Open Doors, Open Heart

I use to think that I couldn’t paint, draw, or color. I figured those artistic feats were reserved for those who could actually see what they were doing. Besides, I couldn’t even see an entire sheet of paper in one glance unless I sat back and looked at a distance. There was no way I could do any detail work because I could only focus on one area of a project at a time.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered color-by-number! For the first time in my non-artistic life I was able to simply follow directions and fill in color wherever it was necessary. I could almost see an entire section through my magnifier, and so if a particular space corresponded to the number 4, I would color that space with the designated shade. Since I couldn’t see the entire picture very clearly, I often didn’t know what picture would emerge. Often, color-by-numbers are good for children, so the picture would often be a princess, monkey or some other animal, cartoon character, or some other kid-friendly image. But even as an adult, I would color these pages for something to do or in order to de-stress. It didn’t matter what the image turned out to be. In fact, I kind of liked the surprise when I was finished. Once all of the spaces were colored in, it was much easier for me to understand what I was seeing. No longer was the page a mass of black and white sectioned-off spaces. It was a completed, colorful picture.
I was thinking about coloring recently as I walked through my empty house. It was so quiet, and it was hard to imagine that just a year ago, the walls of my little home were filled with friends and frequent guests. I couldn’t help but recall the girls’ night Valentines event I had hosted in which we spent the entire evening just coloring. My friend Anna had designed a heart-themed coloring sheet, and I purchased the design online. I printed several sheets and we set to work. The entire sheet was filled with various-sized hearts and a cute little message scripted in the center. You wouldn’t think it would take a long time to complete a coloring sheet, but this was advanced coloring. There was so much detail, and I loved it! I think my friends enjoyed it too. We bonded through that experience, and when our projects were completed, we felt a certain element of satisfaction.
So as I walked through my quiet home, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad. If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you’ve probably caught on to a bit of melancholy. Resigning from a much-loved occupation has taken a piece of my heart and caused me to wonder what comes next. It’s an exciting time in my life but also quite unnerving. I spent six years identifying myself with a particular cause and co-existing organization, and until I resigned, I hadn’t realized just how invested I had been in the work. To suddenly find myself free of all obligation has been a strange mix of liberation and deep sadness.
So what does color-by-number, resigning from camp and an empty house have in common? Well, trust me, they do connect. Last year, I faced a similarly quiet Fall season. I prayed and asked God to show me what I was supposed to do with my time and the extra space I had in my new home. He helped me to see the need, and as a result, I hosted a few dinner parties, a ladies’ Bible Study, and simply made myself available to friends who needed some time away from the stresses of life. Our night of coloring on Valentine’s Day was one of those opportunities God opened to me.
Although I have still hosted a few parties and even more overnight guests, it seems a bit hollow now. I often question if I am being a good hostess or if I am simply doing it out of obligation. Do I feel that I have to do this, or is it something I want to do? This single girl thoroughly enjoys it when people are coming and going from the house. It makes life interesting and far more active than my solitary lifestyle. But what happens when opportunities start to slip through the cracks?
Just like a new coloring sheet when the black and white spaces blur together in my line of vision, it is hard for me to perceive God’s plan in this season of my life. I resigned from camp, hoping for some time and space to reflect and re-examine my future goals. I certainly have time now… probably too much time. I was excited to get into the Fall routine— joining Bible Studies and ministries at the church. But one-by-one, opportunities passed me by. I missed the deadline to participate in two Bible Studies, and the study that I hosted at home is currently not meeting. My friends from last year’s dinner parties have gone their separate ways, and I’m not leading or coordinating anything other than a blessing ministry for the elderly.
I often wonder what I will see when I look back at the end of this year. I know God will be faithful and open doors for me, but right now, everything seems a little empty. Surprisingly, I am not depressed by this level of uncertainty. Yes, my days are quiet, but I have enough to do in my worship leading that I have purpose and direction for this season. But I want more. I want to be used for His Kingdom, and I feel I am ready. But maybe God is using this time to shape and mold me for something bigger on the horizon. If I simply rushed ahead, I might not have this opportunity to be molded through His Master Plan. I need to be patient for the answers to come. Until then, I am sitting in my quiet house… coloring. The doors are wide open and my heart is eager.

Our Valentine's coloring party in progress!
Our Valentine’s coloring party in progress!

Taking my Heart Back

I can remember it so clearly. It was Valentine’s Day, 2015, and little did I know, this would be the beginning of about a two-week period when my world dramatically shifted. I learned so much in those last two weeks of February, it was as if a high-magnitude earthquake had struck Wisconsin. Even to this day, I am not the same girl I was on February 13, 2015.
No, this single girl did not find love on Valentine’s Day, but I did find the opportunity to redirect my steps in order that I might find greater trust in my Creator. And it all started with a heart-shaped piece of paper. I had been reluctant to go to a ladies’ tea on that Valentine’s morning, but I attended anyway. I know now that God was leading me into new territory so that my heart would have a chance to heal in order that I might stop fighting.
What was I fighting against? Well, it seemed like it was a never-ending struggle. I thought that since I had been born with my disability, I would have ample time to come to a means of acceptance. Obviously, there was nothing I could do to change my reality; I was visually impaired and no medical procedure could remedy that reality. It wasn’t like I woke up each morning with a dreaded realization: “Oh, no; please, not another day of blindness! I don’t want to do this anymore.” No, I am fully aware of my long-term situation and I have accepted it. What choice do I have?
As I posted on my blog mere days after my startling Valentine’s epiphany: “For years, I have confidently expressed that I am okay with the fact that I have a disability, but I have never been able to set aside the fact that I am needy out of necessity. There are certain things I cannot do, and that means I have to ask for help. But I hate bothering people and asking for favors, and I always wonder whether the response from my friends and family is genuine. Are these dear people simply helping me because they feel obligated, or do they help because they truly don’t mind?”
The above statements were some of the core reasons why I didn’t want to go to the women’s tea initially. In order to attend I would have to ask for a ride, and I didn’t want to bother anyone. I figured it would be easier to remain at home and prepare for a girls’ night I would be hosting at my house that evening. I was liberated at the thought of my friends being willing to come to me later that day instead of me needing to find a way to get to them.
If you want to read more of my experiences that weekend, feel free to read my post: “Let it Go.” But to make a long story shorter, I went to that women’s tea and heard from a speaker who altered my perspective on letting go of difficult situations and defining realities. After her message, the speaker passed out paper hearts and instructed us to write down the one issue that was causing the greatest discontent in our lives. I had no trouble filling that piece of paper with my insecurities relating to needing people. It was in sending that paper away in the mail in a pre-addressed envelope, knowing that the one who received it would pray over it and shred it, that I began to form a new level of acceptance.
Remember how I said that I have had no problem accepting my disability? Well, apparently I still had some learning and growing to do. For just months after sending that heart-shaped paper away, I received a crushing review. It’s so easy to gloss over the really good comments on evaluations and become completely consumed with the one negative remark. And that’s exactly what happened to me that day. I read something that tore into my heart so completely that I felt the pain within. It came from a community member that I thought truly supported me; an individual in the disability community who should have understood me basically said that I wasn’t a solid role-model to people with disabilities because I hadn’t fully accepted my disability. I was crushed.
Here I thought I had reached that place, even back in February, but it took some time to realize that I had been blinded by the cutting remark. In a burst of clarity, I realized that it wasn’t acceptance I was lacking; it was adaptability. Perhaps my critic had caught a glimpse of my reluctance to adapt to the challenges around me. Transportation is a difficult factor in my life, so instead of fighting to improve that reality, I often shy away and just let things happen as they do. I don’t like to ask favors because I don’t want to be a bother, so instead of pressing forward to get what I need, I often pretend I am okay and that I am content with what I have.
Even though I thought I had relinquished those burdens when I let my paper heart go, apparently I had not. My reluctance to adapt to my ever-present challenges was obvious to others (or at least my negative critic), and it was obvious to me. I recall writing in my “Let it Go” post that I was sure I would be likely to take my heart back some time in the future… that instead of giving my cares completely to God, I would find a way to pick up my insecurities and carry them again. And here we are about six months later, still struggling to let go. Call it lack of acceptance or lack of adaptability, but either way, it’s something I’m still working to relinquish. So instead of felling anger toward my negative critic, I would like to thank him or her. Thank you for pointing out that I still have work to do. I am not proud of the fact that I have stopped to pick that burden up again, but maybe this time with prayer and determination, I can set this to rest, once and for all. I’m taking my heart back, but hopefully it will only be for a little while.

A Team Player

Monday night was incredible! There are simply no words to describe the atmosphere and fandom of a much-loved professional football team. As some of you may know by now, I am a pretty big Green Packer fan. It has always been my dream to go beyond the stadium tour (which I have done twice) and actually attend a game. When I was presented with the opportunity to purchase tickets, I was quick to set plans in motion to attend the game.
So on my birthday, I entered the famous stadium with two close friends and my sister. It was raining on and off throughout the game, but we were not about to complain. We were just happy to be there! The food was great, the crowd electric, and our team was victorious. Truly, the rain was the only downer of the entire experience, but our ponchos kept us relatively dry, so we didn’t get too wet.
I think what struck me the most throughout the evening was the sense of camaraderie that existed in the ball park. Everyone was so friendly, helpful, and easy to talk to— it felt as though you could make a new friend at every turn. Even as the game started, you could tell everyone was united for one cause: cheering on our Green Bay Packers. True, there were fans from the visiting team in the crowd, but the fandom of the Green Bay Packers won over, and it was clear why we had come to Lambeau Field that night.
After such a memorable evening, it was difficult to shut down and go to sleep that night— or rather, the next morning as the clock approached 4:00 a.m. As a result, I was quite tired the next morning. After less than five hours of sleep, I finished up a few tasks at home and then headed to work to prepare for an evening rehearsal.
My team members teased me for messing up the lyric sheets. I had proceeded to staple the booklets wrong, and as a result, pages were missing or not in the right place. They joked that I must have done something the night before to make me so tired and confused. I responded with some quip about how our practice time could be compared to football. “I might be tired,” I admitted. “But in many ways, my leadership here is like being the quarterback of the team. I can throw the ball wherever I want to; you just have to catch it.”
The team members didn’t know quite how to respond to that. I suppose envisioning a female, blind quarterback was a bit out there in terms of believability, but nevertheless, it brought some liveliness into a rather businesslike rehearsal.
In the days that followed our practice, I couldn’t help but go back to the football analogy. It has been an interesting transition for me as I have made my exit from my role as director at camp and gone back to my role as worship leader being my only vocation. Even as the camp experienced changes in leadership and the board took on more responsibility, I could feel the shift in our organization. I had been taking on a lot of the responsibility for the camp, and I didn’t really have to answer to anyone. I was both president of the corporation and director, which was a dangerous position to hold since I had so much invested in our activities. It wasn’t hard to just do what I needed to do and not seek help from others. I was acting on behalf of a team, if you will, but I was not a team player.
When the board stepped up and began to make changes, at first it was a relief to me. But the further down the road we traveled, the more frustrating it became. I was not frustrated with the board members themselves or the changes that were being made; I was more frustrated with my lack of trust toward the decisions that were being made. I was looking forward to less stress and having the board members alongside of me to make the camp an even stronger organization. But instead, I couldn’t seem to let go of the standards I had held to for so long.
My resignation as director had less to do with the people and decisions that I left behind. It had everything to do with my attitude and the fact that I just couldn’t continue as director when I couldn’t move forward as a leader. I’m not blaming the board at all here; I knew I needed to set some things to rights professionally and personally, and it wasn’t a good idea for me to carry on with the organization when I didn’t feel I was the best director material.
I realized that there are sometimes in life where you just can’t be the leader because you feel entitled; not everyone has the strength, talent, and ability to be the quarterback of an NFL team either. Every organization needs a good leader or director, but the majority of those employed at a business will not be the boss; they will be secretaries, receptionists, and accountants. In football terms, the quarterback can’t get the ball down the field without his wide receivers, running backs, tight end, or center. The team needs to work together; the quarterback can’t do it all himself, even if he’s Aaron Rodgers or some other successful player in the league.
Like Aaron Rodgers catching twelve defensive players on the field and releasing a quick pass, I discovered what could happen when I pulled a fast one on my worship team at our earlier mentioned practice. We were singing a song that was already arranged; all of the lyrics were in the correct order and the team was familiar with the number of repeats. But then, without warning, I began to sing a harmony over the melody line. As a result, I caused the other soprano to falter as she tried to decide whether she should follow me or hold to the part she knew so well.
It wasn’t a serious issue since we were able to work out the change among ourselves, but I realized what an incredible team I had at my fingertips. To use Packers football as another analogy, it would be like the media saying to Aaron Rodgers: “Aaron, what makes you such a great player?” It has often been Aaron’s response that he can’t help being a great player when he has a great team to back him up. So that night at practice, I was encouraged, knowing that I could count on my vocalists to put forward their best effort for the good of our congregational worship.
All teams need someone to lead them, whether it be professional football, nonprofit organizations, or worship bands. But how the leader engages with his or her team is what truly resonates as the team seeks success. I may have stepped out of leadership at camp, but I will not take my role at FRC lightly. I might be the worship leader, but that doesn’t mean I need to be in charge of every aspect. I can have the confidence that when logistics change or I decide to throw a fast one at my team that they will rise to the challenge and be able to play to their strengths.
After all, I may not ever be the quarterback of one of the best teams in NFL football, but I can be a team player— a fan, a cheerleader, and overall supporter of those who happen to grace my team— on the field, in the office, or on the stage.

Lambeau scoreboard