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To the Women in Ministry

Occasionally I will jump on Twitter for a few minutes to see the latest controversy that the world is upset about. I regret it almost every time. Today was particularly personal, though, when one of the top tweets I read said “I submit that a woman who claims to be a pastor is (theologically) just as bad as a sex offender who is hired as a pastor.”

Ouch.

I did not link to this Tweet because I don’t want to give it any more airtime than it already has had. (And I did notice that the author of that tweet blocked me, which I am quite proud of actually)

Then I almost accidentally clicked over and found another similar tone: “Is there any vocation more important than that of a pastor? Churches with females who claim that office essentially have no pastoral leadership. Their congregants walk the earth as sheep (or goats as the case may be) without a shepherd.” (Also not linked for the same reason).

Let me back up a little. I was raised as a pastor’s daughter, but in a denomination that did NOT allow women to be ordained or to teach men in any capacity. At age 15 I went to a winter camp with my Christian school, and for the first time ever saw a young woman leading worship. Something ignited in my soul. I knew that I knew that I knew God was calling me into ministry. The speaker, during one altar call, reached through the entire crowd, pulled me to the very front and prophesied over me that I would be in ministry, preaching and teaching. I had never heard of such a thing before. Tears fell from my face as I knew in my spirit that this was what God had for my life.

About a year later, my family moved about 700 miles away. I had no friends at my new school, but my first week there, two Sophomores at my high school invited me to their youth group. I walked in that night for the first time, and the youth pastor shook my hand and said “you have the calling of God on your life.” He invited me to preach for the very first time a few months later. Trembling, I spoke for 30 minutes to my youth group about the story of Mary and Martha, and listening for the Lord’s voice. That night I went home and had a fire in my bones – I knew I was called to preach. It was confirmed over and over in the coming months and years, not just by people giving me a sweet compliment, but by people who didn’t even know me.

I went away to Bible college to pursue ministry and was suddenly surrounded by amazing women of God who were pursuing their calls in various shapes and forms – some were professors, some were worship pastors, some were associate pastors, and some even senior pastors. They gently encouraged my heart and spoke into my life. Not only that, though – I had dozens of male mentors, also pastors, who affirmed God’s calling on my life and gave me opportunities to minister.

On one particular weekend, I went on a road trip with some girls I didn’t know from another local Bible college to visit a mutual friend who was getting married. The entire flight, they grilled me on my desire to be in ministry. They told me that I had not heard from God and that I had no right to think that I could ever preach or be in pastoral ministry. They brought out their Bibles and argued their points with me until I had tears in my eyes. My heart hurt, but I continued to pursue what I knew God had called me to do.

At various points in my life, I encountered backlash. My tender heart was affected every time, even though I tried to be strong. I had people walk out of sermons because I was a woman. I had people un-friend me because our views were different. I had people threaten to leave various churches I belonged to because the pastor allowed me to speak on a Sunday morning. But honestly, the number of people who told me I was wrong was a handful compared to the hundreds of people in my life who supported me and built me up.

So when I read the Tweet today and the ensuing controversy, my heart hurt again. The difference is, now I have been doing ministry for 25 years and I know more than ever that God has called me to this. He gently reminds me “You are not doing this for them. You are doing this for me. You are not accountable to them. You are accountable to me. You are not responsible for their feelings. You are responsible to me.”

Before, when I was younger, I would have cried. I would have felt the need to fight. But now, I am older and wiser. It is not my job to convince them. It is my job to do what God has called me to do. They might never understand, but I don’t need to waste my energy on trying to convince them otherwise. I need to save my energy for what God has called me to do: to reach the lost, to minister to the brokenhearted, to serve those in need, to mentor younger leaders, to serve the church, to preach and to teach.

I don’t cry for me anymore. I cry for the younger women leaders who will be so affected by these statements that they will want to quit. My heart will break for those girls who decide to give up because it’s just to hard dealing with these types of people. And if you are one of these girls, please know that me and thousands of other women in ministry are still cheering you on. You don’t need the naysayers. You need us. We see God’s call on your life, we see you running the race, and we will stand next to you to support you.

We won’t give up on you. We won’t try to convince you that you’re wrong. Don’t waste any of your time or energy on those who will try to strip you of your calling. Turn that passion back into ministry. You don’t need to go kick any doors down. Walk through the open doors that God has put right in front of you. Don’t worry about them. Worry about HIM – what He thinks of you. He thinks you are worth using. He doesn’t disqualify you. He sees the people that you can reach and not them. You are going to teach and to preach and help and serve because that’s what Jesus did, and you are following His example.

To the women in ministry, we have your back.

Helping Kids With Anxiety

Imagine with me for a moment how you would feel if every day you woke up and didn’t know what was going to happen that day: someone else was in charge of your schedule and wouldn’t tell you where you were going until ten minutes before. You had no choice – you had to get ready to go wherever they told you. You had to put on clothes and shoes quickly, have a good attitude, and get in the car, even if you didn’t want to go where you were told.

At various times through my young kids’ lives, they’ve struggled with anxiety and fear about where we were taking them and what we were going to do that day. Some kids are “go with the flow” kids, who can easily jump in the car and be excited about where they are heading. I didn’t produce children like that. My kids were always asking questions, always wanted to know where we were going and how long we would be there, and often fought with us about it.

When my sons were younger, we had Disneyland passes for a year. They were 2 and 4 years old at the time. My two year old sat in the stroller and enjoyed going on some of the rides. My four year old, however, was terrified of Disneyland. He cried throughout the day. He didn’t want to go on any ride unless it was outside and he could see what was going on, and it couldn’t go fast. That left about three rides we could go on. It was never as fun as we hoped it would be for him.

One day I decided to take him to Disneyland by himself; a “mommy and son” date! I was so excited for this one-on-one time with him. The entire time we were there, though, he didn’t want to be there. He held on to me tightly. Disneyland overwhelmed him. I remember waiting for the parade and he just laid his head on my lap, wanting to go home. I felt so badly for him, my eyes filled with tears. Why couldn’t my sweet boy just enjoy Disneyland like the other kids? Why was it so hard for him?

He’s grown so much since then, but still remains the one that resists going where we’ve planned. We know now that we need to prepare him far in advance for plans, whether we are going on vacation, he’s going to a friend’s house, or a special event. I know that it helps him if he can see pictures online and know what to expect, but even then, there are times he won’t want to go. He’s stayed home on some field trips because he didn’t want to go, and we’ve let him.

Is something wrong with him? I don’t think so. I think he just doesn’t fit the mold of many other kids. At first, I was worried about it. Now, I accept him for who he is and try to help him through it. There are times he is forced to go with us even when he doesn’t want to – like on a family vacation. But other times, we give him the choice. We find that we are all happier this way.

Someone was recently telling me about some anxiety their daughter was having about going to church. She’s only three years old. I recommended getting a small calendar for her wall and marking it with days and symbols for where they were going during the week. This would give her daughter some sense of control, knowing what to expect, and she could prepare herself. I have found this has worked well for my boys as well.

If you think about it, we all want to know that we have some sense of control over our schedules. Not knowing where we are going, when, or for how long, can cause anyone anxiety. If we are able to make simple changes, like helping our kids see what’s planned and even showing them photos of what to expect, it can often help. Accepting our children for who they are is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past thirteen years of parenting. Instead of always being frustrated that my kids weren’t like everyone else, I’ve learned to love them for how God created them and try to help them instead.

What tips do you have for your kids who may struggle with anxiety?

The Rule of Tens

Recently I was watching Marie Kondo’s special on Netflix called “The Art of Tidying Up.” My sister had warned me that if I turned it on, within a few minutes of watching it I would be feverishly emptying my kitchen drawers and getting rid of everything. It was true. Watching it was not only mildly inspiring, but almost energizing, as I not only related to the families on television who had accumulated decades of worthless stuff, but I was finally motivated enough to do something about it. My sister was right; I started with my kitchen (partially because it was the only room within watching distance of the TV).

Some people hoard shoes; some hoard clothing. I hoard papers. I have papers dating back to when I was 8 years old – journal entries I find so cute that I cannot seem to just throw them in the trash. The problem is, I tend to save every paper I have, thinking that I will need it someday. Being self-employed for so many years, I have boxes of receipts just in case I get audited someday. I have an entire bin full of heavy, old, hard-backed yearbooks because someday I may just have an urge to wade through my garage and peruse yearbooks while watching Victoria on PBS. It hasn’t happened yet, but it might!

I am getting to a point here – wading through piles of stuff, whether it’s dishes, clothing, or paperwork, can be completely overwhelming. I’ve known people who break out in anxiety attacks just trying to get through a pile. A few years ago, an idea came into my head that has helped me ever since. I call it “The Rule of Tens.”

The Rule of Tens is simply doing small tasks, ten things at a time. If I’m overwhelmed by housework and every room is a mess, I apply this rule: I will go into a room and just put away 10 things. That’s it. Then I will walk away and go into another room and do the same thing. It gives me small, measurable goals that help my brain not to be as overwhelmed.

I do it with the dishes, which to me is the worst chore in the house. I’d rather clean out the litter box than do dishes. I have traced this back to my childhood, which I won’t go into here. When I’m consumed with a pile of dishes, I’ll clean ten dishes only, and then move into the dining room or living room and put ten things away. Floating from room to room like this might drive some people crazy, but I bet it works like a charm on those with ADD (which I’m pretty sure all of us have in one degree or another).

I teach this to my kids too. For them, we don’t always just put away ten things if we are focusing on their bedrooms, for instance – but I will set the clock for ten minutes. Then we walk away and focus on another room.

Try it! It just might work for you too. Do you have a trick or tip for tackling big things?