by Amber Mills
My name is Amber and I have spots on my windows!
“You don’t know what it’s like to fail!” said my husband to me during a conversation about some recent events. Those eight little words cut so deeply they took my breath away. He wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings or boost my ego. It is simply how he sees me. Let me give you a little background so you can understand how this opened a very deep wound. As the oldest child in my family, I was always made to feel my choices influenced those younger than me. This is a weight most firstborn children feel. No biggie! However, somewhere during my time growing up, this expectation began to take on a life of its own. I can’t tell you if those raising me imposed it or if I took this on myself. However it came about, it became my life’s mission to obtain perfection. I didn’t strive for this intentionally, but in looking back, I see how this became a driving force in my life. My nickname became “Miss Goody-two-shoes” because our group of friends always expected me to do the right thing. Although, I would love to hear that statement said about my boys, as a teenage girl, it felt like a curse, like a sentence hanging over me scrutinizing my every action.
As a result of the pressure I felt, I poured myself into my schoolwork to hide from interaction, which resulted in grades every student wants. Thus, fueling the fire of expectations! I took every AIM missions trip I could possibly afford both time wise and financially to escape my reality. More fuel to the fire of expectations! I’ve never smoked. Fuel! Never had even a sip of alcohol. Fuel! I only had one boyfriend who eventually became my husband of now twenty years. A lot of fuel! I am a pastor’s wife and mom of four spirit-filled boys who all are involved in our ministry. I’m drowning in fuel at this point. I found my entire life completely consumed by a roaring fire of expectations! Sadly, I have lived my life feeling like a failure. Those eight words cut deeply because I DO know what it is like to fail. I frequently fail my husband in words and actions. I lose it with my boys over things like gym bags on the living room floor and individual dinner requests. I fail my church family by viewing them as obligations instead of opportunities. I fail in my ministry to women and girls by attempting to perform a life of perfection before them—an unattainable goal by anyone.
Those eight words spoken in that one moment caused my perception and my reality to collide. I allowed them to eat at me for a while. God and I had long talks about what those words represented in my life. After a lot of prayer and pondering, I have come to a conclusion: I am not perfect! But I am also not a failure. Striving to be what others expect will always end in failure because this is a sinful world and we are imperfect people. Striving to live in the center of His will and be what God expects us to be will always end in a life of perfection because God is good and His will for our lives is perfect!
God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true.
In ministry, we allow unattainable expectations to be placed on us. We kill ourselves to never take a wrong step—frequently showing a false side. The pressure of living in the fishbowl is real. It is a fact that we are watched. But trying to live, raise a family, and minister under these expectations is like trying to clean your windows blindfolded. No matter how hard you try, there will always be spots. You can push yourself beyond your physical capabilities, but you will still have spots on your windows.
So, why don’t we all try something new. Let’s be okay with the spots on our windows. Let others see dirty dishes in our sinks, laundry piled up, and imperfect families. Let them see our hearts break at times and at others burst with excitement over this imperfect life that we have been called to live. God doesn’t care if we have spots on our windows as long as when people look through them, they see Him! We need every bit of energy we can muster to walk this ministry path. Let’s not waste it on fueling the fire of expectations.
I am a SOMO girl through and through. I was saved, baptized with the Holy Spirit and called into ministry at SOMO Kid’s Camp. My heart is working with women and girls, even though I have a house full of boys. My husband, Greg Mills, and I grew up in the same church in Joplin, MO. We have been married for 20 years. We have served in full time ministry for 19 of those years. We are the lead pastor’s at Camdenton 1st A/G in Camdenton, MO. We have 4 boys which I homeschool. Brandyn, 18 is a freshman in college. Zach, 16 is a sophomore. Camryn, 14 is in 8th grade. My little Kyle is 9 years old and in 3rd grade. I serve as the Children’s pastor and women’s leader in our church as well as the sectional Women’s and Girl’s Ministries rep. I have worked as a children’s pastor for over 15 years. Kids are the key not only to our survival as a church but also in our endless pursuit to evangelize our world. They must be taught who we are, why we are, and what we are truly called to do and be. To be able to walk along side these little ones as they discover these truths for themselves is both a blessing and personally inspiring beyond measure.
By Terry Magness
Have you ever found yourself so caught up in your day that you forgot to eat? I confess I have, but not often. Usually, my body signals when it is hungry or thirsty, and well, you know the rest.
It's a fact: we need food and water in order to live.
According to Peter Janiszewski, Ph.D, records show that severe symptoms of starvation appear approximately thirty-five to forty days in someone deprived of food. Death usually results within forty-five to sixty-one days, that is, if the individual has a source of hydration. In a vegetative, inactive state without food and water, survival would only be ten to fourteen days. The more active the person is the more resources he uses, therefore, lessening his time of survival.
Did you know the less we drink, the less we want to drink? Likewise, when we fast for several days, our sense of hunger diminishes, so that after a week or so, we no longer desire food. Perhaps our internal warning system simply shuts down, or we somehow fail to hear the signals. It remains, unless we decide to eat and drink, and our body dies.
Could the same be true of the human heart deprived of daily intimate fellowship with the Spirit of the living God and His Word? God said through His prophet Ezekiel, "I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."
I remember clearly the day when God took my dry, hardened heart and replaced it with a soft, pliable, and tender heart, one not afraid to be vulnerable. For the first time in many years, I could feel again. I was no longer in survival mode, but I was alive. Once again I could cry tears that had long ago dried up.
We all experience some desert places in our lives. A good question we can ask ourselves during those dry times is, "Am I malnourished or dehydrated in my spirit?" In order to find the answer to that question, I do a pulse check.
"Has my intimacy with Jesus diminished? How is my Word intake level?" If the answer is "yes", I run, not walk, to the Wellspring of Life, and spend some quality time with Him.
Are you feeling parched and dry? Are the pressures of life and ministry mounting? Do you feel yourself going through the motions, or maybe even shutting down? Are the pangs of hunger in your soul acute or are they dangerously fading away?
Stop! Take a break.
Breathe. Nothing is more important than this moment.
Nestle back in your chair and prepare your heart to be filled by Jesus, the Bread of Life. He knows you. You can rest in his Presence. Tip the cup of remembrance to your lips as you sip the essence of His peace, His goodness, His kindness, His love. Let your mind feast on His Word. Drink deeply of the living waters of His Spirit. Acknowledge His eternal life within you, and give thanks for the dawn of a new day.
Terry Magness has been in Christian ministry for forty years, is a licensed minister, author, pastoral counselor to church leaders, missionary, and founder of Grace Harbour Ministries, a Bible based international teaching and discipleship ministry to women. She oversees and teaches needs-based Overcomers classes in her local church, dedicated to helping men and women apply Biblical principles to every life situation. Terry is a lover of people in general, and her family in particular. She enjoys good friends, stimulating conversation, writing, photography, and fishing with her husband, Don.