Hey friends. Thank you so much for reading! We are so sorry about our website being down this week and TOTALLY interfering with Real Talk Tuesday! When our site was recovered on Wednesday (which was the good news) the bad news was that Kendra’s Tuesday post draft was deleted! Can you believe that?! She is still in recovery over that – poor thing! She is so sad because she worked hard on a really vulnerable piece and ended up loving it. Has that ever happened to anyone? One time I lost all the photos on my computer I cried about it for a month. Technology – you are sometimes pretty disappointing. However, thanks to the same technology we are able to share today on our blog. So… here we go!
This past weekend my husband and I had the immense honor of being asked to speak at a youth retreat. This was an extra special honor because it was the retreat of a youth pastor who was at one time (not so long ago) one of our beloved interns! Youth ministry is full of transitions that can be hard to move with so it’s kind of wonderful when things come full circle. We were so proud all weekend! This is actually our second year speaking for her so to be asked back AGAIN this year was a total blessing. Our retreat – or snow camp as I now will refer to it – was in Pittsfield, Massachusetts otherwise known as a part of the Berkshires. You may have heard of the Berkshires even if you’re not from Mass. The camp ground is at this gorgeous location on a frozen lake that many in our area have visited with their youth groups growing up. It’s a sacred place. I found out later that as a twenty-something my mother was asked three years in a row to be the speaker for a kid’s camp that met there. Crazy! Talk about full circle. Here are the views from the weekend…
Pretty spectacular. I love New England scenery, isn’t it the best? This fireplace was in the main room outside our bedroom. It was rustic, as most youth retreat/camp sites are, so I brought 13 noise making machines for sleep and my own food – of course! Not gunna lie these retreats can be tough on me with my health and… age! Yeah, yeah, my age is legitimate though. I feel very old at youth camp now… believe me. Especially after I realized how MANY youth retreats / camps I’ve been to, run, or spoken at. A kid from the band asked me how many… I was literarily speechless. I’ve NEVER thought about it before and no one has ever asked me. My best guess is maybe somewhere around 30-35 NOT including youth conventions (district or national) and any missions trips or other special speaking engagements. Wow. Moment of silence.
I guess you could say frequent travel comes with the job. Then when we get to our destination it’s not like we have vacation. It’s go-go-go, preach-preach-preach, worship-singing-bass playing, crazy-crazy-craze, etc. When we are traveling it’s 24-7 youth ministry. I know what you’re thinking… that sounds exhausting. Let me tell you – it is. There’s been a few camps where I wondered if I’d even make it to the end of the week. When I was officially diagnosed with my [several] autoimmune and thyroid diseases I thought maybe my years of youth camps were over. That thinking lasted only two years of camp and not even one year with retreats. I couldn’t stay away! Certainly not because of the lack of sleep, over exhaustion, bad food, loud music, and gross games… but because camps and retreats are the places where life transformation happens! Kids are saved, healed, called into ministry, and more! Who wouldn’t want to be apart of that? Of course I have to have some limits and boundaries because of my illness, but I try to attend all the camps I physically/emotionally can handle!
God knew when He called me that I would some day have an illness. When I walked into a sea of teenagers worshipping at the age of 12 I knew they were my future. Young people are my calling. When I was 9 years old I had a peace settle over my heart confirming that I would live a life of full time ministry. Ministry is my life. God will work everything out in His way and His timing – both of which are mysterious to me most of the time. I must trust that He knows what He is doing. He has never let me down. He has always known what’s best when I am sitting there dazed and confused. I know God keeps His promises.
“And we know that God causes
everything to work together
for the good of those who
love God and are called
according to his purpose for them.”
Romans 8:28 NLT
On this retreat over the weekend I shared my entire health/illness testimony for the first time. I was nervous! It’s taken me a long time to come to terms and accept my life for what it is. I am ill… but more importantly I am called! My illness doesn’t define me. My God does – my calling does! Whenever I’m feeling weak or other’s paint me as weak and unable – I remember my call. I do not focus on my illness and let it become who I am. This is extremely hard because sometimes all I see is sickness. Sometimes when I’m in a moment of weakness there’s only one thing to do. I’m sitting there wondering “why did I sign myself up for this?!” and God reminds me that I am His.
Even though I know God is in control it’s often difficult to continue to live in a state of constant weakness. Whenever I have to sit back from an activity, stay home sick, or say no to a really tempting trip or speaking engagement it can be so disappointing. But I have learned to be grateful. It’s because of my illness that I have come appreciate every aspect of my life. It’s because of my illness that I have learned to live a healthy balanced life that would otherwise be crowded, overwhelmed, and overworked. I can also speak up and stand up as an advocate for people living with chronic illness. There’s an entire crowd of people I can relate to and minister to in a more genuine way. I have learned that my weakness is actually my strength.
“Each time he said,
“My grace is all you need.
My power works best in weakness.”
So now I am glad to boast
about my weaknesses, so that
the power of Christ
can work through me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)
The only thing I need to go on is God’s grace. I don’t need to be healed. I don’t need to do everything all the other youth pastor’s are doing. I don’t need someone to give me praise and applause. God’s grace is sufficient. His power has made my weakness STRONG! Now I boast of God’s strength and goodness. I am a vessel, that is all!
Other than the services my absolute favorite activity of the retreat was wood burning crafts! It’s definitely harder than it looks, but I am totally into now. I’m thinking possible career change. After I got my safety instructions and a quick tutorial I went to work on this piece…
I made this wood piece as a reminder of what God did in me this past weekend. He used my weakness! I shared about my illness for the first time ever in a public or church setting. Several people came up to me and told me how my story touched them! I even had a handful of people tell me they had a chronic illness they too were struggling with. It was a magical weekend – God used me! He proved again to me that His call will prevail, not my weakness. Thank you Lord for what you did.
Maybe you’re reading this and you have never dealt with chronic illness or any serious health conditions, but we all have a weakness. Maybe there is even something in your history that you have let define you. Like my illness, you thought your life would never be what it COULD be because of [___fill in the blank___]… maybe it’s an addiction, family hurts, or a mistake you’ve made. Your weakness is no match for your destiny! God can bring you full circle just like He has done with me and use your WEAKNESS for His glory! You can be forgiven and restored in order to use your story to help others who have been there before too. His power is greater than your weakness. Remember this and move forward with you calling! You have a God given job to do and He has made a way for you despite your history and despite your weakness!
I will not lean on my weakness
I will lean on my CALLING.