Sunday, December 28, 2014

Time to Unpack Part 2 - Confession and Questions

Part 2 has been a long time coming... since my last post I've been busy. I had an annual ARD for my middle child, my youngest was diagnosed with a hearing impairment and we had her first 504 meeting, I passed my first and second kidney stones, my mom had a wee bit of surgery, I closed out the fall semester at work, hosted a couple of Christmas gatherings (one of which included 50+ people in my house) as well as did all my shopping and had family Christmas. Now, I'm in my jammies and finally finding time to get back to this post.  So, yeah, busy.

Even though I have been busy I wouldn't say the revelations I shared in my last post have left me.  Quite the contrary actually. They are on my mind all the time, usually followed up with the forever unanswered "what now?" question. But before I can answer that I have another confession to make. This one took me a little bit longer to wrap my head around and acknowledge, so forgive me if it is hard to articulate.

At the close of my last post I acknowledge all of the things that I packed away in the suitcase. The list included writing, teaching, and multiple leadership roles at church. I took gifts that God has given me and set them aside because I was confused about how to use them within the church culture I am a part of. Trying to figure that out had me questioning so many things that I gave up and put it away. I left something off the list though. Something I didn't even realize I was packing away. Surprisingly, God reveled it to me in the blacklight putt-putt course at Grand Station. (see - God can reach you anywhere!) Easy and I were having a surprisingly deep chat while we played through the course and he asked me what one thing would make me feel like I was moving forward spiritually. It took me a bit to find the words and then God gave them to me - Fresh Revelation - and in that moment I realized how foolish I have been. I had stopped seeking.

Now, don't get me wrong, God has still been teaching me things over the last several years. He teaches me through music and song, through shared devotional and study time in small group and classes, and through the preached word on Sunday mornings. He teaches me through family prayer time, and friends, and desk calendars. I am so grateful that He loves me enough to continue reaching out and speaking to me even when I am not purposefully and intentionally seeking fresh revelation from Him. Now that I know though... now that I realize I haven't been pursing Him... well, it's time to get out of the suitcase and start the journey again.

As I begin anew I realize I'm left with two main questions. Before I put them out there for you to think about, let me take a moment to say thank you to my friend and brother in Christ, Jason Fikes. Jason recently taught a three class series on the topic of women's roles in the church and it was sitting through his very well informed and well spoken class that prompted all this self reflection. More than just prompting the self reflection though, it started dialogue on the topic that is spilling over into a variety of settings and I do believe that is how growth and change begin. So, what are the questions I face now?

1) Does God gift women and men differently? Are there gifts not available to one gender or the other? Can a women be given the gift of teaching, prophecy, or even leadership? And if so, then how is she to use it?

2) What is authority? So much of the struggle with this topic is connected to the idea of authority. So what exactly is it? I understand authority within my marriage, and to a degree within the church structure I choose to be a part of. But outside of that, what is spiritual authority? Does it have an impact on my individual life? And is it connected in any way to whether one if male or female?

Time to dig deeper. I'll work on unpacking these questions as I continue to blog. I ask you earnestly to pray for me as I begin to journey again into a topic that it challenging and as I again submit to the call God has placed on me to use my mind and words to share all He teaches me with anyone willing to read or listen.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Time to Unpack Part 1 - How I Got in a Suitcase

I've been doing some real self reflection the last few weeks. That's not really me all packed away in the red suitcase, but it could be. I do have a red suitcase, and I have come to understand that there is a significant part of myself that I have packed away and zipped up tight for a number of years. Now that I realize what it is I've done, I'm not all that proud. Let me tell you how a wound up in a suitcase.

Several years ago I took a job with the church I attend running the Nursery and Childcare Ministry. At the same time I was the ministry leader for what was then our POPS (parents of pre-schoolers) ministry, I served on the women's ministry committee, and I was on the Board of Directors for the preschool at our church (where I know work). Being in a lot of different leadership roles at church was awesome.  I was thriving and studying and generally loving life. At the time, our elders had a quarterly ministry leaders meeting where all the elders (or all that could come) and all of the various ministry leaders got together to not only discuss what the various ministries were doing but to evaluate what the vision of our church was and how our ministries fit into that vision. It was a time intended to help us all focus on making sure we were working towards the same goals and not actually pulling resources and purpose away from one another. At least that's how I remember it. I was excited and fired up to be a part of that process. I mean, I was just me, a little ol' Church of Christ girl serving in a leadership capacity in the church. But I'm getting ahead of myself....I need to share with your 3 things that happened over about a two-year period that rocked my world, and I realized now resulted in a suitcase life.

First I'll tell you about being on a vision committee. At one of those big ministry leader meetings the elder leading the meeting (I think it was an elder, it may have been one of the ministers) was concluding the thoughts for the day and explained that the goal was to put together a committee to write a vision statement for our church.  He asked something like this," So, if anyone has a gift with words and would be willing to serve on the committee please raise your hand." I didn't even think, I just raised my hand and even though I detected a slight pause in the processing of the man at the front of the room, I found myself on the committee.  I'm pretty sure I called my mom and said, "I can't believe what I just did.  I didn't even really mean to, I just raised my hand." I raised my hand because I was confident in the gifts God has given me, not for any other reason or agenda. As I served on the committee the first thing that shook my thinking up happened.  As we were concluding one of our meetings one of the elders on the committee said very casually," Sarah, will you close our meeting with a prayer." There it was, a moment that changed - well, me.  I hesitated only briefly and then said "Of course," and I worded a prayer to conclude our time together.  This time I know I called my mom. From the parking lot.  With shaking hands.  I told her what happened in an unbelieving, breathless way the belied the shaking and quivering I was still experiencing. I left the parking lot that night wondering how that was possible.  How was little female me allowed to word a prayer in a room of elders and other male leaders?  (Yes, I said allowed - that was the word my brain produced at the time.... now it uses different words.)

Secondly, I will tell you about my oldest daughter's baptism. As most of my readers, if there are any left, know, my oldest daughter has Asperger Syndrome.  That is only relevant to this part of the story because there were very few people in her life at that time that she truly trusted. I was top of the list. I was her safe person. Maybe you see where this is headed. After a year of discussing baptism and her begging us to let her be baptized, my sweet hubby and I said "Yes, of course, you should answer the call you feel to give your life to Christ!" She was so excited, and then she told me she wanted me to baptize her.  Wait, what? Could I do that?  I spent some time on my own studying scripture. I prayed a lot. I spoke with my husband, my parents, and my grandmother (miss you Nana!!!). I spoke with my boss at the church (the Children's coordinator) and at her recommendation, I went to speak with one of our elders. I chose an elder I had a good relationship with thanks to all of those ministry leader meetings. As a matter of fact, I think I caught him in the hall after one of those meetings to visit with him about this. He was wonderful and he confirmed what I had found on my own - there is absolutely NOTHING in scripture that says anything about whether a male or female could baptize someone.  So basically I got a big green light from the elder - provided it wasn't during a regular church service. Now, my sweet Aspie anxious child didn't want to be baptized at a church service anyway so this point was not one that mattered.  But still..... (And yes, I did baptize my daughter at the church building - on a Saturday afternoon with only a very few friends and loved ones present)

And third - the last piece that really shook me up. As I mentioned, earlier, I was active in the women's ministry at this time.  I did quite a bit of class facilitation and teaching and I was writing on this blog and my other ones on a regular basis.  I was asked to be one of the speakers for an upcoming women's event. It was the first time I had been asked to teach/speak on a topic that wasn't straight from a book for reference or directly related to my own story and testimony.  I was nervous, but excited at the challenge.  I learned a lot as I prepared for the event. God is so good and He was teaching me and I was excited to share that with everyone. Oh, wait, not everyone. I was excited to share that with the women. See, that's when it hit me. God had given me a gift of teaching, a way with words and communication that brings Him glory, but I couldn't share that with everyone. And there was no situation I could imagine in my world at the time that would ever give my husband, my daddy, or my son the opportunity to hear my speak and teach from God's word.  And that broke my heart.

So what did I do?  I started studying and looking for resources.  I found one book that I wound up throwing across the room because it was so poorly written. (sorry, I'm a bit of a literary snob I guess) A friend recommended a book that wound up being out of print.  Another recommended a book that I got but struggled through as it was just very heavy and read like a textbook (with no professor to help expound on what it meant).  I kept digging and praying and looking and then I found myself in a very scary place.  I found myself starting to think things like," Well, Paul said that, but JESUS didn't." Thinking like that quickly leads to a lot of doubts and questions - the kind that can shake your faith. And I didn't want my faith shaken. My life is not all that easy. I have kids with some serious issues. I need my faith. I need my Jesus. If looking into this issue of where women fit in the church, women gifted with leadership and teaching and administration and even prophesy, if studying this was going to make me doubt, then I wasn't going to do. So I packed it away. And along with it I packed away all of my writing, all of my speaking and teaching, and every leadership role I had at the time. I packed away some of my God given gifts.  And that is sinful. So maybe it's time to unpack..... but what in the world does that looks like?  We'll have to make that Part 2.....

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Family Project

When I started this blog years ago it was dedicated to two things: getting my physical body healthy and growing spiritually.  I don't think that goal has changed, but I no longer felt the need to check in on the physical stuff in this forum.  I'm healthier than I have been since high school.  I've maintained that for over a year.  Sure, I tend to fluctuate a bit throughout the year.  I'm not immune to the holidays or to end of year (defined as post spring break-end of school) stress eating. But it stays in check.  And it stays in check because exercise and being mindful of what I put in my body has become a way of life, not a project.  So, I may still make an occasional post related to the physical part (I have one on body image already brewing in my brain), but for the most part the focus of this blog going forward will be on trying to process, articulate, and share what God is teaching me.

A couple of Sundays ago, on my birthday, I had one of those amazing moments when I knew God was telling me to do something.  I love those moments.  We were having family prayer time during our morning service at church and I was praying over Paris.  In particular, I was praying that God would help me teach her how to trust in Him to meet her needs.  Paris is, well, a fairly negative person.  Her first inclination in any situation that is slightly out of her control or contrary to the plan she had in her head is to freak out, meltdown, and get angry (usually at me).  Part of that is due to her Asperger's.  I realize and accept that God made her brain and body to work differently than mine.  I can't change that.  What I can do, and should do, is not accept the idea that she can't grow and change in how she views the world she lives in.  Paris doesn't believe the way she thinks can change.  I know better.  God has changed the way I think, and he can certainly do that for her too.  So, I sat there on that Sunday praying that God would help me teach her that if she is relying on Him, she doesn't have to be in control - a concept that I know from experience will greatly reduce the amount of anxiety she feels on a daily basis. I wasn't even expecting an answer really since I was asking for assistance in the journey and not for a specific need to be met. What I got was an image in my mind of a project for our entire family to do this summer.

We are going to make a family eucharisteo board.  I love that word. Eucharisteo.  It's like a sigh in my mind.  If you aren't familiar with eucharisteo I recommend reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  Here are a few quotes from the book (p.32-33) to give you the idea:

Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning "joy."
Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.
Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo - the table of thanksgiving.
We are making a giant chalk board to document our daily thanks for the many gifts God gives us.  Each of us in the family will get a different colored chalk and we will write on our board daily.  At the end of the summer I will seal it and we will hang it in our breakfast nook above the window to the back porch.
Not the best pic, but you can see the empty spot we are going to fill with God's provision.
I don't think I would ever have dreamed up this project on my own.  What God reminded me of as this plan rolled through my mind is that trusting Him fully is dependent on understanding that He has already given us everything.  If He takes care of the little things, He can take care of the big things. I think my little people (and probably the big ones in our house too) need a visual reminder of the gifts God gives us every single day. 
When I laid this plan out to the family everyone was on board. Easy started figuring out how to build the chalkboard and how he would hang it.  Vivi gave an excited clap.  Tripp gave a big thumbs up with an accompanying happy sound effect. Mom and Dad wanted to know if they could write on the board (which of course they can any time they want to). Paris asked," But what if we don't have anything that day.". Well Sweet P, that is exactly why we are doing it.  So we can be reminded that even on what feels like the worst day ever God still provides for us.
Today I received affirmation that this indeed is what God wants us as a family to do. The following scripture was part of the reading for my Bible study:
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. - Ephesians 3:16
Imagine my surprise when my exact sentiment is right there, already in scripture.  Join me as I pray for my family that as we make a physical list of the limitless gifts God provides to sustain our joy, that we will all be empowered with inner strength through the Spirit; casting aside fear and anxiety for the gift of peace and joy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Perpetual Project

You may have seen over on my other blog that Easy got me my own computer for my birthday & Mother's Day this year.  The main reason I wanted on was so that I could start blogging again and stop fighting for device time with my three beautiful, electronic hogging children.  I've been sitting on the couch this evening tweaking the little boxes on this blog in preparation to re-launch it.

I thought long an hard about not coming back to this blog.  I considered combing my other blog and this one.  I find at this point in life it is difficult to separate out the family stories from my own.  We are a system that is always changing and growing together.  What happens to one of us effects all of us.  After much consideration though, I've decided to keep them separate.  I want this blog to continue to be dedicated to introspection and taking a closer look at what God is doing as he transforms me.

What I hope you will see as we continue along this journey is that I have surrendered to God's story for my life. (I considered Sarah Surrendered as a blog title if I had combined the two sites.). I have no idea what chapters lie ahead for me.  What I do know is that I have learned to stop railing against the pieces of my story that have been revealed.  I have stopped looking ahead to what the next chapter might be and learned to enjoy the one I'm in.  I understand now that trying to orchestrate the way the story goes is ridiculous.  I already know how it ends.  Jesus is my beginning and end.  The end.

My battery is running low so I'm going to post this and go plug in this nifty new tablet/laptop thing that Easy got me.  I hope as I begin writing here again that my words might reach out and draw someone closer to Christ.  That really is the point of my whole story.