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It was December, and I was in the car. One more Christmas song came on the radio, this one with a choir singing backup. And that’s when it happened. I couldn’t breathe and my chest physically hurt. Before I could even figure out what on earth was wrong, tears were leaking out of my eyes.

Don’t worry. I wasn’t having a heart attack. I was just sad.

Since we moved to our church, I’ve gotten used to an all praise band, all the time kind of worship. I’ve learned where to sit (out of the speakers’ direct line) so I don’t act like an old woman, complaining about kids these days and their loud music and, while I’m at it, get off my lawn. And many weeks, I am so moved (or impressed, or both) by our music that I find myself thinking about it all week long.

But sometimes I really miss the church choir.

At our old church, I sang in the choir – and I LOVED IT. It was a really important part of my life, and I treasured those weekly rehearsals and Sunday morning services. I knew when we made the tough decision to leave our church that we probably wouldn’t end up somewhere with a choir, and I knew that meant I might never sing in a choir again. I thought I was okay with that.

And I was. Until Christmas. And then again near Easter. You know – the big choir holidays? Yes, it’s true that those extra rehearsals and the singing through the allergies (WHY do the big church-singing holidays fall in the middle of prime getting-sick times of the year?) and singing the same songs for half a dozen services felt like kind of a pain. But really, those things were gifts – and when the holiday seasons roll around, I miss them a lot.

However, if I hadn’t let go of the church music part of my life, I never would have had room for student ministry. I wouldn’t have had time, and it wouldn’t have occurred to me to even be interested. But because I had that gap in my life, when I heard my friends discussing their need for an adult to work with the students helping out in the children’s worship services, I thought it might be a good way to still be somewhat involved in our church’s music.

That’s how I got started working with middle school students. It has very little to do with music and a lot to do with an incredible bunch of kids I never imagined serving and leading. And as you know – since I’ve talked about it a lot – this ministry has turned into a super important part of my life.

Talk about lemon into lemonades, right?!

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One of the biggest things I’ve been learning lately is that our lives are made of seasons. I’m learning that many parts of our lives don’t last forever and – here’s the kicker – that’s okay. Where we work, where we live, where we serve or lead, who we spend time with – all of these parts of our lives maybe have been placed in our paths and on our hearts for just a time, and it’s okay to let them go when they’re over.

That’s what we had to come to grips with when we decided to leave our church, and that’s what I have to remind my heart (and my lungs) every Christmas and Easter when I find myself missing the choir again. It’s what I say out loud when I see a friend post pictures of her kids on Facebook and realize they wouldn’t even recognize me if we ran into each other at the store; that’s how long it’s been since we were close.

It was a season, and it’s okay.

It’s what we say so often about kids and parenting, too. We talk about how hard things are, for whatever reason, and then we reassure ourselves and each other with this reminder: It’s just a phase.

As a matter of fact, I wrote about that this week at (in)courage – about how I’m finally beginning to see a tiny pinpoint of light and think the chaos of having a newborn might eventually come to a close. And I’ve been saying for a good month now that I’m hoping Annalyn’s birthday would mean the end of a particularly challenging phase for her.

But is it possible that those reassurances and the hope we find in looking past this stage and into the next might also rob us of the joy in today? (I touched on that in my (in)courage post, too.)

The curriculum my church uses in our children’s and student ministries is called Orange. I’ve talked about Orange before, and you know I love its focus on a partnership between parents and the church. Knowing how God has spoken to me and worked in my heart at both Orange conferences I’ve attended, it’s no surprise to me that this idea of seasons and stages that’s been simmering inside me lately is the very theme of next year’s Orange Conference.

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The theme of Orange Conference 2015 is, “It’s Just a Phase – So Don’t Miss It!” What a switch! Instead of desperately holding on until our kids finally make it through a stage, why not learn a little more about what’s happening in that oh-so-challenging season and make the most of it?! Of course, if I know Orange, I imagine there will be lots of encouragement and advice for the tough parts of various stages, as they inspire us to really be present in our seasons.

Registration for Orange Conference 2015 is open now. If you’re part of a children’s or student ministry, I recommend this conference so highly. I love it, and I can’t wait to go next year (April 29 – May 1 in Atlanta). You can register here – and if you do it TODAY, you’ll get $80 off your registration.

In a couple weeks I’m taking a day off to attend a one-day workshop with Orange right here in Kansas City. The weekend before that I’ll be spending my Sunday afternoon with a bunch of middle schoolers, painting pumpkins and playing foosball. This Sunday I’m organizing the welcome table for our Family Fun Fest, and every week I get up early, pack up the girls and head to church before first service so I can double-check our sound equipment and pray with my student leaders.

If I was involved in my church’s music ministry, I wouldn’t have time for all that. And I might not know what I was missing. But now that I’m on this side of the seasons changing, I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to serve in this way – even if it means I no longer serve in that other way.

(Just don’t be surprised to see me crying during the Christmas Eve service.)

What season or phase are you in today?

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