Sunday, February 16, 2014

Reflections From the Pitcher's Mound

I wasn't nervous before my feet hit the pitcher's mound. I had sung the song a thousand times growing up. It was one of those songs I don't remember learning, but always remember knowing. I'd performed it with youth choirs at Major League Baseball Games and watched to see who would sing it for major sporting events on TV. Never had I stood on the mound alone, looked into empty stands and tried to recite the words long remembered in my heart while being judged on my ability.

I was there to audition to sing the national anthem for our local baseball team: The Savannah Sand Gnats. Yes, only in the south do you give such an annoying, pesky insect the title of: mascot. (Although, my history of mascots has always been questionable. "We are the Skippers. The mighty, mighty Skippers" was the chant often heard at my High School Alma Mater). Prior to walking onto the baseball field, I sat with a handful of others who were also secretly critiquing how they measured up against each person. I watched as girl after girl decked out in their trendiest of clothes, curled hair and make-up stood before the Sand Gnats version of American Idol. I was going more for "The Voice" in my wet hair, no make up and fleece jacket. (In my defense, I had decided not to audition and then stopped when noticed there were hardly any cars there when I drove by.) Despite our appearance, regardless of where we felt we landed on the measuring stick, there were claps and sometimes cheers given to each person who braved the mound. There, within the bounds of competition, there was also camaraderie.

"Next up: Morgan Paddock" said the girl on the baseball field. I gave myself a pep talk as I walked onto the field. I did what I always do when I'm nervous: become really "happy-go-lucky" and play it off with humor.I tried to appear confident in my ability while trying to mentally stop my hands from shaking and sweating profusely. One of the girls before me forgot the words and had to pull out her phone to recall them. That was my biggest fear: forgetting what I knew, under pressure. I took a deep breathe, smiled and opened my mouth to sing the first note. How do you really know which note to start on without a pitch pipe? I picked one and hoped for the best. Most of the time I singing from a stage where the speakers are pointed out away from me. Standing on that mound, I was hit from every direction with the raw sound of my voice being shot back at me on level 10. I remember saying "sorry" somewhere in the first section for my voice giving out. The judges were writing their thoughts about me and my ability the whole time I was singing.

 My least favorite part of the song are the words "Red Glare" the highest point in the song where if you picked the wrong starting note can create disastrous results. The combination of nerves + breathing + cold remains caused this robotic sound to come out on those words that can never be duplicated if I tried. I closed my eyes and put my hand on my diaphragm to calm me as I sang the next few words. There was something about blocking out the overwhelming sights and focusing on what I knew. I heard my voice steady and gain confidence. By the end, I was looking right at the judges doing what I love: singing. I landed the ending in fullness on "The Home....of the......Brave."

Hoping that I they would remember the ending more than the beginning I approached the judges and handed them the microphone. They said, "Great job." I quickly followed with, "sorry, I had to sing with a cough drop in my mouth," as to somehow excuse any of my mistakes and cushion my own judgements. As I approached the table where I had left my purse, a girl said, "I'm sitting here blown away right now." I thanked her but really thought, "um...didn't you hear my voice shaking? Didn't you hear how "red glare" came out of my mouth?" The judges thanked us for our time and said they would call us.  I walked back to the car half embarrassed and half proud that I did it and God did what he always does: gave my a life application beyond singing the National Anthem for a baseball game.

How often do I know in my heart what I believe and yet freeze when I'm in the midst of a decision or facing a big trial? How confident am I that my God loves me and has gifted me to serve Him, yet compare myself to others in those gifts? Have I hidden His Word in my heart so deeply that when I open my mouth it overflows? Do I seek approval internally? Or do I put my worth in what others opinions are? When the stands are full of people and I'm given a platform: What does my life preach and where does my peace come from?

Sweet friends, we have to remember that this life is not a competition and our worth is not based on our ability. Any platform we are given is an opportunity to point to Christ and His worth and His ability. We are nothing without Him. Our life is given purpose with Him. We don't have to apologize for who we are.

I may or may not get a phone call to sing at the game, but I'm thankful that God takes every opportunity to give me gentle reminders of His love for me. I'll never look at baseball the same way.

Play ball.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

An Invitation

Dear Morgan,

You are formally invited to be informal.
Put on your most comfortable clothes. The oversized thermal shirt that makes you feel a little smaller. The pants filled with holes and bleach marks yet soft from being worn so many times. Slip your tired feet into those fuzzy pink slippers that you once wore to bible study just because they were the love your feet needed that night. The ones you occasionally take with you to your friends house where you feel that you can be your true self.Throw your hair up with abandon in a bun. Little stray hairs spiking all over the place with no place to land. Grab your soft fleece blanket which makes you sigh every time you wrap it around you as if you have arrived in a safe place.

Sit. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Rest in the comfort that this is you at your best and that is ok. That is enough.

You are invited to enjoy.
Look at your calendar and pencil in something you that brings you life.
Don't be tempted to mark it out because something comes up that you need to "do" for someone else.
Focus on being. Relish in the small moments of the day that whisper "that was just for you."
You don't have to have the same interests as everyone else. Be uniquely you. Don't feel bad if your interests are not shared with others.  Laugh from the depths of your soul.

You are invited to fail.
You don't have to get it right all of the time. You don't have to perform.
You don't have to run until you are on empty. If one of your spinning plates crashes to ground, it's not the end of the world. You forgive others. What makes you think you are beyond the receiving end of grace from others? Sometimes you have to take the focus off of your feet and look up to be able to dance. Stepping on a few toes while you learn is inevitable. It will be ok. The end result is the freedom and beauty of the dance.


The Voice Within

I'm currently participating in a Write In over at Story Sessions and the prompt is "What is Inviting You?"

Monday, February 3, 2014

Learning How to Breathe: My Year of Being Selfish

"Oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat. Place the mask over your mouth and nose, like this. Pull the strap to tighten it. If you are traveling with children, make sure that your own mask is on first before helping your children."

I have picked a "One Word" for each year for the past 3 years. It's always really interesting to see how it becomes a theme woven into the moments of my year. Usually my word is something encouraging like "Cultivate" or "Release." I was anticipating a similar feel good word for 2014. Once I worked through the words I "wanted" to have or words that "looked good," I was left with that knot in my stomach when you become self aware of truth. (That is why it is February and I'm just now getting around to writing this blog). My word for 2014 is: Selfish.

I kept reading Webster's Dictionary definition and going....that's not really how I feel about it. Then I came across this definition: "devoted to or caring only for oneself; characterized by manifesting concern or care only for oneself." If you know me, you know the word "only" will never be true of me.  My heart was drawn to the words: devoted, care, manifesting concern.

There is usually an underlying theme for people in ministry and that is a servant's heart. I think I have at times worn this as a badge of honor rather than a humble position. It feels good to help people. It feels good to be depended on. It makes me feel needed to be asked to do things. Beyond that is a deep pit of pride, exhaustion, unhealthy choices and a distorted view of one self.  Other people's "emergencies" soon consume any amount of margin that may possibly exist. The most dangerous of them all is neglecting to realize that God is on the throne, sees all, cares for all and can handle all.....without me.
I don't think this makes me a bad person. I think I'm being honest about a topic in which many struggle. If you are that are not alone. You are not a bad person. It doesn't make your heart or care for others wrong. It certainly doesn't mean you can't serve.

Everything I do is with the best of intentions. I think most people would use words like "huge heart, servant's heart, caring, loving, devoted, etc" to describe me. While those are true....there are other words like "exhausted, lonely, self reliant, stubborn" that I would tack onto a definition of me. I'm not ok with that.  I know I've been a less than stellar friend because I have been "too busy" for a phone call or a cup of coffee. A few months ago, I was so burnt out that I just cried and shut down for a few days. I was so afraid of letting someone down. Upon digging deeper I discovered that I had this performance issue that I think has been there my entire life. I was always trying to get people to laugh or like me and prove them wrong about what I presumed their first impressions were about me. Effort. Lots and lots of extreme effort.

Effort is exhausting. I've found myself constantly sick and constantly tired. I have a craft room I don't even use because there is no time. I have shelves and shelves of books to be read (which I've been better about recently). Missional living feels like a 24/7 job and to some extent, it is. Even within the missional life, there has to be a rhythm. Breathing is necessary for life to exist. If a person only exhales, they will die. So I'm trying to learn how to breathe again. Most of that falls on my ability to not find my worth in other peoples opinion of me. It's learning to say no when I need to say no. It's caring enough about myself to treat myself every now and then. It's about making healthy choices. It's about cutting out drama and surrounding myself with people who encourage me. It is making that time to breath IN my Savior and his words about me, so that I can breathe HIM out to those we minister to.

Please, for those I serve not stop asking me. Give me the opportunity to say no. I spent several years on survival mode and this is the first year in awhile that I actually feel like I'm thriving in certain ways. Don't make that decision for me, just be aware that the girl who ALWAYS says yes.....may start to say no. That is ok. It is good. It is me clearing out my lungs.

Tonight, I packed up my bags in the middle of bible study and I got in my car and came home. I didn't cause a scene, but I knew that with my schedule this week, I needed some time at home. I didn't feel guilty. I didn't apologize. I just left because deep down thats what I needed to do. I was not the teacher. I heard the message and it was about self care and the best self care I could give myself was to breathe tonight. (So any of my girls there....don't worry, I'm not mad.) I'm actually feeling good to be showered, comfortable and in a dim lit room typing my thoughts before bed.

I'm always seeking ways to bless others and I'm choosing to also bless myself this year. There is a group of women with whom I've knitted hearts with. It is a writers group of women (My Story Sisters) and they have at times been the voice of truth recently. They encourage me to write words like this. They push me to dig in and find my voice and my brave because its good for me. They have a retreat in Austin this summer and while I still don't know how I'll afford it, I know that I need to be there. It is the big selfish decision of my year, to do something that is "for me."  Writing is healing for me and I need to invest time into that. Reading the words that come out of me are sometimes a shock and in those moments I feel like God took over my fingers to teach me something that was within me all along.
There is a reason why pastors take sabbaticals or teaching months or even spiritual retreat days. I think for me, I just have to be intentional about doing those things on my own.'s to breathing. I'm securing my own oxygen mask and and breathing in, SO THAT I can breathe out.

Less of me and more of you God. I want to be who God created me to relation to Him.

That is my earnest prayer.

You have my permission to ask me how I'm doing.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Passion Versus Compassion

I had a little experience today that made me think a lot....

I was invited to a little seminar on eating healthy. The understanding was that the individual would teach participants how to cook a healthy meal and the importance of health. Due to a previously scheduled worship team rehearsal, I was unable to attend. Glenn decided that he would still go and represent us. After dropping him off, I encountered the man in the parking lot and offered him my vacant space up front. Upon discovering that I was going to miss his lecture he proceeded to use guilt tactics.

Me: "I'm sorry sir, I have worship team practice and will not be able to attend."

Him: "Well then, I strongly suggest you consider faking a cold for the next two hours and be here. You need to hear what I have to say."

Me: "I'm sorry sir, I can't just not go. This is a commitment I have."

Him: "Well you need to seriously reconsider because you obviously need to be here."

I'm thankful it was a moment where God put his hand over my mouth and allowed me to leave without flying off the handle at him. (I'm also thankful that He did not allow me to make a U-turn half way to rehearsal after I had rehearsed all of the "should have said" statements in my mind.)

In hindsight, I believe this man was  passionate about his message because he had a near death experience due to poor health. He was able to make changes in his life which has afforded him more time on earth. He wants others to understand the urgency of making healthy choices.

But....his delivery was all wrong. He bullied me. His tone and looks were filled with nothing but judgement. Nothing about his stance made me even slightly interested in anything he had to say....ever.

It does not mean that what he had to say was of no value or not even true. The result was that I could not receive that truth from him.

I have replayed this confrontation over and over in my head today and I can't help but wonder how often I (we all) do this, even unintentionally. Do we have a belief that is so strong that we desperately want others to know what we know or feel how we feel? Passion is not wrong as long as it is met with compassion.

I truly believe in earning the right to be heard.  The best of intentions can be completely null and void if the audience does not feel like you care. Words can be intended as morsels of truth but swallowed as poison if not served in the right manner.

Yes, learn from your experiences. Use them to share wisdom with others. Speak about things in which you are passionate. But please....remain silent if you can not express your views without a lens of compassion. Let's make sure that we are not rattling off scriptures to say something is wrong without the message that Christ will meet you right where you are. I know I have been guilty of that in the past and done some serious damage to some relationships because of it.

Now if you back your compassion with passion? That's when some amazing things happen.

Just some food for thought...(Mr. Angry Food man wouldn't appreciate that statement, I'm sure.)