My bags are packed. (And teetering dangerously close to my 50 pound limit.)
My visa is signed, sealed, and delivered. (And good for five years. Boom.)
And one of my children just vomited all over the place and all over the people at my Mexican send-off dinner. Par for the course. (Oh my gosh. Pray for us.)
Speaking of which. Prayer. I have had a number of y’all ask how you could be praying while I’m in West Africa over the next ten days. THANK YOU. I believe with everything within me that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Not because we’re anything awesome. Or because our prayers are anything special. But because our God is completely holy and wholly righteous. That He hears and He sees and He cares.
So, with that in mind, let’s pray y’all. Specifically…
- For hearts softened to the good news of Jesus. We’ll be working in a country that’s almost entirely Muslim and in a region where many have never heard the gospel. Pray that we would have opportunities to clearly articulate the extravagance of Christ’s love for us. Pray that it would be well-received.
- For safety. With any travel comes risk. Pray for safe travel and good health.
- For productivity as we work to build and prep an operating room– the first and only OR for many, many miles– in the small, rural village where we will be staying. THIS IS SO HUGE, you guys. Having a local operating room (coupled with, Lord-willing, a local surgeon) would save countless lives. Near and dear to my heart is the fact that it would prevent so many maternal deaths- and, consequently, so many orphans- through the availability of C-sections.
- For wisdom as we see and treat patients in the clinic. I, for one, feel overwhelmed at the thought of providing medical care with so few drugs and treatments even available to offer patients.
- That we, as a short-term medical missions team, would be quick to listen and slow to speak. That we would show utmost respect to the culture in which we will be living and working. That, while we may arrive feeling like we have so much knowledge to impart, that we would first and foremost come as learners, recognizing that the local villagers were there first and will be there long after we leave.
- That we would be a source of encouragement to the local church and missionaries there. That they would be refreshed and encouraged by our presence.
- For team unity. Because, let’s face it- we’re all still practically strangers at this stage in the game. Pray that God would bind us together quickly as a team and that we would work as one body. That we would “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
- For the families we leave behind for the week and a half. For husbands, wives, and children whose routines are going to be thrown off. If you think of it, I would love prayers specifically for Elizabeth, as separation can be very, very hard for her little heart. We’re already seeing some of this manifesting itself in recent days- just pray that “the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) would be so near and that she would trust that I’m coming back to her.
I am just so grateful for your prayers. You have no idea.
And I’m off.
(But, first, to get my kid to stop puking. Because motherhood.)
This past weekend, we hit the road for Baltimore for a much-anticipated, long-overdue visit with sweet friends from our old small group. I am under the firm conviction that we all need people with whom we can pick up exactly where we left off, no matter the distance or time lapsed since the last visit. They are those kind of people. And it was lovely.
They are lovely. Their city is lovely. Our five collective kids were rockstars as they skipped naps/snacks/bathroom breaks while their oblivious parents caught up on life. Lovely.
The trip back home, however. Well. Suffice it to say that this suburbanite right here isn’t accustomed to DC traffic. Raleigh traffic is obnoxious, but DC traffic makes me want to straight-up sin. And massive trucks overturning DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF US on Interstate 85 just, I don’t know, makes me want to run for the hills of Amish country.
That actually happened yesterday, BTW. A giant truck just toppled over, mere feet away from us. While we watched. And gasped. No big deal.
Now. This would be a good time to confess that witnessing a medical emergency out in everyday life is one of my biggest fears. Being the lone medical professional on the scene of a major accident scares the junk out of me. I’m all about saving lives in the predictable and safe confines of clinics and hospitals, but performing CPR mid-bite at Chipotle? A small bit more frightening. I’m not sure what this says about me aside from the fact that it’s a darn good thing I’m not an EMT. Or firefighter. Or ER nurse. Or SO MANY OTHER THINGS.
Anyway, the truck flipped. We stopped. And, I ran. Actually I ran AFTER pausing and asking Matt some semi-rhetorical questions that went something like, “Uh, I should go, right? I mean. I’m a nurse. And there’s a wrong-side-up truck. And I probably should go help.” However, before I could even get to the truck, I was met by another faster-than-me responder who assured me that the driver was fine. Within seconds, he had been pulled from the wreckage and was miraculously okay.
It was stunning, really. Stunning that he was unharmed, yes. But you know what was just as beautiful? Watching dozens of commuters and road-trippers drop everything to help one stranger. Seeing people rush to the wreckage.
Some ran with Bibles and prayed. Others ran with armloads of blankets and snacks. Still others ran empty-handed as if to say, “I don’t have much to offer except myself.”
A whole swarm of road-weary travelers willing to do what it took to help another fellow traveler.
I just can’t shake this image because isn’t this exactly how we, as the church, should be characterized?
When we see wreckage, are we rushing to it? Or are we more apt to hide behind words like, “I’ll pray about it”? When we cross paths with the hurting or the oppressed, do we spend more time talking about, journaling about, reading about our personal “calling” in life? Or do we just sprint to the scene? Are we more interested in serving others on our terms? Are we waiting for a nice, controlled environment? Or are we people who are ready and willing to drop our flippin’ burrito at a moment’s notice so that we can be His hands and His feet. To be His body.
Church, there’s wreckage all around us. It’s everywhere. And, sure, there’s a time and place for praying about it and seeking counsel and considering our callings. Absolutely. But sometimes, we simply need to get a move on. We need to rush to the scene and sprint to the hurting. Some of us should be running with our Bibles and our prayers. Some of us should be running with arms overflowing with food and blankets. And, y’all, some of us should just start running empty-handed. Because sometimes the words, “I love you, and I’m here,” are the best balm of all.
Church, may we we be characterized not as people who simply hang out in the safety of pews and Bible studies but as a people who sprint to the hurting and who rush to the wreckage. May we be people far more concerned about meeting the needs of others outside of the church walls than having our own felt-needs met within.
Let’s live as people who are sent. Let’s be the first responders. Because there are some things we need to pause and pray about, but I’m pretty sure that showing up and loving others don’t fall into that column.
Last night, I was sitting around a table with several leaders from my church. We had met to think through our upcoming women’s Gathering. To brainstorm. To plan. And to offer some guidance, insight, and wisdom into the talk that will be given.
Hold up. Let me rephrase. THEY were speaking into the talk that I will be giving. At a women’s event. On identity. WHAT.
Now, can I just be frank for a sec? Receiving criticism and critique is not exactly my forte. Because, hello, I’VE GOT THIS, remember? I can do all of the things on my own, and I don’t need your help, thankyouverymuch.
Except not. God has for-real humbled me over the past few years and has graciously reminded me that I need help. I need people speaking into my life and my attitude and my words. Because, although I want to pretend that I am God’s equal- that I am omniscient and omnipotent and omni-everything- I’m not. I need people. And I need HIM.
And so, there I was. At the table. My words out in front of people who actually DO this. Who write and preach and talk. Seminary people. Who know their stuff. And you know what? SURPRISE. Their feedback was actually so very helpful. Vital, even.
I jotted down a lot of notes at that table last night. I’ve reworked and I’ve revised. And you know the one comment that keeps coming back to me? That I can’t get out of my mind?
“You’re starting the whole thing by discrediting yourself. Don’t discredit yourself.“
She was referring to my intro. The words I had written- the words that I had planned to speak- that voiced my fears and hesitancies and inadequacies as a communicator.
Y’all. I was launching into a talk about God as Creator by completely discrediting the unique way in which He has created me. In my effort to come across as humble and approachable and honest, I had minimized the gifts and passions He sovereignly appointed to me.
Talk about humbling.
But, as this comment has bounced around in my brain over the past day, it has become so apparent to me how often we all do this. Particularly women. I see this exact scenario play out all.the.time:
God calls Suzy to X, Y, or Z.
Suzy says, “Yes, but. But I’m not good enough. Smart enough. Eloquent enough. Strong enough.”
God says, “I know. But I Am.”
Suzy goes on to do X, Y, or Z. Suzy keeps reminding everyone around her that she’s not good enough. Smart enough. Eloquent enough. Strong enough. Suzy spends a lot of time and effort highlighting her insufficiencies.
Suzy does X, Y, and Z well. Suzy may even do an excellent job pointing to God and HIS sufficiency. HIS strength. But has Suzy really lived out her God-given giftings and abilities with confidence?
Doesn’t sound like it, does it?
Ladies. Let’s continue to walk humbly. And sure, let’s acknowledge our shortcomings and insufficiencies because it’s from there that we can point right back to His sufficiency. And that’s a beautiful thing.
But, y’all, we can’t stop there. Let’s actually DO that thing He’s called us to do. And let’s do it really stinkin well. Let’s drop the self-deprecation and proceed onward with boldness and confidence, believing that this is why we’re here. To do HIS work. To point right back to Him.
Here’s the deal. God has given all of us gifts. Talents. Abilities. Passions. Not one of us is excluded. We are all gifted.
Humility is not the act of sweeping our gifts and talents under the rug. Humility is ACTING in those very gifts and and talents and abilities, while acknowledging God as the giver of all good things. So, when we discredit ourselves and diminish our God-given abilities, I fear we may be stealing some of God’s glory.
Ladies, own your gifts. Use them. Boldly. Unabashedly. Not because you’re anything particularly awesome or fabulous. But because HE is.
A few days ago a friend sent me a text. She had seen me promoting a new women’s event at our church and had heard that I was actually VERY EXCITED about the whole thing. “Really proud of you… considering all your hang ups with women’s ministry stuff!” she said.
Let’s pause for just a sec. I married a guy who became a pastor. Like, at a church. Which means I’m a pastor’s wife. A pastor’s wife who has “hang ups with women’s ministry stuff.” Special.
Special but true. Pastor’s wife or not, I have been known to feel a bit… antsy… about large gatherings of women at church. As someone who was practically birthed into a pew, it all felt very odd to me. “I should feel comfortable in the church! Church has always been my second home! Why do I feel so disconnected now?”
The demands of mothering littles and navigating a new career depleted the energy needed to invest in real, deep friendships. I’d show up at church, only to see everyone else with their people. And when I was home, social media kindly informed me that everyone else was hanging out without me.
I felt duped. No one had told me that making friends as an adult could be hard. Messy. Awkward. This whole “living in community” deal we heard about all the time didn’t always come naturally. And I certainly was not prepared for these weirdly ambivalent feelings every time I stepped into a room of church-going-Jesus-loving women.
What?? Who even was I?
I really wanted to find someone to blame. Because pointing fingers at others tends to come a lot more naturally than pointing fingers at one’s own self. But, as this trend continued, that’s exactly where I landed. In the awareness that this was about me. My own ugly heart.
My jealousy. My feelings of inadequacy. That nasty habit of comparison that makes me feel like an angsty middle schooler all over again. My unceasing desire to measure up and the inevitable letdown when I don’t.
It was all colliding in the arena of women’s ministry.
God’s brought me a long way. He’s taken a girl with legit “hangups about women’s ministry stuff” and has given her a mounting sense of excitement about this very thing. About women. Women loving Jesus and loving His people and loving His Word.
Y’all, He’s done this. I have friends texting in surprise. I have a husband chuckling as I chatter on in my giddy excitement, for he knows the irony all too well.
I guess this is what I’m saying- if you feel like church stuff can be hard, you’re not alone. Maybe you feel like you’re on the fringes and just can’t get in. Or you desperately want to feel known and understood and loved, and a room full of strangers feels exceptionally daunting. Or maybe you show up at women’s events and immediately want to turn back around because everyone else already seems to have their little huddle of friends. And you’re not in it. Again. I get it.
But from one girl-with-hangups to the next, may I just offer a few quick suggestions?
1. Believe the best about others.
I know a lot of women who have been burned by the church. Who have experienced very real hurt at the hands of church people. If that’s you, I’m so sorry.
But you know what I have realized over the years? Most people have good intentions. They’re not out to get you. Or to hurt. Or exclude.
Most people in the church are doing their best. They genuinely want to be loving and inclusive and welcoming. Maybe they’re in that huddle because life is imploding for one of their people, and, for them, this is precisely what love looks like in this moment.
Maybe they’re just having a horrible day, and the fact that they’re at church at all is an act of God in itself.
Or perhaps you’re waiting around for someone else to take the initiative and to welcome you in, while it’s quite possible they’re in the exact same boat. Waiting to be welcomed. Waiting for someone else to take the initiative.
2. Take the initiative.
Stop waiting around for someone else to make the first move. Put on your big girl pants, embrace the awkwardness, and do it yourself. Chance are, the other person will be so glad you did. And if she’s not, it’s her loss. Which reminds me of my next point…
3. Don’t make me a liar, church people. For the love, DO YOUR BEST.
Be nice. Smile. Introduce yourself to people who look new. Hang out with that person sitting alone. Come on now, we’ve got this. This should be a no-brainer.
4. Deal with your own junk.
I know I’m not the only woman who feels the jealousy. Who compares. Who has felt resentment toward others. Who has taken things entirely too personally. Who has made church about ME rather than HIM.
Y’all, own up to it. And then, turn the other way. Confess, repent, and MOVE ON.
5. Keep showing up.
Even if you want to run for the hills, show up. Even if you feel like everyone else has it all together, show up. Even if you feel anonymous, like no one would even miss your absence, show up.
Because eventually, you’ll see that you’re not alone. You’ll find that women’s ministry is messy and intimidating for many. You’ll see that it can stir up all kinds of insecurities in all kinds of women. No doubt, you’ll see that no one has it all together.
Hopefully, as you keep showing up and you keep worshipping together and you keep digging into His Word in community, your view of Jesus will begin to grow larger and greater. And, as this happens, His greatness will surely begin to crowd out your insecurities and mess.
That’s the goal. That’s the real win, people.
For the church to love others really ridiculously well because we’ve been loved first.
For the insiders and the well-connected to rush to the fringes because God welcomed us into His family and spared nothing in the process.
And for every one of us to remember that, no matter how well-connected we may be or how many hangups and issues we may have, we were ALL far off when He came near. That not one of us exists outside of His grace. And, from that place and out of that understanding, we worship. Together. As one body made up of a lot of jacked-up, saved-by-grace sinners.
One final note. If you’re in the Raleigh area and are looking for a place to connect with other women… to gather together in worship and teaching and prayer… I’ve got you covered. The North Raleigh Campus of The Summit Church is launching The Gathering- a monthly coming together of women to do just that. Gather. Worship. Learn. Pray. Our inaugural Gathering is TOMORROW, Friday May 13th, at the Summit’s North Raleigh Campus. Doors open at 6:30.
If you feel well-connected, this is for you.
If you feel like you’re on the fringes and women’s ministry stuff scares the mess out of you, this is for you.
Whether you grew up in the church or are completely creeped out by churchy things, this is for you.
We’d be SO THRILLED to see you there!