Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I forgot

(Not for the faint at heart! This is a LONG one. You have to really love me to read this.)

I forgot who I was. I didn't think that could ever happen, but it did. I questioned my faith, my gifts, my passion and everyone around me. I was angry, hurt and confused. For months I listened to Jeremy tell me that our family was enough. We did not need anyone or anything else. God moved and we finally reengaged.

When I was saved at five years old, it was the real deal. My life at home was complete turmoil. But I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit in my life at a very early age. I have so many examples of how I heard Him speaking to me when I was young. My Father in Heaven, pursued me, loved me and saved me. Hallelujah! That is an amazing thing to think about!

I quit talking about my past a few years ago because I truly felt the Holy Spirit COMMANDING me to let it go. I was well into my thirties before I was able to let it go, but when I stopped telling people about the past, I stopped reliving it and the devil stopped reminding me. But my past is what created this passionate, gregarious, sensitive and emotional woman. I am grateful! I am survivor and I live every single day with joy because of it! For those of you who know my testimony/my story, you know the obstacles I had to overcome. You also know the many mistakes I made in the process. Sanctification though,  it's a beautiful thing.

Everything I do, I do out loud! That often gets me into trouble. I jump in head first for the world to see! This opens myself up to a lot of criticism, but God uses it to refine. And HE created me to live life this way. He is the one who knit me together in my beautiful Mother's womb. He gave me this passion that constantly brews inside of me. Why have I tried to hide that? Why have I tried to kill it?

The last few years I have focused on Motherhood completely. As most of you know, I am an ALL or NOTHING girl. Go big or go home! Marathon running is the perfect example of that. It was not enough to run a marathon under five hours in Austin. I had to run a marathon in Chicago with a goal of 4:30. I beat it! 4:22! It was one of the greatest days of my life. I miss it! There was nothing wrong with me running marathons. There was nothing wrong with me enjoying being healthy and fit. But it was covering up a place in me that needed to be, once again, sanctified. After beating my goal in Chicago, getting off the plane and coming home, my spirit was troubled. The Holy Spirit wanted my attention. Instead of stopping, I began to train for my third marathon in one year. My body was shot! My passion was "outside of my home" and I was literally "running" to the next big thing.

I heard someone describe me a few days after my big race. "She runs, she bakes, she homeschools, etc."  What sounded like an amazing compliment ended up changing everything. There was something this person did not say. I was deeply saddened. They didn't say, "But most of all, she is an amazing Mother. That is her passion." I loved my children and husband more than anything. The days I spent alone in an apartment as a single adult PRAYING for a family was right in front of me. But, I couldn't connect.

Leading worship began when I was twenty-one years old. I was on the worship team at a mega church in Dallas. Troy Ailkman and many other Dallas Cowboys attended this church. It was kind of a big deal! Well, I thought it was. I was also blessed to be one of the soloists. When you sang at this church, your face was all over the big screens planking over the audience of 4,000. Anywhere I went in Dallas-Fort Worth, someone would recognize me as "that girl with short hair who sings at my church".  It was crazy! It was the first time in my life I felt "popular". It fed my insecurities big time.

Not the best way to meet the longings deep inside of a young woman, but more sanctification was in the works. There were great things I learned during this time. I learned how to sing with "in ear" monitors, a professional band, teleprompters, a huge audience and I got to sing in a professional studio. It built my confidence as a young, single woman. Experience of a lifetime.

This church opened doors for me at another church. This church opened the doors for me to lead worship with someone else. This eventually led to me leading worship at small churches on my own. That lead to even more and eventually I knew how to lead a band, a team and the congregation. Once again, passion ignited.

When I led worship, I was all in. Emotionally, spiritually, relationally, everything. I took weeks to pray over song lists. I prayed over the order of songs. I prayed over interludes and what instrument to showcase. I prayed over every detail of the service. Regardless of any ego involved (something that always creeps in for anyone on stage), my heart was always ready and hungry for the Holy Spirit to move on Sunday morning. I remember training for marathons and listening to the "set list" on my ipod while I ran. Sometimes I would be running and have to stop because I had gone into full blown worship while running. Running and worship are two powerful things. Put them together and a lot happens!

Nothing was wrong with me leading worship. I have studied "Biblical womanhood" and I don't feel I was out of line or rebelling against my husband's leadership. A lot of people would disagree, but that's okay. The problem was order. My passion, my time, my energy, my HEART were all out of order. I longed to get out of the house and run. I longed to get out of the house and get to band practice. I longed to "get out" and have "me time". Mothers need time away, but the danger comes when you feel you deserve it or you are entitled to it. I felt I deserved it and if I missed a run or wasn't leading worship that week, I was not fun to live with. I was obsessed with feeding myself, my ego, my self esteem.

Many times in life, God has to sanctify our gifts and hobbies. I see a lot of people in my life who are not willing to experience sanctification. They are not willing to go through a season of confusion. So they keep on going and never quit. Their ministry, hobby or passion often becomes stagnant. Their lack of obedience stifles everything around them. I know. It happened to me. My relationships suffered, my marriage suffered, my children suffered, my BODY suffered. I have an injured hip to prove it. When I get up from this desk after typing this post, I will limp. But you know what? That limp is good. It reminds me of what the Lord has done!

This past weekend Jeremy and I were talking about some changes coming our way. We are excited, but we are on the tail end of the limbo phase. There has been some movement over the last couple of days and hopefully I will be able to share some things with you soon. As we talked, he shared some things I needed to hear. But this one stood out to me big time! "I have felt like you haven't been yourself in months. You are trying to adapt to some things that are not you. I don't know if you are trying to make me happy or others, but it's not you."  He has teased me a lot over the last five or six months. "Are you going to grow your hair out to try to cover that tattoo now? Are you going to start wearing long skirts? That's not who you are and I like your tattoo." He has also said over the last few months, "I liked it when you ran. I loved that we had that in common. It was fun training together. I miss you singing. I loved hearing you lead worship. It connected me too." (If something offends you from this paragraph, you are not hearing my heart. This is about me, not you.)

Because I go ALL or NOTHING, I often go to the extreme. I am so glad God is teaching me these things. He has been sanctifying me, trying to show me that I was born to be ME. A few months ago I jumped in, head first. Once again, Jeremy went along for the ride. He didn't know the first thing about "reformed theology". I didn't either, but coming from so much hurt via "the church", I knew we had to find something different. Once again, I started steering the ship. Jeremy often tells me that he honestly doesn't care as long as I am happy. He married me because of my personality. He actually likes it! :) But...it sometimes... allows him to be lazy and not make the "big decisions".

He was scared about having a fifth child. I really feel like God surrounded us with people who had large families and believed in giving "birth control" up to trust the Lord for family size. I shared with him things I read in a book, and shared scripture. I DID NOT force the issue. I prayed, he prayed and one day he said "I'm going to trust God with this." I was pregnant eight weeks later. It was that simple. Now that he is on board with giving our family size to the Lord, I struggle. I really feel that five children is a perfect number. Regardless, I will continue to be obedient.

Reformed Theology has opened our eyes to some incredible things theologically. We went into it as a strong family. We had spent three years out of church, but did church as a family at home. People can say what they want, but we did not suffer because we were not a part of a church body. It was the exact opposite. We found out who we were! We grew stronger! We still had fellowship, but it wasn't what it looked like for the typical Christian. If your family has never "sat out" from church for extended period of time, you will not understand. You can't. It was the most beautiful time in the history of our family. We depended on each other. There were no distractions, commitments, expectations or drama. It was just us. From the moment Jeremy and I got married, we have been full throttle in ministry. We needed the break. Since re-enagaing with the church, it has been positive. We are surrounded by caring families, all homeschoolers and people who have their priorities straight. Family is everything to them. We love that!

Whether or not you believe God chose you or you chose Him, doesn't matter to me. I was so angry with the emergent church and charismatic church that I ended up hating ALL churches. Reformed theology was perfect because it was NOTHING like where we had been in the past. Jeremy kept saying, "I don't care where we go." And if you know my husband, you know that is honestly the way he TRULY feels. But once we get somewhere and settled, he does have an opinion. He is an easy to please man. If I am happy, if the kids are happy, he is happy. When it came to Family Integrated, we figured it would be all homeschoolers. We thought that was worth trying because we had never really been around homeschoolers. Jeremy was a little worried that we were cutting ourselves off from the world. Subculture. As much as we have bitched and moaned about the "emergent" church. It is also a part of our background. (My post several months ago about reformed theology was never meant to offend. Unfortunately... it did. Please forgive me. I needed to wait to write it. It needed to simmer.)

We have a heart for people NOT LIKE US. We love meeting non-homeschool families. People are always surprised when they find out we homeschool. In many cases, God has used us when these families have decided to homeschool their children. I have three women in my life now that I have helped through the process. It has been one of the biggest blessings of my life! Those relationships never would have happened if it were not for being a part of those churches. We don't want to separate ourselves from our culture. We want to make a difference in our culture. I truly believe our family is unique in many ways and He can use us in a mighty way.

When Jeremy heard me flip out about a book I got Josiah at the Library, he was bothered. It was a children's book about Dinosaurs filled with many facts. It also contained a theory I did not agree with. Jeremy watches a ton of Discovery channel programs. He is very familiar with the worldview on dinosaurs, the Bible and creation. I told Josiah we were not going to read it. Jeremy disagreed. Jeremy read it to Josiah. Then we had a talk. He feels should not separate our children from the worldview, but teach them the creation point of view (our point of view) along with it. We tell them which one is truth. We educate them, prepare them for what the world is going to say so they can influence those around them. We have to prepare them for what they will come against. It is a part of discipling them. But, I went a little too far and radical in many ways. I've done this in many areas over the last sevearl months.

Over the last few months, we have diminished our territory. Instead of broadening it, we made it smaller. My "all or nothing" personality did exactly the thing I was trying not to do. In the process, I forgot who I was. I haven't been myself. For someone like me who takes pride in being who God wants me to be, I did the opposite. I followed. I don't believe we were out of God's will. I believe in Romans 8:28. But, I do believe God used this to teach us some things.

Something I saw last year on twitter has really been on my heart lately. "It's not always about changing locations. It's about changing perspectives."  The church was not the problem. The churches in the past were not perfect. In fact, one of them was so out of line biblically that the place could have easily been struck by lightening! It was that bad. But..if we are honest...our hearts were the problem. And God used those three years to heal us and give us rest. It worked! We are excited to be planted SOON where He wants us for good.

We need "the church", we love it. I have relationships in my life that are life long friendships because of the church. Knowing this, we have to be somewhere that fits who God has created us to be. He wants to place us where we can make this biggest impact for HIS kingdom. We have even struggled to tithe because we wanted to make sure we were PLANTED and sewing seed where He had placed us. We spent two years tithing at a church that was sending out emails weekly that the doors were about to close. We had so many financial problems during that time. We felt over and over again that God wanted us to leave, but we stayed. Commitments kept us stuck. I do believe we can be somewhere again and LOVE where we are at. I believe it is going to happen! And I believe we should be tithing where we are planted.

What does this mean for our immediate future? I don't know. I am letting Jeremy lead. Sometimes our personalities collide. He sits still, I move. He thinks and processes, I move. He takes time, I move. I have once again REPENTED from any "steering of the ship" I have done and given him the wheel. Sometimes I don't even realize I am doing it. He can't lead if I am. He won't feel the need to step up, if I am in the way.

This is not to prepare any of you for my next big marathon or worship leading gig. NONE of that is in the works. But, I am finally in the place where I am open to what God has for me. I feel like I've just come up for air! Feels good to breathe.

My purpose in writing this blog post was for those of you who have been on the front row cheering me on. You have prayed for us, cried with us and loved us. A friend this past weekend asked me something that has brought a lot of revelation over the last few days. "Do you have someone in your life you can trust? Do you have someone you can share these things with?"  Yes! I do! I have incredible friends. For the first time in my life I am so secure in those friendships. You make me better! You have stood by me during my "extreme" times. You have been my rock. God uses each and everyone of you to love me.

We haven't left our church. We haven't had any major malfunction cause us to leave. We are just in the midst of major change and the Holy Spirit is bringing things to surface for us to consider. Yep, sanctification! We have been spectators for the last few months and we have been okay with that. God can handle our doubts. In fact, we embrace them now.  Long term do we see ourselves in a family integrated church? Probably not. Reformed Theology? It depends. We are not stuck on theological issues. Pentecostal? Possible. Emergent? Don't see that happening! What? Where? No clue, but not worried.

If you made it to the end of this and did not skim (I know who skims), you heard my heart and you know God is moving in our family! Not only are we pregnant with our fifth child, but it seems we are pregnant with much more. Right now we are in labor! Looking forward to delivery! May life spring forth soon!

"I forgot" how much better life is when I am the woman He created me to be. It's peaceful.


Kelly said...

Love this! I think I texted you that I have sensed something different recently, and the best way to describe it is the feeling that you are "back". I mean that in the best way; it is as if this journey of different things has culminated in you combining the best of each experience with the traits God put in you to be your best self. You have been able to glean the positive from each situation and now are reaping the harvest of your seeking / obedience.
I hope this makes sense. You know I love you friend, and am so inspired (always) by your transparency, and your "all-in-ness". I had to laugh at several things you said, they hit very close to home, and you articluated so clearly some of the very things I have done, too. Gave me some food for thought!
So thrilled for you and all the future holds.

Reagan said...

I'm so glad you are being true to yourself and who the Lord has created you to be. I've known you through several of these transformations over these past four years, and seen the Lord do a mighty work in your life! Those of us who know you for real, know your heart, and personality. We rejoice over you and celebrate the incredible woman you are. There is no perfect church, no perfect people, only One perfect King who is redeeming and transforming us into His image. You, my friend, keep your self seated right at His feet; like Mary, you have chosen what is better.....don't EVER forget or let anyone tell you otherwise!

Brittnie said...

Excited to see where He leads (and I've really enjoyed seeing your move from emergent theology to reformed)!

God bless! Praying for you guys!

Cara said...

Love you millions.

Tiffany said...


I love to see God taking you through all of these experiences, to sharpen and strengthen you!

Whether your future calling is: Wife, Mother, Worship Leader, Runner, Speaker, Writer, etc. (and/or all the above) you have been REFINED in these callings. No longer searching for others' affirmation...but only HIS approval.

'Manda...this is exciting! Be yourself. Be free. Follow Him as He leads. ENJOY LIFE!!!!!! :)

I love you,
Tiff ;)
This is beautiful...

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, my friend! Always remember that your authenticity and willingness to go through seasons brings FREEDOM to those around you. Keep sharing the process! It has been a blessing and an honor to be on this journey together for the majority of our lives! I love you. And I love Him in you.

Christina R. said...

Thank you for allowing us to walk this journey with you. You are beautiful, inside and out!

Elizabeth said...

Thank you so much for sharing your heart! When I moved out here to Denver, it took me FOREVER to find a home church that I felt truly connected to. Seven years, in fact. I applaud you guys for not just throwing in the towel and settling somewhere just for the heck of it. I did that and was totally miserable. God will direct you to where you should be, I just know it!! I look forward to seeing where this journey takes you and your beautiful family.

And, have I mentioned how excited I am about your newest expectation?! There were five kids in my family and we had so much fun together!! Great size. But, as with everything else, God's plan/size will be perfect!!

I love you!!!! Thanks again for sharing your journey. :-)

Amey said...

love it!

Amey said...

love this!