages glorify God, and land in the hands of those who can benefit from it.

Chronicling 40: Heaping Ashes

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One of the hardest things I have had to deal with in ministry was not a conflict, but instead the talk after the conflict was over.  I’m not minimizing that conflict itself is hard, because it is.  However when you are in conflict with another person there is a lot you can do.  You can pray that God would convict their heart… and your own.  You can forgive what needs to be forgiven, and repent when you need to repent and seek forgiveness.  You can work to rebuild the relationship, you learn from your mistakes, there is growth.

There are occasions where others were present for the conflict directly, or brought into it indirectly… and it is very hard to reign in the talk that can come from it.   Even when we have done our best to keep people out of the conflict, those who can sense the tension may make assumptions to fill in the gaps… and they don’t always keep those assumptions to themselves.

Several years ago there was a large conflict that I was a part of.  It took time, but we all came to terms with what happened.  There was forgiveness and reconciliation.  It was a beautiful thing to see relationships being repaired and restored.  Two years later, after all the dust had settled, someone came to me because there was gossip being spread about me.  First, I want to say that I appreciate the fact the person told me… but even more so that when the person began to gossip in front of her she shut it down quickly.  She made sure the person and those who were listening understood that she didn’t know all of the fact, had no business speaking about it with anyone.

THESE KINDS OF FRIENDS ARE GIFTS FROM GOD!

She came to me, because she felt that I should know that this issue was still being discussed by people… what was said about me specifically… and how she handled it.

I was far more hurt by those who were spreading rumors with incomplete information than I ever was by the actual conflict itself.  In part,  I believe, because this person was tarnishing my reputation with others who had no knowledge of the conflict in the first place.  Not to mention I had considered this person as a friend, and couldn’t believe she was being so careless.

Yes, I was angry.  Yes, I wanted to confront her.  Yes, I wanted to talk to everyone she spread this gossip to and set the story straight.   Before acting, I took it to the cross.

In order to clear up her misinformation, I would have had to throw others under the bus.  I’ve always agreed with the quote: “What you say about others says more about you than those you are gossiping about”.    There was no way to improve my standing without casting a negative shadow on others, and I refused to do that.  Instead I had to take the high road.  Yes, I can confront the gossiper directly.  As for the rest, I had to make a decision to let my character speak for itself.

I would continue to walk out my faith, live my life, in accordance to my character and integrity.  If she continued to speak ill of me, eventually she would feel conviction.  If others chose to believe her, as they get to know me they too will feel conviction.  If they choose to not bother to get to know me, that’s more on them than it is on me.

Sometimes, in our flesh, we want to repay evil for evil… hurt for hurt.  But, that is not what God would have us do…

Proverbs 25:21-22

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

When we respond this way, we let our character and integrity speak for us vs. trying to be defensive.  When we respond this way, we are walking in the Spirit and not in our flesh.  When we respond this way, we are separating ourselves from the way the world does things and instead showing how Kingdom dwellers do things.

Chronicling 40: Day 179 of 365

ELEVATE

This was not my word for 2018, and I admit I almost changed mine when I heard this one.  I love everything about “elevate”.

You can elevate yourself to a higher standard of living.  You can elevate your business to a higher standard of operation.  You can elevate your situation by making changes that take you out of the pit and on to higher ground.  You can elevate your friendships and relationships by making them a higher priority in your life.  You can elevate your faithfulness by being more disciplined or serving more deeply.

Elevating is a moving upward, not just forward.  Rising.

And my favorite part of the word elevate, is that is does not have to be a lonely journey.

When I elevate, prayerfully I am elevating others with me.  When I rise to the occasion, I inspire others to rise.  When I find success, I help others find success.  When I find freedom, I help others find freedom too.

So long as I don’t elevate myself or anything else above God… rise.

What if I fall?  What if you soar?

Speaking of rising up and elevating, my heart lies in helping other leaders rise up and feel equipped to do what the Lord has laid before them.  I am grateful to find a tribe of like-minded women.  Join us at the LeadHer Conference in October!

LHC1

Chronicling 40: Day 88 of 365 #MeToo

#MeToo
It was just a few years ago, that this exchange happened:
 
Neighborhood boy knocks on our door to ask the girls to play. The girls head out to talk to him, I’m just on the other side of the door listening.
 
Boy: You guys want to play?
Girls: No, we are going to hang out here today, just us girls.
Boy: “I’m going to tell your mom that you are being mean to me, and get you in trouble, unless you play with me.”
 
At that point, I had to have a “no means no” conversation with a 9yo boy.
 
No. Is a complete sentence.
No. Is an acceptable answer.
 
The foundation of what led to the current ” #MeToo ” movement flowing through social media begins when girls feel as if they have no voice, no power, no choice. When they feel threatened to comply. Manipulated to comply. Coerced to comply. When others feel they can wield words and actions against them, without any repercussion.
 
The more people who are willing to share their #MeToo, the more we realize how widespread this is. But there are those who can’t post their “Me Too” story because their safety is priority, because they are still healing, because for whatever reason they can’t. They are still brave and strong, and survivors.
 
For those of us who say “Me Too” , we are not just speaking it for ourselves… but for those who can’t speak up yet.
I’ve shared some of my “Me Too” on Twitter.  It wasn’t easy.  And as I addressed the first, another came to mind, then another, then another.  Oddly enough no matter how many situations and groups of people I have removed myself from, it still happens.  For every one I shared, there were probably 2 more that I just couldn’t bring myself to bit “submit”.
Lord, that we would bring up our daughters with voices of strength, conviction, and resolve.   That we would bring up our sons with compassion, mercy, and seeing women with such value that they would never mar her with words or actions.
A few days ago an image rolled through my Facebook memories, in essence it was a screen shot of a conversation that stated:
There should be some sort of unwritten code among women, that if a guy is making you feel uncomfortable that you can approach a group of women and whisper that a creepy guy is bugging you, and ask if they mind you pretending like you belong to their group.
1.  No matter what ladies, if you are near me, there is always an empty seat with your name on it.  We’ll laugh and pretend we’ve been besties since the womb.  If you need a ride out of that place, I’ll make room.
2.  We shouldn’t need such a rule.

Chronicling 40: Day 76 of 365

spiritI purchased this box of cards several years ago, for a Women’s Ministry Event.  Table Topics has a bunch of different themes, and this one is the Spirit Edition.

Fair warning, if you are thinking this is a great idea:  You need to sift the cards.  There are definitely some that would not be good at a Christian women’s event.  It is a spiritual theme to the box, but not necessarily all Christian.  Other faiths and beliefs are represented.

Anyway, as I need a few days of lighter posting coming off of the “Don’t Confuse a Deborah for a Jezebel” posts, I thought this could be a fun way to come up with some topics to write about over the next few days.

Today’s Topic:  Is there are recurring theme in your life?

Looking back over the last forty years, I believe there are a couple of recurring themes.  First, is that I tend to find myself in positions where I am a fixer or an interim leader until a permanent leader is in place.  The earliest memory of this was in high school.  I was in the Drama Club and the president was hardly presidential.  We’d sit around and do nothing, and she wasn’t even at the meetings herself.  So, I just naturally took the lead and we made things happen.  I was never officially the “President” until my own senior year.  A similar thing happened in college with our sorority.  I’ve even had it happen in church ministries over the last 20 years.  I just naturally pick up the slack, get things lined back up, and then usually I’m not there much longer.

This was also evident in my career.  I was put into problem departments to fix them.  In fact, once I had even left the company.  They called me, asked if I would come back, a department needed to be fixed.  Let me tell you, I had all the negotiating power in that conversation.  Not only did I go back, but with a raise, set a deadline that the department would be fixed, at which time I would train my replacement, and finally move into the division I had always wanted.  There has never been a doubt in my mind that “administration” is one of my Spiritual Gifts.  Although, sometimes, it would be nice to find a place to land for a good length of time and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

I can only think of once in my history that something was irreparable.  This was a lesson for me, in that I realized that not everything is meant to be saved and sometimes we have to be willing to let it die.  There are a lot of great ideas and good intentions, but unless there is full support and everyone is dedicated to the same level of success… somethings just are not meant to last.  I learned that it was ok, and that I didn’t have to save everything.  I learned to be content with making the best effort I could, and learned to listen better to the Holy Spirits prompting of when to stay and when to walk away.

Another thing that has been a recurring theme during my life has been raising up leaders, particularly women.  And even more so in the last few years I have become more keenly aware of the need for this among women of color.  Leadership resources for women, by women, are far and few between.  In addition, leadership positions for women are fractional and thus there is a lot of competition between women for the same few opportunities.  I have a heart for creating more opportunities and also for helping raise up other women.

I truly believe in iron sharpening iron relationships.  If I can help you be a better leader/manager with my strengths and you can do the same for me… we both do better.  We both rise up.  A community of women doing so, we raise up collectively instead of competitively.  We are all in this together.

For this reason, I also stand behind women taking risks in business… going back to school… getting training.  I want us all to be successful at whatever God has brought us to, so let’s work together to make it happen.  If I can connect two women together, brilliant.  If I can connect a leader to some resources, excellent.  Anything I can do, I do it with love.

I’ve known too many women who didn’t have enough confidence in themselves.  I’ve known too many who have been told no… and too many that have never even been told they had the change.  For me, if I see any of the women I pour into achieve their dreams or reach their purpose in life… that is a win for me.  Even if it never happens to me.  Because, when we rise up together… success for any of us, is success for all of us.

Chronicling 40: Days 71 & 72 of 365

DebVsJez

Yesterday, my intention was to write about Jezebel.  The Lord had other plans, and while I can see the value… it wasn’t pleasant.  Before I could write about Jezebel, I had to meet her.  Face to face. It’s take me a bit of time to process this encounter.  I spoke on the phone with a good friend about my experience, and she flat out said that the Lord wasn’t letting me write about something I had not been through.  So, true.  So, wise.  So, hard.

But, I’m glad that I didn’t write anymore about her yet.  This encounter will probably have an impact on how I write about her further.  The Lord set a divine appointment.

Jezebel was so outgoing, engaging, her personality was large, and she commanded the space.  Even I found myself laughing at some of the things she said.  If those who knew her were asked to write down a list of attributes about Jezebel, it would read like a lovely list.  Strong.  Confident.  Assured.  Knowledgeable.  Successful.  Beautiful.

I saw something much different, my list would read quite the opposite.  Broken.  Disconnected.  Misleading.  False.  Insecure.  Disrespectful.  Yet, in the moment… I found myself just as intrigued by her as others in the space.  Like a Hurricane… she was just as astonishing as she was destructive.  Still, my spirit remained unsettled by her presence.

As I was speaking to my friend about this encounter, I pointed out the irony of this encounter happening just as I was writing about Deborah vs. Jezebel.  And so we headed down a path of what we each had learned in the Scriptures about them.  My friend talked about Jezebel’s personality and character.  Then I said, “What I find interesting is that so many refer to Jezebel as a divisive person who corrupts.  But, in the Scriptures we learn that Ahab was already corrupt before Jezebel entered the picture.  Jezebel was invited in.”

When a space… whether it is a community, a organization, a ministry, or a church is already corrupted… they are primed for Jezebel to appear.  Jezebel doesn’t need an engraved invitation to show up to the party, she just needs a door that is left opened for her to slide into the fold.  Once through the door, her words are tempting… her personality is engaging… she speaks things that seem right or acceptable.  She says what others want to hear.  She doesn’t just give permission for people to follow the desires of their flesh, but she affirms it as a good thing.

In the book of Genesis, it is the snake in the garden that convinces Eve that eating of the forbidden tree is more than just ok, but that it is a good thing.  2 Timothy 4:3 warns: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”  It is easy for women to go about and talk about what sounds good, what feels good, and seems like truth.  “Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.” (1 Tim 5:13). 

We have to be so careful who we let in our circle.  Are we surrounding ourselves with Deborahs (wise, discerning, and godly women) or Jezebels (lying, manipulating, and godless women)?  This is why we are told to be students of the Word, because we most KNOW the Word so well that anything that is not of the word sticks out like weed among the flowers.  We have to lean in so much to the Lord, that anything that tries to distract us from Him is outside of our peripheral vision.  We must be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that when Jezebel attempts to tickle our ears that Truth compels us to flee.

Yet, we are faced with a conundrum… as leaders.  Do I surround myself with other Deborahs, hiding in the fortress of my city on a hill?  Or, do I face down Jezebel with God on my side?  Do I continue to minister to my Sisters in Christ, and leave these easily tempted women on their own to contend with Jezebel?  Do I take a stand between Jezebel and these women.  Do I bring truth to counter her lies?  Do I bring peace to counter her chaos?  Do I come armored for battle?

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:10-18

Not every woman is going to be able to take on a Jezebel.  But, a Deborah can.

There are many different women in the Scriptures that are called to various types of leadership and influence in the church, ministries, and communities.  Not all leaders are going to have the same calling as Deborah.  But, if you are a Deborah… Jezebel is your enemy.  You may need to face her directly, or equip those who will with the Word of God.

Jezebels are present today.  They may sit among you in the pews, or be dispersed in your community.  Pray not only for your discernment to see her for who she is, but stand in the gap for those who do not know better.  Pray that they too will have eyes that see her intentions, discernment to go the other way.  Have other women praying with you, as you face Jezebel.  And lean into the Holy Spirit’s prompting on when to speak, when not to.  When to act, when to be still.  Allow God’s words to speak against Jezebel, not your own.