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The first time I met you was at Disneyland and you were enthusiastically greeting my daughter! I had seen you prior to that because you were in Emily’s class at church, but that was my first official introduction to you.  Then when you came on staff as a lead, you seemed so young (and you were) but you matured very quickly.  You learned from your mistakes and you listened to your mentors with a gentle yet eager heart.  There has been no question that you are called to ministry; the Lord has blessed you in brilliant ways as you have yielded to Him. 

When Scott transitioned out of High School, there was no hesitation that you were the strong candidate to take over.  Age was not an issue. Your servant leadership and your genuine love of both students and the Word are only 2 of many qualities to admire. Then you married Annah and things only got better in your ministry and your life.

Recently you made a choice to put Annah’s career first and to allow her the opportunity to answer a call to ministry as well.  As much as I want to shout, “Don’t do it” because I selfishly want to keep you as my boss, I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of you and of the choice you have made.  There are not many guys who would yield their dream job and personal calling for another, especially when the other is a woman!

While you did this for your family, the impact is stunning. Everyone is watching. Every girl in the ministry is looking on and hoping for a godly man who will value them in similar fashion.  Every young man is learning by observing how to be a  servant leader in their own marriage one day.  Parents are watching, some are humbled by your example and some with incredulity.

I am blessed by you and I am glad for the privilege to work with you for these few short years. I am reminded of Jim, my husband, who shared your view and made some similar sacrifices. It is a gift that is quite rare, but shouldn’t be. I will say, “May your tribe increase!”

May God bless you and honor you and your family as you continue to make a difference for the kingdom – wherever you are. I will be watching and cheering you on from my corner in the world.

With love and respect,

Miriam

Adulting and Deparenting

My kids are adulting and I must say I am proud at this bittersweet process, which includes deparenting too. Yesterday Emily went off of my family plan with Verizon and she and Connor, who dropped off His parents’ plan, are on their own plan. Clayton is doing his own taxes. Adulting is the modern term for the assumption of tasks, responsibilities and behaviors traditionally associated with normal grown-up life, yet the implication that the individual in question does not particularly identify as an adult and that acting as one does not come naturally. Deparenting is the process of letting go and working oneself out of a job, which also does not come naturally because it is one’s cherished identity!

Perhaps the reason for my kids not identifying as adults is pretty much my fault! I cannot even hold Jim responsible for this one – other than he was not around to prevent me from over-parenting when I should have been developing their independence. There is a difference between obedience and responsibility. One is immediate and the other is a process that develops slowly over many years and requires patience and persistence. Before you go all crazy on me, I will clarify that for the most part my kids did learn responsibility and I do not own all of the problem. That would be overthinking the over-parenting issue! Classic move!

I had very obedient children for the most part; perhaps I should use the word compliant. They did what they were asked when they were growing up, which is a good thing, even though sometimes the response time lagged. But, unfortunately, I joined the many parents who did not always do an adequate job at teaching my kids a sense of responsibility. There were some things that they were responsible with (and still are), but they were so “busy” with sports, music and being smart (both are bright and gifted – an old family trait!) that I took on some of the responsibilities that belonged to them that I should not have. In doing so I robbed them of a lifelong skill set and delayed their adulting. For example, when they were “uber” busy I did not require them to do their chores, make their own lunch or pick up after themselves. Hence, I short circuited their ability to see beyond the moment and initiate things that needed to be done to help each other and demonstrate their love and support of each other.

In my defense, I was guilty trying to be a mom, who overcompensated for their dead father, and work full-time. I was too tired, too hurried or too impatient to focus on the process or skill. Instead I focused on the task just getting done. Having said my rant on my poor de-parenting skills I would add that another huge piece to this is that I loved being a mom. I loved being needed. I loved serving my kids. I wanted them to stay little. It goes way too fast. The tension is constant in giving roots and wings at the same time when all I wanted to give them was extra play time, snuggles and give us all sweet memories.

This year the theme for Women’s day is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” Let’s!

In honor of International Women’s Day, I want to toss some gratitude toward many examples of fierce, brave, intelligent and compassionate women in my life. Collectively they have blazed the trail, created role models, challenged the status quo, caused me to think and stand tall. Because of women all around me and gone before I am who I am.

I want to give a shout out first to my mom who is fiercely independent and capable and godly. She taught me, perhaps without even realizing it, that my gender should never be considered a liability.

My sister is one of the most talented and beautiful people I know. She still teaches me so much; she is my thought partner, my mentor in motherhood and creative beyond belief.

My daughter is beautiful and creative and ridiculously talented. I know that it requires the wisdom of generations of women to love on a young girl and walk with her while encouraging her to discover who she is every step of the way. You amaze me and startle me and I am so proud to be your mom.

I have a cadre of women that I call friends. They come in all shapes, ages and bring so much to my life. They live all over the world and some even live in heaven. They model generosity and listening. They make me laugh, they make me whole and they make me wonder how I got to be so blessed to have them in my life.. They hold me accountable, they hold my heart, and they hold me up when I am weary. They keep my secrets, they keep me going and they keep on forgiving me. They pray for me. They remember me.

This day is for each of you. I salute you. I bless you. Thank you for making the world a stronger, happier and holier place. Here’s to the women who went before us and those walking along side us. Let’s keep the torch burning! I want to be like you when I grow up and most of all, I want to grow old with you.

Saved

50 years ago today Jesus saved me.

My Diary 1969

I was 9 1/2 years old and we lived in Calabasas. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Jesus Saved me from sin. from Hell. from falling. from myself. for good works. to be His His treasure. Forever. again and again. because I called on Him and asked Him to forgive me. because He loves me. to be His treasure. Forever. again and again. by grace. and to a Holy grace. and is my saving grace.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. I long to walk in a manner worthy and to be more like Jesus after 50 years than I was back in the day. I continue to lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of me. A life long process. A sacred hope. A patient God.

Clayton at 23

Happy Birthday Son! It has been a whirlwind. I blinked and my baby boy was all grown up. You are still one of the best chapters in the book of my life and I like to reread it over and over as it makes me so happy.

I have always hoped to raise kids who are strong and who love hard with everything they have. I didn’t want them to just desire stuff but I wanted them to be real and hopeful and grateful. I prayed for their friends, their mates and their daily choices. I asked God to make them into people who willingly give away whatever they do have to those who need it. I wanted kids who see the world with their heavenly father’s eyes, who wipe away the tears of their friends, who carry the stretchers of those who couldn’t carry themselves to the feet of Jesus, who have faith enough to trust every day, who weep with those who weep and who laugh hard and often and worship the Lord with their whole life. And God answered my prayer beyond even what I asked – twice!

I tell my students that I don’t expect them to do something that I am unwilling to do myself so I answer the same discussion prompts and complete the same assignments. So, in the same way, more than simply raising amazing human beings, I wanted to be like the person I was praying my kids would become. I know I have not always been the mom you needed, but Clayton, you, and your sister, have been the answer to to my hope and prayer, and much more, even beyond my wildest imagination.

My proudest moments are telling others that you are my son. You are godly and kind and more like your father than I can say. I pray that this year will be a good year and that you will continue to lean in to God’s strength for the journey, that you will face challenges with confidence and grace, that your choices and friends would continue to bring out the best in you and that you will keep me in the loop. I love you!

Mom <+><

Sure Pastor is a title. So is doctor. So is Shepherd. So is Mrs. So is wife or husband or president.  Taking away the title does not change the reality of the role. Conversely, assuming a title that is not earned or bestowed does not make it a reality either. Perhaps titles are confusing or perhaps they are limiting, but that is part of their function. If someone says they hate titles, it does not change the fact that titles exist and have a powerful impact in our culture and lives. For example, if I assume the title of Doctor and practice medicine, I will eventually be arrested and sent to jail. By the way, isn’t changing, erasing or making up a new title is more “entitled” than living within the context of what is?!

Every follower of Jesus is called to be a minister. Not a single disciple of Jesus is exempt from the task of making disciples, being ministers of reconciliation, and serving others. However, some are called to a specific ministry of pastoring and others are not.

Of course every Christian has the right and the duty to share the gospel, but I do believe that some are called to vocational pastoral ministry, which requires a level of commitment and training not common to all. By comparison, all saints are to exercise all the gifts but each are apportioned different manifestations of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:4-7) to equip the saints until we all attain to the unity of the faith (Eph. 4:11-13).

I do not believe the gifts are distributed in lists of pink and blue, male and female, young and old. It does not matter whether or not I give someone the title of a pastor or a ministry director or a shepherd because I do not do the calling to ministry nor do I distribute the gifts! No human does! Ordination and the title associated are a cultural and biblical recognition of the calling and gifting of God  on an individual’s life to vocational ministry.

I am proud of some of my titles: Aunt. Wife. Mom. Daughter. Friend. Pastor. Minister. Professor. I look forward to some of my future titles and the images and roles that they will bear like grandmother. There are other titles or roles that I wish were not mine and I try to ignore like widow and secretary because they have negative connotations but they are still realities in my life.

Worship has come to mean singing, but technically music is only one form and part of the broader definition. Similarly, using the word shepherd instead of pastor, even though pastor means shepherd in the original languages, the understanding and definition of a shepherd is no longer understood in our modern non-agrarian society. The title and role of a pastor does carry with it a broader description of function.

I think of the scene in the movie, A Few Good Men, where there is an exchange between Jack Nicholson’s character, Jessup, and the judge.
Jessup:I would appreciate it if he would address me as “colonel” or “sir.” I believe I’ve earned it
Judge: Defense counsel will address the witness as “colonel” or “sir.”
Jessup:[to Judge]I don’t know what the hell kind of unit you’re running here.
Judge:And the witness will address this court as “judge” or “your Honor.” I’m quite certain I’ve earned it.

[Sidebar comment – calling men pastors and women ministry directors is not really an issue for me. The real issue is calling anyone a pastor or shepherd who has not earned the title!]

So, I am wresting with a comment made at work this week. I do not want to diminish the call of God and the title I have earned. But is that prideful, stubborn or sinful? Am I “stuck” in an obsolete past? Are my ideas irrelevant? What am I misunderstanding? And if we are now calling all the current pastors and ministry directors shepherds, does that make me a “hired hand”? (John 10)

Never a Shadow

Today is Ground Hog Day. It is also Tim Hummel’s Birthday and the Appleton’s Anniversary. Emily Beth Elwood was born this morning, And on the high church calendar it is Candlemas Day.

Most of the time Punxatawny Phil is wrong in his prediction about the weather and the seasons changing. But I had a thought this evening about shadows. The Bible says that with God there is never a shifting shadow! How amazing is it that God is completely trustworthy and unchangeable. With Him there is always an “early spring”. God’s light is shadowless and can never be overshadowed. “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

Once again I am reminded and grateful for God’s faithfulness and complete reliability in a world full of shifting shadows and instability.

Jest in Time

I am reminiscing about the season of my life that Tibby and I launched a business and ministry. It was 1988 soon after her dad died and a class we took at Scottsdale Community College when the idea was born. Our mission was to help people learn how to invite more laughter and play in their lives, in their families, in their work places and their faith.

We researched the subject, defined vocabulary, studied scripture for a theological basis and laughed endlessly. We were not a comedy act but we were funny and creative in our delivery. We formed a business plan, hired an accountant, joined the local chambers of Commerce, made a promo video, business cards and brochure.

We had so many great opportunities. We challenged dentists to architects. We trained teachers. We inspired parents. We played with students to grandparents. I could go on, but for now I am reflecting on the strong conviction that God is a God of joy and that when we invite laughter and play into our lives we reflect His image and design for us. That reality has impacted my own life, relationships and ministry.

New Year New Choices

I must say that last year I was very successful at meeting my resolution, which was to not make any resolutions! LOL

This year however is different. There are only 250 days or so until I hit a big birthday and I feel like I have some things to address as I say goodbye to this decade of my life. It definitely has been the hardest years but that is not meant to be a complaint. It is just a statement of fact.

So I am attempting the classic resolution of losing weight. I am reading through the Bible with the focus on discovering the beauty and joy of the Lord. I am working on a writing project and I am trying to read a few more books. Perhaps I am taking on too much all at once but I need to try.

The big landmark birthdays are more than just another ring on the the tree of life; I am not expecting depression but I guess it might be more introspection about what I have done with my life and my mortality. Maybe not. I don’t know, but I want to be in top condition emotionally, physically and spiritually for when the magic date hits the fan.

I guess someone might look on and think that I am trying to reinvent myself and to some degree they might be right. On another level I would say that I am just trying to figure out a path through a new chapter that is uncomfortable, natural and forces new habits to live it successfully. After all the empty nest, the loss of career ministry career and widowhood are the scenery on this leg of the journey. In other words I am finding new ways to enjoy the life God has given me to the fullest and since I have never been here before I want His perspective and hear that I am enough.

Running my race to win….

Moving on.

Dear Christina,

I remember when I first met you. You were a friend of Kelsey’s and you were willing to give up a week to help her as she led a mission trip with students. You were beautiful with kind eyes and an inviting smile. Since that time I have come to know you in a very different way and today I have the joy of  declaring that you are my beautiful friend with the kind eyes, the inviting smile and the intentional heart. I have mixed emotions about you moving “upstairs”. While you are gifted and called by God,which is just understating the obvious, I am selfish and I want you to stay down here in this space.

One thing I have learned over the years is that although it is difficult to embrace, change is something with which I must learn, on an ongoing basis, to live. Because you are not really leaving, this is sort of the farewell where nothing really needs to be said, in part because our adventures don’t have to end. And that is a good thing. At the same time, nothing will be quite the same, so it is tinged with a kind of sadness. Of course no one wants their group of friends and colleagues to be exactly the same over a course of years, but a selfish part of every person wants it all to be repeated out of nostalgia, kind of like putting it all into a little jewelry box that when opened up has the familiarity of the ballerina spinning just the way it was when you last opened the lid.

I guess the main reason saying “goodbye” is difficult is because life will never be the same since we are closing the door on your HSM chapter, thus committing it to memory. It will no longer be an organic, living thing. I think goodbyes are a certain brush with mortality. It is like time running out and so we must make the most of every conversation, every encounter since it might be the last.  I like to live my life imagining that my next reunions are just around the corner and that, though a chapter might close, the stories will never come to an end!

Christina,when I was younger I had mentors who were all older than me and spoke into my life, modeling grace and holiness, displaying redemption and joy. I guess I always pictured mentors as older because the Bible offers the mandate to older believers. And even though I do believe that wisdom comes with age (sometimes),as I am growing older and after years of ministry with young people, I think young people can be very wise (1 Tim. 4:12). In other words, generally there isa connection between age and wisdom, but not necessarily!  I bring it up to you because you are younger(duh)and you are one of my mentors. I want to be like you “when I grow up”. I am in awe of your intentionality, the depth of your faith and the way you lead others by your words and your character to live lives of holiness and integrity.

Thank you for habitually pointing to Jesus. Thank you for being a joyful way of knowingHim better. May God bless you all the days of your life and may “your tribe increase”.

Jim learned to play the guitar on this Broadway Harmony. I am passing it on to you because,like him, you have led me into the Throne room in creative and lovely ways. I am grateful.   With love, Miriam 

Gethsemane, Israel

PS See you Upstairs!

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