guest writer: austin

Often I've thought of inviting one of my friends who blog to write an article as a guest writer. I never really knew what topic I would ask them to center on or how I would incorporate it into the themes of my blog. But when I read this post on my friend's blog, I knew I had to share. It is so many thoughts and convictions that have been inside me and never quite articulated and grouped together the way that He has done so. Now, calling all worshipers, take a read and ponder what he has said so poignantly.

Many are called but few are chosen…

Man, where do I begin??  I think I’ve started this off 4 different ways.  I love worship leaders.  I love praise and worship time.  I love great musicianship.  I love a great voice and nice full rich guitar tone and tasteful drumming with some fat synth undertones, low end and a delicate right hand melody line from the piano.  I love original music.  I love a church that loves to sing.  I love passion in those moments.  I love volume from the believers while the leaders step back and let the Church rise up in faith in Jesus.
Over the past few years God has really put a lot in my heart for worship leaders and without knowing how to lay it out eloquently I’m just going to list out random comments and questions I have.  Don’t judge me, I’m just like you and I don’t pretend to be above anyone.  What I really want to see is more of us honestly asking ourselves the tough questions.
Bottom Line: Many are called to worship but FEW are chosen to the leading of God’s people. 
To be a worship leader we have to be hard and soft. vulnerable and secure.  Bold and meek.  confident and transparent. Self assured but deeply, self-sacrificially humble.  It’s like being in two places at once, hot and cold, wet and dry.  Filled up yet poured out.
To The Proud:
Not everyone is called to the leading of the Church in worship.
Do many of us simply lead worship because that’s what we’re “supposed to do?”  ie: expectation from others, from family, “i’m a musician”, “that’s what i want to do”, band wagon, one of the most recognized and up-front ministries, ego, pride?
How much is my relationship with Jesus drawing me into leading His people in praise and worship time, reflection and meditation on Him?
How much time do I spend personally, in worship, awe and adoration?
How committed to His Glory am I?
How committed to my Glory, in Jesus’ Name, am I?
To The Under-assured:
Who says you aren’t good enough?
For the longest time our talents have been glorified instead of Jesus and so our hearts have been neglected sending many into the above category.  I believe there needs to be a healthy balance between a heart after Jesus, a passion for the Church and finally, a talent or gifting that seamlessly operates, flowing from moment to moment by the leading of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the desire of His heart.
Just SING IT or PLAY IT.  There’s no need to be intimidated or fearful.  There’s no need to be nervous.  There’s need to be genuine.  There’s need to be authentic.  There’s need to be deeply passionate and expressive.
Do something that shows Him off.  Something that leaves room for Him to do what only He can do.

I believe that some should step down and some should step up.  I believe that we all have seasons of filling up and seasons of pouring out.  Nothing different can be produced with out us doing things differently.  Our services aren’t “the thing”, He is “the thing”.  He’s worth it.  He’s due it.  He requires devotion, honesty, passion, our best, our first.  Let’s make Him most important in our worship.  I believe both the proud and the insecure are self-centered places to be.  I sure have traversed between both sicknesses but the more time I spend singing my prayers or just being alone with Him, I see less of me wanting to be something I’m not.  I see less of me scouring scripture for song lyrics.  I see less intimidation when fellow worship leaders are in the congregation.  I see more of Jesus working His plans out through my life.  I see my desire for other leader’s success increase.  Most of all, I see my desire to know Jesus increase.

*This article was written by Austin Luhring. You can find him at austinluhring.com.


weekend update

     Over the weekend I decided that it's time to share a few personal things with you all. Nothing nitty gritty really. Just stuff that lets you know I am real. Typically I write more with analogies of spiritual truth I'm grasping and its practical application [to my life in particular]. But I've not written much about personal things in my life, which I would love to do. Being real and authentic is something that I've striven for since some time around my freshman year of junior high school. (West Memphis groups grades differently than most school districts ... in the entire United States...)
     Personally, I just did something HUGE. Yes, I had twins, but this is almost just as huge. I registered to run a half marathon with my friend Julie for the last weekend of April. This morning I also invited my friend Megan, who lives in Texas, to register and join us in this great feat. And now, I'm going to personally invite YOU to join us if you dare. Cause here's the deal:  I am not a runner. The last time I ran consistently was in high school because I HAD to for sports. But I told a few friends that after I had the girls I would become a runner, and now I want to be held to it. Whether you run with us or not, I am at least inviting you to keep me accountable. I will keep you updated with my progress, so stay tuned. It should be interesting!
     The older I'm getting, the more I'm beginning to realize why 'those old people' liked to just sit around together during the Holidays. I am so looking forward to doing just that with my family in Arkansas over Christmas. Quality time is where it's at for me when it comes to love languages. Presents/gifts are definitely NOT my love language. I don't think I'm terribly great at giving gifts because I'm either 1) thinking about a million things at once and become sidetracked/absent minded and let that 'special date' slip up on me before I realize it or 2) trying SO hard to do the most thoughtful thing imaginable that I spend too much time thinking and too little time doing that I end up having to half way do what I originally planned (at least half way to my standards). I'm not that great at receiving gifts either because more often than not I get this wave of awkwardness that I desperately try to fight, particularly if the gift is unwarranted. I guess I just feel that if you love me, then just simply being with me is enough. :) And especially now that I'm a mom, I'd much rather just have people bless my girls because that blesses me.
     Last, Zekers (our little wuppers (dog)) finally got a bath! I think he's maybe had one since the girls were born ... ha! Oopsie. He knows that he's loved, right?!



Here's a post with analogies of 'greenthumbery'; a post about growth and roots; Roots that we allow to grow in the soil of our souls, and the roots of our heritage and the legacy that we are cultivating in future generations.
     I'm sure you've all heard your moms or some parental figure tell you that in order for you to solve a certain conflict, whether it be between siblings, peers, etc., you just need to "nip it in the bud." While I grew up believing that was a trustworthy saying, I am believing now with fresh perspective and spiritual eyes that God is requiring much more than just the nipping of a bud. Yes, He prunes us. But when it comes to roots of bitterness vs. roots of righteousness, I fully believe that He expects us to "rip it at the root". And this process can be as taxing and painful as it sounds if we've allowed roots of bitterness to go deep into the soil of our souls and bear its poisonous fruit by neglecting to forgive, by holding on to a small tinge of resentment, or neglecting to choose an attitude of humility and instead taking up "our rights". 
     Hebrews 12:15 says that we are to "see to it that ... no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled". Y'all. The fruit that bitterness bears defiles many. It effects many. It troubles many. It transcends generations to many. I'm sure if you're reading this, someone who struggles with bitterness (maybe even yourself...) has popped into your head and you've already recalled encounters with them and how their hurt spills over on to the people around them and their relationships struggle under the weight of this toxicity. It is serious business. Bitterness doesn't affect just you. So when you finally repent of that bitterness and break free from its bondage, there will be many relationships that will need to be reconciled and restored by asking for forgiveness. If you've been set free from bitterness I would LOVE to hear your testimony!
     Most people who've been held captive by their bitterness, if they are Christians, also tend to confuse their spiritual gifts and spiritual fruit. They falsely believe that God has equipped them only to be a 'generous' tree or a 'patience' tree, when in all actuality, the fruit of the Spirit comes as a whole package. You don't pick and choose which fruit gets to grow on your tree. It should ALL be coming to fruition (by the grace of God and the power of the Spirit). It's a whole package deal. Have you been believing that you can only bear one kind of fruit cause God 'just made you that way?' Yes, we're human and have strengths and weaknesses. But Galatians 5:22 is comprising all that FRUIT into one basket. One package deal. With the Holy Spirit, He brings it all.
     Ok, I gotta be honest. That last little bit was spoken afresh to me by pastor Harkness at Harvest East Peoria a few weeks ago. And he also shared a story about a grove of orange trees. This grove was visited in the middle of a drought and most of the trees in it were looking pretty shrimpy with the exception of a few which seemed to be doing extremely well. Upon asking why there was such a vast difference between the two sets of trees, it was discovered that the trees that were in poor shape had been watered day in and day out. When the drought hit, they obviously were without water and did poorly. However with the trees that seemed to be flourishing, it was discovered that they had been raised on rations of water. Though the supply was great, their caretaker would restrict their watering so that the roots would grow deep. They would go through these periods of suffering during their growth so that they wouldn't rely solely on the water from the caretaker. Their roots were so deep that they were tapping into the ground water below and were able to prosper and produce fruit during the drought. They hadn't been pampered into developing shallow roots.
     What an awesome picture of what seasons of suffering produce in believers: roots of righteousness that go deep so we can withstand periods of drought. And not just withstand, but flourish. Instead of allowing suffering to make us beat down, weak, and embittered producing no fruit, believers can allow roots of righteousness to firmly implant so that the fruit of the Spirit can thrive!
     There a few quotes that I'd like to share that help put this analogy into what it looks like practically in my life, and quite possibly many of yours as well. These are the roots of righteousness that I desire to take hold in my life and be the legacy that I leave behind ... "A godly woman is one who possesses inner tranquility; she doesn't have to prove herself to anyone. She is strong, yet doesn't use her strength to control or dominate; nor does she depend on recognition from others. Hers is an inner contentment and satisfaction based not on accomplishments, position, or authority, but on a deep awareness of God's eternal, personal love for her." - EmilieBarnes "God faithfully serves us, even when we are faithless, so staying home to serve the family is a good reminder of how our serving reflects God’s faithfulness. ... We do use our gifts with our family, and we need to be content and joyful with that. We must ask ourselves why we are seeking approval of man and not resting in the love of God. We don’t have anything to prove to God. He loves us more than we can imagine. People will give their opinions, but we are accountable before God for our actions. If we know we are doing what God is asking of us as moms, then we can disregard public opinion. When you struggle with being a homemaker, if you feel condemned or guilty instead of convicted, that is a tactic from the enemy to tempt you to sin. The Holy Spirit’s job is to convict us of our sin and instruct us in obedience. If we ignore him, we quickly start to believe lies and rationalize our sinful actions. Is it a sin to work? No, but it’s a sin to not keep godly priorities—godly woman, wife, mom, and friend. There are many people who can work jobs, but only you can raise the children with whom God has blessed you."  -GraceDriscoll
      And to finish, some beautiful lyrics from a beautiful song:
She rises up as morning breaks/She moves among these rooms alone/Before we wake/And her heart is so full; it overflows/She waters us with love and the children grow/So many years from now/Long after we are gone/These trees will spread their branches out/And bless the dawn/These trees will spread their branches out/And bless someone -PlantingTrees AndrewPeterson



a long time coming

   Though I don't pretend to be good at it, writing is still something that I thoroughly enjoy. As much as I hate to admit it, I am competitive. I am. And I hate competition. Unless it is with myself. Which I suppose is why I like writing. Not only is it cathartic, but also it's a self-imposed challenge and a puzzle; I get to figure out how to say what I want to say in a certain way that I want to say it, then put all those sayings together in such a way that is somewhat coherent and entertaining and intriguing. (I do like to entertain.)
      But now for quite some time I have been avoiding writing in every way, shape, and form ... Blogging, journaling, poetry, songs, thank you notes, ... yes. Thank you notes. Contrary to some popular beliefs, I am easily overwhelmed with gratitude, and I love to write thank you's to people to try to express that thankfulness. It means a lot to me and hopefully to them too. But it's as though after having my two little squirrels I hit a wall. I wanted to blog about the ins and outs of my everyday life as a new stay at home mom. I wanted to write notes of thanks. I wanted to gush about the sweet sounds and smelly poops of little girls, the joy and pain of breastfeeding, the task of keeping my marriage, kids, and self healthy. I mean really, the list goes on. First tears. First smiles. First shots ...
      So, last night while the girls slept and Steve and I enjoyed some much needed R&R at our firepit, I shared my heart with him about how much I've missed and even needed to write. In our conversation he helped me realize that the wall that I smacked into face first was the fear of man. I stopped writing because I over analyzed what I would say, who would read it, what they would think of me, what they would say to their friends about me. I was scared people would think of me as "THAT mom" who has to post everything her kids do because she thinks it's SO GREAT but really no one else really cares to know about. (YOU KNOW you know THAT mom ...) I wanted to write about how hard, and how easy, it is raising twins, but I didn't want to hear the feed back of people passive-aggressively "should-ing" on me and all their opinions. Quite frankly those first three weeks after having the girls I was too drained from taking care of my new little family to deal with people. We needed alone time. We needed to figure out how to function, granted we wouldn't have apart from the meals that our sweet friends very graciously delivered to us!!! But it really caught me off guard how affected by the fear of man I had become. And Steve reminded me very clearly that I am sinning by living in the fear of man and told me that I needed to blog before today was over. So this is it.
     Like I said, I do have a competitive spirit, and I love to learn new things, educate myself, and succeed. But more than anything, and now more than ever, this is one thing that I have read about, prayed up, and studied up for (and will continue to do so for the rest of my life):  being a mom. I want desperately to succeed in raising up children who are madly in love with Jesus. And since I believe that everything in life is spiritual, that affects how I approach, raise, discipline, and yes SCHEDULE my kiddos and their little lives right now. They need consistency. And God knows that by the way He created me, for my sanity, I need consistency. You, whoever you are out there reading this, may not. But I do. (Now, moms, I am neither a BabyWise nazi nor a strictly baby-led feeding mom.) Steve and I attempt consistency to help them feel stable, learn night and day, sleep well so WE can sleep well, etc... but honestly, every day is a new day. It has its very own unique challenges. And I see now more than ever that all I can do is take this thing a day at a time and do whatever the heck works to make it through that day! And all of it is to the glory of God and by His sustaining grace and new mercies. So, keep your eyes peeled for more to be shared of what God is doing with this crazy momma!

I love my God. I love my husband. And I love my girls.



Wash me in the water of the Word
I lay me on the alter of Your will
Present me blameless
Without blemish,
Holy Bride, white
Lord, purify Your Bride 

 water of the Word  - shane and shane



It is hard to believe that July is actually here, and we are seven days into it! One whole week already. Then I stop and think about the fact that I have been pregnant for almost 35 weeks now.

Me. Pregnant. For 34 solid weeks. With two little girls.
That still catches me off guard!

Over the past few weeks the discomfort of being largely pregnant has begun to settle its self into my sleeping patterns and joints and appetite. (Not to mention my need to go rest in the little ladies room if you catch my drift ...) I had a nice visit with my High-Risk Specialist on Tuesday which was also my last! He congratulated me on making it to 34 weeks and said the girls could come any time they want to now, Lord-willing it would be through natural delivery if my one little booger would just flip around! I wouldn't mind if it was tomorrow. I just need to get that bag for the hospital packed!!! But honestly,
I take delight in it all because I know the end is near.  
Maybe some of you who are reading this have already begun jumping to the eschatological conclusions that I would love to expound on, but I'm just going to keep it simple with these conclusions God has been working in my heart:

I desperately need my sights fixed on Eternity and the Priceless Jewel of Heaven who waits for me there. MY sin, not in part but the WHOLE, was nailed to the Cross!!! Christ's suffering was not in vain!!! My "suffering" and growing/labor pains here (which often involve other Christians even!) He wants desperately to use to draw me ever so closely to Him, and that is exactly where I want to be. My battle isn't against them, or any other flesh and blood. So, I need not be discouraged because I worship the God who makes a way when there seems to be no way. And that worship is not, has never been, or will ever be about me. It started and will end with Him! So, quickly I will leave you with this ...

My prayer lately via Psalm 51 
Make me to hear joy and gladness. Let the bones (and most of my joints) which (really feel like) You have (just about) broken rejoice. (PLEASE!) Hide Your face from my sins 
and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast (and absolutely unshakable) spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me (because the thought of being without You absolutely terrifies me) ((I don't like to think about being on the wrong side of Your wrath)). Restore to me the joy of Your (not mine, cause I had nothing to do with it) salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit (cause if You don't I will give up and die)!


good morning blurb

Good morning, sunshine! This may turn into a longer post at some point in time, but for now I think this brief thought will suffice.  
There are many circumstances and interactions with people in my life that leave me feeling frustrated and defeated in not knowing how to respond to their unanticipated (passive aggressive) disapproval. I find myself in most cases feeling as though I have to in some way, shape or form show them how rude and incorrect they are and how right I am. Guilty of selfishness on all accounts. Then I'm reminded of God's Word asking "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal. 1.10) Who is it really that I am trying to please? Why do I feel the urge to defend myself when my God has my back? This I am learning to be true:
My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. 
Psalm 62:7


growing pains

Dear friends and family,

I am so sorry for the long hiatus! However, since mid October I have been working full-time as a teller at a local bank in Peoria. The idea of working full-time again after Steve and I were married wasn't one of which I was very fond. I knew that both of us working while we had no children would prove to be a wise endeavor for our family and would help take a huge burden off Steve's shoulders. However, I found it increasingly unbearable to imagine throwing myself into a 40 hour position, that honestly I could care less about, which would pull me away from my home and serving my husband there. I have since built relationships with people there who I do care for, though. Regardless, I took the  plunge realizing that in this season of our lives, this is one of the best ways to serve my husband and show that I love him. If only I would remember that point of view the mornings that I have a hard time getting out of my bed and leaving my home for majority of the day. More and most importantly, I strive to have the discipline to direct my thoughts (and ((bad)) attitudes) heavenward realizing that I am coming into contact with numerous people on a day to day basis who desperately need to know the love Christ has for them. I desperately need to know the love Christ has for me. So far, I've been failing with flying colors. Most of the time selfishness conquers a Christ-centered hope in that I begin thinking I should have the right to do the things that I am truly passionate about that I KNOW would bring me so much more fulfillment than this mundane money counting routine. (Ok, really, being a teller is stressful work.)

But God is still, as He always does, reminding me that He is greater. The plans He has for me are greater. Trusting and obeying Him even in the mundane is greater. (Sidenote:  Steve and I along with the rest of his immediate family have begun reading the Bible through this year. I have done nothing but read over and over again how God considers it righteousness when a man trusts and immediately obeys Him! His word is SO rich with reaffirmation of how awesome He is in His deeds towards man! Ps. 66.5)

Two very significant events occurred within days of each other over a week ago placing my dreams, hopes, emotions, beliefs, etc. in a whirlwind of contemplation. My reasoning and complete understanding still have yet to surrender to the enormity of our first blessed discovery. On Jan. 14th, Steve and I watched in disbelief as our sonographer scrolled over the two tiny bodies and heartbeats that are growing inside of me. Within days of seeing our twins for the first time, I received a phone call asking if I was still willing to consider a full time position as the assistant worship director at a nearby church. Before me lay my two greatest ambitions and fears. No two things have I ever hoped and longed for more than being involved in full time worship ministry and starting a family. No two things have ever had more of a hold on my heart than these. And now I was faced with making the decision with my husband for us to move and I be the full time provider as we prepare to have our first two children at the SAME time within a few short months OR for me to decline the offer so that I can stay at home to provide the nurturing love and guidance for my children to grow. Children. Two humans. Two people that God chose Steve and I to facilitate their growth during the formative years of their lives. Two amazing works of our Creator that are and will always be very much more so His than they will ever be ours.

After hours of grueling conversation and soul searching and rehearsing what we believe and hold to be true, Steve and I decided that the wisest most God-glorifying decision that we could possibly make would be to decline the offer and remain. Decline a dream and passion that has been growing ever so fiercely inside of me since I was 13. Decline an opportunity to be something that I believed for years was more who I was created to be than ever being a mom. Although we were at total peace with the convictions we hold and the decision we made, there is still a part of me that begins to ache even as I write about and rehearse the events in my mind. One piece of truth that my dear friend Mr. Tullos reminded me of was this:
God's timing and testing are perfect. Just because I'm not moving into a position that I believe would fulfill a huge part of who God has created me to be does not diminish His calling on my life or ability.
And the truth is as well that there surely are many longings currently taking residence in my heart which won't be fulfilled this side of eternity.

Even through all this God is still providing. While the weight of the financial burden that twins will bring begins to weigh heavy, people are stepping up and offering items to help meet our need. I was also asked to be the vocal director of the worship ministry at Riverside. What a huge opportunity! Even though it may not be "full-time ministry", it still permiates all of my every day life. So I look forward to teaching and being taught, used and changed while under the authority of and working alongside my dear friend Mr. Austin Luhring (and all my other cherished friends!) in the worship ministry at Riverside.

I look forward to this summer and meeting those two people growing inside me. I look forward to what God has in store.

We look to Yahweh, Yahweh
Our hope is Yahweh, Yahweh
And He shall reign forever
He shall reign forever
He shall reign forever and ever!