Who I Am, Whose I Am

Throughout my ministry (starting in Robert Lee, when Paul and I got married, to now, being here, in Giddings), I have had to learn some hard lessons. I have had to learn, through all the UPS and DOWNS, and blessings and heartaches, that the Lord remains faithful to those who trust in Him. He remains faithful, even when we are faithless (2 Timothy 2:13).

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 RSV)

I have learned that I am important and my ministry is important, regardless of what other people say. I don’t work for people, I work for the Lord.

Screen-Shot-2012-05-08-at-9.06.39-AM
Just some thoughts, as I’ve been studying Colossians 3:23
(I have this random yellow box on here, and I CAN’T get it off)!!!!
  • Our work, gifts, talents, and callings are given by God and should be done in service to Him; no matter how small or great the task.
  • God promises to recognize and reward our efforts whether others do or not. (Matthew 6:19-21; Hebrews 6:10).
  • Further, Jesus taught that if believers do something solely for the recognition of others, they completely miss God’s reward.
  • A Christian’s work should be characterized by enthusiasm, confidence, and diligence in work.

Ministry is a lot of work—hard work. Often, it involves hearing “no,” being underpaid (or just volunteering, which is what I do), having little experience and undertaking tasks that may be a little stinky. But, I find comfort (during challenging times) in 1 Corinthians 15:58. It says, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

tumblr_lrvmaqg3zE1r3y5vco1_500Also, in the Old Testament the writer of 2 Chronicles says, My sons, do not neglect your duties any longer! The Lord has chosen you to stand in His presence, to minister to him, and to lead the people in worship and present offerings to Him.” (2 Chronicles 29:11 NIV).

Simply put, it’s making your life a ministry. Ministry is NOT about what you do only when you are in the church office (or sitting on the floor, in a closet, which is where my “office” is) or in the church building. Ministry isn’t reserved for Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights. Ministry happens doing whatever it is you’re doing, wherever you may be, and with whoever you might be with.

I can do nothing on my own. Yes, I can do more with friends. Yes, I can do more with Paul helping me. But, ultimately, it all comes back to Jesus. It all comes back to loving Him, serving Him, and being faithful to Him.

Anybody remember Wayne Watson (he is a Christian singer and was pretty famous back in the 80’s and 90’s)….He wrote a beautiful song called It’s Because (of Whose I am)….

Here’s the chorus:

It’s not because of what I am, not because of what I’ve done,
But its because He first loved me. His grace has set me free.
His blood is flowing through my veins. I’m adopted by The King.
It’s because of Whose I am. -Wayne Watson

It’s because of Whose I am…..

Another great song (that’s a little more contemporary) is Who Am I by Casting Crowns. Here’s part of the chorus:

not because of who I am
but because of what You done
not because of what I done
but because of who You are

As you can see, music speaks to me. I spent some time on You Tube last night, looking up songs (some I had heard before, some I had not) about WHO we are, as Christians/as believers and WHOSE we are…..

Here’s another one from Kenny Lattimore. He is a gospel/R&B singer…..

Here’s part of the chorus:

‘Cause I’m Yours forever, Lord, a living sacrifice
And on my journey, Lord, I want You to use me Then I know everything will be alright
Lord, I won’t ever forget whose I am Lord, I won’t forget.

I don’t know this song, but I really enjoyed listening to it last night on You Tube; you should look it up!

In situations of heartache, frustration, and the literal moment where I think I want to pull my hair out, I continue singing…..

“I need thee, oh I need thee, every hour I need thee!” I take a deep breath, take a break, grab a drink from Sonic (b/c really doesn’t everything feel better after you’ve had a Rt. 44 DDP)….and continue.

Paul looks at me and says, “Just stop.” Stop trying to do this. Stop trying to be a part of a ministry where you feel frustration. Stop being a part of a ministry where you get so much flak back.

Well, I don’t feel like I have the choice.  I love Him, I gave Him my life. He commanded we not turn our eyes and look the other direction from those in need.

I have been commanded to love the little ones…..Matthew 19:14.

179220_436576566418106_636297158_nI stand behind and stand firm on what I have been called to do. I love the kids of our church and our community and want what is best for them and their parents. I am beginning to understand and grasp the concept of what it means to “meet someone where they are.” We need to meet them where they are and meet the current needs they have and know and understand what is relevant to their lives today. The fact is…..our lives/our children’s lives are much busier NOW than they were THEN…..Children/parents/families are busy and tired. Our curriculum/teachings/programs have to change and adapt with our culture and adapt to that. We are doing the Church (big “C” church, not just the local church) a disservice if we plan things that are not beneficial to those families and where they are now in their lives. The Church (big “C”) cannot (and should not) create programs and curriculum just for the sake of creating them, if they are not what our kids/parents/parishioners/congregation needs. What our kids/parents need is something that is adapted to their schedule and not so “regimented” like just another thing on the calendar!

I want to live with and love those who are around me. And I do that by:

  • going to T-ball games, baseball games, softball games
  • going to Field Day at the elementary school
  • going to Powder Puff games at the H.S.
  • working at the Food Pantry
  • taking the youth to the park to play
  • cleaning out the water-filled basement on my day off
  • taking 4 kids (that are not ours) to eat at McDonald’s
  • lovin’ someone through heartache with a Dr. Pepper and a chocolate bar
  • not substituting one day because I agreed to have lunch with a friend
  • being the last person out of the church, waiting to make sure everyone has a ride home and no one is left behind
  • having a bible study at my house every Wednesday night
  • having a husband who loves and believes in me

And I do it because it is what I have been called to do.

I am Who I Am

and I know

Whose I Am

Memorial Day 2013

Yesterday we had a long, great, tiring, blessed day ministering as we cleaned out the basement at church (or at least attempted to), put a few VBS things up (in way of decorating), and then took 3 youth to the park, along with meeting Ms. Peggy and the Gray’s there to play…and then I went home and watched The Bachelorette with Audrey and Dana! (You know, the Bachelorette is ministry, of course)!!!

water-soaked basement

water-soaked basement

Jasmine shop-vacuuming the big room

Jasmine shop-vacuuming the big room

Walker mopping

Walker mopping

pulling up wet carpet

pulling up wet carpet

Jasmine ripping out baseboard

Jasmine ripping out baseboard

no more carpet--

no more carpet–

Colton shop-vacuuming the bible study room

Colton shop-vacuuming the bible study room

Paul cooking hamburgers and hot dogs

Paul cooking hamburgers and hot dogs

Dominic

Dominic

Jasmine

Jasmine

Brooklyn

Brooklyn

Layla

Layla

 

Walker and Mason (the little ones LOVE Walker)

Walker and Mason (the little ones LOVE Walker)

Walker playing with the little ones

Walker playing with the little ones

We enjoyed our day “off” (although I’ve learned that “holidays” on the calendar don’t mean a thing because many of our ministry days are on “holidays” because the kids are out of school)!!!

Only 8 more days of school! And then summer begins—

Our Little Ones….

So, in the last 2 1/2 months we have “adopted” 3 little ones, as well as Walker (who we’ve had since we moved here). All that really means is we pick them up for church and take them out to eat sometimes….but, it’s really fun! Here are some pictures from yesterday–

We got to church early that morning, so the kids were all hanging out in the sanctuary with us, waiting to do sound check for our our praise and worship music….

They really wanted to play Walker’s guitar, so he obliged.

Mason and Walker "playing" guitar together....

Mason and Walker “playing” guitar together….

Heath "helping" Walker play

Heath “helping” Walker play

Brooklyn and Walker playing together....

Brooklyn and Walker playing together….

A beautiful picture of Brooklyn

2013-05-26 09.38.19After church we took the kids to McDonald’s. (It’s not our favorite, but it’s the one place the kids will eat–so we go)!! Mason, Heath, and Brooklyn LOVE Walker, so I just LOVE this picture….

walking together....

walking together….

While we were at McDonald’s Brooklyn had to “go potty” so of course I took her. When we were finished she needed to wash her hands. So, I helped her and she started singing.

2013-05-26 12.54.39Apparently, according to this little princess, you have to sing the “ABC song” when you wash your hands (to know, for sure, you’ve washed them long enough)…so, we sang. (I hope the lady in the stall enjoyed our singing)!!

We love, love, love our little ones–God has certainly blessed us with a 7-passenger car and 2 booster seats that we permanently keep in the 3rd row, so Heath and Brooklyn have a place to sit (Mason can sit without one)….

Thank you, Jesus, for allowing us to minister to this family!

Keeping Waco Wacky

On Friday night we spontaneously decided to go to Waco on Saturday….

So….after Food Pantry on Saturday, off we went! 🙂 Walker went with us, and we had a great time!

We got there about 11:15. I went to lunch with the Derrick’s (my favorite family in Waco) and Paul and Walker went to Vitek’s and got a GutPak (if you’re from Waco, you know it’s “heaven” in a styrofoam box…..

After lunch we had a few minutes to kill before we had to meet Paul’s parents and sister at the zoo, so we took Walker over to Baylor. We went over and saw Joy and Lady (and, again, if you are from Waco, you know they are)!

It was so funny because when we walked up to the Pit we saw 2-3 little girls. Their mom’s were pointing out the bears saying, “Look, do you see the bear? See the bear right there?” Well, instead the girls squealed, “Look, a squirrel!!!” And they ran off and chased the squirrel….  🙂

Joy (or Lady)--I'm not sure which one it is....

Joy (or Lady)–I’m not sure which one it is….

(So much for the Baylor Bears–they can’t hold a candle to an active squirrel),….

Paul and me at the bear pit at Baylor

Paul and me at the bear pit at Baylor

After lunch and hanging out at Baylor for a few minutes we met Paul’s parents and sister (along with the Derrick’s) at the zoo…..

Walker and Paul at the zoo

Walker and Paul at the zoo

my new favorite picture of Paul

my new favorite picture of Paul

There was a "diver" in the fish tank....

There was a “diver” in the fish tank….

Lindsey and Lila at the zoo

Lindsey and Lila at the zoo

I am very proud of Walker because he NEVER lets me take pictures of him….so, thank you, Walker!

2013-05-25 14.04.31

No smile from Walker in this one…..

I love Walker's smile in this picture

I love Walker’s smile in this picture

 

this picture just makes me laugh

this picture just makes me laugh

After the zoo (we spent 3 hours there) we went to Mardel (we always go to Mardel if we’re in Waco or Abilene) and then went to Quaker Steak for dinner. I’d never been there before. It was alright–nothing “out of this world” but good. Walker LOVED his chicken wings–he was having a little “love affair” with his food!!

Quaker Steak and Lube

Quaker Steak and Lube

After Quaker Steak we went over to 3 Spoons for dessert! 🙂 And to quote Walker: “You can learn a lot about a person based on what the put in their Fro-Yo!”

3 Spoons for dessert!

3 Spoons for dessert!

We finally headed home and got home around 8:00PM last night….it was a LONG, FUN day!!

I’m Happy All The Time??? and Being a “Good Example”

**After writing, re-writing, proof-reading, editing, and re-reading this post, I realize I should’ve broken it up–but, I didn’t. So, grab a cup of coffee (or two) and enjoy!!

This past Wednesday night our little kids sang at the very end of the adult prayer meeting…..one of the songs they sang was, “Happy All the Time.” I’ve known that song forever….since I was little. Paul, however, says he’s never heard that song before–(I don’t understand that, but anyway…..) Here’s how it goes:

I’m inright, outright, upright, downright

Happy all the time

I’m inright, outright, upright, downright

Happy all the time

Since Jesus Christ came in and cleansed my heart from sin,

I’m inright, outright, upright, downright

Happy all the time

The song is cute. It has motions. You can sing it faster and faster as you repeat it, so it’s fun for the kids…..but I think it’s completely unbiblical. And I didn’t realize it until today.

I am a Christian. I have Jesus in my heart. He has cleansed me from my sin, but….I’m not happy all the time. And I don’t think God has called us to be happy all the time.

In fact, I think it’s almost the opposite. Yes, God wants us to be happy, as evident in the Bible (just look up a keyword search for “happy” at Bible Gateway), but more importantly, He has called us to be holy.

“It is God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life.” 2 Timothy 1:9

“For God did not call us to be impure, but to lead a holy life.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7

“If you are suffering according to God’s will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to God who made you, for he will never fail you.”  1 Peter 4:19

(A story about my mom, sorry Mom)….

Because Paul and I are in full-time ministry we have moved quite a bit during our 7 years of marriage. Paul has been at 3 different churches and we both worked at camp full-time in Illinois–whenever we move (and after getting “settled”) my mom usually asks us, “Are you happy there? I talked to _______(fill-in-the-blank), and they asked me if you were happy in ______(fill-in-the-blank of whatever city we live in currently). I tell them yes, but are you happy?”

That’s such a difficult question for me to answer.

Yes, I’m happy. God wants us to be happy.

No, I’m not happy. God wants us to be holy.

It’s such a paradox.

“People who always want to be happy and pursue it above all else are some the most miserable people in the world.” -Dr. Henry Cloud (from Boundaries in Marriage)

Although unhappiness and pain are often a direct consequence of disobeying God, following God will also require us to go through periods in our lives where we struggle to be happy. I wonder how happy Jesus was when He was getting flogged and crucified. I wonder how happy Paul and the other disciples were when they were brutally persecuted for following Jesus. Living holy lives should be our primarily focus-that is, a life that seeks to obey God in everything regardless the feelings being experienced.

But, unfortunately we live in a “feelings focused” world–here and here

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Paul instructs the church of Thessalonica to:

  • Always be joyful (CEV)
  • Rejoice always (NRSV)
  • Be cheerful no matter what (The Message)
  • Rejoice evermore (KJV)

I understand the message that Paul is trying to convey to the church of Thessalonica, but this verse is very difficult for me because I am human. I want what I think I deserve. I want my way. I want control. (My never ending struggle with being a control-freak)….and if I don’t get it, I struggle. I struggle with the joy sometimes. I struggle with rejoicing sometimes.

But, I want to be a good example live an authentic life and hold tightly to my Savior for the rest of the world to see…. (more on this later)….

Today I was listening to a sermon online by Joel Osteen (for this post research only). I have never listened to Joel Osteen, and as I was listening, I realized why I don’t listen to him.

  • Sure, he’s a sweet-talker.
  • Sure, his voice is soothing.
  • Sure, he makes you feel good.
  • Sure, he says what you WANT to hear, but is it what you NEED to hear?

Throughout the sermon (sermon title: Be A Good Example) I just kept listening, waiting for something more. But, I never got it. I took “notes” as I listened and here’s what he said:

  • Everyone of us has a ministry….
  • Your pulpit is your life….
  • How consistent are you?….
  • “Light your let shine” by having a positive attitude, smiling, laughing, being kind, being helpful, and watching how you react to hard times and staying positive during difficult times….
  • Everyone of us has a ministry—you may not know how to preach, but you know how to smile! You can be stable in the midst of adversity….
  • People don’t read books anymore; they read our lives….

(And, I would agree with all of those….) But…..

Joel used 2 Corinthians 5:20 as a reference when talking about being a representative of Christ. In using this reference one thing he pointed out kind of bothered me.

“We are ambassadors of Christ, God’s personal representatives….People don’t see God; they see us. So, am I representing God in the way I should?….Do I draw people to me or do I push them away?”

I was bothered by the phrase: “People don’t see God; they see us.”

Yes, I get it. You cannot (physically) see God, but I want people to (spiritually) see God in me.

I don’t want them to see me.

I want them to see God.

Do you get why I didn’t really agree with the phrase–“they don’t see God.”

Another thing that he talked about was the idea, “It’s a poor representation of our God if we go around being negative/sour/complaining/sloppy/beat-up/run-down”

Again, I understand what he’s saying, but the message he is sending says…we, as believers, can never be negative, never be sloppy, never be upset, never be frustrated….and I struggle with that just as much as I struggle with 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (on second thought: maybe throughout this whole blog post–God is convicting me; that’s why I am uncomfortable. Hhhhmmm??? Anyway)….

As I said earlier, in my opinion, we are human. We are sinners. We fall short of the glory of God. We strive for perfection (as God has called us to in Matthew 5:48), but we also know that it is absolutely impossible to achieve perfection in this life (which I think, sometimes, is the reason why Christians struggle is because they can never achieve it)…..more on this later.

**(added later after talking to Paul at dinner–Paul and I both agree that yes, Christians are in fact, not perfect, but we should strive for that and part of doing that is all about the attitude BEHIND our frustration/our negativity/our anger….yes, we are not always happy, because happiness is an outward feeling that is based solely on content. I’ll be happy if….

But…

As Christians, we should rejoice always (as stated above), despite our circumstances. But, it is hard because I am human. I am selfish. I am a sinner. And I am not perfect). **

If perfection were a possibility, we wouldn’t have a need for a Savior.

Then WHY did He (God) give us an impossible task??? Because we NEED to always be working to be better. If human beings don’t have that unattainable goal of perfection, then we become content and complacent with where we are, and we become lazy and idle. Why else would so many people who seem to, “have it all,” be so unhappy? They have nothing else to really work for, and their lives become meaningless and empty.

AGAIN–“People who always want to be happy and pursue it above all else are some the most miserable people in the world.” -Dr. Henry Cloud (from Boundaries in Marriage)

With a constant goal of Christ-like perfection in mind, we always have something to be working towards.

I read somewhere on a blog (and now I can’t find where although I saved the quote)…..”The knowledge that this perfection cannot be achieved in this life takes away the frustration and despair that usually accompanies other types of unattainable goals. Knowing that everything we do in this life will directly affect how we achieve Christ-like perfection in the afterlife helps us to stick with that goal.”—I think this is true, but I’ll push back against that a little bit and say…

If we, as teachers/adults/parents/leaders tell our children “be happy” or “be an example” all the time, we are doing them a disservice because we turn it into “goal-setting” instead of “life-living.” We use 1 Timothy 4:12 as “encouragement” for those who struggle, and yet I don’t think they fully understand what it means….

Instead of understanding their life hidden with Christ in God, they try hard to simply be a good example by their actions and behavior. It leads to a lot of pressure (“goal setting”) and shame because they are doing all of that in their own strength and not in union with their life in Christ.

Our teenagers already live in such a “pressure-filled” society and culture, why would we put more pressure on them to “be an example.” It ultimately turns into a checklist of behaviors.

  • I faithfully read my Bible-check.
  • I attend FCA or a Christian club at school-check.
  • I refrain from drinking, drugs, and sex-check.
  • I always smile-check.

But, if we live off a “check-list” mentality, none of it is an authentic expression of faith, and none of it is done through resting in Christ’s grace and love. It is journey through adolescence where teenagers pressure themselves to be perfect, so they won’t lose their “example” status.

That thinking is a  little backwards. Yes, when we first are guiding kids to an understanding of what it means to “follow Christ” there may be certain things that are stated or explained in order for a child/teenager to understand what it means to become a Christian, but Paul and I both think that that is such a disservice, as part of youth ministry, to just give your kids a list of “do’s and don’ts”–they don’t learn how to authentically live their own faith. They are just living out faith off of a checklist or the faith of their parents.

Our kids and teenagers focus so much on doing the right things, and yet, they really aren’t being an example to anyone. Their focus is so much on behavior and not on their relationships with Jesus and/or with other people.

I think sometimes that’s why non-believers struggle with the stereo-type of “Christians” because they don’t see us as “lights in a dark world” they see us as goodie-goodies….

We must show our kids HOW to have an authentic relationship with Christ, and hopefully they will naturally be examples to those around them.

If I am an example who is willing to be vulnerable, who is willing to love people as they are, willing to listen and slow to speak, willing to admit my struggles, then the kids and teenagers Paul and I work with will also be that to their friends. Whatever kind of example I set for them is what they will be inspired to show as well (I always have people watching). So, if we, as youth workers/parents/leaders/teachers are not the kind of examples we want THEM to see, it’s not their fault, it’s ours.

The old idiom “Do as I say, not as I do” DOES NOT apply here…..

And above all, we need to teach them about relying on the Holy Spirit (as I mentioned before). We need to teach them how to find answers they need through prayer and through reading God’s word. We need to teach them who they are in Christ, who Christ is in them, and the natural result is (hopefully) they will be an example, without really worrying about a “checklist” or the dichotomy of trying to live in this world but not of this world (John 15:17-19).

So, am I happy all the time?

No.

But, God does not call us to be happy; He calls us to be holy.

Holiness is, quite simply, realizing that one’s happiness is found ONLY in God.

Am I a good example to those who look up to me?

Yes, but only because I live an authentic life, vulnerable and exposed. I want to display the very nature of who I am and WHOSE I am, not based on a checklist of “right and wrong” but based on my relationship with Jesus.

Lee County Fair and Rodeo Parade 2013

Another year of the Lee County Fair and Rodeo here in Giddings…..Paul and I are not really “fair and rodeo” kind of people, so we really don’t have much interest in going….in fact, I’m ready for it be over. The Fair and Rodeo really “clogs up” Hwy. 290 and makes our Wal-Mart and fast food restaurants really crowded. So….thankfully, it’ll be over tonight.

Anyway….today was the parade. FBC Giddings enters a trailer in the parade, so we can promote Vacation Bible School (along with our church, in general). So, today was no exception.

Kiersten and Hanna

Kiersten and Hanna

Jalisa and Melanie

Jalisa and Melanie

Damien

Damien

Brooklyn and Victoria

Brooklyn and Victoria

our trailer

our trailer

Sierra

Sierra

Heath

Heath

Brae

Brae

Shyann

Shyann

Heath and me

Heath and me

Brae and me

Brae and me

Erica and Brae

Erica and Brae

Paul and me

Paul and me

Jared and me

Jared and me

Melanie, Erica, and Brae

Melanie, Erica, and Brae

Gina, Luna, Jared, me, Melanie, Erica, Brae, and Shyann

Gina, Luna, Jared, me, Melanie, Erica, Brae, and Shyann

Zoe

Zoe

Zoe and McKenzie

Zoe and McKenzie

It is now time for a Saturday afternoon NAP!!! 🙂

San* Antonio for the Weekend

A couple of weekends ago Paul and I went to San Antonio to celebrate my nephew’s graduation from basic training in the Air Force. The actually graduation was on Friday, but we didn’t make it there until Saturday.

We had a good time visiting with family; I’m so proud of Alika and all he accomplished during his time at basic training. He is now in Wichita Falls, at Sheppard Air Force Base.

the day before graduation in their fatigues

the day before graduation in their fatigues

Jeff and Alika after the presentation on Thursday

Jeff and Alika after the presentation on Thursday

The Hawaiians were FREEZING!!!

The Hawaiians were FREEZING!!!

 

marching onto the field for graduation (2nd from the left)

marching onto the field for graduation
(2nd from the left)

Kainani, Alika, and Kainoa after graduation

Kainani, Alika, and Kainoa after graduation

 

Alika was allowed to go off base, so they went to the River Walk in San Antonio

Alika was allowed to go off base, so they went to the River Walk in San Antonio

On Saturday we had a small party with friends and family at Jimmy’s house outside of San Antonio

Tom and Charlene with Alika

Tom and Charlene with Alika

The Thomas' and the Harpool's

The Thomas’ and the Harpool’s

Mom, Alika, and Dad

Mom, Alika, and Dad

me, Alika, and Paul

me, Alika, and Paul

DSCF4910

me, Alika, and Paul

me, Alika, and Paul

We had a great time visiting in San Antonio. We even got to see two of our friends who live down there as well. Tisdale and Skyla were a part of Paul’s youth group when he worked in San Angelo. He also officiated their wedding in 2008. They are now expecting their first baby!

Paul, me, Tisdale, and Skyla

Paul, me, Tisdale, and Skyla