Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Deep Places

I have a confession.  I have a thing with sticky notes and yellow highlighters; not used together, though.  I have been in a state of shock as conversations no longer whisper but scream through my yearly meeting.  I have been still before God - waiting.  I have yelled to God - waiting.  I have yelled at God - still waiting.  I am now waiting before God - still. 

This week begins my orientation into the Masters of Quaker Studies through Barclay College.  I am SUPER excited and also thankful that the workload is minimal this week since I am still in two other courses - one being Leadership (enjoyable), the other Economics (not so enjoyable).  Next week I will have all three courses and will continue to take it one day at a time and trust God to work out the details.

I was trying to find a reference for a response I was making to a classmate when I "happened" upon a statement by Brent Bill in his book, "Sacred Compass - The Way of Spiritual Discernment."  Note, this was not highlighted by me or marked in any way.  "Learning to follow the divine compass means stopping and paying attention instead of looking for a magical map with the shortest route highlighted in yellow.  Learning what God wants of us means letting the Holy Spirit guide us into the deep places of our souls.  We learn to look for God in those deep places and in all the places our lives take us" (p. xi). 

Did you see it, the words that leapt off the page at me?  "Learning to follow the divine compass means stopping and paying attention instead of looking for a magical map with the shortest route highlighted in yellow!!!!!" (emphasis mine)

I think I have been looking for the yellow highlighter to appear from God.  Cheesy?  Perhaps, but with all the reading I am doing, after I read chapters, I go back an re-read what I highlighted.  It helps me find something again and honestly, it would be pretty handy for Jesus to just do some highlighting for me on things He wants to come back to and give it another go. 

Have you read the story of Elijah lately?  2 Kings 19, to be exact.
Verse 11 begins: He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
In other translations, sheer silence is translated "still small voice" or "whisper."  The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translates is "sheer silence."  When is the last time you heard sheer silence?  We have so much noise in our lives that I cannot remember experiencing sheer silence.  Yet, are we to take from verse 12 that God was in the sheer silence since it does not say he wasn't?  That is how I have applied it to my life - that God is in the still small voice, the whisper, the silence. 

When you re-read all of 2 Kings, though, it's a very sad ending to Elijah's ministry.  He was terrified - running for his life and hiding in a cave.  God asks him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 

Is God asking you that right now?  Where you are in your life, is He saying, "What are you doing here?"

The Holy Spirit lives within me, my sacred compass.  I know He will not lead me astray or down a wrong path.  Obedience, for me, means allowing Him to be my center.  Reading Scriptures with empty hands and an expectant heart of what is to come.  Taking each step even though the light is only shining on where my feet are, not where I am going to put them.  Trusting.  Letting the Holy Spirit fill all of my deep places (that I don't always want to spend time in) and trust the Light to shine forth.   

#QuakerWomen #Discernment

Friday, May 08, 2015

Mother's Day as a Step-Mom

For the first two years of my marriage, I dreaded Mother's Day.  It was a reminder that whatever I was providing meant nothing when it came to where my children spent the day set aside for celebrating their moms.  I was set aside and the pain was incredibly intense as I spent the day without any of my children with me.

While pregnant, I celebrated a mother's day and could not help but think, "Next year will be different.  I WILL have someone with me to celebrate this day."

And I did and it was.

For those of you who have walked this journey of step-parenting, you already know that the pain in my heart did not cease to exist because I gave birth and had a child with me on mother's day.  I was still missing three of my children, whom I loved so much.  I learned that lesson myself, some lessons are learned best that way, aren't they?

So goes every mother's day for 12 years.  Half of my children are apart from me on the day I so want their love and recognition for who I am in their lives.

I can now see how selfish this line of thinking is.  My children love me.  I know this now.  Perhaps having half of them grown and out on their own has helped me see that love is not reserved for a specific day.  It just is.
This year, 13 years later, I will celebrate mother's day knowing all six of my children love me.  Wherever they are, some celebrating with their mothers or grandmothers, I know they love me.  I do not need them in front of me to have assurance of our relationship anymore.

This year, I celebrate my four children whom I did not birth.  They have stood by my side and watched me screw up horribly as a parent.  If there is a check list for what NOT to do, they experienced me doing it and the pain my mistakes caused.  While I have apologized face-to-face for my mistakes and yes, I would do things differently if I could, I can't and knowing that means moving on and being the kind of parent I want to be today.

I love my children.  I love all six of my children.  I have a different and unique relationship with each one.  My interactions with them all vary to the person they are and our personal relationship.  There are different bonds between us but they are bonds regardless of their variety.

I became a moma in 2002.  I am blessed beyond all measure for the six children I have.  They all call me different names (some not always nice, I know) but they are mine and I love them.

This mother's day, I celebrate ALL women who love and care for our youth.  This journey is pain-filled and people are hurtful and cruel with their thoughtless words; I am so sorry.  I, too, have been on the receiving end of them and it sucks.  You are loved.  You are important.  You are valued.  Never forget that.

#nottheevilstepmom #nothankstoDisney

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Big Mess of Emotions

My daughter is getting on a plane today and flying across the world.  I am so proud of her.  She is stepping up and out and finding her strength in Jesus and I would not want it any other way!

A word of advise - don't ask me how I am today.  Don't ask me if I am almost done with my final project. When it's complete, rest assured I will announce it from my Facebook platform with a megaphone.  Even the nonchalant, "So, how's it going?" could be enough to send me over the edge.

I'll tell you right now... I miss my daughter.  I can't help but have some fears but I am at peace with her trip and know she is in far better hands than my own.  Yes, that says a lot coming from me.  I trust her team leader but more importantly, I trust God.  So, here I am.  Wishing I was there to see her off.  Here I sit, blogging when I have a HUGE final project that I have tons of ideas for but have yet to actually WRITE any of it.  And yes, that stresses me out.  
In fact, there is a high possibility that if you say ANYTHING or DO anything, I might cry.  My emotions are that close to the surface and I hate showing vulnerability like that so, maybe you all should just avoid me today.  And half of tomorrow.  

I will tell you this, though, if tomorrow comes, and I haven't stabbed anyone, this meme speaks my mind:

Your prayers work just as well from over there as they do right here.  You aren't praying TO me, anyway, so go ahead and pray for me, if you want.  It's obvious I could use them.

And for my daughter and her team.  They actually need them more than I do.

Oh, maybe pray for my family, too.  They have to deal with me.

Signing off,
emotionally raw moma

Friday, May 01, 2015

Preparing for the Journey: Cambodia!

I'm thrilled to have a guest writer today - my oldest daughter, Melynda.  Yours truly, Proud Moma

The preparation for the journey is a journey in itself. In preparing for my trip to Cambodia with my college's Juniors Global Program I have experienced many pre-journey joys and jitters. Now, I don’t know where to begin articulating the whirlwind of emotions that I feel before leaving in LESS THAN A WEEK!!!!!! So we will start with some pre-journey jitters.  

There have been a few times during the last few months that I have asked God what He was up to. I would get frustrated and scared and anxious. I had initially applied for a trip to Kenya and was shocked and a bit unsettled when the Juniors Global committee selected me for the Cambodia team. I had wanted to go to Africa since I was a child, how could that not be the trip that God wanted me on? Apparently, God had given the committee a different message and after many hours of prayer and seeking my mother’s counsel, I was able to see and accept God’s calling. I later had trouble finding and then later ordering a copy of my birth certificate to apply for my passport. Then, my passport was taking an extremely long time to come which was putting off the purchase of our tickets. Another pre-journey “jitter” was my faith. I have been feeling a bit numb to the presence of God lately. Now, I know that I love the Lord and that he loves me but I noticed that I have not done a good job investing in that relationship with Him. Knowing this about myself made me question if I should go on this trip. Am I going for the right reasons? Are my intentions honorable and in the right place? Will I do any good? Am I going for the Cambodians or am I going for myself? I do not have the answers to these questions right now, and I think that is okay, because God has continued to give me a peace about going on this trip and subtly confirms this immediate calling on my life. This leads me into my pre-journey joys. 

Now, one of my pre-journey joys thus far is that I have been more intentional in seeking out the Lord and His will for this trip. I have spent time with Him in conversation about my expectations for this trip and how He will use it in my life. God has made it clear to me that I will be changed when I return from this trip. The scary thing is that I do not know how that change will look or manifest itself in my life. The thought of this change is equally exciting, scary, and intimidating, all at once. Other pre-journey joys are the resolution of my previously stated pre-journey jitters. All of those little obstacles that arose and made me question this calling, have not only been resolved but they have turned into a confirmation of the calling. In my prayer time over this trip I have had a growing excitement- knowing that this trip will be an amazing adventure. 

My prayer for this trip is that this will be a turning point in my life. I pray that I will be able to re-ignite the fire inside of me that burns for the Lord. I want to come back refined and changed. I want a renewed passion- I crave to be so close to God that others can’t help but to be drawn to Him when they are around me. I know that I am going to be exposed to things that I have never experienced before and I know that there will be hard days. I also know that no matter what happens on this trip- God will be my support through it all and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for me in Cambodia.  
With Love, 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What's in a Grade?

Why do grades matter so much to me?  I love learning and do not think about grading when I am doing 99% of my assignments, yet, I stalk the grade book for the grades to be posted!

I am taking two independent studies this session, working hard on finishing up some required classes I need.  They are the first independent studies I have taken and I had no idea what to expect.

I feel a little like Calvin does:

My two professors are about as different as night and day when it comes to assignments and grading; not that one is better or worse than the other, just different.  I am enjoying both classes and stress equally over grades in both classes.
Most of my professors have challenged me in amazing ways and I can say the same about the two I have now.  Challenging me to think deeper, write clearer, and express my thoughts better are common occurrences in my classes; and I love it! 
Many of my assignments do not have a right or wrong answer.  If I follow the instructions and do the work well, I get full credit (yes, a 100%).  I follow the instructions, check the requirements a couple of times and spend a good deal of time on the assignments (just ask my family). 
So, I have only had three classes where there were assignments with true "right" or "wrong" answers.  Through all of my classes, I have maintained a 4.0 since my time at Barclay began a year ago, 39 credits in three semesters.  So, when I read about Calvin and his 75% being a "C," I hear his argument, and like most arguments Calvin has, it is worth listening to:

 In fact, I wonder if any of my professors keep a bottle of Maalox or TUMS with them when they read my e-mail responses to their comments; especially when it has to do with my grades. 
I will admit to having one of my teachers double check a couple of grades and then I did my own calculating of the entire class and had the good sense to be embarrassed when I saw that I had a 98% and I was asking her to check a few other grades... she did and corrected an error (I corrected an assignment), graciously.  She did not tell me she rolled her eyes or sighed heavily but, again, I wonder if she upped her TUMS intake while I was her student.

So, when I got a 98% on a big project this week, my first response was to wonder what I did wrong.  God gave me the gift of perfecting things, but really, I need to breathe more.  I need to enjoy the whole process, not stress over an A grade, work hard, but enjoy the ride, too.
My identity is not my GPA.  It's not my credit score, my driving score, or my income.  Doing the best I can and remembering that I am a child of the King is what matters. 
One of my teachers told me, "It's okay to have high expectations of yourself.  Just don't let those expectations get in the way of learning."
I'll re-read this post as needed... Thank you very much.
#dontsweatthesmallstuff #itsallsmallstuff #perfecting #identityinChrist

Monday, April 13, 2015

Women in Church Leadership

How did Paul really feel about women in leadership in the early church?  Growing up Quaker, I have been affirmed my entire life that God ministers to and through women; not just to women and children but to anyone and everyone...including TO MEN! Gasp!

In one of my current classes, I am doing an in depth study through Paul's letters (except Romans).  I want to share with you my thoughts on what Paul really thought of women in leadership in the church.

 Seeing the importance that Lydia played in Paul’s missionary work and was quite possibly “a missionary before Paul met her” (Polhill, p. 161) reinforces my belief that God uses women in leadership.  It is interesting to me that she is the one described, not her husband or father.  “Lydia was a major player in the Philippian church’s pattern of supporting Paul financially” (p. 162).  Polhill goes on to state that “one is also impressed with the extensive role that women played in the Philippian church…” (ibid).  It is always encouraging for me, a woman in leadership and pastor, to see evidence of women in leadership in the early church.  Another example of women leaders is found in chapter 3 when Paul addressed the two women who were “‘contending’ together with him in the gospel” (p. 175).  Polhill describes them as possible “leaders of house churches” (ibid). 
 My professor's response thrilled my soul, "The many obvious examples of the empowerment of women in leadership in the Pauline epistles and Acts give us ample reason to assume that these women were in fact leading at all levels from the early days of the church." 

Paul not only acknowledged the women in leadership in the early church, he encouraged them in their roles, accepted them as pastors and missionaries and made no distinction between them as female leaders and the male leaders in his letters. 

Quakers have long held women in the same light as men.  I am thankful that I was raised in a home that encouraged me to be the leader God made me and continues to support me today as I journey down the road of church leadership, ministering, and life. 

Works cited

Polhill, J. (1999). Paul and his letters.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman. 

#Quakerwomen #Womenpastors #womeninleadership #Paulandwomen 

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Flopped, and Not Like a Bunny

They said the road to hell is paved with good intentions... but I say it's paved with too many good ideas from Pinterest!  Not that I'm on the road to hell because of Pinterest; I am not on the road to hell at all.  Never mind, let me try this again.

I began Lent with this AWESOME idea I saw on Pinterest.  It was a wonderful idea.  It fulfilled many of things I desire our daily life to be - about loving others and expressing that love. 

Then life happened.  This is one of the last #RAK we did.  It was fun!  The kids enjoyed it and we left before we saw any of the dollars were found.  We were sneaky and it was something the kids really felt a part of.  The last #RAK we did was taping bags of quarters to washing machines at the laundry mat in the poorer part of town.  We had a great conversation about owning washers and dryers and expenses.  We enjoyed the #RAK and expressing our love. 

Then I got sick.  I was down for three days and got behind in other things and #RAK took a vacation.  I had every intention of filling spring break with TONS of #RAK but... one day turned into another and soon break was over. 

Today is the last day of Lent.  I totally flopped on the whole #RAK family activity.  I just had to tell you.  It began good, but..., well, it ended. 

Another confession?  I tried to wake and pray at 7:03 like I was challenged to.  I failed.  I slept snoozed through the #Ifpray703 alarm so many times that pretty soon, I stopped setting it.  TOTALLY FLOPPED!!!! 

We followed through on ONE thing during Lent this year. And you know what?  It was THE MOST IMPORTANT of all.  We did the #LentChallenge and read through the four Gospels as a family.  WE DID IT!  It was, by far, the most important time we spent together as a family and of all the things we could have completed, I am filled with joy that this is the one we finished. 

So, in true fashion of keeping it real, I pretty much dropped the ball on everything but reading the Bible and I am at complete peace with that. 

We did the best we could and when push came to shove, we kept the right priority.

He is Risen!