Monday, May 25, 2015

How Much Do You Really Think About Your Spouse?

Larry and Me ~ Vacation in Boston, two years ago
 
Memorial Day is a day when our family typically stays at home. It's a day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom in America.  I do remember and honor. Just saying, on this day of remembering our heroes, Larry and I choose to stay home rather than fight the crowds, trying to find a spot for a towel or chair on an overly-crowded beach.  Most people would not guess it but other than the context of work, I'm an introverted, stay-at-home type person at heart. I don't even like to go away for vacation, but make it a priority to do so because it's important to my husband.

Larry asked me last week what I wanted to do for Memorial Day. It was no shock to him when I said, "Stay home."

"What do you want to do at home?" was his response. I'm surprised he asked because I give the same response every time for 28 years: "Relax."

 "What does relaxing look like?" he says.

 "Steaks on the grill and a movie at home." I say.

 So yesterday I opened the refrigerator and saw a large package of steaks from the grocery store.
 
Alongside them was a small package of something in butcher paper.

I thought maybe he bought shrimp. (He actually did but it was in a separate package.)

"What is this little package in butcher paper?" I asked.

"That's your steak," he answered.
 
I was puzzled since I could see the large package of steaks alongside it.

When I asked him why my steak was separate from the rest he said, "The large package of steaks are for the kids and me. The small package is yours because it's your favorite cut of meat and I wanted you to have it."

 It's the little things...

 The power of this is huge in marriage, or any relationship for that matter.

 What holds a relationship together isn't just times you go away for an anniversary...

 New lingerie...

 Or what people consider huge demonstrations of love (expensive jewelry, creating big events, sentimental videos, or spending a lot of money).

 The fire remains in a relationship when it is continually stoked by every day demonstrations of thoughtfulness.

Larry Shrodes thinks about me, even when he is at Publix. 

Who knew? 

Now, I do, if I didn't before.
 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Getting What You Don't Even Pray For
(How Incredible Is That?!)

We don't have some things, because we don't ask God for them. James 4 tells us that. I also believe that as we delight ourselves in the Lord, He gives us the desires of our heart. (Psalm 37:4)

Sometimes God answers when we don't even ask for the desires of our heart. Perhaps it's because we don't see how God would do it within our current structure. Translation: our current box.  We forget that His ways and His thoughts are higher than ours. (Isaiah 55) He can give us our desires even when it doesn't seem feasible at all. He is truly omniscient. I love that, and so much more about Him. 
 
I'm a homebody at heart. Most would never guess it, but at the core I'm an introvert who could live in my pajamas, with a dog by my side, writing books until Jesus comes back. But  I was convinced  that one day upon retirement I was going spend my days in between pj's and book writing, taking road trips. These jaunts would be for purpose of encouraging leaders. It wasn't about traveling to make a presentation. My passion is looking into a fellow leader's eyes and let them know somebody cares. I've reached out to colleagues online and over the phone for years, because perhaps nothing fires me up or fulfills me more than to help people by speaking a kind word or praying in person.

Sights on the way to Wauchula this past Saturday
Driving through the country is another passion of mine. Give me the boondocks! Let me go to the mailbox in my nightie and not be seen by a soul, please. Give me a dirt road. Since my husband does not share this passion and is a lover of all things city life, the neighborhood where we live now is a stretch for him.  And, riding through the countryside is not something I've had a lot of time for, during most of our ministry.
 
 When we are on vacation I often ask Larry to stop the car and I pull over so I can take a photo --- especially of churches.  Sometimes I lament, "Boy, I sure do wish this was a time the pastor was here. I'd go in and give him or her a kind word." My husband isn't into stopping to take photos or meeting a stranger. He's more interested in how fast he can get wherever he's going. 

Prior to last May, I was so engrossed in co-pastoring our church as well as part time career coaching, there was only time to travel elsewhere to minister about one weekend a month although it sometimes stretched to more. And sometimes I would feel like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Last May when I had the honor of becoming women's ministries director for PenFlorida, I made the leap of faith of transitioning to the district office full time. Anyone who knows me well knows, this was not on my radar at all. But God knew! 

I don't work at the church office anymore (I just attend/participate in services) and resigned my job as a career coach. This was a huge risk for me, as I don't like to fail and quite honestly was afraid that I might. I've never been fired in my life.  I was aware of much of what the role of director of women's ministries entails, but I underestimated the amount of time I'd be on the road.

 People ask me if I mind it. 

 Mind it? It's my dream come true minus the staying in pj's with a dog by my side. (Although I'm still writing books.) Preaching wasn't part of this little dream of mine, but speaking is one of my gifts, so it works.

And to think, it happened waaaaaaay before retirement! (smile) I work extremely long hours, and am not complaining one bit. Hard work is my strong suit. I have never been more fulfilled. I adore all of our state and the many cultures represented on our peninsula. I do have to admit though, that when I am in the country, I stop and take more photos. I am right at home in places like Lake City or Wauchula. The only thing better than a long stretch of country road is meeting over coffee with a leader and lending an ear, a hug, or extending a word of encouragement.

God knows the desire of our heart even when we don't pray it because we don't  see it as realistic.  He does what He wants to do, when He wants.

Speaking of stopping along the way...as I was on the way to Wauchula to minister this past Saturday, I stopped at this little church and took a picture. I was intrigued by the name.



No pastor was there at the time, but I prayed, "God, encourage the pastor of this church, today. Strengthen his or her spouse as well if they have one. Bless this church, and their pastor's family in every way, I pray…” 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Women in Ministry and Mothers Day Issues:
It's Complicated!


The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Emotionally, the pull is intense to stay home, reflect and practice self-care.

She is sad because she tried to become a mom, and still isn't one.

She's grieving over the child she lost.

Or the mother she lost. 

Or the mother who abandoned or abused her, making this day such a painful reminder of all she never had.  

Or she has a toxic mom and responded by drawing healthy boundaries that led to them hardly speaking, or maybe never speaking again.  

Whatever the case, the spirit wins out when it comes to this lady.

No matter how daunting the situation, she doesn’t give in to the overwhelming urge to hide out until Monday. 

She wakes up. She shows up. She makes a difference.

Who is she?

She's a woman in ministry for whom Mother's Day brings painful reminders or complications.

Regardless of her own circumstance, she reaches out in genuine love to minister to God’s people. Notwithstanding her personal obstacles, she is a spiritual mother to many. And that means on Mother's Day, like other Sundays, she is on the scene at the church. She may release emotions that build up during the day after service at home, or phone a trusted friend who has provided a shoulder to lean on through the years. But when she is with the church family, it will be about reaching out to others.

Thousands of women who have a complicated relationship with Mother’s Day will not only go to church today – they will lead the church.

I know, because I’m one of them.

Today I will stand up in front of our church and celebrate mothers, as I’ve done for all of our 28 years in full time ministry. I'll be in the pulpit, undeterred by the battle in my mind that tries to convince me to stay home underneath my fluffy down comforter, drinking dark roast coffee and watching movies. Being mindful of the struggle many women face on this day, I usually make note of that in some way in the service and offer up a prayer for those affected who may or may not be present.

Scores of women in ministry who face painful realities will be with their congregations today. They are called and dedicated to ministry and as such, are accustomed to pressing beyond hardships to fulfill the call of God on their lives. Putting one foot in front of the other, they keep showing up and changing lives, even on their most difficult days.




The purpose of this post isn’t to fix the emotional tug of war that goes on inside a woman leader who faces these challenges, for that's not possible in a blog post. What I can offer to any woman reading this who relates is the assurance that you don't walk alone. I find comfort in knowing, we do not walk this journey by ourselves.

What a blessing to be part of a sisterhood of women all around the world who serve faithfully despite trials, arising to take our place in house of God and in His divine plan. To stand and deliver today is not a denial of our problems, – it’s called LEADERSHIP.