Prioritizing Family in Ministry

Let’s face it, Ministry is often exhausting! And while it CAN be extremely fulfilling, It can also suck the life out of you, your marriage and your family.

The first thing that I’ve learned about prioritizing family and ministry is this: Prioritizing means learning to say, “No!” (Yes!, you heard me correctly.) If your family is going to be priority, there are some things that you will not be able to do. Therefore learning to say no is an essential skill to master.

Like many of you, my husband and I started out sprinting this marathon. We were always busy! For years we were the first to arrive at church and almost always the last to leave. We were there every time the doors were opened. (And I’ll tell you, those doors were opened ALOT!) Six days a week there was something that we were in charge of or required to attend. Saturday began with sunrise prayer, continued with neighborhood Kid’s Club and included worship practice and evening bible study. To top that off, for a while the church actually met in our home, so when there wasn’t “ministry” to do, we were cleaning up from a meeting or preparing for a meeting. After all that ministry, there was barely enough time to do the basic necessities like grocery shopping, cooking and laundry. And we certainly did not have time for enjoyable activities, fellowshipping with friends, neighbors or family or resting. During those years most all of our activities and conversations revolved around ministry and as you can guess, our marriage was suffering.

So here is the deal, the only way to prioritize family and full-time ministry is to learn to set boundaries! Repeat after me! “It’s ok to say No!” Now believe me, I understand that you love The Lord and want to serve Him. I also know that 20% of the people always do 80% of the work. And what I’ve come to believe even more is, there ARE people perfectly capable of doing many of these things. However, because we always volunteer or think that no one can do it as well as we can, they never get the opportunity to try. Beyond that, it’s ok to just let some things go undone.

There is a great book that someone recommended to me several years ago when I was struggling with this very thing. I have read it & listened to the audio several times over the years. I think it might be helpful for you too. in fact, I think I might revisit it again as I prepare for my next blog.

Boundaries

When to Say Yes, How to Say No

By: Henry Cloud & John Townsend

Believe me, I know that setting boundaries is not easy, but it does get easier with practice! (We’ll discuss how to do that more another day.)

So where do we go from here?

Step one:

Identify some areas of ministry where you might need to set boundaries. In order to do that, prayerfully ask yourself the following questions.

1) Am I currently involved with any aspect of ministry that I do not believe God has specifically asked me to do?

2) Am I currently involved in any part of ministry simply because someone coerced, obligated or guilted me into doing? Am I involved because others think I should be? Am I involved because others will think poorly of me if I’m not in charge or don’t participate?

3) Am I involved in anything that is sucking the life out of me, my family, or my marriage?

4) Do I enjoy something, but it is taking up way too much time and energy? Am I spread too thin?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you most likely do not have proper boundaries set to protect you, your family or marriage.

(If you answered “no” to all of the above questions…well then this blog is probably not written for you.)

Step Two:

Now make a list of the areas that came to mind when you answered yes to the above questions.

These are the areas where you need to set boundaries!

What’s next?:

Now that you have identified the areas where you need to set boundaries, next week we will look at how to actually make that happen.

Until then, may God guide you as you live Under His Shadow!

KD

Psalm 91

Do You Trust God?

The Lord said to Abraham, “Go from your people and your fathers house to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1 NIV)

If I had known the road that lie ahead, I’m not sure that I would have had the courage nor the willpower to say yes. As it is, God left out the details (after all what is important is following Him in obedience, not what we have to give up, nor walk through to do so.) In leaving out the details, He actually made it a little easier to say yes. But I assure you that following God is never easy. It seems as if He is always asking us to do something that thrusts us out of our comfort zones; something that is just beyond what we are capable of or comfortable with; something we can’t do without Him.

I don’t know where you are today, if God has asked you to Go, Stay Behind or Return, but what I do know is that God is faithful and He will never leave nor forsake you. He has a good plan and everything works together for good and for His purpose. So today- as you sit in that place where God has asked you to trust Him, you have a decision to make. Will you trust Him?

Will you trust Him when He asks you to do something difficult? Will you trust Him when He asks you to do something that no one else understands? Will you trust Him when your bank account is empty? Will you trust Him when you feel alone? Will you trust Him when life doesn’t go as you hoped or planned? Will you trust Him when He doesn’t do what you want Him to do?…when He answers “No”…when it seems impossible…when others reject you…when you feel that no one cares?

Abraham had a choice-many times God asked him to believe in faith, to follow, to trust, to obey. Like Abraham, today God continues to ask us the same question. “Will You trust Me?”

KD

A New Direction

For over 6 years my writings in this blog have been little more than me processing life, this life that I have lived safely and extravagantly Under the Shadow of God’s protective wings. Some blogs have fallen on deaf ears, others were beloved by many and still others encouraged friends walking similar roads. Sometimes I wrote often and at other times sporadic, but the goal of practicing writing has always stayed before me. Since 2012 I have practiced vulnerability by exposing glimpses of the secrets that hovered safely in my mind just out of others’ sight.

Over the years, many of you have encouraged me to write a book, and while that remains one of my life goals, I can’t imagine what it is that I could actually write about that would be “book worthy”. Then there is the little detail, that I know NOTHING about writing a book. But there are many things that God has asked me to do over the years that I knew nothing of before I started. So if and when He tells me it’s time, I suspect He will show me the way.

I was inspired recently by comments friends have made to me, that perhaps my blog could serve a higher purpose. One comment was by a young missionary, the other a new friend stateside and the other by someone who has “been in the ministry” for many years. Each story was slightly different, yet all were agonizing over the enormity of the task that God had set before them, their struggle to fill the shoes which God had call them to wear and the weight of it all.

I too find myself in a new place, wearing new & heavy shoes. For the last several months, since moving from Mexico back to Tennessee, I have struggled with identity. As I seek to figure out who I am in this new season of life, I remember the words of a dear friend who challenged me to ask a different question. She encouraged, “It is not who you are, but Whose you are that really matters!” And she is right! So much of ME has been wrapped up in being a missionary that I somehow lost sight that BEING GOD’S is all that really matters. Weather I find myself in Mexico, Honduras or East Tennessee, the only location my identity is dependent on is continuing to live Under the Shadow of HIS wings.

Like an arrow aimed at a target for the first time, I now have a direction, other than “practice writing” for this blog.

I’m not sure this blog will really change much, but rather my focus has changed. Instead of writing for me, I’ve decided to write for you. To my friend who left comforts behind to be a missionary and struggles with just wanting to throw in the towel & go home, this blog is for you. To my friend who at God’s leading used her retirement to start a new business, and just wants to hear Jesus say, “well done” this blog is for you. To those who have faithfully served the Lord through good and bad times, this blog is for you. To all my friends (new, old & yet to come) who have made the choice to follow God when all those closest to you thought you had gone crazy. You guessed it…I’m writing for you!

I know what it’s like to take the risk and follow God when no one around you understands. I know what it’s like to be afraid of failure on one hand and desperately want to quit on the other. I know what it’s like to cry out in prayer reminding God, “I am still here!” Be encouraged and know YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Ministry, and quite frankly life, can be a lonely place. So as I weave my stories, I will try my best to connect with you and remind you of God’s faithfulness. Even when you don’t understand and even when you think that He has forgotten you, He holds you as the apple of His eye. The fact that you are reading this blog is His way of gently reminding you that you are not forgotten and you are not alone.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

“…I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” – Joshua 1:5 ESV

Be encouraged today friend, The Lord has great plans for you!

KD

Comfortable Shoes

My eyes glistening wet, holding back the tears I admit, “It has taken more faith for me to return to Tennessee than it did to go to Mexico in the first place.” The Mexican village that once forced me from my comfort zone has become like a well worn shoe, or should I say, huarache (Mexican sandal). Language, customs and mannerisms which were once foreign to me, had become my norm. Now, don’t get me wrong, living in Mexico was far from easy. In fact those 16 years were filled with constant crisis management. The vicarious trauma & personal hardship that we have experienced are enough to make anyone a little overwhelmed. Stories, I could tell, but refrain…. At times it seemed like it would never end, yet today I sit in another country. One where people call me “Sweetheart” & “Honey” and then say, “Chew ain’t frum round here, are ya!?!” I must “re”tune my ears to understand their Southern draw, and then reply, “Well actually I am from here, it’s just been a while since I’ve lived here.”

What was once my normal, has now become strange and unusual. Sometimes when people speak to me, I stare blankly. I’m processing, translating & trying to understand. As I am once again stretched beyond my comfort zone, I struggle with the question, “Why am I here?” Over the years, I’ve heard many missionaries say that it was difficult for them to return to their home country. And so it is! The familiar…now unfamiliar, my identity…challenged. Who am I? Where is my place? Then unexpectedly, I heard God’s still steady voice…”America has become the mission field.” I look around, I listen, I contemplate and I know that this is true.

A lot has changed in the last 16 years! America, Tennessee, you have changed! Then again, I have changed too. His reassuring voice, comfortingly familiar, “Everything that you’ve learned the last 16 years is to prepare you for this!”

I knew coming here would bring clarity for the next step and next season. And little by little I am starting to piece together His purpose in asking me once again to take off my comfortable shoes.

KD

What comfortable shoes is God asking you to take off inorder to follow Him?

I found God in Chicago

Weary, beaten down and discouraged, I boarded a plane headed to Chicago. I wasn’t convinced that I even wanted to go. Self defeated before I even began, I was ready to quit. The good news, as God often orchestrates it, I didn’t have any other options. This was the open door of opportunity and I was walking through it.

I say I found God in Chicago. Although I had lost sight of Him, He had not lost sight of me. It’s not that I had quit looking for him, or turned my back on Him. I just couldn’t hear Him. His voice, that has often been so clear to me, now seemed silent. I prayed, read my Bible, cried, pleaded and it seemed like my prayers hit the ceiling and just ricocheted to the floor.

Last week it had become clear to me that not only had I lost me identity, but also my purpose. So much of who I am has been wrapped up in the title Missionary. Since I was 12, I wanted to be a missionary. After 16 years in Mexico we agreed with the advice of our board, to take a sabbatical. We knew in doing so that we were on the brink of a new season, yet it was unclear what that season would look like. We had some opportunities come our way and open doors that we decided to walk through, but I still couldn’t see God leading me.

For years my prayer has been, “Align my heart with Yours and let me walk in Your will.” But still I felt like I was meandering blindly with no specific destination in mind. Over the last months, I have asked God why I am here and where I am going. During this time, God has used others to encourage me. The most recent being a friend’s comment that “Often we have no idea that God is leading us and then we look back and realize He’s been there along.” Although, I knew there was truth in that statement, the knowledge had not moved from my head down to my heart. It wasn’t until the other morning when I was reminded of the donkeys that my ears were unclogged & my heart came alive with knowledge.

I love how in moments when we least expect it, God’s Word comes alive and brings clarity to our circumstances. The story is found in 1 Samuel 9, I’ll let you read the details, but it’s safe to say that someone else was going through the motions of life & had absolutely no idea that God had orchestrated the whole scene: The Donkeys, The Servant, The Trip, The Seer, The Anointing, The King. And in that moment, I knew I had found God in Chicago.

I don’t know your story, where you are, your struggles & inner battles, but I know that our God is so big & powerful that you can’t ruin His sovereign plan. He DOES make all thing work for good, even when we think we’re just out trying to find the donkeys.

Not Guilty

I really can not, and do not want to live life feeling guilty. Does anyone really want that?!? I know that God has brought us to this place, it’s ok that we are here, in fact, it is part of His plan. So I decided to spend some time alone with God in prayer and fight this battle of guilt.

It’s amazing how therapeutic prayer can be! Spending time alone with The Almighty: praying and listening, as well as reading His Word always help to bring clarity. During my unhurried time with God, I pondered the Apostle Paul’s words from Philippians 4:12 & 13- “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him (Christ)who strengthens me.

Whatever season we are in we can rest assured that this too is a part of God’s big plan. He allows difficulty and struggle, times of rest, times when we know where we are headed & times when we don’t. Guilty feelings do not come from God. He convicts and leads, heals & encourages. Whatever difficulty you face, trust me God cares. He cares about you and me and if we allow Him, He will take away the guilt and set us free. After all that’s why Christ came!

KD