Hey all -
Forgive the mass email. It’s really good news… breathe deep :)
Just wanted to give you all an update on me and what the Lord has done in the last 18 months. It’s a bit of a story, but the details will make the ending that much better :).
Eighteen months ago I started feeling really terrible. I was tired, like crushingly so, every day and could hardly complete a day without needing to sleep at some point. My body hurt, I couldn’t think straight and words would escape me all the time and speaking became downright embarrassing. I lost motor function in my legs with regularity and would stumble and fall nearly every day. I had all kinds of pins and needles stuff happening around the clock in my feet, hands and face. I was a hot mess.
For the first few months I ignored it and chalked it up to stress. After 6 months with no improvement, I started having tests with cardiologist, neurologist, general practitioners and physical therapist. The early diagnoses were terrifying: MS, stroke, blood diseases. Everyone was puzzled. However, every blood test, MRI, brain scan and test was coming back inconclusive. So, one year ago in mid-October, my sweet husband sent me to Hawaii for several weeks to breathe plumeria air and get well. (He’s a keeper.) While I was there, I got a call from my doctor saying I had Late Stage Lyme Disease and a strain of Epstein Barr. It had a name! I began immediate treatment on heavy doses of medications. Once home, I took the meds for four months that ironically made me feel worse than I did to start. Puzzled by that, in one of my follow up appointments with an infectious disease specialist I had been waiting months to see, he told me flat out that I did NOT have Lyme disease, but he wasn’t sure what I had. #BestDayEver :( Square one.
I broke up with all of my doctors and vowed to start all over to figure it all out. Instead, completely physically and emotionally exhausted, I did nothing. I was overwhelmed and my body was done. So - I did what any responsible adult would do: I cried, ate a ton of chocolate and pouted… for six months.
I was asked to speak at a women’s worship round table at Church of the Highlands the first week of October (one month ago). Two years ago, I would have been so ready that I wouldn’t have needed to rely on my notes much, but due to all of the aphasia where words just wouldn’t come, I was nearly having to read my message word for word. I told the gals gathered there that I wanted to be vulnerable with them and that I had been diagnosed with some kind of autoimmune thing and while it didn’t have a name, God was my healer and I needed to speak it out because somehow, it was going to be a part of my testimony. Just that simply. I then went on with the rest of the message.
Two days later, Leigh, my friend from Church of the Highlands called. She had been tracking along with me in the last year and knew that the event would have physically wiped me out. She called to see how I was feeling. I hadn’t taken time to take an assessment but when she asked I thought carefully and slowly said, “Leigh - I think I’m feeling better!”. She said quickly, “It’s because you spoke it out!”.
Sure enough - I’m here to say. I’m healed.
Here, nearly a month an a half later, I have no residual effects whatsoever. I just came off three major conferences that should have completely wiped me out. Instead, I’m just normal tired :) My body feels strong and I feel like I’m getting my brain back (no jokes - thank you) :)
So - while it’s been a bit of a story - it’s a good one. God is faithful. He’s my healer. The End.
Thank you for each of you that have asked and prayed, walked the road with me, helped me finish sentences and literally held me up. You are amazing.
I am a Worship Pastor and yes, I am a woman.
It’s funny when I introduce myself to Pastors and others in ministry and see the look on their faces when I say, “Yes, I’m the lead Worship Pastor at my church.” (Insert the moment in the conversation where they stare blankly at me.) I then put on my best Southern smile and work to help ease their feelings of a potentially awkward response (which is typically some combination of a frantic-back-pedding “Oh!” mixed with a good bit of surprised respect and kindness).
While I feel enormously unqualified simply because I am a human trying to do the work of the ministry, I often feel additionally so because I’m a woman (because, if you haven’t noticed, there aren’t a lot of us gals doing this thing.) You see, it’s a man’s world, and in worship world it’s REALLY a man’s world. Don’t get me wrong, I have an enormous amount of support from my senior leadership and respect towards them. I also have a ton of respect for the other gentlemen that I have the opportunity to do ministry with and from whom I am constantly learning. (And I’m also not standing here saying we should cheer ‘hooray for women’ and burn our bras.) However, I am simply saying that if you are a woman and you are in worship leadership in any capacity, STAND UP.
Yes, I’m a woman leading a team of mainly men. Yes, I realize that I think/process/work/internalize things differently, but it makes me no less awesome than they are. And yes, for now, I am certain that I am right where I am supposed to be. I have decided to STAND UP right where God has placed me. There are not many of us women who have accepted the call of ministry, specifically the area of leading worship teams or groups of teams. We need to STAND UP together. Ladies, I firmly believe we need to leverage the driving characteristic that God put inside us women - that is, to be relational - so that we can do this thing better together. So, I would like to say, specifically calling out to the women in worship leadership, STAND UP. God has designed you for such a time as this and has put a specific set of gifts and talents in your fingers and lungs and brains and only you can do the work that he has specifically created for you to do in your little corner of the Kingdom…but you need to STAND UP and do it! If God has placed you in a worship ministry, he needs you to bring every gift that he’s put in you to the worship table. Bring it to the meeting. Bring it to the microphone. Bring it to the conversation. Bring it to the tough decision. Bring it to the front line as you lead the charge and convey the vision and love the team. STAND UP. Worship Woman, you are amazing and the beautiful gifts God has placed inside of you are for purpose and for now and are necessary in your leadership role. As a fellow sister and co-laborer in ministry, it’s my honor to stand beside you. You are not my competition, you are my compadre and I can’t wait to meet you. Ladies, STAND UP in worship ministry and make your mark in the Kingdom.
If you are a woman and you are in worship leadership in any capacity, STAND UP.
I have the honor of looking after the Worship Ministry at Seacoast Church. As is par for most churches in America, its worship teams are comprised mainly of amazing, Godly, talented men. I feel that part of my role in this season is to encourage the women in our ministry and in churches like ours to STAND UP right where God has placed them and to put their personal stamp on the worship culture for their church and worship teams.
There are not many of us women who have accepted the call to lead worship teams or groups of teams. In a way, we are like modern day pioneers! This is all the more reason we need to STAND UP, together. If you are in worship leadership in any capacity, I firmly believe we need to leverage the driving characteristic that God put inside us women - that is, to be relational - so that we can do this thing better together. In many ways, I’m still finding my own feet, but I’m finding strength and encouragement from the sisters around me who also are standing on the front lines of worship ministry.
Sweet sister, God has designed you for such a time as this and has put a specific set of gifts and talents in your fingers and lungs and brains. Only you can do the work that he has specifically created for you to do in your little corner of the Kingdom…but you need to STAND UP and do it! If God has placed you in a worship ministry, he needs you to bring every gift that he’s put in you to the worship table. Bring it to the meeting. Bring it to the microphone. Bring it to the conversation. Bring it to the tough decision. Bring it to the front line as you lead the charge and convey the vision and love the team. STAND UP.
Worship Woman, you are amazing and the beautiful gifts God has placed inside of you are for purpose and for now and are necessary in your leadership role. As a fellow sister and co-laborer in ministry, it’s my honor to stand beside you. You are not my competition, you are my compadre and I can’t wait to meet you. Ladies, what you are doing is important. STAND UP in worship ministry and make your mark in the Kingdom.
An open letter to ABC:
Months of anticipation led to tonight. The Muppets were back on Prime Time. I would get to introduce my childhood companions to my own children properly in the way I experienced them as a child: around the TV, as a family, my very own childhood lived again through theirs. For a variety of reasons I was excited, but tonight, that was quickly turned to heartbreak as my husband and I hesitantly watched the episode, kids tucked in bed, after I had heard that the initial reviews were sketchy.
It indeed had all gone terribly wrong.
You see, the Muppets defined my childhood. I was 9 months old when my Emmy Award winning Muppets debuted on Prime Time... we literally grew up together. They taught me to share, to laugh and play nice, to figure any crisis out in out in 30 minutes, and they taught us to gather our family around the TV once a week and pause to be together. As a 6 year old, because it was my favorite song, I recorded “Rainbow Connection” at a studio outside of Atlanta. It was one of the first my sister and I learned to perform as a duet: she on guitar, me sticking out my little elementary school tummy and singing at the top of my lungs. We loved the Muppets and in a 1970s and 80s world growing up, it was one of the most important things to us. To this day, I wear a bracelet given to me by my sister for my 40th birthday that has the final refrain of “Rainbow Connection” engraved on the inside acting like a secret language between us. That refrain is a language of love, reminding us of our beloved Muppets and the cherished days of our youth.
The Muppets and the Muppet Show to us meant familiarity. We knew every word to the opening song. As the drumroll started, anticipation would build as Kermit would announce the human special guest and then give the overly-excited cheer that only Kermit could. We faithfully watched. My family bought the books, the toys, the records and soundtracks and supported them in theaters and as they made appearances on other shows. It was a treat to find out they would be featured in a parade or an event and we would gather to watch, to laugh, and to celebrate with them. Watching the Muppets was something we simply didn’t miss. If there was a special on Saturday night, we watched it. If they were on Prime Time, we watched it. There were loads of things we loved about them: the Muppets had running gags (as in - 25 YEAR running gags). They were the best in the business at having deeply developed characters with complex back stories that we KNEW and LOVED and somehow made us feel like we could relate to them all - even if they were blue or full of feathers or lovable but larger than life. They encouraged us to keep believing, keep pretending and to do just what we set out to do. In May of 1990 when Jim Henson died, my world literally stood still. I remember calling my parents crying and then us all bawling our eyes out when we, again as a family, watched the Muppets tribute to Jim and his life. Once again, the Muppets united our family. The Muppets and Jim were our family.
Yes - there were jokes that were above my head. Yes - there were things discussed that were fully intended to keep the attention of the adults in the room. But the reason we as kids loved them was not because of that... we loved them because they were just like us: Kids. Innocent. Fun-loving. Entertaining. Tonight, the reason I am so heartbroken is that they were nothing like I remembered them. They were all grown up with grown up baggage and issues. They were not innocent, fun-loving kids. They didn’t sing. ABC... they are Muppets and They.Didn’t.Sing. They had morphed into some reflection of current culture... so counter from the way I remembered them. They were not my Muppets at all.
I am not crazy - I do fully understand it’s a TV show. They.aren’t.real. They are fluff filled felt puppets that are manipulated by humans. But to me, and millions of other 40-somethings, they were real. They were my very best friends growing up. I knew at some point they would experience life just like me, and if I was scared or nervous or simply not wanting to be patient...they would teach me how. Because of Jim’s gentle nature, he knew that if they were just like me, I would learn more easily. The friends he created for the Muppet Generation weren’t threatening in any way and were intentionally made to be so child-like in nature that if he had them walk through really hard things and succeed, then I knew I could easily get through any problem....we would just do it holding hands....and hope that something better comes along. In my mind and heart, they were as real as you and me. As we welcomed them into our homes each week, they became more and more like real family. We celebrated when they learned to count to 10 without stopping, cried when they felt like they were the only Weirdo on the planet, and learned from them when they had insane Muppet-like conflict that was resolved by a conversation, an apology and a hug. In my heart, they were real like me in every way, but tonight I barely recognized them and it absolutely broke my heart. Where were my friends? Where were my precious companions who had taught me that I could be whatever I wanted and that friends and love and good stuff was just around the corner and even when it wasn’t easy being green, I was reminded that it would do fine and it was beautiful and it was just what I thought I wanted to be?
ABC, was it too much to ask to give us back our Muppets just as we remembered them? We were not adults then ... we were just children. Was it too much to ask to have 30 minutes of our childhood back? Was it too much to bring innocence back in the midst of a culture that clamors for our attention, that screams at us constantly, that reminds us of everything that is backwards and not-quite-right and off in the world? 30 minutes was all we were after. 30 minutes. We didn’t need to be reminded about broken relationships, how hard life is and what we’re facing - that’s our every day reality. We didn’t need Kermit and Piggy to break up in order to be relevant. We just needed a single Muppet-sized crisis that could be solved before the last commercial. As the Muppet Generation, we just wanted to be reminded again that simple innocence isn’t completely lost, that a running gag, even if it is predictable, is good for the soul, that relationships are worth working on and that at the end of the day, lots of things can be solved with a little song where everyone sings along.
Sadly, these Muppets will not be for my kids. These Muppets won’t even be for me. These Muppets will be just another something that I will choose not to watch with my family. My Muppets will be remembered only in vintage VHS recordings and worn out cassette tapes and a scratched 45 that sings my childhood. These Muppets are not my Muppets and I couldn’t be more heartbroken.
So today, September 24th, on what would have been Jim’s 79th birthday, I celebrate him and am personally grateful for what he achieved for a generation of children. I am, however, saddened that his legacy is being displayed in this way, particularly on this day. Jim always said, “Simple is good”, but in this case, I can’t help but think that Jim would agree that these Muppets we saw tonight are neither simple nor good. ABC, you got it all terribly wrong... but life’s like a movie, you can write your own ending. Please, for the love of the Muppet Generation, the lovers the dreamers and me, write a new ending.
Today was hard. Today was that day when words turned to water and they ran down my face. It was a day when I needed a pink sky and it came and as the rose colored light floooded the room and wrapped me in it, I remembered to breathe and felt the exale. More water. More water.
Today was the day I cleaned out the room. I put everything in boxes and bags and took it out. And my heart broke right in two. I felt like something died. I died. The thing as I knew it died. The laughter died. It was awful as I tried to muster a congratulatory banner. I don't know if I want it. I don't know why not. More water. More water.
I will remember this day. I will remember it as it became real to me that I was in mourning. Just like that February in the prayer room... 'hear the call to sing'. Mourning the loss of all that was and offering myself for what is to come. Processing that all of *that*... that... has brought me to today. More water. More water.
Now the sky goes purple. He comes in purple and rose and water. He comes just when I need it and oh I need it. And while my heart bleeds tonight, there is healing in the western sky. Even as the dark comes, I'm reminded that the color and light were there first and that it's all still there, just under the shoud of darkness. Night is coiming so that it can give way to a new day. How desperately do I need a new day. There will be rest tonight and tomorrow will be new. And I will breathe and learn new rhythms and it will be hard and awful and wonderful and healing.
So today was the day. Just when I thought I was going to curl up and die and the world as I know it was over... I woke up and realized I had forgotten about transforming grace and that he makes all things new in his time.
If he is taking it from me - it is for me.
Today is 39. I'm standing right on the edge of 40, peering in to the next chapter, and trying to discern what it might hold. It's a cathartic release to be writing today - something I feel like I'd want to have preserved. One day I'll look back and say, 'Really? That's what was on my mind the eve of 40? If I'd only known what was facing me...'
I also don't think it's coincidence that here standing on this precipice it feels like transition is absolutely everywhere, not only in making the leap to 40, but all through my life.
Things at my work are undone and complicated. I'm looking at a new position, getting people in the right seats on the proverbial bus and trying to sort through the relational mire of years of poor communication and lack of accountability. Seemingly, every solution has its major difficulties and while I'm no stranger to hard or the challenging and not afraid to stare it down, every solution seems to land me in a place where I am bringing the team right to the edge of the promised land, but will not be allowed to enter. I'm wrestling with the pride of wanting to prove I can do it all, and the reality that I simply cannot. I'm wrestling with what my position will ultimately be and the impact I will ultimately have for the Kingdom. Will it be enough? Will we come up with a solution that will make the greatest impact for the future? I feel like we are laying groundwork today for the future that will be great... but I also get the sense that, while a part of this greatprivilege, I am aware that I probably will be watching from the sidelines cheering on those ceiling to floor,ceiling to floor. `
Greg's work is on unsteady footing. We are looking at the real possibility of a buy out by ATI and whether or not he will stay. It's all he's ever done and all professionally he knows. He faces the fear of the unknown provision. Trusting the Lord, sure, but walking cautiously into a tunnel we are not sure has light. If not this, then what? If not here, then where? To compete or not. Tons of what's next.
We are needing to make a decision regarding high school for Ethan. Leaving the security of a community school and stepping into the major change not only of high school, but of a schooling situation that is completely different than the last 7 years. Change. Hard.
However, 40 is full of promise (which I will publicly write about) and 40 will be good... brave. brass. bold. Comfortable in my own skin kind of thing.
On the eve of 40 - I'm happy and can't wait to see all that God has for me and my little family.
We have just returned from a very rainy two week stay in Hawaii. Needless to say, there will be many posts to come regarding the Isles of Aloha, but for now, I feel the need to show you two of my favorite things from the islands that never cease to amaze me.This is a rambuton. Well, a cluster of rambutons. You may be asking yourself, as did I, "What in the world is a rambuton?" Precious faithful reader, let me give you the joy of such knowledge. A rambuton is quite possibly the world's best fruit. In my 32 years, I have never experienced such a fruit until this most recent trip to Hawaii. I am not sure why I've not been graced with such sweetness until now, but, for whatever reason, it is so.
When you look at a rambuton, it looks like nothing you want to eat - prickly, red, hairy... and if it weren't for some brave person, we might never know the sweetness that lies within. It's a leap of faith to eat - and it reminds me to never judge a book by it's cover.
They are about the size of a small kiwi... break open the rubbery, hairy exterior, and what lies beneath is truly a delicious, juicy, ball of wonder with a small seed inside. I highly recommend you try one if you ever have the opportunity.... but you'll have to fight me for any that ever make it in my house. I'm still working on trying to import them... :)This is a Japanese Orchid from, none other than, a Japanese Orchid tree. There are several of these trees in full bloom outside of my parent's house in Hawaii. They simply scream, "I have a Creator... and He is Worthy." Imagine, if you will, a tree of smallish size bursting with purple color, only to discover, upon closer investigation, that each blossom is not just a bloom, but a purple orchid - each perfect in detail. It's an amazing moment when you actually take in what you are looking at. I couldn't help but notice that each bloom seemingly grows straight up, with it's face pointing to the pacific sun. If it had a voice, it's song would be, "I grow, I bloom, I am what I am for You alone - do you see me here? Blooming my heart out for your approval. If no one ever sees me, or notices, I don't care - I'm here to make You happy. Do you see Your amazing creation all around me? We are all growing in a chorus of harmony in effort to praise You. Great are You, my Creator. As long as I bloom, it's all for You." (At least that's what I imagine they would say.) What a lesson.
So, for tonight, I'm feeling pensive about fruit and flowers. Is it because I've just returned from the place that has my heart more than any other, or is it that I'm jet lagged and sleepless, or is it just the Lord pulling on my heart and saying... "I'm in it all."
So today I listened to a little voice I've let fall silent for many years. Today my legs started moving and I let them. Today I ran.
As a college student, I ran every day and until I had babies and busy-ness... I ran. But it's been a while - a long while and today, for no particular reason, I left the house and ran.
I was reminded as I ran that it had been years. (Try 18 of them). I relived that feeling that comes when you shake off the day, when you let it all out, when you just run. I had no where to go and wasn't trying to run far, I just needed to do it. After 18 years, 7 surgeries, and 2 babies, I was just grateful I didn't die. I didn't, and I'm going to try not to die again today. That's the goal: run every day and don't die. Seems reasonable.
I am grateful to be running. And today - I'm not running from anything. Feels good.... and different.
A few days ago, i drove by a small church and outside on the marquee read "The Revival has been Rescheduled". How did it happen that we thought that we could schedule a move of the Holy Spirit? When did we get the idea that He could be contained? That he was an entity that was tameable, manageable, and would sit with hands folded? The spirit of The Lord is like a roaring lion - He is not to be boxed in and certainly not backed into a corner. He is free to move and do as He pleases. If we think that we can only experience Him on a certain night, in a certain place and between the hours of 7-9, we are quite mistaken. He can come to us as He pleases and does so. I've seen him in the face of little children laughing so hard they lose their breath. I've seen him in my favorite flower... And the way it drops pollen on my kitchen table. I've seen him in the death of my grandmother and in the birth of a new dream. He is spirit - He is in and around us. Everywhere. I know so many times I've missed him because I've not been looking and maybe I've rescheduled my own personal revivals without knowing it. Maybe I've cut him out of conversations that I really should have let him work. A maybe I've decided or chosen or called or emailed without his blessing. Maybe I've not represented him well and I'm sure I've grieved his heart.
Here are some questions I have:
Have you ever been afraid of something? I'm not talking about a scary movie. I mean really afraid? How do you stop being afraid? How long does it hold on until you can let it go [or it lets go of you]... to not remember... When do you stop trying to forget?
I realize that I am afraid. I'm afraid of something that could happen. I'm afraid he will find me, hurt me, make me remember. Are the memories worse than the reality? Have I somehow made it worse than it was?... I really don't think so... it was ALL so horrible there are portions of black in my memory that block so much.
I realize in my adult life, I've lived with the panic of those years.... I realize that my every day is marked with the memory. I check the locks on the doors. Twice. Every. Night. I refuse to sleep with a door open. I have, over time, sold every piece of furniture, nick-nack, [read: memory], purposefully, that was around when he was. I cut, grew, cut, grew, and changed the color of my hair - all in an effort to disappear. I hate the fact that facebook can find me. Social media location tags haunt me. I break into a cold sweat and literally hyperventilate driving into Atlanta. I've broken all ties with anything that reminds me of the past - of those days. I duck my head from white Jeep wranglers. The smell of beer makes me physically sick. I have security detail at church and I scan the congregation before setting foot on the Platform. I jump when someone grabs my wrist - even if unintentional. My number is unlisted. I felt an underlying need to move for 17 years - knowing he knew where I lived. I don't ever use my maiden name. I have a hard time trusting - anyone. It's always right there.. under the radar...I'm always looking over my shoulder.
Even though there aren't physical scars, the scars on my memory are very real. I feel the necklace chain cutting into my throat. I hear the sound of him breaking the chair trying to get to me. I remember the bruises on my wrists. I can hear the sound of the windshield breaking and seeing the blood on his hands. I smell the drunken rants. I taste the tears, hear myself crying, begging. I hear myself apologizing, taking him back time and time again, knowing if I didn't, he'd hurt me worse. I hear him pounding the door. I can't run hard enough, fast enough, far enough to leave it all behind. it was only Four years... and now it's 20 later... and it. AlL. Still.. scares. me.
I REALIZE I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THE PLACE OR TIME OR EVENT WHERE He might be. In an effort to control that - to control anything - I organize, clean, obsess over making things feel 'safe' for me. Dishes can't be in the sink, clutter can't be undone, house must be picked up before bed - for whatever reason - that is something I can control. That is Safe. I'd rather be alone than with a group because Groups don't feel safe. The fun-loving, let's throw caution to the wind, Life of the party extrovert in me died. The introvert arose out of panic. I fear he will be where I am. That I'll be somehow caught off guard.
It only happened once in 20 years, but it could again.
How unfair is it that I have lived the last 20 years like it revolved around 4. How unfair to my incredibly faithful, loving, rescuer-husband, that I have lived in this kind of fear.... when all he's done is love me, given me reason to trust him, given me an opportunity to really live? He touches the small of my back, I jump. Every. time. He grabs my wrist to protect me from stepping into the street - I turn on him and hiss... 'don't grab my wrist'. He tells me that he loves me - every day - and even though I respond in kind.. I wonder, does he really? When will he leave? Why is he saying that? He's never given me any indication of ANYTING but of undying love, complete devotion, passionate romance, a fairy tale life... and yet I doubt that it's real. As if someone has put him up to it... that he can't really feel that way. All of that because of 4 little years with one fool who still, probably to this day, rarely thinks of me.
I want to not remember. I want to trust. I want to start over - 20 years ago... and do it all again, but this time, believing my lover every time he tells me he loves me. Believing he wants the best for me and that he will never leave. Believing that the past is gone - and all that matters is our life now. I just don't know how to not be afraid. I've stuffed it so far down and tried to just forget... I don't want to remember... to talk about it, but would it make it better if I did? Drug it all up?
How do you live without fear, when it wants to define who I am? When so much of it is All I know to be....
"Oh. Hi Sabbath."
"You and I need to talk."
"I feel like I don't even know you anymore. No, no - it's not you, really, it's me. I've been running around all over town and completely ignoring you. Resting? Humph. Hardly. Burning at both ends more like it. Yeah, I know - I've missed you too."
"The family? Oh yeah, they're great. You should see how big the kids are. My oldest is looking such the pre-teen, mmmhmm, 11. Almost 12. And the baby, well, I know, right? Where did 6 years go?"
"Work? It's good. It's the best, hardest thing that I've ever done. Comes with it's challenges and trials... yeah, I know, I really should tell you about it more often. Most days I'm looking your way to wrap stuff up, not to just exhale it all out. I gotta talk to you more..."
"I need this day so badly. Today I rand where I could feel sand, see water and sky that just might have touched my Hanalei home once. And breathe, breathe, breathe".