Category Archives: Guitar

A guitar, a crib, a dashboard, and a book club (reflections on a year in a small, weekly home group)

The school year is winding down.

Among other things, that means the small group I’ve attended for the last 9 months or so will come to a close, too*.

A few reflections on “my” group this year:

  1. As a worship leader, I don’t get to pick my group.  Each August, I hear chatter between friends, “Whose group are you thinking about going to this year?  What night is it?  Whose house is it at?  Who is the leader?  Wanna go together??”  That sort of thing.  I don’t get to participate in those conversations.  I go where I’m assigned.  That’s good news and bad news.  If there is someone who goes to a group who is a particular friend of mine, it’s totally by coincidence.  I’m often assigned to groups that I wouldn’t have personally chosen, for one reason or another.  BUT… that also means that, each year, I get to grow closer to a bunch of people who, even if I wouldn’t have chosen them for myself, God has chosen them for me!!  He knows what I need, even when I don’t.  It seems that, usually, God uses that year’s group to challenge me…  God knows that I need stretching and growth in a particular area, and proclaims to me, “Here is your opportunity!  And you can’t escape it!  Hahahaha!”  Yes, I envision God laughing at me like that.  He has a funny sense of humor.  However, this year, the group I’ve been in has been such… comfort to my heart.  Such comfort.  It is filled with thoughtful, caring, tender people, whose hearts overflow with love.  Usually, during ministry time, toward the end of our time together, I am playing my guitar, covering the environment, praying or singing over the interactions taking place in front of me.  In all my past groups, I’d rarely be the recipient of prayer.  I’m totally OK with that.  But, it has blessed me to tears that virtually every week, someone will come over and lay their hand on my shoulder and quietly speak a prayer of blessing and encouragement over me…  I feel un-forgotten.
  2. A family in my group this year has gone through something I can’t even imagine.  It has rent my heart.  For the past three years, they have fostered a baby since he was only a few weeks old.  Initially, they thought (due to the proclamations of the mother) that they were blood-related to this baby.  They didn’t find out until the baby was two, I believe, that he was actually of no blood relation.  However, they have loved and cared for him and cherished him as the son of their heart.  This past year, a distant blood relation of the child decided that they wanted the boy.  And, in what was a blow to all of us, the courts decided in favor of the distant blood relative, rather than in favor of the parents this baby has had for literally his entire life.  The mother approached me a few weeks ago…  “When he goes to live with his new family, I’d like you to have his crib for your new baby, if you want it.”  That killed me.  My heart has been so knit to this family through their struggle to keep their little boy…  And the crib is REALLY NICE.  Really nice.  I’m sure they could sell it on Craigslist and recoup some of the money spent.  But, they’d rather I have it.  They said they’d be honored.  Oh, my Lord.  *I* am honored.  The day their son went to live with his new, permanent family, about a week and a half ago, they brought the crib to my home.  So very, very bittersweet.  ~sigh~  But that crib will now be a reminder to me of that little boy who, in my estimation, should still be with the parents who raised him for more than three years.  It will be a physical reminder to pray for him, far away now…  And to pray for the parents whose hearts have been broken and broken and broken over this.
  3. On a few occasions, our group takes the opportunity to bring food and ministry to various families in need in our local area.  The last time was almost two weeks ago.  I was with a group of four others.  Usually, we have names and addresses and specific people expecting to receive us.  This past time, though, we were just sent out with bags of groceries and instructed to just pray about where to go.  The group I was in went to an apartment complex.  However, after walking around (up and down stairs) for about 30 minutes, I started having contractions and I could feel my ankles swell rapidly.  So, a man in the group and I went back to someone’s car to sit while the others finished.  This man had had a stroke five years ago and doesn’t walk well, himself.  So, we sat in the car and chatted.  I asked him all sorts of questions about his past, his stroke, his recovery, his relationships…  I kept asking and he kept talking.  It was a lovely evening, with cool breezes wafting through the open windows of the vehicle.  I kept thinking, “This is such a treasure.”  It’s hard to explain, but I had the thought, “Would I normally have 30 minutes to sit down and chat with a 60-something man?  No.  Would we ever go out to coffee together?  No.  But is this so valuable, such a blessing to the both of us??  Yes.”  Once again, it was like God saying, “I know what you need, I know what he needs, and I’m going to use this little opportunity that wouldn’t arise any other way to knit your hearts together.”  And I just kept thinking, “THIS is what being the Body of Christ is about.  THIS IS IT.  This is Church life.  This is what God does.”  He brings us into deeper and more sincere relationship, often with people we would not have chosen for ourselves to be our “buddies” but in the end, it turns out to be JUST what we needed.  God is smart like that.  🙂
  4. Lastly, I have been part of a small book club for… five years I think it has been.  Our group started out with eight women, all from “my” church.  As time has progressed, about half of us no longer go to the same church, but the group has persisted.  However, a couple of women have moved out of state, and one more is heading imminently in that direction, and on Saturday, those who remain had a little discussion:  “Whom should we invite to join us?”  And I was delighted to suggest a woman who is in my small group.  I just know she’ll be a good fit for our small group of diverse, thoughtful women who meet every other month to discuss a book which has (as is our goal) “Good Art + Good Message.”  We’ve read a great range of fiction and non-fiction, contemporary works and classics, poetry, memoirs, novels, and more.  The thing is this:  This particular woman whom I offered as a potential member, up to the other ladies…  Well, I NEVER would have known her, if it hadn’t been for small group.  We’re of much different ages, we don’t typically relate in the same circles of people…  We’re just in different walks of life.  But, after going to small group with her on Thursday nights, I know she is insightful, humorous, kind, and thinks deeply.  I very, very likely wouldn’t have discovered that, had it not been for small group.  And I look forward to getting to know her better through the book club.  And it’s good for HER, too.  We all want to be known.  We all want to be wanted.  We all need friendship.  We all long to be noticed and appreciated…

So, once again, I find myself thankful for my God, who knows what I need — and even what I want — well before I do.  And He is kind enough to set me up to “discover” it for myself.  He gives me those things, like gifts…  And I am sincerely thankful for His care over me.

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*My church has small home groups that meet throughout the school year, and then summers typically see a variety of special classes or Bible studies that last 2-8 weeks

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Hyper-nesting, time well-spent (or not), and hearing from God…

I have a one-ish track mind.  I tend to bunch my thoughts, my efforts together in one spot…  Right now, even though I’m 26 weeks pregnant, and one might think I have, “BABY BABY BABY,” going through my mind, it’s not.

Actually, that’s somewhat of a good thing.

Historically, I start nesting somewhere around five weeks pregnant and it’s all I can do to remain focused and engaged with the rest of my life, responsibilities included, for the whole pregnancy.  I tend to spend eight solid months with a nearly compulsive bent toward thinking, dreaming, planning, preparing, for my new baby.  I put a huge amount of emotional investment and TIME into it.  On one hand, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing.  But, when I have other children who need mothering and schooling; when I have a home that needs cleaning and maintenance; when I have a husband who shouldn’t have to fight for my attention; when I have responsibilities at church that need me to NOT be thinking, “I sssooooo don’t want to be doing this;” when I have friends who merit attention, my hyper-nesting isn’t that great of a thing.

So, for me, the fact that this is on the back burner of my mind:  I’m going to be adding an 8th member to our family in three months or so…  is rather a blessing.  I’m not struggling like I usually do with wanting to drop everything and become a hermit in my home and feeling VERY CRABBY that there are other parts of my life that are calling.

I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone.

I, for one, though, am very happy to feel ENGAGED with the world at 26 weeks pregnant*.

No, this is not me. It’s Emily Robinson from the Dixie Chicks, playing a dobro.

  • We’re still doing school (though I am REALLY looking forward to our Easter Break next week).
  • My home is quite tidy (most of it).
  • I’m still leading worship in a weekly small group (though I joked that I might need to obtain a dobro sometime in the near future to accommodate my expanding belly).
  • I’m still leading worship twice a month for SuperChurch (the 6-12 year-olds’ Sunday morning service).
  • I’m still singing with the “big church” worship team two or three Sundays a month (I keep telling myself that I probably look ridiculous dancing…  Oh, well.).
  • I’m still hosting the weekly CSA at my home, and even just decided that I’m going to do at least another 12 weeks, shortly after the current season ends on May 1 (even though I’ll have to find an alternate location for while I’m in labor…).
  • If anything, I feel MORE connected to both my husband and our five children during this pregnancy.  I also feel more peaceful.  This is probably my happiest pregnancy ever.

Knowing my history, I wasn’t sure, three months ago or so, that I should do the CSA.  I often start well, but don’t finish strong.  I get all fired up for one project or another, then start to lose steam…  I was more than a bit concerned that this would be a similar endeavor, and then, when I lost focus and dropped the project, not only would I pay for it, but so would the 25 or so other people who were counting on me, and their families…

Also… and this is hard to communicate;  I can’t grasp the right descriptive words…  But, I was uncertain if the CSA was where God wanted me to invest my time.  I long to be fruitful.  I want the things I do to have lasting impact.  I want my time to be well-spent.  I want my involvement with others to have more than just a tinge of “ministry”.  I mean… not that I’m trying to make this The Christian CSA with a prayer corner, worship music in the background, and Bible verses plastered all over my fridge — not that at all.  But, I wanted this to be worthwhile in every sphere, and I wasn’t certain if hosting the CSA was a good choice in how to spend my time — time which often feels spread too thinly as it is.

So, I prayed about it.  “Is this where you want me, God?  Is this OK?”

I got no discernible response.  I’m not saying God didn’t speak, but if He did, I missed it.  I didn’t even feel vaguely “led” one way or another.

I asked my husband — who is well-acquainted with my tendency to rush into projects hard and fast and then feel overwhelmed — what he thought.  Honestly, I was a little surprised that he seemed to think favorably about the whole thing.

It didn’t seem like God was telling me, “No,” although a nice, clear, resounding, “YES!” would have made me feel much more confident.

So, I went with my husband’s approval.

Well.

I guess I had previously felt that I was hosting the CSA for my own personal benefit.  I mean, from the bottom of my heart, I truly want to equip others to eat better.  But, I was kind of compelled more by the fact that I would get roughly $40 worth of local, fresh, organic produce for FREE each week, plus earn $1 per person, per week for what seemed like very little time.

I was wrong on nearly all accounts.

In the six weeks the CSA has been operational:

  • A couple of weeks, I’ve gotten much less than $40 worth.  The remaining time I’ve received FAR more.  We’re rolling in veggies, which pleases me to no end.
  • I anticipated making around $40/week, thinking we’d have that many participants.  However, we started with only 16, and are now up to 24.  So, I am not making even enough money to pay the midwife each month, which was my thought going into it.
  • It takes much more time than I realized it would.  Not only do I devote time “on the ground” from 2:00 – 5:30 every Wednesday, but there is a lot of communication and planning involved, too.  I probably spend an additional 3-3½ hours weekly, often more.  Seven hours total every week may not seem like a lot to you, but in my world, subtracting seven hours from other things that I could be doing??  That’s huge.  That’s a big commitment.

Much more significant, though, is how I have been absolutely surprised by the positive feedback I’ve received from so many of the participants.

I was thinking recently about how, when I started blogging more than seven years ago, I was just compelled to write.  It was 100% for my own benefit.  I saw blogging as an online version of journaling:  simply documenting the time and thoughts as they passed.  I wasn’t trying to gather an admiring crowd.  I wasn’t trying to change the world.  I wasn’t trying to impress anyone or even benefit them.  I just wanted to write.

Similarly, with the CSA:  I just wanted some veggies.  Some free, organic veggies.

But with both endeavors, I have been very taken aback by the genuine thanks, the more-than-occasional encouraging note, the thoughtful gestures that have come my way…  I never thought — not once — that hosting a produce-pickup was going to make a difference in anyone’s life;  I entered into it as rather an indulgence in something of significant interest to me.  But, similar to how I am now compelled to continue blogging by the random e-mails that will start off, “Thank you for your post on ______________ .  I was in tears because of my situation of __________.  I stumbled upon your post, and it was just what I needed, and here’s how it affected me:  ______________.  It was just what I needed and I can’t tell you how thankful I am.” — I am now compelled to continue the CSA due to letters like this (shared with permission):

You’re a good friend Karen – even if “long distance”. I don’t think I would have stepped into organic thinking without your help and encouragement. The rest of my extended family think I’m nuts…a super picky eater or whatever. But I have strong convictions to take care of the body God blessed me with and it brings joy to my heart hearing my kids happily talk about healthy vegetables during mealtimes! It’s sad. I never knew any fresh vegetables except iceberg lettuce when I was a kid…nothing but canned and always over cooked. Surprisingly I took after my grandma it seems in how I feel about my health and she lived to be 70 even after smoking for 20 years of her life! She found Jesus, quit smoking & drinking cold turkey and lived a life of joy I still remember this day. I guess I’m sharing just to show my appreciation for you Karen. You have made a difference in my life too. I Love you friend.

That made me cry.  It also made me think that maybe why God was so silent was because He knew that I was just looking for Him to say, “Yes, it’s OK with me that you have this interest, and yes, it’s OK with me that you invest your time here.”  I was just looking for permission.  But He was setting me up.

I sent an e-mail of thanks back to my friend and asked her if I could put her story on my blog.  She didn’t immediately respond and I got nervous.  But, when her reply came, the tears flowed anew.

I would be honored to be a story in your blog – Please feel free to write whatever you wish! Amazing…Our Lord God never fails to love and “push” us into His most blessed plan if just choose to submit! Love you,  your thoughts & prayers are never wasted.

“Never wasted.”

I’m an ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs scale…  If you click on that link, at least 95% of it is me, to a T.

  • They have a strongly-felt internal sense of duty, which lends them a serious air and the motivation to follow through on tasks.
  • They place great importance on honesty and integrity. They are “good citizens” who can be depended on to do the right thing for their families and communities. While they generally take things very seriously, they also usually have an offbeat sense of humor and can be a lot of fun – especially at family or work-related gatherings.
  • The ISTJ will work for long periods of time and put tremendous amounts of energy into doing any task which they see as important to fulfilling a goal. However, they will resist putting energy into things which don’t make sense to them, or for which they can’t see a practical application.
  • Once the ISTJ supports a cause or idea, he or she will stop at no lengths to ensure that they are doing their duty of giving support where support is needed.
  • Traditional and family-minded, they will put forth great amounts of effort at making their homes and families running smoothly. They are responsible parents, taking their parenting roles seriously. They are usually good and generous providers to their families.
  • They are very hard workers, who do not allow obstacles to get in the way of performing their duties. They do not usually give themselves enough credit for their achievements, seeing their accomplishments simply as the natural fulfillment of their obligations.

It has actually been quite a while since I reviewed what I’m “supposed” to be like as an Introverted Sensing Thinking Judger.  But, re-reading that descriptive page makes me appreciate God more:  He who made me knows who I am.  He knows what I need.  He knows what brings me joy.  He knows what will surprise me.  He knows how to stretch me without breaking me.  And He knows just the right time to bring encouragement to me…

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*It recently came to my attention that I never stated what this child will be:  SHE IS A GIRL.  My husband was 100% right.  Not only was I pregnant, but the baby is a girl.

 

 

More than you ever cared to read about my fingernails.

I decided that as a 40-year-old mother of six, it was time to grow up and stop biting my nails.

I’m not actually either 40 nor a mother of six, but I will be both in about four months.

I don’t think my lifelong nail-biting habit is a nervous one;  It’s just more of a compulsion… Especially when I read.  But even if it’s a nervous habit, I figure it’s better than Xanax.

I have a friend who is older than me… Not quite old enough to be my mother, but definitely older than me.  And she bites her nails.  That always made me feel a tad better.  It shouldn’t have, but it did.  Until I glanced at her hands recently and saw that they had been nicely manicured and she said it had been some months since she’d bitten them.  She still hasn’t resumed.

I have a number of problems with NOT biting my nails, in addition to the whole habit/compulsion part of it:

  1. I play guitar, so they can’t be long anyway.
  2. If I want to stop biting my nails, it really helps if they’re painted;  that’s quite a deterrent.  However, as a chemical-avoidant person — any kind of chemical, for any reason — it chaps my hide that nail polish is one massive bucket o’ chemicals.  BAD ones.  Ones that, under pretty much all other circumstances, I wouldn’t expose myself to.  I felt like a hypocrite, buying nail polish at Target earlier this week.  I had to, though, because all my other nail polishes were 5+ years old and gooey;  they wouldn’t dry.
  3. If I want to stop biting my nails, it’s best if I just IGNORE them.  But, when one has nails, there is a whole, new, mandatory hygiene regimen associated with them, and they can’t be ignored.

It seems almost like I’m doomed to fail before I even begin.

But, vanity and a bit of shame compels me — the shame part as described above:  “I’m too ‘mature’ to bite my nails.  What is wrong with me??”

And the vanity comes in when, on a near-daily basis, on the Birth Without Fear blog, I view the multiple awesome pics of mamas triumphing through labor, with joyful relief as they’re now holding the tiny one they’ve waited so long to behold… and can you imagine if you see the mama’s hand, cradling the perfect newborn, and there are gnawed off stumps where the fingernails are supposed to be??  Yuck.  I’m not saying that a birth story and accompanying photos of mine will ever appear on the blog.  And I’ve never had a birth photographer present for any of my births.  I’ve never even had a friend or family member take pics of the process!!  But, if I did… Would I want to see the remains of what should be my nails, but have been chewed into oblivion??  No.  No, I wouldn’t.

And so, it has been two weeks since I’ve bitten.  In my world, that’s a long time.  I can’t quite call it “triumph” yet, but it’s a good start.

Nails

I don’t even like this color. But, it was on clearance. $3.84 — which still seems crazy-expensive — for this color, or $6-9 for nicer, less pink and frosty ones. And, no, I won’t buy $1 nail polish, because I need it to dry and need it to not chip off. Still, if you’ve seen me in real life and have thought, “That’s not a color I would have pictured on Karen,” you’re right; it’s not a color I would picture on myself, either.  I have to find somewhere local to buy Zoya nail lacquer, because apparently, it’s the only brand that is actually free of formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP).

 

Now, all I need to do is color my hair — WITH HENNA — again.  There goes the vanity again:  I think I’m the grayest pregnant woman ever and it just doesn’t seem right.  But, that’s a story for another day…

What God spoke to me.

I was recently thinking that, for all I have disclosed on this blog over the last 6+ years, so much of the most significant events in my life go unrecorded.  Some things are inappropriate to share, some defy my attempts at explanation, some I just never get around to…

I’ve been considering that anew, this last week.  I just don’t even know if I could — or perhaps even should — convey all that happened to me.  It’s hard to explain.

New Irish friend Azman & me, having a really good conversation.

The short version is that I went to a three-day International Leadership Summit — a retreat in the cool pines of Prescott, Arizona.  Back down the hill into the Valley of the Sun, the following day, is what we call International Super Sunday, with an extended church service in the morning, and a nearly five-hour event at night that features a dinner, some amazing speaking, and worship, followed up by a prophetic presbytery, where leaders with prophetic gifting (30ish or so) will give a personal prophetic word to anyone who wants one, and pretty much all the attendees want one.  🙂  Or two.  Or three.  Or as many as there is time for.

My love and me, taken by a different new Irish friend, Claire... I don't look this good in real life. 🙂 Bless God for the occasional use of makeup and supportive undergarments.

The whole Leadership Summit started about 15 years ago with just the leadership team of my own church — 20-30 good folk (and their spouses, as appropriate, most of whom are also leaders) who lead a specific area of ministry within the church.  Then, we expanded to invite a few of the pastors/leaders of various international ministries/churches with whom we minister, or over whom we have some apostolic leadership.  (See?  I bet I just lost a good 50% of you with that last sentence, and I’m just not going to explain it, either.  Unless you ask.)

Of the Summit — which is three jam-packed, meaty days of teaching, worship, and ministry, the most significant to me was Friday night.  On that night, I was praying for some friends when the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon me.  At first, I just bent over and put my hands on my thighs, kind of holding myself up.  Then, I sat.  After a while, I had to lie down.  It wasn’t that sort of dramatic thing you may have heard about (and which I repeatedly have witnessed) where the Holy Spirit performs a “smack down” and a person slumps to the floor or falls backward.  It was a little more subtle than that.  But not by much.

For… a time… at least more than an hour, but I don’t know how long, I was prayed over and ministered to, both by my dear, dear friends… co-workers in Christ… and by the Holy Spirit.  I was trembly, deep in my core and up into my shoulders and arms, as the Holy Spirit was on me.  My abs are still sore, nearly a week later, I was shaking so long.

Everyone who yields to the Holy Spirit and comes under His power finds a different experience.  Some shake violently.  Some laugh.  Some weep.  Some experience a profound calm.  Another dear friend, Paul Min, an apostolic 77-year-old powerhouse from Irvine, California (originally from South Korea), experiences his legs shaking, and he knows the power of God is residing in him.  I tend to quiver/convulse in my core.  It’s been like that for my whole life.

I know that a great many of you may think that odd and/or unbelievable, and that you’d not care for it, and you’re having second thoughts about me, right about now.  Frankly, that doesn’t matter so much.  Well, the part that doesn’t matter is what you think of me.  It does matter a great deal to me how you consider the God of all creation.  But, you can think I’m a looney, and I’m all right with that.  Even if you stop reading my blog.  😉

Anyone who has read here for any length of time is well-aware that I’m a Christian;  I don’t hide that, though not every post is about JESUS JESUS JESUS.  It’s more like, “This is my life, and Jesus is an integral part of it, of me.”  I often don’t want to post on the more God-oriented events of my life, because its so hard to communicate effectively and so easily misunderstood.  But, I felt like this last week was too significant to just pass by.

See what I mean by that first paragraph?

So.  What happened to me in that time can be broken down into

  1. What others prayed over me.
  2. What the Holy Spirit spoke directly to me.

In the past, when I “go down” under the power of the Spirit, I — to my remembrance — have never heard His specific, direct words.  Instead, what I usually experience is more like a… sense, an overwhelming sense of whatever it is I need most at the time:  His love, His power, His mercy, His forgiveness, His whatever.  This time was different in that I felt very strongly that I heard His voice.  It wasn’t loud.  More than a whisper, but not loud.  But, there were some specific things, some specific words and thoughts that I have never had, on my own, and I feel very strongly that they were beyond “impressions”;  they were the Word of God, to me, addressing some very specific needs.

Another thing that was different…  Sometimes, I have become a wee bit confused over others’ prayers over me.  Everyone, even those with maturity, doesn’t always hear from God 100% right, and the things that come out of their mouths aren’t always the pure, unadulterated Word of God.  For that reason, Scripture teaches us to “weigh carefully” what is spoken by prophecy.  In the past, I’ve had some difficulty at times, sorting out what’s what.  This time, among the 7+ people who prayed over me, and the many things that were spoken, there were two specific instances where God said, “That’s immature and inaccurate.  You can toss that.”  And silently, I returned prayer for the the person who was praying, thanking God for their willingness to minister and pray, but asking Him to increase the clarity of their spiritual ears, so that in the future, they could pray with more effectiveness.  It is my observation that in situations like that, the pray-er is often speaking out of what they know about that person, and their own personal views, rather than led by the Holy Spirit.  That doesn’t make God’s word less powerful, though those who minister prophetically should be continually seeking greater clarity, accuracy, and maturity.  I Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

When the whole Friday night episode was over, I got up and wrote down everything I could remember.

Here are some of the things that God showed me — I’m not sharing everything.  Some of it is too personal, and some of it doesn’t quite make sense to me, and I have to hash it out, to seek God on it, still:

  • God showed me that some of the interests I have pursued — specifically writing and birthing stuff — I have done because I am afraid that I am too old to have prophetic singing/worship stuff fulfilled in me, things that have been prayed and spoken over me repeatedly — countless times — for the last 20+ years.  Writing and birthing are not bad and they may be pursued later, but for the right reasons, not out of fear or distraction.
  • I am to go to bed when my husband Martin does.  He is an early riser and I’ve always been a night owl.  In addition, I am an introvert, and I crave that time, late at night, when the house is still and no one needs me.  That is my “recharge” time.  However, it saddens my husband that I will not go to bed with him when he does, except maybe once a week.  I have thought he’s unreasonable/uncaring that he wants me do do/be something I’m not, and he thinks that I am unreasonable/uncaring because I won’t value his tender heart and the fact that he is restless until I come to bed.  I have been beyond stubborn, when what I really need to do is to obey.  I need to value him.  It is a “little” point of contention to me, but it is HUGE to my husband.  God the father affirmed to me that He will take care of things I fear I will lose in the process, and will make their replacement worthwhile.
  • I must be intentionalabout investing in both my guitar-playing and my singing.  I am a fair guitar-player and I have a great voice.  I’m not bragging;  it was a gift of God that I’ve known about since my early childhood.  However, for my whole life, I’ve just been expecting God to DO SOMETHING about my voice, with my voice.  And He has, to an extent.  I am one of the core vocalists on my precious church’s worship team.  I lead worship (playing guitar and singing) weekly in a home group.  I am one of the three worship leaders for our church’s 6-12 year-olds.  I have been maturing and growing in spontaneous prophetic singing.  Yet, I know that that is not all God has in store for me.  I know I’m not living up to my potential, to His calling in me.  However, I have just expected Him to drop some bomb, some opportunity, to hit me over the head with some profound and specific direction, and He hasn’t done that.  He said that, instead, I need to be intentional about working that gift, investing in it, prioritizing it, furthering it, developing skill…  I totally have NOT done that in the past.  I’ve just coasted on what I have.  To that end, He gave me two imperatives:
    • I am to play guitar and sing for a minimum of an hour, daily.  If I do other things — read, blog, pursue other interests, etc. — it is to be after that hour is completed.
    • I am to take a voice class.  (I’m not sure why about this one, and I have looked into it — the community college that is very close to my home, however, is an extension campus, and does not have voice.  The other location is REALLY far away, spring classes have already started, and the schedule doesn’t seem like it would work at all.  So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that.)
  • I felt indescribably strongly that smallish but mighty Vineyard Phoenix, my home church for 17+ years, will always be my Favorite House.  With capital letters.  My husband just got done reading a book by Tommy Tenney called God’s Favorite House.  I have not read it, though I know it is about building the local body of Christ, the local church.  I was FILLED with love and thankfulness and tenderness for the people who have poured themselves out for the Kingdom, for Jesus, and for me personally.  Even though about half (or more?) of those at the Summit were from other nations, those who prayed for me on Friday night — minus one — were all from my local church, Vineyard Phoenix.  I felt that was specific and intentional.  I have long loved the people of my church, especially those on the leadership team, with whom I have served for these many years, and whose pure, vibrant hearts for ministry and the  Gospel of Jesus I have been endless witness to.  But, especially on Friday night, I was filled with a… beyond-strong love for each.  Vicious, almost.  Abandoned, intense, jealous over, consuming, zealous love for my co-laborers in Christ.

I was going to next describe the things that were prayed over me by individuals, but I think that, instead, I will save that for next time.

Until then…  🙂  My love to all readers who have made it thus far.

“Come, oh winds of testing…”

I got carded last night at Trader Joe’s, buying some sparkly for New Year’s.  That cashier knew how to perk up the outlook of a down-faced 38-year-old.  I had a good laugh with the lady right behind me, who congratulated me on the event.  She was friendly and warm and had a Nigerian accent, and I left with a smile on my face.

At the previous store, Costco, I had decided that despite my current state of affairs — a really ugly situation with my ten-year-old son and a neighborhood boy, which has escalated into three families boycotting our family, and which is still not even remotely resolved — that God didn’t intend for me to:

a) walk in shame
nor
b) treat people like crap just because I’m feeling badly.

When I go on my weekly marathon grocery shopping trips, where I typically visit 4-6 stores and spend 3-4 hours doing so, I make an intentional effort to be kind to customers and cashiers, to go above and beyond what might be expected of a typical late-night shopper, and to spread the love of Jesus, if only a smile at a time, to those I encounter.  This approach almost never fails to have some sort of positive effect on someone, and often results in some really interesting interactions with shoppers and/or store employees.  Last week, a cashier at Bashas’, Nina, told me that I was her favorite customer.  I laughed, and then she prompted me, “Now, you’re supposed to say, ‘And Nina is my favorite cashier!'”  I complied, although, honestly, she’s not.  She’s kind of grumpy and gets on my case about often needing assistance to find out-of-stock sale items late at night:  “What do you expect?  It’s 10:45 at night!  We close in 15 minutes.  Of course the butcher isn’t here and there’s no one who can help you in meat.”  She also makes fun of me for taking so long in the store.  I check my list, I check my coupons, I read labels endlessly…  I’m sure I take longer than the typical shopper.  In spite of this, though, she likes me.  🙂  I think I like her more, for liking me.

Nina thinks I’m amazing for having five children and tells everyone about it — other employees and customers alike.  I don’t particularly think that’s a reason for merit, but I’ll take it.  She wasn’t there last night, though, to prop up my ego;  her son got married on the 27th and she took the whole week off.

Anyway.  Back to Costco.

My cashier there was Richard.  He’s tall and very thin, and I have often wondered where he purchases his jeans, though I have never mustered up the courage — or would it be cheek? — to ask him.  He asked me the standard question about whether I had found all I was looking for.  I replied that I had, thank you, and made eye contact with him, smiling.  He paused, responded cheerfully, and with what seemed to be an intentionally friendly manner, finished up my order.  Not friendly-flirting.  Friendly as in, “Wow, you are treating me like a person and I appreciate it.”  As I walked away, I marveled at, truly, how little it takes to make someone’s day a little better.

That’s when I resolved to still do my normal, intentionally kind shopping trip, instead of wallowing in the misery of the situation with my son.

Misty Edwards helped me, too.  To be honest, I’m not a rabid fan of hers.  Those who like her tend to REALLY like her.  I’m not like that.  I just don’t often enjoy listening to endless Misty-IHOP music;  it just doesn’t float my boat, even though I love, love, love worship.*  Last night, though, when I got into my hubby’s car to go grocery shopping, he had Fling Wide on, and I let it play, needing some soothing for my sore soul.  Track 5 came on, the title track, and I almost fast-forwarded it because I just don’t like the opening lines, “Awake, awake oh north wind, awake, awake oh south wind…”  But, I let it play because I love the electric guitar on that song, and I was thinking, “How does the chorus to this song go?  I think I remember liking it.”  And I did.  I do.  I hit repeat, really listening to the lyrics the second time through, part of which say, “Come, oh winds of testing…”

What??” I thought, “I’m not liking winds of testing right now.”

I really do NOT have a “bring it on!” mentality to testing.  At all.  I don’t like being tested.  I don’t know if Misty really does, or if she simply has made peace with the value of being refined by it.  In any case, she appears to be further down that path of maturity than I am.

To most of the song, though, I really can yield, singing loudly and with full agreement, “Fling wide the door to my soul/Open up the door to my heart/Have Your way, have Your way…” even though I have to will myself to sing the next few lines about “I won’t be afraid/I’ll embrace the flame” and I’m sure any fly buzzing around the cab of the car would note the lack of conviction in my voice at that point…

I hit repeat on that track about six or seven times before I just resigned myself to the fact that I needed to put the song on a continuous loop-repeat.

Even though I really need to update that 101 Random Things About Me page, #43 is still in full effect:  “When I’m upset, I love to go on an errand by myself and BLAST worship music in the truck, singing my guts out.”

————-

*Gross generalization:  I find that most IHOP worship tends to be really internally-focused, introspective, “search my heart… I am weak and lowly…” kind of worship, and I tend to prefer songs that focus directly on Jesus and His character and ability, and/or a little more transcendent worship/rejoicing in who He is…  Hard to explain.  Not trying to pick any fights with anyone, just trying to explain where my worshiper’s heart is at, and it typically doesn’t beat in quite the same place that Misty Edwards, et al, seem to beat.

Where do you get the time to…?

I’ve heard it said that you will find the time for the things you value.  I semi-agree.

Someone asked me, “Where do you find the time to read all those books?” after my recent post on reading.  The answer is a little complicated, and I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days.

First, I have value for a WHOLE LOT of things that I cannot “find” time for, in part because my time is not wholly my own.  I have a family to attend to, and I’d be abhorrently irresponsible, remiss in my duties if I simply set about my life seeking “me time” (I hate that term, by the way).  I can’t just set off on a stroll through the woods, alongside a meandering creek, binoculars around my neck, and my Sibley guide in hand, just because I want to.  I could find the time, but if I did that, who would watch the kids?  Who would teach them?  Who would do their laundry?  Or make dinner?  Would my husband still be happy in our marriage?  Would I still be able to serve the Body of Christ, and my particular church body, with leading worship in small group?  For the children’s church?  Would I be able to say, “Yes!” to the various church-related printed matter that gets sent my way for editing?  Would I be able to contribute a wee bit to our family’s finances — by writing — if I was always pursuing the things that make only me happy?

So, sometimes, it’s a matter of priorities.  There are many things I value and would adore to spend more time doing, but other responsibilities trump them.  And, there are some things that I absolutely adore, but if I do them, the activity devoted to them precludes my availability to do something else.  You can’t always get what you want, even if what you want is a good thing.

For me, I have struggled long and hard with not being such an idealist.  Being an “idealist” may sound lovely, but if you’re an idealist of my tendencies, it’s not so great.  I spend too much effort pining for “If only…” and “I remember when…” and that’s truly not helpful.  In years past, and to some extent, even now, I can easily become immobilized by my idealism.  I know the best way, the right way;  I remember when the situation for “x” pursuit was much more ideal;  I see, way too easily, the roadblocks that present themselves, rendering a situation much less-than-ideal.  I wish for things to be much better than they are, rather than attacking what’s on my plate right now.   Thus, I do nothing, rather than doing it halfway.

And, that brings up another point.  I love my mother so dearly, but something that has long frustrated me about her outlook on life, is that she looks at her plate, and with a resigned sigh, remarks, in the Christian way of how she’s fated to eat everything on it, “Well, I guess that’s just what God has given to me, and I need to be thankful for this, and deal with it.”  That can be GREAT, in some instances:  She always makes the best out of what she has.  But, on the other hand, I’ve seen her eat things on her plate that really should be relegated to the garbage bin.  Metaphorically, of course.  Well, not even metaphorically!  I grew up thinking mothers liked burnt toast.

I don’t know if this is tracking, but what I’m trying to do is find the balance between taking everything in life as it presents itself –the good and the bad — and the idealism that can envision a much, much, much better present, as well as future.

Idealism can also lead me to a dark place of discontentment.  Instead of “self help” or “inspirational” books (or people) inspiring me, they almost invariably seem to bring to me to a painful realization of how not great something is in my life, how not great I am, how less-than-ideal I am.  And, rather than that bringing my thoughts to a loftier place of aiming for what’s better, it discourages me about where I currently am.

Though, sometimes, discouraged or not, I know I have to pull up my boots with those proverbial bootstraps and change.  But, that’s another topic.  Sort of.

Into all of the semi-confusion above enters my love of books, though the same could be said for MANY pursuits I have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy, at a now-modified pace):  playing guitar; hiking (or just walking); writing; birding; spending time with friends — especially conversing, one on one, in the dim corner of a small coffee shop; listening to music (recorded or live); having devotional time with my Savior, et al.

When I was a child, I was a voracious reader.  VORACIOUS.  I read just about everything I could get my hands on, which was usually at least a book per day.  My mom took us to the library weekly, and our limit, per child, per trip, was six books.  I always finished mine, almost always before the date arrived for our next trip, and usually helped myself to my older brother’s stack…  That stuck with me through my college years, and into the time before I was married.

After marriage — though this sounds ridiculous — one of the toughest things I had to adjust to was my new lack of time for reading.  I was used to curling up, virtually every evening, with my current novel.  My hubby watched TV in the evening.  I was aghast.

Add that to my new responsibilities of keeping house and treading the tumultuous waters of a new marriage, so books went out the window.  When I was pregnant with my firstborn, and not working, I read more books during that time than I had in the previous two years of my marriage.  After that, babies took over.

It wasn’t really until about four years ago when I started reading again, in earnest.  In other words, I spent a good eight nor nine years saying to myself, “Well, I guess I just can’t read.”  Because of my habit and preference, in my mind, I had to have chunks of uninterrupted time during which I could devote all of my attention to the tome in my hands. I didn’t have multiple hours of spare “me” time.  Thus, I read very little during that era.  Any reading I was able to accomplish was done with a chip on my shoulder, about how much I “couldn’t” read.  I satisfied myself with the many delightful children’s and young adult books I read to and with my children, whilst homeschooling.  There have been MANY good books we’ve discovered as read-alouds, but I almost never read books of my own choosing, for my own pleasure or benefit.

The book that started my reintroduction to reading

It wasn’t until my dear friend Kathy invited me to attend a book club hosted by a friend of hers, way across the Valley, whose “assignment” was Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.  I so enjoyed that book, my time with Kathy during our drive, the book club itself (though that was my lone foray into that particular group), the rediscovery of reading…  Well, that experience generated a new pursuit:  figuring out how I could squeeze the rest of McCall Smith’s books into my brain, by hook or by crook.  Well, not by any means.  But, I was delighted to discover that, while I still could not plop myself down into a comfy spot for hours on end, delving deeply into the novel, abandoning all else, what I could do was:

  • Pick up a book while nursing my baby, instead of flicking on the TV.
  • Read a chapter or two after everyone else had gone to bed.
  • Bring a book to a doctor appointment, rather than planning on reading the magazines on hand.
  • Bring a book to a child’s sports practice.
  • Bring a book to read while my children were at the park.
  • Read a bit while sitting on the closed toilet, keeping my youngest company while s/he bathed.
  • Reward myself with a short time of reading when the to-do list had been successfully tackled, in those few minutes remaining before I started dinner.
  • Even bring a book into the bathroom (something I had NEVER done, previously).

In other words, rather than just say, “I’ll never get two, three, four hours straight in order to really read,” I discovered that could say, “Well, here’s ten or twenty minutes into which I can squeeze a chapter.”

So, rather than consuming a book in a day or two, I now savor it a sip or two at a time, taking usually between one and three weeks to complete a book.  In that manner, I am able to get 25-ish books completed, yearly, that would previously have gone unread, because of my “inability” — my lack of time — to read.

I’ve always had a value for reading, but I had to toss out the ideal — my experience, habit, and preference — in order to find a new way to accommodate a book or twenty-five.

And that is how a woman, wife to her husband of 17 years, and a homeschooling mother of five, who makes dinner from scratch nearly every night of the year, whose home is tolerably clean, and who has multiple responsibilities at church, and some dear friends, finds time to read.

Balancing the busy season

There’s a fine line, sometimes, between being refreshingly honest and complaining.  I sincerely hope I’m the former.

I really don’t like to be busy.  I don’t know if it’s that, at heart, I’m naturally lazy (I hope not), or that really, my best “work” is not that which requires activity.  I don’t know.  But, anticipating seasons like the one upon which I’m embarking can, if I let it, really stress me out and rob my joy.

I look upon this past spring and wonder how I survived.  On top of homeschooling and church, we had Little League (usually four nights a week), two weekly small groups (one for my husband, and one for me), plus a bi-weekly homeschooling art class, and a homeschooling group on the off-weeks.  Plus, all the activities and tasks which allow a family and home to function.  And an ill mother and the puzzle of my youngest daughter’s diet and health.

Fiala's current fave

Seasons like that necessitate that I be highly structured and organized, with which I have a love/hate relationship.  I get a lot done when my life is highly structured, but it…  I don’t know.  I just don’t like it.  I miss the freedom, and the opportunity to, say, respond to that little pleading, upturned face, and just sit down on the kitchen floor in the midst of dinner prep and read The Shy Little Kitten to my youngest, without the pressure of knowing what it’s going to do to our schedule, should dinner be 15 minutes late.

But, weathering this past spring gives me the courage — literally — to say, “OK.  We can do two small groups, and it’s going to be all right.  I will live and not die.”

That sounds so stupid and melodramatic, but it’s true.

My life is full of good things and blessings.  It really is.  And, it has been my observation that the enemy takes evil delight in taking our blessings and framing them — just so — in our minds so that they appear to be a detriment of one sort or another.  At least, I’m vulnerable to that:  I’m tempted to see the dark cloud behind every silver lining.  And, that’s not good.  Still, neither do I want to be dishonest and say, “I can do everything!  And it all makes me happy!  And it’s easy!  Being stretched is fun!”  Because, truly, even with all the good things in my life, sometimes it just seems like there’s too much of… something, and what I’d really rather be doing is putting my back against a shady tree beside a small stream, and reading a book with one eye, and with my other, watching my kids play.  And there’s too little of that, and too much of the other, and, frankly, I’ve not yet learned what the balance is between seeking Godly peace, and simply being lazy and self-serving and yearning for the idyllic.

Also, I’m taking into consideration:

  • This week is my youngest son’s 9th birthday.  We have a day-long outing scheduled (with a couple of other families), and an overnighter with two of Wesley’s friends.  (Obligingly, another friend of mine has offered to keep my older two boys overnight with her oldest son, thus there is no net gain of children.)
  • This week, we do start the small group/kinship season again, which, in many ways, is always so wonderful.  I’m truly glad, each week, when I look into the faces of those in group with me, and I hear the teaching — which frequently is just what I needed to hear — and I participate in discussion, and ministry, and even leading worship (which I really, really love)…  I so often think, “I am so pleased to be able to be here.”  Yet, the logistics of making it happen can nearly tip me over the edge.  One weekly night, my husband stays home with our dear passel of children, and on another night, I stay home while he does the same thing at his group.  Each scenario has its challenges.
  • This week, we started having my parents back over for dinner.  For literally a decade, my mother and stepdad have been coming over for a weekly dinner.  But, this past year saw a dramatic decrease in that, both because of me being distraught over Fiala’s health and how to feed her (I’m not distressed over that anymore, but she still is difficult to feed, and I have adjusted myself to making two meals, every mealtime)… and my mother’s health has been in serious decline, with three major hospital stays over the last year.  My mother and I also had a row a couple of months ago, our first in years and years, the end of which had her proclaiming that she never wanted to talk with me again.  That was distressing.  My stepdad and I came to the conclusion that it was her ill health “talking”, which is so odd, because my mother has forever been resolute and reasonable.  It’s very unlike her to be changeable and petulant.  But, bless God for that, because after sending me a few peace offerings (which is also unlike her) of a number of gluten-free grocery/convenience items, plus a good book, she asked if we couldn’t, please, start our dinners back up.  HOW COULD I SAY NO??!?? I couldn’t.  I can’t!  I don’t want to.  I dearly want to spend that time with my parents.  Dearly.  Yet, it’s one more thing on the plate, so to speak.  This Monday, just my stepdad came over, as my mother is in Illinois with her mother.  Same with this coming Monday.  After that, it will be the two of them, but only once every other week.
  • And, literally weighing on me is the fact that I’ve put on 25 lbs since January, and am now back to my pre-pregnancy (before Fiala) weight.  That’s not a good thing.  I am very uncomfortable with myself, literally, yet after a year+ of living on a hyper-restricted diet for her sake, it’s hard to Just Say No to chocolate chips.  🙂  But, I have decided that I have to do something so the weight doesn’t keep piling on, and that’s difficult, because I’m not a dieter, yet I’m aware that I simply can’t stay the way I am right now.  I haven’t yet figured out exactly what I’m going to do.
  • And, I’m in the midst of… distilling… choosing… seeking some wisdom from my Father… about some direction for my life for the next couple of years (at least)… and it’s unclear…  I’ve been meaning to fast, but I keep forgetting!  After about five solid years of either being pregnant or nursing, I got out of the habit.  Now, it’s like, “OK.  I need to fast.  Monday.  No, that won’t work.  Parents over for dinner.  OK.  Tuesday.  Tuesday it is!” then Tuesday happens and I forget until mid-morning after two cups of coffee, a banana, some almonds, and a bowl of granola.  Etc.  So, I need to figure that out, too.  😀

And other stuff.

I really just need God.  I need His presence, I need His peace, His wisdom, His priorities, His heart, even His energy…

I closed another recent post with this same thing, but it is so on my heart:

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!  How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!  For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?  Who knows enough to give him advice?  And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.  Romans 11:33-36 NLT

In which I consider monetizing my blog (and other things)

  • Fiala, aged 16 months has started calling out to one of us with some urgency:  “Daddeee?  Daddeee?”  and when the person for whom she calls answers, “Yes, Fiala?”  She screws up her face and says, “Ummm….” like she can’t remember what she was going to ask.  It’s hilarious.
  • Fi is back on Septra.  I finally talked with Dr. Elizabeth on Saturday, and she said that it’s likely that Fiala is just susceptible to staph, not that it was still lurking in her body, as I had feared.  (Lurking after 5 weeks of strong antibiotics…)  She’s been on the abx for 2.5 days, and while she’s not clearing as quickly as I had hoped, she is a bit better.  Elizabeth prescribed 3 weeks of medication, but said we can stop after a minimum of 7 days, if she’s clear.  It’s looking like she’ll be on it for more than a week.  😦
  • I had to stop giving guitar lessons to a young woman from church.  Baseball (which now takes up 3-4 nights per week) is just too frequent to squeeze in lessons, plus kinship, plus mundane things like grocery shopping and laundry and dinner.  I told her we could start back up in June, and suggested that she takes some inexpensive class lessons through our city, which I hope she chooses to do.
  • I’m giving a number of baby things away on Freecycle.  It’s a bit sad.  Poignant.  All the Avent bottles and breastmilk pump, a little food grinder, a diaper bag, a couple of remaining maternity things…  Martin and I are still both of one mind on this:  We will do nothing permanent to stop conception, so we realize that there remains a possibility of baby #6.  However, we think it unwise (for a number of reasons) to try for a sixth baby.  Part of me hopes that God will overrule our choices and I’ll just get pregnant…  I’m certainly not fearful of being pregnant at age almost-37.  However, I think that there is wisdom in not adding to our family, and I take it very seriously that my hubby and I are in agreement.
  • I’m still working on the edit/re-write of a friend’s book.  It’s going well, and we’re both really liking the results.  It was my hope for her to read the refashioned words, and say, “YES.  That’s exactly what I was trying to say.”  So far, that has been the case, 99% of the time, which is a huge encouragement for me.  I just wish I had more TIME — like two dedicated evenings per week, instead of 30 minutes here, two hours there…
  • Speaking of “working,” I’m considering… monetizing my blog.  I regularly have offers from folks who would pay me X amount of dollars for a link, or a promo, or an ad.  Up to now, I’ve refused all such offers.  But, doing dishes last night, I thought, “If my blog only made $20/week, that would be $1000 per year, which could regularly pay for family trips.”  If it made slightly more, I could take the kids to visit extended family, which we’ve only done ONCE in 15 years.  (Edited to clarify:  We have gone on one vacation-style trip, specifically planned to visit relatives.  I went on an additional trip on the spur of the moment, to go to my paternal grandpa’s funeral, and during that trip, did visit with many family members.  AND, the trip that my husband and I took for our 10th anniversary was nearby to my maternal grandparents’ home, and we spent several days visiting with them.  So, that’s more like three trips.)  Make even MORE and we could go on a month-long “field trip” to New England, visiting historic sites.  That is a very attractive motivation for me.  Last year, we weren’t able to have a vacation at all (outside of a 3 night stay at my parents’ cabin), mostly because of finances.  (Edited to clarify:  We actually did have a week-long camping trip planned, but I threw out my back very badly, and we were unable to go.  After I recovered, we ended up visiting my parents’ cabin, rather than rescheduling the whole trip… so, although finances did play a role in our decision, it definitely wasn’t the only factor.)   I’m always amazed to go onto blogs that appear more professional than mine:  ones that look extremely sharp, well put-together, with all the bells and whistles, with a little link to their book on the right-hand column… then I see their visitor count, and it’s half of mine.  I’m NOT all about attracting readership;  I’ve made no effort whatsoever to boost visits, and part of me is really repulsed by the idea of trying to “win” readers and/or place ads on my blog.  However, I think that as I have garnered nearly a half-million (!) hits without even trying, it shows that (I think) with some careful marketing, I could make some income.  Even a very modest income (and I think $20/week is very modest) would be worthwhile.  I think that it could also be a big timesink and money-waster, so I would need to be very prudent in my choices.  I’m still not sure what I’m going to do yet… but the thought of being able to take trips that I’ve heretofore only dreamed about is very attractive.  I spend too much time dreaming and hoping, and too little time in action to make the dreams come true.

The prophetic, ballerinas, guitar, and investing in others

So, a few weeks ago, in kinship (sort of like a midweek Bible study), during ministry time, the leader, Jonathan, came over to pray for me.  During that time, he said something like, “I see you as a ballerina, like a Russian ballerina, with a bunch of little girls around you, learning from you.”  Only maybe 20 minutes later, a young woman in the kinship named Amy came up to me and said, “I have a guitar that’s actually my mother’s, but she said I could use.  Would you teach me to play?”

Now, normally, I think I would resist.  I am SO NOT an expert guitar player*.  I am mostly self-taught, and I have some bad habits**, and I mostly play guitar just to have something to accompany my voice — the best guitar players are the other way around:  they play to accompany someone else’s voice.  But… do I know more than Amy?  Yes***.  Can I at least get her started?  Yes.  She doesn’t even know how to change strings and tune up her guitar…  So, tonight, which is our first meeting, that’s where we’re starting:  Putting some fresh strings on and tuning.  If we get to it, I printed off a few pages of simple music theory and chord charts.  I told her that if she was willing to make the drive out to my house, and accommodate my tricky schedule, I’d give her lessons for free, once every two weeks.  Because she’s not paying me, that releases me from all sorts of pressure.

I have long been hesitant to be a LEADER, to step into any kind of role with authority and responsibility.  I also get fearful of disappointing people, like if they have certain expectations of me that I can’t live up to.  But, I think that it’s time to stop avoiding leadership due to fear, and invest in someone besides my own self.  Plus, the connection between Jonathan’s word over me and Amy’s request was undeniable.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s meeting with Amy.  I told her to come with her guitar, her new strings, and to trim the nails on her left hand VERY short.  Even though I’m not REALLY a ballet virtuoso (or whatever they’re called), I’m excited about seeing the prophetic put into action.  🙂

———

* I do, however, have a strong voice and I lead worship in that kinship.

** Like keeping my left thumb looped over the top of the fretboard so that I can quickly pick up the F# when I play a D.  But, this leads to difficulty in shifting to barre chords, because my thumb is in the wrong place… added with my weak hands (or something) that results in me perennially avoiding barre chords;  I will transpose just about any song and throw on a capo so I can keep playing in 1st position.

*** I also told Amy that if I teach her guitar, it will specifically be guitar for worship, not Awesome Shredder Fame-on-a-Stage guitar playing.  The motivation for those two kinds of guitar playing are SO different, and it informs what and how you learn.  She was all right with that.  It’s what she wanted.

Here’s why it’s worth it

OK.  So, yesterday was hard.  Tonight’s not going to be much easier — it’s another full evening as I make dinner for a couple who just had a baby, bring the kids to yet another scrimmage baseball game, and Martin has kinship, so he won’t be there to help.

After yesterday’s post, my precious friend Kathy said this:

Karen, you’ve captured the price we pay for leadership, participation in God’s good work, and, raising children, and keeping a house going. It’s not easy – it’s why so many people drop off. It’s not what you are going through that (ultimately) matters – it is what you are going to. There will be fruit for all this. Better days, even worse days ahead too – but a reward for the faithful that will make the days more than worth it.

Last night at kinship, I had a couple of experience where I thought, “This is why it’s worth it.”

  1. One of the people at there last night, I’d never met.  A young married girl had brought her mom along to visit.  Early in our meeting, we split into groups of two, and I was with the new lady, Cathy.  We had an “assignment” to discuss… and when that was done, we just chatted for a few.  In some distress, Cathy poured out something along the lines of, “My husband was just diagnosed yesterday with celiac disease, and I’m really overwhelmed.”  !!!!! Well, golly!  Know anyone who is experienced in eating gluten free because of her own celiac disease???!!???  Anyone who has walked that road, and can now help others navigate it???  Uh huh.  Yours truly.  I about cried because of the heart of God, tenderly caring for this woman, who, 20 minutes previous, was absolutely unknown to me.  Yet, He placed her next to me, we ended up being grouped together…  Who better, in that room full of strangers, than me, to be able to encourage her greatly??  God knew that.  And, afterwards, we talked for a long time — I gave her as many resources I could think of to send her home with… then, got home myself, and after eating a really late dinner, sent her an e-mail, as I had promised to do, with more info.
  2. Worship wasn’t great.  It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great.  I chatted with Doug, the leader, about it afterwards, and we both had a few ideas to hopefully, make it go better next week.  I wasn’t mightily discouraged or anything, but I certainly was thinking, “Bummer.”  So, I go over into the kitchen to get a few grapes and a cup of coffee, and a different young married girl named Priscilla (love that name) says to me, “You’re my new hero.”  ????? Well, I don’t think I’m really her hero.  But, we talk, and she tells me that she had been thinking, “I’d like to learn how to play the guitar.  I don’t know any girls who play the guitar, though…”  And, here she comes to kinship, and I’m leading what I think is a fairly lame worship set, yet she is just glowing, both in worship, and from the excitement of discovering that I play guitar!  And, Martin and I have a guitar to sell that’s right in their price range — her husband wants to play, too.  We’d been planning on selling it on eBay, but when I told Martin about Priscilla, he said, “That would be even better, to sell it to someone we know.  For less than we could get on eBay, just to encourage them.”  AND, the lead electric guitarist in our church had just asked me a couple of weeks ago, “Hey, do you know any young guitar players who need mentoring or a few free lessons?”  I didn’t at the time, but now I do!!!

Ha!  That’s the Body of Christ in action, folks.  I SO SO SO love how God draws us together, and uses each of our strengths to help others, and provides a way to strengthen our own weaknesses and meet our own needs, by others in the Body of Christ.

You know… it’s possible to be a Christian and not go to church.  But, I don’t know why anyone would want to.  You have something to give that others need.  And, others have things that you need.

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