No Wrong Way

Just spent the weekend with extended family, celebrating my middle daughter’s wedding.  All of my adult kiddos and their significant others plus the two grandbabies plus one of my sisters and her family plus my parents.  Lots of time spent catching up with those I love and loving on kiddos who matter a bunch to me!

During a discussion, I was made aware that one of the young ladies I love struggles with exactly what it means to “be a girl”.  Our culture is full of women who want to encourage younger females to grow into strong women.  Girl power songs, books for the boss babe in all of us, women taking a more active role in writing scripts and directing movies/television shows . . . you get the idea.

But I wonder if we’re sending the right message?

The little miss in question has asked what’s wrong with liking the color pink.  Or wanting to wear dresses.  Or wanting her hair to be cute.  Somewhere in encouraging the women in our lives to be strong and independent, have we gone too far?

Don’t get me wrong.  I have an entire “girl power playlist” on my iTunes so I get why those messages of “I am woman, hear me roar” are so important.  But wasn’t the feminist movement all about choices?  The choice to EITHER stay home with kiddos or have a job?  The choice to never wear make-up or never leave the house without being completely pulled together?  The choice to decide how I am going to live out “being feminine”?

If your favorite color is pink, wear it.  Top it off with some glitter and ruffles if you are feeling it.  And a cute pair of heels, perhaps?  But if you prefer camouflage and combat boots with no make-up?  Then rock that look for all it’s worth.

Fuss with your hair or don’t.  Own multiple pairs of high heels or live in Converse.  Choose to be a stay-at-home mom or have a career and kids.  Or maybe you choose not to have kids.  Cool.

Whatever choices you personally make, can you do me a favor?  Cheer on every woman regardless of the choices she makes?  Celebrate those who express their “womanhood” in ways that are completely different from you.  Encourage younger females you know to be confident in their choices –  musician, theater kid, athlete, book lover, whatever.

If we want men to see us as their equals in every way, we have to do it for one another first.  It’s where this has to start.

Doesn't Have to Be This Way

Spent some time tonight working on music for the worship gathering this coming Sunday.  Had a friend there working with me which ALWAYS makes any music related event more fun!  We have recently made a couple of tiny changes to the way things are done on Sunday mornings.  I like it.  Oh, let’s be real.  I LOVE it.  Tiny steps but definitely in the right direction.  And I have this dear friend coming along for the ride and she brought her guitar with her!

The sad part is not every one likes the changes and some are getting downright cranky. Maybe even mean.  There are small changes going on in a couple of other places in the overall ministry as well.  These same people aren’t real thrilled about those changes either.

This dear friend – the musical friend I mentioned earlier – looked at me tonight and said, “It’s not great that it’s happening but it’s great that I’m getting a taste of what it can be like.  My hubby wants to be a pastor and this kind of stuff is just part of the package.”

She’s right – it’s not great.  In fact, it’s downright sad.  It doesn’t have to be like this.  Each Pastor’s wife brings a unique blend of gifts and passions into the church where her husband serves.  If those gifts and passions were embraced and she was free to put them to work where she felt led, imagine what might happen – new energy, new excitement, new ideas, hearts being touched . . . the possibilities are endless!  Instead, some people have specific ideas of what the Pastor’s wife/kids should or should not do and to step outside those parameters is venturing into dangerous territory.  Pastor’s families burn out in churches just as easily – maybe even more quickly! – than members of the clergy themselves.  Maybe if they felt welcomed, included, and free to use their gifts, they could be a better support system for the man in the pulpit and help him through the rough times in ministry so that he doesn’t burn out as quickly or maybe even not at all.

Is there a chance she might want to try something new?  Yep.  Is it possible that she might want to change the way something is done?  Yep.  And none of that is inherently bad.  Yes, a certain measure of tact and LOTS of conversation is needed before trying new things or making changes.  But simply shooting her ideas down out of hand or getting angry if others support her ideas is not what the church is supposed to be about.  Our focus is to be on sharing God’s love with others, not creating a country club atmosphere that caters to it’s most powerful or vocal members.

It’s just frustrating because it really DOESN’T have to be like this.  But the good news is I have my friend and her encouragement.  She is excited to be a part of the “new stuff” and her excitement is contagious even in the face of the crankiness.  So we will take another step in the right direction and deal with fallout – if there is any – when it comes.  It’s time to focus on the feedback from those who LIKE what is happening and just “keep serving.”

*Deep breath* I think I can do this.

Just at the Right Time


Circumstances right now are challenging.  Most of life is clipping along quite nicely.  Just a job situation I wish . . . well. . . I wish it wasn’t.  Feeling a little down this morning when I got up, knowing I had to deal with the unpleasantness.  Checked Facebook before I went to work and there it was.

Psst. You’re phenomenal.

Just three words.  From a friend I’ve known since I was in Junior High!  (She’s younger than me so I’m not giving away her age!)  But in the face of some challenges I would rather not be facing, it was just what I needed.  This friend and I met when I went to a music camp where her dad was working.  That music camp eventually ended and some of the staff went to work at a summer music camp on a college campus.  I got information about that camp and, while I didn’t go to the camp, I DID end up attending the college where the camp was held.  My friend did to.  We actually got to hang out as college students together for a bit!

She had no way of knowing.  I have talked about the stress I’m dealing with on Facebook but kept much of the “meatier” details to myself.  And I hadn’t said much about the current “slump”, preferring instead to spend my online “social networking” time talking about the good things!  She couldn’t have known that I needed – DESPERATELY needed – to know today that someone believed in me; that there was someone out there who knew things about me that some of my crankier co-workers will never know and that this particular someone thought that all the parts of me together made for a pretty okay person.

The lesson?  When you have the impulse/urge/random idea to speak something positive into someone’s life – even if it’s only three quick words – DO IT!!  Your words may be just what they need at that moment.

The Importance of Words

Proverbs-25Words matter.  They matter more than we sometimes realize.  In my case, they are HUGE.  Ever read “The Five Love Languages”?  My primary love language is Quality Time.   Words of Affirmation and Gifts tied for second.  Words of Affirmation.  In other words, sincere praise, compliments, words of thanks . . . I THRIVE on them!!

Don’t try and flatter me.  I mean it.  Don’t offer me empty flattery.  Insincerity drives me nuts.  But if I have done something right/good/helpful . . . you get the idea . . . and you offer me sincere thank/praise/encouragement then you have made my day.  Maybe my week.  Heck, maybe even my month.

It’s no secret I am a theater geek.  Hardcore and not ashamed!  I currently have the privilege of serving as rehearsal accompanist and pit pianist for the local community college’s production of “All Shook Up!”   Yes, I get paid to do the job.  But the truth is I would volunteer my services.  Not only do I love what I’m doing, the show’s director and the pit director have offered genuine, authentic praise and thanks for my work.  I would go to the moon for those two if they asked.

Ironically, I was chatting with my hubby about that very fact just before walking into another one of my jobs where I never receive any affirmation or praise.  As a matter of fact, the vast majority of my conversations there are based on what I’m doing wrong or should do differently.  No paycheck in the world is enough to replace sincere appreciation for the effort I am in putting.  I’m not getting much (if any) appreciation and I’m fairly certain – after months of being in the job – that the situation will not improve any time soon.

Before you get the urge to scold me – I’m not trying to garner sympathy and I’m not looking for “coping” suggestions.  I’m sharing a lesson learned – words matter.  They matter more than you realize.  Paychecks are a necessary part of life.  But money isn’t always enough to motivate people, to build loyalty and for me at least, it never feeds my soul.

So I will seek chances to offer authentic praise and encouragement whenever possible.  I’ve seen how much it touches me.  I need to do what I can to pass that on to others!

Random Thoughts Inspired by an Act of Kindness

Why are we so quick to throw the word “love” around about inanimate objects or people that we will never meet – “I love that movie!”  or “I just love the lead singer of (insert name of favorite band here) – but we are so hesitant to say it to those that would be most touched and built up by it?

Why do we allow one critical statement to have more influence on our self-image than a positive statement?

What would happen if we each went out of our way to do one kind deed for another or say one kind word to another each day?  Imagine if everyone in your circle of friends, family and workplace made this a goal!

See, someone took the time to write me a personal note in which this person expressed their gratitude to me.  We’ve shared some performing arts experiences together and, according to the note, I have been lucky enough to help inspire this person.  There was nothing profound about the experiences.  And I was extremely surprised by the depth of his gratitude.

Just reminds me AGAIN that we never know the power of a “You can do it” or “I believe in you.”

Time to Rise Up

I’ve started this post a dozen times – either in my head or on the actual computer – and I’ve rejected every attempt.  I don’t want to sound like I’m offering a simple solution to a complex problem and I know that there are those who I would consider brothers and sisters in the faith that may disagree with the stance I am about to take.  But the Holy Spirit will not let me give up on this so I’m back for yet another attempt and hopefully I get it posted this time!

The tragedy in Connecticut is still fresh in my mind.  I have been a teacher, I have children, I have a niece and a nephew in Kindergarten . . . you name it, I can find a connection that moves me to tears!  And I’ve watched so much anger and venom filling social media sites as people scream for answers.  Strong positions have been taken up on both sides of the gun control issue and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the whole issue of 2nd Amendment rights could become a very polarizing issue in our nation.

But I think there is another issue that needs just as much attention.  Maybe more.  It’s time to start talking honestly and openly about mental health issues without shame or fear of harassment.

Churches offer support groups for those recovering from all types of addiction, and some even offer counseling for couples who have been hit by the pain of infidelity on the part of husband or wife.  But for some reason, we still want to sweep mental illness under the rug.  In my research, I came across a research project that looked at school shootings from all over the world – both K-12 schools and colleges – from 1997 through 2012.  The number of shooters who were suffering from mental illness – AND being treated with drugs that are KNOWN to have dangerous side effects for teenagers – is shocking.  Nearly all of the shooters fall into that category.  For me, it leaves no doubt in my mind that a discussion on gun control is incomplete if we don’t address the mental illness that leads them to a place where they take such violent action.

I’ve had a handful of church friends over my 40 + years who have confided in me that they have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness.  They were afraid to do so because, in every single case, they were afraid I would see them as being “spiritually weak” or not having enough faith.  I was (and am) flattered that they trusted me with something so personal.  And it broke my heart to know that their fears were based on actual responses they had gotten from people in the church.

Our church buildings need to become safe places for those with mental illnesses.  We need to love on their families as well.  In the case of children with mental illness issues, the parents can struggle knowing how to ask for help, feeling that they did something wrong to “cause” their child’s illness and fearing that they will be shunned by their church family.

Mental illness is not a sign of spiritual deficiency or a lack of faith.  It is a chemical misfire in the brain.  Nothing more, nothing less.

So what can we do?  Encourage honest, open dialogue about the issue in our Bible Study groups, Sunday School classes, women’s groups, etc.  We need to come along side the families of those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness and offer whatever help we can.  Maybe it’s sitting through a doctor’s appointment with mom or learning the special needs of caring for a dependent child so mom and dad can go out.  Maybe it’s simply sitting with someone and letting them talk.  We need to understand what treatment entails and encourage those undergoing treatment because, from what little I know, it can take time to get the “meds” adjusted and treatment is a lifelong reality.

It’s time to remove the stigma from mental illness and I’m hoping that my brothers and sisters in the faith will rise up and lead the way, making our congregations places of refuge, support, and help for those who face the daily reality of mental illness.