Photo credit: Lauren M.
My little one came home the other day from school complaining that her eye hurt. Throughout the course of the evening, we saw a slightly irritated eye go from bad to worse.
So the next day, rather than off to school, we took a field trip to the doctor. And mom’s schedule for the day changed.
It can irritate me. I’m selfish like that. I don’t have an employer but I write a bit here on the blog. My “stay-at-home” days get filled up with things that need done. Mostly good things. A few cumbersome. Others mundane.
I bet my to-do list can beat yours.
Every time my little one ends up at home, it interrupts my plans for the day. The very important things I have to do.
In times like this, God nudges me. He doesn’t speak out loud but I wouldn’t necessarily call His reminder a whisper either. Conviction.
“Today, I have given you a gift. Your very healthy child has hit a bump in her otherwise smoothly paved road. Nothing matters more than spending time with her today.”
Then I remember all the things I should have thought of at the very first. She’s only little for such a short time. God made her, well, absolutely amazing! One of the greatest wonders in my life is the fact that I get a front-row seat in watching her life unfold.
We had a great day. The doctor’s office got us in mid-morning so we threw on clothes and headed out the door. Our daughter enjoys learning, although she always seems to jump at the chance to skip school….
She double-checked her height and weight numbers as the nurse read them off to us. Once inside the exam room, she watched the nurse use the stethoscope. Then asked how her heart sounded. Much to her delight, he let her listen. She asked what her ear looked like inside. She wondered if she’d need her blood pressure taken that day (pointing to the instruments lined up on the wall). Was her temperature normal?
Nothing’s routine when you’re seven.
We found out she wasn’t contagious and just needed a few eyedrops to clear things all up. Good news! So we set out to run errands.
Growing into her fashionista tendencies, she asked to look at the girls’ clothes instead of the toys for the first time ever. In the food aisles, she picked out lunch menu items for her and grandma to take on their upcoming field trip.
This mama’s heart melted as I thought back on past trips to the grocery store. Moms everywhere know the universal truth that going to any store is easier without your child. But again. Perspective. She loves going to the store with me.
We went out to lunch from there. She chose Mexican. Guacamole, chicken mole and a tamale. As I watched her devour each item, I knew we were raising a true food snob. Another proud mama moment in my interrupted day.
She didn’t want to go to school the next morning. Her eye had cleared up and she was feeling fine. But after the fun day we’d had running around, can you really blame her?
It’s a blessing to my family that one of us parents can tend to our daughter when she needs to stay home from school. Deep in my heart I know this. Sometimes I just need a reminder.
I'm partnering with Family Christian to write this post and host the giveaway below. The opinions expressed here are my own.
A group of us sat down to dinner last week at a local restaurant. Ladies from my home church. A disorganized, organized event if you will. No planned devotional. We didn’t bring our Bibles. The tables weren’t decorated. I didn’t prepare a talk.
Afterwards, I shared these thoughts with them on our Facebook ministry page:
Last night, I sat among an amazing group of women. Honestly, some looked tired. Our days are long and we work hard. But each smile was genuine. The Spirit was among us. A few sat by familiar friends. Others did the often awkward task of visiting with Christian sisters new to them. But we're all family. Thanks, ladies, for dinner. Let's do it again soon!
Sometimes women just want to sit down at a table and visit. Can I get an amen?
The title I have at my church is "Women’s Ministry Coordinator." Coordinator, is by definition:
Someone whose task is to see that work goes harmoniously.
That resonates with me. Every Sunday, I look out across our church family and see the women.
Those who partner with me in this child-rearing stage of life. Dear friends who share so much common ground with me.
The beautiful women beyond the years of having children in their home. They have so much to offer us from the life lessons they’ve learned. Spiritual mothers.
Single women who come longing to connect with family. A church should be the very best place for them to feel loved on and included.
The strangers. It seems this group looms large in our midst these days. Our church continues to grow and change. So many faces I haven’t made a connection with yet.
My role as I see it is to bring all of these groups together. To remind these Christian sisters we form one body. We have Kingdom work to do. They have a place here.
One event or style won’t reach out to all these women. Further, one person can’t connect meaningfully with each woman. So, I partner with God in creating an atmosphere where ladies are comfortable coming together. I make the introductions.
It’s about providing a safe place for women to show vulnerability. A community. Which ultimately happens all week long as we invest in each other’s lives. Not just at a weekly meeting or a monthly event.
That’s the coordinator role I play. Planning events to meet the varying needs of our women. I’ve also found that some simply aren’t in a season of life where women’s ministry fits. They might not be open to all that new yet. Or managing work and their family takes up the majority of their time. The question I prayerfully consider all the time:
Lord, how can I minister to each woman where she is right now?
A few times, we've given away praise and worship CDs to those working women who spend hours in the car each week commuting to/from work. We’ve gone line dancing for that mom who just needs a night out. We host wedding and baby showers to offer support to our “family” and encourage ladies to love on one another. We’ve provided meals for the youth away on retreat. We’ve learned about Passover. There have been times we’ve stopped right in the middle of an event just to pray. We encourage one another and have great discussions on social media.
The ultimate goal is to show the love of Jesus Christ through relationship.
Women’s ministry isn’t one dimensional. You can’t just decide you’re going to offer a Bible study and a holiday tea, calling it good.
Fortunately, some great resources exist to help us reach out to women in all walks of life. They are online or right down the street at your local Family Christian Store.
Praise & Worship CDs. We often have these playing at various events. And, while I can’t choreograph to save my life, artists like Jamie Grace and Toby Mac can provide some solid Zumba and line dancing music.
Bible Study Resources. I know our ministries must be about more than studying the Bible. However, getting a woman to open up her Bible a little bit more is always, always a good thing. Family Christian offers a myriad of Bible studies, commentaries, map booklets, Bibles. Things to take us deeper.
Christian Books. The “duh” resource right? Our community of women is always recommending books to one another. Books on marriage and parenting. Light fictional reading. Historical fiction. I always have a supply of books to offer as giveaways at events and also “just because” gifts.
Home Decor. Family Christian offers a whole lot more than music and books. I once went shopping there and got lost for days. Not really, but... amusement park for adults. Holiday decorating. Mugs and dishes and kitchen accessories with printed Scripture to surround us with God’s Word. Beautiful wall art. Pinterest has nothing on the beautiful things you’ll find in these aisles.
Maybe you’re reading this article, nodding your head in agreement. But you wonder where to get started? What would it look like to begin or overhaul the women’s ministry in your church? Well, today, I’m pleased to partner with Family Christian in offering you some resources. Excellent books and planning kits to help you answer questions like these:
How do you engage your leadership in growing your women’s ministry impact?
Are there ways to increase your outreach through social media?
What are some service project ideas we can offer our women?
Enter to win this 3-piece kit so you can build a stronger community of women today!
I participated in the launch team for Rachel Held Evans latest book "Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving And Finding The Church." I was given an electronic version of the book for the purpose of generating a review. The opinions expressed here are my own. This book released just this week!
And bonus for my readers! I had already pre-ordered a copy of the book when I was selected to be on the launch team. So, I'm giving my copy away. Enter to win below!
In March of last year, Rachel announced to her readers that she was putting the finishing touches on her latest book, “Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving & Finding The Church.” She asked people to write in with their church stories. She’d review them and use some of the segments in this book.
I’d only been blogging for a few months. I would actually meet Rachel about a month later at the Festival of Faith & Writing Conference for like two seconds. It all felt so out of my element. But the assignment intrigued me and I had developed an appreciation for Rachel’s work. So I wrote a piece for consideration.
I have never left the church. Perhaps I should say the church has never left me. It runs through my veins on my mother’s side.
My words didn’t make her book. After reading it, I see how what I prepared didn’t fit with the stories Rachel used or the topics she covered.
Eventually, I published my article over at my blog and didn’t think much more about it. Until I read her book. It was then I realized that the story of my faith experience is the lens through which I look at the worldwide church.
I’m a church girl, through and through. When I first entered the blogging community, I began reading various articles and responses from people who have been scarred by the church. Individuals who time and again left the church because she hurt them. Serious offenses. Pastors who spent more time covering politics and football scores than teaching God’s Word. There were people who hated my family. The church one, not the biological one.
That has never been my experience. I have gone to church since I was an infant. Although far from perfect, I have experienced loving fellowship at every church I’ve attended. The pastors I’ve sat under, all males, have given me so much biblical knowledge. My wonderful, knowledgeable teachers and mentors. I cannot remember a single Sunday when I woke up wishing I didn’t have to go to church.
I had to look up words like evangelical, fundamentalism and Anglican to even know how to participate in the conversation.
Does these mean I’m doing Christianity wrong? Am I just living in ignorant bliss because I’ve never been mad enough or hurt enough to leave the church? Never had a faith crisis? Is this similar to the guilt some of us feel who became Christians when we were wee children? Because we don't have a good testimony?
The closing line from the article I submitted to Rachel for consideration in her book reads:
Generations of my family before me found answers to life’s hardest questions at church. Honestly, if I didn’t stay in the church, keep my faith, I wouldn’t have the first clue where else to look.
That’s the background I brought to the table when I read Rachel Held Evans’ book, “Searching for Sunday.” Our stories read so similar. Until they don’t.
Quotes from this point on are taken from “Searching for Sunday.”
At at time when most of my peers were struggling to find an identity, I knew exactly who I was: the church girl, the girl who always had a place in her youth group family, the girl on fire for God.
And Rachel, sometimes she hurts my feelings. She can come across as assailing my people. The church I love. Then, often in the very next paragraph, she’ll say something so true I want to reach through my e-reader and hug her (even though touch isn’t anywhere close to being my love language).
Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus - the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places he’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these. No coffee shops or fog machines required.
This book is Rachel at her finest. It’s fair and speaks to a goal of unity. She communicates truth without attacking.
Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth. We might just create sanctuary.
I measured every new experience by what I loved or hated about evangelicalism, which put all these good churches filled with good people in the rather awkward position of the rebound boyfriend.
She shows a lighter side to her theology.
I nearly skipped a tour of the famed Ave Maria Grotto on my last day at St. Bernard. It cost seven bucks to see and I’d already gone all Martin Luther on the gift shop, scandalized over the sale of holy water, which, when you think about it, isn’t much different than evangelicals selling Duck Dynasty-themed Bibles in their bookstores, but still...
I feel like a representative of the minority when I say, this book didn’t heal me. I didn’t weep when she shared a story just like mine of being rejected by God’s people. But I did make a promise to myself that I would stretch and grow. To see what God had for me in the stories. To continue shedding the ugly skin of legalism from my life (even when that scares me).
And, along with every other reader, I reveled in the beauty of her descriptions.
Church showed up at the front door with a chicken casserole when the whole family was down with the flu and called after midnight to ask for prayer and to cry... Church came to me far more than I went to it, and I’m glad.
Jesus said his Father’s house has many rooms. In this metaphor, I like to imagine the Presbyterians hanging out in the library, the Baptists running the kitchen, the Anglicans setting the table, the Anabaptists washing feet with the hose in the backyard, the Lutherans making liturgy for the laundry, the Methodists stoking the fire in the hearth, the Catholics keeping the family history, the Pentecostals throwing open all the windows and doors to let more people in.
In reading “Searching for Sunday,” I discovered Rachel and I still have a lot in common. We both love the church. We’ll continue serving her as we’re called.
And so, with God’s help, I keep showing up.
Growing up, we had a garden. My mom was this wonder woman of a housewife. I think she actually liked doing all the chores around our place. But when she’d ask me to help, particularly in the garden, I struggled to find even a glimpse of her enthusiasm in me.
You see, in Missouri, the state of my childhood, there are bugs outside. Little, incessant gnats and mosquito-ey creatures that no amount of swatting will diminish.
And it’s hot. Like, too-humid-to-do-anybody-any-good hot.
Well, I’d complain the moment I got to work. Much to my brother’s chagrin. The bugs bothered me. How could I work in the heat? I became incredibly thirsty. Tired. Hungry. I suddenly needed to go to the bathroom. I just wasn’t a big fan of the garden.
Today, I have a garden of my own. The same challenges still exist. But I’m willing to endure them because I realize the healthy, flavorful fruits and vegetables we harvest are worth all the effort. I’ve learned how to prepare new dishes with our abundant bounty. I can preserve just about anything in the freezer or in a jar.
Mom might have been on to something.
I received a copy of Jesus, Bread And Chocolate written by John J Thompson, from NetGalley for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are either Bible verses or quotes from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own. This book released just last week!
I’ve often wondered if this desire for fresh food growing within me speaks to a larger part of a heart work God is doing. A longing for real. Authenticity. Worship that requires all of me. Products that take time and passion. Further, I begin to wonder, is this just part of our spiritual make-up? Are we meant for a life full of real and authentic?
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB)
Author John J. Thompson asks questions much like these in his new book, “Jesus, Bread & Chocolate: Crafting a Handmade Faith in a Mass-Market World.” He explores our fast food culture. Also, the effects, good and bad, industrialization has had on our society.
Mass-market bread costs almost nothing. Get up close, though, and watch bread being made, and its value increases exponentially. Get your own hands covered in dough and invest precious time watching it rise and bake, and bread will be worth even more to you. The same is true when it comes to the community of faith.
Telling the stories of people he’s met personally and sharing knowledge from the years of research he’s done on this subject matter, he explores what might happen if the church would remember our artisan roots?
Definition Artisan: a person whose occupation requires skill with the hands.
In bodily form, Jesus kept on creating. He was a winemaker, a community builder, an architect, a healer, and a story teller. He was a bread maker and a fishmonger.
I'd recommend reading this book with a little notebook nearby. So you can jot down the Nashville-based chocolate company, Olive & Sinclair Chocolates. The coffee farmers who have won the worldwide Cup of Excellence competition. Calfkiller Brewing Company and The Black Abbey Brewing Company. Also, a number of other books the author refers to as additional resources. Thompson mentions “In these pages I’m going to do my best to ruin you for the cheap stuff.” I would say well done!
Photo used from the Olive & Sinclair Chocolates website.
The more the author learned about these artisans living our their passions, the more he realized it truly became an act of worship. To a God who provided us with all these natural resources.
Chocolate, like coffee, bread, and so many other essential human creations, is the product of a unique divine/human partnership. God gives us the raw materials and then allows us the pleasure and honor of finding the way to make it taste good.
Finally, I gave a lot of thought to how I could help my church become more authentic. To stop worrying about growing bigger and focus on going deeper. These ideas are a big part of Thompson’s book as well.
Maybe bread and chocolate and coffee and farmers markets can show us something about what it means to cultivate a taste for real community, real humanity, and real discipleship.
** I've added this post to The Book Nook at Creating Joy.
I received a copy of The Story of King Jesus written by Ben Irwin, from NetGalley for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are either Bible verses or quotes from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
When I picked up a chronological Bible a few years ago, I had no idea how much it would change my life. I’ve grown up in the church and taught Bible study for several years. I knew my Bible.
However, reading God’s Word all the way through; in its entirety, in the order many think it happened, that changed me.
I realized, deep down in my spirit, that God was always in control. I knew, knew, sending His Son, Jesus, wasn’t a plan B because mankind had made a terrible mess of things.
Jesus had always been the main character in the greatest love story ever told.
The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. John 1:1 (The Message)
That’s why I’m so excited about a new trend I’m seeing in Christian books for children. Authors are telling our young listeners and readers about this plan God had... from the beginning.
I downloaded “The Story of King Jesus" on our iPad for review. My daughter enjoys her time on the tablet. Now, I can offer her a book that teaches her the Bible story. The electronic version has gorgeous illustrations by Nick Lee. I’m sure they’d be even more beautiful in print.
The first line reads,
It all began with God.
As the story unfolds, the author clearly shows that God never stopped loving His people. That He always planned to restore our relationship with Him. A parent or grandparent could have rich discussions based on the truths presented in each page.
Isn’t that what it’s all about? Creating an environment where we can have an ongoing discussion with our children about God and His great love for us?
Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7a (The Message)
This book doesn’t offer all the details of God’s story. It paints the big picture behind the stories.
God had a plan, and it started with Abraham.
It shows God at work. In total control.
God sent his only Son, Jesus, his Chosen One, to rescue Israel and make the world right and good again. Because God still had a plan.
The same message I’ve learned from reading the Bible though chronologically. In my 30’s. You can easily read this book with a child in one sitting. But further, you can slowly read each page, discussing each one, and instill the deeper truths of our faith at a very young age.