The Big Announcement

The word is out. My husband and I stood on the stage of Mountain Lake Church – the church we planted 15 years ago – and announced our impending departure.

Even as I type those words, my fingers hesitate. Emotion catches in my throat. We dearly love our church and feel a deep sense of responsibility for it. Yet, God has given us a new task. He has been nudging us, preparing us, and moving us in this direction for years, really.

I could type all day and never explain our calling or our heart as clearly as Shawn did last weekend. Please take a few minutes and watch.

Nothing about SharpenHer will change. I will still use this platform to motivate and encourage. And, as always, I will share my life and journey along the way. Over the last year or so, I’ve taken a step back from writing often because my heart was wrapped up in this potential move. I was so consumed with adjusting my heart to God’s plan that I had a difficult time processing much else….like daily posts here! My acceptance of God’s call has been a journey that has demanded all of my attention. Yet, now that our decision is public, I feel a sense of creativity returning. I’m looking forward to connecting with all of you again!

In the meantime, would you pray for our family as we tackle a new adventure? Would you pray for the thousands of pastors, pastors’ wives, and ministry teams we hope to help?

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I’m Going To Miss That

By now, I hope you’ve gotten up to speed on all that is happening in the Lovejoy family.  While it was quite a news flash for most people, it certainly wasn’t for us. As a matter of fact, our decision to launch Courage To Lead has been brewing for a long time. We are anxious to dive headlong into a new ministry venture, to make a new house our home, and to meet new friends. HOWEVER…. We have also been grieving. Closing this chapter of our lives doesn’t happen easily or without heartache. We have planted a church, raised 3 children, baptized over 2000 people, made lifelong friends, and lived incredible lives in Cumming, Georgia. I feel like I’ve planted trees and watched them grow over the last 16 years, and now I will miss seeing their leaves change each season.

As my family prepares to adjust to a new life, I can’t help but celebrate what God has done during our time here….and to reflect on all I will miss. Being a church planter and pastor’s wife has been a privilege, an honor, and a superb adventure. I’m going to miss:
  • People stopping us in restaurants and stores because they recognize us. If they didn’t like us, they would avoid us. Taking time to say hello is a validation of their warm feelings toward our family. Our family has felt incredibly loved and valued.
  • Strangers telling us about the personal spiritual decisions they are making. They tell us in the church lobby. In emails. In Target. At the park. In our neighborhood. When they see us, they excitedly share of an upcoming baptism or an answer to prayer or about a friend they’ve invited to church. Celebrating what God is doing in the lives of people spurs us on
  • The privilege of influence that comes with our title. Being the pastor’s wife means people often seek me out for wisdom and guidance simply because they assume I have more spiritual knowledge than they do. I’ve taken that trust extremely seriously. I’ll miss planting myself in one spot in the church lobby and talking with people as long as they need me. I’ll miss leading the other women on our ministry team. I’ll miss teaching at Girlfriends. My title gave me a specific platform. What an honor to be chosen by God to lead in that way!
  • The way our security team cares for our family. It sounds ludicrous that we would need security, but then again we live in a world where messed up people do messed up things. Our security team has our back. Over the years, we’ve had a few questionable characters who needed a little attention, and our team acted with confidence and grace. When I leave the church lobby after each worship service I always chuckle when I hear one of our security crew say into a headset, “WOODSTOCK IS IN FLIGHT” or “SNOOPY IS HEADED TO THE HOUSE.”
  • The Saturday night debrief. I enjoy seeing our ministry team in action. In these meetings they critique and challenge every aspect of a weekend service. Their goal is to provide ministry in the most excellent way possible. We have always strived for conservative theology and progressive methodology. I feel a kinship with our pastors as we plot and plan together. I love being part of that fraternity
  • Messing with the parking team. I enter through the exit, park improperly, and have weekly battles with orange cones. When the team directs me to drive a specific direction, I roll down my window and tell them I have different plans. I recently discovered that one of our pastors gave the team a photo of my car with instructions to let me do whatever I want. It’s not nearly as fun messing with them if they aren’t going to play along, though. I’ll miss seeing them throw their hands in the air in defeat when they see my grocery-getter zipping down the drive.
  • Sitting on the front row. I have a front row seat for everything that happens at MLC. Baptisms, salvations, rescued marriages, salvaged relationships, healed addictions, new hires, leadership lessons, conferences, building projects, special events…I have a front row seat for all of it. I’ll miss that blue chair and the great view it offered
  • My Life Group(s). Participating in our small group ministry has afforded me not only spiritual growth but my closest friends. God uses those friendships to sustain and entertain me. I will miss eating, laughing, praying, and growing with my brothers and sisters.
Do you know what I’ve realized? Most of the things that I will miss most are the very things that some people complain about: lack of privacy, meetings, and responsibility. Yet, looking back I can tell you that those things haven’t drained me; they’ve energized me.
I’m going to miss so much about my life here in Georgia. So until my new life begins, I’m spending time celebrating all the things I love about my life now.
What about you? Don’t wait until it’s gone to appreciate the good things in your life! CELEBRATE THEM!
If your life changed tomorrow, what would YOU miss?
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Why I’m Rewriting My Task List Today

I’m a “get it done” kind of girl.

Make the lunches. Do the laundry. Plan the event. Meet the need. Accomplish the goal.

You get the idea. Each day has a task list to be tackled, wrestled to the ground, and annihilated. Ok, that might be a bit strong, but some days are a battle against the clock to get it all done, and my competitive (or, should I say perfectionistic) nature goes into overdrive.

I am not alone. Our culture is full of get it done people. We love “doing.”

We earn the degree. We make a living. We exercise. We plan events. We run errands, manage finances, serve our churches, and overcome crises. We. Do. All. The. Time.

Yet this morning I was reminded that “doing” doesn’t always get the prize. “Doing” only accomplishes my agenda; it doesn’t accomplish God’s. (Newsflash: God’s agenda almost always looks differently than ours.)

So what is on God’s agenda? Character.

Scripture is full of stories in which God is far more concerned with who someone is rather that what someone does. God urged:

  • Adam and Eve to be faithful
  • King David to be honest
  • Jonah to be obedient
  • Esther to be brave
  • Daniel to be determined
  • Hosea to be committed
  • Peter to be loyal
  • and, Paul to be willing to suffer for Him.

In God’s economy, being is better than doing. Character matters.

As I came across Psalm 15 today, God pricked my own heart, my attitudes, and yes, even my task list. Check it out:

“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous,who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.” (Ps 15:1-5 NIV)
As I allowed these words to sink into my heart, I became acutely aware of the kind of person God desires me to be: blameless, righteous, truthful, and kind. He instructs me to keep my promises, even when it is inconvenient, and He urges me to meet the needs of others without expectation of return. You see, God is far more interested in my character qualities than how many balls I can juggle.

Occasionally, my task list shouts at me, demanding that I respond to the tyranny of the urgent. Today, however, will not be one of those days. Today, I will be. I don’t have the luxury of tearing up my task list, but I can use Psalm 15 as a filter for who I am as I work.

What about you? Are you falling victim to the tyranny of the urgent? Are you managing your task list rather than cultivating your character? Today, be still and know that He is God. Nothing else is as important. 

Pinterest Paid Off

My middle child, Madison, turned 12 years old this month, and since she has been the recipient of far too many hand-me-downs from her older sister, I decided to surprise her with a birthday bedroom makeover. We sold all of her furniture (thanks to online yard sale sites on Facebook!) and designed a fresh, more mature environment for her to enjoy. Can I just say, I had a blast?!

She chose gray, navy, white, and a pop of chartreuse for her color scheme, and I began hunting for bargains. I found an upholstered headboard on clearance, chests on sale to use as nightstands, bargain bedding (with a bonus coupon discount), and a stunning chest of drawers for free (thanks to a major find in my in-laws’ garage). Toss in a few knick-knacks for style, and her room was a wrap.

But, I haven’t mentioned my favorite part. Madison wanted a full length mirror, but I didn’t want something too typical. I wanted barn wood. I wanted big. I wanted a bit of color. So, I did what any woman would do: I searched Pinterest. And let me tell you, Pinterest paid off! I found a pin about weathering new wood to create an older look. The lumber cost $15, I had all the paint I needed, and I grabbed a set of Christmas lights from the attic. This first picture shows the wood after I had painted and sanded it.

before

This one shows the completed project. The lighting is poor, but you get the idea:

after

Apparently, all those hours surfing on Pinterest in bed late at night really do pay off….which is shocking since I have hundreds of pins I have never actually put to use.

So this project can get marked off of my to-do list, and I have one very happy 12-year-old!

Do you guys have a Pinterest pin that really paid off? 

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I Fell Off The Wagon

What was your New Year’s Resolution? If guilt is making you choke just a little as you recall your commitment, you are in good company. Maybe you, like me, have fallen off the “new year, new me” bandwagon.

For 2015, my family made a year-long resolution to focus on spiritual virtues. One each month.

In January, we focused on encouragement. In February, love. March was all about displaying joy and a good attitude. We have tracked our progress on oversized post-it pads hanging in our den by writing down the ways we’ve demonstrated these virtues. As a parent and wife, I had moments of sheer pride as I witnessed my family soaring.

Then, April came. dun, dun, duuuunnnn.

Our intention was to focus on kindness. Easy, right? Suuuurrreeee.

We simply didn’t do it. We didn’t take advantage of teachable moments. We weren’t proactive. And, there were several moments days when all of us were plain mean.

So what do we do when we fall off the wagon? Get back on! So what if we messed up, missed out, or took a few backward steps? If we fall down, we get back up!

This month, our family is focusing on RESPONSIBILITY. (The irony wasn’t lost on me.)

Being responsible isn’t just a notion instilled in us by our parents to clean our rooms or arrive on time for work. It is a character virtue commanded by God for His children to be accountable for our lives and actions. It is a moral obligation to behave in ways that honor God.

The bible explains that each of us are personally responsible for our lives. Check it out:

The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.” Ezekiel 18:20

God even explains that we will be rewarded for our responsibility (or lack thereof):

“Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done.” Isaiah 3: 10-11

Did you notice that God wasn’t describing rewards and consequences in Heaven or Hell. He was talking about life right here on earth! Don’t miss this: responsibility reaps rewards; irresponsibility reaps consequences. 

Now, that’s not new info, is it? It’s actually a relatively elementary thought. Yet, often the most elementary thoughts are the most profound.

Consider these things:

  • We are personally responsible for our actions.
  • We are personally responsible to work and provide for ourselves and families.
  • We are personally responsible to obey God’s commands.
  • We are personally responsible for our response to the Gospel.
  • We are personally responsible for telling others about God’s great love.
  • We are personally responsible for our character.
  • We are personally responsible for our spiritual growth.

Yet, we often avoid responsibility by shifting blame to others. It’s someone else’s fault. We excuse laziness. We ignore God’s commands. We fear talking about our faith with others. We rationalize poor character. We blame the church for not being “deep” enough. 

If responsibility reaps rewards, these excuses for irresponsibility are leading us down a path of demise! Let’s choose instead to be accountable for each moment of each day.

Why not join my family in taking personal responsibility for life this month? Choose an area and start walking a path that leads to rewards!

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4 Steps To Understanding The Bible

It happened again. Someone asked for a bible study recommendation, and I was scrambling to recall the name of any number of great books I’ve read. Beth Moore, Lisa TerKeurst, Henry Blackaby, Max Lucado, Kay Arthur, John MacArthur….all great writers and lovers of God….all from whom I’ve learned.

But, sometimes I don’t want to recommend a book.

Sometimes I want to recommend THE book.

The Bible is what all bible studies are based upon (hence the name. read: sarcasm), yet we often rely more on books written about the Bible than on the Bible itself. I’ll be the first to agree that all of us benefit from someone explaining the deeper truths of Scripture, helping us apply those truths to our attitudes and decisions, and providing us with action steps. Yet, if we don’t learn for ourselves how to read our Bibles, we will stunt our own spiritual growth, not to mention miss out on special personal moments with our Heavenly Father.

So, how do we do it? Here are 4 easy steps:

  1. Make a Plan: Make a plan for what you will read. Choose a particular book of the Bible. Or select a topic that interests you using an online search engine to discover bible verses about your topic (or go old-school with an actual concordance).
  2. Get Context: Who wrote the book? Why was it written? When was it written? Who was the audience? What was the environment/setting? A Life Application Study Bible not only provides this kind of info for each book of the bible, it also provides footnotes explaining the verses.
  3. Highlight Key Verses: As you read, take notes. Highlight important passages. Underline verses that speak to you personally.
  4. Summarize: After you’ve finished reading, write a few summary statements to explain what you’ve noticed in the book/passages. What is the bottom line? What does God want you to know? What can you learn about God’s ways or purposes?

Here is a quick peek at my own Bible notes after reading the book of Hosea (yes, I write ALL in my Bible):

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There you have it. An easy, 4-step process to dissecting Scriptures for yourself. To be sure, it takes more effort than sleepily reading with one eye still closed after the alarm sounds each morning. And it takes more effort than grabbing a book of the Christian bookstore shelf. Yet, if we choose to make the effort, our spiritual growth will soar! God will be faithful to use His Word to make us wise, deepen our love, and prevent us from stumbling.

Who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t need that?

Maybe today you need a fresh encounter with God. He’s waiting for you…..right there in black and white. 

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7 Day Contentment Challenge

In a “more, more, more” society, Mountain Lake Church has taken the plunge for more, too.

More contentment, that is.

For the next 7 days we are attempting to cultivate grateful, appreciative hearts rather than stoking the raging fires of greed or materialism. And since I greedily just ate my kids’ Easter candy and then coveted new patio furniture, I figured I better join the challenge. Check it out

contentment

I’m diving into this challenge (now that I’ve eaten the candy and logged off of Pinterest), and I’ll be honest enough to say I don’t struggle in all of these areas. I tend to be grateful for and generous with what God has already given me. However, when my eyes wander to my neighbor’s back yard or a HGTV design show….well, I become acutely aware of what I don’t have.

And what I need.

Right now.

Like a back patio with fire pit. I need that. I’m virtually positive that most of my problems would eradicate if only I had a covered porch (with recessed lighting, of course) on which I could lounge while writing bible studies and returning emails. For sure, I would be sitting on deep, cushioned chairs with candle lanterns hangings from the support columns and cute outdoor curtains tied back for visual detail.

But, I digress. Apparently, I really need this challenge.

So, today I’m taking steps to succeed. My eyes won’t be wandering the millions of pins on Pinterest or the stellar episodes of Fixer Upper (I totally want to be Jo and Chip’s friend). I won’t focus on what I don’t have. Instead, I will treasure what God has already given me. A thankful heart is a happy heart, and today my heart will be ecstatic!

What about you? Will you take the challenge, too? If so, figure out which step trips you up the most and make a plan to win! 

1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.

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Perpetual Planning Paralysis

more actionI’m not one to make rash decisions. No spontaneous big purchases. No impetuous schedule changes. I’m what one would call a “planner.”

When hosting parties in my home, I orchestrate the details of guest lists, seating arrangements, and clean up well in advance of the soirée. When I supervise church events, oversized post-it pad papers full of instructions plaster the walls of my planning sessions. And if my husband offers a last minute change to any of my schemes, well let’s just say marital discord looms.

Being a planner has its upside. Considering all the details of an event or decision helps to avoid pitfalls like surprise expenses or overlooked guests. The world needs people like me. But all that planning has its downside, as well.

Let me give you an example. I’ve been planning a bedroom makeover for my 6th grade daughter. Her room is a hodgepodge of hand-me-down’s, and it’s time to give her a more grown up space. For the last several months (months, I said), I have pinned paint colors on Pinterest, made wish lists at Target, and searched decor ideas in magazines. Months. I have plotted and planned for months without taking any real action. No new furniture has been purchased. No wall has been painted. No old things have been thrown out. Apparently, I have become stymied in perpetual planning paralysis.

Well, no more. Determined to break out of my slump, I posted pictures of my daughter’s current bedroom suite to an online sales forum, and it sold in 20 minutes! That’s right, I’m the genius who sold all of my daughter’s furniture without anything to replace it. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting such a quick response, and now I feel slightly disconcerted knowing I must make quick decisions to complete the room red0. Painting the room and choosing furniture will most likely rock my world for the next few weeks, but it needs to happen. Too much planning and not enough action were getting me nowhere fast. Taking the drastic action of selling everything was just the kick-in-the-pants I needed to get moving in the right direction!

Maybe you aren’t a planner, like me. Maybe you are more of a free spirit that takes action when the mood strikes. Either way, all of us must take action in life.

In decisions.

In relationships.

In discipleship.

In leadership.

Planning paralysis and moody moments can rob us of becoming the people God created us to be and being effective in the hand of God.

Are you a perpetual planner? Do you, like me, simply need to take action? Or do moody moments prevent you from doing the things you ought? Do you need to:

  • have that difficult conversation you’ve been dreading?
  • cut up your credit cards and create a monthly budget?
  • engage in a mentoring relationship?
  • exercise?
  • disciple your family?
  • date your spouse?
  • use your God-given gifts in the church?
  • step out in faith?
  • obey what God has commanded of you?

Clearing out an entire room of furniture was the drastic action I had to take to start moving in the right direction. What drastic action is needed in your life? Don’t get paralyzed by perpetual planning and don’t wait until the mood strikes. Take action to become the person God created you to be! Take action to influence the world around you! 

I want to spur you on! Tell me: are you are a Perpetual Planner or Free Spirit? What change do you want to make?

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Prove It

love_heart_uidaodjsdsewThis month my family has taken a challenge to focus on acts of love toward each other and the world around us. Our goal? To perform one act of intentional love each day. In a world full of self-centered antics, Shawn and I want to disciple our kids to love others, and we want to inspire them to be proactive in their faith. Each morning we look at the huge post it paper I’ve hung prominently in our den to choose from a list of 30 ways to show love. Then, at dinner, we chat about our day and tell stories of who we loved and how we loved. Check out a few suggestions from our list:

Include someone

Plan a surprise

Go the extra mile for someone

Give someone your undivided attention

Invite someone to church

Make someone’s life easier

Be a shoulder to cry on…without having all the answers

Find something in common with someone different than you

Say I love you

Simple, really. But, small actions like these can have a grand effect. More importantly, talking about it as a family ingrains in each of us the most important commandment Jesus ever gave: LOVE God, LOVE people!

My challenge for you today is this: Find a creative way to love the people around you (family, co-workers, neighbors) and allow God to stretch you in this area. After all, love isn’t love until it’s proven. Include your family and have fun! And if you have a good experience let me know!

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

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The Best Teams Do THIS!

She didn’t like me, and she told me so. Very bluntly. I was naively blind to her frustrations, and she was kettle pot of irritations waiting to explode.

And she did. She pulled me aside to vent her anger leaving me stunned and speechless. As I reeled from her biting words, my mind struggled to understand how she and I got so far off-track.

That was 2 decades ago. We worked together in the mortgage industry, and it was my first experience with staff teamwork, or lack thereof. That season of my life taught me many lessons, not the least of which was love (especially on a team) is work.

These days my experiences with teamwork are vastly different. Not because our team is composed of Godly Christians who always do the right thing, but rather because our team lives by a code – a code which guides us to interact wisely and avoid those “off-track” moments.

The Code is our set of Ministry Team values at Mountain Lake Church. It sets the tone and trajectory for how we get things done. Each of our 7 core values is important, but I daresay one is critical.

Honesty.

Working alongside people with different agendas, personalities, and strengths presents its challenges, but those challenges are exponentially multiplied when we aren’t honest about how we feel. When our staff relationships become strained, our ministry quality takes a dive. Have you ever found yourself in these situations:

  • When that staff member makes a hurtful comment, we give the cold shoulder and avoid him/her.
  • When a team member overlooks us, we feel underappreciated and grow bitter.
  • When the actions of someone else costs us, we choose not to help him/her in the future.

Conflict happens. On every team. In every church. On every staff. Unresolved conflict leads to an unhealthy team. The key to success, however, lies in our response to conflict.

At Mountain Lake, we’ve chosen honesty as our response. Leaning on Ephesians 4:15, we have agreed as a team to speak the truth, in loving ways, to each other. These conversations are:

  • always done in private.
  • never “vented” about to other people.
  • handled immediately.
  • initiated with phrases such as, “You probably don’t realize it, but when you said____, it bothered me.” Or, “I’m sure you didn’t intend any harm, but when you ______, I was a little frustrated.”
  • ended with grace.

We’ve learned that the best ministry teams are made up of people who love each other. We’ve also learned that love takes WORK. Some teams aren’t willing to work that hard. But the best ones are.

If you or someone on your team is struggling in this area, let me encourage you to be honest, talk through your issues, and offer grace to one another. It’s not easy, but it’s oh, so worth it. Join us at Velocity 2015 for more great ideas like this….I have it on good authority that the Pastors’ Wives Track is going to be the bomb!

Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

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