Eagles

Life can be interesting. It is often a conundrum. We seek peace and calm and then complain of boredom. We look for fulfillment in our spouses and our children while blaming them for the bumps and difficulties that we face. We look for happiness in every moment, but destroy opportunities for joy along the way.

Humans are supposed to be at the top of “the ladder.” We are above all of the animals. We have opposable thumbs. We think and have the freedom to make choices about our lives. We control our own destiny. At least, that’s what we like to believe. And yet, when I watch a pair of eagles work on their nest and raise their chicks, I have to wonder. Are we really better? Eagles mate for life. Occasionally, a young female will attempt to steal the nest and the male from a pair. But, that doesn’t happen often or very successfully. The claws come out (quite literally) and the fight ensues. The established female will fight to the death to protect her nest, her chicks and her partner. Why are we humans not willing to fight to protect what we have? Why is it so easy to just walk away?

I’ve not been in the situation where my spouse walked away. My husband died. There were no second chances. During our marriage we fought. We fought with each other. We fought to stay together. We fought to raise our children. There were many times that I would not describe as “happy.” But, we had a life-long commitment to work through the bad times. We were willing to fight for our marriage and our family. I guess that’s why I love to watch the eagle-cams on the internet. I can relate to the pair of eagles as they work together to protect and nurture their family.

I was blessed with a good marriage to a Godly man. For eighteen years, we worked at keeping our family together. We laughed and cried together. We faced fears and illnesses. We coped with extended family issues. There were times that we both entertained the idea of walking away. But, the promises that we made to each other were real. We were together until “death do we part.” We were committed. And all too soon, he was gone. No do overs.  There were no more options for us. As a result, I don’t have any tolerance for the common excuses for breaking marriage vows: “I deserve to be happy” or “We’ve just grown apart.” No one deserves to be happy. You choose to be happy. You choose to grow together.

Now, I’m engaged. After 9 ½ years of widowhood, I’m planning a new life with another wonderful, Godly man. And, honestly, I am scared to death! I’m also extremely happy and blessed. As we make plans to blend our lives and our families, I am so excited about what the future holds. I never dreamed that I would get a second chance at love, a second chance to build a marriage and a new life. I know there will be challenges. We are not in our twenties. We have children (and a grandchild) and all the baggage that comes with a more mature life. We have dealt with death and divorce in our past marriages and as a result we face trust and security issues. But, we are committed to building a strong marriage on Godly standards. We will face life together and weather the storms that come.

During the ice and snow storms last winter, there was a video released of a bald-eagle sitting on its nest, covered in snow. At first, it was hard to see anything but the snow. Only the eagle’s beak was uncovered. Then the snow began to move. The eagle emerged from under the covering of snow and tossed it aside with its strong wings. While inspecting the eggs that were protected from the cold, the partner eagle flew down and brought food and relief. They were a team. That’s the marriage that I want to build. Again. No matter what problems seem to cover us up, we will be together. No matter what storms approach, internally or externally, we will stand against them together, supporting each other. When one partner is covered up, the other will be there with the support that is necessary and needed. No one walks away, grateful for the happiness but seeking the joy that comes from a marriage established with God as the center.

This year will be exciting, happy, stressful, scary, fun and joyful. And that’s what makes life so interesting: the Ups and the Downs. Strap yourself in, it’s going to be a ride to remember!

“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 NIV 

This Weekend

I had a friend describe this weekend’s service as intense. I think that’s a good description of the entire weekend: intense.

This was the weekend of “Unwrap the Bible” with Women of Faith. I heard Beth Moore, Lisa Harper, Priscilla Shirer, Shelia Walsh & Christine Caine speak and worshiped with Kari Jobe leading. Intense would describe any one of these ladies individually. Pack them all together and the intensity is multiplied. God truly spoke this weekend. And, honestly, I’m worn out. I’m still processing all that I’ve heard over the past few days.

I’ve been going to conferences like these for years. It started with Youth Evangelism conferences in junior high and high school. In college, it was BSU conferences. After coming to Westland, I’ve attended several Arts Conferences. Add Women of Faith to the list. I had a kind of epiphany after this weekend: I’m not always encouraged after the conference is over. I really enjoy them. I really respect the speakers. And there’s always A LOT to learn. But too often, I come away feeling insignificant, not worthy and questioning my place in ministry. I know that’s not the intent or the purpose of any of these events. They are designed to encourage the attenders in ministry, to give additional training and ideas and to help encourage us to go out and stand strong in our Lord. But, my insecurities tend to kick in at full force when I walk out the door. I look at all of the talented and gifted people around me and wonder: “What am I doing here?”

In all honesty, the first time I felt the need to run away and hide instead of being encouraged to move forward was after an Arts Conference. I get included under the flag “artist” because of my singing. And I can sing and harmonize pretty well. It comes easily to me. But, I have NEVER considered myself an artist. My husband was an artist. He could write skits & plays. When he was on stage, I would forget it was Terry and be transported into the moment he was creating thru his acting. I sit in amazement and awe and friends that can just create music. They can write and transpose and mash songs together and make beautiful music. That’s being an artist. An artist creates. I only copy whats already been written. I recreate. I’m a musician and a singer. I have learned to nod my head and not to argue about the term artist, but it’s not a word I use for self-description. At this particular conference, they showed a video of Bill Hybels talking about artists. And he talked about how grateful he was for the artists in his church. And then he went on to talk about himself as a non-artistic person that works well with numbers and logic and planning. Any one that has been around me, knows that I’m a numbers person. I am a linear thinker. I work well with numbers and problem solving is like a game to me. I don’t know that I’ve ever admitted this. But, from that point forward, I’ve questioned where I should be serving.

A few years later, I attended a Beth Moore simulcast conference at my church. Travis Cottrell was leading the worship in music. He began to talk about the different types of music and different issues that churches have with the musical style that we use. I can’t remember the exact words. But, I do remember going home that afternoon and emailing my music minister that I was going to take a break from the Praise Team at our church. There were a lot of things going on in my life at the time. My kids were super active in school and there never seemed to be enough time to do everything. I was having to choose between our weekly rehearsal or attending my kids football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling or track events. Anytime I missed one of my kids events, I felt guilty. And I began to resent practicing during the week, to only seemingly rework everything on Sunday morning. Our music minister was very kind and encouraged me to sing even if I missed rehearsals and I did that for a while. But, I didn’t feel it was fair to the others in the group to just show up on Sunday mornings. So, I said I was taking a break. But in reality, I was quitting and walking away. It would be five years before I ventured back into leading worship.

This weekend was great. The speakers were inspirational, the music spoke to my heart as only music can. I tried to turn off my analysis of everything and just be in the moment.
We were encouraged to believe that our God is a God of miracles. Nothing can stand in His way. We can do ALL things thru His strength and power. We are to stand in His abundance and strength, not stay bent over in our insecurities and fear. It all sounds so right. And then I walk out of the door and back into life, and those little voices start in on me once again. “How do you dare to stand up and try to lead others in worship?” “Who do you think you are? You’re too old and not nearly cute enough to stand in front of people.” “There are others that can do it so much better than you. They just haven’t found them yet.” “Nobody really loves you. They’re just being nice.” And, I struggle against the urge to throw in the towel and cut myself off from everyone.

There’s a danger in being open and vulnerable to hear the word of God. The enemy is waiting for any way to get in and twist things around. When I’m at my most vulnerable, it is too easy to begin to doubt and to listen to the negative self-talk I’m so good at. I’m trying to squelch the negative chatter. I have wonderful friends that remind me that I am valuable and loved. I continue to struggle with self-doubt. I know that God is in control of everything. He can use me wherever He needs me. So, I continue to pray daily for His direction and guidance. I’m not going to quit going to conferences. But, I am going to work on accepting the teaching and encouragement I receive to stand strong and move forward.