Posts by Celia

What is Ministry?

Posted by on Oct 23, 2013 in Faith | 0 comments

What is Ministry?

I used to do a lot of “ministry.” You know, churchy stuff. Like donating canned goods when church had a food drive, or contributing Christmas gifts when church collected them for needy families. Like serving as an Altar Captain at church (Don’t ask. Just know it was legit ministry). Like planning, designing, and presenting large scale projects for certain ministry departments within church.

Then a lot of things changed in my life and it seemed God lifted me out of every place of service all at once. I had my first baby and it appeared that He cleared the way for me to devote the bulk of my attention to my little family. My ministry opportunities at church thinned out, my work commitments even came to a close. I found myself at home with a baby feeling like I wasn’t doing much of any importance at all. I knew in my head that nurturing new life was the most important job of all, but in all of the mundane tasks of motherhood I often missed the things I used to do that had tangible results. This feeling of being and doing nothing earth shattering hung over me for a couple of years.

Until God told me one day that I actually do still have a ministry outside of my ministry to my family. I didn’t recognize it as such because the ministry he gave me for this season is pretty exclusively behind-the-scenes and it’s not at all churchy. It consists simply of seeing the people right in front of me who have needs and reaching out to love them in whichever way He guides me.

Take a meal to a friend with health issues? I can do that! Invite a new neighbor struggling with some personal problems over for coffee? I can do that too! Reach out to someone new in town to include her with my friends? The more the merrier! Buy groceries for a family going through a tough financial time? Okay! Pray with an elderly neighbor recently diagnosed with cancer? Done! Get Bug and Bear in the kitchen to help me cook and bake and take more meals to more people? Sure, cooking with my kids is fun!

“This. Is. Ministry.” said my God who is all about loving people in hands-on, relational ways.

Then my ideas about “ministry” were further overhauled. He showed me that every person I come in contact with is someone to love in service to Him. The checker at Wal Mart. The other mom swinging her child alongside mine at the park. The lovely young woman who watches my kids when I work. I started praying that the people Husband and I both need to employ in our small businesses would be people who needed a family to invest in them. He brought people for us to invest in and bless, and oh how they blessed us right back. People who “minister” often show up in the most unlikely packages, not as ministers at all but as those who need something from us that requires us to grow in a certain area.

All of my ideas of “church” and “ministry” got a makeover that I think made them more attractive. Church is not meeting with other people like yourself within the safe walls of a beautiful building. Church is going out in the ugly messed up world and really seeing people, loving people, serving people – all people, not just church people (this is even in the Bible, I promise). Ministry is not just joining in your church sponsored initiatives. Ministry is taking the initiative to go to the hurting people who you come in contact with on a daily basis and offer hope, encouragement, help, and friendship. I am not saying it’s not important to meet in a church or support your church’s ministries. I am saying it is important to remember to look around you when you leave the church building and notice all of the people in your life who may not go to your church but need you to be The Church just the same.

 

 

Your Story has Power

Posted by on Apr 9, 2013 in Faith, Mental Health | 2 comments

Your Story has Power

Exactly one year ago today, I walked right out of my comfort zone and stepped into the blogosphere. I never really wanted to blog as I tend towards introversion, privacy, internalization, and solitude, all qualities that seem diametrically opposed to sharing personal stories publicly. The idea of casting the story net of my life out over the vast sea of the Internet for anyone and everyone to see made me feel a bit seasick. Nonetheless, in spite of my reluctance, I felt God inviting me to share my story in a more public way, and I accepted.

When I decided to start telling my story, I was struggling with horrendous circumstances, and I realized that all of the stories I had ever heard about overcoming came after the fact. They were told in retrospect, from the vantage point of the finish line where the entire marathon of a trial could be clearly viewed, from start to completion, with the knowledge of how all of the details ultimately worked together for good . They sounded simple, easy, and actually quite fun. Mine felt nothing like that. And I felt God speak to my heart , “All of those stories felt nothing like that in the middle either. It’s just that most people don’t share their story in the middle when they’re suffering and have no idea how it will end. Would you have the faith to show people your middle? Will you let your life serve as an example of how messy the middle can be, and how I protect you all the way through the middle as I take you to a better place? Would you be willing to be honest and vulnerable about the process?”

As I pondered those questions and my anxiety over answering, “Yes,” I picked up a book and read this:

“It is important that we remember our history with God. What is your history? Meditate on it. Record the miracles you see… I just want to put this one tool in your hand. If you will use it, you will stay encouraged every day of your life, and you will have an important key for the renewing of your mind. The tool is the testimony. Let everything be tied to a reminder of God’s supernatural interventions. Your God history needs to become a string of monuments that become reference points for the rest of your life.” Bill Johnson

So, in faith, I started to share, focusing on the testimony, the miracles. And in the process, sharing taught me and transformed me. Sharing my story saved me so many times from depression, shame, isolation, and fear. Over and over, releasing bits of my life and experience released tremendous power in my circumstances…

Power to heal, as putting my story into words helped me to make sense of it, to see the blessing in it, to feel some sense of control over writing my own ending. Because I had choices about my ending, regardless of my outcome. In the end, was I to be the character who gave up, let my family down, withdrew, and withered away? Or could I be the protagonist you root for in your favorite novel who fights, who grows in strength and courage, who overcomes? Ted Haggard’s wife, Gayle, says that in the wake of her husband’s public fall from a prominent ministry position, in her anguish, she asked herself, “Who am I going to be in this story?” Writing my story gave me the power to choose who I would be as it all unfolded, which absolutely crushed despair and terror, and healed me of the hurt and fear found in certain chapters.

Power to fight, as sharing my testimony of God’s presence in the midst of my trials released His power in my circumstances. Showing up to tell my story on the days I felt I was falling apart released something strong. It got in the face of my troubles and said, “I’m still here. I’m not backing down. In fact, I’m getting stronger every day.”

Power to connect, as being vulnerable staved off isolation and brought new depth in relationships. As I shared, other people seemed to feel safter sharing too. People started to reach out, to show me their reality, to let me in on their struggles, to say, “Me too.”

Power to overcome, as I purposed to find joy in the little things instead of allowing anxiety and depression to drag me into their abyss. In November 2011, within one week, I received two of the most frightening pieces of news I have ever heard in my life. In the aftermath, I struggled with fear, no, terror, and depression – but through blurry vision I could still make out the shadow of my little girls and I knew I couldn’t entertain these feelings and care for them adequately, I would have to choose. I made a choice to stay strong for my girls, and the only way I knew to do that from one moment to the next was to focus on the little happy things that showed up each day instead of the giant dark cloud lurking overhead. I decided that if I wrote about these simple things each day – cooking, playing, praying, exercising – along with the bigger picture testimony, I would stay accountable to keep my focus there, and maybe even encourage myself or someone else in the process. I found that no matter how small the source of joy, focusing on it made my problems smaller, and that maintaining gratitude and perspective magically generated peace and joy, in spite of my circumstances.

We all have a story, and in a world where most work overtime to stay covered, it can feel so naked to share. But your story has power, and the benefits of opening your book for others to read far outweigh the risks of feeling exposed.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Brene Brown

~

The Art of Receiving

Posted by on Apr 7, 2013 in Faith, Mental Health | 0 comments

The Art of Receiving

From as early as I can remember, my Dad told me often that I was a “giver.” Because he obviously valued this quality, I did too. Because he was a giver and I wanted to be like him, I cultivated this quality of giving in my life. I still operate in large part as a giver, but I’ve also learned how to receive. For a person who loves to give, this is not nearly as simple as it may seem.

Over my life, I’ve given a lot for a lot of right reasons. But I also now realize that, at times, I’ve given with an underlying motive or attitude that wasn’t exactly right. All of this started to make its way into my awareness when I went through a season of receiving.

Rather unexpectedly and rather suddenly, Husband and I went from a being in a position to give to a position of having nothing to offer. Not only did we have nothing to offer, we found ourselves in a place of desperate need. We had friends and family who loved us, but something kept us from asking for help or even accepting it when offered. For me, that something was pride. I wasn’t a taker, I was a giver. And if I were to be completely honest, there was something outside of my positive motives of love and grace and generosity and a genuine desire to help that moved me to give – it felt good to have enough to be a giver, to not know the helplessness, hurt, and desperation wrapped up in my own needs.

At some point in the course of our five year downward spiral in which our circumstances went from bad to worse, we had no choice but to accept support from and lean on those closest to us. Some of our most trusted friends turned their backs on us and let us down. That was a hard and hurtful thing to deal with, but what was much, much harder and more hurtful for me was accepting help. I struggled to receive gifts instead of give them.

When my angel of a friend silently slipped in my purse an envelope full of cash that equalled the exact amount we lacked to make a full house payment that month, I wanted to say no and give it back. It hurt me to take it, but we needed it. I knew God was giving me what I prayed for through my friend – I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t tell her we needed it, she prayed for me and somehow heard the exact amount and gave it freely. It hurt to take it, but it blessed me. I learned that God works through His willing people to answer our prayers, and that to receive the answer to prayer I must be willing to receive from other people.

When my talented and accomplished childhood friend came to my aid with unique help only he could offer, I felt guilty and embarrassed to accept. But I had to. I felt obsessed with paying him back or reciprocating in some way, but I wasn’t in a position to. It was hard to let him help, but his help protected my entire family. I learned that God often sends His help through people who have skills, talents, abilities, and resources that I simply do not.

When family members helped us with some financial needs, my discomfort with taking became unbearable. I prayed and begged God to provide through a different means.  His response: “This is my provision for you right now. Take it and be grateful. I need you to learn how to receive.” My thinking started to change as I realized that I needed a shift in my understanding to grasp the balance between giving and receiving.

By the time my dear friend gave me a gift card to buy some needed items for our family, I didn’t feel hurt or guilty or embarrassed to accept, I just felt grateful. I felt humbled.

And that’s when it finally hit me. Receiving is an act of humility. Receiving says I can’t do everything by myself, other people have unique gifts that they are called to give, we need each other in real back and forth relationship.  Giving and receiving are inseparable – if one act becomes dominant while the other stagnates, things get out of balance. A giver who doesn’t receive can grow prideful, isolated, and self-reliant. A receiver who doesn’t give can become entitled, powerless, and self-centered.

The humility of receiving set this truth firmly in my heart: nothing I have is mine to give or keep anyway. Because so many people gave us so much, my thinking shifted from the subtle unconscious belief that I could control what I thought I needed to keep or what was extra to give to the idea that nothing I have is really mine. It illuminated for me the truth that everything I have comes from God and it is His to distribute. When I give now, it is with deep gratitude for all I’ve been given and all I have to give, and humble awareness of what it feels like to be deeply in need.

The Giant Palm

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Faith | 0 comments

The Giant Palm

To the left is a picture of my hand, so close to my face that it seems enormous and I can see nothing past it.

Below is a picture of the world beyond my hand, when I lower it and look farther. There’s a lot going on here, so much I was missing when I could only see my own giant palm, so close to my eyeballs that even that was blurry. Try it and see how your perspective changes, how your focus adjusts. I see people. I see life. I see nuances, subtleties, mysteries, unknowns. I see diversity wrapped up in God’s creation.

Lately I notice a lot of giant-palm gazing at the expense of looking a little farther out in the distance. Looking so hard at one very small part, so up close and in your face that it blocks out any and every other thing, to the neglect of seeing the world beyond. Specific issues become the giant-palm-all-I-can-see heart of the matter, and people rage and fight and judge and hate, all while staring so hard at a hand for Pete’s sake. Put the hand down. Look beyond.

So what I see when I look up from my palm gazing and focus on the bigger picture, is the world. And let me tell you, there’s a lot to take in. People are dying out there. They’re starving, hurting, suffering, lost, abused, confused, alone, desperate. Dying. And we are turning a blind eye and missing what truly matters, instead becoming hyper-focused on issues over people.

” ‘You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.’ [Matthew 23:24] This is a humorous picture which must have raised a laugh, of a man carefully straining his wine through gauze to avoid swallowing a microscopic insect and yet cheerfully swallowing a camel. It is the picture of a man who has completely lost his sense of proportion.” (Barclay)

Like so much of the gospels, the entirety of Matthew 23 is aimed at the “blind guides,” the legalistic hypocrites who were so focused on the outward behavior of those around them (gnat) that they failed to look inside themselves and see the enormity of their own sin (camel). When we focus on one specific issue or behavior in someone else’s life at the expense of examining our own insides to see how we’re responding to the real issue at hand – the call to love, to serve, to go to a dying world and offer hope – we have completely lost our sense of proportion.

I don’t have all the answers and I don’t always know how to love, give, and serve in a dying world like I want to. But I know God is love and if I choose Him, then I choose love too. I am humbly aware of how He chooses to love me even when my outward behavior is ugly, even when my insides are messy. I remember how He pursued me when I didn’t truly know Him, and that it looked nothing like beating me over the head with religious rules, exposing me publicly, refusing to build a relationship with me, or calling me names – it looked like love. I can only believe that this is how we’re meant to approach the world around us.

“I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do.” Ephesians 1:18 (The Message Bible)

Get Your Crafty On: Easter Chocolate Bowls

Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in Bug & Bear, Cooking | 0 comments

Get Your Crafty On: Easter Chocolate Bowls

Today, I amazed myself. I think I amazed my family too. I did something crafty with Bug and Bear and it turned out cute. It was also fun AND no tears were shed. It’s a first. It’s an Easter miracle.

I’ve been brutally honest here about my incompetence with crafts. It’s just not my thing, crafting. I purpose to do creative things with my kids because they love it, but I always choose non-traditional activities, and the finished product is never attractive enough to post pictures.

Recently my friend told me about the fun recipes, activities, and crafts that Imperial Sugar posts in the Kids Kitchen section on their website. I can only imagine that crafty mamas would love Kids Kitchen for all of the adorable kitchen craft ideas, but for the craft challenged, such as myself, it enabled me for the first time ever to wow my family with my craftiness when they did not believe it was possible. Feeling inspired looking through all of the recipes and ideas, I decided to attempt Easter Chocolate Bowls with Bug and Bear. We had so much fun, they were easy to make, and they turned out photo worthy.

All you need for this craft are chocolate chips and small balloons for the bowls, plus powdered sugar, an egg, and a lemon for Royal Icing. Since Bug and Bear are too young to help with melting chocolate chips and blowing up balloons, I gave them each a balloon to play with while I set everything up.

They probably could make a day of just playing with balloons – they LOVE balloons, which is part of what made this so much fun. Since Bug doesn’t like chocolate (?!) I melted white chocolate chips for her and regular chocolate chips for Bear in small bowls in the microwave. I was warned to be careful in this step because if the chocolate is too hot it will pop the balloon and launch melted chocolate all over your kitchen. I put each bowl in the microwave for one minute, stirred, then one more minute, and that was long enough to melt the chips without making the chocolate too hot. Then I spread waxed paper over the counters, blew up several balloons in different sizes, and let Bug and Bear get to work.

They loved the messy work of spreading softened butter over the balloons so that they can be easily removed from the chocolate shell when it’s time to pop them.

Even better was dipping them into the chocolate, and of course, taking a little lick.

Obviously we won’t be handing these out as gifts. They’ve been marked.

I found that a 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips covered about 3 small to medium balloons. Bug and Bear had great fun dipping their balloons in chocolate, but there were a few flaws in their work, so after they finished I spooned a little extra chocolate on the balloons and smoothed it out to make sure it was thick and evenly applied.

Once the balloons were all coated, I put them in the freezer and we made the Royal Icing. Bug helped sift the powdered sugar and Bear added the egg white and lemon juice.

After the chocolate covered balloons hardened in the freezer for about an hour, we took them out and decorated them with the Royal Icing that we made pink and blue with food coloring. It would be fun to pipe different designs onto the bowls, but since Bug and Bear are too little to do that, we rolled the Royal Icing into circles and lines like play-doh, then arranged it in different ways using our hands. They had great fun doing this. After we decorated, we put the bowls back in the freezer to harden again. Later I took them out, popped the balloons and carefully removed all pieces from inside the bowls, and then filled them with Easter treats as a surprise for Bug and Bear.

Then choruses of “You’re the best mommy!” and “This is the best Easter surprise chocolate bowl EVER!” resounded through the house. And for the first time in the history of my mothering career, I felt crafty.

This post was sponsored by Imperial Sugar. All opinions are my own. For more fun kid’s crafts, gift ideas, printables and coloring pages, click here to visit the Kids Kitchen on ImperialSugar.com.

© 2012-2017 Under Construction Paper All Rights Reserved