Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Adventures of Amie

If you have never been to Texas, you may have the impression that tumbleweeds and longhorn cattle meet you as you step off the plane.

I talked to a girl a few weeks ago, that pictured Texas like a western movie that was made in the 1960’s.

When you have never been somewhere before, never seen with your own eyes, you fill in the blanks with the little bit of information you may have. Assumption always plays a big part in building people’s perception.

We have a hunger for the details of other people’s everyday lives. Although it can go too far, essentially that’s not a bad thing. I believe we want to know how other people live their lives; to be sure we are taking full advantage of our own gifts and opportunities. If we feed ourselves artificial living; like television and movies, we set our lives against a backdrop of unrealistic, airbrushed imaginations. This isn’t likely to motivate. It is discouraging to compare ourselves with perfection. But if we look into the windows of the living, we can gain a new and fresh perspective that motivates us to live our own adventure.

More than ten years ago, I was on my first book tour and met another female author I immediately connected with. Her creativity sparked more in me, activating hours of conversation. Over the years, we lost touch in the busyness of living. Then several years ago I discovered her again, online. When I rediscovered her, I found that she had rediscovered herself as well. She was no longer just an author, she had become a photographer too, and her brilliance was being recognized at the highest levels of her industry.

Me Ra Koh, is her name. It always sounds like “Miracle” when I say it.


She is one of the living examples I look to, to ‘inspire the fire’ within. Through her blog, she shares a window into her world. And peering into her workshop, with thousands of others who follow her, I watch her create an artistic life for her own family and I am inspired to do the same for my own.

A few years ago, Me Ra and Brian took their family to Thailand to LIVE, for a few months. I was both shocked and in awe at the spirit of adventure they displayed as they moved through the world. As I watched their adventure, I began to ask myself, “What does my adventure look like?”

I anticipate and celebrate the adventures of others. I know you do as well. Living your adventure and let others join you in the journey is the quintessential art of authentic living. You may not see your life as anything special while others look at you and are inspired to live more abundantly. I did not move to another country for a few months, but I did begin to look at my life without the limitations I’d always focused on. I began to see the possibilities of living through the lens of adventure.

In the featured picture, my daughter was utilizing a cool camera app on her phone and sipping a Capri Sun (in the picture to the right), while I pondered the solitude at the end of great day.

About the time she took this picture I was thinking, “I started the day with the excitement of ministering in McKinney and I am ending the day with a quiet moment at the ranch. This is the adventures of Amie.”

I shared Me Ra with you, one of my favorite “Inspirers.”

Who inspires you to live YOUR adventure? And how do they do that?

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Sweet Spot

There is nothing like the warm, comforting smell of a cinnamon soaked kitchen.

Smells always take us somewhere in our memories. Cinnamon in particular takes me back to my childhood home. My mother often made me cinnamon toast for breakfast and several times a year my grandmother’s famous cinnamon rolls.

My maternal grandmother was affectionately called Momo (pronounced mom-oh.)

She would come to Texas for several months out of the year, moving from house to house within our family. At each house she would set up shop in the kitchen and make our favorites.

Strawberry pie, apricot jam, chocolate cake, biscuits and gravy, country steak and potatoes, chicken and dumplings and the list is as long as the calorie count.

Nothing reminds me of being in the kitchen, learning from Momo, more than the smell of cinnamon rolls in the oven. That yeasty, sweet smell just makes me feel her warm words teaching and correcting me all over again.

Although I cook most of her recipes throughout the year, I had yet to conquer the hardest one of all, till yesterday. I can’t really say that I conquered it completely. But I did attempt the strenuous recipe. Momo’s cinnamon rolls were to die for, delicious. But she would make the biggest mess you can imagine in the process. One of our shared family memories of her is the humorous image of her pushing up her glasses while she was kneading the dough, leaving her glasses covered in clumps and smudges. She didn’t seem to mind though and she always cleaned it up.

I wasn’t looking forward to flour…my goodness the flour, that goes everywhere in the process of making this gooey goodness. But I knew it was time to introduce my little baker, Molly-Kate, to Momo’s cinnamon roll secrets.

So yesterday in my kitchen, as I was exaggerating and elongating the explanation of how wonderful these cinnamon rolls would be, my daughter said, “Why would we do all this work, when we can buy great cinnamon rolls in a can?”

I explained how all the work makes cooking from scratch taste so much better. And I silently prayed that I was right. She raised a great question that applies to life in general.

What motivates us to go through a step-by-step, messy process when instant satisfaction is available the easy way?

If cutting a few corners in cooking is the only area of our lives where we take the easy road, we are not doing too badly. But there are critical times when we MUST know how to follow directions, even when the process may seem difficult and certain steps unnecessary.

Making cinnamon rolls, requires that you wait several times for extended periods, for the yeast to take it’s full effect. The rising comes with the waiting. It is the same with us. It is only when we submit to the recipe God has given us that we truly experience the effect of all things working together for our good!

And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

The work may be messy at times and the waiting seem grueling, but while we wait our opportunities are multiplying, rising up to meet us. Many things in our lives can be microwaved and instantly the space called desire can be filled with a substitute. But there is no substitute for waiting. We have imitation flavorings for almost everything including liquid smoke but there is no way to bottle up the taste of fermentation without adding some time. The waiting makes life sweeter.

Don’t rush the process. Don’t skip the steps you don’t understand. Life is more complicated than a batch of cinnamon rolls, but trusting God’s timing, makes it as simple as following a recipe.

Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:4

Whatever situation you are in at the moment, try adding the ingredient of patience, and see what rises. I think you’ll find, it’s you!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What I Was Wearing Sunday

I am trying to imagine myself still wearing what I had on Sunday.

Not taking into account any physical harm I try to put myself in the shoes of someone who survived the F5 tornado that hit Joplin Missouri. The best case scenario would mean that I was still wearing what I had on Sunday evening, these clothes would no doubt have been wet and dry several times, soaked with sweat as I helped search through rubble, most likely torn by the sharp protrusions and covered with the thick mud drying in coats and smears as use my shirt to clean off family photos and anything else I can identify.

Maybe I'd have shoes on, maybe not. Without a phone and no available vehicle, I would be reduced to counting the streets without signs as I make my way to my family's homes, on foot. Without a doubt there would be tears. Lots of tears.

Sunday evening when I was having my momentary power outage the same system stormed through Joplin Missouri with deadly force. For the inhabitants of that city, there was far more change than just a flicker of darkness. Life will not be the same for a long while.

As we look through the mangled images and the echoed stories make their way out of the rubble we are stunned, shocked into silence.

Speechlessness is a physical reaction we have to being completely overwhelmed. We all imagine the horror of having lived through such devastation, and our empathy engages as we contemplate what life would be like for us in today and tomorrow if we had been hit. Then we are grateful we weren't. It's alright to be grateful it wasn't us. But only in the respect that it means our lives are still intact thus making us able and available to minister to them.

A sense of relief is normal. And empathy for those who have lost everything is right. But having both relief and empathy and then walking away....doing nothing...is wrong.

Yesterday stories were pouring in, of how those who are related to us in some way, were forever altered by the storm. A previous staff member of our church, who has recently relocated, relayed the story of her aunt who works for Walmart in Joplin.

As the storm approached and sirens went off, her aunt instructed several customers to take shelter under the cashiers station with her and in the one next to her. When the roof of the Walmart building collapsed, a main beam fell on a young married couple right next to her, killing them both. Although her aunt survived, she spent the night with the dead and dying before her rescue on Monday. There was no care flight or ambulance sirens.

In the same family, a cousin of our former employee was in the local Walgreens when the storm hit. Everyone in the store crowded into the cooler for safety.

When they emerged after the worst had passed, the cooler was the only thing untouched on an empty slab that was the store.

Out of the misery come songs of the miraculous.

When devastation hits, and some would wonder if God truly cares, we are to live up to the name we herald, 'the Bride of Christ'. If He is our Groom, we must show ourselves worthy of His name by demonstrating His nature in the earth. When we sing the words to Him, "break our hearts for what breaks yours," we must acknowledge the breaking when it comes.

Physically, it isn't me wearing the muddy clothes, clinging to hope and searching through the unrecognizable remains of my life. But spiritually it is me.

Proverbs 31:20- She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

Our dear friends, Billy and Jeanie Coffman pastor a church not far from Joplin.
They were some of the first responders with supplies but have already exhausted their food reserves. As we spoke to them yesterday, Pastor Mike wired them money to buy more food in a nearby city, immediately. Our friend and colleague, Kim Clement, instantly responded by sending more money. Jeanie Coffman told us that other than food and water, the most pressing need is for towels and bedding. Just to have something clean and dry is like experiencing heaven for the soaked, muddy and cold survivors. We are filling two trucks today and tomorrow with new towels, sheets and blankets that will make their way north to the victims as soon as they are full.

It is not good for us to see so much devastation around the world and then feel as if there is nothing we can do. There is much to do! This is the time for us to act, to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need.

Please go to makeawaycharities.org and give now.

Every dollar means the greatest difference. Pastors Billy and Jeanie are specifically set up with a mobile kitchen to cook hot meals for those in need, which is everyone in the area. All money will go straight to the cause. After our initial run of blankets and towels, we will be sending teams to assist in the clean up and restoration effort.

After you give, please pray! We need to agree that God gives insight to the weary search and rescue teams, so they are able to locate the suffering and trapped. We need to pray for closure for families who have lost members that are yet found. We need to pray and agree that hope will emerge and as resources flow toward Joplin, so will spiritual, physical and emotional healing come.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stillness, The Silent Preacher

Last night as a storm rolled in, I sat with my family out on our back porch watching the lightening cross the sky. Stacey was taking pictures! We would gasp at the strength of the thunderous shock of sound and then count to see how close the strike was to our house.

As things worsened outside, I went inside to prepare the house for a possible power outage. My daughter and I walked through each room and lit a candle or two, to illuminate each space. Sure enough, with the next flash of lightening, our power went out.

I stood in the silent sanctuary, aglow with candle light. I had never realized that even when all the kids were sleeping and electronics were off, my house was still purring, clicking and humming with the sounds of production. But when the power went off, a true silence fell upon the space. The ice maker had stopped it's cycle of clunking. The constant whir of air through the conditioner ceased. And it felt as if the shoulders of our house literally relaxed when the power went out. I had never heard silence so strongly before.

I stood in the middle of the room, waiting to see if this power outage was just a flicker or something more. In just a few moments the house groaned, as though it were singing a musical scale, the hum started low and slid upward into full activity again.

The penetrating silence of that scarce moment, relayed the reality of perpetual activity. Our lives are so full, so busy with producing and maintaining, that even my house is working non-stop to keep up. And when all activity was stilled, there was a substance of silence that covered me like honey. Standing alone inside the candlelit room, the flames cast shadows on the high ceiling. My living room, where laundry is folded, homework is accomplished and popcorn eaten had been transformed by stillness, into the sacred sanctuary of silence. It was a holy moment for me, one that delivered a powerful note of permission. The silence preached to me, "Receive this." "This," meaning the experience of what silence can do. There is a great deal of irony at play in the passion of the silence.

How can silence DO anything when DOING anything at all, disturbs the silence?

For us, doing something, moving at all really, creates noise. But when we seek the silence, we are pursuing the path to surrender, where God alone can make himself known.

He is God.

He says, "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

He is in the still, small voice. He can transform with a whisper. But we must meet the hardest request for our flesh in order to hear Him. We must surrender to the silence. To tell our flesh to stop producing, just for one moment of each day and to sit at His feet without distraction, is the greatest worship of all. To stop doing and start being, is our most extravagant expression of faith.

At various stages of my life, I have found the struggle to be still, very difficult. As a teenager, I was distracted, both mentally and physically. As a young wife and mother, my duty and the demands of motherhood made me feel as if silence was a planet in another galaxy, inaccessible in my life-time. Then as my children have grown, my life has expanded to include hours of mentorship and business meetings. Life is never going to accommodate stillness.

We must order the world around us, even if it is for just a moment of the day.

Find or create your place to "be still." For young people, you may need to clear the clutter (posters and pop culture) out of your bedroom and create a sanctuary of silence. For mommy's, the bathtub might be the only respite behind closed doors for you to find peace. My husband and I had an agreement when our kids were little, that if I was in the bathtub, that was my time. Stacey, (my husband) defended the doors for me. At times there were protests when it seemed
only "mommy" could fix it. I bought ear plugs to get the silence every cell of my body was screaming for. So, Stacey would handle whatever was going on outside that door, while I surrendered to the silence that restores.

My husband finds his silent sanctuary at a beautiful golf course or on his daily run. Silence is not something that can always be scheduled. I frequently set aside a beautiful tea cup and I get in my mind, that when the moment opens up, I will steal away with my book, blanket and Lady Gray tea for my own private celebration of silence. Most day's I only have enough time to stop for that hot cup of tea. I read a few pages (maybe more) and take a few sips and ALWAYS receive a moment of silent gratitude. In just a
moment of being still I know more fully that HE is GOD.

What are some of the ways you find a silent sanctuary? Sharing your experience may empower many others to know God more fully, simply by finding a way to BE STILL.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Vintage Friendship

My home is a combination of layered ages and eras. I love the eclectic mixture of old, new and everything in between. I have purchased historical books, paintings, furniture, jewelry and even vintage photographs from places as far away as Notting Hill England to the closer region of Canton, Texas.

Although I have had the pleasure of perusing quaint antique stores in the earliest settled cities of New England, one of my favorite getaways happens in the piney woods of East Texas, the first of every month.

There is just nothing like the fun of Canton Trade Days. Most newbies are overwhelmed and just mindlessly walk around in awe amongst the main arbors. But our "girl posse" has Canton down to a science. We rent little motorized scooters so we can hit as many vendors as as possible, quickly. It also enables us to be free from carrying our purchases and instead store them in the basket and bucket attachments. The main arbors have all the polished, North Dallas home interior stuff most people come to see. But not me. There are few favorites that I know will have something I like but I go to Canton for the uncovered outer reaches. This is where the dusty treasures are discovered. The flea market region of Canton holds all the unforeseen items I didn't know I would find, but find that I cannot live without. At one point a few years ago, I got on an empty antique frame frenzy. I came home with more than fifteen dirty vintage frames and a husband who looked at me out of the corner of his eye.

"You spent your money on these?" he'd say in a semi-disgusted tone.

He thought it was a bunch of old junk, until he saw what it was I planned to do with them. I have various vintage collections for which I am always scouting. Vintage hats are one of my favorite finds. I know that everyone doesn't share my love of authentically "old" items. Lots of folks love vintage replicas made with artificially applied designer dirt. But I love the mystery of the story behind a truly vintage treasure.

A year and a half ago, I was able to accompany my grandmother on a Autumn tour through the fall foliage of New England. My mother, my aunt, my grandmother and I were in history heaven as we milled through antique stores, lunched on clam chowder and drank pots of sweet, hot tea.

One particularly wonderful part of the trip was the opportunity to reunite my grandma Hayes with her best friend of nearly seventy years! We laughed, cried and basked in the wonder of a beautifully aged, vintage friendship. I like new things as well as new friends. There is something special about a shinny new relationship. But there is no way to replicate or replace a vintage friendship.

I don't mind restoring old, dusty and worn-in, vintage purchases from a flea market. So perhaps I shouldn't mind getting my hands dirty, if that's what it takes, to restore a vintage friendship. The joy on my grandmother's face tells the tale.

The picture at top of this post, is my grandma Hayes with her best friend at their High School graduation. The picture on the left is the same two friends, in front of their High School, sixty-five years later. In the top picture my grandmother is on the left and Mag is on the right, they are switched in the bottom picture.

I would love nothing more than to uncover my vintage friendships and put them in a more prominent place in my life.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Butterfly in a Bottle

Last Sunday, as the rush of the service dismissal commenced, a beautiful young lady approached me with a gift. I thanked her for thinking of me and then asked her if she wanted me to open it right then or later on. She replied, "Now is good." So I began to pull out the various shades of tissue paper from the hot pink bag until a simple glass mason jar was revealed. As I carefully pulled it out of the bag, I could see that it held a perfect Monarch Butterfly.

My reaction in that moment, was the same one I saw others experience as I carried it around throughout the day. First my heart jumped, then it sank.

This sweet young lady gave me the gift in commemoration of my newest book release, When Women Reign. In this book, I use the life-cycle of the Monarch butterfly as a mirror for the process of spiritual awakening we walk through ourselves. One particular part of this book elaborates on the Chrysalis phase (cocoon). During this season of transformation the caterpillar turns upside down and inside out, basically liquefying, in order to fulfill the metamorphosis required to become a new creation. In the book, I lead the reader through the various trials in life that can encapsulate us like a cocoon. There are many situations throughout our lives where we find we cannot escape the darkness, we must submit to the process in order to come out the other side, as God intended. But a chrysalis is God's work.

So as I looked at the butterfly in a bottle, I felt so strongly, that it needed to be free. Having survived the process to become what it now was, just made it fundamentally wrong for me to allow it to be restrained for my amusement. It is a glorious thing to look upon such beautiful wings but then it is a terrible thing to realize that it is also imprisoned. The sight gives us pleasure, then the cost gives us pain. What good can the beautiful wings do for the butterfly when it is contained?

I was trying to manage my facial expression as I looked upon the gift this young lady had given to me. After all, giving me a trapped Monarch Butterfly would be similar to giving a fur coat to the president of PETA.

She quickly made it clear to me that this was not a real butterfly. Someone had created a simple but wonderful recreation of a country jar holding a beautiful Monarch butterfly. She showed me, that when you tap the metal lid, the butterfly flutters around in a very real motion.

No butterflies were harmed for my enjoyment. Oh my goodness! This was the perfect gift for me! All throughout the day, (in the restaurant in particular) people would come up to our table and say something about the need to release the butterfly. Each time I told them it wasn't real, they had the same relieved expression that donned my face earlier in the day.

Even though it is beautiful, everyone fundamentally acknowledges, the selfishness of holding something captive.

Being the analogy queen that I am, I can't help but formulate a comparison in our lives. What if we are holding other's captive? I can think of situations in my own life where I have kept people in a mental jar, just contemplating who they are and why they do the things they do. Think to yourself, are there any situations that you should be letting go of?

Every time I look at the artificial butterfly in a bottle I think of how wrong it would be to hold captive something living, that had come through such tremendous adversity just to BE. Even though this butterfly in a bottle is not real, it sounds as if it is struggling to get free. That sound of struggle gets everyone's attention. My son was babysitting the bottle during lunch on Sunday. After a little while he said, "How can we turn this off? It's driving me crazy because I want to help it be free!"

I want to have the same gut reaction to unforgiveness as I do to a butterfly in a bottle. It's just wrong. We need to lift the lid of limitation and release the life we've been holding back. That life, may be our own.

Thank you to my wonderful new friend who bought me a butterfly in a bottle and brought me a visual reminder of the simple power of letting go...

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Mini-Meltdown

Just a few weeks ago I had a mini-meltdown. For the period of about 18 hrs, I felt completely disillusioned. Everything was overwhelming to me. My children are not children anymore, they are teenagers. And I clean my own house. That alone is overwhelming. But when you add the pressures of leadership and work load to parenting and housekeeping, the onslaught is enough to make me tired just contemplating "how" to do it all.

When my children were all young, I would frequently hear the question, " How you do it all?" My reply was always, "Not very well." But the truth is, I did do things very well. I had a perfect routine to get me through the hardest hours of the day. I kept things simple and well-timed in order to maintain balance, when I had four children, under the age of three.

I had to. It was a matter of survival.

The morning would begin with a round of breakfast, then the two older boys would play and watch Little Bear while I bathed the twins and dressed them for the day. Then I would lay the twins down for their morning nap while I bathed the boys and picked up toys, dressed them and then we could go somewhere for the day. I say "for the day" but that really only consisted of the time period between 11am and 1pm. Usually I would take them to Chick-fil-a and the duck pond and we'd head back home for afternoon naps. I needed one too...

Nap time was the most peaceful, wonderful time of the day back then. I would read, write or just rest. Then at 4 o'clock life would again move at warp speed with cooking, dinner, bottles, baths and pajama applications, ending in a heap of exhaustion at 8pm.

Those days were overwhelming but still manageable. Although my kids dress themselves now, their needs are different and still demand a great deal of my time. The complication to their developing needs are multiplied by the fact that I can't put their changing requests into a simple routine. I never know, from what day to the next what will be required of me. Just being a mother of teenagers alone is enough to cause adaptivity failure. I cannot tell you how many times per week, that I hear, "Oh Mom, I forgot to tell you" and you can fill in the blank with: ...science homework, worship practice, birthday party....and the list goes on.

How do I manage this?

I find myself scratching my head or wiping my brow trying to figure out how to manage the things I am yet to find out about. Not possible.

What I can do, is determine that I will adapt with grace and plan for the unexpected. I don't always like to adapt...OK honestly, I NEVER like these kinds of surprises. But I know that although my children may not remember that they need special supplies for a project till the morning of, they do remember that I moved heaven and earth to get them to the school before 3rd period.

When your aim is to do things well, working in an unpredictable environment makes that rather difficult and mostly impossible. So during my mini-meltdown I poured out my heart to my dad about my frustration. I call it a mini-meltdown because there weren't any relational conflicts, this disturbance was all internal for me. I was having feelings that could not be ignored.

"I just want to do one thing well," I said to my dad through tears, "Is that too much to ask?" He immediately understood what I meant and he instructed me on how he navigated through similar seasons. He shed light on the fact that when we are responsible for many different realms we have to establish, what doing something well, really means. We may not be the ones who have months to perfect a message or years to make a plan but that does not mean we do not conduct ourselves with excellence. No matter the planning or practice, there is no excellence without grace. The grace of God is the enabling power to fulfill His will.

As my dad and I conversed, I pointed out the way in which I was comparing myself to others.
My friends and fellow female ministers, travel and speak. Since they are at a different venue all the time, they are able to refine a few particular messages that they can use over and over. For me this isn't an option. As a minister in a local congregation, I want to bring something fresh and new each time I speak. My goal as a pastor is not to have a perfect message but instead to have THE perfect message to bring growth and development. I don't have weeks and months to work on one message. So my measure of excellence in the delivery of a memorized message is an unfair assessment of myself.

Knowing that God would not set me up to fail, I thought, "Perhaps I have been measuring the wrong thing?"

What if my one thing, done well, is my ability to attend to life's interruptions with grace and adaptability?

Although that "one thing" is not something crowds applaud, it is something that makes other people successful. So if I really want to do "one thing" well, then in my mix of gifts and circumstances, I can make that "one thing" serving the needs of others.

Could it be that in desiring to do one thing well, we miss the fact that we already are doing a spectacular job at something invaluable? Like me, there could be 'one thing' you are focusing on as the symbol of success and polish while God is observing another 'one thing' you do that really pleases Him. I would like to challenge you to re frame your definition of excellence.

This shift in my understanding has brought so much balance to my life. My new perspective challenges me to see surprises and interruptions as a means of using my abilities to please God, when before, I would see these things as keeping me from being all I was meant to be.

You may wonder why things fall in your lap at the last minute, or why you are the appointed referee in relationships, or maybe you have to make up for the dead weight at work...the list could go on, very specifically and lengthy. But next time when you ask yourself, "Why is it always me who has to...?" remember that it may be because you are the living definition of success, for others. Many people must know that they can count on you for this "thing" you do well.

My mini-meltdown was associated with the fact that I was unsure that I was pleasing God. My main goal in life is not to hear applause or accolades about the things I can do well. However, I wanted to be sure that I was living my life at the level of excellence worthy of the grace of God given me. I needed to hear that allowing these interruptions was not a failure to serve God. I had previously seen it as neglecting to invest my own talent (referencing the parable of the talents) in lieu of helping someone else invest theirs, while doing nothing with mine. Instead, I came to understand that laying down my plans and preferences in order to meet a need was the most pleasing I could be to God. Serving other's can never be interpreted as a wasted investment of time. If I don't have enough time to serve others and bring my abilities to the standard of excellence worthy of God's best, then God will increase my productivity so that I can do both. There is no way to lose if we put other's before ourselves!

I know this is true: that when you hear this ONE THING, ...nothing else matters!

"Well done, my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21 NIV)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lost Passport to La La Land

I feel completely incompetent to talk about how we let other people affect our happiness. Because that is my biggest issue.

From one day to the next, there is always something intrusive scratching away at my happy bubble. It doesn't take much to pop a bubble. Bubbles are fragile. My happiness should not be so easily lost. Sadly, it can be.

So yesterday, as I was discussing some surprising news with a few of my friends, it was obvious that my bubble, was again, bursting with disappointment. One of my friends said, "Go to your La La Land and forget about it." I said in reply, "I don't have a La La Land."

Till that discussion, I thought that La La Land was a place where clueless, hopeless, people migrate for solace. Since I am neither, I had never gotten my citizenship, or had I? Last night, I began to contemplate La La and memories of my childhood bubbled up. A familiarity with imaginary places began to take shape as if it was only yesterday that I hung from the limbs of a berry tree.

I was an extremely imaginative child. From the moment my mother said I could go out to play until darkness would fall, I lived in La La Land. In fact, I created some spectacular experiences moving through air, land and sea (trees, yard and pool). The make believe stories, islands, castles and such would sometimes become a saga that all my cousins would play a part in over weeks and months, after school and sleepovers. As I took a tour through my mind, I found these make believe moments intact and exactly as I'd left them. With striking contrast and clarity I realized that not only had I been to La La Land, it was a big part of my becoming. The work of my imagination has had a more profound and lasting impact upon my current abilities than perhaps anything else in my history.

I don't remember what a particular day at school in third grade entailed, but I do remember La La Land waiting for me on the playground during recess. As I write, I can still feel the depth of desire that pulled me toward that spectacular place of whimsy. What used to be a pull is now feeling more like a strong push.

My very mature and adult-like friend told me that I need to go to La La Land.Somewhere along the way, while growing up, I lost my passport. What once was a beautiful longing that my mother gave me permission to pursue by saying, "Amie, you can go play," became, in my mind, a retreat for losers or lunatics. When did I start thinking that those who live in La La land cannot live in the real world? And why did I think I was too grown up to need to play?

Can I even say, "I need a safe place to dream and create," without sounding like I need a straight jacket and a paper cup full of pills?

When we grow up, we wrongly take on too much responsibility for everything and everyone around us. (me, me, me....talking to ME!) Sometimes it sounds so childlike and basically insane to live in a state of complete faith and dependance upon God. As a child, La La Land provided me a mental space for growth and unlimited potential. It can be the same Today. Even when my situations seem to be closing in on me, I must remember that God lives in a place without limits. He has always been faithful to meet me where I am.

But perhaps it would be beneficial for me to start meeting God on the outskirts of my reality, La La Land.

If I were to create a travel brochure for La La Land, this is what it would say:

A place where limits are not the focus. A realm greater than our abilities or associations. A place that removes our personal preferences or opinions. A space outside the realm of expectation and responsibility. A creative place to unlock potential and possibilities. A haven without conflict, strife or enemies. A secret spiritual place where you are embraced and refined at the same time.

Isaiah 45:3- I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel.

Psalm 31:20- You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence. From the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

That Thing YOU DO!

The past few weeks have been extra busy for me. Several weeks ago I had book writing and editing going. Then final touches and approvals on design. Printing, signing and all on top of an already full schedule of meetings and church services. Releasing a new book is like having another child. There is much preparation and anticipation mixed with the internal private work of writing. And then after the release, the public work begins.

So after the push to complete a creative project, I should be relieved, right?

I am happy to have successfully completed a project but unfortunately finishing is not my favorite part. In fact, I drag the creative process out as long as possible. And when it's over, I am in search of something else to create. It might be as simple as an afternoon of photography or painting, writing a blog entry or cooking dinner. Or it may be as extravagant as creating a new endeavor or ministry department (or, my husband forbid, start a new book :-/ .) I know, too many "or's". But I like choices, that is a big part of the pull of creativity for me, the possibilities.

It is more clear to me now than ever before, that God gifts each of us with a deep desire, a compulsion, to DO something. For me, this something, is to CREATE.


I don't know why it has taken me 37 years to see this so clearly. Now that I see what it is that I 'have' to do, it is much easier to see this in the lives of those I know really well. My dad has to restore old things. My mother has to celebrate everything! Recognizing that I have to create, shifts things significantly in my life. I want to do more of what I know God has gifted me to do.

But let me frame this for you.

If I were to set up a craft table in the middle of my house, quit my job and declare that I am doing so, just because, "I HAVE TO CREATE!"...I would be using my passion and gifting to create all right...but I would be creating a huge imbalance.

How do I continually create and maintain balance?

First, I have to identify various forms of creativity so that I can identify where my gift and passion are most applicable to each situation. The thing I like to do the least, is to work through conflicts. I don't like conflict. If it were my own conflict with someone I would have to confront it in order to get any sleep at all. But usually the conflicts I am called in on are not my own. All of my occupations (mother, wife, leader, employer and pastor) require that I often use my conflict resolution skills to elevate various situations. So in order to tackle all my responsibilities, I have had to reframe my perspective about creativity. I don't want to run from something just because it appears at first glance not to offer any creative outlet. I found that looking at my most unlikable duty (conflict resolution) through a creative lens, allows me to see it as "creating an opportunity for growth" not just solving a problem. In this way, I can use my gift and passion to bring balance. I am still creating. And most importantly, I am using my creativity for God's purpose in my life.

Psalm 20:4 - May he grant you according to all your hearts desire and fulfill all your purpose.

Our passions and gifts were given to us, by God, to heal and restore our surroundings. Using my desire to create, in the context of this original intent, is the ultimate defining of "reigning in life."

I mentioned my father's passion for restoring things. This gift is used in bringing wholeness to broken lives as well as restoring older cars or dilapidated buildings. My mother is known for her heart for giving. Her gift and passion for celebration incorporates celebrating the individual for their uniqueness as well as over-the-top occasions. She looks for an opportunity to celebrate in everything. This is worship. Whenever any one of us uses our God-given gift, we are worshiping the giver. When I create, my dad restores and my mother celebrates, each of us are elevating something natural to the supernatural.

I encourage you to identify what it is you HAVE TO DO. And then, don't run away from your life to do that thing. Run into your life and fulfill it, by doing that thing you do!

What is it you HAVE TO DO?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Old-Timey Bicycle

Yesterday, my husband and I took our kids for an early evening bike ride. We do this often, so we routinely take the same route. Out of our driveway, we go to the right and straight-away up hill. Once we are all at the top, we turn right again, navigating a winding path across the top, until we hit a descending trail that runs perpendicular to the back of our house. This route is all work at the start. Straight up hill without a warm-up. Yesterday I was struggling toward the top. Me and my bicycle were moving just fast enough to stay upright. As one of my son's pass me, he says, "Mom, I think your problem is that old-timey bicycle!"

I replied, "I think my problem is my old-timey body."

I've been up and down a few hills in my life. And one thing has become increasingly clear to me. I work like crazy to get myself to the top and then when I began to coast downhill, I tap my brakes to slow myself down. Because we have gone on this particular bike trail many times, I have realized that if I don't allow myself to gain momentum on the way down, I cannot make it up the next hill without completely exhausting myself.

In life I do the same. I have no problem with scaling a challenging situation or facing adversity that triggers every possible fatigue. However, when I have overcome and by the grace of God, begin to experience momentum, I start tapping the brakes.

The question rang out in my mind yesterday, "Why did you work so hard to conquer this if you are gonna stop the momentum on the other side?"

Logistically my answer was, "I don't want to fall! Wipeout is bad!! Especially for my old-timey body..."

Whether we are talking about a bike ride or a life style, we have to identify why we hit the brakes when things start getting better. Ideas arise, that maybe we don't deserve to move so quickly, or if we have struggled so long, things shouldn't be this easy. It all comes down to fear. I don't want to lose control and fall off my bike nor do I want to move through life so quickly that I wipeout without warning. I want to be cautious with my calling but also fearless in my faith!

How do I do both?

Mark 13:37 says,
"And what I say to you, I say to everybody: Watch (give strict attention, be cautious, active, and alert)!"

This Scripture reveals to me that we must not stop ourselves from moving forward but we need to watch where we are going. Just the term "watch" gives direction for us to remain focused without distraction, that is the kind of caution we should embrace. At the same time, be active and move forward without seizing up.

To be successful on our uphill journey we must be persistent, once we gain momentum our goal is to stay focused on our destination. Speed is not our enemy, distraction is. My old-timey bicycle with it's big ol' handlebars, goes where my eyes go. If I turn to look to the right or the left, my course swerves to match my focus.

"Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." Proverbs 4:27

"He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and followed the ways of this father, David, not turning aside to the right or the left." 2 Chronicles 34:2

Moving with the power of momentum can be a bit scary. When it seems like things are just moving too fast, we stiffen in fear. Just a few years ago when we launched the vision for When Women Worship, I found myself guilty of this very thing. I had worked really hard to bring the vision to fruition, God had aligned me with powerful and gifted individuals that had the ability to raise the game significantly. But I froze up. The speed scared me and I stopped making the right decisions to continue releasing the momentum. I was too afraid of making the wrong decisions, so I didn't make any. Hitting the brakes in this way taught me a valuable lesson. All the way up the hill I had known that God was in control but when things began to move quickly, I didn't fully trust He still was. What I have learned from this is that He sets me on a straight and narrow path. The only risk in experiencing momentum is if I lose my focus. When I hit the brakes after When Women Worship, it made getting up the next hill all the harder for me. I am challenged to let the Lord guide me up and (especially) down, every hill from now on.

I'm ready to catch some air...even if it's on my old-timey bicycle.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Adding a Sweet Little, "Honey?"...

This blog is probably not for you. I'm sure that you have not had the breakfast burning, phone ringing, dog barking, mud trailing kids, running through your house, all at the same time, moment, in your life. On top of that, just as the tea kettle whistles, someone utters an ever so innocent word, like, "Honey?" and it comes at you like a swift kick to the hive buzzing in your head.


A wounded look later and you realize that you have just stung someone. And it hurts you as much as it does them. So in the midst of the chaos and confusion, there is now something much more worthy of attention.

I know that this build up doesn't just happen to women. But we are the Queen Bee in many respects. The chaos and confusion of multiple demands can bring us to the point of biting off someone's head, when they are guilty of nothing more than adding a sweet little "Honey?" to our already piled high plate.

I wish that I had not ever been guilty of taking out my frustration on the wrong person but I have. My own responses have caused me so much more grief than the mud, missed phone calls or burnt bacon at breakfast.

In talking about this with a few of my ministry friends, a personal mother-daugther story was relayed to me. This Pastor's wife was rushing between meetings, carpool and evening church service and decided to quickly run through a drive through for dinner with her daughter. As they approached the line to order, she rolled down her window and began to yell the specific details. Not open to interruption, she ignored her daughter gently saying, "Mom, mom, mom, mom..."

After finishing her order and realizing her pointer finger in the air was not enough to stop her daughter, she finally, said, "WHAT?"

To this her daughter sheepishly replied, "Mom, you are talking to the trash can. The speaker is up there."

As we laughed about the role of women, Queen Bee's, keeping our lives a buzz, I began to contemplate my personal responsibility of producing a sweet response to the "Honey?s'" in the days to come. Not all situations are funny. Sometimes the Queen Bee can cause an unrest that creates a domino effect throughout her family. When I know that I am anointed to bring peace and direction to my household and yet have been guilty of contributing to the chaos, I want to figure out why so that I can eliminate it from happening again.

When I contemplate the source of sour responses, I am left with one single common thread. Each of the situations I have mentioned and the ones I only think of now, have all escalated based upon one thing "too many." When we are overwhelmed, our sense of intrusion becomes very high, thus making us defensive to anything incoming (even when it's help). Most of the time these imbalances come on quickly and pass without too much trouble. But what about when we live in a state of pressure due to overwhelming circumstances? One major emotional burden can take all we have and at times even the simplest act of kindness can be difficult to muster.

Men are much better than women at keeping things separate. When women are upset about one thing, everything else is hard to appreciate. Knowing this about myself, as a woman, makes it important for me to intentionally set boundaries for myself. In the case of weighing my response to overload, the boundary I need is really more like a buffer zone. This must be self-required and self-maintained. The buffer would simply be the requirement to pause, breathe and think, before I reply. It sounds so simple. But when it might mean losing a well thought-out sentence forming in my head, (as I write my blog), so that I can pause, breathe and answer my daughter's question about what color shoes she should wear....??? I am simply reestablishing my priorities. Yes, I am frequently overwhelmed. But I cannot let the demands of the moment dictate the direction I choose to take or the response I chose to make.

I've got to go...have a few busy bees to see about!