Favorite Things Monday: The Prodigal and the Other Son Edition

The story of the prodigal son is a pretty familiar passage of scripture. It’s quite possible to have never read the bible and still be familiar with the overall theme of this story.

You can read the full passage in Luke 15. A very quick summary is that a man has two sons. One asks for his inheritance, leaves home, squanders his inheritance and hits rock bottom. The son decides to return to his father, comes up with an “I’m not worthy plan” in attempt to fill his belly. It goes far better than expected. The father runs to his son and embraces him and throws him a party.

I know, there are two sons. I have decided that you are at some point in your life one of if not both sons in this story.

The other son stays with the father and when his obnoxious brother returns empty handed, he gets mad at the love and grace shown to his brother and throws a pity party (I don’t blame him for that).

The Father’s actions show both sons love and grace and mercy. The Father shows both sons that their standing as his children has not been affected by their dumb choices. While reading the passage, it seems that the wild son that left and lost everything was the “worse” brother. It’s more obvious but the more I look at it, we are pretty even stevens here. Both were misguided and distracted. Both had taken their eyes off their identity. Both were shown grace and mercy by a father who loved them both best.

How am I like the brother who stayed? Amazing how a message where my husband handed out sticks to everyone in the church, pinpoint an area in your (my) life where you are the other son… (how do you get the Prodigal Son out of Exodus…listen here).

When my cynicism gets the best of me: I don’t want to talk about it but I have to. My cynicism makes me the other son. Every time.

When my judgement makes me feel superior instead of heartbroken: Do I want to judge my brother’s bad behavior or do I want to run as fast as my father because of love and gratitude over my brother’s return? If I am whining instead of celebrating, I have missed the real big point. You can listen to a whole sermon series on judgement here.

When I feel like I deserve something in my timing, over trusting God’s timing in working things out in (and through) my life: Does this need an explanation?

Anyone else with me? If it is just my own, I’m ok with this little public confession. I had to get it out there. If not, it turns to pride before you had a chance to notice…and pride is not a good look on anyone. When we think we know better than God, we are the other son.

It’s Monday and Monday’s can tend to overwhelm for a lot of reasons. Tonight, I sat down to a familiar passage of scripture in light of my current feelings. Ephesians is one of my favorite books in the new testament. I wanted to underline certain parts for effect but just read and take in the whole thing. This was Paul’s prayer for this church, this is a prayer I pray over mine…and tonight, I prayed it over myself. Regardless of what son (or daughter) I feel like in a moment, he is working, he has called you and it’s HIS immeasurable greatness.

Identity in check. Eye on the prize, Ortiz…he’s got this.

Now that I have reminded myself, please read and take your time reading and praying through Ephesians 1:15-20.

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[f] toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 

 

 

 

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Favorite Things Monday: Seven Years and One Year Later…

Tomorrow is an important day.

Seven years ago was a new beginning that changed our lives forever.

One year ago marks a day that I thought was the peak of an intense season of discouragement. It wasn’t the peak. We hadn’t gotten to that point yet but this was a day that I realized just how deep we were in it all.

It is typically a day that I look on as a giant reminder of God’s faithfulness. Our church got to meet in a school that hadn’t let a church rent it out (another one is there now and we were so happy to see that). We started a church with hardly any money and watched God provide every step of this new beginning. Without the start of Revive Church, the merge to become Central City Austin would have never happened. Without that beginning, a hundred other beginnings wouldn’t have happened. The relationships we have now are God’s great gift to me. The people we get to do life and ministry with are an absolute dream come true. The way we get to do life with others is a reminder of God’s design for us to live in community and it’s the best. The ways we have seen God move, intervene, show his patience and love, grace and provision is something I never get over…and since he’s not done, I am constantly in awe of it.

Seven years ago on September 18th, was our first service as a new church plant in Austin.

One year ago, I wondered how we were going to keep going. I knew there was another side to the weight of discouragement we were feeling but I could not see it.

One year ago, I grieved hard and could not figure out why. One year ago, I learned what it was to fight with God and bring up every promise and remind him this was all His idea. One year ago my husband started to tackle anxiety something fierce, before service every Sunday morning. One year ago, I was so beyond desperate for a move of God that it felt like I was carrying an actual weight in my very core. One year ago I found a new level of fighting mad over…everything. One year ago was a different kind of new beginning.

 

Today, I want to shout from the rooftops that the same God that led us to plant a church is the same crazy loving, faithful God but how differently we know Him now (2 Corinthians 5:16).

Today we seek Him differently. Today we see ourselves in light of a stronger identity in Christ. Today we believe that God can and the words “exceedingly abundantly” have never been more real. We pray different. Our expectation is different.

Today I realize that we have to heal from survival seasons. Let people in that can see your hope and knee-jerk reactions.

Today I know that when you invite people into your discouragement and pain that God will often give them a glimpse of the other side of your season. You need them. God gave them to you on purpose. And when one trusted friend tells you, “I am so encouraged by your discouragement”, trust that she sees what you can’t and is fighting on your behalf in prayer.

Today I know that our seasons don’t just shape us, they can shape those around us. You do not have to look for how this will encourage someone else down the road. It will, but this is not your healing or miracle to manufacture. He’s got you and you will know it so well.

Today, thank God, anxiety does not attack Ray on a weekly basis.

We are not the same church that we were 7 years ago. We are not the same church that we were a year ago…and I can’t think of a single person that calls Central City Austin home that would disagree with that statement. 2018 has felt like a new beginning that has been in the works for a very long time.

I wondered a few weeks ago how tomorrow will feel. I’ll probably cry and a lot of it out of gratitude that seven years ago and one year ago happened. I’ll face the day with excitement and look back and see how far God has brought us with such purpose.

I look back and see far he has brought all of us! We can look towards tomorrow with great joy and expectation…because how differently we know Him now.

 

 

 

 

 

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Favorite Things: Say What Edition

Exodus 14:14 – The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.

This verse popped up in my YouVersion bible app last week. I love the truth in those words. I do not like the instruction.

I want the Lord to tell me to hustle. I want instruction. I want him to tell me to get to work. I want Him to fight the fight on my behalf. I want Him to do what only He can, I just want him to give me something to do. Right now. And I want to like what He tells me. I want to get going. All Nehemiah style, with a sword in one hand and tool in the other because God said so. Not a literal sword (although there is one in my house) but I want to work.

Not in an “earn my love and affection” kind of way…but in a “this is the way you should go, walk in it” sort of way. I love the verses with a running theme. I love the ones that talk about doing. Ya know, out of obedience.

Last week, verses like Exodus 14:14 were following me like a clingy toddler. Spotify was out to get me with its “we created this play list for you” and it starts with that one Rita Springer song, followed by a Jason Upton song from 16 years ago and conveniently followed by another worship song about rest. So now the bible, Spotify and God Himself were all giving me the same clear message.

Did God forget that he made me this way? He made me an extrovert who runs for fun. For all of those who survived my childhood, you are the real MVP. Sitting still has never been my strong suit.

There are days when I want to remind God what my strengths are. Remember Jesus, all I need is a whole lot of coffee and a whole lot of You…until the coffee crashes and I get grumpy and forget about Jesus and the whole point altogether.

Anyone else?

This seems to have less to do with my schedule (which is currently SUMMER…and all God’s people said AMEN) and more to do with all the things I want to pick up and He just wants me to choose one thing and rest in it.

In my heart, I want to respond like David in Psalm 27 – “you said seek my face” and my heart said “your face oh Lord do I seek”. And I want to leave it at that without all my questions.

I am learning something in what feels like the long way around but sometimes good things take time…and God has the time. When I want that to be the actual cry of my heart, I pursue and repeat it till my heart and my mind line up with His word and what He is doing. If you are believing a lie, repeat His truths till you believe the lies are actual lies. This isn’t a fake it till ya make it or even “name it and claim it”, it’s speaking truth until the lies have no ground to stand on. Seek, speak, pray until the truth sinks deep. I have learned this over the last couple of years in ways I didn’t know there was to learn. In it all I have to remember His Word says that He has GOOD works for us. Sometimes rest is an actual event of sitting and sometimes it is a posture of the heart. When I do, I get to remember that He is good, His plans are good, His intentions are good and He is trustworthy.

I won’t lie, I can’t wait to obediently hustle but I am learning that my strength in and of itself leads to bad things and burnout. I want His way so I can have His heart and His outcome. I won’t give the bible app, Spotify or God himself the stink eye this week…He has too much good to show me.

 

 

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Favorite Things: Reality Check Edition

Full confession: I roll my eyes at 87% of all posts that start or end with “just being real”…or something to that affect.

Why? Because 87% of the time, it’s not out of the ordinary and no one thought otherwise. It’s not a confession. It’s not being honest. It’s you picking up your kids in your pj’s or leaving your laundry on the couch and no one thinks that that is that weird. Feel free to keep posting, but please stop calling it “real life”. Of course it is.

The differences are in our reality. I also could go on a crazy tirade about how often we use the word “realistic” to describe other people. We use it to describe other women but what we are doing is writing them off. We do it with body shape, weight, how clean our house is and how we spend our time, how we raise our kids and every other thing in between. Their “realistic” and yours don’t have to be the same to be true.

I did something that I rarely do. I tried on a one piece bathing suit. I grabbed it off the rack. It was cute and it was on sale. I decided to try it on and I laughed. I’m still laughing. How quickly I seemed to forget that I am just shy of 5’8″ and have a long torso. This bathing suit was NOT created for my reality. It was for sure created for someone else’s and it is surely as adorable on them as it was on me in my imagination. It would have only fit if I ran around like Quasimodo. I hope that leaves you with a visual.

We get lost in our own reality. There are days that we forget the one that we live in and we run out of grace for ourselves. There are days that we look at others and ask how in the world they could possibly complain. We get stuck this way and no one wins. I am a wife, mom, pastor, runner, writer, leader and a full-time employee for a company that does not pay me to do any of the other things listed. And thank God for it during this crazy time in our life. My reality on the last day of school is not begrudging how many times my kids will ask me for a snack this summer. My reality is that I will wake up tomorrow, put on pants (I really have a problem) and go to work while my kids are sleeping and my husband goes about his work day from home.

I have friends who are stay-at-home mom’s and they are planning their summer and how many times they will tell their kids to read a book if they are bored. That’s ok.

I will do things in an attempt to save time and still end up eating dinner at 8:30pm because that is our life schedule 4 out of 7 days a week. I have friends who will feed their family dinner at the same time I am getting home from work.

Some mom’s stay at home. Some wish they could and much like me, put on pants and talk about how it’s too hot for them. Some love their jobs outside of their home and know that that is what makes them awesome and the best mom to their kids. Some live in both worlds hoping they are doing the right thing. Some are crying over the last day of school because it means those kids will need activities all summer long. Some are crying because they wish they were driving their kids to the pool and library and every free event they can find. If it ain’t indoors or in water, sister don’t even try.

Can we all agree that this whole thing is not easy? Not for a single one of us. Can we all agree to show the different realities some grace? Can we all agree to pray for my eye rolling problem? I’ll work on it but only if we can collectively realize that her reality is not your problem and vice versa.

Can we all agree that we GET to do this? Ray and I just got to get away for 2 whole days. We got away for our first wedding anniversary and our 15th. We rested. We got to have conversations we have needed to have. We got to sit and watch the sunset. We got to take a step back and realize that we needed to get away but we love our life and are grateful it isn’t something we want to be away from. Is it easy? No. It isn’t. We work really hard, we stay really busy, have big dreams, big vision and even bigger God who continues to work these things out in us.

But this reality? We get to do this life that God calls us to. Take a step back with me and take a deep breath. The kids will ask for a snack or you will have to put pants on…and it will all be there tomorrow. For now, remember that He has prepared GOOD WORKS for us. For YOU! He has GOOD plans. He is a GOOD God. We got this.

 

 

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Favorite Things: Remembering Edition

Some times looking back is fun. Some times it is really difficult.

We may prefer forward because it is after all, the direction we are walking in. Some times we prefer forward because backwards is painful. We can look back and see moments of great joy and in the same action, see where fear took root.

The last few months has had a totally different…everything about it. It’s a sweet season. It’s a beautiful season in our church. We are seeing God move in ways we didn’t know how to pray for a few years ago. Revival has started in each of our hearts and Sunday feels like a giant overflow. While it isn’t easy in the stretch and tension, it’s a season I am incredibly grateful for.

The now. I like it.

The best is still ahead of us.

But looking back? There have been some really amazing…and some really difficult seasons.

There are some seasons I’d rather not look back on.

Sunday’s message (which isn’t online and it makes me super sad that it didn’t record) was one that reminded us to look back and see God’s faithfulness and how that reminds us of His faithfulness in the present.

To remember is all over the bible. When Jesus instructed on communion, it was for the purpose of remembering. All over the Old Testament, there are memorial stones, altars, places, promises…and God being clear on remembering who He is and how he loves and leads his people. He knew we would need to remember.

Remembering is holy.

Sunday, we remembered as Ray went through pictures of his childhood and teenage years and ended out with our wedding picture. In the middle of it all was a picture I need in a frame. It was one from when his parents were ordained. I cried. Why? Because I know who they are now, I have heard stories of who they were then…and the stories I hear of who they were before Jesus doesn’t even compute. God is just that good. The whole story points to all Christ came to redeem. And there is nothing, absolutely NOTHING that is too big for Jesus. I know what I know because they have looked back and it points us all forward.

We get to look back and see God’s faithfulness. It sets the tone for the present.

Have you ever started talking about where you came from and suddenly saw all the steps along the way that led you to where you are? Maybe there is pain in your story. Where are you now? Don’t be afraid to look and remember. If you are, get involved in a community of believers who can help you walk and not be afraid of what you see when you look back because they can see the whole picture of past and present and where it is leading into your future.

Remembering together is far better than remembering alone.

I love this particular passage of scripture. Not just because the words themselves have been the words my mom wrote on everything, I love it because of the context.

Lamentations. It’s literally all lamenting. And then somewhere in the middle, Jeremiah remembers…so let’s do the same.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.””

 

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Cynics, Heartbreak and My Heart

I think that inspiration is good until it isn’t. At some point, you become like an angry drunk on inspiration and what was once encouraging has created an angsty cynic. Not a skeptic, but a full on cynic.

There have been seasons where I was up to my eyeballs with inspiration. It made me mad. I became a heartbroken cynic who wanted to believe the best but was flat out weary. I’m a bit of an optimist by nature, so believing the best comes pretty easily. Weary can set in and change everything. I am not the only one.

The heartbroken cynic: They are everywhere and the reasons they are in that season (much like the reason I was in that season) are many. I dare say that a lot of it has to do with our own unmet expectations, delays and fear that nothing will ever be different. Maybe we have been failed by people we thought were for us. Maybe there was a season where the Lord started to stir in your heart and when you shared your question or a new dream, you faced rejection you never saw coming. Regardless of the unlimited why, it shakes us. These seasons happen for everyone. I’m convinced I am not the only one. It may be a short season or one that lasts much longer than expected, but they do come.

If this is you, I need you to hear my heart in these words:

I have been praying for you specifically for 2 years. 

My heart was broken for you in your season in a way that has shaken and shaped me and I have not stopped praying.

I have prayed for the hurting for a long time but this was specific and different. Since February 10, 2016, I have prayed for you…on purpose on a regular basis, asked God for you and for Him to show me how to love you and serve you.

I believe in what God calls the church to be with my whole uncomfortable heart. I know for some your biggest hurts from the ABSOLUTE LAST place that pain should have come from.

I don’t minimize your pain. I know it is real. I also know that there is a whole life on the other side of it…and that doesn’t typically happen overnight. You are not alone.

So here it is. I’m going to keep praying. I am going to keep asking God to do what only He can and show me the part I can play in it.

And if that is YOU, please please email me at chantel.ortiz@centralcityaustin.com

I want to hear from you. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s ok. Just send me an email with a simple “you are talking about me”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Favorite Things: What To Do With All of This Edition

How do you sum up the last couple of weeks?

There is scene in the movie Something’s Gotta Give where Diane Keaton is standing on the streets of New York, heartbroken over Jack Nicholson (playing who I am convinced is his actual self) and she says the best line; “what do I do with all of this”.

And those words, friends, sums it all up.

(Side note: not at all for the same reasons. But those words… Stick with me, I’m going somewhere)

What do I do with all of this?

Those words have probably summed up a decent part of my emotional state for a while now.

We had had a CRAZY couple of weeks. I mean crazy. You know the week with the phone calls and the feelings and life and all while trying to prepare to host our IF Local. It was a couple of weeks where I felt I needed to explain that I am not a “the devil is around every corner” type of person but I know an attack when I see one. Sometimes it looks like a thousand little things and some of those things aren’t even the thing, it’s the lies that try to sneak in with them. Then I call my husband weeping from a conference room at work. It was one of those. On top of that, I knew day 2 of IF was the two year mark of losing Caleb. I wasn’t out to run from any of the feelings (this is progress) that came with it but the reality was, it was coming and it made my heart ache.

IF Gathering always brings up a lot for me. There are a couple of reasons but you have to know, it is one of my most favorite things that we get to be a part of as a church. IF Table is a regular for us as women in my church (and if you aren’t apart of CCA, you are totally invited…we like making friends) and IF Equip is an awesome source for daily bible study. I love what they do and how they do it and it is absolutely ALL about Jesus, His church and what we can do together for His kingdom. I’m all about it.

But what does it bring up? Everything.

The first year I stood in my kitchen crying because I had tried to run away from how I was feeling. But God gave me Ray Ortiz. The man who asks questions. The fact of the matter was, I didn’t know what to do with all of this. All of the desire in my heart to serve God in a greater capacity and have NO IDEA where to start had reaching a breaking point. I was afraid I was going to hear one more message about being willing to step outside my comfort zone. We planted a church, y’all and if you think for one second there aren’t one hundred other “only Jesus” things in our heart and on paper…Hello, my name is Chantel Ortiz. I haven’t been “comfortable” since…I don’t even know. I know now that that is not what this was about. All the passion is my heart was breaking my heart and I didn’t know what to do. So I told my husband and cried in the kitchen.

What do I do with all this…

That became the question and the more I seek the Lord, I don’t have an answer but I have Him. The “all of this” could do several unhealthy things. Giving up is not only not in my nature, when something has you and not the other way around, you just can’t. Turning to cynicism and bitterness or frustration were all options and I won’t lie and say I have never been there but I couldn’t stay there. But instead, with all of this, I am learning to lean in closer. I’m praying prayers that scare me and I am praying them over and over again. The Lord is pinpointing areas of fear and where it is a giant lie about His heart. When I lean in, wondering what to do with all this, the passion doesn’t dwindle, the dreams don’t die and my heart can suddenly take on a little more than the day before.

So what happened when a bunch of women got together in a living room and worshiped together, ate together, prayed, sought the Lord together and talked about it? The “all of this” grows but feels less scary. The big things in life are still big things but the way we carry them changes. We carry them together, bring the things slowing us down to the Lord together and through it all God just keeps drawing us closer to Himself. The dreams and the passions grow but He starts to give us feet. Our dependence shifts off of ourselves to something far more scary and totally freeing. It’s not about our ability anymore. We aren’t afraid of the seemingly small steps of obedience. We don’t look down on them.

We are learning what to do with all of this. One step at a time. Loving one person at a time. Leaning in to God and His word one day at a time. He is faithful. He doesn’t mess up. He didn’t give you that passion to torment you. Lean in. He knows what to do with all He’s given you.

 

 

 

 

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Favorite Things: That Time When…and the No Plan B Edition

Seven Years Ago.

I know this makes a consecutive “remember when” post but it feels important.

Seven years ago we had said goodbye to a church, youth ministry and a whole lot of people in between that we simply adored and knew we were loved by them. Ray drove a U-Haul and I drove our loaded up Explorer and drove on completely ice covered roads from San Angelo back to Austin with one plan to start a church.

There was no plan b.

I thought I was gonna puke. We walked away from a loving church home, a bunch of teenagers I didn’t want to say goodbye to and a salary. Did I mention we had a salary? We were walking into a giant unknown and with what we had saved and my giant income that came with waiting tables at Chili’s.

And I knew God was with us.

I was confident. I was terrified. Courage meets us along the way. Opportunity meets us along the way.

A couple of months before we left San Angelo, two couples said they were joining us. One would get married a little faster than planned and move from Lubbock. The other would move from north of Austin.  A couple of weeks before we left, one couple said we are coming with you. On our last Sunday, one other couple said they were coming with us. Since then, there have been a few others from San Angelo that made their way to Austin. God really does a special work when He builds a family.

People sold houses, quit jobs, left the familiar, where their families were and most of them, where they grew up.

Did I mention that I wanted to puke? And at the exact same time, I knew God was with us.

What do you say about seven years later?

My prayers seemed big then, now I see where I put limits on how I prayed. And yet, God was so faithful. The need seemed big then, but my heart has grown, my eyes have seen and the passion and the call that beckoned us to leave one place for another is not the same one that drove those roads seven years ago. It’s so much bigger.

This last year feels like a magnifying glass on how I pray and how I believe God will move. I have felt my expectations challenged and in turn shift from what I have seen to what I have yet to see God do. I want the latter.

And beyond that, I have watched God do this same work with those we do life…so much life and ministry with. You stretch in groups. I have to laugh at it. It’s just so true. It’s better that way, in my extroverted opinion. Even the more introverted among us know the need for others.  The Lord just won’t leave us alone and we are starting to see pieces come together that for us, has taken seven years to get where we are. When I look and see what the Lord has brought to light (or straight up exposed), healed, restored and to be honest, some of the more painful roads He has allowed us to walk; I see Him. I will never be the same. Isn’t that what we want for everyone? I know I do. He has shown us His heart and what He is about. He is showing us the power that we have as His children and what happens when we pray. He is about His Church. His love is so real. He is faithful. He is good. He is just getting started. Every step feels like we are just getting started. The best really is yet to come.

 

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Favorite Things: A Day to Remember Edition

I am big on days. My memory is weird to begin with but there are certain memories that no matter how much time has passed, it sticks. I remember things from my childhood that make my cousins shake their head wondering how on earth THAT is the thing I remember. It is almost always in my favor. I am grateful for this little tidbit about me.

I also write things down. I haven’t been as good about keeping a journal as of lately but I’ll get back to where I was. It was a really good habit for a really long time. This helps with the memory part. It also helps to be able to look back and see and remember where we came from. I can look back on many years worth of journals and have moments where I totally roll my eyes at myself and then there are the moments where I remember what was going on and how faithful God was to me in those moments. Those are the moments I really want to remember. The eye-rolling stuff just comes with the territory. Thank God for growth. Annie Downs often talks about being kind to who you were then…whenever and whatever “then” was. I need that reminder as well…it makes the eye-rolling stuff a little more tolerable.

I have gone back to one particular day for 16 years now. When I type out that timeline, it doesn’t make me feel super young. I was 19 years old. 19! It makes me dizzy even thinking about.

So last week…January 19th came up. Ray remembered it. I remembered it. And 16 crazy years later, I still thank God for it.

A guy who was barely even a friend asked me if I would help out with leading worship for a worship night he was leading, at a church he had never been to for pastors he didn’t know. He had never heard me sing. All the signs pointed to desperation…I didn’t think that then, but I know that guy pretty well now. He plans. He had no time for that. I was 19, loved Jesus and wanted to lead worship, thought it would be a good time, had a couple of other friends who were jumping on the band wagon and said yes. I don’t even think I thought about it. I just said yes.

And as the story goes; Jesus changes everything.

That night, January 19, 2002 a day that the world changed for me.

This was not about a boy. This was not about a band. This was about God wrecking me. This was about being pulled out, called out and I had to depend on Jesus to move and He did. I had never led like that before in my life and I knew there was no going back. I didn’t know that was even in there till it came flooding out. God is so good like that.

That boy became a friend and worship leading partner, who became a best friend and for a while, that was it and I was grateful for a trusted friend who pushed me to lead and was someone I could lead alongside. Within a year and a half he became my husband. I love that I can look back and see where it started. I love that this was a beginning that I never saw coming. God surprises are the best.

The friendships that formed during those days were incredible then and remain treasures to us today. The prayers prayed over us that night were by people who became our pastors and dear friends. We are slowly but surely seeing those words come to pass. I thought those words were for that summer (remember, I was 19) and I thought it was about a camp we would lead worship at. Story of our life: God has something different in store. What I thought would be in a few months has lead us into 16 years with the best still yet to come.

I’m grateful for the boldness and obedience of others that pushed us towards Jesus and reminded us that He would do things in His time and to keep moving forward. I am grateful for those who took the time to see beyond and would often remind us of why they were for us. Our leadership today is shaped by those who loved us then. We are forever grateful.

16 years is a long time but I know it’s just a beginning all at the same time.

 

 

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Favorite Things Monday: Celebrations Edition

Let’s celebrate people! It’s worth it to love them and be loved by them. It’s not safe but it is everything.

Today, I want to celebrate someone else that means a whole lot to me. God really can do a lot with a family if he let Him. It’s flat out miraculous. It’s the BEST. My Aunt Sharon married my Uncle Ron when I was 7. He claimed us, we claimed him and the rest is history. A LOT of history.  

This side of a couple of months ago, he had a health scare that shook me. When the texts read, “pray for your Unca’ Ron”, I prayed (and yes, thats how I spell it and he started it). When the texts read, “this is not good, he can’t form his words”, I wept. I prayed. I believed. I knew it was a big deal when he didn’t check himself out of the hospital. He is strong and determined, some may say stubborn like that. It runs in the family. When God builds a family, sometimes you don’t share DNA but you take on each others character traits.

He’s the reason I appreciate good coffee and know it is best served with a little splash of heavy cream. He’s also the reason I hate paper plates and will opt for glass every time. When me and my sisters were little, he bought us a go-cart. Like, a for real go-cart. He did a scavenger hunt around the house and had this dream gift in the garage. THE BEST. He had named it Speedy Pete. He included helmets.

There are so many reasons I can list but there is something in particular that still makes me cry.

It never, not one time ever occurred to me that maybe I couldn’t do something because I’m a woman. Not one time. The first time I ever heard that women shouldn’t or couldn’t be in leadership in the church or be a pastor…whatever you want to put here…was in bible college…by other students. I wasn’t friends with these people. Who has time for that?! It breaks my heart and you better believe there is this giant part of my heart that feels a responsibility to speak into the lives of women who have been told otherwise.

I come from a long and strong line of women who love God and serve His church, often in leadership and pastoral roles. My grandma would still be preaching if she could. I grew up seeing my Aunt Sharon in her office at the church where she led a huge single’s ministry…and that’s not the half of it. I have cousins that are powerhouse worship leaders.

To quote my mom, “now it is just all fluff”. She’s right. There is a lot of noise that tries to stop us. Unfortunately for those who seek to silence, I not only come from a long and strong line of women, I come from some incredible men who have loved and challenged me and pushed me towards Jesus.

But my Unca Ron? He put the microphone in my hand and said to speak. He wasn’t content to only let me sing a song but pushed me beyond that. As a teenager. At church. In front of people. He didn’t ask if I wanted to. He didn’t ask if I had anything to say. I learned to be ready. It wasn’t a suggestion, he wasn’t hesitant and he didn’t apologize if I felt put on the spot. It was a demand to speak to the people what God was doing or what God was saying. He sat and waited. As a young teenager, I learned to read the bible with an inquisitive eye and a listening ear. He taught me well, then followed through with pushing me forward. I remember being 15 and believed in. Every girl should be surrounded with that kind of love and confidence. So let’s show our sons and daughters well and push them forward. It’s everything.

I am so grateful that Christmas came and so did time with my family. I have never been more grateful for a time to sit and talk to my Unca Ron…and praise God, he had the words to speak back to me. He is well (very well) on his way to a full recovery. He has his words again. I’m so grateful that he helped show me mine.

 

 

 

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