The Danger in Comparing

 

Our girls have always sung: all over the house, at church, in the store… it shouldn’t have surprised me.  I was the child who clogged through every store my mother took me.

I remember our oldest 3 girls singing VBS songs in a grocery store and getting a bit loud, I thought, to serenade a woman standing nearby.  I tried to hush them a little, but as the woman passed me to leave she leaned in close and in a low tone she said, “Just think, they might be the next Point of Grace.”

It took my breath away, the way you know God just used someone to speak important truth to you.  The truth was that they were made to sing out loud, and it wasn’t my place to muffle them. I felt a little panicked, suddenly wondering if I was equipped to teach them what they would need to know.  I started praying right then and there that God would provide by enabling me or sending whatever teachers He will, and He has done both over the years.

My husband started them singing at the camp Annual Banquet each year, and I don’t remember how they began singing at church, but nowadays they sing at no less than 20 churches or events a year.  Their harmony is beautiful.  I don’t turn on the radio at home very often because who needs that when you have live music most of the day?

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It is a joy to watch and see how each one of the children develop in their gift each year, and even the older kids notice and appreciate as their younger siblings reach new levels. Lilly is 14 now, and has been coming into her own.  She is developing her own style and writing her own music.  I’ve seen our oldest listening, shake her head in wonderment, and I’ve known that she was comparing.

“My voice isn’t anything special,” she began to believe.

She forgot about the man who said that whichever sister is singing alto is “Amazing”.

She didn’t think about the woman at church who said she knew my Angel Girl would be able to pick out the elusive harmony.

She never considered how she has been becoming the teacher her sisters all go to when they need help understanding music theory.

I encourage her, but sometimes you need to hear it from someone who isn’t ‘just Mom’.

The comparing… it chokes dreams.  It kills confidence.  Instead of trail blazing, you fall to the rear because that is where you feel more comfortable. You might even talk yourself right out of the plans God has for you, but you and I, we’ve been chosen to be the bearer of the blessing others need.

In the Old Testament, God chose Esther.  He used Esther’s humility to save an entire nation.  He used her position: as the king’s favorite she had potential sway. He used her wisdom: a young woman who respected and listened to the uncle who told her that if she refused, God would use another way and she would forfeit the plan for her life.  He used her Jewish influence–the nation of Israel fasted and prayed with her in preparation for a risk that was greater than any you and I are likely to encounter: to go to the king without an invitation, and it could have cost her life.  She gave what she had to God as an offering.  She said, “If I perish, I perish.”  She didn’t say someone else was better equipped.  She risked everything and history documents how she blazed that trail.

While my Angel Girl was counseling at camp this summer, they put her on worship team. Every chapel, she had the opportunity to lead the singing with her peers while playing the keyboard and/or singing for worship.  I was glad.  I knew it would be a good experience, and I just kept praying God would use it as He weaves together his will for her life.

Angel on Worship Team

She said she played so often that the nervousness which normally paralyzes her concentration and her hands when she plays in public had disappeared by the end of summer camps. And then there was that voice she kept hearing over the monitor… the one she didn’t recognize as belonging to any of the other singers, and then one day she realized it was her own.  “In a good way,” she smiled.

Angel at bleachers

My daughter has been given a song to sing out loud.  So have you, whether literally or figuratively.

Your abilities? They don’t belong to you, as much as society will tell you that they do and that it’s your right to do with them as you please.  No, they were given to you by God and for God.  Don’t think about what other people think. Don’t belittle your gifts.  Don’t allow your song, whatever it is, to be muffled by comparing it to the abilities He has given to others.

Don’t fall back.

Don’t forfeit the plan.

Keep your gaze on the King.  He is your compass.  Orientate your thoughts, your feelings and your feet toward Him, and Keep. Moving. Forward.

You may never know all the lives you touch, but someday you’ll catch a glimpse of yourself the way God sees you.  You’ll hear your own voice in the so called monitor and be surprised {in a good way 🙂 } and you’ll be glad you chose to sing.

 

 

 

The Best Thing We Gained at the Fair

Have you ever noticed how kids have a very accurate internal clock, like, from the get go?

We took our oldest to the county fair when she was about three and the next summer, days before the fair was going to start, she started asking me about that place with lights and food and rides? We definitely went to the fair again that year,

and the next,

and every year.  🙂

Nowadays the fair falls the weekend after youth camps end so it’s easy for all of us to anticipate.  It’s a tradition.

When our oldest kids were little, and there were just a handful of them (instead of 2 hands-full) we would buy a sheet of tickets and let them ride a few kiddie rides.  As they got older, the more mature rides cost more.  With more children, one sheet didn’t provide enough tickets to go around.  We learned to be content walking through all the exhibits, petting the animals and having a treat.  My husband loves the malted milk shakes… it’s once a year. 😉

{Farm to Table Children’s Exhibit}

 

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{Miss our goats this year!}

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{Still wearing the camp swimming arm band… and look at that adorable face!}

This year, the big kids were hankering to do some rides and I promised them we’d save up for them to buy an arm band to do unlimited rides.  Tuesday of this week was that day.  However, rather than simply purchase the arm bands and send them off to get hot, dizzy and tired, we gave them the $20 we’d saved for each one of our flock.  We told them that they could pay for the arm bands themselves, or…  they could spend it (or save it) on whatever they pleased.

Somehow, with the $20 they gained in their hands, fair rides didn’t sound so appealing to them anymore. They suddenly appreciated the effort that it would take for them to earn that money back themselves.  Somebody mentioned having money for Christmas presents.

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No one went on rides.  When dad bought his malt, they bought their own ice cream (while mom *cringe* said nothing about all the sugar) and they enjoyed eating them together.  Dad got to taste every flavor because dads are good at sweet talking a taste.

We took in the exhibits.  We petted the animals.  C2 won a frisbee from The Pulse Radio. We won a $10 gift card for Cub Foods.

Yes, we brought home a lot of extra stuff, but the best thing we gained was the reminder that God is a Good Father when we lost. a. child!

Yes! Standing in a crowd with other people, holding tickets as the union for the grocery stores had a big drawing, Ella had a winning #.  She claimed her prize.  The giveaway ended, and as we started to walk away from the booth, I did what I always do:  I counted heads.

“5, 6, 7…” someone was missing.  I have had kids coming and going from camp all summer.  Every week we’ve had a different number at home, so the counting thing has been a little strange.  This is the first week we’ve had all the kids home since the beginning of June.

I re-counted with names and I panicked.  C2 is 4, and I didn’t see his little buzzed head or tye dye shirt.  We had been standing there, all together, the whole time!  How did he slip away?  Where could he have gone?

It’s amazing the clarity with which one can remember the details of a beloved in a moment of bereavement.  His big, tender eyes, full of wide wonderment filled my mind as I hollered his name and scanned the crowd.

I prayed.

While hubby turned the whole crew around, I spoke with the man at the grocery booth, and he said someone had taken a child to the fair office –{he pointed}– >>> that way.

We found him with an older couple, sitting in front of the information booth, and quietly crying as hard as he could.  He was hugging 2 stuffed animals from someone’s game booth.  When he saw us he flung himself into Dad’s arms and held on for dear life, and I silently praised God for keeping him safe.  As we walked away, the older couple who had cared for him said to him,

“Now, remember, your parents will always come for you.”

It was all I could do to restrain myself from snatching him up.  I let my husband hold on to him, but my arms ached to hold him, and I know that is how God feels about every son and daughter who wanders away from the safety of His will.  I can picture Him at the ready, even watching us as we consider stepping away; how he wants to snatch us from danger, but allows us to choose our own footing.

He’s the Good Father.

You’re never really a lost child when you belong to the King.  You can be rebellious, and you can suffer the consequences, but your Father knows where you are.  He has his eye on you and He’s listening for your repentant cry.  When you’re ready to find your way home, He will always come for you.

Always.

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountain and go in search of the one that is lost?  And if it turns out that he finds it, I assure you and most solemnly say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost.  So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14 (emphasis mine)

Always.

 

Our Body of Christ, Wearing the Mark of True Christians

Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord…  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. ” Romans 12:9-11, 13

I love our church body.  We began attending Pointway Church in Baxter almost 4 years ago.  The first Sunday we attended I felt like I had come home.  There was never any question… this is the church assembly God was drawing us to serve alongside.  The messages are Biblically solid, the worship is heart felt, and the leadership is diligent in seeking God’s direction for our congregation, but what is it that keeps a family together?

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Love… when the heart strings are wrapped around one another with genuine commitment, when they strive to “outdo one another in showing honor” (not just that fuzzy feeling you get for someone you like, but the kind of concern that gets involved to meet another person’s needs), people are tied to one another.

Our family has been serving in camp ministry for 18 years.  Our oldest daughter Angel was 10 months old when we pulled in to our camp internship at Camp Forest Springs in Westboro, Wisconsin.  Camp ministry is a service oriented career.  Who gets to serve God and others while earning a living?  This is a great gig, but the hours are long.  The summers are not your own.  You work when other people are off and you’re off when other people are busy.  Families sacrifice for the camp professional to serve.  Camp wives are referred to as Camp “Widows” in the summer.  Not many people can relate.  Sometimes it’s lonely, but it is also very rewarding.

We’ve served at 3 camps and attended several churches over the past 18 years.  Our family travels a lot of Sundays, February through June, sharing camp’s ministry with supporting churches.  It’s great to have the privilege of connecting with so many church families and sharing in their joys and triumphs from year to year.  But when we’re on the road, we’re not at our home church.  We miss out on the common experiences.  And summers, Sundays are the first day of camps.  Staff leave church as soon as it ends, hopefully getting a good meal and getting to work to welcome campers to what we hope will be a life changing week of spiritual growth… and for many it is their introduction to a God who loves them and wants to have a relationship with them.  This is our calling. This is our resolve.

You know the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind”?  This has always been the way our relationship with our home church has felt.  When we’re there every week, we start to feel like we belong, and the rest of the time it’s, “See ya when we see ya.”

But this church body is different.  Our young adult summer staff have joined us at Pointway Sunday morning services for several years now.  Some of the teens in the congregation attend camp as campers and participate many weeks in our DIT Program (Disciples in Training).  We actually met our pastor because he stayed at camp when he first moved to our area and needed a landing pad while finding housing.  His wife was our cook the next summer.  A lot of these people get camp life.  And the heart strings?  They are tightening.

camp staff dishing up

This year our church is doing something amazing.  Instead of all the staff racing out directly after services, one of our ladies has organized members to provide a meal after church.  No dashing.  No disconnect.  The church body breaks bread together… or eats taco bar together (as in these pictures ), and fellowships.

breaking bread

There is hospitality.

There is goodness.

There is brotherly love.

I can’t tell you how full this makes my heart.  I so deeply appreciate the way this Body is showing zeal in contributing to the needs of the saints.  Our summer staff’s needs.  Our family’s needs.  My need… for fellowship, and for the need to be connected to my church family during the most demanding season of the year.  In Romans 9, Paul says these are marks of true Christians.

Pointway Church Family, thank you!!