Reason Not Ritual

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I used this phrase a couple of weeks ago when I was leading worship to describe WHY we should gather each week on Sundays together. As I think about this past week, Holy Week - a week I look forward to so much as a Christ-follower.. it was not the week I had hoped it would be. From our main water pipe busting outside of our home on Tuesday to me coming down AGAIN with some flu-like thing...yeah. But there is a REASON why this weekend is SO important. It's the moment in time we celebrate that death was defeated....we celebrate that Jesus conquered death to prove HE is the Savior of the world. 

No matter what kind of HOLY WEEK you have had...whether it looked like mine or it was fabulous - This weekend, there is REASON for our gathering together. Don't gather out of RITUAL this weekend just to check it off your list. Bring yourself fully wherever you attend services this weekend. Celebrate for a REASON...Jesus is alive. He is our advocate with God the Father. He is FOR US. He is WITH US. He has conquered death. No one has ever done that in history. He is the King of Kings and He loves you with a love that He was willing to give HIS life for you.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.." - John 3:16-17

He is Risen INDEED! Happy Easter!


Consider IT

There is no coincidence that when I posted a couple of weeks ago about my desire to embrace pain that within days of that...

  • My sweet friend Kris lost her son to liver cancer on January 2. So glad Andrew is in no more physical pain living his new life with God.
  • My first full-time hire at HHICC in the Worship Arts Ministry resigned on January 3 after being here 5 months.

Let's just say that within the first few days of 2019, I was NOT feeling like this was gonna be the greatest year! But I have to say, writing that post and sharing about my commitment to run toward the hard stuff this year has really given me the strength to lean into what God has placed in front one me. He is NEVER surprised...we are.

We are studying the book of James this quarter in my women's group on Wednesdays and when James was writing this letter, these people were running for their lives because of their faith in Jesus. There are places in our world where this is happening right now, but here in the US, we are not facing that everyday. Here's how he starts it off...

2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. - James 1:2-4 (MSG)

As 2019 is now here, I ask you to consider IT. If you are a person of faith, it's only through hard things that we REALLY discover if our faith is TRULY grounded in the belief that God is for us and He has our best in mind.  I have been humbled by friends who do not share my faith that have questioned when I'm nervous or worried because they have said "Don't you Christians trust God in everything?" WOW. Let that sink in. Our response to difficulties is either an encouragement to others or it confuses people.

I want to encourage others with my responses. I want to consider IT a positive thing when the rug gets pulled out. I want to be someone that doesn't just TALK about my faith in God. 

Here we go.


Embrace IT

The age of microblogging has definitely pulled me away from cheval glass over the past few years. It is so much easier to share a thought or two and maybe a pic. However, I have felt over the last few months a sense of being drawn back to visit and share in this place more frequently with you as the new year - 2019- is upon us.

There is a freedom and a sense of true fulfillment that will never be achieved without experiencing pain and suffering to get there. This may not seem to be a profound statement at all. However, for someone like me who was raised with the mindset of " If you make all the right decisions, you will have a pain-free life" this is a complete departure from that thinking. I am no different than anyone else. I don't like pain. I don't like sadness. I don't like suffering. I want to run away from it. I want to hide from it. I want to ignore that it is happening. I want to believe if you work hard, you can avoid pain. I always thought if I strived to always do my best, somehow all these great strategic decisions would create a pain-free life for me. Yeah...

When God created us, we were perfect. The world was perfect.  No matter where you fall on the theological spectrum, we must recognize that we live in a broken world and we as humans need to take responsibility for our part in that brokenness. We can't live a part from the pain. It is all around us.

Sometimes pain finds us and we didn't do anything. We didn't cause it. We are hit with the shrapnel of other's choices and we are in pain. This has been the toughest one for me.

However, this is what I have noticed:

I look at my daughter's feet. A dancer's feet are not something to be viewed if you have a weak stomach. It's amazing to watch her perform with her talented dance family and create beautiful performances. But they don't happen without the sore muscles, injuries, blisters, the pain, the broken toe nails, etc... love you, Syd.

I watch my friend Kris. Her presence at her son's bedside the last few months as he struggles with cancer is more than any of us can imagine. I have seen the struggle on all sides with her faith in God literally growing right before my eyes and yet being challenged. The impact is unbelievable that it has had on so many people...including me. Love you, Kris.

I look at my mom. Being a widow now for 18 months and the new life she has embraced. She was the caregiver to my Dad who suffered with cancer for 3 years. She was with him every moment of every day during his cancer. Now, she's a children's book author, continues to teach piano, and share what she has with her church in a way that she has never been able to do over the past few years. Love you, Mom.

I think about my dad. I was with my Dad when he took his last breath. He died in his living room in a hospice bed. He suffered for three years with a rare form of kidney cancer. I know certain things would have never been said between me and my father if it had not been for cancer. We had time to talk and there was a lot of redemptive work that happened between us because of his cancer. Miss you Dad.

I look at the #metoo movement.  No verbal male chauvinism that I have experienced in the "church-world" can compare to what so many have physically endured. It has been painful for us to see and hear but I believe that this movement is bringing conversation and and a new reality that will ultimately lead to a better world for my daughter and especially the "church-world" (who needs this transparency more than ever.)

I look at our personal finances. Todd and I have made a lot of dumb decisions. We caused a lot of our pain but some of it, just happened. I don't think we would have the trust and dependence in God to provide for our family OR the contentment and gratitude with what we have without the pain.

I look at our church. There is no greater test to your own walk with God than being a church-planter or being on a church staff team. You can quote me on that. The greatest moments of seeing life-change in our church have been through the greatest moments of suffering, pain and loss. Whether death within our church family, cancer or prolonged sickness, moving forward on what God is calling you to do even when it's not popular, one family LEAVING your church for a reason that a new family starting COMING to your church (this really happens!) and even multiple hurricanes to your Island that actually unite you as a community much more than ever before the storms.

Jesus made a promise to us when He came to earth. " I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33 MSG) As a Christ-follower, I know that my ultimate peace is found in my relationship with God through Jesus. That is where my inner peace truly lies when I see or experience pain. I cling to this truth. But I sometimes, I just want it all to stop. God knows and He listens.

So as 2019 is upon us, I ask the question to myself and to you... Will you embrace the pain this year? I want to embrace it. I don't want to try to hide from it. That desire will always be there I know, but I do truly want to embrace it. I do know what fulfillment comes from getting to the other side of it.

Thanks for making it this far in this post. I would like to share my verses for 2019 with you and I hope they encourage you to embrace IT as well.

Happy New Year...

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought." James 1:2-8 (MSG)


Falling

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My daughter started a vlog when she turned 13 a couple of weeks ago. She has been wanting to do this for about two years but thank you, YouTube for making the official age "13" so she had to wait! I've been involved in social media since 2007 so I am coaching and very involved in talking with her about her content but I am really allowing her to explore this on her own.

I don't think I would have shared with the world a vlog titled "How I Fell on Stage" when I was her age. But I can't tell you how proud I am that she did. One of the most important lessons I want her to learn in life is the importance of falling. No, I don't want her to fall as a dancer on stage at ANYTIME, but we learn so much more in life when we fall than when we succeed.

Here is a link to her vlog in her own words...

and here's a link to the dance she performed in the first service today.


Hope

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 My word for 2016 was HOPE. Circumstances and age itself can sometimes rob us of HOPE. To be honest, this was the first time in my life that I can remember that I really struggled to sense that there was hope in some specific areas of my life. I truly claimed these verses:

Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

Joel 2:25-26  I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. 26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you..."

As I reflect today on the past 12 months, I prayed for that word to be realized in some very specific areas of my life...and it did happen. I think I learned that I have to come to the end of myself so that I can truly see God work in areas I know I have exhausted what I CAN DO. That's where He wants to me camp out and pitch my tent. Some were very personal experiences for me,  but let me share a few "hope-filled" highlights from 2016 (in no particular order.)

  • Our family was able to take a "once-in-a-lifetime" vacation together to beautiful Turks and Caicos last May. We had an amazing and memory-filled experience that I will treasure forever. My Dad felt well the entire week and he and mom were finally able to go to the Caribbean together. Todd and I enjoyed an anniversary breakfast together overlooking the ocean and enjoyed some meaningful time with my sister Christie and her family as well.
  • My father is still courageously fighting cancer and survived a very dangerous surgery this month and is home at last. I am hopeful of his recovery and more days ahead with him.
  • We did a Facebook LIVE service in the midst of our Hurricane Matthew evacuation to ATL in October with Andrea and Geno Miller (who evacuated there as well) None of us new what we would be coming home to and doing that service from my sister's living room (Thank you Christie and Bruce!) was the most worshipful service I did this year. I can truly say I worshiped from a place of totally reliance that God was in control because none of us were at all! Click here to check it out.
  • Early pictures Post-Hurricane Matthew looked as if our home was completely underwater. We were blessed to return to no significant damage to our home at all. Just trees and debris everywhere. Survivor guilt is a real thing as we walk this journey with so many friends who experienced significant damage and still continue to recover. We are still hopeful that our beautiful Island will return to life before Matthew. We are #HHISTRONG.
  • I took on a new role at HHICC as Ministry Operations Director. My task this year was to streamline our efforts as a staff-team in the areas of finances, ministry, and member development and help remove as much from Todd's plate as possible so that he could truly PASTOR and LEAD our staff team and congregation. The "hope"moment is that Todd and are actually STILL married (LOL!) Seriously, I am so proud of Todd, our staff team, Elders, and Stewarship Team for their support and for their patience with me in this new role and as we continue to learn together how we can all be our best in our unique roles at HHICC.
  • Sydney saw her dream realized of having a lead role as Fritz in The Nutcracker. She was "hopeful" for this experience and danced it beautifully this year. It was such a great two weeks having family come to HHI to support her.  I loved being a part as a volunteer and being in "her world." She is embarking on this form of art being her life's devotion and God continues to open doors for her to use it for Him. Click here to see what she choreographed and danced in this year's "An Evening in December." She got braces this year and is not "a little girl" anymore - Dad is in denial. I am really enjoying our "talks" and observing her choices and choosing her friendships. I love this! (I know, enjoy it while I can!)
  • Sean grew up this year. Too quick for my taste. His love for math and science has developed into a passion. He asked his teacher for more math homework! (yeah, weird kid...) He got a drum set this year and started learning to play. I'm loving it! He continues to thrive with Tormenta Soccer and we have grown to love our team and parents this year. We prayed that God would put us together with great parents and kids and HE DID. We love our #07BlackHHI boys! I love verbally hearing how Sean processes life. He has this cute way of using big words in the wrong context? It's hilarious. Todd and Sean love flying their drones, wrestling in the living room (help me!) and playing golf together. I love seeing "my men" spend time together and have fun.
  • Todd and I are learning and growing a lot right now as we embark on almost 22 years of marriage. We both have learned a lot from the past few years about ourselves and what lies ahead for us. It is so different with the kids growing up and already being so independent (which I highly recommend raising kids to be that way!) Date nights and daily meaningful conversations are not luxuries...they are a lifelines to us staying connected and a being a vital part of each other's lives. You take vows for a reason, right? The good, the bad, the scarry, the frustrating, the win, the loss...it's the TOTALITY of it all that makes a marriage. We are learning that and expecting God to continue to shape us for His purpose as we grow together in Him.
  • We purchased our HHICC campus...Finally! This was a big one. We were hopeful that this contract would close before the end of 2016, saving us thousands of dollars and on the last business day of 2016, Todd signed the papers and we purchased our 2 buildings and 3 acres. Todd had the best night of sleep all year last night! We are so blessed to have such an amazing group of leaders at HHICC who led this effort to GET IT DONE.

As I wrap this blog up on New Year's Eve 2016, I can't help but think this: I'm here. My kids and my husband are here with me. Thank you, God. There was so much uncertainty this year in our personal lives, in our country, our world, and in our community. But for me, hope was realized in so many beautiful ways throughout this year and I am indeed, so thankful.

My New Year's Eve Prayer..."Father God, our Provider and Sustainer, thank you for your faithfulness in 2016 and that it never ends.  Even when I lose heart...even when I feel that I am without hope...you are constant. Thank you that you prove over and over again that YOU are Faithful and that You will provide HOPE in YOUR time, in YOUR way...You are God and I am not. I need to be reminded of that way too often, Father! In the Name of Your Son, Jesus, AMEN."


Finding the words

IMG_3846 It seems I have been in a season of life that finding the words to express here on a traditional blog has been very difficult. When I began blogging in 2006, it was such new art form and the microblogging that we all do now had not taken off. Saying what I need to say in 140 characters has become a lifestyle, but at times, the real conversation needs more words.

I have more to say and more questions to ask you all but finding the words...so much pain in our world...so much suffering. In losing Todd's mom to cancer last year and walking the cancer journey now with my Dad...these things have made me speechless in some ways to express my heart and mind...I don't really know how to say it (nice run-on sentence!)

But as Thanksgiving is upon us, I have found these words...thank you, Father God.

Thank you for the suffering...because it made me turn to You. Thank you for the pain...because it made me recognize more personally what you actually did for us in sending Your Son, Jesus, to this painful place.

Thank you for the sweet moments with my daughter, watching her dance and seeing the joy it brings her (and You!)

Thank you for my playful son, who randomly hands me a "make believe" sword and says "En garde!"

Thank you for my husband who continues to be by my side even though this season is not a lot of fun for either of us.

Thank you for another day to say thank you.

What are you thankful for? 


My report card

Report_card_for_mom-e1307729536282I began to pick up on signals with Sydney toward the end of 3rd grade that made me nervous about how she viewed the learning experience. Our 1st year of homeschool - her 4th grade year - was a lot of me "untangling" what was a mess in her head about learning. She was honest with me about how she would "hide' with "I don't know" when asked a question in class so she didn't have to figure it out. Everything was exposed in our one-on-one environment. I realized how much she had missed with vowels and consonants in K-1st (due to ENT issues later solved). I could tell how much she struggled in our daily reading time and her vocabulary and listening skills were below level. I chose a curriculum for 5th grade for Language Arts that targeted working on these skills. It paid off.

IMG_2455 2  IMG_2368 This year, she has turned a huge corner in her listening skills and ability to process information. She gained confidence in her ability to assess information and communicate it verbally. Her math scores were high and her overall confidence this year has grown by leaps and bounds!  She has had more time to devote to art, ballet and music and I strongly believe allowing her time to explore in the areas that come easier to her has helped her gain confidence in EVERY area of her life. 

Sydney wants to return to an in-school environment next year and we are allowing her to do that. I see that she has really grown in her ability to view learning in a positive way and I feel so much more connected to how she learns and what she needs in order to be successful. We will take it one year at a time, but I am so thankful for the two years we have had to "right the ship" of learning in her life.

I'm giving myself a hard-earned B+ (I missed the A because of disrupting class sometimes with my poor attitude and lack of patience..:-)


Re-tooling

Toolbox-primaryI shared a couple of days ago on our HHICC blog about changes in my ministry life. Honestly, the last two years have been an intense time of soul-searching, frustration, reflection, and wondering, "What is up with me?"

I took a sabbatical in January 2013 fully expecting that at the end of that 5 weeks that God was going to release me from worship ministry. I was exhausted, depleted, felt old and tired, not effective...fill in the blank. To my surprise, he didn't release me. Instead, he "tweaked" my calling in a way that gave me a renewed passion.  He showed me how much I love process. He showed me how much I love every aspect of the worship experience on Sundays from video to lighting to music to the high schooler playing guitar to the message to the temperature of our room to the social media and web presence that brought people there for the first time. I had no idea how passionate I was about all that until that time. I have always led that effort for our team out of necessity but I had no idea how much that was "my thing."

I had the privilege of coordinating the  IF: LOCAL Gathering at our church in February and had scheduled a different team from our ministry to lead on Sunday since I knew I would be pretty exhausted. The IF: Gathering was a life-changing experience for me. That Sunday, as I worshipped NEXT to my husband (yeah, that never happens) in the congregation, I truly sensed the Holy Spirit saying, "You don't have to be up there every week anymore." I felt such a release from that part of my ministry immediately. Not because I initiated it. Because God said I was done.

I shared this with Todd and he has been so supportive about what God has been doing in my life in this area. For us personally, with the "unique" relationship we have as husband and wife and Lead Pastor and Worship Leader, he has seen how God has brought new people into our team to make this change a possibility. I'm not a clique person, but this has been so true. "God does not guide where He does not provide."

I am re-tooling. For many of our church family, they may not even notice a significant change. But for me, it is completely different in the way I am organizing my life, my time, my responsibilities, and my focus. I start in a couple of weeks leading a mentoring group of worship leaders in our church from age 16 to well...I will be sharing a lot of what we talk about here at cheval glass

Philippians 1:6 says ,"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (ESV)  So here's to the "new" good work ahead and learning how to use these different tools in my toolbox.


It's time, women

Being a women in ministry for the past...oK...many years... twenty something...has been a privilege and yet a lonely experience. Granted, I have enjoyed being a part of the "early days" of women who were hired at the executive level of churches. Honestly. Had it not been for certain male leaders who were not afraid to let "a woman" lead, I would not be where I am today. You know who you are :-)

I've been praying for our church (and for me) to have an awakening to the importance of community among women around the principles of God's Word, our value to God as women, and living life with all the hats we wear. I have great expectation about the future and movements that are getting traction in our world for women like me and women who are in need of community (like me!)

There are two movements that I am excited to get connected and be a part of in 2015! I call them movements because they are driven by a COMMUNITY of women and not just one person (I love that!)

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IF:Gathering

We are now an IF: Local chapter and will be partnering with ALL aspects of the IF movement at HHICC. We are a LOCAL gathering for the IF:Gathering event on Friday-Saturday, February 6-7. If you live in the HHI area, please join us! Register here.

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Propel Women

This is launching TODAY at my Alma Mater with a week of activies. If you are a woman in leadership, get connected to this on Facebook, Twitter, and their magazine. Can't wait to see what happens with this! Excited to see how this will impact the NEXT generation of women (including my daughter).

It's time, women...let's go!


2014 rewind

RewindWow, it's been awhile since I have been here. It feels like walking into an old family cabin that's been closed up for awhile. But then, as you start looking around, all the memories start coming back about how much you enjoyed spending time here...

I'm not someone that enjoys looking back. I'm not really a "live in the past" person. However, I am a "what did I learn from that" kind of person so there can be great value in looking back. This year was not that great. I'll just put it out there. Todd and I faced alot of challenges personally and in ministry this year and truth be told, I'm ready for 2015! I'm ready for a fresh start and a new year. That is not to say that there were not some good moments (which I will share later) but it was one of those years that I see Todd and I looking back and saying, "Remember 2014? yeah..."

Rather than unpack all the "stuff" of the year, I want to share some things that I learned from this past year that have greatly influenced my life and future choices. I wanted to make sure I wrote these down, but I'm also wiling to share them with you if in anyway this will help you in 2015:

1. Never underestimate the power of small, daily choices in any area of your life. 

  • This is a season of lfe of "maintaining" and "routine." I'm not frustrated with that, but I do see the power of the daily choice in every area of life and how after time, it compounds into maybe a good or bad habit in your life. I've learned this year to be vigilant in daily choices in every area of my life and to not be dismissive of those choices as they will one day become a lifestyle - whether I like it or not.

2. Never dismiss the specific, God-given design of your life and the influence you have.

  • Todd and I experienced spiritual warfare more intensely this year than ANY YEAR we have been married. If you don't know what that is, read Ephesians 6:10-18 . At one point, I asked Todd, "Why are we worth this? Are our lives so important that it is worth the all-out assault on our marriage, family, and ministry that we have experienced this year?" I'm not afraid of a fight. I don't look for them, but if I need to gear up, I do. This year was different. I lost my will to do it. I lost sight of the value of my worth in God's eyes. I'm on the road back and I see the glimmer of hope once again in this...

3. Be aware that the passion and calling God has given you for your life can only be purified through trials and difficult circumstances.

  • Todd and I faced this year strong spiritual warfare that challenged what we know God called us to at HHICC. The process that we experienced this year has made us more vigilant, committed, and passionate about being the church that God wants us to be. I firmly believe that we could not have learned this about ourselves without the purfication of that calling this year in our lives. 

4. When you feel like everything is "out of control..."  This might be the first time that God has the opportunity to fully be "in control" of your life.

  • This was the most personal lesson for me this year. I experienced some amazing moments of feeling so "out of control" and watching how God put people and things into my life that confirmed HE'S GOT IT. I can honestly say that this one will be a lifelong struggle for me. However, this year, more than any other year, I saw God at work in my life, in my husband's life, in my kids, and in my church and I had nothing to do with "making it happen."

Here are some highlights from 2014...

  • I was honored to be featured in our local paper about being a mom...you can read it here.
  • Here is a video from Syd's performance at "An Evening in December" this month.

  • Here's a video I created from Sean's soccer games this year...

2015, here we come! I'm ready!

Isaiah 43:19 (MSG) "This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies— they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’ —the coyotes and the buzzards— Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me."