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Encouragement, Blessings, and Chocolate

January 12, 2012

A few weeks ago, I got an email asking me…{ME!?}….to teach 3 seminars on Children’s Music at a Worship Conference. In my years in ministry, I’ve directed children’s choirs, taught class music, and always been involved in Worship and Children’s ministries. So I’m super excited, but at times I feel unworthy; ill-equipped. My adult A.D.D. grabs hold of my brain, and I can’t remember the stuff I want to pull from to prepare my talks. And then the little voice inside my head tells me that I’m not good enough to do something like this.

And then I eat some chocolate and tell the voice to shut it.

I know it’ll all come together…it’s just that initial “Oh my gosh…what am I going to say!?!” feeling. It’ll pass.

I’ve always wanted to be a speaker at conferences, retreats, and seminars. And whenever I’ve had the opportunity to lead worship or speak at one, I’m completely blessed, humbled, and more prepared for the next one. This is what I want to do with my life…write, speak, and lead people in worship of our Savior. So I can’t wait!!!

This  conference is happening twice, so I’ll be doing my thing at both. One in Livermore (up in Northern California) and one in Riverside (Southern CA). Wayne gets to go with me to the first one {YAY!}, so we will make a trip of it. He’s never been to the Northern parts of California. He’s really missed out! All he knows of CA are beaches, Bakersfield, and the Grapevine. So, we’ll take a little detour before we come home and go to San Francisco and maybe even go over to Mill Valley to see my old 3rd grade home at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and maybe even take a glance at the hill I tragically fell down when we lived there. That’ll be fun.

Then, at the end of February, we’ll go down to Riverside, and I’ll see another old home of mine – California Baptist University. In fact, the conference venue is our old church, Magnolia Ave. Baptist Church. I’ll never forget it…we always sang the song, “The Family of God” at the end of every service. Every. Single. Service.

I must say, it was very comforting – after a year of loss, rejection, and broken dreams – to be invited to teach at these workshops. There are days that I wonder why God gave me gifts but hasn’t opened the door for me to use them in the way I think He should… 🙂

But I feel like God is using this opportunity to say, “I think You’re worthy, and I’m all that matters. I’m not finished with you, yet.”

Ever feel like you’ll never get that advancement? That opportunity? That home? That spouse? Do you ever feel that you’ve prayed and longed for something and it’ll never come?

Friend ~ I feel ya.

I want to encourage you to try to find God’s comfort in the little blessings He sends your way (a lot less fattening than that chocolate I often seek out for comfort). If you’re still on this earth, He’s not finished with your work here, yet.

May the Lord bless you in all things, and may you feel His hand on your life as you walk through even the most disappointing of times. 

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Still I Will Say…

November 5, 2011

Tonight’s Worship Circle was great, as usual. The variety of personalities and experiences and circumstances coming through our front doors adds richness and depth to the evening. And the food’s not bad, either!

But of all the music played and sung tonight, one thing really spoke to my present circumstances and encouraged me:

When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord!”

How often do I feel sorry for myself because of the valley He’s leading me through? All the time. I don’t see His plan. I can only see right in front of me a few steps; nothing more. I don’t understand it….it hurts…I want to be on the other side of it already!

But even when I feel the darkness closing in on me, He gives me strength to carry on, so that I can still say, “Blessed be Your Name!”.

People Investing in People

September 19, 2011

Sometimes God sends you just what you need, so that you’ll see a situation the way He does.

I’ve been really discouraged, worried, and downright scared about an upcoming event. In fact, I had the whole, “nobody likes me/eat worms” cry-fest with Wayne a couple days ago. Truth is, sometimes we are so hurt by something, it changes the way we look at the world, at life, at the future, at ourselves.  I like to think that I’m not that easily influenced, but this one really hit me where it hurt.

But what I’ve found is that God really doesn’t leave us or forsake us. I’ve felt Him in the dark times over these past 9 months, and I knew that He was the one holding me up when I didn’t feel like I could do it on my own.

So, back to the reason I’m writing this post. I had the most wonderful talk with a friend today. She’s not a friend who knows me very well, and not a friend whom I’ve known for very long, but she took time out of her day to look me in the eye and say some really genuine words of support. Such encouraging and generously uplifting words.

People need us.

People are hurting everywhere we go. In the office next to you. In the house 3 doors down. At the desk next to you in Chemistry. Everywhere, there are people who need someone to invest in them.  To encourage. To lift up. To pour into them truth, and authenticity, and love.

There’s a woman named Sara, who is close to meeting Jesus face to face. Her friends are celebrating her life and the way she impacted their lives and gave to them – even through her illness and pain. She is leaving a legacy and a model of choosing joy in her suffering. Her friends and family would agree that she has given them more than they ever could give her. Even in her last moments, she continues to invest.

There’s a Mommy who just adopted 2 little boys from Ethiopia. They are living a life that their friends in Africa dream of everyday. She is giving them so much love, so many opportunities. Teaching them English. Getting them new clothes. Taking them to church. Hugging and kissing them every chance she gets. Investing in their little, precious lives.

When you get the chance, talk to someone. Listen to them. Show them your heart. Think of every contact as an opportunity to make a positive difference in someone’s life. It’ll change yours, too!

OhhhhhhhhhhSbux <3

August 31, 2011

Alright Starbucks, I get it. I’ve got your number.

You entice us with the trendy look and the pleasant aroma coming from within your doors. People walk in and out, and we are literally sucked in by the deliciousness. Once inside, it’s all over. The lighting is dim, inviting us to relax,  kick up our feet, and set aside the worries of the day. The atmosphere is young and hip, reminding us mid-lifers of how simple and easy life was when we were 20. The people sitting in your slick wooden chairs and cozy leather corner-seats range from teenagers to college athletes; business people in suits, to stay-at-home moms sharing stories about their Kindergarteners. The taste is far superior to the Folgers I make at home. Inside the aromatic Brown & Green, it’s another world; time stands still. All of a sudden, I’ve been there for a half hour, or more. And all I came in for, was a quick unsweetened venti iced coffee, light on the ice, room for cream, 1 Equal, half & half, not stirred.  Sneaky you, Sbux. But oh, how I enjoy falling for it everytime…

Sunday Setlist ~ 8.7.11 ~

August 8, 2011

  8.7.11~

This week, we didn’t have a full vocal team ~ only Wayne and I led. We are planning to do this maybe twice a quarter, just for something different. It also will allow us to introduce some newer stuff that we haven’t yet gotten to teach the team.

Our setlist looked like this:

My Savior Lives {Wayne leading}

<greeting>

All Creatures of Our God & King {Crowder version~ Wayne leading}

Welcome & Prayer {Pastor}

Blessed be Your Name {Wayne leading} We did this one with a single chord to start off. The piano played an A chord, and Wayne started “Blessed be Your Name…” and then the piano continued single chords until the second half of the verse, drums came in lightly, piano and keyboard built up until at the chorus, it was full volume. Really fun dynamics on this one. Our church hasn’t sung this song, but it’s still very familiar to them, so they really seemed to enjoy singing it.

Then we went from an up-tempo song to a slow You Are Good. Luckily I have an amazing band-leader/arranger, who makes these kind of transitions sound like they were made for each other.

You Are Good {Gateway} ~ one of our very favorites. A little harder for congregation to sing, so we don’t do it often. But this time I wanted to do something really different with it. Look at the videos below, and you’ll get the idea.

Listen from the beginning, to about 3:22. At this point, on the word “forever”, we held it for 8 beats, then the drum kicked 4 beats, building BIG into THIS!……{start at 2:13 and listen to 4:55}

…then {and oh my goodness was that ever exciting!} to wrap it up instrumentally, Jason played that theme on piano that Rick Pino is playing on guitar at the beginning of the song.

Just amazing.

God probably isn’t as amazed as we are… I mean, He formed it. He made the notes, the sounds, the creativity. He designed the patterns, and how they fit with the lyrics. He gifted the musicians with talent & passion. And he created that intense adrenaline rush that happens to me every time we manage to play some really good music.

But even if He isn’t surprised by it like we are, I hope He is blessed by it.

My most intimate, quality time with God is during worship. For some, it’s reading the Word. And for others, it’s prayer. But for me, it’s singing to my Savior.

My favorite lines in this setlist:

The angels dance around You; the earth, it sings about You!

Unto YOU be all the glory, Lord.

This blog post is part of a collection of Sunday Setlists by different worship leaders from all over the world at… http://www.theworshipcommunity.com/sunday-setlists-159

Wait Here…

July 1, 2011

‎”I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14

It seems God is trying to tell me something. Just about everywhere I turn, He’s reminding me that His timing is perfect. A song, a blog post, a scripture passage. This verse spoke comfort to me earlier today. It reached down into a place in my heart that is wounded and still a bit speechless. And it reassured me that I don’t have to despair. That there will be a day when His goodness will shine through, past the hurt and the depression and the waiting, and will bring me to the place that He’s called me to. I’m so ready. Ready to live out what I am convinced is my purpose. Ready to serve, and inspire, and reach people for Christ.

So much happened in that moment almost 7 months ago. If I even allow it to flash across my mind, I immediately well up with tears. A dream fell to the ground, and like glass, shattered into a million pieces. Decades of work and study disregarded. A carefully and passionately woven plan was violently unraveled. A trust was broken and truth revealed. Loved ones hurt; betrayed. I can still feel the churning knots in my stomach.

This is the first I’ve written about it. It’s scary, but I am praying that God will help me to write more.  I think there’s healing in writing. I don’t talk about it. In fact I’ve kept rather quiet, because I don’t want to hurt anyone. Even ones who have hurt me.

I know that He has a perfect design, and often times, difficult change has to happen, for that to come about. In Ken Gire’sThe Weathering Grace of God, he describes how the beauty of the mountains and other landscapes came out of devastating upheavals and violent storms. I’m believing that one day, our church will be healthy and whole again. That’s the beautiful landscape that I feel God is handcrafting right now, while we wait.

One thing that has kept me level-headed throughout this has been friendship. Here’s a passage from Ken’s book that speaks to the importance of cherishing relationships when going through a hard time.

We feel our way in the dark. Until we find each other. We huddle together in the storm. Wet and shivering, but together.

And maybe in the end it will be our huddling in the storm that gives us more comfort than our understanding of the storm.

I’m more thankful for real, true friends than I can even put into words. We still don’t understand it. But we are together. We still huddle. Wet, shivering, hurting, comforting one another, even months later. There are few things that matter more to me than these genuine friends.

I’ve learned a lot during this time. I’ve felt the Holy Spirit minister to me so often, keeping me from giving up, encouraging me to press into Him, and press on. I know that He has called me into full time ministry. Everything I’ve done since childhood has prepared and equipped me for it. One day I know that calling will be fulfilled, because, as a very wise preacher said to me last week, Jesus wrote my contract, not man.

And for that, I’m thankful. And I’ll wait on the Lord. To bring healing and bind up the wounds, as He promises in His Word.

And to fulfill my calling, not for my pleasure or gain, but for His glory, in His perfect timing.

~ A Thank You Letter to my Dad ~

June 20, 2011

This year, I decided to do the usual…lunch at a special place with Mom for her day, a tie for Dad, for his. But I also wanted to do something else. Something I don’t get the chance, or take the chance to do often enough. And that is, to THANK them for everything they did for me, from my birth day, to today. I wrote a blog post for my Mom for Mother’s Day…you can read it here.

And now, on this Father’s Day, I want to thank you, Dad, for all the things you have done for me, and meant to me over the years.

Thank you…

For naming me LeAnn…I like that I’m named after you and mom. 

For going to church with Mom. And listening to Pastor Skidmore. And giving your life to Jesus.

For taking us to church every week, and teaching us about God at home, too.

Thank you…

For family devotionals at Christmastime,

and Easter flowers,

and thankful Thanksgivings.

Thank you…

For not being mad that time I got in big trouble in Kindergarten. (The teacher was being unfair, and I think you secretly knew that).

For picking me up from 2nd grade everyday and taking me to Thrifty for a Chocolate Malted Crunch ice cream cone on the way home.

For waking us up one night to tell us we were going to a late showing of The Jesus Movie. I thought you were the coolest Dad ever, to take us to the movie theater in “the middle of the night”.

Thank you…

For family drives, just to drive. It was your way of getting the family together to talk or just have singalongs in the car and be together. I’m thankful that quality time was important to you.

For roller skating outings. {We showed everyone who the REAL skating stars were!}

For being comforting when I was afraid.

Thank you…

For surrendering to the ministry… which meant leaving a great job, and selling the house, and moving your family, to answer God’s call. That’s the most amazing display of real, live  faith I’ve ever seen.

For working various  jobs to provide for us, while going to school full-time, and then some. This allowed you to finish faster, and it required a crazy amount of work and dedication.

For your unrelenting commitment to do God’s will;  then and now.

Thank you…

For trying your hardest to catch me at the top of that hill.

For protecting Mom’s heart in that moment.

For your love and care as I healed, physically and emotionally.

Thank you…

For putting up with my Jr. High years.

For giving me just enough freedom to try and figure out who I was.

For helping me with reports…you are a great writer, and you loved to show me how to come up with the best ways to express myself.

Thank you…

For being nice (mostly) to my highschool boyfriends.

For always trusting me, while setting boundaries and realistic expectations.

For encouraging me to do my favorite thing… to sing.

Thank you…

For paying for years of piano lessons and vocal coaching.

For sending me on tours with the Continental Singers.

For coming to concerts in other cities, just to see us perform again.

For letting me record that ridiculous, operatic version of a musical greeting on the family answering machine. And for not telling me how ridiculous it was.

For always letting me be ME.

Thank you…

For coming to highschool football games and other events, just to hear me sing.

For letting me use your car everyday for school, and not being too mad when I totaled it.

For loving my brother and doing anything you needed to do, for him to be well.

Thank you…

For a wedding that was fit for a princess.

For reassuring me that day in the hospital, that my baby is in heaven.

For being a great Papaw to my children.

For encouraging and praying for me when times got hard.

Thank you…

For standing by me when I went through the toughest and most consuming valley of my life.

For loving me when I was unlovable.

For never letting go of me, or giving up on me.

Thank you…

For showing me that God gives second chances.

For meeting Wayne and giving him a chance.

For accepting him, and his kids into the family.

For another wedding, fit for a princess.

Thank you…

For helping on many occasions when resources were scarce and hope was low.

For being there when our Gracie was born. Lauren still remembers watching the Crocodile Hunter with you because she didn’t want to be in the room.

For being “Papaw” to all 7 kids …and their friends.

Thank you…

For seeing in me something others couldn’t, or didn’t want to see.

For letting me do what I love, and trusting me with it.

For always believing in me, and telling me I’m good at anything I’ve done.

For your integrity; faith; love.

…and so much more.

Sincerely,

Me.

My dad, Dr. Larry Dotson

~Happy Father’s Day~