I was in the car with friends recently with pop radio blaring from the speakers. With the nature of pop music and the poor lyrical content, it usually isn’t my inclination to pay attention to the words that accompany the melody of top hits. However, one lyric jumped out at me from the recent hit, “Royals.” The lyric made the confession: “I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh.”

I can certainly identify with this. I have held a diamond necklace in my hands and even clasped it around my neck, but it was a diamond chip, mind you. The diamond was so tiny that if someone hadn’t called my attention to the glittery element, I never would have known the value I had in my hands. My best friend in elementary school joked that I would be one lucky fiance some day. When I asked her why, she said, “Well, duh! You can’t see very well, right? So you’ll just have to tell your future husband that you need a diamond big enough to see it.”

I laughed it off and wondered if I would ever have the audacity or courage to tell my future fiance that I would need a huge diamond ring. It just seems silly and unimportant to focus so heavily on the materialistic side of things. Now granted, we were only little kids when we joked about my future diamond ring, but it brings what truly matters into focus right now as I move further into my adult years.

I have yet to experience that moment when my love pops “the question.” I’ve never had a diamond ring placed on my finger to symbolize my commitment to someone else. The only diamonds in my life have been the people and things that have shaped my life and the character I possess. I think of Brandon Heath’s song “Diamond,” and his heart’s cry for God to “dig a little deeper and set the diamond free.”

I have found that in digging deeper in my work, ministry, and volunteer opportunities, I have found the greatest potential in others and myself. Over the past few years, I have witnessed the most growth in worship leading and my work at YLF. I have worked alongside individuals who are budding leaders and musicians— some even stronger in skill level than myself. I could so easily assume that I have the capability to succeed and never tap into the resources of others, but I have found that I would be missing out on a great deal of treasure.

I was reading an illustration recently where the author contemplated the idea of mining for diamonds. He asked the reader to imagine that they were out hiking in the mountains when suddenly they come upon a cave. Upon going inside, they discover a glassy surface glinting off the cave walls. In aiming their flashlight toward the wall, they realize that there are large, valuable and undiscovered diamonds just waiting to be cut from the rock. The author asks what the reader might be inclined to do at that moment. Obviously, they would want to cut out as many diamonds as they could and then return later to retrieve the rest of the valued treasure.

Shouldn’t this be true of our connections with others? I think of Vanessa from my worship team at FRC. When she and I started working together last Fall, I never would have dreamed of the richness our partnership would create. Her harmonies blend with my lead vocals, and when she takes the lead, her beautiful voice touches a chard deep in my heart. Behind her incredible musicianship, Vanessa has been a blessing to me personally and spiritually. I have found a deep and wonderful kinship with her and it has enhanced our times leading worship. As we move forward together with OneVoice, I want to seek to invest in her musicianship and heart for worship. I want to unearth the diamond in Vanessa and the others on my team so that they might sparkle with possibility.

The same is true for my work at YLF. I have realized that I may not be available to our organization in the long-term, so I need to be intentional about passing on the baton to those who will carry YLF into the future. Recently, I have been so proud of those who have taken the initiative and started fund-raising and writing grants on behalf of our organization. I have enjoyed tapping into the diamond that exists in Abe’s drive and tenacity for success, Emma’s teachable spirit and willingness to fill in where needed, Megan’s enthusiasm and limitless energy, and Greg’s persistence for what matters.

In the process, I have found a bit of the unearthed diamond in myself. I have explored my leadership potential and learned to trust and rely on others. I have grown in my walk with Christ because I have had to fully depend on Him in this new phase of work and ministry. He is bringing out the best in me, and that can only be expected from a girl’s best friend. I’m not talking about the diamond here, although the glittery jewel has been known to carry that title of “girl’s best friend.” But my Best Friend, as I’ve said before, is Jesus, and He is continually crafting me and unearthing my potential. I echo Brandon’s prayer: to “dig a little deeper and set the diamond free.”

I invite you to listen to “Diamond” by Brandon Heath and imagine all He has in store for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wchx_9lJF6o.

Every Season

I was comfortable in bed a few nights ago as I prayed and asked God for direction for my activities in the coming days. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I was struck with a powerful wave of homesickness. My eyes teared up, and my thoughts traveled to a home at the top of a hill along the country roads of my home town. I couldn’t explain this sudden nostalgia; I only knew that I was homesick.

There is something about turning 30 (which has been my reality the past few weeks), that has led me to be a bit reflective. Perhaps this is what caused me to miss home. The funny thing is that I currently live in the town where I grew up, but my time in the house on the hill is in the past. A new family lives in our home where new memories are being created every day, and its hard for me to imagine anyone but our family living there.

But as I longed for home, I found myself smiling at the same time. There are so many memories that bring me joy, and I am glad I had the opportunity to experience twelve years of my life within the walls of that home. I wrote my first songs in my bedroom upstairs. I watched storms roll in from the big window outside my bedroom door. I did my homework and helped Mom cook in the kitchen just off the dining room. I curled up on the couch in the living room to watch TV with the family. I read outside on the deck on bright, summer afternoons. I played with my sisters and practiced music in the unfinished basement. There was happiness, love, and contentment in that home.

The more I thought about my time spent in that house, the more my perspective began to shift. I found that I cared less and less about the physical structure of the home and focused more and more on what what truly mattered during that season of my life. I grew up in physical stature, but more importantly, I came to faith in Christ and learned what it truly meant to serve Him from day to day. It was in the house on the hill that I built my spiritual foundation.

I attended a concert recently, and a musician introduced one of her songs by talking about the seasons of life. She explained that most people can look at their family background and get an idea of their life expectancy. On average, many people live to be 82 or 83 if it is God’s will. So with that being said, a person in their 20s is approaching what could be called the end of their Springtime of life. For someone like myself who has reached 30 years of age, it is humbling to realize that I have now entered my Summer.

This Summer is nothing like I expected it would be. As a 20-something college graduate, I was anticipating being married and having children by the time I was 30. I thought perhaps I would have published several books by now and would be comfortable in my career and family life. I never thought I would still be single at the time of my 30th birthday, and I certainly never thought I would be working as a worship leader during this season. Yes, I have published books, but that part of my life never developed into true success.

I am not writing any of this so that you might feel sorry for me. I do not want my readers to think that I am depressed or saddened by these realizations. I only share these thoughts to consider the upcoming seasons on my life’s calendar. If God wills it to be, I will be in this Summertime for a few more years. What am I going to do with this time He has given me? I would pray that I would use these days of young adulthood to focus on what truly matters: reaching others for Christ, singing for His honor and glory, writing words of encouragement for those who need it the most, serving and leading with a grateful heart, and seeking His will for my life.

I truly believe the homesickness that I felt opened the door to reflection and a means for me to examine what comes next in my life. From Springtime, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, I would pray that I would consider what has gone before me and reach for all that is ahead.

I hope you will be encouraged by a song by Nichole Nordeman which mirrors this post in theme. I invite you to check out this video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dwpdZdvCl8.

The Great Adventure

Have you ever thought about your relationship with Jesus as if it were a great adventure? Do you wake up in the morning so excited to serve Him that you jump out of bed, ready to go because you can’t imagine doing anything else with your day?

I’ll be honest with you; this usually doesn’t define my faith journey. Sure, I am excited to serve Him wherever I am planted, but there are many days when I wake up in the early hours with limited energy for the tasks set before me. There is one day of the week in particular that is simply draining. This day each week, although draining, is also quite rewarding, but often I am just too tired to think of the rewards that will come with that day.

I can’t remember the exact phrasing, but I read a quote awhile back that challenged me and it went something like this: “Live your life as a woman who says yes to God so that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, the devil will say, “Oh, crap; she’s up.” Wow, if only I could wake up in the morning with such passion for the day that I could put the devil in His place right then and there. It would be like saying aloud: “Do you hear that, devil?! This day is the Lord’s and everything in it! Today I live for Him and Him only!”

Obviously, we can’t know what God has in store for each one of us each day, but that’s where living life like its an adventure comes in. I think of the mystery and surprise of each new exploration when you don’t have a set plan in front of you. Now, I’m not one for surprises; in fact, I’m not a fan of surprise parties thrown in my honor or unexpected announcements that I’ve won something. I like my world ordered and planned with no surprises.

A few years ago, I was a part of an adventure that shattered my negative view of the surprise factor. This was one surprise that excited me, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I was hanging out at my apartment one Saturday during my senior year of college when my sister called. She asked if I was free to take a trip with her and some of her friends. I asked where we were going and she said that they planned to drive to South Dakota to go to a catholic teachers’ convention.

“Why would we do that?” I remember asking. “We’re not Catholic or teachers.”

“Well, Ginny Owens will be there,” my sister explained. “We got permission to attend the concert even though we’re not a part of the conference. “

I thought the entire thing sounded crazy! I was excited to see Ginny Owens, a musician I looked up to, but I couldn’t believe that we were actually going to go through with this. We drove into the sunset as we made our way toward South Dakota, and little did I know it would be a night I would not soon forget.

We drove up to this retreat center and were escorted inside for dinner. We were greeted by elaborate place settings, candlelight, and a private concert by Ginny Owens. Afterward, I had the opportunity to speak with Ginny and she was sweet, genuine, and everything I expected her to be. My sister and her friends knew I would value this opportunity, but I don’t think they realized just how meaningful it was in the end.

Like I said, I don’t like surprises, but this was a night that I will remember for a long time because it reminds me of the one time in my life when I was spontaneous. We had a destination: the Catholic teachers’ convention. But other than that, there was no schedule, no plan, no structure. It was beautiful, crazy, and amazing— more than likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I heard a Ginny Owens song on my iPod the other day and it brought me back to that night in South Dakota. I wondered why my sense of adventure was seemingly limited to that one night. So in that moment, I challenged myself to go above and beyond my well-ordered world. In my past few posts, I have talked about desiring a heart for the lost and being willing to reach out to the hurting and broken. I’ll be honest that stepping outside of my comfort zone is scary— as it is for most people. Reaching out to others is often an adventure in itself.

So now I am at a crossroads— standing in South Dakota, if you will— wondering what comes next. If I open my heart to reaching out to others, I pray that God will open wide the doors and prepare me for meaningful encounters. It may feel like a big, scary adventure to me, but the truth is, He has the road map and He knows where He’s taking me. For one who doesn’t often leave her comfort zone, this should result in welcome peace. But I’m still afraid, and I know it will take some time and prayer before I can be fully ready to jump in. I can’t wait for that morning somewhere down the road when my feet will hit the floor and the devil will realize that I’m not taking any chances. I’ll be ready for the great adventure!

The Invitation

I was getting ready for my first official week on the job at FRC. I wasn’t scheduled to lead worship the Sunday prior to beginning my office hours, so I accepted an invitation to accompany a friend on a road trip. I figured it would be my last free weekend in a long time, and I was ready to enjoy one last getaway without expectations or restrictions.

But then I remembered an invitation still in its envelope on the kitchen table where I had last left it. My friend Brooke had called me a few weeks prior and practically begged for my address. “We’re planning a surprise 50th birthday party for Mom and we want you to be there. What’s your address so I can send you an invitation?” My first reaction was that I wanted to be there. Brooke’s mother is not just Brooke’s mother; she is like my own mother in many ways. I consider Dori to be one of my closest friends, and I couldn’t imagine missing out on her birthday party. I was excited to celebrate with her; after all, she had done so much for me in my life, and it was time for me to give back.

It was then that I realized I had a choice to make; I could go on my weekend getaway or stay home so I could attend the party on Saturday night. The decision should have been easy, but I wanted to do both. My heart told me that I couldn’t miss Dori’s party, but my head told me that I deserved this mini vacation and I should go away for the weekend. I called my friend Cindy and told her about my dilemma. I was surprised and relieved to hear that her plans for our road trip weren’t as elaborate as I had first thought them to be. She wanted to leave town on Friday night and return home late Saturday evening if possible. I asked her if we could make a point to be back in town by 6:00 pm. because I had a birthday party to attend. She agreed and plans were made for our weekend away.

In looking back at that weekend, I wonder now why that decision was so difficult for me. Dori was and still is a dear friend, and I can’t believe I even contemplated missing her party. I would have regretted not celebrating with her for a long time, and I’m so glad I decided to make a point to attend the party. I was blessed to share in this special day with a special friend.

The only reason I am writing about that weekend almost two years ago is that I was reminded of this thing called “the invitation” recently. In the past few weeks, Pastor Tim has been preaching about having a heart for the lost during our Sunday morning services. His messages have been aptly timed in my personal life and it has been difficult to sit through his preaching without tearing up. I have found that when it comes to having a heart for the lost, I am far from this reality. I care about people, yes, but when push comes to shove, I am often not the one to reach out to the hurting and broken. Why this is true for me hasn’t come into focus yet. I go through each day now wondering why some of my relationships are so taxing that I just want to throw in the towel. I wonder why I don’t have the energy to follow through and to invest in the lives of those who need His love and mercy. I wonder why I’m not more compassionate, understanding, merciful, etc. I wonder why my spiritual heart has more or less flat-lined. I ask: “What’s wrong with me, God? Why don’t I feel something for the lost?”

So I have started on a soul-searching journey— reading Scripture and other literature on having a heart for others, praying for particular names of people I am in contact with, and considering practical ways in which I can reach out. I have found it certainly isn’t easy. When my day is busy and hectic, it isn’t my first priority to send a quick text or email just to see how someone is doing. It isn’t my first inclination to stop someone in the hall and ask how I can be praying for them. When it comes to the “difficult” people in my life, it isn’t at the top of my list to invite him or her out to lunch for a nice chat. I tell myself I’m too busy, too tired, that I don’t have to do it because someone else will fill in that gap. I know it isn’t right, but I tell myself that God will understand.

Sure he’ll understand; He knows my weaknesses and how I struggle in this area. But it doesn’t mean that He’s going to let me off the hook. I have found in the past few weeks that my heart is going through a great deal of change. I have started to really think about others and how God must see them through His eyes. I have wondered how I could make a better effort to reach out, not only to those who are lost but those who need a little extra TLC. It has been a stretch and sometimes the activity level in those rarely-used parts of my heart has created some discomfort. But its a good kind of discomfort— a way for God to enter into my fragile being and impart a bit of His heart to mine.

Every morning, God sends each one of us an invitation; it isn’t a pretty card sent to us through the mail inviting us to a party. No, this is an invitation to serve and reach out to others. I think of the man who invited several people to a wedding feast in Luke 14. Each of the guests at that banquet sent their regrets and made excuses for why they couldn’t attend. That’s when the owner of the house decided he was still going to throw a party, except he wasn’t going to let the original guests inside. Instead, he called for his servants to invite the poor, disabled, and other outcasts to come to his banquet.

I think of the heart of that master. He was wiling to open the doors of his home to the lowest of society. People probably thought he was crazy, but he did it anyway. What if we did a similar thing every morning when we set out on our daily schedule? No, we’re probably not going to throw a party and open the doors to let everyone in. But it might be as simple as giving a kind word to a less-than-lovable co-worker or offering to pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru. Sometimes, it doesn’t take a huge effort to minister to those around us and share the love of Jesus. If only we would take hold of the invitation to truly reach out. Jesus is waiting for us to RSVP to the grandest party of all! What will our response be? I pray for you and me that it is “YES, I’ll come!”