Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Doesn’t that sound exciting?

Beauty for Ashes…

“…He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”  -Isaiah 61:3

I’m so happy to let you all know I’m getting married!  After years of waiting, hoping, praying, and waiting some more, God has blessed me with one of the best men I’ve ever known.

Rick and I lived in the same town when I was in elementary school; we knew one another, but obviously had no idea what God had in store for us.   Our families have remained close over the years, but it wasn’t until he sent me a little message on Facebook (“Hey!  Remember me?”), that we really got to know one another.

When Rick first contacted me, I didn’t think much about it.  I’m a city-girl and he is a farmer in rural midwest.  I knew he couldn’t leave his farm and I couldn’t imagine moving back there.  But as we began to communicate, I found I couldn’t dismiss him so easily.  Not only is he a farmer, but he’s also a missionary, spending his free time every year in Guatemala doing missions work.  I quickly realized that he is honest, caring, kind, and witty.  He is also a man who knows who he is.  He doesn’t struggle to figure out what he’s going to do with his life.  He already does what he loves.  As we got to know each other, it became apparent very quickly that this was more than a friendship.

As I prayed and asked God if He really might want me to move to the rural midwest, the soft answer that came stunned me.  “You were willing to move to Haiti, but you can’t live on a farm?”  I quickly adjusted my attitude.

Ten months after that first Facebook message, Rick called me late on a Thursday night to ask me if I still needed a date for a friend’s party the next night.  Much to my surprise, he was in Nashville the next afternoon.  We spent Saturday around Nashville, ending with a romantic dinner and a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city.  Rick had been saying the sweetest things to me all weekend and he didn’t stop when we got in the carriage.  When he asked me to marry him, I didn’t have to think for a second.  I just said “Yes!”  Then he gave me a beautiful diamond ring.

We spent that evening basking in the amazement that in a few months we’ll be husband and wife.  Even though it was late, we called a few people to share the news.  The next morning began a whirlwind of communication, letting those closest to us know of our engagement, showing off the ring, and trying to wrap our minds around the fact that we had both finally found “the one.”

As I’ve considered all this engagement means for my life, one thing is very clear to me:  God has blessed me.  Rick is a wonderful man and I feel certain that our life together will be good.  We want the same things out of life – a peaceful home, children, and God at the center of it all.  I have never felt so comfortable, so blessed, and so loved in my entire life.  When I look at Rick, I see a man who truly tries to be like Christ.  I am smitten.  We aren’t perfect, we don’t always agree on everything, but we are perfect for each other.  I’m fast and he’s slow.  I’m independent and he’s aware of his need for others.  He loves tractors and I love writing.  He’s private and I’m, well, you know…

We don’t have all the details set yet, but I can say that we plan to marry in Nashville and we don’t want to be engaged any longer than necessary.  We’re looking at all our date options and pulling together the pieces so we can set a date.  It’s amazing how much work goes into just setting a date!  After we’re married, I plan to move to his home.  Yes, the city girl is looking forward to becoming a farmer’s wife.

There are so many good things I could share about how God has shown me His goodness every step of the way, but in closing I will share one of my favorite details.  As I’ve written before, I have prayed for wisdom all my life.  James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  Folks, my new last name will soon be WYSE.

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Boot Camp

May 15, 2011

On this day last year, I found myself unemployed.  The church that had funded my full-time ministry determined that it could no longer carry the financial burden of the number of employees it had.  The leaders decided to downsize by 25%.  Although I felt that God had been preparing my heart for the change for nearly a year prior to the layoff, I was stunned.  I had not imagined the change would come in that form.  Surely what God had planned was tremendous blessing without any pain, right? 

The swirl of emotions that followed was not unusual, but it was difficult.  I have wrestled with feeling like a failure, rejection and fear.  God sustained me during the worst of the down times.  I had a sense of peace in the middle of the storm that I could only attribute to His presence.  My emotions were reeling, but as long as I kept my eyes on Jesus, the storms soon passed and I was able to keep my peace.  Instead of being swallowed up by the negative emotions, I allowed myself to feel them, gave them to the Lord, and moved on.  That is one of the best testimonies I could ever give to the faithfulness of my Father.  With the wind and rain pounding around me, I was sheltered, safe and secure in His arms. 

There is another very tangible blessing that I see as I look back over this year.  As a single woman, no one else is here to help me carry my financial responsibilities.  No, I don’t have a family to support, but I also have no one supporting me.  I had barely scraped by while I worked full-time at the church.  I had no idea how I was going to make it without my salary.  With no choice but to trust God as my provider, He proved to me that I was not alone after all. 

I was given six weeks’ severance pay.  I felt in my heart that God would provide a new job and I didn’t need to hit the pavement, searching high and low.  But I didn’t want to completely freak my family and friends out by not applying for jobs, so out of respect for them I applied and applied and applied.  I sent out hundreds of resumes and I didn’t get one interview.  Not one. 

During that time, I needed to buy new ink for my printer.  That stuff is expensive!  I sat in my desk chair, looking online at prices, looking at my bank account balance and the bills coming in, and not knowing what to do.  I had the money to buy the ink, but with no more money coming in I was afraid to spend it.  I needed the ink.  As I wrestled with what to do, I felt like God said, “Get what you need.  Whatever you spend will be covered.”  I knew with certainty that this wasn’t a license for irresponsibility, but that God would take care of what I needed.  I spent the money for the ink and the next day a man at church handed me the amount I had spent.

My family had scheduled a vacation to the beach around the time my severance was ending.  I hadn’t committed to it because I thought I’d be starting a new job and wouldn’t have the vacation time.  But as the days neared and I still had no job and money was running out, my prayers grew louder.  I continued to hear God’s voice assuring me that it would be okay.  I felt like He told me to go on the vacation, enjoy myself, not worry about work, and He would take care of everything.  He wanted to bless me with the vacation.  I went.  As I drove to the beach that hot, summer day, I played a song over and over in my car – What’d you say to taking chances?  What’d you say to jumping off the ledge?  Never knowing if there’s solid ground below, or a Hand to hold… 

I took a chance on trusting God, gave up the job search, and thoroughly enjoyed my family.  On about the fourth day of the trip, my fear took over and I allowed myself a pity party.  Of course, I missed out on a really fun day with my family while I sat alone and sulked!  I picked myself up that afternoon and placed my fears back into God’s capable hands.  On the final day of vacation, I prayed all the way back to Nashville, begging God to intervene. 

A few days after I got home, I went to a friend’s house to hang out.  As we talked, she mentioned that her nanny/housekeeper was unavailable.  She shrugged her shoulders and asked me if I’d want to help her out.  I’d helped with her kids before and loved them, but had never considered making a job out of it.  I didn’t need to pray about it.  I quickly answered, Yes, please.  She told me what she paid and the hours she needed.  I agreed.  It was extremely part-time – 13 hours a week – but it was something. 

That was my job interview.  That job soon turned into about 20 hours a week – a low-stress, physical job where I get to care for 5 beautiful children who I adore.  Besides that, I get to help out a good friend with her home.  Ministry just took on a new meaning. 

God also provided a new living situation for me.  I moved in with an elderly woman who needs someone to be present overnight to help her out a little.  Free of typical housing expenses, I had enough money to pay my bills if I lived very frugally. 

It seemed that every time an expenditure came up that wasn’t within my budget, someone would hand me the money I needed or I’d get an extra babysitting job.  I have not had one bill go unpaid.  I worked approximately 20 hours a week for six months and in that time I continued to repay debt as scheduled, and I had everything I needed. 

As I was only working part-time, I had a lot of time to nurture the new relationship that sprung up unexpectedly.  I spent hours every night on the phone with my new love interest, received visits from him, visited him, and didn’t have to miss work to do so. 

My family was concerned about how I would continue to survive financially and urged me to apply for anything I could find so I could have at least another part-time job.  I prayed about it and spoke to my boyfriend about it, asking what he thought.  Together we decided that I needed to be free to travel throughout the holidays (he and all of my family are located in different areas of the country), so I would hold off on finding a second job until after Christmas.  In January, I could start looking. 

I worried about how I’d afford Christmas presents for my loved ones.  (I love giving gifts!)  Because of all the holiday parties and events, I was needed to care for the children on nights and weekends.  The extra hours provided all the money I needed to buy gifts.  I felt so blessed. 

Right before I left for Christmas vacation, I got an email from the church, asking if I would consider a part-time job at the receptionist desk.  Although I was over-qualified, they knew I needed additional income.  I was able to work out the schedule and left for Christmas knowing my financial needs had again been met.  While on Christmas break, my friend asked if I wanted more hours at her house.  She is pregnant again and needed some extra help.  Between the two jobs, I suddenly had 40-hours a week, plus free living expenses.  When I added up the income of the jobs and added in what I was saving in living expenses, I’d gotten a raise! 

Over the last several months, I’ve been able to pay extra on my debt and I even put a little money in an emergency fund.  I still have 3 days off each week, so travel arrangements are fairly easy to accommodate.  And the home I’m living in now has separate guest quarters that make it possible for Rick to stay here when he visits and still have his own space. 

I am thankful.  My God has supplied my needs.  He has given me peace.  He has brought romantic love into my life and the joy that comes with feeling loved and accepted by someone I love and treasure.  God has allowed me the dignity of seeing my debt go down, down, down, and my savings go up.  And God is putting me through a new school these days – that of learning how to run a large household and care for many children.  I now know things I could have never learned in books – like how to put a gleam in the eye of a child who feels a little left out.  I’d like to think I know why He is putting me through this training, but I have discovered that what God does is never quite what I thought He was doing.  He is sneaky.  And while there are times that I feel rubbed raw by the hands that are shaping my life, I am delighted by the outcome. 

I asked God to put me through a sort-of boot camp, quickly teaching me the things I need to know to get where I’m going faster.  Quit dragging it out a little at a time, Lord, and just give it all to me at once.  As long as it’s by Your hand, I’ll be okay.  I can handle it.  I knew it was a dangerous prayer.  I knew I might have times where I really regretted it.  And there have been times where I’ve cried out, Enough!  I didn’t know what I was asking.  Please stay Your hand for a minute so I can catch my breath.  But He is so faithful to me.  He gives such grace.

I see this last year of my life as that boot camp.  God has humbled me, then humbled me again, and then humbled me again.  He has shown me clearly that I can do nothing without Him, and that my pride (I didn’t know it was such a problem) is an offense to Him.  He has proven to me that He will not give His blessing until I put Him first.  And yet He has given me such joy and hope as I explore the beauty of romance. 

…He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.  (Isaiah 61:3)

One year later, I stand in awe of the blessing of the Lord.  Thank You, Jesus. 

Psalm 63: 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

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Man in the Middle

A single woman recently wrote in to an e-newsletter I subscribe to for advice because she’s very attracted to a kind, godly man within her small church.  In spite of her attraction, she’s chosen not to pursue any type of relationship with him because… he’s married.  She’s horrified by her feelings and so she avoids him, doesn’t make eye contact, and can even be cold when he approaches her.  She said he makes an effort to be kind to everyone within their congregation and she feels even worse about not responding warmly to him; but to maintain her integrity, she avoids him as much as possible.  She doesn’t know what else to do.

My heart goes out to her because I understand her struggle well.  I started seminary in 2004, a few months before I turned 29.  I’d been engaged and if the relationship had worked out, could’ve been starting a family at that time.  My emotions were reeling from rejection, loss, and failure.  I already felt like an older bride, and it shamed me to know that I would be even older when I finally married the man God had for me.  Not marrying by age 30 felt like the worst possible failure as a woman. I felt unwanted, like something was deeply wrong with me.  Even though I had been the one to walk away, to choose shame over marriage to a man who wasn’t the best for me, I believed the lie that the failure was mine.  God knew best when He called me to Regent University’s School of Divinity:  the classes, professors, and other students revived my soul.  I learned so much about life, leadership, integrity, friendship, and becoming whole.  When I look back on that time, I see myself entering that world with a raw and bleeding heart and emerging with a whole, healed heart.

During my first week on campus, when I was soaking up the wonder of that place and hoping God had sent me there to finally meet my husband, I met a man.  He was strikingly handsome, which is what I first noticed.  I can’t lie about that…  But I’ve met many handsome men.  What made me notice him was that he was also warm and kind, friendly to everyone, and a capable leader who could think for himself.  He engaged in theological discussion (among other things) without ever making the other person feel less knowledgeable or devaluing their opinions.  He was a student leader, but he was one of the most humble men I had ever met.  I was smitten.

Then one day I saw him at a social event with a woman I had never seen before, and then I saw their children.  Stunned, I realized he was married.  Disappointment and frustration tried to swallow me up.  And a battle began in my soul.

This man and I were in classes together.  A lot of classes.  Small classes.  We worked together on projects and campus activities.  The more I got to know him, the more amazing he became to me.  And he was so kind and friendly – never flirtatious, but genuinely caring.  One day I realized I was in the middle of a daydream about what my life would be like as his wife and step-mother to his children.  Ugh!  Thoroughly disgusted with myself, I turned to God in desperate prayer.  What do I do with these feelings, Lord?

God took me through a process then of learning to die to myself.  He taught me such valuable lessons during this time.  At first, I did what the girl above did.  I avoided him.  I stopped making eye contact.  I was borderline rude.  But that didn’t sit right with me.  I cared about him and didn’t want to hurt him.  I thought about going to him and telling him I was attracted to him and didn’t want to cross any lines so I had to avoid him.  Ha!  I only considered that thought for a minute.  I knew that doing so would just make things really awkward (or if he’d been a man with less integrity, opened the door to a terrible moral failure).  I thought about going to his wife and confessing to her, but while that might make me feel better, it might also create insecurity and fear in her because she didn’t know me at all. 

In the end, through much prayer and seeking, I did two very simple things.  First, I told a trusted friend what was going on in my heart.  She is a good friend.  She didn’t judge or think less of me, but simply promised to pray and to be a sounding board when I needed it.  Secondly, I began to pray for the man and his family.  I had learned a few small details about his wife’s struggles, so I prayed for her.  At first, I had to beg God to help me mean it because the words were bitter on my tongue.  It didn’t take long before I really meant it though.  I prayed blessings on them.  I prayed for their children to be blessed.  I prayed for their romantic love to blossom and grow.  Lastly I prayed that God would help me see this man as my brother and his wife as my sister.  I asked God to help me love them in a way that is consistent with the family of God.

An amazing thing happened during this process.  The Lord replaced my feelings of disappointment and frustration with warmth and genuine concern. When I saw his family together, playing and goofing off, I felt my prayers being answered.  I began to interact with him as I do with my own brother.  I stopped idealizing him and even noticed a few of his flaws.  While I still admire him, I can now see specifically why we wouldn’t be a good match.

I am so thankful that God allowed me to experience this struggle.  Since that time, I have applied the lesson learned in countless ways.  There have been other times when a married man has caught my attention, but by immediately catching myself and praying for him in the same ways, I have kept the emotions in check and gained a brother.  A woman who greatly intimidated me at one time is now a beloved friend because I asked God to help me see her as my sister in Christ, was able to see her struggles, and then prayed earnestly for God to heal her wounds.  When I look at her now, all I see is a tender-hearted woman who simply wants to be loved and valued.

I will take this lesson into marriage one day.  I hear that just because you say “I do”, it doesn’t mean you never notice another person again.  If unwanted feelings come up, I plan to share them with a trusted friend and pray to see the man as my brother. As I write these thoughts, the prayer comes to mind:  Lord, help me to see all men (other than the man You have for me to marry) as my brothers. I also pray now that God will give me compassion and understanding if I ever notice that the man I marry is having a similar struggle and not take it personally.

The funny thing is that the married man I had idealized had character traits that I was trying to develop in myself.  He wasn’t a good partner for me, but a vision I hope to achieve personally.  He was kind to all, a good leader, humble, intelligent without being off-putting, and so on.  The man God has for me is likely to have a different style than mine, so that we complement one another and fit together beautifully.  Today I am blessed to know a man who is kind to all, humble, thoughtful, and quick-witted without being demeaning.  He leads quietly, without appearing to stand out front, living as an example that others can follow.  He leads by making choices that are full of integrity and grace.  While I tend to be emotional and on-the-move, he is as steady and stable as a rock.  And, praise God, he is somehow single and in love with me.

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Hey Jealousy…

When I was growing up, we were in church every time the doors were open.  In fact, we were usually the ones opening the doors.  I spent as much time at church as I did at home.  My parents worked there, I went to school there, my house was practically on the property, and of course there were the services…  Every once in a while I’d ask my parents, “Do I have to go to church tonight?”  Without fail (why did I keep asking?) they would smile cheerfully and say, “Nope.  You don’t have to go.  You get to go!”  No amount of contriving to escape from that explanation ever worked. 

I really didn’t mind going to church.  But every once in a while, I just wanted to stay home.  Now that I’m an adult, I have to admit that every so often I take pleasure in missing a service just because.  I love church and believe it’s important to be an active part of a community of faith, but I’ve never been one who thinks my relationship with God depends on never missing a service. 

My parents were always very big on our attitude.  Bad attitudes were simply not allowed.  While I often begrudged their insistence that my attitude always be good, that I always try to find the good in something, I find these days that I really appreciate that training. 

Most of the time, I look at my life and am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for giving me such blessings.  I have much to be thankful for, including a nice, comfortable house to live in, enough work to keep me busy and financially sound, a good education, godly parents, great friends, and a man who loves me.  I allow the feeling of being treasured by God, provided for, and blessed to wash over me and I rejoice in all that God has done. 

But every once in a while different, unwelcome feelings flood over me.  I won’t list out for you all the failures that accumulate in my mind, but at times they feel overwhelming.  I can’t understand the delays, the rejection, the lack.  When I put all my effort into something and it doesn’t work out, how do I handle the frustration and pain? 

I’ve discovered that when I take my pain and frustration to the Lord, He soothes me.  In prayer I am reminded that God’s timing is perfect.  I am reminded that it’s not my job to make things happen, but to be open to accepting opportunities in obedience when they come.  It’s not my job to make myself a success, but to humbly do all my hand finds to do as unto the Lord and wait for Him to bless me. 

Even so, I find out that a fellow unknown writer/blogger got a major publishing opportunity because something he wrote got shared with the right person at the right time and my small, black, jealous heart twists in pain.  Why him and not me, God?  I like him.  I like his writing.  Why not BOTH of us?  And then the ugliest of thoughts, that maybe he’ll mess up the opportunity and not write anything they want to publish.  Maybe they’ll hate his writing and he’ll go back to being an unknown who is hopefully writing his little blog just like me…   And the soft flutter of angel wings surrounds the green monster in my heart with soothing words of love.  Be happy for him.  Pray that he’ll succeed.  Bless him as he writes.  I have plans for you too. 

And I know it’s true.  I know I absolutely must bless him, cheer for him, and even be happy for him.  I’m not sure if I can do it.  Do I have to, Lord?  Oh, but I get to.  I get to watch my twisted and ugly heart become pure when it is washed with the love of Christ.  I get to allow my Savior into that part of myself and give Him space to work.  And when his first book comes out (for surely it will because he IS incredibly talented), and I congratulate him, I will mean it with all my heart.  And I will know God has transformed me.  I will know my decision to let God change my attitude has made all the difference. 

The thing is, God is the one who has given me the gifts and talents I have.  He is the one who has placed desires in my heart for good things.  Why would God, who created me and loves me, give me these talents and desires and not provide a way for me to use them?  If I continue to walk in obedience to what I believe He is guiding me to do, then I am sure to walk right into more than I could ever imagine for myself. 

So I will be the best I can be at what I’ve been given to do now.  I will be the best friend, the best girlfriend, the best daughter, the best sister and aunt, the best writer, and the best employee I can possibly be.  I will keep putting one foot in front of the other, knowing I am doing what I am able to do, thanking God that He has provided for me.  Most importantly, I will walk in obedience to His Word, doing all I can to stand before my Lord innocently, ready to do His will.  I will trust Him to take care of me. 

I will pray earnestly for the success of all those who have things that I wish I had.  I will pray and pray and pray, not stopping until I can do so without gritting my teeth.  I will pray until my heart really means it and I can really smile as I say the words.  I will even thank God that I get to pray.  Lord, cleanse my jealous heart…

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Counting the Change

$40.22. 

That is the total amount of money I have saved in the last year or so by saving my change. 

After a year of faithfully putting the change I got from each cash transaction and picking up pennies on the ground, I filled a 12 oz. jar I recycled for this use and came up with a grand total of $40.22.  Humpf.  I was really hoping for more. 

For Christmas, I got a nifty contraption that counts change and stores it.  I had no idea how much change I had, so today being a snow day, I took the time to put it all in the new jar.  Did you know that money really IS dirty?  My hands were filthy when I finished! 

So why am I saving my change?  Well, that’s something I’m not ready to share with you yet.  See, I’m in debt, so I’ve been actively paying on that debt and living within (or below) my means for several years.  Last year, I shared with a dear friend one of the most quiet and personal desires from this woman’s heart.  It’s something that is not a necessity, not practical, and yet so very, very important.  Some might think me frivolous and even vain for my desire, but my reasons are so much deeper than that.  My heart longs for something meaningful, beautiful, special, and cherished.  My friend heard my heart, understood my dilemma (how do you save for something that isn’t a necessity when you are paying off debt?), and made this suggestion:  Save your change.  It’s small.  It probably won’t add up to much.  But save it.  And every time you put change in that container, PRAY, and ask God to multiply it. 

I heeded her suggestion.  I have been putting change in that little container and whispering a quiet prayer to God every time I do.  Multiply it, Lord.  I remember the story of the loaves and fishes, I remember the oil in the widow’s jar that didn’t run out, and I offer my simple act of faith to God.  It’s something with a deadline attached to it, so I keep plugging away, adding to my little stash whenever I can, and hoping that God sees my heart and honors my desire.

I think life can sometimes be like my little change-saving exercise.  We want something that isn’t necessarily a need (food, clothing, shelter), but is meaningful and precious to us.  We can’t put a lot of time or energy into it because we’re just getting through life – working, sleeping, eating, maintaining our relationships, taking care of our responsibilities (house, kids, parents, etc.), and trying to have a relationship with the Lord.  So little by little we take from our precious time and energy to put a little something into that dream, desire, or goal.  We work at it just a bit, hoping some day it will add up to more than what we’ve been able to put into it.  This may be the dream of writing a great novel, one paragraph at a time in stolen moments when the children are sleeping and you should be too; or building a boat with your own two hands; or even building a new friendship with someone who is walled off and skittish, but who you believe could really be an amazing friend if they’d just open up and trust. 

You can’t throw all your resources and strength at this goal, but you give what you can and you pray that God will take your feeble efforts and make something great out of it.  You may get discouraged along the way, checking your progress and seeing that not much has been made, but you plug along anyway, hoping for the best.  Even the little you can do is at least moving in the right direction.

$40.22 isn’t much in relation to what I need, but it’s more than I had.  Every time I put $.12 or $.3 or $.77 in that jar, it makes a difference.  It might not make a big difference to my daily budget, but it helps in the goal I’ve set.  I have to believe that every prayer I’ve prayed as I’ve added to that jar has been adding up too.  I know my prayers go before God, and I choose to believe that they are a sweet aroma to Him.  I’m hoping that a request for something outside of the humdrum of daily life, from His daughter, offered humbly and without demand, is precious to Him. 

I hope to encourage you today.  Whatever you are hoping for, dreaming of, and seeing as impossible – do what you can and offer it to the Lord in prayer.  Let’s work together to achieve our dreams and see what God will do.  Then we can praise Him together for His marvelous mercy.

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December 18, 2010

Caught up in the Christmas festivities, I neglected to post this writing.  Rereading it today, I felt it was appropriate to post it anyway.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you do, please hit the “like” button and take a moment to post a comment.  🙂 

Me, Rick, and his great-nephew enjoying the frozen pond

I wrote a post a while back entitled, A Good Day.  Today has been another good day for me and I’ve been happily singing goofy Christmas songs while I wrap those final gifts and think about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, snowball fights, eggnog, and (finally) having my love to keep me warm.  Then, out of nowhere, I found myself wondering what bad thing is going to happen to shatter this lovely moment in time.  In the last year, I’ve had moments of breath-stealing heartache, rejection, disappointment, and failure.  Is it possible that today I could be so very delighted and full of anticipation?

When will this magical bubble of bliss be rudely popped and send me crashing to the ground?  Nothing this good ever seems to last for too long.  So for a moment I sort of gritted my teeth, mentally trying to prepare myself for the crash. 

My own reaction disturbed me.  I began wondering what the proper response is to moments in our lives when the sun is shining on us and the white snow glistens and sparkles and we are warm and healthy and happy.  Life can’t always be this sweet, but TODAY it is.  Even if it’s only this very moment that’s so sweet, we do have this moment. 

It is simply a fact that life comes with problems and there’s no doubt that eventually I’ll have to come down off this (natural) high.  But for today, for this moment, I am going to enjoy the bliss.  I’m going to soak it up, call the day GOOD, and be thankful.  I’m going to raise my hands high in praise and make sure God knows just how thankful I am to feel Him smiling down and rejoicing with me. 

Anyway, I’ve heard that if a person is relaxed when they crash or fall, they’re less likely to get hurt because their muscles aren’t tensed up.  My plan is to relax and savor every moment of this bliss.  Let tomorrow’s problems take care of themselves.  Sure, when we relax into happiness and joy, we almost simultaneous open ourselves up to terrible pain and disappointment.  To love deeply is to risk equally deep hurt.  And yet, I am willing to take the risk, soak up the joy of it, and hope the pain stays away a little while longer.  Today is a GOOD day.

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My Vow

A day that I’ve prepared for all my life has finally come.  When I was younger, I didn’t realize it was a day I was preparing for, but as I look back over my life I realize that preparation was indeed taking place and God has been leading me to this moment all along.  On Thursday, September 23, 2010, I was ordained as a pastor at my church in Nashville, TN. 

Growing up, I always dreamed of becoming a pastor’s wife.  My dad was a pastor and I loved life in the church, life in the spotlight, life in service to the congregation…  I couldn’t conceive of a female pastor, so I dreamed of what I could understand – marriage to a pastor.  In my mid-twenties, I found myself still single and short one pastor to wed, so I earnestly sought God for direction.  After a year of prayer, fasting, and seeking God’s will, He cracked my little brain open by instructing me to go to seminary.  Girls didn’t go to seminary.  And yet I felt excitement bubbling up inside me.  He told me that day, “I want YOU to be a pastor, Kimberly.”  In the fall of 2004, I quit my full-time job, sold nearly everything I owned, and moved away to attend seminary.  When I graduated, I went into full-time ministry.  In November of 2008, I was licensed as a congregational minister (the deaconate) and was able to perform the sacraments of the church within my local church. 

God has led me through what I can only describe as a fiery trial during this process.  He has tested my ability to trust Him, my commitment to the faith, my willingness to obey, and if I’ll submit to His leading when I cannot even begin to understand what He’s doing.  It has been painful and challenging, but it has also been the most rewarding experience of my life.  The ceremony of ordination was especially meaningful for me because of this journey. 

The ceremony was taken from The Book of Common Prayer and I want to share some of the most meaningful parts of the service for me. 

Reverend to Recipients:
Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them?  And will you, in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, obey those who may have authority over you and your work? 

Recipients:
I am willing and ready to do so; and declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Christian Faith. 

Reverend to Recipients:
…Now you are called to work as a pastor, minister, and teacher, together with your fellow ministers, and to take your share in the work of the Church.  As a minister, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts.  You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor.  You are to preach the Gospel, to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Water Baptism and in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and to perform various other ministrations entrusted to you.  In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of His grace, and to strengthen them to the glory of God in this life and in the life to come. 

Then we went through a series of questions and answers.  Several of them stood out vividly to me…

Will you do your best to pattern your life, and that of your household, in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?

Do you understand that your ministry may take you through personal deprivation and that the exercise of your calling does not depend on financial remuneration or the appreciation of men? 

Will you persevere in prayer, both in public and in private, asking God’s grace, both for yourself and for others, offering all your labors to God, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, and in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit?

After we responded affirmatively to the questions asked, we were given this charge:

…Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction…  Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

We then sang the hymn, “Take my Life and Let it Be”, which moved me greatly.  After the song, our pastor spoke to each one of us regarding the calling he sees on our lives.  I was honored by his words, affirming the timing of my ordination and what he sees in me. 

We were then given the symbols of our ordination.  Each of us had an ordained pastor who has been instrumental in our ministry stand behind us.  The ordained pastor who is responsible for the prayer ministry at our church stood behind me.  She was with me during my licensing and I was so thankful to have her there for my ordination as well.  She has been a mentor, confidant, and friend to me over the years. 

The first symbol of ordination is a red stole.  Our pastor explained that the stole is like a yoke being placed around our necks, yoking us to Christian service and ministry for the rest of our lives.  Much like marriage, we are consecrated to God.  It is a heavy responsibility, and the color of the stole is red to symbolize the blood sacrifice of Christ.  As pastors, we must be willing to walk in Christ’s footsteps and lay down our lives for The Church.  It may require our physical blood because as leaders, we are to be the first to confront threats and to protect those we serve.  Although authority comes with the stole, a great responsibility also comes with it.  We are to be servants to those we lead. 

The second symbol of ordination is a red towel, a reminder that our office calls for servanthood and humility.  As Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and dried them with a towel, so we are to serve with humility and grace. 

We celebrated the joyful occasion with the Lord’s Supper, which we received from our pastor and then were able to serve to those in attendance. 

It meant a great deal to me to be able to serve communion to my friends and family members.  When my parents came up together, memories flooded over me.  I remembered the many times my father served communion to our family.  As children, we were often antsy and distracted, but Dad would never let us take communion lightly.  He always made sure we were fully aware of the importance of the sacrament, appreciative of Christ’s sacrifice, and pure in our hearts before the Lord.  I could barely speak as I handed the bread to my parents and tears flowed down my cheeks.  I felt so blessed to have parents who faithfully taught me the truth of God’s Word and understood how sacred the sacrament they were receiving from my hands truly is. 

After communion, all the pastors were called on stage and we praised the Lord through congregational singing.  It was an appropriate end to a beautiful service. 

 I’m so thankful for everyone who was there to celebrate with me.  I’m not sure how God plans to use me in the future.  His ways are a mystery to me, but I love surprises so I’m looking ahead with anticipation to what He has around the corner.  For now, I will continue to serve as a volunteer at my church and thank God for the way He leads and His perfect timing.

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