Tag Archives: life lessons

Backup Singer, Comedic Relief and Why Dying to Oneself is So Hard

Sheet Music

I have always loved to sing.

In the most difficult times of my life, singing praise and worship songs, belting them out in my car as my cry to God,  were my lifeline.

When I didn’t feel able to praise God in spite of my circumstances with my own words, the lyrics to my favorite praise songs did that for me.

I haven’t ever taken lessons, and in junior high I was always jealous of those girls that were a part of the jazz or swing groups. The would sing and perform on stage and had such confidence.

I tried out for concert choir in high school and while I felt like I botched the audition, I made the group and I loved that time learning and singing.

When we moved to Marshall almost 4 years ago we found a church that we loved right away. I remember seeing the worship team lead and wished I could be a part of it…half hoping that someone would hear me singing and tell someone that I needed to be up on stage.

It all happened a little differently than the magical way I had dreamed of, but about a year and 1/2 ago I started singing on our worship team.

It terrified me.

I am not kidding, like all out body shaking, voice quivering, terrified.

Don’t get my wrong, I equally loved it at the same time too, but it was all I could do to not run off the stage on the Sunday’s that I helped the team.

We have some really great, strong singers on our team and as we practiced my confidence grew a little. I started learning how to hear and sing harmony on some songs (which has completely wrecked my ability to NOT sing harmony on most songs I hear on the radio) 😉 But the one thing that terrified me more than anything was the possibility of leading.

As the person leading the song, you have to know when to start, when to come in, you need to sing strong and know all the notes…you are leading and the rest of the group depends on you.

So clearly my scardy-cat self was not prepared for a job like that.

You see I joke that I was hired for background vocals and comedic relief. Now of course we are all volunteers and don’t get paid…but if we did that is what I would be paid for. I would not be paid to lead. At least not in my mind.

And then this week I was asked to lead. Sometimes leading means everyone on the team sings with you, and as the lead your mic is just turned up a little louder than the rest. Other times when you lead it means that you sing a solo for a time before others join you.

The latter option is horrifying to me. Horrifying.

And so, of course, THAT was the option for me this week.

I didn’t feel confident and the song felt to high. Do I try and sing it strong with the risk of straining my voice, or do I revert to the falsetto high voice that I need to reach those notes that are waaaay up there?

Switching between the 2 wasn’t coming smoothly. I practiced throughout the week. I listened to the notes on CCLI, and I begged God that He would impress on the team that someone else was better equipped for the job.

Clearly I struggle with a few self-confidence issues.

And here is the deal. I KNOW that I sing because God gave me a voice, and I do it for Him. But the voice in my head tells me that if I don’t have it perfect, then I will be a distraction to those trying to worship.

If I can’t sound like Natalie Grant or Kari Jobe…then I shouldn’t be leading.

Dominic told me to sing loud and proud. But as we approached the song in practice yesterday morning I just knew that I couldn’t do it. I tried and it sounded awful, there may have been a few tears too…I was so mad that the whole thing was such a struggle for me.

It is embarrassing to feel that emotional about singing a verse and a chorus by myself. Our team is amazing, and they came in early and sang the chorus with me…and one of the WT leaders talked to me before the service started.

This too is like labor. A process we must go through, and in the end there is a reward. We get to honor God with our voices – even if they aren’t perfect.

Because it isn’t about me. And yes I KNOW that…but boy the physical reactions that I feel in that situation say otherwise.

And I am not there yet. She said that this too is a process of dying to oneself. Of getting to that place where we are leading in worship, unashamed. I can’t and won’t get it perfectly. I am not Natalie Grant or Kari Job, and the people at my church don’t expect me to be.

They all give me grace but I am unwilling and unable to give it to myself.

And she also said that my perception of the situation and the reality may just not be the same. (Who knew?! 😉 )Which is unfortunately the case in so many areas of my life. If I really sounded as terrible as I felt I did, they wouldn’t have me up there.

So this is a process that I am going to have to walk through. I will be honest it would be easier to just ask to never lead a song again, or to quit. Because it is my nature to flee from things that are difficult like this.

But God doesn’t want us to run from the difficult. He calls us to walk through those things, and promises that He is with us.

I don’t know when I will get over the fear. But I know that I want to honor God with the voice that He gave me…so regardless of how I feel on the inside, I will choose to keep trying, and will trust that He will refine this area in my life as well.

What do you struggle with that God is calling you to walk through? I would love to pray over you this week!

Photo Credit: Marcin Wichary

More than anything, I want them to see You

merry go roundI am less than a week from turning 40. The BIG 4-0. And I am surprisingly ok with it all.

I wasn’t really dreading 40, I feel better about who I am and where I am, than I probably ever have. 40 isn’t something to fear or dread. It is just another year right?! And I am surrounded by some of the best family and friends a girl can have, so I am really just overwhelmed with blessings.

I have spent more years than I can count, and really that I would like to admit, worrying about trying to be the perfect person.

As far back as I can remember, I wanted what I didn’t have. I wanted the Strawberry Shortcake dolls that the girl down the street had, or the cute red Esprit jeans with the white hearts on them. (Oh how I coveted those pants and don’t even get me started on the matching heart sweater!!) Maybe it was the name brand jeans or a place on the cheerleading squad…there was always something missing.

I found myself wanting, lacking, and it wasn’t a place that I wanted to be.

So I studied hard so I would be the smart one and do something amazing with my life. Then I went off to college and couldn’t hack the career that I was certain was for me. And once again I knew that when someone looked at me, they just saw someone who was lacking.

For a perfectionist like myself, this is a terrible place to be. Because when you looked at me I wanted you to see beauty and grace and maybe the least bit of fashion sense.

But I was certain that what you saw was the opposite.

Have you ever found yourself there, on the merry-go-round of striving to be something, someone better than you feel you are? (<====Click To Tweet)

And yet it seems that no matter how hard you try, you come up short.

The past few years have been growing ones for me.

Yes I may have added a few pounds towards my waistline, ahem 😉 that comes with the aging I am told but I am not talking about that today. No, even more than that I am discovering who I am. What I love and where my passions are. I have reconnected with my love of writing and that alone has brought me so many gifts.

This refinement process hasn’t always been easy either. Dominic and I are learning how to work well with one another in our business, as we also try to manage a reasonable balance between work and home life. We have big kids, and middle kids and little kids…and raising them isn’t always a cake walk.

I yell too much, and get frustrated about little messes. I often forget to take time to count my blessings.

But despite all of that, all of my shortcomings, I am filled with the overwhelming peace that God will use it all for His glory. (<====Click to Tweet)

I have seen Him do it in my life already. How He took all the messy and the ugly parts of me and healed them and then gave me a story to share. He gave me a heart for others, for loving them and sharing the hope that is found in Him.

I don’t head into the Big 4-0 wanting you to see me and how put together I am or what a wonderful wife and mother I am.

More than anything, I hope that when you look at me you see Him.

You see a woman who loves Jesus. A woman who is admittedly a hot mess most days, but even on the worst of them can see the potential for God to use it for good.

Yes Lord, it is my prayer for year 40 and beyond…as long as you have planned for me here, that when people see me, they see You in me. Fashion or no, good hair days and bad, muffin tops and veiny legs….none of it perfect Lord, but through You I have the faith that I will be perfected for Your glory.

And that is all that matters.

Photo Credit: Great Beyond

Not What I Wanted For Today…But…

Choose Joy

I shouldn’t be surprised really, it seems it always happens this way. Life hits, harder at times, and it can feel like things are spinning out of control.

Tomorrow afternoon I am going in for a fairly simple, “routine” laproscopic procedure. It is same day, I should be home around the dinner hour…I am not worried at all. But there is a TON of things I wanted to do to prepare for a few days of me being tied to the couch as I recover.

And so, on a day when we have client deliveries and need witnesses, a day when Dominic won’t be able to answer the phone, or prepare for the things coming up while I’m out…our youngest boy is sick and I am at home.

It is moments like this that I can get so frustrated. Why does this have to be happening now?

But what good does that type of attitude do me?

Yes it is inconvenient, yes it is frustrating…but it isn’t the end of the world.

While my natural response may be one of anger and pity, I can choose to have a different response.

This morning I spent a few brief moments circling my family in prayer. Praying over our meetings for the day, for the health of our family, my upcoming surgery and the big choices that face Isaac in regards to college etc.

What an honor it is to pray for my family.

While I do bring my requests to God, I also bring my thanks even when life isn’t perfect.

I am thankful for each member of my family.

I am thankful for all of the blessings that God lavishes on us.

We don’t worry about food, or heat, or how we will get to and from where we need to go.

We are spoiled really, and while a day like I hadn’t intended isn’t my plan, I can still be grateful.

But gratitude is a choice.

Each and every day I must make the choice to choose joy, in ALL things. (<==== Click to Tweet)

Yes it may be work, it may go against the grain of what my natural response might be. But my hope is that when I make that choice over and over again, it might become the natural response I have to any kind of situation.

My prayer for you today friends is that regardless of what you are facing, that you might make the choice to choose joy. Choosing right along with you this morning!

When Anger is My Expected Response

Last week I shared a little bit about my struggle with anger. Of course when I open up and share the ugly and my hopes to overcome the struggle…I have to anticipate that I will be given plenty of opportunities to “practice” a different response.

Anger

This past week I have had some failures and some successes. For a bit of light today, I want to share a success and why it was a reminder once again that my attitude and response to my kids can make such an impact.

On Wednesday last week, Dominic and I took Isaac back up to SDSU for a college visit. Becky (Dominic’s mom) was in Marshall and picked up the kids from school for us because we weren’t going to be back in time.

Usually the after-school pick up is the time that I have with just me and Gabriel to ask how his day was. Depending on the day he usually has a good, or a bad point to share. 🙂 It is less than 10 minutes really that we have together, but it has become an important time for both of us.

We got home from the college visit right before it was time for Gabriel to go to Awana. So he and I jumped in the car and drove the 15 miles to our church.

I took the time to ask Gabriel about his day and he paused, sighed really big, and said that he just had to tell me the truth about something. He seemed stressed, so I told him to please go ahead.

He said that he lost his folder. His main folder that holds his homework, contains his reading log…it is kind of a big deal. He was unable to participate in math class because he didn’t have his homework…and he feared telling me because he anticipated that I would be angry.

You see when anger is my first response, I teach my kids that anger should be the expected response. (<====Click to Tweet)

When Gabriel told me about his folder, I honestly wasn’t angry about it…but he was afraid that I was going to be. He said that he didn’t want to tell me, but he remembered once when I told him that I would rather know the truth and deal with a situation right away, then not be told the truth.

I said that I was sorry he had lost it, that it had caused stress during his afternoon. I asked if he wanted to pray about it and he did. We prayed over his finding his folder. We prayed a prayer of thanks that God forgives, and I reminded him that we all make mistakes. I said that he could learn from this and work a little harder about checking to make sure he had everything he needed when he left his classroom.

After it was all said and done he thanked me.

It honestly broke my heart, but he thanked me for being comforting and not getting angry.

You see he has experienced me being angry at him enough, that when my response is one of compassion, he thanked me.

It was a reminder why this journey is such an important one.

I want my automatic response to be one of compassion, not anger. (<====Click to Tweet)

Yes we will all make mistakes, and while there are consequences, my attitude doesn’t have to make the consequence worse.

Such a stronger reminder to me that my response can have such an impact.

And the next day Gabriel found his folder in his block 2 class. Praise God.

Lord, I thank you for giving me opportunities to “practice” at being a better responder. My prayer is that my response will not be one of anger, but of compassion and patience. May my life be a reflection of all the patience and compassion that You have shown to me. In Jesus Name, Amen

Finding Beauty in the Abandoned Dream

Abandoned Home

In late July my family and I took a road trip out to the Black Hills of South Dakota. As we were driving I noticed several abandoned homes scattered throughout the landscape.

High on a hill the house stood, windows broken, door weathered. The once straight roof was wavy with time and wear. Gaps between the boards in the walls were visible. Clearly this place had been long since abandoned.

And I couldn’t help but wonder who had graced the spaces of that home?

A newly married husband and wife, seeking to start a new adventure on the plains? Did children run in the adjacent fields? Young men eager to farm the land and provide for their families?

Dreams start that way don’t they?

We feel the trill of a new start, we anticipate all of the positives and try not to focus on any of the negatives. We push forward in faith, maybe with a little fear, but filled with hope and the promise of what’s to come.

And if we are lucky all those hopes, those dreams and ideas are fulfilled. But it doesn’t always end that way does it?

I am sharing more over at the God-sized Dreams website – will you come and join me there?!

Shared by: Kristin Smith

Photo Credit: sub35089  (If using sunset pic it is Kadek Susanto)Ka

Saying Goodbye

Birch Tree 2

I have always said that I believe that God brought us to this house.

During the transition time that Dominic was living in MN and we were still back in SD, we made several trips to Marshall to look at homes. Our Realtor (and now neighbor) 🙂 was patient with us and showed us a bunch of homes.

We weren’t sure when we were going to be moving so it was hard. We would see and fall in love with a home and then it would be sold. This went on for 5 months. We finally came to a point that we knew we needed to take that leap of faith and put our SD home on the market and just see what would happen.

It sold in 4 days after 1 showing with a 45 day closing time.

Oh and I we had just had a new baby a few months before. It was a crazy time. And we needed to find a home fast.

I saw a house online that I loved and sent Dominic on a late night, last minute trip to see it. It already had an offer on it but there was a possibility to make a counter offer. While he was there Molly asked if she could show him 1 more house.

A home that had been on the market for a long time, and the sellers were motivated. So Dominic went to see it and I remember the call he made me that night on his way back to his rental. He just knew it was “the” one.

He was giddy and I was too, we made an appointment to go and see it as a family that following Saturday. My parents came along and we even looked at a couple other houses. But we knew that house was the house God put in our path.

I sometimes forget, but really we are all so grateful for the gift that house has been to our family. We don’t deserve it and yet we recognize the blessing it is for us.

One of the first things that I fell in love with when we drove down the drive was the beautiful birch tree in the front yard.

In the mornings when I would get up and have my quiet time I would sit in the front living room and the birch was my view. It has inspired a couple of different blog posts, most recently where I wrote about how God was peeling away some of those layers that had been holding me in bondage.

Birch 4

That tree and I have a history in just 3 short years. It has been a powerful and beautiful representation of God’s work in my life.

We had a tough and very cold winter last year. We started noticing that a large part of that old birch wasn’t healthy. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. But a few days ago our neighbor had a tree service company over and we stopped to talk to him.

Brian and his wife attend our church and we knew if anyone would be helping us with our tree issues, it would be them.

Birch Tree 6

He was over again today and confirmed that our tree was at least 2/3 dead. He could take down 2 of the 3 main trunks, but the reality was it wasn’t going to get better and we would likely just have to call him back out again next year.

So at lunch today we made the decision to have that tree removed.

I cried a little on the inside.

I know, I know it is just a tree, but it has been a part of our family the entire time we have been here. It is hard to make changes some times isn’t it?

I ran outside and took a bunch of pictures. I am just a little sad that it was so grey and dreary for her last photos, but I knew the front landscape of our home would drastically change and I wanted to document it.

Birch Tree 1

And so we went back to work and when I got Gabriel from school we came home to this….

Birch Tree 5

Amazing difference isn’t it?

I do like how you can see the entire home now, but I am going to miss my early morning views…

Birch Tree 4

Now all that remains is this stump. We decided not to remove it at this point (I didn’t want to deal with the large landscaping issue we would have with a hole there right now) so for now this will be our reminder.

Our views will constantly be changing. I am coming to appreciate the changes even when I don’t like it. I am hoping that I am able to see the view in a new light…different but not bad, and a new opportunity to see in a way I haven’t before.

I am grateful that an old, dying birch tree can continue to teach me so much about life. May I always be seeking to recognize the beauty that is around me.

Choosing Joy – How One Man Holding a Sign Can Make a Difference

Sale Sign

A local furniture store has been advertising a HUGE, EVERYTHING MUST GO, SALE OF THE CENTURY, kind of sale since before Memorial Day weekend. They have big banners in the window and a fleet of 3 cars with big signs attached to the tops of them, that people drive in a caravan around town all day long.

And then there is Paul.

Paul is a young man, I would guess in his 20’s, who stands in front of the store with another sign that advertises the sale.

Every day on our way to and from work, we see Paul. And he is dancing and shaking his hips, and waving as people drive by.

He is a young man, holding a sign for his job. All day long, six days a week, he is out on the sidewalk holding his sign.

And Paul exudes JOY.

It has been HOT and then wet and rainy, stormy and windy all wrapped in one.

And yet, Paul is there waving and dancing and reminding me that we can find joy if we choose to in ANY circumstance.

I think of how often I come to my nice comfortable work space, a job that provides financially for our family, and I am unappreciative of the work I “have” to do and I forget that I “get” to work in the comfort of air conditioning, with chocolates and nice people.

I stop choosing joy and allow the stress to overwhelm me.

Yesterday I was driving by and saw him there again and felt very strongly that God was telling me I needed to stop.

But that is ridiculous, and creepy right?

And I stopped to get gas and asked God to tell me out loud if He really wanted me to stop and meet this man with the sign. (Let me just say that God doesn’t give into my demands…He lets the Holy Spirit do some heart work on me instead)

My heart was pounding and so I drove back to where he was. Except there were 2 cars blocking the driveway entrances…so I had no place to stop. (Excuses I know!)

But I felt like this was something I was supposed to do. So I voxed my closest prayer partners and told them this crazy story…so that I would be held accountable.

And then today at lunch Dominic mentioned the man with the sign and I told him that I felt like we needed to go and stop.

And after lunch we did just that.

We brought him a cold soda, a baggie of chocolates (which maybe wasn’t the smartest idea because it was super hot out) and a Choose Joy card with a $20 “tip”.

I asked him his name – it’s Paul if you hadn’t caught that before.

And I told him that we see him every day, dancing and waving and holding his sign, and that what he does matters. 

He is bringing joy to people on the streets of Marshall. He is getting paid to hold a sign but he is doing that job in such a way that it makes a difference.

Maybe God wanted someone to tell him that he was doing just that.

I am so glad we stopped…that moment brought me such joy and a a renewed perspective that we ALL can make a difference – we just have to make the choice to choose joy. (<====Click to Tweet)

Is there someone in your life, someone you see on a regular basis that maybe needs to hear that what they do matters? Take the time today and tell them. Ask them their name and thank them for what they do.

Words can be life changing…what if what you say to encourage someone is JUST what they needed at that moment?

My hope is that Paul will know how much God loves him. It is just an honor to be a small part of sharing that love!

Photo Credit: jakerome

Tough Parenting – A Lesson in Honesty

Pirate Treasure

Parenting is hard. And I realize that this isn’t a new idea, especially to those of you in the thick of raising a 3-5yr old child. But there is just something about those ages that is TOUGH!

And quite honestly, I often get lazy. I know that I am not always the best example but last night I needed to be a good example, even when it would have been easy to let this one thing slide.

Elijah dug some items out of his backpack before dinner. A pirate’s treasure if you will (see picture above).

I asked him where he got it and he said that his teachers gave it to him. Something seemed fishy about that so I started asking him some more questions.

When I came out and just asked him if he was lying…well his face turned down to the ground, he sighed and said yes.

He didn’t have to tell me…I already knew.

So I asked him to get a baggie (which he did reluctantly and with pouting) and told him that we had to bring the items back to school.

“But I really just wanted them mom!!”

Oh son, I know! I get it, I really do. And if I were judging this situation on the value of the items…maybe I would justify letting it slide.

But on principal alone it is important that he learn this hard truth about honesty.

I told him that God wants us to always tell the truth, that we can’t take things just because we want them…and that we were going to have to tell his teachers the truth.

He asked me if he could just sneak them back into the classroom. Oh yes he did!

I told him that wasn’t being honest either.

He knows it was wrong to take them, and he needs to admit what he did. I promised him that I would stand with him so he didn’t have to do it alone…and said that I was pretty sure his teachers would forgive him.

But telling the truth was necessary.

So tomorrow, on the day that they are also celebrating his birthday a few weeks early, we will be bringing cookies to class for treats and a little bag of pirate treasure and learning the heard lesson on being honest.

Hopefully, if he ever feels like taking something again that isn’t rightfully his, he will think about this experience and remember that there is a consequence when we don’t tell the truth…when we steal.

But he doesn’t have to do it alone. I will stand with him, encourage the good behavior and remind him that I love him even when he makes mistakes.

My God has done the same with me time and time again.

Sometimes the sting of my actions hurts and taking responsibility is something that doesn’t always come easily…but when I do, there is forgiveness and lessons learned.

I don’t expect Elijah or any of my kids to be perfect but I can work to teach them right from wrong. As parents it is all we can do to stay afloat most days, so have faith that you are not alone.

Yes parenting is hard, but I am so grateful that God is standing beside me encouraging me along the journey!

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