whether or not Your lips move

You speak to me

life fermatas August 20, 2013

fer·ma·ta noun \fer-ˈmä-tə\: a prolongation at the discretion of the performer of a musical note, chord, or rest beyond its given time value; also: the sign denoting such a prolongation —called also hold

In the musical world, fermatas designate to hold the note or rest longer than usual. The definition above says that it is at the performer’s discretion, which is often true. But in a chorus the length the fermata is held is up to the director. The chorus singers watch the director for that moment when he or she releases them from holding the note or rest and signals that it is time to move on.

Life is full of fermatas, isn’t it?

There are times when we are watching God… just holding on… waiting for Him to signal that it is time to move on. What do we do during those prolongations?

We keep singing the last thing we knew to sing. It can be tempting to move on to the next part of the music when it feels right or when we just get too tired of holding the same note. But if we do that, we will miss out on the beauty of experiencing the music the way it was meant to be sung. If we take things into our own hands instead of being faithful in the most recent thing to which we were called, we could miss out on experiencing the fullness of what God had planned.

We keep our eyes on the Director. Contrary to popular opinion, sometimes God does give us more than we can handle. There are many reasons for this but I believe the primary reason is to reveal to us that He is an endless supply of strength from which we can draw. So when you think you’re out of breath from holding that note, know that He is there offering for you to breathe in deep from His Spirit. (Cool fact: in the New Testament, the Greek word for spirit and breath is the same.)

We trust that whatever comes next will be worth the wait. Sometimes in choruses we sight-read, meaning we perform without having previously rehearsed or sometimes without having even seen the music beforehand. We watch the director even more closely in those times. The same is true during life fermatas–even though we don’t always know what the next part looks or sounds like, we can trust God that it will be magnificent and what is best for us.

So… hang on. Keep breathing. Keep leaning on Him. And know that whatever is coming, one way or another it is going to end up beautiful.

 

here we go… December 20, 2012

Filed under: calling,faith,family,parenting,positive things,sacrifice — Ash @ 4:10 pm

I’ve embarked on a new adventure: work at home mom.
That’s right–I’ve had a baby and I’ve quit my full-time job.
I had a million eloquent things to say about it all over the past several weeks, but I can’t remember any of them right now. I think these verses kind of sum it up for now, though:

“Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19, HCSB)

I’m eager to see what God has in store for me and for our new little family. To say life has been different would be the understatement of the year. To say it has been the most difficult time of my life and yet also the most amazing, fulfilling, and joyful time would be the understatement of the decade.

So… here we go.

 

this is for you. July 22, 2011

Today I defend my thesis.

It took me a few months to write it… I have been preparing to write it for about 2 years… and my whole life has led up to it.

Today I will be asked why I chose the topic I did. And this is my answer, the one I must write out right now while I can’t stop the tears and can’t speak coherently. I’ll have to save coherent for later when I’m on the phone with the graduate research council.

Why did I write “Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Does Prevention Exist for the Potential Molester?”

I wrote it for every friend and family member I have who was molested, sexually abused, touched inappropriately by an adult or another child, or exposed to pornography at an early age. I wrote it for those who have entrusted me with their stories of these incidents, so many now that I have lost count. I wrote it for their broken hearts and stolen childhoods. I wrote it for every adult who has never, ever told anyone what happened to them, because they aren’t sure that it wasn’t normal for everybody and they aren’t sure that it is really that big of a deal. I wrote it for those who have told, and who have been disbelieved. They suffer depths of nightmares that will take years to unravel if they seek help again at all.

I wrote it so parents can be educated and know how to protect and educate their children. I wrote it so those parents can know that if their children are molested, sometimes it isn’t their fault as parents if they have done everything they possibly knew to do. Some parents need to know that they did the best they could with what they had. Other parents need to be arrested and rehabilitated so they can learn how to be parents.

I wrote it so that maybe someday we can stop the cycle of abuse that exists in this nation, and so that these evil deeds can be brought to light. So that counselors, social workers, law enforcement officers, law makers, judges, lawyers, doctors, teachers, and ministers can perhaps be educated about the unique and devastating effects of sexual abuse for children, so they can save a few from the destruction of their sexuality and self-concept. I wrote it so that more research will be done into the mind of the molester and what can be done to prevent recidivism but more importantly, to prevent the first offense. I wrote it so that maybe someday curriculum to educate children and adults about abuse prevention will be taught in multiple venues and in multiple sessions, so that every parent and child is equipped. I wrote it so maybe someone will investigate the underground pedophile rings and enabling groups that exist in this country, the ones that operate online and in the sex industry. Especially the ones that are protected by the ACLU and the first amendment.

I wrote my thesis to discover if something could have been done to prevent me from ever having been molested. What signs were those teens and adults showing that someone else should have recognized? What should have been done? What help could they have sought and at what stage of their progression into child molesting? The people around me did the best they could with what they knew, but these persons still slipped by. These were people they trusted. They were very good deceivers, and now I know some of the reasons why–they had been down a long road of damaging experiences themselves, they likely had some psychological illness, they had slowly traded in rational thought for distorted thinking, and they had become skilled manipulators. And nobody ever made them get help.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

So, why did I write this thesis? I wrote it for me. But even more so, I wrote it for you. The victims who are still living as victims. The victims who are living as survivors. The people who love those victims and survivors. The children who right now are at risk.

And yes, even for those who fear they may become child molesters. If you fear it, this is a sign there is still time for you to get help.

Was writing this thesis painful? Yes. There were things I read in research that literally made me sick. But was it worth it? Yes.

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

This is for you.

 

 

what to do when you’re 30, married, and not a mom February 19, 2011

First of all, let me start off by saying I LOVE my friends who are moms. They are amazing. Nearly all of my closest friends are moms. I admire them and I am glad there are special groups, Bible studies, events, and blogs for them. Most of them probably feel lonely and stressed at times, and I totally understand that. They have a LOT on their plates. So, none of what this post is about is meant to be hurtful to any mommies out there. Some may struggle enough as it is with feeling inadequate (even though they are totally amazing parents).

Like I just said, there is a lot out there for moms. Especially for Christian moms. But at a certain point, especially in Christian circles, you start to get weird looks if you don’t have kids. You’re the odd one out, kind of like it was when you were single and all your girlfriends were getting married. If you’re lucky you might know of some books about infertility that someone told you about. But other than that, being an “older” young married woman in the church (and in the south no less) can be downright depressing.

The Mommy Clubbers. I know the women who do this probably don’t mean to, but some have a major Mommy Club mentality. These are those girls who ask you if you’re pregnant and tease you every time you have a stomach ache (or sneeze). They are the ones who totally ignore you unless they need a baby sitter. They are the ones who never talk to you anymore because they spend their time only with other mommies. They are the ones you thought were good friends, until they got pregnant and began to talk, blog, and tweet about nothing else but their pregnancies and children. These are the Mommy Clubbers.

The Condescenders. Then you have the older women who ask if there is something wrong with you since you don’t have kids yet. They seem to think you exist for little else and that your life must be dreadfully empty without the pitter patter of little feet running through your house. They tell you that if you would just “stop trying” you’d get pregnant, just like so-and-so that they know. Again, I’m fairly certain these ladies mean well. But they are the Condescenders.

The Concerned. Then there are the people you work with and for. They range in their feelings. Some hope you never get pregnant or adopt because you do such great work and they’re afraid you will quit. Some think you are working on your career because you are just killing time before the kids start coming. They can also be Condescenders, but for the most part they are just the Concerned.

The Torturers. And my, oh my. We haven’t even talked about the family. One individual family member can fit into all three categories, as well as the special category really only a family member or in-law can occupy: the Torturers. They meddle. They press. They pester. They hint. They offer advice on what worked for them or so-and-so to get pregnant. They are desperate for grandchildren/nieces/nephews. And of course they too mean well. But they are the Torturers.

The True Friends. And of course there are those amazing diamonds in the rough who invite you into their lives as parents. They answer your sometimes way too personal questions about pregnancy, labor, the adoption process, or all the special challenges and rewards that come with being a parent. They see parenting as a lifelong learning process and admit it when they don’t know all the answers. They continue to invest in your friendship regardless of your mom-status. They allow you to speak into their lives and enjoy having you around them and their kids. These are the True Friends.

What I find is that for many of us in this older age bracket, we live very fulfilled, happy lives. We have loving relationships. We have careers. We have LIFE, even if we haven’t technically brought life into the world. We may yearn for children, and others of us may not. The point is, while we may spend much of the time feeling put down and left out, we’ve got to learn to live with the Mommy Clubbers, the Condescenders, the Concerned, and the Torturers. We can choose to cut ourselves completely off from them, but I don’t think that is the answer.

So instead I just have a bunch of questions. :)

What if you don’t want to have kids?

What if you just want to wait to have kids?

How do you interact in a loving, Christlike manner with the above groups of people?

What are some loving responses to the questions and annoying put-down remarks?

What do you do when you’re the “last one” without kids?

What about dealing with fertility issues?

What if you CAN have your own kids but you’d rather adopt?

Does your husband feel any pressure? How does he deal with it, and how do you deal with it together as a couple?

Do you have True Friend moms in your life? How can we be an encouragement to them?

I guess more than anything I’m just hoping I’m not the only one who feels all this. Some days are better than others. Some days I don’t think twice about any of it. Other days it is all I can think about. So, is it just me?

 

our intergenerational mentoring prayer group January 11, 2011

For the past several months at work, I’ve been helping to coordinate a group of exquisitely awesome women in group settings in hopes that we each would find a prayer partner mentor/mentee. (Not manatee. Mentee is the best word I have found, but would love a better one if there is one!) The women involved are aged anywhere from their early 20’s through their 60’s. It has been really incredible to see how God has worked.

MAKING THE CONNECTION
I’ve been asked how to pair people up in mentoring relationships. And truly I don’t think a relationship of this sort can be “made.” It can be helped along and facilitated. But it has to happen naturally or it won’t be effective. (I’m talking about mentoring relationships that are personal in nature; for a career type mentoring relationship, assigned pairs might work if the manager really knows his/her people well.) My feeling is, people who follow Jesus know how to listen for His voice. They know when He’s tugging at their heart to talk to this person… to go to this place… to do this thing. Even if it has been a relatively short time that they’ve been in relationship with God, they heard Him calling to them to begin with. So I really feel that given the freedom and opportunity, most women know when God is drawing them into a friendship with another woman.

To be fair, I have seen assigned personal mentoring work, but it was because the “assigner” had such an intimate knowledge of all the people involved and could really discern who would fit best with whom. But as a general observation, those who naturally  feel connected with their mentor or mentee are much more likely to stay engaged and vulnerable over the course of the relationship. And it is also important that this feeling is mutual.

CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT
I like keeping things simple. For our large group times, we haven’t done any decorating or catered any food. Everyone knows to bring their lunch and join us. (We did do a Thanksgiving/Christmas potluck-style lunch, and it was a huge hit.) We start at 11:30 and end at 12:30 (unless individuals want to stay on longer to keep praying or move to another part of the building to talk). We might have some music playing in the background. The environment doesn’t need to be flashy; it just needs to be comfortable.

With our group at work, we have some really spectacular girls involved who are gifted at creating activities that help break the ice. They’ve put together some amazing group activities for us to do that we call– wait for it– ice breakers. Anything from a bingo game to a spin on the speed dating concept. Everything centers around getting women face to face with something to talk about that helps them get to know each other. The questions have ranged from “What department do you work in” to “What is your favorite childhood memory.” The questions are balanced in that they are disarming and comfortable, yet also open the door for much deeper conversation.

One thing that has been great to hear in our feedback is that even those who are more introverted have felt very comfortable with the ice breaker conversation times.

PRAYING TOGETHER
So, we’ve taken these ice breaker activities and done them with our group of ladies. At the end of the ice breaker activity (usually about 20 minutes or so), I then have asked them all to follow the Spirit’s lead and get into a small group to pray. The first gathering we broke into small groups of 3 or 4. The gathering after that, groups of 2 or 3. It brings such joy to my heart to see the “older” women taking such an intentional interest in the “younger” women. It brings tears to my eyes to see how earnestly the “younger” women are seeking out the “older” women. Many times at our gatherings I’ve had the privilege of standing back and watching the pairs praying together, praying over all of them… seeing some lifting their faces to the Father in joy… seeing some wiping away tears… all communing with God together in His presence.

MENTORING PRAYER PARTNERS
So far, of our 30-40 women who have been to a large group time, we’ve had about 8 pairs commit to each other. The logistics of each pair’s mentoring relationship outside our big group gatherings is unique. How each pair prays together, how often they get together, what they do together– all of that is up to that pair of women. Chances are by now they know they’ve got some things in common, and since they’re convinced the Holy Spirit brought them together for this purpose they feel the freedom to let Him continue guiding their friendship. If they want to get together every morning for breakfast and prayer, they will. If coffee once a month and lots of emails and texts in between is what works for their schedules, they go for it. I don’t know of any doing Bible studies together yet, but obviously that would be a possibility if they wanted. And we all continue getting together in our prayer partner lunches for more ice breakers and prayer time together as a group. Those who have already paired up are welcome to continue on their own if they want to, but so far the majority have really enjoyed still getting together in the large group.

I’m excited to see where God takes us all next. I’m excited to hear the stories of answered prayers and of burdens shared (and I really didn’t mean for that to rhyme). We’ll weep together and we’ll rejoice together. We’ll be the church. And eventually, the women who are ‘mentees’ will be in the role of mentor for other women, as they continue to learn from those who have gone ahead of them. And it will continue to multiply. And isn’t that discipleship?

How about you? What have you seen work when it comes to helping people form mentoring relationships? What have you experienced that hasn’t worked?

Related:
The Biblical Model of Mentoring

The Need for Mentoring in Today’s Church: An Appeal to the Older Generations

 

 

I shouldn’t be alive. September 25, 2010

I’ve been fairly open about my childhood experiences and past traumas among friends, family, and church family, but not so much online. I don’t think it is wise to put too much about yourself out there for the whole world to have access to. But the more I learn about child development for my master’s degree and the deeper I dig into different types of research, the more apparent it becomes that my past experiences will play a part in my destiny.

Without airing the gory details, I will let you know that I was neglected and abused as a child. Some of that abuse was sexual, and it happened more than once and came from more than one adult. I have always had vivid memories of parts of that abuse; God has mercifully allowed my subconscious to block the rest of it. I went through most of my life overcompensating for the feelings of powerlessness, fear, abandonment, and helplessness that stemmed from those experiences. I “learned” that being alive meant being in constant danger on some level and that I was on my own. Later I would learn that, too, was a lie. Praise God that He had His hand on me from an early age and had instilled in me a love for Jesus and His Word practically from the time I learned to talk– otherwise you’d likely be reading the blog of a staunch atheist.

People with a past like mine are several times more likely to commit suicide, have 30 or more sexual partners, be drug addicts or alcoholics, and be abusers themselves. If I’m doing my reading right, the “post traumatic stress” sexual abuse victims experience can parallel what war veterans experience. As I look at these statistics of what is “normal” for someone with my experiences, I become more convinced that there is only one reason I am alive. One reason I have an ounce of compassion in me. One reason I am able to rise above all the (insert choice word here) I have gone through in my almost 30 years. And that reason is JESUS. God’s love and grace.

I think that it would be easy, and even expected, for me to use all the trauma of my past as a REASON not to believe in a loving, protecting God. I bet some people would expect it and maybe even think I had a right to it. But you know what? God didn’t MAKE those people do those things to me. Did He allow it? Yes. For only reasons He knows and perhaps has yet to reveal. But, as I live, I trust Him. I can’t always explain it. But I do.

I have had personal, close encounters with the living God that are undeniable. Beyond and through what I consider to be the total truth of the Scriptures, I have personally experienced peace that is totally and completely illogical in the face of my past. I choose to forgive the people who molested and hurt me, even though there are days I would rather not. I am not living in denial of the things that have happened to me. I am forced to deal with that reality nearly every day. The only explanation for my being alive and my being effective in any sort of way is because the power of God is in me through the Holy Spirit.

I still have problems. I still struggle with this stuff. There have been times that all I can do is scream bloody murder because I can’t handle “it,” whatever “it” is. I may always wrestle that demon of depression, but after each match it stays down for the count a little longer. Studies show that I may always have overactive fear responses and not handle stress as well as a “normal” person, which can lead to chronic health problems (anyone who knows me can see that is true). But I know that ultimately, I win. Because God wins. And I’m not talking “end times” here, although that’s obviously true. But I mean in the here and now– in whatever length of years God chooses to give me on this hunk of dirt we call earth. I have to cling to this– that He has a purpose beyond what I can understand for all the awful things I have experienced in my life. That He will use me in someone’s life– yours– to point the way to Him.

How the traumas I experienced will play out in my destiny… I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I know I have a choice in the matter though, at least as far as my attitude and response. What Satan intended for evil, God can use for good. I can allow the memories and facts to weigh me down and render me useless. Or I can use them to help myself and others.

I’m gonna have to go with the latter.

 

Grandma’s Bible August 19, 2010

Last night my mom gave me a gem of a keepsake: my grandmother’s Bible.

You can just barely read her name down there in the righthand corner: Ruth Kees.

Immediately I noticed my grandmother and I had something in common when it comes to our Bibles–we like to write in them. Pages were falling out in several places from wear, with theological notes like “Christophany here” and personal notes like “always trust.” The first several pages have what seem to be signatures from people with verse references; we think maybe these were friends or professors from Bible school.

"The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you."

On these pages, in addition to the signatures, she wrote several meaningful statements and a poem.

She wrote, “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you,” and “Adversity tests the value of a friend.”

I can’t find the original writer of the poem she has here, but it reads:

Were all the earth a parchment made
And every man a scribe by trade,
Could we with ink the ocean fill
Were every blade of grass a quill,
To write the love of God
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky.

"The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed"

These must have been from her days in Bible college. (Grandma had an invitation to be an opera singer at the Metropolitan Opera in New York but decided to go to Moody Bible College instead; this is where she met Grandpa.) One inscription on this page gives the date of Grandma’s commitment to follow Jesus: July 1932. She would have been 10.

"To get the far away vision is the only cure for the creeping blindness."

On this page Grandma wrote,

A task without a vision makes a drudge.
A vision without a task makes a visionary.
A task and a vision makes a missionary.

This must have been around the time she realized she was going to be a missionary. She and Grandpa served in Costa Rica shortly after they were enrolled at Moody. A statement similar to this is found in a few different layman’s missionary guides and partially attributed to a “President Mullins” at the National Congress of Missions in Chicago in 1910.

I can’t find a source for the other statement, “To get the far away vision is the only cure for the creeping blindness.” Grandma was a poet, lyricist, and songwriter, so she may have written this herself. Will probably have to write a blog post on this soon.

Another inscription tells us how and when she got the Bible– her mother gave it to her on her 16th birthday in 1938.

I can’t wait to go through it more to see the notes she wrote in the margins and which verses she underlined. These may give me even more clues and glimpses into her spiritual life.

I have a very similar Bible that I can’t wait to have passed on to my kids and grandkids. I hope it will tell them a little about me and my walk with God.

 

 
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