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Archive for the tag “women in ministry”

Happy Anniversary, Heidi

Today marks 15 years I have been on staff at HCC. When I graduated from Bible College I never thought I would ever get to come back home. I am so grateful to God I did. I have blogged about how I ended up back in Vermilion.

Last night at Women’s Bible Study, I was sitting in the back while we were watching a video. Between the two Bible studies, there are 60 women. Women who are hungry to know Jesus, to find peace, to have joy in the journey. Sunday night we had a worship and healing service at our church. We have them periodically. We were expecting about 80 and probably had 160 plus. I get to walk with people and watch them discover how cool God really is and how much they really matter. I was so overwhelmed at what I get to do.

 

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It is not always easy. The hours are long. The pay isn’t great. People are never done. You witness first hand the ravages of sin. In our world today we never want to talk about sin and how it destroys us mentally, physically, relationally, and most importantly, spiritually. I have sat with a family as the parents told the kid’s they were getting divorced and saw a kid changed completely in a moment. I have intervened in someone’s life who was addicted to drugs. I have helped people pick up the pieces after betrayal in marriage or a loss of a child.

But I have also seen the power of God transform lives. I have seen the drug addict get clean. I have seen marriages restored that everyone else counted as dead. I have seen kids come back from their parent’s divorce. I have witnessed teenagers finally get how good, real and loving God is. I have seen God physically heal the blind and lame. I have slept under the stars of an African sky and worshiped Jesus with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have friends in Jamaica that have become my family.

Last fall I was asked to consider taking my own church in another community. This isn’t the first time I have been asked. This was the first time I seriously contemplated it. As my pastor and I processed through it, he told me that question I needed to settle was, “Do I see myself as a Lead Pastor?” (I am so thankful for Pastor Jim in my life. He is what a strong man in ministry should be. He is not intimidated by strong leaders; women or men. He embraces and releases them. He seeks them out. I have met people in ministry who view staff members as competitors, not comrades. We are comrades in arms. And he makes us all feel valuable and appreciated.

There are very few women Lead pastors in my denomination. That is not a criticism at all. I am proud of the fact that we have women Lead pastors. And I believe our denomination is open to them. I take very seriously what I model for younger men and women going into ministry. I want them to see a healthy, fulfilled, FRUIT-BEARING woman of God. I want them to see someone who enjoys life and ministry but isn’t afraid to share struggles. Life is hardly ever perfect and easy. I want to demonstrate how we honestly and gracefully walk through life’s trials. And I have mentored just as many young men as I have young women. I am not in competition with men. We complement each other…or we should.

I need to digress for a moment…please humor me. I have met women in ministry who try to make room for themselves simply because they are women. They fight for themselves. It appears that is all they care about. Believe me, I get it. I have met men who are against women in ministry. God asked me early on, “What do you want to be known for? You can’t fight everything so what is it you want to fight for?” I wrestled with this in my late 20’s. The answer I came to is I want to be known for fighting for souls and people. I want to be known for love. Scripture also teaches that God raises people up and casts people down. If there is something that God wants me to say He will open the doors. And He has. I have done some amazing things. Being a woman HAS NEVER KEPT GOD’S PURPOSES AND PLANS FROM BEING FULFILLED IN MY LIFE.

I am a strong woman and a strong leader. I know what it is to come under fire for decisions. I served on City Council for 8 years during some very bitter struggles. Standing for truth cost me. Reputation and money. But I did not waver. But that does not mean I have to be a Lead Pastor.

In ministry circles sometimes it is communicated, albeit unintentionally, that the Senior/Lead Pastor is the pinnacle of having arrived in ministry. That is simply not true. And it grieves me that people think that. I am reminded of the Peter Principle which is the belief that workers rise to the level of their incompetency. The main premise is that once people are in the spot in which they are most productive and fruitful (and happiest), they get promoted for doing such a good job and end up in a job they hate and are not equipped for. I don’t know how much I buy into this but there is a kernel of truth.

In my position, I get to do whatever I want to do (because I do everything I am asked). I am doing, for the most part, everything God has placed in my heart to do. I still have some big dreams (the biggest yet), but I am slowly but surely working on those dreams I believe are God-given.

Success and respect in life are not a title. Or a position. It’s not getting the big office down the hall (though it is the warmest 😉 ). Respect may come initially from these things but title and positions don’t maintain respect. It is what we do with it and how we treat people.

The Bible defines success in ministry as fruitfulness. Jesus says when we produce much fruit we bring glory to the Father. Fruitfulness is better than fame or a title. When I look over the past 15 years, I see fruit. And I believe in my soul, I have just entered the bearing much fruit phase. God is doing amazing things here in Vermilion and in my life. I work with the best team. We do not compete with each other, we complement each other. We bring out the best (on most days) in each other. When someone else looks good, we all look good.

I hosted our staff Christmas party this year. As I was on my hands and knees scrubbing baseboards (yeah…I’m that girl), I was praying about the decision. These are the thoughts I was thinking, “I could be a lead pastor, I could sit at the big people’s tables, I could have more influence, I, I, I, I.” (How do you like me now?). And I heard God speak, “Heidi, you’re not done in Vermilion. It’s not about title or position, it’s about fruitfulness.”

I love my community. And the staff I work with share the same love. This unity. This love we have for each other and our community is rare. Why would I leave this? To be known more? By who? Obviously, my answer was “no”.  And once I made up my mind, Jamaica happened. And God used it to reinforce the dreams I have and am currently working on.

I will be celebrating 20 years in ministry in May…I am sure there will be blog then as well (I am way too introspective) and looking back over all these years, I pinch myself that I get to do this.

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Our incredible staff, led by Pastor Jim and Joyce. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1600 Miles of Lessons

A couple of weeks ago I drove over 1600 miles in 8 days…from the shores of Lake Erie, Ohio to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I meandered through the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains and throughout the state of Virginia. I spent some time on the Blue Ridge Parkway and drove under the bridge in Chesapeake. The mountains were in peak season. The vibrant reds and yellows were absolutely breath-taking.The sunrises and sunsets I witnessed in Duck, NC were equally awe-inspiring.

I am a nature girl. I feel closest to God in nature. Listening to the wind blow in the tops of trees or sitting on the beach, listening to waves crash fills me with such wonder. Give me a blanket on a beach staring up at the stars over any other type of entertainment and I’m a happy girl.

The Bible teaches in the book of Romans: 

Ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

You can say creation was God’s first missionary.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12)

Sunrise in Duck, North Carolina. So incredibly beautiful!

Sunrise in Duck, North Carolina. So incredibly beautiful!

Sunrise at the Outer Banks, Duck, North Carolina

Sunrise at the Outer Banks, Duck, North Carolina

This is the deer noticing me at the beach in the Outer Banks...He was not timid

This is the deer noticing me at the beach in the Outer Banks…He was not timid

This is him peering at me...the next picture was him coming towards me to check me out. Freaked me out so I took off.

This is him peering at me…the next picture was him coming towards me to check me out. Freaked me out so I took off.

Sunset in the Sound. We serve such an amazing, creative God!

Sunset in the Sound. We serve such an amazing, creative God!

Sunset in the Sound at the Outer Banks.

Sunset in the Sound at the Outer Banks.

Somewhere in VA at an overlook. Notice the river running through it. Beautiful

Somewhere in VA at an overlook. Notice the river running through it. Beautiful

Blue Ridge Parkway. Taken at Raven's Roost.

Blue Ridge Parkway. Taken at Raven’s Roost.

The leaves changing colors.

The leaves changing colors.

One of my most favorite spots.

One of my most favorite spots.

But as amazing as the beach and the mountains were during the trip, there was another aspect of His creation I enjoyed even more…His people.

These past nine months, I have helped lead a WIML Cohort. (WIML = Women in Ministry Leadership). There were 12 ladies in the cohort from all around the nation. We would have monthly 2 hour conference calls centered around enhancing our personal growth  and leadership skills. We read several books together. The ladies were also professionally coached during these nine months. The cohort culminated in a Summit at a beach house in Duck, North Carolina.

All together, there were 21 ladies staying at the beach house. The theme was “Worth it”. Some of the sessions were risk is worth, leadership is worth it, healthy rhythms of life are worth it, Holy Spirit empowered ministry is worth it, and going for it is worth it.

The times of worship were precious. It was amazing to see 21 women get to know one another. Hearing the laughter  around the dinner table and each lady sharing their story made my heart so incredibly happy. We were meant to live life together. We live in an age where we think deep, lasting relationships can be cultivated over social media. It is not enough. Social media can help but it does not replace the dynamic of being together, face to face; laughing together, crying together, encouraging one another. We must be living in community together. We need each other.

Ministry can be hard. Life can be hard. We need each other to celebrate the triumphs and to mourn the losses; to cheer each other on when we feel like giving up, to remind us that this crazy adventure God has us on is most definitely worth the sacrifice and the pain. And joy really does come in the morning.

There is nothing more beautiful than community. No mountain or sunrise or sunset and anything else in creation can compare to the beauty of God’s people.  The diversity and creativity displayed in each and every one of us is mind-boggling. And my time away at the beach house with 20 amazing ladies reminded me of this truth.

Some of the best youth in all of the land. On my way to NC, I had to take some of our youth to a college preview in VA. They are more beautiful than the mountains behind them.

Some of the best youth in all of the land. On my way to NC, I had to take some of our youth to a college preview in VA. They are more beautiful than the mountains behind them.

At the college preview, I got to spend time with the 3 of these amazing young adults. I have known them since they were kids and have watched them grow up. I am so proud of their walk with Jesus and where they are in ministry.

At the college preview, I got to spend time with the 3 of these amazing young adults. I have known them since they were kids and have watched them grow up. I am so proud of their walk with Jesus and where they are in ministry.

All 21 of us at the Summit. Amazing group of ladies. What an incredible time of laughter, worship and getting to know one another.

All 21 of us at the Summit. Amazing group of ladies. What an incredible time of laughter, worship and getting to know one another.

The 3 of us who lead the cohort. Love these ladies. We are so different but complement each other very well!

The 3 of us who lead the cohort. Love these ladies. We are so different but complement each other very well!

The ladies in the cohort. Amazing ladies in this group. World changers.

The ladies in the cohort. Amazing ladies in this group. World changers.

Got to spend time with my best friend in the whole wide world.

Got to spend time with my best friend in the whole wide world.

The 3 of us with our friend and mentor. She has so spoken into each of our lives.

The 3 of us with our friend and mentor. She has so spoken into each of our lives.

The ladies who cooked for us. Cheri says "food is the currency of relationships". The currency was amazing!

The ladies who cooked for us. Cheri says “food is the currency of relationships”. The currency was amazing!

Building community

Building community

Oasis: Making Time to Sit on the Curb

The Dream

Back in March I blogged about Dreams. And how I felt God was calling me to surrender them at His feet. And I did.

A year and a half ago, I began to be coached by one of my mentors. Harriet is our District Supervisor and is one of the godliest women I have ever known. I have such a deep respect and admiration for her. It has been such an honor to be coached by her. This process has been a catalyst to amazing growth in my walk with God, in my leadership skills and in my confidence.

Pastor Harriet - mentor, friend, coach, district supervisor

Pastor Harriet – mentor, friend, coach, district supervisor

The last exercise she had me do was in regards to dreams. Funny how that works. I had to list 10 dreams/things I want to accomplish. It could be anything…professional dreams, spiritual dreams, recreational/hobby dreams, Family, etc. Basically – it was a Bucket List. (Sidenote: God has been so faithful to me. Within three weeks, two of my ten items on my bucket list have become a reality. One of the 10 on my Bucket List is to travel to Israel. And that is becoming a reality in the Spring! (See Israel). Through a process that she walked me through, I whittled it down to 2 out of the 10. From the 2, I had to choose 1 that she could coach me on to help me achieve it. The item on my list I chose was Oasis.

The list of my dreams...

The list of my dreams…

Let me explain my vision for Oasis. I have been in ministry for 16 years. I have been to countless conventions, retreats, and conferences. While I have gleaned many truths and skills from them, I always came away from them more tired than when I went. So much information was downloaded in a short period of time and a lot of talking was done AT me that I never had much time to process through some of the information. The times I was able to process was always at dinner or in our rooms afterwards where you could talk it out with friends. I hope this is making sense and that I am not coming across as critical. Conventions, retreats and conferences are important…I am in the midst of planning our Women’s Retreat now. But I always felt as a woman in ministry I needed something more.

One day I was reading in Scripture where Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt. They were tired in their journey and they came to some water and it was bitter. The Israelites began to complain. God had Moses throw wood in the water and the bitter water became sweet. They continued on their journey and soon came to Elim, which was a place that had 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees. And it says in Scripture that they encamped there by the water. (Exodus 15:22 – 27). They did not stay there long because in the next chapter they set out again. As I read that portion, it struck me that women (and men) as they journey through life get tired. I don’t care how balanced you are, tiredness is inevitable. And chronic tiredness can lead to a whole myriad of problems (bitterness being the one identified in this particular story). And God, in the midst of their journey, provided for the Israelites, an oasis, a break from the journey. That is what I want our women’s ministry at our church to be, an oasis…a break from the routine, where women’s souls can be refreshed. And I thought of women like me who are in ministry. Who are constantly serving and pastoring people along with being a wife and a mom and a daughter, etc. The last thing we need is another conference telling us how to preach better or get more things done or become a better leader (and those conferences are important…we just don’t need one more). And I thought to the times that I was most refreshed….and it led to me being able to verbalize and plan my dream….

I live in the most beautiful place. Summer on the shores of Lake Erie is amazing! Weather is pretty much perfect. There is so much to do.

Lake Erie

Lake Erie

Vermilion River

Vermilion River

Proof I live in the most beautiful place :)

Proof I live in the most beautiful place 🙂

So a “what if” came to me…

WHAT IF I planned a women’s Oasis for a long weekend for 3 to 4 women at a time who are in ministry. A break, a respite from their normal, chaotic, amazing, busy lives. An oasis for refreshing in the midst of their journey. I would rent a cottage on the lake, have things planned but have a very relaxed schedule. I would let the women sleep in as late as they want. Do their devotions on the beach. Eat. Take naps. Reflect. And talk and talk. And pray together.

Oasis would exist to provide:

R:  efreshing

E:  ncouragement

S:  trengthening

T:  ogetherness

This was the dream I had. In my mind I thought it was kind of silly…only 3 or 4 women at a time. It did not seem economically feasible to me. Who would want to come (still struggle with that bit). When I presented it to Harriet, I expected some resistance (why I don’t know). She was so excited for me and helped me set action steps. I then presented it to my Pastor. I was apprehensive about sharing the dream with him simply because it was different and it was not really under my area of responsibilities at the church. Pastor Jim is an amazing man of God and a joy to work with. When I presented him with the vision, he was excited and pledged assistance to help this come to pass. It would not have come to pass and been as successful as it was if it were not for him. I am so blessed to work for a man who encourages his staff to dream and think outside the box. Looking back I don’t know why I was apprehensive. He has a heart for leaders, especially young leaders and invests in them. This fit the mission of our church perfectly!!!

The Reality

Two weekends ago, this dream God gave me became a reality. Two Bible college friends (Brenda and Stasia) from North Carolina came up for the first Oasis. I was nervous but God was so faithful. One of my friends who came is on staff at a church of 3,000 in Cornelius, NC. My other friend who came just started Senior pastoring with her husband for the first time 7 months ago. They were in different places in their journey with different responsibilities but both with the same need of refreshing.

We did a lot of talking (non-stop) and eating (almost non-stop) and relaxing. We prayed. We went to a Cleveland Indians game (someone asked Stasia what kind of women’s retreat goes to a baseball game…her reply “the kind Heidi plans.”) We went kayaking (Stasia is legally blind and for her to be able to kayak was an incredible treat for her. A young man in our church tied his kayak to hers so she could actually kayak and he just guided her. Awesome.)

We sat for hours on the beach.

Morning devotions

Morning devotions

Our home for the weekend

Our home for the weekend

At the Indians game with a young leader from my church!

At the Indians game with a young leader from my church!

Sitting on the  beach

Sitting on the beach

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Praying over Brenda and Stasia

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After dinner with Pastor Jim.

Stasia kayaking!

Stasia kayaking!

Dylon and Stasia leading the way down the river!

Dylon and Stasia leading the way down the river!

Dylon was Stasia guide for kayaking.

Dylon was Stasia guide for kayaking.

 

The Result

 I had prepared for the weekend and knew where we were headed and what I felt the end result was supposed to be but I had a hard time articulating it.

Over the weekend, many stories were shared. Triumphs and trials. Successes and failures.  Joys and pains. Lots and lots of laughter. And Stasia told a story that God really used to identify all that Oasis is meant to be.

Stasia is legally blind and has her own guide dog, Duncan. She also has a white cane to help her as she walks. She has to be one of the most courageous people I know. Her blindness does not slow her down at all! She walks her two sons to the bus stop in the morning. One day, she decided she didn’t need her cane or Duncan. She felt she had done it enough that she would be fine. After the boys got on the bus, she started walking home. She got turned around. Panic began to creep in. She took a deep breath and decided to sit on the curb to get her bearings. As she sat on the curb, she thought about where she had been, where she was currently and what she needed to do to get back home. When we prayed that last evening at the cottage, God brought that story back to my attention. That describes exactly what Oasis  was for us that weekend. We had spent the weekend sitting on the curb reflecting on where we all had been in life and in ministry, where we were now, and what we needed to do to get to where God was taking us. We all needed to leave some things at the curb that weekend. And we left refreshed, encouraged, and strengthened with the knowledge that we are all in this thing called life and ministry together. God is so good!!!

I am looking forward to many more Oasis’ in the future. We have even tossed around the idea of Oasis for men led by Pastor Jim.

Never give up on your dreams and ask God for big ones! Life is too short for regrets!

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