GUEST POST: The Untouched Gift

*a special post from special guest Michele Lee*

Picture this:
You spend much time, thought, and your resources in getting the perfect gift. You put so much of your mind on it that “the gift” becomes a personal and real place in your heart. You go to the celebration with great expectations in watching the person open the gift with as much passion as you put into the process only to see them smile and politely say thank you and set it aside……BIG SIGH….Letdown.

Or maybe they show great appreciation but you see that they never use the gift….. disappointment!

The greatest pleasure and gift given me is to both teach and pastor. And yes, I can preach too! I have in one hand the ability to take information and clearly present it with novelty, but also depth.  And in my other hand, I have a great need to guide, love, train, and be a safe place for people to gather—gifts that were given by our Lord Himself with the sole purpose to give Him glory in order to bring others to Him. Which is really the definition to a purpose-filled life.

But sadly, I was that person, like many, who was given this beautiful box with the most elaborate decorations that obviously showed the time and attention given to it. I opened these gifts one day, only to set them aside.

I was using one gift but not to its fullest.  It was like having this piece of technology with a million cool things, and I used only one feature.  Instead of using the whole gift, I smiled with a polite thank you and set it aside.

I allowed insecurities, inadequate feelings, and fear to stop me from real and genuine fulfillment.

I cannot set back and watch others make this mistake.

If I were to guess, there are people reading this right now that your gift is just sitting there, either unopened or collecting dust.

I can say this with certainty because I have observed much of this my 25 years in ministry and in private and public education. I’ve seen students and adults have so much potential, and use none.  They find themselves aimlessly walking in circles to find purpose and success, and yet still feel so unfulfilled. I’ve watched people use the gift, but quickly set it aside because they feel “uncomfortable ” with it. I mean who gets a gift and is a master the first time with it? Not even the most technologically gifted people can say that.
I’ve heard many people tell me they showed up late to the party and did not receive a gift.

What?!

In God’s family everyone gets a gift! He’s just generous like that.

On the other end, I have watched someone so insecure, so unsure and so hesitant have courage to use the gift and become “beyond what they ever thought or imagined.”

Gifts are unlimited with our limitless God but here are a few to get your mind thinking :

The gift:

  • of hospitality
  • of encouragement
  • of compassion
  • of serving
  • of leadership
  • of prayer
  • of generosity
  • of creativity
  • of listening
  • of writing
  • of speaking
  • of organizing
  • of planning
  • of music
  • of connecting
  • of teaching
  • of preaching
  • of filling in the gap where needed

This is just to name a few, but please don’t believe that all of these can’t be in your life, because they can. A gift just means you’re really strong in that area or areas. And the gifts aren’t limited to one place. Your gifts are for every area of your world—home, work, church, leisure, and even strange, as in, not-part-of-your-normal-routine places.

Most people have allowed unfortunate circumstances or a bump in the road with people to decide whether they will use the gift. And I am here today…. writing this post…. to encourage you to use the gift(s). Trust me…. I had prepared another post and God took me here.

Three things happen when you use the gift:

1. God is glorified. Everything that good happens is from God. Matthew 5:16 tells us people will see your good works and glorify your God. If it ever becomes about you, it’s not from God and you will quickly fall short and be empty.

2. You are blessed. We were created with a void that only God can fill. When it’s filled with Him we are fulfilled. He meets emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, and tangible needs. John 10 says God has come to give you life MORE abundantly.

3. Others are blessed through your gift.  You often are the game changer in someone’s life or circumstances. We don’t have to think BIG to bless people. It often is the daily moments we say “yes” to obedience that we bless others. Why else would Proverbs close its book with this beautiful description of a woman: “her children will rise and call her blessed”? Why? Because SHE blessed them! She said “yes” to using her God gifts.

When I made a deliberate effort to use the gifts daily ….. not every once in a while …. not when I felt good…. not when it was convenient, but daily use the gift and be passionate about it, things changed. All the excuses I made, He had a reply and the solution. He was just waiting for me to say, “Yes! I’m as excited to use the gift as You were to give it to me!”

Thank you God, that You love us generously. That You give to us generously. That You equip us generously. That You see each of us as your unique gift!

Happy to receive and use the gift,
The Mrs. Pastor

A Little Thought From Heather:
If I were to list out some individuals who helped me discover and develop the gift God gave to me, Michele would be right there at the top.  She and Steve have not only ministered to my life for 23 years but they have mentored me, something I wrote about in a former a couple years ago called InspiringInfluence. Much of who God grew me to be is from their generous investment into my life.  I’m overjoyed to have Michele share with us and challenge our hearts on our online home and I invite you to take some time to visit her at her online home, The Mrs. Pastor Blog.  I’m certain you’ll be sharpened and inspired in your time reading around there.   Heather

*I pray this post spoke to you. Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? We can’t grow with out you.*

About Little Bit About Michele

My name is Michele and my husband Steve and I have three beautiful girls.  Morgan, my oldest is married and works hard at whatever her hands set out to do. Lauren is an Elementary Education major at Oklahoma State University (our alma mater) and Kinsey just graduated High School and will be with sister at OSU seeking to major in Sports Media.  We are a Disney family….its our happy place.  It was a childhood memory of mine and I wanted it to be for my girls as well.  I also am a second grade teacher and have the awesome opportunity to make the classroom another ministry opportunity.

I am the “Mrs. Pastor”.  A dear friend gave me that nickname, and it just stuck with me.  I never wanted to have the label as “pastor’s wife” (even though I love my husband and am proud to stand beside him!).  I have my own identity, callings, giftings, and voice.  When I finally realized this, I had purpose.

We have served in ministry for 25 years.  We started off volunteering in college and were soon called to Coweta Assembly and have been here ever since.  We served as the youth pastors for 15 years, associate pastor for 2 years, and have been the lead pastors for 7 years.

We have been blessed to have so many people we consider family.  We have been blessed to have  mentored teenagers and then watch them grow into strong adults, couples, and parents.  We have been blessed that our children have been a part of one community their entire school years.

My giftings: teaching and prayer

My greatest improvement: confident leadership

My favorite involvement: praying over the people

My biggest hangup: talking during service

My enjoyment: reading (the word and novels)

My favorite woman speaker: It’s a tie….Pricilla Shirer and Joyce Meyer

My saddest memory: When my husband, Steve, was burned

My greatest wishto leave the greatest spiritual legacy to my girls….and they do the same for their children

My vision: to see a growing, thriving, loving, prospering, spirit-led, hungry-for-the-things-of-God, joyful, positive group of people who are prayed up and excited to be in God’s house each time the door is open.

My dream: to work side by side with my husband full time

My love language: I think I have two: acts of service and time

I’d love to hear from you.

The Mrs. Pastor

If you prefer Vlogs over Blogs ☺️…..

Here’s a YouTube link for you ❤️

What 18 Years Means To Me

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” –Walt Disney

When I was a little girl I used to get behind my Grandma’s lace dining room curtains, drape them across my face, grasp some flowers between my two hands and cue off the wedding march all on my own. The drapes would slowly inch up my body, rising with each step over my face and falling off the top of my head. I was enacting a dream I had. A dream to one day wear a beautiful gown, hold some beautiful flowers and have a beautiful veil cover my face. Of course, my five year-old-self hadn’t given much consideration to a major player in this dream. The groom! This dream was all about a wedding. Not a marriage.

Just a couple short years later I was lying in the burn unit. On occasion, I expressed my assumptions. I can revisit those seven year-old-thoughts like they were rolling through my mind yesterday. Who will ever love me? No one will ever want to marry me. I will never have a husband. I will never have children.

Dreams of children are often full of fantasy. I suppose mine were no different. I hadn’t lived long enough to dream of high educational goals. I hadn’t lived long enough to envision myself in a respectable career. I simply dreamed of what I saw in my Disney movies. And while I saw what my body looked like, it was my Disney movies that influenced me to believe; believe that maybe, just maybe someone would love me, with all my scars still find beauty in me and love me.

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re fast asleep
In dreams you lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
 
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true ~ Cinderella

Brandon Meadows was my fulfillment of that dream.

Hopefully you didn’t vomit a little in your mouth at that last sentence, because while this post may be a little mushy-gushy, it does have some authentic marriage reflections I pray are encouraging to you.

I would have never ever thought in a million years that I’d meet the one “for whom my soul loves” at a Driller’s baseball game in Tulsa, Oklahoma when I was only fifteen years old. Never. In a million years!

And while we didn’t “hit it off,” the introduction paved the way for interest, leading to friendship and as the fairytales would have it, growing into love. But anyone who has been married for a hot minute can agree that not every married-moment feels like a fairytale. Ours certainly hasn’t.

06.19.1999. Our wedding date. Our marriage date. The beginning of our life together. The fruition of one dream and the vision of many more.

We were 18.

18 years old.

Barely adults. Barely old enough to vote. Underage to rent a car. Underage to have a toast of champagne.

We had nothing…..EXCEPT a dream of a life together.

Dreams are created twice.
The first creation is spiritual. The second creation is physical.
But they always start with what if?
What if you knew you couldn’t fail- what would you do?
What if time or money weren’t an object- what God-sized goal would you go after? – Mark Batterson, If

Oh, we knew we could fail. Countless people pointed to the possibility.

Oh, we knew money was an object. We had a futon for our furniture and converted a barn for our house.

But here we are 18 years later. Here we are at this stage, where we’ve lived in our marriage covenant just as long as we lived before it; celebrating half our lives married in the happiest place on earth. (Because our thirty-six year-old selves still believe in dreams, fairytales and happily ever afters.)

And here are just a few things we’ve gathered-

  1. The two shall become one is an on-going process.

And man! Has it ever been a process! There have been many a moments we didn’t mesh like one. But those moments have become fewer and farther in between. God created us individually with our own giftings, personalities and strengths, but He called us to be one. Years ago our small group leaders, Larry & Joan, gave us some valuable insight: When you get married you’re not sprinkled with magic oneness dust. Now that we could relate to. Wouldn’t it be nice if Tinker Bell could flitter around every marriage ceremony with a little bit of oneness dust?! But getting married in Disney won’t even guarantee that. It’s an every day, sometimes moment-by-moment decision (especially in the heated ones) to desire unity above anything else. Amazingly, even people with as different personalities as Brandon and me, eventually start thinking like one another, even finishing each other’s sentences! (That one really creeps the kids out by the way!)

  1. Sacrificial love didn’t look like what we thought it would.

Has anyone seen Disney’s Inside Out? Joy multiplies the manufacturing of Riley’s imaginary boyfriend. You know, the boyfriend we all imagined as teenagers? He continuously says, “I would die for Riley.” But living for someone can be way more sacrificial. Like saying, “I’m sorry.” I don’t know about you but that one is SUPER HARD after some intense disagreements. And like protecting and defending your spouse even at the expense of other relationships. Or like declining a job transfer that would take you away from your spouse, even if it may mean losing your job. Can’t say when we made that commitment we pictured the potential of having to consider the reality of possibly taking a pay cut or a position below qualifications. Thankfully, when we said, “no” for our marriage, God opened a door for an even better career change. But we would’ve never known had we not had the mindset of sacrificial love.

  1. We’re hinged on choice.

With sacrifice comes vulnerability. Standing before God and witnesses, vowing our life to our spouse, forsaking our self and all others as long as we both shall live puts us in a pretty vulnerable place. Forever. Brandon and I are seeing 18 years married, simply because he has chosen me and I have chosen him each day since June 19, 1999. We can love each other but keeping this union going means we each have to choose. And knowing that at any point one person may choose otherwise can be freakishly vulnerable. We’re geared to self protect, but that doesn’t jive with sacrificial love. So we go all in, abandoning ourselves and trusting God. Trusting God to help us forgive, trusting God to help us face the sin and shortcomings (because as hard as it is to face our own sin and shortcomings, it’s even more challenging to have to deal with our spouse’s). And even if a choice is made to abandon the covenant, still trusting God.

So here we are, thanking God for the yesterdays and trusting Him for our tomorrows. Not always picturesque. Not always perfect. But grateful for sharing it together.

Colossians 1:17 He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together.

I pray this post spoke to you. 

Did you know I’m writing a book about persevering through life’s painful places? 
Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? 

We can’t grow with out you.

*thank you to Kevin with Disney Fine Art Photography & Video for capturing some Grand Floridian Anniversary moments for us!

When Life Has You Benched

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I think it’s best to start this post with a disclaimer, a little clarification, that in no way, at all, am I implying I know much about anything involving sports. This post was comprised from a few Google searches and my own personal observations of a seventh grade basketball team. I’ve learned a lot.

Our oldest son has a love for fishing, soccer and basketball. He didn’t inherit any of those passions from his mom, and only one of them he can trace back to his dad. Jaron began playing soccer when he was four and basketball at five. Actually, he has interest in pretty much any physical outdoor or sporting activity, but over the years we have watched him hone in on his favorites.

You can only imagine our excitement and enthusiasm for him to play school ball this year. Attending games with parents we’ve met throughout the years of Upwards and booster club. Sitting in the stands watching him play in the same basketball gym we cheered players when we were students. Anticipating new memories with each game on the schedule. It was going to be great!

Well…..it wasn’t what we thought it’d be.

Honestly, I could just stop there.

How many times are we pumped up for a season and it doesn’t unfold into what we thought it’d be?

Like showing up every single day, early, and staying late giving every ounce of effort you have without a complaint and then being passed over for the promotion. Not what you’d thought it’d be.

Like getting up and sticking to that treadmill routine, staying disciplined to the eating plan, resisting the popcorn at the movies while every single person in your group is having some, with extra butter, only to get on the scale the next week and see not one pound has been shed from the efforts.

Like doing pre-marital counseling, making a ten-year plan, praying with and for your spouse, investing in their dreams and goals by personal sacrifice of time and money, then not feeling growth but rather decline in the marriage relationship.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned.

Sometimes things aren’t what we thought it’d be.

Kinda like seventh grade basketball for Jaron. He was eager. He was excited. He was at practice every single morning, five days a week, not missing one. He was on time, and even occasionally early when he could get his mom out the door to drive him there. He’d get home in the evening and practice free-throws, lay-ups and three pointers. He would shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot. Whether it was ten degrees or seventy, because yes, we have those temperature swings regularly in Oklahoma, he was out there working to improve.

So you can imagine how hard it was for us to watch him sit the bench. One game he didn’t play at all. Not at all.

Oh the parent inside. You know the parent inside. I wanted to give the coach some insight into my child’s hard work. I also wanted to ask him why not only my child was sitting the bench, but several other boys, who were good ball players. I saw a team of talent being overlooked. But every now and then God shows me how He’s growing me, because this communicator who feels everything can be worked out for the better with a good discussion never said one word. Not to the coach anyway. But to the Lord and my husband, I poured out my heart.

At one point this was dropped into my heart,

“Heather, you have prayed for years now that Jaron would know the difference between confidence and arrogance. Allow the opportunities to teach him.

And wow—the opportunity taught him so very much.

A couple things we talked about were….

Perseverance, Dedication & Commitment

The Lord spoke through my heart that one day Jaron may not feel appreciated or valued at his job, but he’s going to give his best because he’s personally learned what is it to have perseverance, dedication and commitment. That one day, when he experiences difficult times in his marriage, he’s going to continue giving his best because he’s learned what is it to have perseverance, dedication and commitment. And that was developed on the bench, not on the court.

Another quality developed on the bench—a mindset of service.

After one of the games I said to him, “Jaron, I couldn’t have been more proud of you if you were out there scoring every point. I watched you sit on that bench, knowing how deeply you desired to be playing, and you were cheering and encouraging your teammates. Not an ounce of the disappointment you felt kept you from staying focused on the team.”

Toward the latter part of the season, Jaron’s playing time increased quite a bit. And with it came the discussions emphasizing the mindset of service. “Serve the team well. If you have an opportunity to play, play for the team, not for yourself. That way, when you’re pulled out, it’s not about you, but about what’s best for the team.”

I get it. No one wants to sit on the bench. Here’s where my Google search got me. There were over fifty players on the rosters for the 2017 Super Bowl teams. Only eleven players from each team were on the field at a time. That’s a lot of players all dressed up to sit the bench for the most-watched television-sporting event of the year. But they’re still getting something out of it. And so do we!

“What do you mean, Heather?” I’m glad you wondered!

I’m talking about Romans 8:17 NLT “And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.”

May make ya wanna skip them both altogether. The glory may not be worth the suffering. Oh, but when the Lord is involved it is.

We are made into who He intended for us to be. We are developed beyond the tendencies of our nature. We are molded into more.

When life has you benched, when it feels it’s not worth the work, or the trouble, or the commitment, or the dedication, or the pain, or the suffering; remember, that in this world, all of it may very well seem worthless, but to God it’s the ingredients to produce something of great value!

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In Need of Others

Did you ever read the book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten“?  Whether or not you read the book, maybe you can remember back to those kindergarten days.  I attended kindergarten in the afternoon, so I’d get to sleep in and lounge around in the mornings.  My Grandma made me pancakes every morning and then took me to school. I remember learning the “I’m a Little Tea Pot” song and thinking how funny it was to see Mrs. Matthews make a spout with her arm and sing, “when I get all steamed up hear me shout, ‘tip me over and pour me out!’”  I remember the letter of the week showing up at our door and thinking it was completely magical.  What actually happened was an older grade student would place the inflatable letter at the door, knock and run.  When one of my kindergarten classmates opened the door, there was our letter of the week!

But perhaps my greatest memory in kindergarten was the self-realization that took place.  I discovered how much I loved people.  My parents thoroughly enjoyed telling the story about their first conference with my sweet teacher.  She informed them that in all her years of teaching, I believe it was around 30 at the time, she had never had a student move to all the tables in the first nine weeks of school.  Mrs. Matthews was trying to find a place for me to sit where I wouldn’t talk to anyone, but she soon discovered that I’d talk to whomever she set me beside.

These memories returned to my mind a couple of weeks ago while I was sitting around my kitchen table with some of my co-workers; John, Kersten, Bette and Stuart.  The afternoon had been spent with a small group of people who were strangers to me just a little over a year ago, but now felt like family.  Our little get together was more than just eating, swimming and enjoying a sunny afternoon together.  Our afternoon was about relationships and the value it gives to the lives that take time to build them.

This all leads me to wonder, “How does social media inhibit the potential of our relationships and friendships?”  Do we have a false sense of connection because we can conveniently post a comment or like a status?  When someone dies, is sufficient sympathy and comfort expressed online?  When one undergoes surgery, is love and support given through electronic communication?  Don’t get me wrong.  I utilize social media practically everyday, but I am mindful of letting it become the foundation for my friendships.

The most precious product we have to give is our time.  And I’m confident that those investments yield the greatest return.  How?  People change people.  Whether you are reaching out, or you’re being reached out to; it will change you.  Sending a card.  Making a meal. Meeting for coffee.  A call just to pray.  I realize the cost; the commitment of time, the awkwardness felt reaching outside our comfort zone, the risk of rejection.  But remember who it’s for?  The time, the awkwardness, the risk?  It’s for others.  For a creation God loves so very much.  People.

I pray we are provoked to make a positive evaluation and challenge to the relationships we hold so dearly in our lives.  May we consider the lives of those around us.  May we have purpose and intention in every life we touch, and acknowledgement and thankfulness for those who touch ours. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ~ NIV
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

“You may never have proof of your importance but you are more important than you think. There are always those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who.”
― Robert FulghumAll I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

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