Adoption, Bible, family, God, Kingdom, Leadership, My Story, Praise and Worship

Have Fun and Obey

What’s going on?…

It started with a look. I could tell she was processing something. She seemed a little worried, a bit fearful, and agitated. I decided we should try worshiping together (kids and me) and then see if we could do some spontaneous prayer-worship afterwards. It sounded great to me, but none of my kids went for it. As I sang on my own I noticed my daughter drawing ever more inwards focused. Soon she was crying and when our time of singing was done she ran up to her room and locked the door.

Photo by Kat Jayne on

Oops. Did I go too far in requiring us all to worship together? Even though I was hoping this would be a moment where we’d all rally together through music, my expectation didn’t happen. What did happen was that the emotions being held down by ‘strength of will’ came to the surface. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I experience that all the time when I’m worshiping Jesus – Smiles and Tears. It was no different in my kids. The emotions of stress rose to the surface and now I had three kids with varying degrees of emotional stress needing me. Worship helped me and the kids finally be ready to talk about what worries they have had over the recent changes in our lives. So, it still turned out to be a helpful time, just different than I expected.

Being Comforted…

As I went upstairs to talk to my daughter, I hoped she’d open up and let me help her. PHEW! She opened the door to me and allowed me to hug her while she cried. Then she shared her worries. It was related to Coronavirus. Through tears she told me that she was afraid that her grandparents and our new (yet to be adopted) baby might get sick. She didn’t want them to get sick. She was worried for them and that caused her to have some pretty big stress hanging around her. I was so surprised at the depth of compassion she had! I didn’t know that was what was worrying her! I thought she’d be more worried about her own health. Not so.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Doing the Right Thing…

It was the answer that God gave me in the moment that stuck with me most. I could tell that my sweet, kind, and oh-so-responsible kid was taking on a load much too big for her. She was wanting to be sure that she was doing the right things to keep others from getting sick. The only problem was that she didn’t know what all those things were. And, as we’re all well aware, the guidelines were/are changing regularly. She felt a level of responsibility over this COVID-19 stuff.

At that moment, I told her that her only responsibility was to have fun and obey her parents. (Yes, I’m sure there are many other responsibilities, but that’s what was needed at that instant.) I then went on to explain that it’s my responsibility to keep track of the guidelines that the government is giving us. It’s my job to listen to the press conferences, check the news, and keep updated on other notifications. Then I would tell her what she needed to know. As long as she obeyed what I said, then she’d be doing the ‘right thing.’ That was her job – obey her parents.

Responsibility: Have Fun and Obey…

As I thought about this a bit more, it became apparent to me that this is a lesson for adults too. In the midst of a constantly changing atmosphere of rules and regulations, it’s our job to obey too. It’s not our responsibility to know all the ins and outs of what’s happening or even how to defeat this disease. We have lawmakers, government officials, and other well-educated-in-these-areas people to do that. If we as citizens listen and obey the guidelines set forth, then we’re fulfilling our responsibility. We can allow the governing officials to do the higher level work in this area.

Then, as usually happens, another area of realization came to mind. I was discussing all this with my sister-in-law when she sweetly pointed out that it’s also like this in our Christian walk. As God’s children, it’s our responsibility to obey God. We don’t have to know all of the information. We don’t have to plan or make perfect decisions. God is the one that has the ultimate vantage-point and information to help us as we go about fulfilling our purpose. He guides us to what’s best and it’s our responsibility to have fun and obey our Parent, God. 

Photo by nappy on

This is so true! When God asked me to start writing this blog, I thought I had heard wrong because surely God wouldn’t ask me to write a blog. That was nowhere near my desire or my experience. In fact, I had tried blogging before and stopped after just one post! But, I obeyed. And now, almost a year later, I can see the trail of good things that have come about because I obeyed – and I even had a little fun. 😉 God knew the bigger picture and I didn’t have to know it in order to obey.

So, what about you? How does this look in your life? I’d be so interested to hear a little story from you. When has God asked you to obey …and have fun?

P.S. My daughter gave me permission to share her story, although I doubt she’d want people to talk with her about it face to face. 🙂

God, Kingdom, Leadership, My Story

Get Used to It


View from the back of the auditorium

I waited and waited. After doing everything I could to fill the time, I entered the auditorium and hung out on the back wall. And then I waited some more. Would my husband, Putty, come in soon? Would he ever be done with his conversation? I wanted to find a seat together before announcements ended! I waited a little longer and decided to go out into the lobby to see what was taking him so long.

Looking for Sympathy…

As I exited the auditorium I saw Di, our then co-senior pastor, now founding pastor. She was a sight for my ‘sore eyes’. Surely, she would understand the annoyance I was going through. After all, she had been a pastor’s wife for decades at this point, and I was just starting out on this path. She finished a conversation and we made eye contact. I shared my pastor’s wife woe with her and her response caught me off guard. Did she really just say what I think she just said?

Get Used to It…

I went looking for sympathy and understanding, but all I got was, ‘Get used to it’. She said it with such authority and so matter-of-factly that I didn’t know how to respond! I quickly said some parting words and headed for my husband. Finally he finished up and we went into the church service together. But, Di’s words were still ringing in my ear. They kept coming back to me. What more did they mean?

The Right Word at the Right Time…

It became obvious that her words weren’t unkind or without compassion. No, they were the opposite. These were wise words from a woman who’s had her share of ‘waiting’ and having others ‘wait’ for her. In her nutshell of a phrase was a truth that has carried me all these years. I had a choice to make. I could choose to feel pity for myself and like I was bound to Putty’s schedule and choices, or I could come to terms with his work rhythms and make my own independent choices during these times. 

The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.

Proverbs 25:11 (MSG)

Like a Custom-made Piece of Jewelry…

As the proverb above says, I needed to hear this custom-made response at that time in my life. Through Di’s off-hand comment, God was using it to strengthen me for my journey ahead. That word was so powerful in empowering me to be ‘my own person’ that I frequently think of it again and again. I don’t think Di thought much about whether or not God was speaking through her at that moment, but I know she regularly lives  a lifestyle that’s open to Holy Spirit using her in any circumstances. And He did.

Lori (left) and Di (right) praying for me in 2011. What a sweet time!

Just the Other Day…

Just the other day, I exited the auditorium again and caught the tail end of a conversation. There was another wife, waiting for her husband to be finished talking, praying, etc and I caught Di saying it again! ‘Get used to it!’ This time I saw the smile on Di’s face. I heard the encouragement in that phrase, calling us up to make a choice to ‘wait in the wings’ or ‘act while we wait.’ I’m so thankful for this wisdom and the encouragement of these words.

And Act…

I love how one life lesson hits so many other areas of my life. My newborn is crying non-stop, my toddler won’t eat her food, my elementary child is whining all the time… ‘Get used to it – and act.’ My boss isn’t recognizing my full potential, my friend doesn’t call me, my family lives so far apart – ‘Get used to it – and act.’ What areas do you feel God telling you to ‘Get used to it’? Where is he empowering you to make choices that move your life forward today?

Leadership, My Story, Praise and Worship, Voice

I am a Private Voice Teacher

I am a Private Voice Teacher…

Not many people know the ins and outs of the profession I chose. It’s not one that gets put on display often and it’s done in the privacy of my own home. Each day I get the excitement of partnering with people to improve their voices, specifically singing voices! I am a private voice teacher. Others might call me a vocal coach. Some say singing teacher. No matter the term, it all leads back to the same idea. I teach people how to use their voice in a way that it’ll last for a long time to come (health) and sound pleasing to the ear (tone). 

My Home Music Studio

I love it. It’s as simple as that. I. Love. It. When I began studying voice, it was because I loved to sing, but now it’s morphed to loving seeing my students sing. We rejoice together over an improvement, we problem solve together to get the voice to reach new heights and goals. We talk together when it’s just plain hard to sing due to emotions and we come out with a song on our voices and a smile on our faces. I’ve come to see how much of a wholistic art and process that voice teaching really is. It’s not solo, it’s a partnership. It’s not just the vocal mechanism, it’s the whole being – body, mind, and spirit/soul. 

Academic Plus More…

Me Teaching During a Voice Lesson

I began teaching with the model of academic musical goals due to my college experience. It’s been great to have the structure of classical music and style. However, teaching from a private studio has brought all sorts of singers to my door. I’ve had the classical singers, the rock band singers, the international singers, the musical singers, the church singers, etc. Each new student brings new goals into the studio and I’ve acted as a detective to tease out the best way to teach each person and help them with their goals. It’s often looked different from the requirements of an academic setting and it’s made me a more rounded teacher.

Teaching Voice and its Effects

I don’t think I can begin to explain quite fully what teaching gives to me and how it changes me on a regular basis. The highs and lows are there and each of them are connected to a person… a student… a partnership. We are on the mountain together and in the muck and mire together. We wade through the intense work and soar to new heights when we’ve had breakthroughs. Perhaps the most surprising thing has been the relational side of lessons. A student and teacher must be connected enough to be vulnerable in singing and teaching; in trying new things and new ways of doing things; in sharing why we’re not 100% focused during that days lesson. Because of this close connection to my students, I feel with them as they go through the non-singing parts of their lives too. 

Me and My Student of More thank Ten Years!

Try and Then Try Some More

But on the practical level… We sing! They sing their song and I suggest trying it this way or that. They sing again. I suggest a repeat or a different technique or trick to try. They sing again. The students who willingly try and try again, whether it’s two times or ten times, will succeed. They will strengthen their voices and become more self aware of their whole singing mechanism. They will listen with new ears and make minute adjustments that only they and I know about in order to change their sound, get out a note, or paint a phrase with tone color.

My Student Tuning the Guitar for Her Voice Lesson

These students of mine… they are awesome! I’ve had so many students that work hard and use their whole hearts to go at it again and again. I’m so impressed with the focus my students have shown me over the years and even when they’re not taking lessons, they keep at it! They keep practicing the things they’ve been taught. Teaching voice is seriously one of my top rewarding experiences. Not just one experience, but each lesson is a repeated joyful experience. Thank you, my students, for all that you’ve taught me and given me over the years. I’m so super blessed to have you as part of my life story.

One of the Many Triumphs…

With that, I’ll leave you with a song that two of my students co-wrote and then recorded live and then released as a new single this weekend! It’s a Praise & Worship song called To The One. The male lead singer and the female background vocalist in the video below are students that have touched my life and teaching experience.

‘To The One’ written & performed by Kyle Howard & Joanna Machen
God, Kingdom, Leadership, My Story

Doing Church Alone with Kids – Part 2

Together, but not…

In my previous post, I shared how I ‘do church alone with kids’ because my husband works on Sunday mornings. The kicker is that he works at our church! How can he and I be in the same place at the same time, but I am still alone/separate? 

The Assumption and the Reality…

When we decided that my husband would leave his field of physics to become a pastor, I didn’t realize how that would affect my Sunday mornings. I assumed we’d carry on as usual. He and I still sitting together at church, mingling with friends together, and driving to and from church together. But one day, I started complaining to him about his lack of presence with me on Sundays. I tried to demand more of him on that day. He made it clear that he was ‘at work’ and he couldn’t just function as we had in the past.

The Workplace…

This really got me thinking. I had to wrap my head around what he was saying. So, I tried to apply it to when I was working full time. It would be inappropriate for me to have my husband come to my workplace and just sit with me all day. It would be distracting to have him constantly talking to me and trying to get my attention while I was working or meeting with people. It’d be awkward to have him calling the shots with my time and energy while I was ‘on the clock.’ How very ridiculous that would be!

The Understanding…

When I really started to put it into perspective that he was being paid to be at church on Sunday and interface with the church members, to help in his area of ministry, and that his boss could easily see how he was using his time, I began to shift my expectations. I could see that although we can be a family at church, it actually isn’t his main focus. Although he completely loves me and the kids, he also loves the people he serves – both bosses and church attenders. 

Working it Out…

As the years have gone by, I’ve been able to work out how to function as a family with my pastor husband, even while he’s working. We have openly discussed the needs of our family and the needs of his job. We come to solutions together so that we are on the same page. And yeah, sometimes that means I shoulder more of the parental role on a Sunday morning. Sometimes, it can seem like I’m alone on the surface, but in reality we’re in this ministry together. The way in which I choose to support him and honor his role is one area that I serve. I’m thankful to be alongside him in our Kingdom Adventure.

Every job, ministry and volunteer role means sacrifice. It means a sacrifice to our expectations and the way we’ve been used to doing things. It means flexibility. We have to be able to change as the roles change. It means openness. We need to be open with those around us so that we can help each other fulfill our needs. It means growth, strengthening, interdependence, and ultimately, gain! What areas do you feel God is strengthening you? Where do you need to see a new perspective? Where do you need to be flexible and stretch? Can you see how God will ultimately bring about goodness and gain to your life as you sacrifice? He is so good.

God, Kingdom, Leadership, My Story

Doing Church Alone with Kids – Part 1

Sunday Mornings at Home

Every Sunday morning my husband goes to work. So that leaves me to go to church on my own with my kids. My husband gets up and gets ready for work and I get up and get ready for church. Then he leaves and I help my children with breakfast and getting the final touches ready for a long morning at our Sunday morning venue. After much scurrying around and forgetting this and that, we’re finally in the car and ready to drive.

Arriving at Church…

We tumble out of the car with my older kids racing ahead of me while I try to quickly unbuckle my child who’s still in that ‘very secure’ five-point-harness child seat. (But really, I’m thankful for safety!) Finally, we’re all out, I’ve locked the car…I think. Then I relock the car just to be sure and we head to the entrance. We weave through the groups of people to the check-in kiosk. My two oldest BOTH want to do the check-in so we figure out who’ll do first service and who’ll do second service. Then name tags are put on and we’re heading to class.

The Drop-Off…

At this point, I’m really tired, often frazzled, and on a mission. If you try to say, ‘Hello,’ to me, I’ll likely give you a happy and quick, ‘Hi there!’ and keep moving. (You see, if you stop with children in tow, they get distracted and run to said distraction. Then I have to go through the work of getting them back to me and off again to class.) I drop off the older two first because they *usually* go in with the least amount of trouble. Then it’s just me and my pre-schooler. We head to the class with the usual teacher and the usual toys and the usual friends. But, no. Lately, she puts on a big show of tears (I know because my sister’s a volunteer in the class and says she always calms down very quickly after I leave) and I set her down in the room and quickly exit, pulling the door closed behind me. I hear her cries as I walk down the hall. I tell myself, and sometimes the occasional bystander, ‘She’ll be fine.’ And you know what, she’s ALWAYS happy when I pick her up. Mission accomplished!

To the Service…

Finally, I’m free to mingle, but at this point most people have made it into the service and I too am trying to quickly use the bathroom, get my coffee, and bee-line it to the auditorium. Once there I finally sit down and eventually, my husband joins me. But didn’t you say your husband works on Sunday?’ I’m so glad you asked. Yes… He’s a pastor.

Although this narrative is humorous, it can also come across as complaining. It’s so easy to look at what we don’t have, in this case a husband to help with the kids on Sunday mornings, and long for things to be different. I definitely do that, but then I think about why they are the way they are. Together, we chose to be a family in ministry. There are certain things we gave up because of our choice. It wasn’t thrust upon us or the truth hidden from us. We simply made a choice and now each week, each day we see the joys and hardships of that choice. Although, at times, it can be lonely, I wouldn’t make a different choice. I’ve been so thankful for all that we’ve become as a family and I’m excited for what’s to come.

How about you? What things are hard in your life because of a choice you’ve made? Can you also see the positives that have come out of that choice? God is ALWAYS working things to our good. Romans 8:28a says,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. (ESV)

It might be hard to see the good that’s being worked out at times, but we can hold fast that there is always good to come for those that love God. Join me in Doing Church Alone with Kids – Part 2 to read more about how I came to the realization of my new Sunday morning routine due to our choice to be a family in ministry.

Leadership, My Story, Praise and Worship, Voice

Perfection to Praise – Part 2

Perfection to Praise

A wise friend said to me, ‘Leading praise and worship is not about perfection (self-focus), but about bringing people into the presence of God (God-focus).’ When I first heard this it jarred me. Was she saying that she didn’t think I could lead worship from a heart of praise, but that I’d be longing for perfection and the affirmations from people instead? Whoa! Time out! I had to think about this. I dearly loved my friend and knew that she was not saying this to hurt me, but rather to challenge me. Since I also dearly loved God, I didn’t want to do this worship stuff ‘wrong.’ But even that response was self-focused. My mindset was so focused on the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ way to do things that even in this, I was using a perfectionistic mindset.

Praise of Man or Praise to God…

Because of my friend’s caution to study my heart before jumping on the church stage, I paused and considered my motives. I still participated in the praise choir weekends and even co-led them. I really enjoyed doing this. I also led a group of carolers in the Christmas season for multiple years and this group had the opportunity to join up with a local music store and carol around at area businesses! Finally, I served on the kids worship team, but I still didn’t move forward with trying out for the worship team because I just couldn’t figure out if my motives were to perform and hear praises from people or to truly lead a congregation with a heart turned fully towards God.


I also had a hidden insecurity. What if I wasn’t good enough? I was asked once, just once, to do background vocals at a leader’s meeting many years ago. It didn’t go well. In my defense, I had barely any practice, not a lot of feedback or input, and I wasn’t confident in harmonizing since all of my experience was in singing the melody! But this realization, that if I was going to be on the worship team I’d have to begin with harmonizing, was terrifying. For me, it was SO MUCH EASIER to sing the melody than come up with harmonies on my own. So, I practiced in the audience for many years. When it was time to sing, I’d turn my heart to God and also try out some harmonizing in the safety of a thousand voices.

Where am I now?

Today, I trust my heart enough to sing with purity of praise to my wonderful Heavenly Father. I can even harmonize much more confidently and accurately. But the stage of life that I’m in makes being a regular member of a worship team a very difficult task. I don’t feel like God is calling me to sing on-stage right now. Instead, I have the privilege to teach on-stage vocalists and see them improve and go further because of proper voice use! My heart bursts into praise as I lift my voice with my students and the congregants around me. But, God’s stirring something else. He’s been talking to me about honing this skill and being self-led in worship. So, I’m learning to play piano chords and sing at the same time in the private space of my home. Jesus and me… and my little kiddos, playing in the swirl of music, voice, and praise.

Check out my earlier post leading up to this time: Perfection to Praise – Part 1

Leadership, My Story

Shrinking Pool

Shrinking Pool

My husband went from being a PhD student in physics to a pastor. This meant that at church we went from being fairly low profile to eventually being in the ‘public eye’. As I discussed in a previous post, the church was my pond full of people to connect with, now that pool was about to shrink. When I gave my blessing on this career change, I didn’t know about all the areas that it would affect in my life – including my relational connection need.

Small Group to No Group…

Many church going people, including myself, find community in a small group. It’s a great place to be known and know others. I had a great small group and just about the time my life was really changing, our small group ended. I was really sad. I needed this group and I loved them, but change happens. And my life changed in many ways. Two big changes were that I became a new mother and my husband started his new position as a pastor.

Who Can I Talk to?

My husband’s call to ministry meant our family would be in the public eye on a whole new level. At first it’s exciting and exhilarating, but as time goes on, it becomes clear that it’s not so easy. For instance, it’s hard to be the ‘real you’ with everyone. I’m not talking about hiding things or being dishonest, but where most people can talk openly about their lives with their church small group, we couldn’t always because our life was the church. Some topics are just off limits to non-staff until decisions are made and other topics are private because of pastoral confidence. The list goes on.

So, losing the small group who knew the real me and not having the flexibility to find a new group before entering into a leadership partnering role was not easy. It’s only years later that I can see more clearly how hard it is for leaders to be truly known. It’s hard to find the balance of being that listening ear for so many, but also making sure that we have someone to listen to us.

Finding Balance…

We are still finding the balance, but one way we’ve found is to make connections and relationships with other leaders. True, we don’t see all of them often, but modern technology does make it easier to do quick texts back and forth. It’s also important for us to stay connected to the people that knew us before we were leaders – this was a nugget of wisdom dropped to us by another leader-friend. Family has been really important in this area too, not just blood-family, but people who are ‘like-family.’ Connection is so valuable. When we have it we often don’t realize it, but when it’s missing it’s a gaping hole. Actively investing in life-giving relationships is necessary. We find people that give life to us and then we choose to turn around and give life back to them.

My Monday morning teammates are like-family to us