Thursday, March 29, 2012

This Stinks!!! And It's Ok :)

Friends this is not a feel good blog :) This is a real blog. That is the thing about me! I will always tell it like it is. I debated writing a blog today even though I felt inspired. But then I realized that someone just might need to hear this! It's Ok to say This Stinks!! There are going to be many moments in your life that do not bring happiness. Don't feel condemned or faithless if you have a moment. Life is going to be FULL of moments. It is unrealistic to say it's ok to celebrate the happy moments but downplay the negative ones. NOONE is happy or on top of the world 100% of the time. NOONE has the answers to all of life's questions! It's being able to find that balance in your life that is key.
Have you ever walked into your house after being gone for the day and had a foul odor hit you? You walk into your kitchen and either discover smelly garbage or a sour dish rag! Both equally disgusting and equally potent!! You can spray rose scented perfume, put out candles, bake some brownies and more...but if you have stinky garbage in your kitchen...the stink is going to eventually win out!! You have to acknowledge that Hey something smells! Then work to discover the source of the stink! Then make the decision to get rid of the garbage. Covering it up never works! And the same is true for those moments in our lives that our just downright stinky! If we cover them up, they will resurface, and generally when they come back..they come back with a vengeance.
A young girl I know lost her father this week. She was full of good memories and expressions of her love for him for a few days on Facebook. The wishes of condolences and prayers were pouring in. I went on there today and she is expressing anger. Wanting to punch I am assuming God for taking him away from her when she still needed him. And people don't know to say :) Is God mad at her for expressing how she feels? Absolutely not! Is it God's fault? No. Death is part of life. But in my book it is ABSOLUTELY OK to express your feelings when you don't understand!! Why??? We have all been there! It stinks to be hurt, or to experience loss. There are moments that are not "fixed" by a quick prayer and a scripture.
You may be thinking oh my goodness! Somebody pray for Pastor April. She is losing faith :) No I am expressing my faith! My faith is a real and growing thing. I do not claim to have arrived. I am seeking! Seeking God's face in the midst of these stinky moments. He has NEVER let me down or forsaken me but that doesn't mean I haven't been let down or forsaken! Through my current journey I keep thinking that there is nothing more that can surprise me, there is nothing else that can hurt me more than I am already hurt. But then something else happens. You think you know people. People who were so important to you and it's like you were not even a part of their life at all. Have you been there? Have you felt like this surely can't get any worse, and then it does? It's ok! We all have. I guess the entire point of this blog is to say it's ok to think it's not ok! :) We have all had those times when we just can't understand how or why or what we have done to deserve something!
Even while writing this I am starting to feel better!! Just being able to put it into words! "How I am being treated is not right!" or "what they said is not true!" or "this whole situation is not fair and I just don't understand!" It's ok to express your REAL feelings :) God knows them anyway and He is right there with us every step of the way!! You never get an answer to a question that you don't ask! He knows how we feel and He wants to be there with us to help us work through. And trust me, sometimes it is a process of working through it!! :) I can honestly say though, I have never experienced God's grace and His love like I have during the Stinky Moments! Just when I am convinced it will never get better He does something to show me that it will. Just when I think I can't make it through this, He sends someone or something to encourage me to show me that better days are ahead and He has them prepared for me! He has proven to me countless times again and again. He loves me!! Truly loves me..stinky moments and all. And sometimes in life God LETS it start to stink a little to remind us that it is time to take out the "trash". :) You will never change what you will tolerate. So today I want to say This Stinks!!! But It will be Ok!! I am ready Lord. Let me learn what I need to learn through this. Thank you for letting me whine and loving me through it!! :) And thank you my friends for letting me vent and whine to you :) And for letting me just be me!! :) Pray for Happy Inspiration for me! hahahaha

Love to you! April

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"We Are The Apple of His Eye"

Inspiration can come from the strangest places! When I decided to start writing this blog, I thought I would probably write one a week, keep it to topics that I thought would be funny or interesting at least. But it hasn't really worked out that way! I have found that most of my blogs have come from a momentary inspiration that caused me to feel like I should share. This one is no different! :)
I was sitting at my desk this afternoon eating an apple. For those of you who truly know me, you know the stunning part of that last sentence is that I was eating an apple! hahahaha Yes, I am trying to be healthier and make better choices...but that's for another blog. :)
I was eating this apple in typical April fashion. First thing I normally do when I eat an apple, is "polish" the outside real good first, remove the stem if there is one and then circle the apple around to find just the perfect spot to take the first bite. I did the following things and then I began to eat the apple. Hilariously, it's been so long since I had an apple I forgot how juicy they are. So in the middle of eating my apple, I set it down for a minute to get a tissue to wipe the "apple slobber" off of my desk. When I picked the apple back up and started to take a bite, I noticed a little bit of brown peeking out from under the still uneaten part. After further examination, I found that there was a bruised or damaged part under the skin. I have never liked this since I was a little kid. So I set about using my teeth to pull out the bruised part so I could throw it away before I ate the rest of the apple. If I wouldn't have looked down and just started eating again, I probably wouldn't have really noticed!
That is when this thought came to me!!! We are so like that apple :) (And for me not just in shape! hahahaha) We can look so pretty on the outside. With just a little "polishing" we shine. But that shiny red peeling is hiding what lies underneath. Our secrets, our fears, our insecurities. We are certain that if others could see our imperfections that they would find us to be less valuable in some way! That if God knew what we really looked like on the inside, He would choose a better, more qualified specimen.
But here is the kicker...He already knows what we look like. We can try and hide it, disguise it, cover it up but that time and effort is wasted. He knows! And the funny thing is those are the parts that He likes most about us! You may say...April that makes no sense. But I say it makes perfect sense. Because God's ways are not ours. Our imperfections are what makes us different from everybody else. Our fears and struggles are the things that we usually give voice to and God is listening. He likes it that I am not a cookie cutter version of someone else. Yes, someone else may sound like me, or be short like me, or even wear cool colors in their hair like me :) But no one else has the combination of elements that make up me! He doesn't set me aside because He sees a slight failure here or a mistake there. In fact I think he sees my failures and thinks of ways to give me a chance to make myself better through them. He looks at areas where I have made a mistake and knows that deep down I can do better, I can be better. He looks at all of the things that I have been through or experienced and sees the opportunity for me to use "my bruises" to help someone else who is going through the same rough spot!
So in all truthfulness, we shouldn't hide our bruises or scars, because these are the marks that set us apart. The things we are often ashamed of, help to tell our beautiful life story. More than one place in the Bible, we are referred to as the "Apple of His Eye". It doesn't say anything about being a perfect, blemish or bruise free apple. It just says the apple. That is a great place to be! Right in the center of His vision. He knows and sees us for who we truly are...pretty and ugly, good and bad. And He could not love us more!
My prayer for you today my friend is that you see yourself the way that He does. Man looks on the outward but God looks on the heart. And you my friend have captured His heart!
Can you imagine how inspired I could get from chocolate???!! :) Nothing but love for you today!
Your friend - April

Monday, March 19, 2012

Love Shines Thru Loss

I don't know why I thought of this story the other day. It's funny how we can be going along in our day and a flash from the past comes into our mind. I remembered this one conversation I had with my mom concerning boys :) There was this certain boy that I liked at school. We were in the same grade. We had similar likes and dislikes. We both were athletic and played on the sports teams at school. I remember we became really good friends and he would punch me in the arm and say something funny and I would punch him back and say something funny too :) I soon started to like him as more than a friend and I thought maybe he was starting to feel the same way about me. Let me preface the rest of this story by saying, I went to a Christian high school and we had to wear dresses or skirts for the first few years there so I would wear a Jean skirt and have my basketball shorts on under it and would wear socks, so when school was over, all I had to do was go take my skirt off, change my shirt and I was ready for practice. As you can tell, I was quite the fashionista! hahahaha......back to my story.
So unnamed boy asked me if he could talk to me one day after practice. I remember being so nervous because homecoming was coming up. We were Juniors and I was sure he was going to ask me. I waited around in the gym after practice and he walked over to me. I braced myself for "the moment". A few guys were milling around in the gym, so he grabbed my arm and asked if we could walk over and talk in private! This was it!! I just knew it! Then he said the words that all girls dread..."I wanted to ask you about Homecoming. You are good friends with unnamed girl. Do you think she would ever consider going with me if I asked her? You guys are such good friends I knew that if I talked to you first you could put in a good word for me" What the heck???!! This was not happening!! And even worse, even though my friend had never said outright that she liked this guy, I knew my friend would go if he asked her. Because hey, we did go to a small Christian school and there were only so many choices! I remember feeling that familiar lump forming in my throat..Dear God no! I will not cry in front of this guy. I sucked it up as best as I could...I became the world's greatest actress! I said "Dude! Are you kidding me? (punched him in the arm) Sure! I will talk to her. I'm sure she would go with you! I got your back! Leave it to me!" He laughed and said I knew I could count on you! He went his way and I went mine. I will NEVER forget the feeling of rejection and dejection I felt that day. I went home and in my best girlie drama fashion I fell across my bed and cried and cried.
My mom came into my room to check on me and I poured my heart out. No one will ever love me...no one will ever want to date me..yada yada. And she did what only moms can do best...reassured me that there was someone out there for me would who love me and appreciate me like I deserved. She told me how beautiful I was on the inside and out and somehow magically made me feel better. It did not change my situation. I still ending up going to Homecoming and having to watch them laugh and have a great time, but the sting was lessened by the words of love that my mom choose to speak over me.
Fast Forward to current times :) I would like to say that that experience was the last bad love experience that I have had to suffer. That my life became like a Disney fairytale from that point on. But we all know that real life doesn't work like that. I have gone on to experience many more ups and downs in the arena of love. I suffered through lonely years at college to a broken engagement my senior year of college. After that many lonely years wondering if it was God's plan for me to always be single, to every person who went to my church trying to set me up with their unsaved loved ones :), to finding true love in my late 20's, to now ... suffering a terrible heartbreak with the loss of that true love by the ending of our marriage. I have felt the greatest sides of love, feeling treasured, loved, protected. And I have suffered the greatest blows that love can deal you - the pain, the rejection, the loss and broken heartedness. I have experienced first hand - breakups, disappointments, multiple miscarriages, bankruptcy, divorce and more.
At times, it has been tempting to say never again!! Why in God's name would I continually put myself out there so someone or something can take advantage of my heart? But I have learned the true meaning to the expression "It's better to have loved and loss than to never have loved at all". I have learned that I would have never known what true love feels like if I wouldn't have dare to take a chance on it. And I certainly would not have discovered how truly all encompassing and great God's love is for me, if I would not have been in a place where His love
was all I had to really lean on. Love is a powerful thing. God's love even more so. He has been with me through the good and the bad. He has been the perfect example of what true love is. He has loved me through every situation I named above. He didn't turn His back on me when my belief or faith wavered. He never answered my anger and hurt in kind but He gently listened and let me "vent" and prepared a way when I could see no way.
I have recently found myself dealing with some of the old familiar questions :) Am I going to be alone forever? Who would want a short middle aged woman with strange colors in her hair? :) I have thrown myself across my bed and cried and cried over my loss, just hoping my mom would come in and tell me how great I am and how it will all be ok :) And trust me, she does. But in those moments of grief, I have also felt God holding me closer and reassuring me that He has me. That He sees the value in who I am and that His plan is no different for me now ... He has great things for my future and if I will just trust in Him and let Him hold my heart...He will repair it and make it new again!
I may not be living the "happily ever after" of a fairytale, or get to be the real life version of The Notebook :), but I am God's and He is mine. His love for me will never change and as I look at my life and all that He has blessed me with, I know that He has my future in His hands. And I can't think of a better place right now to be that there :) Have you loved and loss? Have you experienced the torment of rejection at the hands of another? Have you gotten to that place in your life where you don't feel like anyone will ever love you or believe in you? Stay encouraged my friend. The enemy would love to see you stay down when you get knocked down. But don't do it!! Get back up and come out swinging. God knows! He has always had your life planned out. A smart lady I know once said to me "life's disappointments can actually be God's appointments". At the time I didn't fully grasp the concept. But trust me I have now :) Every time lives lets you down, it just provides a greater opportunity for God to lift you up! And up is where we are all headed!! :)
Your Friend in this journey called life -
April

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What You Do Is Not Equal To Who You Are!

When I first decided to start writing this blog, it was mainly because I needed an outlet to express some things. With all of the craziness that was happening in my life, I figured it would help me take some of the negativity and channel it into something positive. I have tried to write things that would be helpful and uplifting but mostly relevant to other people. I have decided that being real is relevant :) Not every moment is a "God revelation" moment in our lives. Some moments are just spent walking out what we should have already learned. We experience many things in life. Now if we learn from them or not, that's a different story!
I feel qualified to talk about this next thing because of my age :) Ha!! Never thought I would be throwing that out there to make me seem legit. But it is true, the longer you live, the more experience you have under your belt. The greater the opportunity you have to demonstrate that you have learned from things :)
I have gone through a very interesting time in my life the last few years. If you know me at all, you know that one of my greatest passions since I was a little girl is singing. I have been blessed with many wonderful opportunities to use the gift that God blessed me with. I have sang in many churches, at many weddings, many funerals, overseas and more. But the last few years, those opportunities have been slowing down. And I would be lying if I said it hasn't been a little frustrating. I began to notice myself getting replaced slowly but surely on the weekly worship teams. I haven't sang at a wedding in I don't even remember when and the same goes for funerals. I have been blessed with the opportunity to sing overseas and it was like jumping into a cold pool on a hot summer day...Refreshing!! I'm not ready to be too old! I'm not ready to be a has been. I understand that you have to put yourself out there, but I also know that you can put yourself out there all you want..if the powers that be don't reciprocate then there is nothing you can do about it!
And also I have to say, if you know me, you would know probably my second greatest passion in life has been Masters Commission. I have been privileged to be a part of this awesome discipleship program since 1993. I found my niche when it came to this program. A way to get paid to spend time with awesome young people? Are you kidding me? :) I have had the wonderful privilege of playing just a small part in the development and discipleship of some of the greatest young people I know. Due to circumstances beyond my control :) this part of my life came to an abrupt end in September of 2011. No, the MC Network did not fall apart :) Life kept on going! And seemingly, my absence for the most part has gone unnoticed. So not only was I beginning to not be used as often in the arena of singing, I lost the job of being a Master's Commission director.
I found myself doing something that is not in character for me..asking "Who Am I?" I mean I have always known I am April, a singer and discipleship leader. I was the one who was appointed to help other people find out who they are. Why God? What is going on? Who am I without these things? This is a weird place to be!! I don't feel different, but life is forcing me to think different. I still have the love to do what I have always wanted to do, but I am not being given the same platforms as before. What does this mean? I swore I would never be a diva, but it's tempting people! :) It's hard to fight the urge not to "list your resume" for people. I have only been at the current church I am at for seven months. I am currently the church receptionist. Why do I want to laugh out loud when I say that? Most of the people have NO idea that I have been an ordained minister since I was 22 or that I was a Master's Commission Director for 18 years. Geez come to think of it, the youngest girl on the worship team today was 18. Help me Jesus! :)
This is wild times I tell you. These "abilities and positions" have been my security blanket. I would love to finish this blog by giving you the "remedy" of what to do when you find yourself in this situation. But I can't! Remember when I said it's about being real? Today I am just telling you where I really am. I am in the midst of searching. I am discovering all over again who I am. It's so easy to become wrapped up in your title or position. To only be as great as your last song. But I am defining who I am now, not what I do. I know what I can do! I have proven that. I am learning who I am. You and I have both had people tell us to make the most of every moment, because life is short. It's times like this when I really feel that way. When I look back and I force myself to examine if I have always been thankful for where I was or what God was allowing me to do. And of course the answer is no. I am human. I have been guilty of being caught up in "my present" and feeling like nothing would ever change and therefore, not appreciating it as much as I should.
But I can tell you today, I am stepping back and reexamining. Any opportunity God is placing before, I am cherishing. When I am sitting at my desk and staring at the wall and watching other people do what I used to do, it's so hard not to be like a little kid and say I can do that to! :) But I have learned that the one consistent thing in my life has always been and will always be..God. I have to either trust Him with everything or with nothing at all. I have to believe that He knows what He is doing. That He sees my BIG picture :) I don't believe that it is a coincidence that I came across this scripture in my reading this morning. I will leave you with this word from The Message version...I Peter 1:5-7 "But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for-God has had it with the proud, But takes delight in just plain people. So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; He'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you." So glad He knows! :)

In this game of life with you my friend!! Let's hold each other up!
Your Friend - April

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Never Say Never!!

Now that I have the song by Justin Beiber running through my head with that title, I will explain! :) I have learned in my life, and often the hard way, to never say never. I have also learned that you can never know or assume to imagine how you will respond to certain situations until you are in them yourself. Oh! Don't get me wrong! I have been guilty of being THAT girl! You know the one..."If that was me, I would never handle it like that!" or "If a man ever treated me like he is treating her, I would..." Yeah, it's so easy to say what you would or wouldn't do when you don't have to put it to practice :)
I gained a whole new respect for parents with crying children, when I had a crying child of my own. I have begun to learn to appreciate what it means to be older discovering all of the things that I just can't seem to do anymore. Life has a funny way of taking twists and turns that we could never have foreseen. I am an expert at eating my words! You would think over time I would learn to choose my words more carefully, but hey I must like to eat them right? :) Life will happen to us. Period. Unless you bury your head in the sand, you are going to have to face life head on. You will have high moments and low moments. You will experience unbelievable happiness only to feel the most gut wrenching heart ache.
We pray for God to get us out of these moments, but I think these things are what define us! If we never experienced anything, we would not have the ability to gain perspective. If nothing ever changed in our lives, we would become one dimensional people with tunnel vision. One thing that you can count on in life is Change is inevitable!
It's funny I was thinking about Kmart the other day. When I was a kid, you could never have convinced me that there would be a day when there wasn't a Kmart in every town. Kmart was cutting edge. I mean they had Jacquelyn Smith Fashions for goodness sake :) And then they got Kathy Ireland clothes and signed the queen of all things homemaker...Martha Stewart. Kmart is where you would go to find everything you needed at a discount price. They even had cool cafes in them so you could get popcorn and a slushie and ride the carousel outside before you went home. I am sure the powers to be at Kmart had a little of "the we are untouchable" mindset. And while they were busy thinking of how great they were, a humble man in Arkansas who was raised on hard work and determination started a little store called Walton's and well...the rest is history. Walmart has now replaced Kmart as the go to shopping spot.
In the middle of something, the passion and emotion that we feel makes us believe that we will never experience something greater or we will never feel a pain deeper. I can look back over the "collective" of my life and remember different moments when I felt..this is as good as it gets! High School graduation, college graduation, Masters moments, my wedding, the birth of my child, etc. Each outdid the moment before it. But something will come along that will top those. Oh that I could stop here. But we all know there is a "flipside to that coin". I remember the times when I felt it couldn't hurt any worse than this! First Crush, first rejection, broken engagement, loneliness, miscarriages, being let down, betrayal, divorce. I would love to say that I will never experience anything bad again. That I have taken my share of hard knocks. But it's simply not true. As long as I live and breathe, I will experience life. I say ALL of this today to remind you that what you do in your life when you are not experiencing those highs and lows is as important as anything you will ever do. It's in these moments of middle ground that we discover what we are made of. In these moments, we make "deposits" into our spiritual and emotional beings. That we work on who we are. We can't allow ourselves to become complacent and believe that nothing will ever change for us. That way when "life happens" to us, we have something to draw from. We learn to prepare for what is ahead, even if we don't know what "it" is. You don't feel quite so blind sided when your foundation is firm. I'm not naive to think you can ever be prepared for everything in your life. But I know that working on yourself, loving God, developing a prayer life are all things that have helped me make it through when I felt like I would never survive. I don't begrudge the "boring" moments in my life so much anymore. I even welcome the emotional reprieve. Knowing my personality, my ups and downs are going to be bigger or feel bigger than most people's. I have come to embrace change and know that with change comes my opportunity to become better. I have also learned to never say never! Because when you do, you are often destined to repeat things. I am determined to learn to love the moment that I am in. And to stay prepared for whatever lies ahead. And dear God, we know for me that has got to be an Up experience! hahaha :) Praying for your continued best and missing those darn Kmart "blue light" specials! Until next time...
Your Friend - April