Cathy

img_7334

I met her when I was 14. She was my boyfriend’s little sister but she was nice and friendly and she became my friend. We became family when I married her brother and when it was time for her to get married I was her matron of honor. She walked happily down the aisle with Eric to You Are The Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder. I will never forget it because it was so like her doing life her way. Years later I found a designer who made a necklace out of the song and sent it her. She sent back a note that she couldn’t believe I had remembered. She would invite me to absolutely every family event they had. I remember one conversation:

“Umm, thanks but I think it would be awkward to go consider I’m no longer married to your brother.”

“Did you divorce me?”

“No”

“I didn’t divorce you either. You’re my sister-in-law and the mother of my nephew and my niece and you are invited to all family functions.”

Then we’d laugh and tell secrets that only friends that know each other well can tell about things that are really none of our business.

After a three year battle with cancer I got the call from my son that Cathy was being sent home to hospice. I contacted my mother-in-law and asked if I could go and see Cathy, understanding that they have a big family and I didn’t want to intrude. She said of course I could come. I walked into a room filled with people and went to hold Cathy’s hand. She said quietly, “Susie, I have missed you.” I said, “I’ve missed you too and I came to tell you I love you.” She answered that she loved me too and that she was tired and she was sorry but she didn’t want to fight cancer anymore. I told her I understood and that I didn’t want her to feel as if she had to host me as a guest, instead I was there for her. We talked about God and heaven and she said she had seen glimpses as God was leading her spirit little by little. We told a couple of secrets that made us both smile and then her brothers came into the room and it was the four of us like it was when we were teenagers. We talked about where life had taken us and old stories about the past. We brought up phone bills, and FaceTime, and how much trouble we’d be in if were teens today and we laughed like we used to over stupid stuff. Cathy took a sip of ice water and through half-closed eyes she said to me, “See what I have to do to get us all together like old times?” I replied, “Who knew all those fights with your brothers would make you give cancer a run for its money?”

My sister and my friend is passing from this life to her next one and as I write this my heart breaks. It breaks because we distance ourselves from painful events and while we do, there is the unintended casualties of souls that are wounded. It seems necessary to separate out, to stop the pain in the moment, and are in the end are such pitifully poor decisions. To turn away love from one heart because another has been careless with your heart can never be right. I’m thanking God for second chances and a deep friendship with a wonderful woman who loved me deeply and who is forever embedded in my heart.

 

I’m Sorry

img_7310

I found a message in my voicemail box the other night from a woman who is a new friend.  She was apologizing for her attitude at a meeting we’d had earlier in the day.  I wasn’t even offended and the events weren’t even on my radar. To be perfectly honest, I did notice she was testy but I chalked it up to frustration. I feel both she and her apology are impressive. She is someone I want to get to know better because she is real and owns her stuff.

Nothing is worse than being unable to see when we’ve hurt someone’s feelings. We justify, we deny, we blame, we point fingers, we cry, we yell, then we do it all over again and like the spin cycle in a washer it wrings us out. A lack of discernment to the feelings of others over time leaves us alone because people get tired of it.

We humans are opinionated and we will eventually step on someone’s toes. It’s inevitable that we’ll eventually say something to hurt another person. The key to our success in life will be whether we have the ability to decide that to apologize is the best course of action. Swallowing our pride and realizing that whether we want to admit it or not, we hurt someone. Saying I’m sorry shows a genuine concern for others and the relationship we have with them. It also shows others who are watching, because there is always someone watching, that we are someone who can be counted on to do the right thing.

In my life there have been plenty of times that I have had to turn around and go to someone and say I’m sorry. I’ve been short, I’ve been snarky, I’ve been testy, I’ve been wrong. It’s never fun and often embarrassing but to pretend like we aren’t wrong doesn’t make it so, except in our mind. We will lose much more than we gain and we will always take more away from our reputation that we are willing to give. Whatever you do, don’t do the fake apology that people with any brain at all can spot from a mile away. “I’m sorry if you feel I’ve offended you in any way.” Ambiguity isn’t classy it’s pathetic and it shows not repentance, being truly sorry, but remorse, being sorry we got caught. Let’s own our stuff and watch things get better in our life. We will sleep soundly knowing we did all we could to keep our relationships on the right track and I guarantee you there will be no sleepless nights. Yes, if I’m honest I’ve had a few sleepless nights in the past as I licked my perceived wounds but once I owned my part and did the right thing it brought so much peace. I dare you to try it.

 

Everything You Ever Wanted

 

image

You know him. He’s the nice guy. The one that remembers that you hate chocolate covered cherries but love lilies. The one that works a real job and doesn’t have a baby mama or isn’t having welfare raise his kids or another man. The one you say is your best friend but you could never look at him like that. The one who is kind and treats you well and who you think is boring and steady. Well Darling look at him again because he may be the one. He’s everything you need and everything you’ll ever want once you stop looking for the drama.

 

In Time

vision-quotes
buzz vision

Last October I was given a vision of my next step in ministry. I couldn’t wait to see it fulfilled. I began to research, to ask questions of those I knew, and to make plans. Each time I got ready to launch something got in the way of the plan and it was stalled. I wasn’t frustrated just chomping at the bit to move forward. God’s timing is not like our own and so I waited.

My husband began to see the vision of what I was going to do and began to pray with me. Then he began to change the ideas I had. This is when the test happens because the question becomes,

I had my own ideas, I had my own lists, I had my own plan but what happens when they aren’t where we are going in ministry?

Well, as I always say,

Submission isn’t submission until we disagree. 

So I got on board with the vision of the house, I began to input where I was asked. We launched last night, prayerfully, considerately, and mindfully, a leadership team. You see, my vision was to make a path to ordain women into ministry. My husband challenged me to think broader. Together we forged a plan of ordination for all people. We gathered our combined resources and gathered wisdom and materials for a clear path. There are 15 of us in the beginning stages of this new phase of our ministry. There were 7 women which was still important to me. Now I get to watch it all unfold. I’m excited and glad to have waited for proper timing and direction.

Sometimes things take awhile. Even though we may have a vision and it seems clear, the path isn’t always how we think it should go. I would prayerfully ask you to be mindful of this and to wait for God’s timing.  This isn’t the time to push forward your own agenda over that of the church in which you serve. A pastor friend in Arkansas preached on the Baptism of Commitment. He said,

Are you committed to your own agenda or are you committed to your leadership? 

That’s a great question to leave you with today.

I Wasn’t Raising A Boy

IMG_1922

How often did you hear me say, “I’m not raising a boy. I’m raising a man. There is a difference.” You’d roll your eyes but you’d move in the direction of a man.

I remember when you were little and I would cuddle and snuggle you and kiss you fiercely and you’d squeal with laughter then run and put on a football helmet and want to play tackle football. I’d tell you girls didn’t play tackle football and you’d say, “Girls are BOR-ING”.

I remember you’d spray “Monster Spray” all around the house so that we’d be safe.

I remember when you’d wear your He-Man sword tucked in the back of your shirt everywhere we’d go and what a hassle you’d give me in the car seat because you had to have it at hand. I remember the time you reached for that sword on the way to the car because you’d spotted a dangerous bullfrog. You took your left hand like a traffic cop and said in a low almost 4 year-old voice, “Stop right there mommy until I tell you to move.” You moved your sword into position and stood between the bullfrog and me and said, “Ok, pass behind me. I’ll protect you.” I ran and squealed, and you said, “Aren’t you glad I’m your Superhero?”

IMG_5031

I could have been impatient as I usually was, but I wasn’t raising a boy, I was raising a man.

I remember when I’d tell you to help your sister up the stairs so she wouldn’t fall and how you would very seriously take that task and the others I gave you as you grew. Things like opening doors, walking on the outside, being aware of your surroundings, being polite and respectful.

I remember when you were 15 and had a learner’s permit and were so willing to drive me to the grocery store. You ran out ahead of me, jumped in the car and started the engine. I stopped at the car door and you yelled, “Get in!”, and I didn’t move.

“You have to come and open the door for me”.

“You’re not my girlfriend.”

“No, I’m your mom and that’s more important.”

“ARGH, OK”

It would have been easier to give you a pass and laugh it off but I wasn’t raising a boy. I was raising a man.

You came and opened the door and to this day it delights my soul to see you open the car door for your wife. It isn’t the big accomplishments that make me proud to be your momma. It’s the little things that make you a gentleman, a godly man, a good man that make me proud to be your momma.

IMG_1708

The conversation, just you and me, at Ryan’s went like this:

“You’re going off to college and you have four years to figure out your passion. Find out who you are and what you want to do because I will not be the mother who receives the phone call that you’re just not happy with your life, a wife and two kids later. At that point my allegiance will have to switch to your wife and your children and it will break my heart but I will have to do it.”

So when I read Ann Voskamp’s blog on recent events in the media, I have to be honest and say I cried. I cried because we still say ignorant things like, “That’s how men are”. The fact of the matter is no, that’s how we allow them to be. Teach them to be godly, how to treat women, teach them to be guided by Jesus.

Click Here to read. Her blog is meant to be read and digested. It is well written and it is right on. 

 

 

Doris Avila

1795291_10201567281649883_1883956978_oOnce upon a time a long, long time ago a boy brought a girl home to meet his mom. His mom was a Christian woman who had raised her son in church. In fact, his mom was baptized when she was pregnant with him and she said he awakened in that water and begin to move around. She loved him so much. It was evident by the way she looked at him.

The girl he brought home was not a church girl. His mom met her son’s girlfriend and smiled at her and welcomed her. She took her into her life and we will never know if she was scared for her son, approved of this girl or not,  but we do know one thing, she invited this girl to lunch often and because she is a wonderful cook, she would serve her up a great lunch and a great bible study. I guess she figured if her son was going to marry this girl, then she’d had better get to work on leading her to Christ.

I am in awe of this woman because she could have decided that this girl was not worth her son’s time. Only this mom was wise and understood her son was stubborn and talking to him about this unsaved girl wasn’t going to work. So she set out to do what she knew to do. She prayed. She spoke a word in correct timing. She loved her. She cared for her and she showed her Christ.

Eventually, her son and this girl did get married and the girl did find her way to Jesus in a profound way. When her son died, she looked at her daughter-in-law and said, “We are now Naomi and Ruth and we will find your Boaz.” This was probably the only time that the girl felt misunderstood by her mother-in-law but you see, her mother-in-law was wise and had insight that this girl didn’t have.

That girl was me and that mother is Doris Avila whom I love to this day. I’m writing this today because memories of those days are flooding through my mind. She has moved away and there are days I long to sit with her and talk about life and the love of Jesus. To this day, we remain close and she holds a place in my heart and in my life where she speaks and I listen!

Drama Free Zone

Quotefancy-4025-3840x2160“You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question: Is that okay?” — Jim Rohn

I read this last year and began to assess. I had some work to do in the drama department. So I resolved to make my life a drama free zone. I decided not to get caught up in the day to day stuff that wasn’t mine to own. I decided that if I had an issue, I would go to a select few women who could tell me the truth and point me in the right direction.

So this year who am I around? I am around people who challenge me to think positively. I recently had a wonderful time with a friend who after I left her presence I realized we talked about absolutely no one but ourselves, fashion, music, God, dreams, skin care products, books we were reading, our favorite travel destinations, our bucket lists. Not one single thing about anyone else. I am mostly around people like this these days. It makes for a very happy well rounded life.

What are they doing to me? They are making me see the life beyond the drama. I have to tell you I love, love, love it.

What have they got me reading? Novels, The Federalist Papers, ministry books, and the bible.

What have they got me saying? Positive things. Life-giving things, things that matter and are thought provoking, oh and politics which I’m not sure is positive but definitely thought  provoking.

Where do they have me going? Church, dinner parties, concerts, plays, book readings, game nights, book clubs.

What do they have me thinking? Life beyond drama. Life beyond chaos. Life worth living.

What do they have me becoming? A person who isn’t caught up in the urgent and by that I mean, a person who isn’t looking at the chaos that comes from the day to day urgency but at a life that is lived with more compassion, more space, and more freedom.

This is a critical point. Did the last year leave you stressed and angry and caught up in nonsense or did it bring you peace? I can’t say 2014 brought me peace but I came back to myself and changed it all in 2015.

There is so much more to the earth than the stuff going on in your world. There are stances to take on issues, there is a desperate need to pray for needs that far supersede the confusion of small-mindedness. There are moments to be still and let the Holy Spirit begin to bring revelation to your soul that breathes life not only into you but to those whose life you touch. There is a banquet served to those who wish to explore possibilities. I used to get discouraged by the naysayers who want the world to swing their way. I have a deeper understanding of life and the bigger picture than the one I see in the mirror.

Is that Okay? It is absolutely beautiful to your soul’s purpose.

 

Moments of Desperation

36d10e34d75fa7eda4e0120686613942

In 1999 we began attending a little church in a little town. Walking in for the first time it was scene right out of the 80’s. Wallpaper border, pink walls, fake plants, and lots of stuff spray painted gold. Like all churches, some of the people were nice and said hello and others didn’t. The pastor could not remember my name and I think addressed me by many names before he gave up. Can you tell I wasn’t really impressed?

I had come from a big city with a big church and big programs and lots of opportunities to serve. Small towns don’t really have all of that but somehow I expected the church to have it and I can’t even tell you why. We’d walk in Sunday after Sunday and I would look at the negative. The message was solid but I wasn’t happy because it wasn’t fulfilling my needs.

I begged my husband to commute to our old church. He was reassuring but firm.

“Susan, do they open their bibles and preach from it?”

“Yes, they do but they also are really concerned about Y2K and…”

“Yes, that’s beside the point. Is the teaching solid?”

“Yes, but that lady was rude telling us we weren’t allowed to sit in her seat.”

“I know you’re unhappy but you need to focus on God. We’re not leaving and commuting to church. Our family needs to be involved in the city we live in. So unless God speaks to me, we’re staying here.”

“But what if he speaks to me?” This was my approach at manipulation and my husband was wise enough to not argue.

Can God speak to us as wives? Of course he can. Does he lead us out of our covering? I don’t see it in scripture. Looking back to that unhappy beginning I could not have seen the things that I would face over these last 17 years.  I would lose my husband to an untimely death. I would raise my children in that little church. I would marry its pastor. I would answer a call to ministry and I would be sitting here today reflecting on how submission works for our good.

I could have fought hard for my way. I could have led my family out because I wasn’t getting what I needed but I knew my husband was a good leader if I would allow him to be and I knew that he would guide me well. Trust is the issue that causes us to do what we want despite our spouses protests. We don’t believe they are spiritual enough. We don’t believe they hear from the Lord as well as we do. We don’t ultimately trust them to lead.

Often in women’s ministry I am asked to pray for that backslidden husband or to pray for that husband to become more mature in the things of the Lord but what I see often is when that man does stand up for what he’d like he stands in the opposition of his wife.

Let’s be wise women, praying in unity with our spouse without manipulation. Allowing our speech to be pleasing and not divisive, and knowing that moments of desperation are not moments of flight but moments of submission to a greater cause that we know nothing about in the moment.

 

 

 

What’s The Image You Are Projecting?

My husband I were walking hand in hand talking when he said, “Goodness those poor girls need a mother.” The scene was two girls walking with low cut tops and shorts that were too short to cover their bottoms. From his perspective he thinks they don’t have fashion sense because no one has taught them. From my perspective, as a mother, this may be partially true and it could be a number of  other things like free will choices.

What is the message that you’re sending? In the workplace are you trying to be taken seriously or trying to be taken sexually? In your free time are you comfortable with people who see your body or your personality?

I saw a young unmarried woman who had way too much cleavage showing and hickeys on her breast for added effect. All I could think of was she had way too much self esteem by the mere fact that she felt comfortable letting us all know how immoral she was. Judgment? Yes. Will I be judged by the same measure? Absolutely. So the next time you see me with my cleavage out and hickeys you can call me a hypocrite and I’ll hang my head in shame and own the title.

Unfortunately society gives a mixed message. On one hand they say cover up to avoid being devalued, and on the other hand they say if you want to have value you must be sexy.  It feels like you can’t win. Top that off with a fatherless generation where girls really don’t have a true compass of what is right and we end up with this dilemma.

What these young women didn’t understand is that yes, men are visual but humans are creative and imaginative creations. Meaning the more you show the less there is to pursue. The more body you show the more you project how little power you have. Society tells us sexuality is power but when someone falls for the outside visual personification of you often they fail to see the inside characteristics of you.

The fact that he finds you sexy seems great at first, but when he can’t see past the exterior of you to who you are will that be enough? What about when you’re gunning for that promotion and you aren’t taken seriously? There is freedom in the dress code of a Christian woman. By no means am I suggesting she has to wear turtlenecks in the summer but there is a happy medium.

Here is a video I found on Huffington Post that I think is really great at showing us a before and after, please listen carefully to their comments it will give you great insight as to how women are perceived. Click Here.

o-OWN-OWNSHOW-ADAM-SAYS-LOW-CUT-TOPS-facebook

 

The Art of Bouncing Back

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

As a woman in ministry there is a big target on your back and you can fall prey to the haters if you aren’t careful. I want to speak to the wife of a Pastor today because she is especially vulnerable to the arrows that hit her blindside.

It’s not about going around trying to stir up trouble. As long as you are honest and you articulate what you believe to be true, somebody somewhere will become your enemy whether you like it or not. ~Criss Jami

I am watching two very different women in ministry. A young Pastor’s wife, we’ll name her Jane, with a heart for the Lord who is being torn apart by unrealistic expectations, and a Pastor’s wife, Chris, who is being slaughtered by those who profess to wear the banner of love. It’s painful even from a distance.

In both cases you have women who love the Lord and are actively involved in their church. They are there at every event and they are there to serve. They pray. They seek the Lord. They speak words of revelation and life and yet they are lonely. They want to be a part of something that they have not been invited to.

So what’s the problem? Young Pastor’s wife Jane is an intercessor. She’s friendly but introverted. She will be at the church praying on any given day once her children are off to school, however Jane doesn’t lead a ministry. Jane has prayed over me powerfully but if I ask her to speak at our women’s conference Jane politely declines and says, “but I’ll help you serve food and I’ll help you at the altar”. Her church feels she needs to step it up. Only who decides that? I read the bible and there is this ministry called Helps and it is very necessary in the church.

Then there is Chris she is prophetic and a powerhouse speaker. Her church would like for her to stand down based on a misconception of a biblical view of women that are to be seen and not heard. Man! If only we could switch churches for them maybe their congregations would be happy. Unfortunately, their husbands were called to their place.

The biggest difference between leaders of large organizations and small organizations isn’t their location, the size of their building, the scope of their vision, the number of staff members, or their talent. In fact, some of the best leaders I’ve met have small organizations. But in all of my consulting and conferences, I’ve seen a single factor: leaders of larger organizations have proven they can handle more pain. ~ Sam Chand

So let’s do away with the expectation of a pastor’s wife. She may be called to lead a ministry or support it. She may be called to be a pastor or not. I can promise you one thing is for sure, she will fail someone at some point because no one is perfect. From a biblical view I don’t think the church gets to decide who she is to be. I think God does and I think he’s pretty sure about his expectations, and I would bet money on the fact that we’re supposed to trust Him. Let’s show a little mercy. The art of bouncing back becomes a little more difficult each time.