Who you are…{video}

This video came across my Facebook feed today. I don’t believe I’ve ever shared a YouTube video here before, but it struck me to the core. I figured if I had such a visceral reaction to this, it would be good to share with you. Blessings my lovely women in ministry with world-changing capability!

Who you are…

Link to a Post: On Faith & Being a Mom

So I read this excellent post by a fellow blogger, woman in ministry, and friend (who also happens to be a former student of mine). Kristen has hit the proverbial nail on the head and I HAVE to share it with you. I don’t need to add anything, other than…click through and read the entire article. It’s wonderful. And true. And honest. And what many of you need to hear.

You. Are. Normal.

More than that…You. Are. Not. Alone.

Even more than that…God. Is. Pleased.

Tonight I found some old pictures in a box at my parents house from my first year of Bible School. I started thinking about those days and how awesomely phenomenal they were. Before Bible School, I wanted to travel the world and write books and discover ancient artifacts and basically live my life as Lara Croft. Kids were so NOT on my list of things to do before I turned 30. In fact, I couldn’t imagine myself getting married or having kids until I was at least 25. And then I met Zach and we fell in love and God started doing some serious work in my life and all of a sudden everything changed. I was 19 and thinking about settling down with this brace faced skateboarder who’d crushed on just about every girl in our class. And then we talked about missions and reaching teenagers for Christ and saving the world one pubescent at a time. And then we got married and became youth pastors and everything in my life centered around church, prayer, worship, teenagers, Bible study, brainstorming ways to further the Kingdom of God.

And then I became a mom and everything changed again.

Moving from being a “Woman in Ministry” to a “Woman who Ministers”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a woman in ministry. This comes, of course, with the presupposition that women are called by God into every facet of ministry – something I firmly believe in. So let’s not get into that theological debate, m’kay?

I’ve been thinking about what this…thing…is. I grew up always wanting to be in the ministry. But in my formative years I never saw a woman in a full-time ministry position. Plenty of pastor’s wives. Lots of Sunday School teachers who were ladies. But not a single woman in vocational ministry. In fact, I don’t believe I met one before I was in my 30′s. I did have a couple of female college professors in Bible college, but I never saw them in a church setting. It would seem I didn’t have a lot of women to use as an example of what a woman in ministry should be doing. What it looks like.

Have you always wanted to be a woman in ministry? Or are you one of the many who never, ever, ever wanted to be in ministry?

As I pondered this, I realized this simple truth: the women who ministered to my own wanting soul, who taught me about spiritual disciplines, about loving the unlovable, weren’t “women in ministry” at all. They were faithful “lay people,” good neighbors, and generous friends. Women who took care of me while my parents worked. Who brought our family food in times of need. Who took me out for coffee and allowed me to vent in frustration. Those gentle spirits who whispered God’s affirming words to me. Who understood that, through friendship, Grace abounds. These women didn’t work in churches. They worked as doctors, and business owners. They were homemakers, and accountants; personal trainers and paralegals. One was an army wife-probably the closest to understanding the often-lonely life of a woman in ministry. These women taught me that Pastor/Preacher…or not, I am a woman who is called to minister.

Pastor’s wife or woman in ministry…or not – you are a woman called to minister. Sunday school teacher or not, dear wife/daughter/sister/friend – you are called to minister.

Our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends are counting on us to use our God-given gifts to bring His hope to them. Our families and friends are depending on us to use our uniquely feminine voices to speak words of life into them. Words of wisdom that comes from above to their brokenness. The God who created us, in all our girly glory, has released us to feed the hungry, care for the sick, love the unlovely, and guide the lost.

He has invited each and every one of us into ministry. Even you…the gal who never, ever, ever, in a million years, wanted to be a “woman in ministry.” :)

Chew on that and let me know what you think…

Be Blessed,

JulieAnn

Do You Have a History of Failure…Like Me?

I remember my first speaking engagement. I was asked to speak for a women’s tea for a sweet little church in the mountains. My primary contact didn’t give me a lot of instruction as to what she was hoping for. I didn’t ask very many clarifying questions – just planned a bible study that I thought was really good and would work well.

When I arrived, I found out not only was I woefully overdressed (I wore heels. WHY would ANYONE wear heels to a cabin in the mountains??), but I realized I also did not come prepared for the kind of event this was intended to be. I panicked.

I changed my content on the fly. It was awful. I will never forget the glazed over eyes trying desperately to keep up with me. And the polite “Amen” after my closing prayer. It.Was.Awful. And then they generously took an offering. A very good offering. Which I didn’t deserve. It was just plain awful.

Speaking

You’d have thought I had learned. But it happened again last week. I was asked to come speak to an all-boys lock-in for my church. It just needed to be a simple devotion. For boys. Ages 5-17. (Yeesh!) I prepared. Spent time working on it. And…it was awful. Just plain awful. {sigh}

I’ve been in ministry for nearly 20 years. I work really hard for any opportunity I have to teach about the love of God. I don’t take it lightly. But sometimes I don’t get it right. Like last week. And plenty of other times before that. I feel very disappointed in myself when this happens. I mutter to myself. Dwell on it. And don’t let it go very well. It becomes personal. But last night as I was laying in bed replaying the night and teaching the lesson the *right* way to my invisible audience, God was faithful to remind me of this:

There are plenty of individuals in the Bible who didn’t always get it right. Who struggled to complete the mission God wanted them to accomplish. Who doubted God’s calling. Who found it hard to see themselves through God’s eyes. Can you name a few? How about…

Abraham & Sarah in Genesis 18

10 Then the Lord said, “You can be sure that I will return to you about this time next year. Your wife Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old. Sarah was too old to have a baby. 12 So she laughed to herself. She thought, “I’m worn out, and my husband is old. Can I really know the joy of having a baby?” 13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Will I really have a baby, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for me?

Moses in Exodus 4

10 Moses spoke to the Lord. He said, “Lord, I’ve never been a good speaker. And I haven’t gotten any better since you spoke to me. I don’t speak very well at all.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Who makes a man able to talk? Who makes him unable to hear or speak? Who makes him able to see? Who makes him blind? It is I, the Lord. 12 Now go. I will help you speak. I will teach you what to say.”

Peter in Matthew 14

29 “Come,” Jesus said. So Peter got out of the boat. He walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the wind, he was afraid. He began to sink. He cried out, “Lord! Save me!” 31 Right away Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “Your faith is so small!” he said. “Why did you doubt me?”

Thomas in John 20

27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Does your fear of failure keep you from stepping into the unknown for God? Or believing His ability? Or does your history of failure make you want to quit trying? Yeah…me too. But I want to challenge you to push those doubts aside! Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, my dear sisters in ministry! This is not what God has called us to. He does not want us to listen to the enemy of our souls. We are reminded over and over in His word: God has confidence in you! He’s taking you and molding you through each experience, positive and negative, into the woman He envisions you to be!

“Then you will know that I am the LORD. Those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:23

“See, I am doing a new thing!” “I am working all things together for good, because you love me and are called according to my purpose.” “All things are possible to [she] who believes.” Isa. 43:19; Rom. 8:28; Mark 9:23
Have a great weekend of ministry my friends!
Be Blessed,
JulieAnn

Have You Written Your Plans In Ink or In Pencil?

As I lay in bed wide awake last night, energized from the night’s activities, I began to contemplate my 2012 and what 2013 might look like.

I’ve enjoyed reading my friends’ facebook statuses, as well as several blog posts about the last year. I spoke to so many last night as we contemplated what the new year might hold for us.

As I began to pray again about my hopes and dreams and ask that God would direct my paths, He dropped in my heart quite a large question: Have you written your plans in ink or in pencil?

Some of us are born list-makers. We make lists for all kinds of great reasons: the steps we want to take to become healthier; the steps we want to take to improve our relationship with our spouse; the steps we want to take to achieve our dreams; or just simply, the steps we need to take to get through our day intact!

For others, they fight lists. Hate ‘em to the core of their being. Roll their eyes at us “planners.” But even these free-spirits makes plans.

Have you written your plans in ink or in pencil?

When a plan’s been made, how open are you to those plans being changed?  If we as believers are asked whether we’re open to God changing our plans, our answer is almost always “Yes!”. But do our actions show this to be true? If I look at my life since becoming a believer I can see times when I have clung to a plan or challenge once it was made.

Afterall, there were good reasons I made that plan, right?

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, former five-star general in the US Army and the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during D-Day once said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Uh… this man led armies through highly complicated and pivotal historic events – and he thinks “plans are useless?”

I’ve learned repeatedly that when God interrupts my plans, He has something in mind that I don’t. And let’s be honest, His plans are always better than mine. It’s often difficult to see where the next step will take us, but our faith is, indeed, like a muscle. As we exercise it, it grows.

At these times, it’s critical to trust God and obey. Frankly, it is easier when He allows us to continue on our path. But when He asks us to change our direction, to go a new way, to shift our focus, it gets difficult.

Well, 2012 has been a year of changing direction. God has been asking me to go a new way – to shift my focus. Specifically regarding the Ministry Momma community. In September, God dropped a ministry opportunity in my lap. In case you have not heard, I’ve become the Family Life Pastor of a great congregation in Dublin, Ohio. On a weekly basis I get the opportunity to minister to over 150 kids and their parents. I love this new challenge in my life! It is incredibly fun, awe-inspiring, and…time-consuming.

My desire is to give my best energy to this new ministry. It is also my desire that I remain keenly focused on my own family, constantly striving to maintain our own family dynamic and balance. Thus my specific focus on Ministry Momma will have to be paused.

Women in ministry and pastor’s wives will continue to be my heartbeat. I very much desire continued involvement in the lives of women in ministry – encouraging, loving, supporting, and being a sounding board. I will still be available for mentoring women. I will still post from time to time. The blog isn’t going away. But God has asked that I be willing to erase the next line in my plan and pencil in a new item according to His plan.

And I believe His plans are big and beyond my imagination! His word tells me so in Jeremiah 29:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

So until next post – whenever that may be – my prayer for each of you wonderful women in ministry is that the “Plan B’s” in your life would be the blessing they’re intended to be. That as you are making plans, God would direct your steps. That you would keep your eyes and hearts focused on the One who called you – knowing He is faithful. That you would be open to the paths that God puts before you and that He would light your path each step of the way.

With love and prayers for your journey!

JulieAnn

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You Prayed for This {Marriage Monday}

He spoke to me between one child’s bouts of retching and another’s temper tantrum.

I had left my full-time ministry position along-side my husband to stay home with our kids. We were, for the first time in our married life, in a position to be able to do this. We had one school-aged child, and two still too young for school. I was going to get to stay home and be their primary influence for these critical formative years. I was happy…maybe?

I told my husband all the time: “I didn’t go to Bible college to find you. I went to answer God’s call on my life. I just happened to run into you on the journey.” I didn’t mean it to sound unkind or unloving. I just wanted him to understand that I went to college to fulfill my life’s passion of full-time ministry, just like he did.

I have always known God was calling me to ministry (even though I strayed from that plan for a few years in high school). I have always known I wanted to be a wife and mother. For some reason, the thought never occurred to me that those two desires would conflict, maybe even collide.

As I sat in the middle of my stay-at-home life, missing my ministry life, I was unhappy. Probably even a little angry.

“You prayed for this,” whispered the Lord.

Say what?!?

“You prayed for this. Back when you first prayed for your salvation, when you prayed that you would know Me. And then all those times you prayed that I would work My will in and through you, and be able to use you for My glory. This is an answer to your prayer.”

My stomach heaved again.

I had become Jonah, sitting on the hillside overlooking Nineveh, having a pity-party because God did what He promised, but I didn’t like the results.

God’s question to Jonah was His question to me: “Have you any right to be angry?” (Jon 4:4)

I had prayed those things.

That gentle reminder has come back to me repeatedly over the past 10 years. At times when my husband is “virtually absent” during his prayer and study time, when he’s literally absent while on the road in ministry, and I’m busy cleaning the bathroom after yet another bout of retching, all while trying not to have my own tempter tantrum.

Are you angry because the church or ministry takes away so much of your husband’s time and attention? Or that home life and children keeps you from the work of ministry that you also long for?

May I humbly suggest that you consider what you’ve prayed for, and ask yourself (and God) if you have a “right” to be angry.

When you’ve calmed down, put your loneliness and your hurt feelings in the hands of your loving Father and let Him minister His love and grace into your heart. I can’t guarantee everything will suddenly be great, fabulous, and wonderful, , but I can guarantee you this:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. Ecc. 3:11-12

There is no need that you have as a woman, as a wife, or as that most unusual and unique of creatures—a pastor’s wife—that your Maker is unable to meet. Trust Him. He loves you.

Friendship in Ministry Can be a Double-Edged Sword: 5 Traits to Look for in a True Friend

The last few weeks have been hard. Yesterday was especially hard. I hate to say it but women can be snarky. VERY snarky. And our Christianity doesn’t exempt us from this tendency.

When it hits, it hurts. Makes this hard-as-nails city girl feel a little like crying.

Friendship in ministry can be a double-edged sword.

In my nearly 20 years of ministry, I have learned that I need friends. But, as with many other pastor’s wives, one of my biggest struggles with this ministry-life is actually allowing someone close enough to be my friend because it hasn’t always fared well. I’ll never know why it is particularly difficult for us ministry women to find genuine friendships. But it is.

Ever heard this phrase?

Friends come, Friends go, But a true friend is there to watch you grow.

So what exactly is a “true friend?”  It’s something I’ve been asking a lot lately. Here’s 5 things I’ve come up with:

1. Christian Friends Love Sacrificially

John 15:13  (NIV)
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Jesus is the supreme example of a true Christian friend, isn’t he? The love he exemplified for us is sacrificial, never selfish. He demonstrated it through the humble service of washing the disciples’ feet, and especially when he laid down his life on the cross.

If we choose our friends based only on what they have to offer, we won’t discover the blessings of a genuine friendship. By valuing your friend’s needs above your own, you’ll be on your way to loving like Jesus.

2. Christian Friends Accept Unconditionally

Proverbs 17:17
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

We discover the best of friendships with those to whom we’ve been honest and sincere and who know and accept our weaknesses and imperfections.

And if we are easily offended or hold on to bitterness, we’ll have a hard time making friends. No one is perfect (whew – am I ever an imperfect creation!!). We all make mistakes from time to time. If we take a truthful look at ourselves, we’ll admit that we bear some of the blame when things go wrong in a friendship. A good friend is quick to ask forgiveness and ready to be forgiving.

3. Christian Friends Trust Completely

Proverbs 18:24
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

You’ve read this proverb a gazillion times, I’m sure. But have you looked at it from this angle: this proverb reveals the interesting truth that a true Christian friend is trustworthy, for sure, but it also emphasizes that we should only expect to share complete trust with a few loyal friends. Trusting too easily can lead to ruin, so be careful about putting your confidence in a mere companion. Over time our true Christian friends will prove their trustworthiness by sticking closer than a brother (or sister).

4. Christian Friends Keep Healthy Boundaries

1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy …

If you feel smothered in a friendship, something is wrong. If you feel used, something is also wrong. Recognizing what’s best for someone and giving that person space are signs of a healthy relationship. We should never let a friend come between us and our spouse. A true Christian friend will wisely avoid intruding and recognize your need to maintain other relationships.

5. Christian Friends Give Mutual Edification

Proverbs 27:6
Wounds from a friend can be trusted …

True Christian friends will build each other up emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Friends like to be together simply because it feels good. We receive strength, encouragement, and love. We talk, we cry, we listen. But at times we also have to say the difficult things our friend needs to hear. Yet, because of our shared trust and acceptance, we are the one person who can impact our friend’s heart, for we know how to deliver the hard message with truth and grace. I believe this is what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

If you have been on the receiving end of snarkiness like me, be encouraged: you’re not alone (HA!). And if you don’t have lots of close friends, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember, true Christian friendships are rare treasures. They take time to nurture, but in the process we grow more Christlike.

I’m on Team Pratt {Marriage Monday}

Imagine this scene with me:

(Husband comes in after work, throws his jacket and briefcase on the sofa.)
HUSBAND: You won’t believe what happened today, honey. So-and-so walked into my office and accused me of losing those books I was using to study from last week.
WIFE: Well, did you lose them?
HUSBAND: (defensive) No, I didn’t lose them.
WIFE: Then where are they?
HUSBAND: How should I know? I put them back in the church library.
WIFE: Are you sure? You know how forgetful you are.
HUSBAND: I’m leaving. I can’t even get any respect in my own home. (storms out)

This wife chose the wrong team. By aligning herself with her husband’s accuser, she immediately created a rift in her marriage. Now it’s Team Wife v. Team Husband in the same household, and that doesn’t bode well for anyone.

“However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him,  venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.]”

Ephesians 5:33 Amplified
I’ll admit, there are days when just reading that verse makes my toes curl up in my shoes. But Paul’s words here are a description of what it means to be on the same team, not in opposition against one another, not competing with or battling our spouse for power or control or even for the right to be right. One of our longest arguments started over whether a pound of liquid weighs the same amount as a pound of solid matter. We both wanted to be right. But as soon as we got in strife over it, we were both wrong.

Let’s make sure we’re on the right team … I’m on Team Pratt.  One unit, together, through thick and thin, good and bad, not berating one another, but building each other up. Offering acceptance, approval, and unconditional love, a safe place to land after a hard day

Mismatched or Mismanaged? {Marriage Monday}

The implosion of a marriage is a painful thing to witness.

A ministry couple we’ve known for years, people who genuinely loved God (I believe), have simply fallen apart before our eyes. One day everything seemed fine (to the outside observer) and the next day they were living in two different homes and are, apparently, on the fast-track for divorce.

It also happened a year ago with another couple, personal friends of ours in ministry. I wept for them, ached for both of them as their relationship ruptured, rumors spread and reputations were damaged. The dissolution of a marriage is painful for everyone involved – children, friends, church, family, coworkers, neighbors.

Adultery was exposed in another marriage within the same time frame. And it wasn’t the first time. Part of me (flesh) just wanted to channel my South Philadelphia roots and hire a hit man to administer suitable punishment to the offending party. I was mad. The wife however, was far more spiritual than I, choosing to stay and make it work through forgiveness, through wise counsel, and a lot of work. When we stand before Jesus in heaven I know there will be a huge jewel in the crown she lays at His feet…

When you don’t know the people involved, it’s easy to judge. It’s easy to point fingers and say, “someone is always at fault, it doesn’t just happen” but when you are friends with both parties, suddenly things are a little more complicated. It’s also easy to fall back on some of the classic Christian cop-outs like, “We weren’t even saved when we got married.” Or, “We must have missed God. He didn’t mean for us to be together.”  Or even, “We were so young and in Bible College where everyone was getting married.” Hmm.

If you’ve been married for any length of time, you’ve probably wondered at least once (in a moment of distress) if you “missed God” when you married your spouse. (If not, hats off to you!) What if you’d married so-and-so? What if you hadn’t married at all? I think the enemy (and the world) likes to get us dwelling in the land of “what if.” If the devil can convince us that our marriage is a “mismatch,” we lose hope and quit putting forth effort when the road gets rough for some reason.

Frequently, however, what looks like a mismatch is often a case of marital mismanagement. In the same way a corporation can be mismanaged, so can a marriage. Failure to communicate, or even just a struggle with poor communication skills; lousy leadership skills; misunderstanding of motives and needs; or misplaced expectations on either (or both) sides that lead to disappointment and disillusionment.

Here’s the good news: mismanagement can be corrected, if both parties are willing to cooperate. Before you yield (or let someone you’re ministering to) yield to the “mismatched” theory, consider the possibility that mismanagement on one, or both, sides is the problem, and that can be fixed!

My Guest Post at Centsable Girls

Today I’m with Kristen over at Centsable Girls blogging on From Processed Food and Public School to Homesteading and Homeschooling. Kristen and her husband were students at a small bible college where my husband and I were on faculty and part of the administration. We really loved them. So much so, we did their marriage counseling.  HA! They are now youth pastors in New York with their sweet little boy and are doing great ministry, and working to live a “centsable life” on their small budget. And she’s blogging along the way! So it’s my privilege to be asked to be a small part of her great blog!

This post is less about our ministry life and little more about our personal life and story. Here’s an excerpt:

Our life as ministers has required that we live on a very strict budget. I used to think the way to stick to this budget was with budget groceries. Things like boxed meals, snack mixes, and canned foods.

6 years ago I woke up one morning and my eyes were burning. I’m not talking Ben Stein-esque, “Dry…red eyes…” I mean, they were burning. Like someone had stuck a hot poker on my face. I looked in the mirror and my face was covered in the reddest, ugliest hives I have ever seen.

One day we were sitting at the dinner table and my daughter started telling a story about school. At some point in the story she said, “the counselor’s been telling me…” My red flag flew straight to the top of the warning flag pole. Why was she in the elementary school counselor’s office? What happened to get her there? How many times had she been there? WHAT was this counselor saying to my child? And WHY HAD I NOT BEEN INFORMED??? Turns out our daughter was one of several girls, “it” had happened many months before this dinner convo, and the counselor had been called in on the initial handling of the “issue” and then had consistently checked in with the girls since. But not once, not ever, had anyone from the school bothered to inform us.

And thus began a journey…

Click here to read the full story.

In the meantime, have a great weekend of ministry!

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