11.30.2013

my Advent journey.

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The older I get, the more I long for the truth of Advent to saturate my heart during the Christmas season. As the year approaches its end, it seems that a lot of us look around and see all that’s broken in our lives and in the world around us.  I think that’s what brings a sense of depression to so many during the holidays--we look for what’s missing to make us feel like we “should feel.” And the increasingly bad state of the world at large is no help. With every new piece of terrible news (in a time that is supposed to bring peace and joy), our hearts are ravaged just a bit more.

As we journey through the Advent season and take stock of this past year, wouldn’t it be better to scan our broken world in search of the good?

This Christmas season, I’m looking for the treasure of the Holy. In everything—the all-familiar story of Jesus’ birth, the drudgery of daily life, the events of the world around us. Why? Because I believe that the treasure of the Holy, of my Jesus, is hidden everywhere, in everything, just as He was hidden in a dirty stable in Bethlehem. I am committed to looking for Him…will you join me?

I will be blogging through this journey to share what I find, as well as songs that encourage me to look for the Holy. I hope this will encourage you, too.

Happy Advent…the King is coming!


10.24.2013

what's up?

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Just in case you're wondering, here’s what I’ve been up to lately, in addition to working at a coffee shop:


Going gluten-free. This is out of necessity, not preference. I love me some gluten, but it turns out I’m very much allergic. Spaghetti squash is my new best friend.

Cooking like crazy. Have you heard of Pepperplate? It’s changing my life, and saving me money. Seriously. I’ve never been one for meal planning, but I am now. I’m getting to create new meals on a daily basis, and I LOVE IT. Check it out—best free app out there, in my opinion.

Dancing in the kitchen. Don’t judge me. Have you HEARD Fitz and the Tantrums? Anybody who doesn’t feel like dancing to their music is koo-koo.


Enjoying Christian music radio again. The stuff I used to find cheesy, I now appreciate. And worship music gets to my heart again. It’s funny—I was surrounded by worship music all the time, and it became the last genre I wanted to hear. Take me out of that sphere, and now I crave it. It’s a beautiful thing.

Reading. I’ve read more books in the past six months than probably the past two years combined. Some new stuff (Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce, the Divergent trilogy, Death Comes to Pemberly), and some favorite old stuff, too (Northanger Abbey, Sacred Romance).

Listening to old and new favorite music. Some notables include various Matt Maher tunes, Chris Tomlin’s “Burning Lights,” John Mayer’s latest two albums, AKUS’s “Paper Airplane,” and the aforementioned Fitz and the Tantrums. Just yesterday, I found a treasure—a used copy of Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” on CD at one of my favorite stores. I love that album. Which reminds me of a story. Several years ago, a guy who was interested in me said the song “Only the Good Die Young” reminded him of me—which meant he was hoping I would lower my standards for him. He even went as far as to ask if he’d be able to get to “second or third base” with me. Needless to say, that relationship didn’t work out.

Spending time with my precious gift of a husband and our two furry boys. The evenings are such sweet times in our house, and I am treasuring every moment.

The long and short is, I’ve been enjoying life, and thanking God very frequently for His abundant grace.

What’s the best thing going on in YOUR life right now?

9.25.2013

things change.

This post is for all the precious people in my life who may have wondered (kindly) if I lost my mind six months ago.

I have been a "professional" worship leader for ten years. I started serving on a worship team in college, and worship ministry was my chosen career path upon graduating. Over those ten years, I have been raised, trained, and mentored in one of the greatest churches in America. Everyone around me supported me in my gifting and confirmed that I am a worship leader. I served with an amazing, authentic worship team and with humble, supportive pastors. I loved the Lord with all my heart, and trusted that He was going to keep me in the trajectory He had laid on my heart in college.

Life for this 20-something worship leader was picture-perfect, all things considered.

Then.

Eight years in, something changed. I got tired. No, not just tired--dry. Bone dry.

I lost vision for where we were headed in worship. I couldn't see how I could lead anyone into further growth when I was growing so tired of the routine myself. So, I blamed the routine. And in search of something that would wet my soul again, I abandoned unity with my leadership and my team. Chaos followed.

Personal struggles started hitting me in a different way, a way I didn't know how to manage. I took offense after offense after offense, and grew paranoid that my "position" was in jeopardy. When my leadership decisions were called into question, I took it as a personal attack. I was in misery, and I put everyone around me in misery as well.

I didn't know it at the time, but my entire sense of identity and self-worth was wrapped up in a season that was drying up.

Shortly after Easter 2013, God put a stop to the madness. I took a week off to pray about what I should do, thinking at first that I would just easily transition into another area of ministry. After all, God called me into vocational ministry in college, and surely something like that wouldn't change.

Except.

That week, He told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was to leave paid ministry. After that, the world was wide open--I could do anything I wanted, but the one thing I knew, and thought I would always do, was off-limits.

When you hear something that clearly, it may be scary to walk forward in obedience, but saying no is even more terrifying. So, with Travis' full agreement, I resigned.

As soon as I made that step, peace overtook me. The areas of my heart that were experiencing such turmoil became quiet, expectant, and finally open to the means of healing He chose. The strained relationships in my life finally were able to breathe. And my transition out, unlike so many others I have witnessed, was one of peace, joy, and honor on all sides.

In my mind, that can only be God.


So, where are we now? Experiencing life to the fullest. Joy beyond imagination, peace beyond our prayers, and healing that I so desperately needed.

Life abundant...all while working at a coffee shop.

More on that to come...

9.15.2013

failure.


“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” –Robert H. Schuller

I hate that question. To me, it’s like dangling a carrot. Sure, it’s nice to dream, but the question implies a life that does not exist—a life free of failure.

But this is earth. And here on earth, failure is no stranger.

I’ve always been afraid of failure. That’s probably why I drove myself to get straight As throughout my elementary school years, and why it irks me to this day that I ended my college career with a GPA of 3.97. (That stupid Shakespeare class…)

I’ve been afraid of failing in relationships, too—be it with my family, friends, coworkers, or even the Lord. I’m always working to do, say, and be perfect…to no avail, of course. Striving has always been my issue, and it’s because I’m afraid of missing the mark.

But if there’s one thing I’ve had to come to terms with in my adult life, it’s that failure is real. It’s a fact of life. But most importantly, I don’t have to be afraid of it. In the hands of my loving God, failure can be a tool to shape me into the person He designed me to be all along.

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24 (emphasis mine).

I’ve been learning lately that failure can be a great thing. First, it certainly keeps me humble. It also teaches me how not to do things, which is often just as important as the how-to. And if I let it, it can drive me into deeper dependence on the Lord! Triple win.

Failure doesn’t have to be final. God doesn’t intend for it to be. Because of Jesus, we have the freedom to dream, to try, to fail, and to try again. We will stumble—fact of life. But He upholds us with His hand—blessed reassurance!

So, when it comes to dreaming of the future, I think a more apt question for me is:

“What dream has God placed on my heart that is worth the risk of failure?”

I’m going to experience failure. And then I’m going to learn from it. Because the risk of not living the life God has planned for me is too great to shrink back.


3.21.2013

an unexpected partnership.


A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30

Have you ever had that sickening feeling inside, that sense that someone else has something better than you? That someone else is getting your “just desserts”? Have you ever felt that torment of bitter comparison, wondering what makes them so special and you not-so-much?

No? Oh…um…me neither.

Just kidding. I think we’ve all been there. Jealousy sneaks in and erodes like a cancer before we’ve taken it captive and dealt with it. The Bible shows us over and over again what a nasty business it is.

In praying through this very thing today, I made a startling discovery: jealousy and unbelief walk hand-in-hand

Think about it: If we truly believe that God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) and that He has provided everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), would we really feel inclined to pine for someone else’s stuff?

If we are spending so much energy looking at another person’s success, status or possessions, making ourselves sick with asking “why,” then it could be that we are not believing that God has given us everything we need in this moment, at this time.

Choose to believe in God’s specific goodness to you, at this time, and jealousy instantly loses its power.

Life may not look the way you want it to right now. It’s okay. Truly, God is good, and He is preparing you for your future season. We go from glory to glory (Psalm 84:7, 2 Corinthians 3:18), whether our hands are full or empty. He is with us in the summer and the winter, and through every change in between. Let go of what is past, open your hands to what is coming, and give thanks for what you have today.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to rot anymore. Believe Him. Rest in His promises, and the tranquility that comes from trusting Him will bring life to your bones. 

3.11.2013

a year ago today

A year ago today, we stood in our living room, looking around awkwardly. We held it together on the outside, but inwardly we wondered what on earth we were going to do.

The wedding was perfect. The honeymoon, glorious. Ten sweet days of celebrating, exploring new territory and relaxing--the only responsibilities we had at the time.

And then...we were "home." But was it really? I didn't have any of my things in your house, and you didn't know what your house was going to look like once I finally got settled. "How is this supposed to work?" we thought. Was marriage supposed to feel this...uncomfortable? Thank God for best friends and helpful articles from people who have been there. People who tell the truth and say, "Yeah, this feels weird, but it's normal. It's ok. I was there, and now I'm here, and it gets a lot better."

Because if I didn't know it got better, and SOON, I might have had a panic attack.

But it did get better. I "nested" as soon as possible, starting with a room I could easily claim as my own: the kitchen.  Somehow, that did the trick--it's amazing what putting up a few of your own cookbooks will do.

We opened gifts and displayed some of our things. We unpacked, packed, threw away, organized--all that boring moving stuff. But through all of that, we figured each other out a little more day after day. We asked questions, we talked things through, we felt the awkward pauses and pushed through them.

We celebrated, explored new territory, and, finally, we relaxed.

We developed our routines...at least, for that year. And they were good. It was all good, really--even that difficult day a year ago today.

I took a stroll around our neighborhood tonight and, as I walked up to our front steps, I remembered that feeling I had a year ago of looking at our door and realizing, "This is my door now. This is our house." And that same surge of excitement from 12 months ago rushed over me again, because there is absolutely nowhere else I'd rather be.

2.18.2013

not for the timid.


2 Timothy 1:7
…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

I went ice skating last week. I’m not what you might call “athletically inclined,” so this was more about me doing an act of love for my active husband than fulfilling a personal desire to learn to skate. 

My first few times around the rink were downright stressful because I was trying so hard not to fall. That ice is slippery stuff, and I don’t like bruises. So I faltered around for a while, and decided quickly that I needed a rest. My husband continued around the rink because he actually enjoys skating. I watched him go, envious of his boldness. I admired his willingness to try new things, regardless of whether or not he might fall as he learned. I even envied the little kids who seemed to have great balance—and great fun—as they glided on the ice.

And suddenly it dawned on me: I’d much rather focus on learning to skate than on simply not falling. One was a positive focus; the other was wholly negative. How can you be free to skate if you’re afraid of falling?
How can you really do anything if you’re afraid of failure? 

I’ve lived so much of my life trying to avoid failure that I often don’t enjoy living. If God has not given me a spirit of fear (and timidity, as some translations say), then why am I so timid? What does He really want me to accomplish in this life, in my relationships and in my walk with Him, that I’m too distracted to see because I don’t want to get bruised?

He’s given us a spirit of power, love and of a sound mind. He’s prepared us to truly live. Are we walking that out? I think He’s destined all of us to be excellent skaters, if we’d only stop worrying about the ice and let Him teach us how to glide.

And I think we’ll have a lot of fun doing it, too.

whoops.

Well hey there! I haven't blogged here in several months...sorry about that. I've recently been a guest blogger  with my friends over at seacoastworship.com, so that's been taking up some of my writing time. I'm also teaching at the Seacoast School of Worship a little bit, so that's taking up some brain space as well. All in all, life is truly grand. Travis and I are about to celebrate our first year of marriage, which I can hardly believe...why does time go by so quickly?

I will be sharing some of my worship posts on this blog, along with whatever else I can think of. I hope you are well, wherever you are and whatever you're doing! Thanks for reading.

-S