Let the sound of His praise be heard

Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.  – Psalm 66:8-9

I’ve been a musician for a long time.  Even from my earliest memories there was always music in my life; a new instrument to learn, a new song to sing.  I was enthralled with music and jumped at any opportunity I had to participate.  It was a fun hobby! I had no idea at the time that it was a priceless gift I had been given.

Most of my musical growth revolved around the church.  They were always needing a soloist, or an offertory special so I was happy to jump in and fill the need.  When I was 16 I suddenly found myself in the youth praise band every week.  I literally knew 3 chords on the guitar and I definitely felt out of my element for a while until my skill finally caught up with my ambition.  And by ambition I mean I could finally get through a song without stopping 10 times. I think most of us in the modern worship crowd all have a similar background.

However, the more I learned and grew in worship music, the more I started to feel the pressure that comes along with church music.  More specifically “leading worship”.  I started to realize that everyone had an opinion on how I was doing.  Some people liked my voice, some didn’t.  Some loved the song selection, others didn’t.  I never realized how eager others were to let you know what they thought about your “performance”.

Over time, I allowed this pressure to paralyze me.  I couldn’t make everyone happy; no matter the style or song or arrangement there was always someone in the congregation that didn’t approve.  I’m sad to say I laid my guitar down and didn’t pick it up for the next 4 years.  It was just too much. I had every intention of never leading worship again.  It was a symbol of my stress and I wanted to be rid of it.

What am I doing now? I have a masters in Worship Leadership, I’m married to a worship pastor and I serve weekly in the worship ministry at our church.  Unexpected right?  It was a long journey, that took many, many, many years of healing and submission to God, but in the end I realized I had been given the gift of music and I wasn’t using it.  I had let others define the worth of my gift instead of using it to glorify the One who had given it to me in the first place.

What gifts have you been given? Are you using them to their fullest potential? Are you discouraged or afraid of what others might think? The enemy’s greatest desire is that we would bury our gifts and live in fear. But be encouraged today…..we serve a great God who has given us great gifts for his great purposes.  Step out today and use them! Whatever your gifts are they were given with great intention to show our love to God and point others to Him.

Let the sound of His praise be heard…….

5 Things No One Told Me About Becoming a Parent

For those of you who have had kids for a while, you know what I’m talking about.  You are the veteran.  And I’ve called on you many times to remind me that I’m not a crazy person after all.  But for those of us who have recently started this journey of parenthood, this post is for you.  

5 Things No One Told Me About Becoming a Parent:

1.  Car Seat Rage

-Have you ever come back to your car after a trip to the grocery store with your newborn (aka minor panic attack), to find that a totally inconsiderate Ford F250 has parked 3 inches away from your car?  More specifically on the side where your carseat has to go in? Have you ever tried to squeeze a car seat carrier with a sleeping newborn into a 3 inch space?  I’m getting angry just thinking about it. I may or may not have dinged a few car doors on purpose bc I literally didn’t care anymore.  Sorry boutcha.

2.  Snot

-This is the totally elusive substance that constantly comes out of your child’s nose,  And no, you can’t ever really get rid of it.  Have you ever tried to suck the snot out of your 5 month old’s nose with a nasal aspirator in the middle of the night when the whole house is asleep? I have.  Pretty sure my husband thought I was murdering our child, based on the level of screaming coming from both of us.  Fun times guys.

3.  Over-Reaction

-When Maddox was about 5 days old, he was so sweet and snuggly and sleeping in those precious newborn hats all the time.  So after we got home from the hospital, in the middle of the night I hear my 5 day old whimpering in a way that suddenly gripped me with fear.  Have you ever seen a sleep-deprived, post-partum woman jump out of a bed in a frenzy at 3am?  It’s terrifying.  And also extremely disorienting I might add.  Needless to say I found my son with his precious hat completely covering his entire face and mouth.  I then proceeded to shout at my husband who is asleep like a dead person “HE ALMOST DIED!!!! HE ALMOST DIED!!!  THE HAT WAS OVER HIS FACE AND I DIDN’T KNOW AND I ALMOST KILLED HIM!!!! HE ALMOST DIED!!!!” Thank God my husband is an even-keeled person and talked me down after 15 minutes of the “ugly cry” at 3am.  But even he told me later “Babe, I know that was scary, but maybe next time don’t wake me from a dead sleep screaming ‘HE ALMOST DIED!’.  Just don’t lead with that.  Ok?” 

4.  Cleanliness

– The definition of this word officially changes after you have a child.  It used to mean you were showered and your clothes were literally washed, dried and pleasant smelling.  After baby, cleanliness means whatever you want it to mean (at least in those first few weeks/months).  And no amount of public judgment or embarrassment can phase you.  Sleep trumps them all.  So if you go to the store in the same pair of unwashed shorts you’e been wearing for 3 weeks straight with dried banana on them because you chose to nap in every spare moment you had…….then so be it.  

5.  And finally……dignity.

– Just kidding.  That’s no longer part of your life.  At least not in the privacy of your home.  You will make sounds and faces and motions you never thought possible to entertain your child.  Sometimes I make this crazy, wheezing, troll sound as I chase my son down the hallway at random moments because it makes him laugh.  And that’s all the motivation you need really.  You’ll do anything to get baby giggles because it’s worth every minute.  But if some unsuspecting person were to wander into my house, I’m sure they would fear for their lives.  

All in all, becoming a parent is the most rewarding thing ever.  But it def has it’s challenges and HONEST moments haha.  What are your parenting battle scars?

 

-Tiff

Pioneer: an honest post

I’ve been reluctant to post about this topic.  When I talk about the things that have happened with my parents and family in these last few years I get a broad spectrum of responses, and they’re not always easy conversations.  Being back in Midland has been quite the challenge because of this reality, but I have been learning and growing in spite of the pain that exists here.  Some days are better than others. Some days are HARD.  

I’ve spent a lot of time crying and questioning and wrestling and praying through everything that has happened.  Accepting the fact that after 40 years my parents relationship would end in divorce.  Coming to the realization that I didn’t really grow up in a home with a healthy marriage, even though I was unaware of it at the time.  Realizing that people I knew and trusted at church and in my daily life were lying to my face.  That’s a hard pill to swallow.  Here’s something I’ve found to be so true through this journey:

“Secrets make you sick and keeping them hidden away is like trying to hide a bag of trash.  It’s not “IF” it will start to stink, it’s just a matter of “WHEN.”

How do I know this is true? Because I’ve had a front row seat. Through this whole process I’ve learned that for at least the last 3 generations in my family no one has had a healthy marriage, at least not on my Dad’s side.  My parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents – littered with infidelity, divorce, bitterness, emotional separation and strife.  Their trash is still stinking and it’s still touching the lives of their descendants to this day.  Anybody who thinks they’re choices don’t really have lasting consequences on others is a crazy person. And it trickles down……

And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them. “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

 

I never thought I would be confessing the sins of my fathers so that my family could live in freedom and healing.  Realizing that Meredith and I are the first in 3 generations to have healthy marriages was a mind bomb for me.  We are pioneers in this area and we didn’t even know it.  Why God chose us to break the lineage of separation in our family tree, I have no idea.  Am I grateful?  YES.  A thousand times yes.  Do I take it seriously?  YES.  Do I believe that God’s never-ending purpose is to redeem all things to Himself for healing and restoration and peace?  YES.  Is it hard to pioneer a God path (in any area)?  YES.   

Am I still angry with my parents?  Sometimes.  It will be a lifetime of working through what’s happened.  There are good days and bad days, especially when I run into people around town that just want the juicy details of a family drama.  For those other people who truly care about our family and ask how we’re doing, I do my best to give a brief update and be positive.  I’m so very grateful for those people who still love my family and remember some of the good times where they were blessed by us, in ministry or in day to day life.  

What’s my point?  Why am I sharing any of this? Because I know I’m not the only one who has dealt with heartache and having to face sin in a family and in our own personal choices.  It’s not easy or convenient to do the right thing a lot of times and I make a lot of mistakes on a daily basis. God has asked us all to pioneer in different areas, because he’s still using his people to be his hands and feet in this world.  It’s a daunting and terrifying task to face the uncharted wilderness of pioneer country.  There’s not a map. There’s only trust in Jesus.  Despite the terrain, He really does know where’s he’s taking you.  He’s patient with us when we veer from his plan and corrects the path………even if it takes 3 generations.  

 

 

I am that person…..

So as it turns out, I am that person that constantly posts pics of their kid.  I’ve probably lost a few Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram friends, but I guess that’s a loss I will have to live with because I CAN’T STOP.  I am endlessly entertained and amazed by our little Maddox and I just cant control myself.  So, in honor of my shameless addiction, here are a few things I’m really enjoying about our little guy as of late:

1.  This kid LOVES to eat.  He’s in the 86% and above in weight, height, and head size and there is no end in sight.  Solid foods are especially fun these days.

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2.  He’s such a CUDDLE BUG

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3.  He indulges his parents goofy picture ideas…..Image…..

4. He is by far the cutest lion I’ve ever seen…..

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5. He smiles and giggles all the time and I just can’t ever get enough!

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Everyday is a new adventure of watching him learn and grow and I’m so blessed to be his mama 🙂 

What do you have in your hand?

As I get closer to becoming a parent (68-ish days – whaaat?), I’m realizing there are a lot of things I’ve never REALLY thought about before…..

-Diapers (70 different kinds), bottles (70 different kinds), breast pumps (I still feel awkward saying that), feeding schedules, baby shampoos (also 70 different kinds)…..my brain is exploding.

However, this flood of foreign information has also helped me realize there are other things I don’t pay attention to as well….like living in the moment instead of planning 5 steps ahead in my mind every day.  This is a great way to miss out on your life and feel discontent.

Several months ago, Craig and I watched a sermon on tv by Pastor Brian Houston at Hillsong where he talked about being faithful with what God has already put in your hand – instead of always looking toward the next thing and the next thing and what else might come.  I had no idea how much this idea would continue to impact me months later.

Preparing to have a baby takes a lot of planning, and there’s nothing wrong with that (keeping Maddox alive is def a priority lol).  BUT that’s also not an excuse to neglect what God has already put in my hand in anticipation of what the future will bring.  Maddox is just an addition to what God has already given me and Craig.  So when I really took inventory of what I’m currently holding in my hand, this is what I came up with:

-My daily communication and relationship with my faithful God

-Craig (God’s greatest gift to me apart from salvation)

-Maddox (coming soon)

-My family

-Creekwood Church (seriously the most genuine group of ppl I have ever known as a church body)

-My amazing friends

-My gifts, talents, passions, callings, abilities, responsibilities and convictions (all gifts from God)

When I look at this list I feel pretty lame for not trusting God with today, or tomorrow, or whatever.  Don’t get me wrong, I feel like I have REAL concerns that def need solutions (jobs, insurance, not wanting to put Maddox in daycare, etc).  BUT he has already given me so much AND has always guided my steps so what is my problem?  As part of our life group study this semester we are doing the workbook study from Jennie Allen called CHASE.  One of the exercises in the study for this week asks you to write your own Psalm to God.  Normally, I would just keep my workbook answers to myself, but I feel like these words might help some others just as they helped me as I wrote them.  Let’s be faithful with what has already been given to us, instead of acting like we need more.

My God is faithful – through all my days.  Many times I have wandered, intentionally away, but He has always come for me – always wooed me back into His will, with no condemnation or reprimand.  Forgive my unbelief.I have seen his faithfulness clearly.  He has guided my path with compassion and spoken clearly to me.  Why do I still doubt when another mystery comes my way?Does his faithfulness to me really build no lasting confidence in his provision?  This is my sin.  I confess it openly now. Let the goodness of the Lord not pass from my memory, but let it be my anchor.  My belief.  My promised confidence. I choose to trust the Lord.

Sowing Generously

Have you seen this movie?

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It’s the one where Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley (hard-core New Yorkers) pretend to be Amish cousins at a remote farm to avoid going to jail for tax evasion.  One of my all-time favs as far as comedies go.

Anyway, there is this scene in the movie where Tim Allen is put in charge of planting an entire field with one of these……

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Clearly……Tim Allen has never done this before.  In fact he’s terrible at it.  And he complains the entire time.  But, he is given the seeds to plant and the tools to plant them so he’s pretty much out of excuses.  Not to mention the survival of this entire farm depends on him getting these seeds in the ground.  Amazingly, the field ends up looking like this…..

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I think you see where I’m going with this. 

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 1 Cor 9:6-7

Is there a place in your life where you are sowing sparingly?  Why?  Here are some possible reasons:

-Fear

-Apathy

-Busyness

-Frustration

-Disappointment

-Selfishness

-Hurt

– ________________ (you fill in the blank)

If you find yourself sowing sparingly, then reverse that and sow generously.  BUT WAIT……notice what the 2nd part of that verse said…

“….not reluctantly or under compulsion……”

Trying harder to be less apathetic, selfish, hurt, frustrated, etc is not the point here.  You sow EVERYTHING sparingly when you sow it without genuineness in your heart.  o.u.c.h.

So let’s ask the question again…….is there a place in your life where you’re sowing sparingly?

I pray that God will show me these places.  I don’t want the spiritual harvest in my life and the lives that I encounter to look like this….

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I want it to look like this!

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Invest your heart into whatever you’re doing and whoever you’re with.  It’s not wasted effort.  Someday you will see your harvest either way.

 

 

2012: My Year in Review

2012: My Year in Review.

2012: My Year in Review

We all have those things in our lives that we say were “really hard” to go through.  Things that challenged us.  Things that pushed us to our limits and made us question what we’re made of.  What our faith is made of.  What Jesus is made of.  I used to think I knew what the “hard” things were in my life.  2012 changed that.

As I reflect on 2012 I can honestly say it has been the hardest year of my life.  The kind of heartache and disappointment I have encountered these last twelve months is something I can hardly express in words.  The loss of my family as we knew and loved it has challenged and changed me in ways I never thought possible.  My Dad – the man I knew to be solid, rational and faithful – is something of the past.  There are different kinds of death – losing a loved one to their own devices is one of those.  Learning to live with his choices has, and continues to be the forgiveness journey of a lifetime.  I will spend the rest of my life wrestling with his choices – and daily having to make the decision to forgive.  That’s HARD.

However, 2012 has also been one of the BEST years of my life.  It’s so odd to feel those two extremes at once.  I’m sure we can all relate on some level to this paradox.  In the midst of loss and despair I have experienced God in a way that I never knew.  I’ve been getting to know God “the Father”.  Apparently I didn’t pay much attention to this part of God’s personality before because I HAD a father.  A great one.  But now I don’t.  And God “the Father” is an unspeakable well of comfort and peace and joy that I never knew about.  Getting to know more of God always outweighs the despair.  ALWAYS.

I’ve also been given the most supportive and loving husband in the world.  Seriously, in the world.  At least in my world! And guess what else?  We’re going to be parents! In about 19 weeks, Maddox Carter Stotts will be here.  That’s incredible.  Take that 2012!

What’s my point?  My point is, 2012 has helped me learn that it’s ok to feel blessing and sadness at once.  I’ve learned that every single good gift I’ve got comes from God the Father and He has me square in his hand.  He has my marriage in his hand.  He has us all in his safe, loving hands.  Death always makes new life possible.  And spiritual growth is never-ending.  Just when you think you’ve gone through it all, God brings more and more of himself into focus.  That makes me excited for 2013 – no matter what.

The Spiritual life cannot be made suburban.  It is always frontier, and we who live in it must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed. – Howard Macey

Pearls of Great Price

Pearls of Great Price.

Pearls of Great Price

ImageOn my 20th birthday, my parents gave me a set of real pearl stud earrings, pea-sized with beautiful gold posts.  I had been asking for some real pearls because my fashion standards were demanding them.  The little cheapy studs from Target weren’t going to be acceptable.  So, they bought them for me.  They were definitely NOT cheap. 

It has only been recently that I’ve realized how much these tiny pearls mean to me.  You see, a lot has changed since my 20th birthday.  My parents are dealing with a lot these days.  Separated by health issues, mental disease, confusion, distance and pain. 

Did you know that pearls are the product of great irritation and pain?  A pearl starts out as an unwanted piece of sand that gets caught inside an oyster, buried somewhere in a deep body of water.  Over time, to protect itself, the oyster covers the sand grain with a protective coating called nacre.  This covering process takes years, but eventually you replace that tiny piece of sand with a beautiful pearl.  Like my earrings.

I don’t know will happen with my parents.  All I know is those pearls are special.  They represent a gift that was given by two people who have their own grains of sand to work on now.  When I see my pearls I remember that good things, REAL things, take time.