Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ready for Spring Anyone?

OK, Christmas is over, time for Spring! Seriously, I am pining for it already. Especially due to the fact that it was 63 degrees here on Christmas Eve! My crocuses are poking their heads up out of the ground already, and I am starting to get the gardening bug!

We had a great candle-light service on Friday night. The choir sang (or at least there were about 20 of us there from the choir), and Brian gave a short message. It was fun. I went to bed early on Friday night and got up early Saturday morning to get some last minute shopping done. The malls weren't too bad, but then again, I was out of there by about 11:00 AM and the parking lot was already starting to fill up. Saturday afternoon about ten of us from the choir participated in the Christmas Eve service that was sponsored by four local churches, including ours. This was the service that we were supposed to join with Church of the Living God for. At the last minute, we found out that we were not going to be joining. The whole service was a little surreal. One of the "performers" yodled and danced around on stage, and was just plain strange. Then, at the very back of the church, the ten of us who were there from our choir got a serious case of the giggles. It started during the singing of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" when we all realized that NONE of us knew the second verse!! We would start and then stop, and then try to start again, but by then it was too late. I had tears streaming down my face and was laughing so hard that I could not sing the other two verses that I DID know! I was grateful that we were at the very back of the church where we/I could laugh without being a distraction. The whole thing was just weird and strange. No one gave much of a message. It was just some scripture reading, and then some singing. One man, who played the harmonica, was amazing. But between the yodling lady and a man who sang some song about "Richard" (who the heck is Richard, and why are you singing about HIM at a Christmas Eve service?) and the fact that there were only ten of us out of sixty and getting a case of the giggles, by the time we were scheduled to come on, it was just a strange experience. We were supposed to start a recessional off the stage at the very end of our last song, but I forgot, and off walks Aaron up the aisle, and I am looking at him wondering "why is he walking off?" So I turn to Alison next to me and say "Am I supposed to follow him?" And, yep, I was supposed to. It was just a funny, funny time.

Saturday after the service I went out to Puyallup to my parents' house and opened presents. It was a nice and relaxing time. I got some very nice non-stick skillets and "The Chronicals of Narnia" book set.

Sunday, I got to sleep in, and then went pack over to Puyallup for Christmas dinner and then we kept our tradition of seeing a movie on Christmas Day and went to see "King Kong." Not the best movie I've ever seen, but it was fine.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I am looking forward to the new year and what it might bring!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! This will be my last post before the day we honor the Messiah's birth! Have a wonderful day celebrating the amazing gift God gave to us in Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sing Choirs of Angels

Well, aparently people liked our Christmas program so much, we are singing it two more times. Well, at least part of it. We are singing something on our Friday evening candlelight service as well as a Christmas Eve service that is a combination of four different downtown Tacoma churches. This includes a combined Newsong/Church of the Living God choir. Church of the Living God is an African American church on Tacoma's hilltop and I hear that their choir is amazing. I am excited to see what that will look like....our almost all white choir with an African American choir together. I think it will be a visual representation of reconciliation between the races. The pastor of C.O.T.L.G. came to our program on Sunday night and he is the one who requested that we sing at the Christmas Eve service. And so, the beat goes on.....

I have not posted about Weight Watchers in a couple of weeks because I have been on a major plateau. Prior to last Saturday, I had only lost 3/4 of a pound in three weeks. Yes, plateau-city, people! However, last Saturday, I finally broke through and lost 2.8 pounds in one week! I am now inching tantilizingly close to the 25 lb. total loss. What finally broke me through was that I started exercising. I have been both running, as well as going to the YMCA to work out. It was funny, but when I started my running program, I was fully expecting it to be as difficult as I remembered from the past. However, I was immediately able to run two miles! And, had I been doing any kind of working out before, I probably could have gone further. I was actually pretty stunned at being able to start out at two miles. Then I realized...the last time I tried to go running regularly I was 20 pounds heavier. Imagine trying to run carrying two 10-lb flour sacks with you, and then taking them off. That is what it was like for me. And so I have discovered that running can actually be fun when it is not laborious and painful. When I have tried running before, it has been hard due to my weight. No wonder I have never kept a running program going! I am actually wanting to train for some sort of semi-short race to motivate me to keep up with the program. I never struggled with weight in high school because I was always involved with some sort of sport to keep me in shape. My workouts always had a purpose. I need to give my workouts a purpose to keep me motivated. My roommate Julie has been going with me on occaision, and Sara has gone with me once too. I am a slug in speed, which is fine. I feel like a Chihuahua trying to run like a German Shephard. I am not going to go fast, but at least I complete the distance.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Answer was Born Today

We had our first-ever Christmas program last night, and I must say, we ROCKED. It is not yet up on the Newsong City Central Church website to listen to, but once it is up, you must go listen to it. I myself am planning on listening to it when I get a chance. We sang all original music except for four songs (Go Tell it on the Mountain, Breath of Heaven, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, and Joy to the World). People were actually weaping, especially during the title song "The Answer Was Born Today." People were getting up out of their seats, clapping and singing along with us. There were at least a dozen salvations. It was incredible. It was electrifying. The glory fell. We rocked!

It was so fun to be involved in the choir. As much as I manifested frustration and anger through the process, and as much time as we gave for practices, it was so worth it in the end. Isn't that always how it is in ministry? It feels like we spiritually gave birth to something. Like having a baby: the labor is hard and painful, but after it is all over, and you can see and hold what you have waited for, and planned for, it is all worth it. And, I would say that for this as well. My parents got to come, which was neat. I'll try to post more later.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hesitating to post, but the victory

I was hesitant to post today, but out of the misery of yesterday, I have had some victory, so I should probably share that. Here's the story:

I was, as mentioned yesterday, feeling guitly about taking the day off at the last minute from work on Monday. Then, yesterday afternoon I got pulled into my boss' office for a discussion. Basically he had a note put in my personnel file about taking days off without proper notice. Not disciplinary action, just a note that he and I had had a "discussion." If it should happen again, it is documentation that we have already had a "talk" and it will at that time progress to more of a disciplinary status. If I had called in sick, which would have been a lie since I wasn't, that would have been OK. But, because I took a vacation day instead of a sick day, I got a verbal warning about a lack of proper notice. I fully accept responsibility for the fact that out of my rebellion in refusing to pray about whether I should take the day off or not, I took a day off of work that I shouldn't have. I did it, and I fully deserve the consequences to my behavior. I should have listened to that still small voice telling me to buck up and go to work anyway. I was already feeling guilty, and what was a day already starting out bad, continued to get worse as I felt even guiltier. I basically had a "black cloud" of crud following me around all day yesterday. So, what did I do? I ate more than I was planning at our Christmas potluck here at work. And then, feeling guilty about that, went home and ran three miles (which normally would be a big victory that I am up to that far of a distance) and skipped dinner in an effort to stem the tide of food going in the mouth. Not a good idea to skip dinner, since I went from my run straight to a four and a half hour choir practice.

As I lay in bed last night digesting my day, feeling like a failure, beating myself up for all the ways I messed up, recognizing how I was striving my brains out out of my own strength, but at the same time just wanting to give up. I had a revelation. I realized "I am right in the middle of one of my thought patterns! I have the ability to stop this right now!" You see, my day yesterday was a classic case of what my typical sin cycle looks like: believing I am a failure, hating myself for not being perfect, beating myself up over the way(s) I messed up, and feeling ashamed of myself over my mistake(s), doing things to make myself feel better about myself, when doesn't work so turning to things to comfort myself (ususally food, sleep, or entertainment), and then finally giving up in defeat.

Literally, I was at the point of defeat: "I should just look for a new job anyway. Maybe I won't go to choir practice tonight, no one will miss me. I should just eat what I want, one day won't hurt." When I realized where my thoughts were, I was able to recognize this: "it isn't like me to want to give up." Because it really isn't. When I get to the point of wanting to quit, it is like a little white flag waving in the air. Subtle, but it works. And so, last night I rose up in victory of the truth and woke up this morning feeling better and having a much more joyful and victorious day today.

Now, if I could just recognize this pattern BEFORE I get to the end of that cycle.....I am seeing more and more every day how deeply I believe I am a failure, and how that affects my life. But I am in great need of stopping those thought patterns that develop so quickly before they start to spiral. So, I rejoice in victory, but, there is still much work to be done.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

In the Jungle

The mighty jungle, the Lion and the Witch and the Wardrobe sleep tonight!

Still feeling a little melancholy today. Still in the process of figuring out why. I had a good weekend last weekend. I went to my friend Jackie's birthday party at The Ram and then went to see "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" (HIGHLY RECOMMEND) and then Saturday I met with my friend Erika to pray through some stuff about a preschool we are looking into starting. Then, I took the afternoon and evening off from any activity and just had some alone time. I felt fine on Saturday, but had a meeting Sunday morning that I think was the start of the re-emergance of my malaise.

I am now being discipled again. The woman who is discipling me is also discipling a large group of us and we met on Sunday morning. In fact, all of the women at the church who have been in leadership, but have not been discipled are now being discipled again by various women in the church. It isn't that I am being discipled that bugs me, nor is it the woman who is in charge of my group. I think what bothers me is our church's tendancy to categorize women and put them into groups based on opinions of them or where others think they are at in their walk with the Lord/freedom. We talk and talk at our church about the Lord being the one to elevate and promote people and how everyone is important yadda yadda yadda. Yet, if we really look at it, it is the same people who get promoted and elevated in our church time and time again. It really annoys me. Do I have to be in charge of some huge ministry to be considered "important" in our church? That is how it feels. The same women get put together and picked for things. It makes me feel like I have to prove myself, and yet that goes against all biblical teaching, I have to prove myself to no man. Is it those who announce and shout about their accomplishments that get the most notice? Is that really what they expect me to do?

I think what irritates me even more than all of that, is how important it still is to me to BE noticed. It bothers me that I still value the opinions of the leadership in our church more than I value what the Lord sees in all that I do. Otherwise I do what I do for the praise of man instead of the praises from my King. Why should it matter what group I am in? Or whether it is noticed what I do? I think I just get tired of hearing about how I am messing up all the time. That is what it feels like, anyway, about how I am continuing to fall short. Anyone else see some fear of failure/feeling like a failure in here??

Then, yesterday, I felt like I needed a mental health day off from work. And so, I took one. But spent the whole day feeling guilty about not being at work and feeling guilty about all the things I should have been doing with my time. I didn't call anyone, I didn't clean any part of the house, I didn't do any errands that are on my list to do. I just took a day off. And, I felt horrible about my laziness and sloth. I also started feeling guilty for taking time to myself on Saturday, and like I should have gone to at least one of the parties I was invited to. If I am really honest, I am feeling guilty about the time I had on Sunday with one of my small group girls, like I didn't give enough to her too.

And so, I walked into work today feeling like I should have been here yesterday, and feeling guilty because work had to be shifted around to accomodate my day off (though I am the main one affected by this). Feeling guilty and like a failure about most other areas of my life as well.

And so, that is the struggle. Feeling guilty, not convicted, over my failures, whether real or perceived. Honestly there is also anger in there at leadership of church for the small group I am in. I am just full of my sin today.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Rock

By Me
all Rights Reserved

A heart made of rock
Beats inside me.
And all of my life
It's been made out of stone.
But even a rock
Is made smooth by the rain
Rounding rough edges
Only you can hone

Fall on me Lord
Wash the sharpness away
Soften me Lord
Mold me as clay.
Polish me
Form me in your hand
Only rocks that are broken
Become grains of sand

This hardened earth
Can be soft again
In the care of a master
Who has me in his hand.
Till up this soil
Where seed should grow
Break up this fallow ground
To make fertile this land.


I am just feeling a little, no make that a lot, "off" today. I am not sure what was the exact start of all of this, but it has been a day where things have just been building.

I was up super late last night due to choir practice running long, and was feeling a little patronized by the section leader of my choir section who was saying things like "we are going to havea competition between choir sections to see who can be the quietest when Aaron is talking" and I felt like I was in first grade being scolded by my teacher. I didn't like it in first grade, and I like it even less as a thirty-year-old. I am also struggling to learn the tune of the songs we are singing. It is proving to be a lot harder than I would like. I am feeling like I am failing.

So, I woke up a little on the wrong side of the bed. Then, got to work, and got an email from a friend's boyfriend who would like to propose to her, which would normally be a great cause for celebaration. Except that they have been on a bit of a break because she is still not sure. I have felt very much in the middle of this whole situation for various reasons. The main reason is that she is indecisive and wanting me to either validate her fear or help talk her into this guy when the reality of the situation is that it is her decision, not mine. Do I have concerns? Yes. But my concerns stem from the fact that she still hasn't decided. After a year and a half of dating. Is this her fears and doubts, or is it the Lord's way of subtly trying to get her attention that he is not the one for her? I don't have the answer to this, yet I do know that she needs to decide. Period.

And, then I have her boyfriend rebuking me for not being more excited for her and trying to help her decide in his favor. How can I have an opinion until SHE has an opinion? It isn't my role to help her decide, it is to help her guard her heart and have breakthrough in restoration. Isn't it? And, when I told him that I wasn't release to be excited for her until SHE is excited and decided, he told me I was wrong! I felt manipulated and like I was in the middle of some sort of high school drama. My friend has even said that she thinks he has been telling me things so that I can pass that information on to her. Whether that is true or not, I am not here to play that kind of game! And so, I am feeling caught in the middle. I think he is planning on asking her out of fear or losing her. I think she'd say yes at this point out of obligation while being wracked with fear and hesistation and indecision herself. How do I get myself out of this mess and still be helpful? I can see how my desire to be helpful is leading me to go crazy in my own strongholds. My friend can't decide, and I can't understand that, and so I want to "help" her make the right decision, when it is NOT my decision to make. It is hers to make. Her boyfriend wants me to have an opinion, but his manipulation and game playing are irritating to me. Is he the one for her? When I see his flaws, I am of course going to see them through the eyes of someone who is not meant for him. So, my opinions are not shaped by someone seeing him as a future mate, or as someone who might be his future mate should. I am not the one to offer an opinion on him. It would not be helpful and would only validate my friend's fears.

I called my friend's small group leader to have a discussion with her about the situation and was told "this is not about you." Which, she is right, it is not. But, I AM involved, and that was what I was wanting advice on...how to MAKE IT not about me. How to do the right thing by my friend. Whamo!

Then, I have been feeling instead of conviction, condemnation and feeling like a failure (big surprise eh?) over my time with my small group. I don't have enough hours in the week to fully pour into each of them like I want to. How do I balance a schedule where they are all important to me, they all get my help in restoration, while still being a sane person? I am feeling myself getting overwhelmed with the amount of time that each of them needs from me each week. I want to love them and see them restored, but I can't fit it all in in the way that they would need. Help me Jesus! Then, to top it off, I am feeling like for sure one, if not two, are in the process of avoiding me. How do I pursue them and let them know that they are valued and charished but not at the expense of the other girls who are wanting my help?

This is really just a bigger problem of managing my schedule. I am feeling like I don't have a moment to rest. Even Jesus took time out of his schedule to rest. I am certainly not Jesus, and if He needed it, I certainly do too. Maybe I am just tired and cranky and overwhelmed today.

In addition, I am here at work right now and was sharing something with a co-worker and got my throat jumped down. He has been very busy with a work project and when he has been around, up until this week, he has been terse and taciturn. All I did was mention that he has not been himself lately, and I got figuratively slapped in the face for it.

All I want to do is crawl into a hole and disappear.

See, and now I read that long list, and I can see that I am complaining. I am complaining and whining and feeling sorry for myself. That doesn't help anything. Oh, Lord. I need help! I don't have the answers, and that is hard for me to admit. I like having the answers to life (because failure is less of an option, you see), and it is hard for me to admit that I am struggling with where to go and what to do in these situations. Couple that with being tired and overwhelmed and you have me not watching my tongue or thinking before speaking and acting. People get hurt that way, and then I feel even more like a failure.

Round and round we go, where it stop only Jesus knows!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Anyone else see something ironic about this picture?

This weekend

The "other" Washington

My friend Michelle from the "other" Washington (DC) was in town this weekend and I had a wonderful time with her and my other good friend Chantel on Saturday. We met at Chantel's and went out to Indian food. Can I just say how much I LOVE Indian food? This is a recent discovery for me (i.e. within the last six months). Where have you been all of my life Mutter Paneer? Naan? Korma? :-)

We then went and saw P&P. Yes, this makes my third viewing of this movie. I think I am single-handedly paying Keira Knightly's salary for this movie. Michelle is the one who first introduced me to P&P several years ago. She, being more of a Jane Austen purist, wasn't in love with this new version as I was. Chantel, like me, liked the new one better. We took a picture of ourselves in front of the billboard. Mostly because when we called to see what time the movie was playing, I looked down at my watch and read it wrong and thought the movie was starting in ten minutes. Once we got to the theater as they took our tickets they said they were not seating for it yet. I looked down at my watch again and realized we were there an HOUR early. So, we just killed some time at the theater while we waited.

I also got my Christmas Tree on Saturday, and spent the afternoon decorating it. There is just something special about the fresh smell of fir trees in the house that makes it feel more like Christmas. I have debated about getting a fake tree in the past, but every year I pay an arm and a leg for a fresh-cut one. There is just something about it.

Sunday I had a meeting in the afternoon for small group leaders, and was just convicted about how little of myself I have been giving to my small group. Especially in the area of time. Sunday's sermon contained a lot of the same conviction. If you get a chance, click on the Newsong link to the right and download Sunday's message. It was a round-robin sort of night, where six people got five minutes to speak on the breakthrough they have been having and six more people got two minutes to talk about what it means to have the Lord's heart. I cried off and on throughout the sermon. Very powerful stuff.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Burying my talents

Do you ever think about just how much value Americans put on their time? Or realize just how much we worship having "me" time? For those of you who are Believers, have you ever thought about how those rights we hold onto are in direct opposition the the Lord? That has been what has been on my heart this weekend.

In Matthew there is a parable of a master who gives his money to three of his servants to keep for him while he is away. The three servants take this money and do some very different things with it. Two of the servants invest the money and it is returned back twice as much. The other goes and buries his out of fear. When the master returns the two who have invested are told "Well done, good and faithful servant." The one who has hidden his portion of the money is sent away.

What is it, then, that the Master of the Universe has given to us, His servants, to invest? He has given us so much: the keys to the kingdom, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control, spiritual gifts such as teaching, healing, and discernment, compassion, salvation, mercy, grace, and on, and on, and on.

How do we invest those things? By ministering to other people 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Seriously. If we have a single minute of our day where we are not seeing with an outward focus the lives of those around us and asking the Lord about how we can help them, then the only other person we our investing in is ourselves. That, plain and simple, means that we are worshiping ourselves.

I don't necessarily know that those of us who don't invest what we've been given in other people will "be sent away." The Bible is clear that our salvation once earned cannot be lost. But, what I do know, is that at the end of my life, when I am standing before the Lord giving an account of my life, I want to come limping into that throne room without an ounce of fuel left in my tank, without a shred of rubber on flat tires, and the life from my battery drained. I don't want an earthly possession left, or a minute of my time as my own. I want to invest so much of what I have been given into others that the return is double what I started with. I want to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant." For me to give away myself in service to others is to gain everything. Life will never be fulfilling and truly full of joy until I realize that life is not worth living, unless it is worth living for other people.

What stands in the way of this is my desperate belief in my right to hold on to my own time. I have had small spurts of breakthrough in this, and yet, I still hold on to my free time with clenched fists. And just like the servant who buries his money, I hold on to what the Lord has given me out of fear. I am afraid of giving up *my* time. Or, more acurately, I am afraid of giving up ALL of my time. I don't think anyone who knows me would say that I don't serve, because I do. But the very real truth is that I give it up on my own agenda and time-frame. I still see my life as my own in this way. I need to understand that my time isn't my time, but the Lord's time. Right now *I* decide when I'll serve. *I* decide when I am done serving. *I* decide what I am going to do on my nights where there is nothing specific scheduled. *I* *I* *I* *I* *I.* Do you see all the "I's" in there? What I need is to realize that when *I* am in charge, the Lord is not. I need less of me and more of the Lord. This is the meaning of the verse about dying to our selves. I need to get out of the way so that the Lord can HAVE His way.

I am greived over my fear. I am greived over my lack of compassion and love for others. I am greived over how much of myself is still inside of me. I am greived today that I am still counting the cost when somuch has been given to me.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful...

But the fire is so delightful, and since we've no place to go....let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

I left church last night and this is what greeted me for my drive home! It was quite a fun challenge to drive up the hill from downtown Tacoma in my little VW Jetta. I made it home, and couldn't help taking some pictures of my back yard, out the window, of course! Every school district in Pierce County, with the exception of one, is closed today. I rolled into work about half an hour late because I had to drive so slowly to get in. They expect it to melt during the day today, but it is fun to see.

Choir practice after church last night was amazing. We are sounding so great! Just in time for our Dec. 18th Christmas program. It is an hour and a half program. I am worried about memorizing all of the songs PLUS my part. Please pray that the Lord would supernaturally re-wire my brain to remember the words as well as the tune. It is pretty new for me to remember a part as well as the words. Only two of the songs we sing are familiar to me.

I also had some pretty good breakthrough in my singing lessons this week. Gretchen had me sing "Silent Night" and I was not singing loud enough. So, she had me sing it as loud as I could and as off key as I could. Then, she said, combine the volume and actually try. And! Voila! Out came a nice sound! I am not at the point where I sing and those nice wobbly sounds come out (do you know what I am talking about?). I don't even know how to make my voice do that. But, it is sounding much better.

The house is mostly decorated for Christmas. I spent a good amount of time last weekend getting stuff out for the house. I just need to get a tree and decorate it for the house to be "complete." I just LOVE this time of the year! Add in a dash of snow, and you have perfection!

I am up for a busy weekend. Tonight I am going to a youth outreach event that the church is putting on, then tomorrow, WW meeting, getting a tree, and then an evening with my good friend Michelle who is in town from the "other" Washington (DC). Sunday, a class at church from 1-3 and then church at 5. Looks like another packed weekend! Have a good one yourself.