Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Empty Seat



Many of you know that my husband, Joseph (Husby!), works full-time at our church. He's the Director of Video Production and Worship Technology, which means a lot of things, but one of the things it means is he serves all three services at church most Sundays of the year.

Because of that, I'm asked from time to time about the "empty seat" that leaves beside me during worship services. 

"Don't you wish your husband could sit with you during church?"

"Isn't it hard being alone during worship?"

"Don't you get tired of your husband not being able to worship with you?"

"Don't you wish you could actually worship with your husband for once?"

I've come to realize that my attitude about the empty seat is my choice. I could choose to pout and wish Joseph could sit with me. I could choose to feel sorry for myself because worship services aren't the same because Joseph isn't sitting with me. I could choose to be bitter about the situation.

OR

I could choose a very different attitude!


I could choose to remember that God created my husband with a precious servant's heart.


I could choose to remember that God called my husband into ministry, and he answered that call!


I could choose to remember the joy that fill's Joseph's heart as he serves.


I could choose to remember the sacrifice that he makes willingly each week to help create an environment where our church family is able to worship with minimal distractions.


I could choose to remember how good he looks in black, and that's one of his standard colors on Sundays. hehe ;O)


I could choose to remember that my husband is at his best when he's stepping into what God has called him to do, which is most often serving someone else.


I could choose to remember all the other people with empty seats each Sunday, whether it's because they have loved ones serving or because they don't have loved ones to worship with them, and then I could pray for courage to reach out to the other people with empty seats! (God is still working on me about that one.)


I could choose to think of all the women who long to have husbands who love to serve.


I could choose JOY!


I could choose gratitude and praise, because, at the end of the day, I'm thankful for the empty seat. 

I'm thankful I'm married to a man who loves serving the Lord and serving others. He serves out of a purity and sincerity of heart that I don't see in many others. 

(I'm also thankful that, often, my empty seat isn't really empty at all. It's usually filled by my best friend, and I'm thankful we're able to worship together!)

My husband puts skin on Colossians 3:17 for me: "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."And it doesn't take long being around him to understand why his favorite verse is Colossians 3:23. "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men ..."

Joseph, if you're reading this, I want you to know that I love you, and my heart fills with joy on Sundays when I see you serving. I'm thankful God brought us together, and I'm thankful you answer His call to serve year after year, week after week, day after day. You're my hero. :O)






Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Oh, How I Need You





I listened to this song several times in the car this evening. I sang along at the top of my lungs. I praised. I prayed.



I wept.



I wept for the needs in Monterrey.



I wept for the loss of my grandmother.



I wept because the loneliness I've felt since her passing is almost tangible.



I wept because I'm not a mom yet.



I wept for orphaned little girls in India.



I wept because I want God to use me.



I wept because I don't know how God is using me.



I wept because I don't know what my "mission field" is.



I wept because I probably actually do know what my "mission field" is, and I'm not doing anything about it most days.



I wept because I don't know how to process my feelings and thoughts most days.



I wept because I didn't know what else to do before the Lord.



"Jesus wept." (John 11:35)



Jesus is no stranger to tears. He gets it.



"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." (Romans 8:26)



In moments like this evening, I am reassured that the Holy Spirit understands my deepest thoughts and feelings even better than I do, and He knows how to pray for me. He never stops interceding for me.



He. Never. Stops.



Monday, June 16, 2014

Put Me in, Coach!



In life, do you ever feel like you've been benched by God? Like you're sitting on the bench watching everyone else playing the game, being used by God? Like you're sitting on the sidelines, screaming, "Put me in, Coach!"?

I do.

Pretty much all the time.

Last week, serving in Mexico, was an exception. For a week, even if things were very different than I expected, I felt used by God. I felt like I was actually part of the team, playing the game, even scoring a point or two. Like God had looked over at the bench and yelled, "Adams! You're up!"

"Me? Adams is a pretty common last name. Did You mean someone else, Coach?"

"Quit foolin' around, Adams, and get out on the field! And hustle!"

"OK!!"

Oh, it felt awkward, like my shoes were the wrong size and I put on the wrong uniform. Like I didn't know the plays and I was running in the wrong direction sometimes. Like I didn't even know the language of the sport.

But I was in the game, and that was awesome!

Then I came home.

And I felt benched again.

And the screaming started again. "Put me in, Coach! ... Please!"

Rather than waking up before my 6:30 AM alarm clock, filled with anticipation and excitement for the day, I'm back to sleeping the morning away because I have no sense of purpose.

My prayer journal is filled with "What now?" and "How are you going to use me here?" and "I want to do big things for you, God."

I think this internal dialogue of mine points to a lie about the Christian life that has taken root in my heart and is producing some rotten fruit.

Somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that there are people who are really being used by God in big ways and people who are just sitting and waiting to be called into the game.

Oh, I would have never admitted that. I would have told you that God is using all His people in all their circumstances at all times for good. And then I would have quoted Scripture to you to prove I really believed that.

The fruit of my life is what points to the lie. It was the feeling that going on a mission trip meant God had decided to use me. It was the feeling that this season of my life isn't offering me many opportunities to be used by God (because, you know, other seasons of life have plenty of built-in opportunities). It was the feeling that surely God using me looks different than THIS.

That last sentence points to another lie I've rooted myself in: my plans are better than God's plans. Again, I wouldn't admit to that lie. I would tell you wholeheartedly that I believe God's plans are WAY better than mine, and I would point you to Isaiah 55:8-9. But I haven't been living that way. I've been living a discontent, foot-stomping life that says, "God, I know better than You do."

It's interesting to me that in Mexico, God revealed these lies to me. While I was there, He dealt with me and reminded me that seemingly insignificant things could have a big impact eternally. He reminded me that my expectations don't always line up with His plans. I felt like I was making progress, embracing His plans rather than my expectations.

Then I came home, and the lies are still there.  I'm screaming, "Put me in, Coach!" louder than ever.

So, I know many of you were praying for us on our trip, and I'm so thankful for you! If you'd like to continue praying for me, this would probably be my number one request. Pray that I would be faithful in all things, seemingly big or small. Pray that I would spend time in God's Word and in prayer and that He would replace the lies with truth. Pray that God would help me remember each day that there isn't a distinction among Christians. We're all in the game - our plays just don't all look the same.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Beautiful Mess

Most of you probably know Joseph and I are going on a mission trip to Monterrey, Mexico next week. We leave dark and early Saturday morning. Over the last several days, I've experienced emotions I couldn't quite pinpoint. Out running errands today, somewhere between buying sunglasses and Immodium, something clicked, and I realized exactly what I've been feeling:

I miss my grandmothers.

Some of you may be thinking, "Um, Rachelle, duh. Why was that hard to figure out? You've been missing them both since they passed."

That's very true. A day hasn't gone by that I haven't missed them. I think that's precisely why I couldn't figure out what this feeling was. You see, this mission trip is probably the biggest thing that has happened in our lives since either of them passed. Being called by God to go, saying "yes", marveling at God providing the money so quickly and extravagantly, praying and preparing to go ... all of this is a BIG deal to us.

And they aren't here for me to share it with them.

So, this missing them has been a different kind of missing them than before. It's a different kind of hole that is left by their absence.

I thought about Grandmama Helen today as I went from store to store purchasing odds and ends we needed. Before she passed, she would have accompanied me via cell phone on those excursions. She would have listened as a I prattled on and on a mile-a-minute, filled with nervous excitement. Her excitement for me would have grown with each errand run (though it would have been accompanied with plenty of concern and a whole lot of questions; that was just her way).




Later, I thought about Grandmama Clyde. She would have really enjoyed looking at all the pictures from our trip and hearing about the places we went and the people we met. She absolutely loved to travel, and she connected with people everywhere she went. I always admired that about her (and still do).



It's been about 14 months since Grandmama Clyde passed and a little over 3 months since Grandmama Helen passed. My heart is still so tender with the loss of two of the most important people in my life. So many things trigger sadness within me, from seeing pictures of babies with their grandmothers and mourning that my grandmothers will never know my children on this side of Heaven, to opening the car door and wanting to pick up the phone, to something silly that Joseph says.

In the midst of the sadness, though, is such a sweet peace and joy from the Lord. He has comforted me so faithfully, and I know He will continue doing that. Most days, I think I'm a beautiful mess of emotions, evidence of God at work in me.

I want to carry that with me to Mexico. 

The children we're going to be working with have experienced things I won't understand. I don't understand what it's like to be orphaned and live in a children's home. I don't understand poverty. I don't understand growing up without a sure plan of graduating with honors and going to a four-year college. My life is vastly different from what most of these children have experienced.

But.

I understand sadness. I understand loneliness. I've experienced feelings of rejection and even displacement. I know what it feels like to be angry and question God.

More important ...

I know what it feels like to hope.

My prayer is that I can connect with the children in Mexico. I'm praying that I can share with them even a sliver of the hope Jesus has given me. The same hope exists for them. 

I want to encourage them, to remind them they are created in God's very own image, and they are oh so special. I want to remind them how much they are loved. I want them to know that even if their earthly fathers and mothers have forsaken them, the Lord has taken them in (cf. Psalm 27:10). I'm so thankful for the Back2Back organization, which shares these truths with them regularly.

I'll only be with these children for a few days, but I want to pour as much love into them as I possibly can while I'm there. I want the grace God has extended to me in the midst of this beautiful mess of emotions to motivate me to extend grace, love, mercy, and compassion to these children.

Will you join me in praying next week? Our trip is July 7th-13th. The plan is that we'll be serving primarily at Manantial de Amor Children's Home, but I'm trying to hold that loosely, knowing that God's story has a plot line that doesn't always line up with our plans. There are 27 children in this home currently, and here are pictures and names so you can be praying for them (you should be able to click on the photo to view it larger).





Please be praying for our team. There are 30 of us going, including 11 children. I'm so excited that families are going to be able to serve together on this trip. Here are some specific ways you can be praying for us:

  • Pray for our safety as we travel and that there wouldn't be any glitches with tickets, security, or luggage. Moving 30 people through airports isn't an easy task. (Pray that if there are glitches, we would see God in the midst of them and not grow discouraged.)
  • Pray that we will be able to build healthy connections with the children in Mexico that will encourage them and build them up in the Lord.
  • Pray that we will be able to support and encourage the Back2Back and children's home staff while we're there. They minister 24/7.
  • Pray that our group would be a blessing to this ministry and not a burden in any way.
  • Pray that we will each be open to anything the Lord calls us to do while we're there, that no "yes" would seem too small or too big.
  • Pray that we would each be changed for the good through this experience. 
  • Pray that we would love others well and eagerly.
  • Pray that God would unify us as a team.

I'm asking that God would wreck me through this trip. I don't want to return the same stuck-in-a-rut Rachelle. I want to return with a deeper desire to know Him and a greater passion to serve Him and love others.


It isn't likely that I'll be able to post while we're in Mexico, but I look forward to blogging when we return. Thank you so much for praying!

"And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'" (Matthew 9:35-28, ESV)

"For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (Romans 10:13-15, ESV)

"'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Next Time, Speak Up

Often, I'm afraid to speak up about something - all sorts of things really. Usually, it's because I think way too much about what others may think of me (in reality, likely, they aren't thinking about me at all). 

In those moments, my mind drifts back to Conway High School in the late 90s. I was in a Speech and Debate class, and I believe we were giving How To speeches. One of my classmates asked us to bring empty plastic bottles for a bit of audience participation as she gave her speech, so I did. When she asked us to pull out our bottles, no one else had one. Not wanting to look like the overly eager dork who remembered her plastic bottle, I pretended not to have one. 

I remember my classmate's disappointment as that portion of her speech wasn't as effective as she had hoped it would be. I remember feeling awful. Rotten. Like a bad friend. 

Because I feared my classmates poking fun at me, I missed out on an opportunity to support and encourage my friend (to partner with her, for my Ezer-reading friends). 

That moment, seemingly insignificant, lives with me, reminding me that speaking up to encourage someone is far more important than what other people think of me. 

As an adult, I'm in situations regularly when I have to choose if I'm going to speak up or stay silent. I stay silent far more than I care to admit. Fear is usually the reason. 

Fear of saying something that makes me sound unintelligent, inadequately educated on a subject. 

Fear of saying something that will offend someone. 

Fear of saying something that will lead to (probably mild) persecution because of my beliefs. 

Fear of not looking cool (That makes me laugh, because I have never been cool! Do the cool people still say "cool"?!). 

Fear of being shunned by the person I want to be my friend. 

Fear of standing alone when no one else will speak up with me. 

Fear of regretting I opened my mouth in the first place. 

I'm not writing this post because of a particular issue. Something just triggered the old memory from that Speech and Debate class, and I was whisked back to my seat, book bag zipped tight at my feet, concealing the empty plastic bottle within. 

I would like to challenge all of us to speak up this week. You never know whom you might encourage or what change you might effect. 

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others" (Philippians 2:3, 4 NIV).

Friday, April 4, 2014

Potential Blog Post

I was sitting in the, um, restroom. I was giving my discouraged, blah self a pep talk of sorts, completely unrelated to my location, and I realized how often my life feels like a potential blog post. Potential but not actual, because my life tends to feel like the beginning of a blog post, not the pretty, resolved ending of a blog post. 

Today, my pep talk sounded something like this:

"I've been looking forward to baking these pretty cookies all week. I planned and prepared. I set aside the time. Why am I not enjoying the process? I mean, James said, 'Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials ...' I don't even feel joy about baking cookies. COOKIES. PRETTY cookies. 

"OK. This probably has to do with my attitude. I was doing fine until something didn't go as planned. And then Huxtable jumped on the counter and clawed at my cookie dough. And then I was angry and yelled at my husband. 

"I know! I need to list off all the things I'm thankful for in this situation, and then I'll have joy like songbirds in my heart, and I'll love baking these cookies. 

"I'm thankful for Huxtable. I'm thankful I bought an extra package of cookie mix. I'm thankful I'm using cookie mix and not an elaborate, taxing scratch recipe. I'm thankful for my husband. 

"There. 

"That should do it.

"That didn't work. 

"Oh! I know the REAL lesson. I didn't include the Lord in all of this. I bet I'll feel better once I include Him and stop thinking about myself so much. 

"Something still isn't working."

Now I'm writing this blog post. Why am I writing this? Partly because I'm procrastinating on those cookies. Mostly because I think it's important to be transparent. 

My life is far from a great blog post. My attitude is far from joyful and grateful at many given moments. I don't always turn to the Lord. I don't always feel refreshed when I do. 

But I still have hope. 

I have hope because God promised that He will finish the good work He started in me. I have hope because I know that this season of blahness isn't because God put me on a shelf while He took a sabbatical. He's working through the blah, even using it.

I have hope because my story isn't just a life that needs to look pretty and tidy and put together and perfect so that I have all the right external proof that I am a child of God. My story is a part of HIS story. I know how His story ends, and that's way better than any blog post about my life. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hidden Love Notes: A Simple Way to Encourage Your Spouse

My husband's love language is Words of Affirmation, so I enjoy finding new ways to speak his language. The other day, he had spoken one of my love languages of Clearance Candy, and I had an empty plastic heart sitting around (because I ate said clearance candy). As I was cleaning the house yesterday, I had a fun idea to put that little plastic heart to use: hidden love notes. 



I pulled out some paper hearts I had stashed from Valentine's Day, and they were the perfect size. Love notes don't always have to be 13 pages front and back. They can be a couple of sentences and still encourage the one you love. 


You may have noticed there are extra hearts under the note. I'll get to those in a moment. 

Once I closed up the heart, I hid it under his pillow so he would find it when he pulled the covers back to go to bed. When he found it, he exclaimed, "Hidden treasure!" Win. :0)


"So why the extra hearts?" I'm glad you asked. Now it's Husby's turn to write and hide a note for me! We'll keep passing it back and forth, surprising each other with love notes. Keeping the extra paper hearts in the plastic heart increases the odds that we'll actually follow through - no I-couldn't-find-the-paper-hearts excuse. Perhaps I should add a tiny pen or a golf pencil. 

We're looking forward to this simple way to encourage one another and deepen the love in our marriage. 

Are there little things you do to encourage your spouse or speak his/her love language? I'm always up for new ideas!