Yes. You read it correctly. I, Maria Teresa Jordan, am now an ordained minister.
My path to ministry may be a bit atypical, as much as life seems to be. Yet, when this organization was conceptualizing, the term "your ministry" was repeated by many who heard about what I felt called to do.
You should probably know, that during the conceptual phase, I did not have a relationship with God. I was more of a church visitor. A faith seeker in the making on an optimistic day. Most days I was relatively anti-religion. I thought of church as a place where God only welcomed the "Good" people. If you weren't good, you don't belong here. I also thought the really faithful people...well...they were kind of creepy. Seriously, how can you really be that happy all the time?
Here's what I did have. I had a family I loved with all of my heart. It's a small family. But they were MY family. I had a husband, who loves me even at my worst. I had two sweet boys who call me mom with this look in their eyes like I am the sunshine of their lives. And, I had a fire in my belly to make the world a better place for them, and other with Autism, to live. I wanted the world to see how amazing they were, just as they were. I wanted the world to welcome them with open arms, and call them their own. I wanted for them to know that there would be nothing to keep them from living a life full of love, laughter, and family.
In a former life (a.k.a. my life in Chicago), I thought being the best special education teacher ever would allow me to create this world for my sons. Turns out, that just about broke me. I'm not talking about broke in the financial sense. I was broken. My mind. My heart. My soul was broke. I poured everything I had into my classroom. I had nothing left for my home, including myself. I was broken.
When I left the world of teaching, I felt even more lost. Who am I, if I am not a teacher? Everything I did the past 15 years was to make myself into an amazing teacher!
Then one day, it dawned on me. I am not what I make myself into. There is so much more to me than teaching. I existed as a person before I began teaching. I am still a person now that I no longer teach.
I sang. I danced. I played euphonium. I went to music camp every summer. I read. I drew. I painted. I swam. I talked to people. I survived abuse. I cried. I laughed. I did so much more than teach. Why? Because I am so much more that who I make myself into.
Ah, and that was when I started to feel God within me, around me, in others, everywhere. Quakerism, taught me that all people have that of God within them. They call this an "inner light", and when a person lets their life be guided by this "inner light" they will achieve a full relationship with God. I leaned into my inner light and found music again.
Before I knew it, I was joining a church choir at a Methodist church in town. I met the sweetest people, who talked about loving Jesus...which didn't seem creepy anymore. While singing in church, I felt called to lead the special music one service during the summer while the choir was on vacation. I discovered Christian music artists like Lauren Daigle, who sang Dry Bones, which tells a beautiful story about those who pray for God to breath life into those who have lost their faith. The song is based on Ezekiel 37 where God call the profit to resurrect the bones. In essence this song is about God need His people to resurrect those who have been lost. Through this song, Lauren called me to my resurrected faith and belief in God.
I continued listening to Christian music, singing Christian music, and feeling led by the music to places I did not expect.
I began singing in hospice centers to honor my mom who required hospice services the last 6 weeks of her life. I began singing in coffee shops pop music with a couple Christian songs here and there. I began hosting open mics, where I would frequently sing Christian songs with pop songs.
I began to connect with people who would then become the founding members of Caring Hearts and Voices' Board of Directors. Soon after, I began to worship lead at another local Methodist church in a neighboring town. I even started to write music that would worship and honor Jesus. Music to honor those who have gone through difficult journeys with loved ones, only to watch their lives be cut away from us. The darkness in my world, was a darkness shared by many, and the music allowed me to light the darkness for others to find a way to one another.
I sing at a homeless shelters to give the clients some calming music to listen to as they check-in for the night. Sometimes while I'm singing, I get the chills, or a rush of energy, or an urge to sing a song I don't really enjoy, but keep in my binder for random moment like this. Later in the evening, a client or volunteer would reach out to me, with a tear in their eye, telling me I sang a song that touched them. It may have reminded them of a loved one, or a moment back in the day, or even allowed them to forget for just a moment, where they were.
Then this big, crazy, moment happened. One day, while leading worship I told the congregation of the moment I surrendered my life to Christ. For those who have not heard this story, it goes a little like this.
So I was at a performance at a very large church in a neighboring suburb. A section was hosting a movie night and wanted a musician to perform before the movie while people were arriving and eating their potluck dinner. Being one who never missed an opportunity to perform, I went! Following the movie, about Billy Graham, the section leader stood on stage and called all who would would publicly declare they too would follow Christ to join him on stage. And...no one moved.
Not one person moved.
Feeling bad for the guy, I walked on stage and said "I will." There was a prayer said over me, and I walked of the stage. People congratulated me when I walked past, where I oddly smiled and said "thank you?" I didn't know what surrendering you life to Jesus would mean. Now I do. That day changed me. That decision to feel bad for the guy and join him on stage changed me.
After telling the story, I realized I was publicly one of "those" people, and I started crying. Not like the totally weeping kid of crying. The tear in my eye, voice feels a little like it my iv me away, kind of crying. And this crying wasn't of embarrassment, it was from joy. Freedom. Peace.
As I sang my next song, there was something different with my voice. It felt clear. Free. I sang Not Today, which has some difficult notes toward the end. I hit every note, easily. It was as if my voice was literally telling the devil not today! Nope. Not ever again! It felt amazingly powerful, and purposeful. Which brings me to May 9th.
May 9th, I searched the vast online world of ministry. Music ministry. Online classes for ministry. Online minister. Ordination...then, one site stood out to me, and I felt drawn to complete their online essay on my faith. I spent all day writing this essay. I found my self praying over this essay. Asking for God to lead me to find the words to describe my faith with honesty and integrity. On May 10th, I received my ordination documents in an email. It was official. I am an ordained minister. Minister Maria Teresa Jordan.
I didn't earn it. I don't deserve it. Yet, I have it.
Just as God has recklessly loved me through all my doubt, and fears, and all the time I ran away from Him. I will work as an ordained minister to love other as He has loved me in to the oceans of this life I live. This paper, this title I now have, is my way of responding to God calling me to live a life of ministry through music.
Day 10 - Enough about me. I need to know about you. Who is out there anyway?
The answer to where I am already leading is all over this website. I lead the organization. I lead the board of directors. I lead the volunteer groups (except for the one at Plum Grove...that one is Rick's event). I lead the open mics (well, just the planning. Mark takes the lead as Emcee). My feet lead this organization, but who am I as a leader if I have no one to lead. So, the question needs to change because, I need to know about you.
I have a vision for this organization. I can picture Caring Hearts and Voices providing support through music around the Northwest Chicago Suburbs! I can picture a Caring Hearts and Voices musician getting their start as a music teacher by volunteering as a group leader during a PADS performance for people who need shelter. I can picture the next Sara Bareilles or Ed Sheeran being discovered at one of the Open Mic Nights we host. I can picture a great performer emerging from an extremely long hospital stay because of one of our dedicated Caring Hearts and Voices volunteers chose teach lessons to hospital patients. More importantly, I can see the people we serve experience moments of relief, if only for a few minutes, because of the music we provide.
So, enough about me. Tell me about you.
Out of the smallest moments comes greatness. These moments I envision can only become reality if I know more about you.
An amazing part of this organization is that you do not have to show up to an event to be part of Caring Hearts and Voices! You can start right where you are. Use your typing voice! Help me write blogs! Help me spread the word about our events! Lead us through the Social Media minefield!
Do you like to organize, help me put together songbooks and PowerPoints with lyrics. The songbooks and PowerPoints lead participants in sing-a-longs! Sometime, just holding a songbook will encourage someone to read along, then hum along, and before your know it, they are singing along!
Want to come to an event, but are terrified of singing for people? Join us anway. I love singing, I'll sing loud enough for the both of us! Plus, we need people to keep the balloons in the air, shakers shaking, tambourines jangleing, and smilers smiling. Sometimes we need extra people to shake everyone's hand in the audience. Did you know that smiles, handshakes and hugs give off endorphins (the feel good chemical our bodies produce)? Offering a handshake can make someone's day. Your Caring Heart showing up matters. It matter to us, it matters to those we serve. We may not change the world, but for the people we serve, we might be able to help change their world.
Tell me about you! You can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog post, facebook, or twitter. Where do you feel led? How would you like to support other with music? How can we support you?
The images used are from a google image search, and not not from Caring Hearts and Voices events.
Day 9 - The question is "How do I see my heart responding to God's love?"
Before I answer, I need to let you all know, that I am am finding motivation to write these blogs getting weaker. I'm on day 9 of 100, which is 6 days longer than I honestly thought I would keep going. Yay me. Yet I am 91 days from completing this project. Yikes.
Which leads me back to the original question, "How do I see my heart responding to God's love?" If I am being completely honest, I would say my heart is tired, weak, distant, nervous, and vulnerable. Makes sense knowing I needed to take my sons to the dentist today. First time going to this dentist too. I am not a fan of dentists. Not that I have ever really had dental issues, I just get really nervous about it. The last time I took my boys to the dentist it was a complete and total nightmare. They screamed the whole time, and the dentist refused to work with us. It was pretty disheartening actually. Another moment of rejection for us.
Looking back, it took me along time to even try to find a new dentist for them, and even longer to actually make the appointment. Fortunately, I was brave enough to search for a dentist. I was brave enough to make an appointment. Today, I was brave enough to get them to that appointment, be with them when they were called back, and leave them to the professionals when they were getting their teeth checked. Today, I put my faith in God that He led us into a new dentist who would not reject us, and who would know know how to provide a medical service for my boys while not traumatizing them in the process. God led us to the right people. When my oldest (by 14 minutes) was finished he looked proudly at his teeth in the mirror and said, "Wow! That was fun!". My younger son thanked the dentist and hygienists and told them, "I did a great job!".
Did you catch my response? My husband would roll his eyes at this. He likes direct, clear cut answers. My response is not direct and clear cut. In case you missed it, I talked about how my heart feels (weak, tired, nervous), and what I did with that feeling. What I did, IS my response. Yes, I feel weak, and nervous, and vulnerable. So, so vulnerable. Fortunately, feelings are not facts. I know God loves me. I know that when I "trust in the Lord with all my heart, and lean not on my own understanding wherever I go, He will clear a path for me to follow" (Proverbs 3:5-6). I have this verse painted on an artwork in my bedroom. I look at it everyday to remind me that God's got me, and it is up to me to listen and follow His path for me.
Caring Hearts and Voices is a path God is calling me to follow. I frequently wonder why He wants me to take this on. I know there are people better qualified to start a non-profit. There are better musicians out there to provide music for people in need. There are people who are much better organizational coordinators than me. Yet, here I am, forming Caring Hearts and Voices. Why? Because following his lead is how I respond to God's love. How do you respond to God's love?
Day 8 - You are not a mistake. Annie wonderfully reminded me that even though we all make mistakes and may have been born with challenges, we are not mistakes. We are not the mistakes of our parents or their parents. We are not even the mistakes of our past. We aren't mistakes. We are wonderfully and beautifully created in God's image.
This reminder sparked a series of reminders from several books I've read by Brene Brown, Kristin Neff. Both speak about the important statement Feelings are Not Facts. We may make mistakes and feel bad about our mistakes, but we are not bad, nor are we a mistake. I linked amazing articles to both writers for more insight to this very important statement. If you are having a difficult time hearing this, please read their books. If you have experienced trauma, I encourage you to also read The Body Keeps Score, by Bessel Van der Kolk. Trauma does some major damage to our beings. As a survivor to trauma, and someone who lives with PTSD, anxiety, and depression, I understand how trauma can make you feel like you are what you experienced, which can lead us down a very dark, slippery slope of seeing ourselves as not who we really are, and more likely to believe the lies we tell ourselves. But we are not mistakes.
My blog today is to share with you, dear readers, that you too are NOT A MISTAKE. You are a gift from God to the world. A gift from God to me. A gift from God to your community. There is nothing you can do, or say, or think that changes that very fact. You may feel like your have made so many mistakes, you are no longer worthy of feeling the love and belonging we have for you. But that does not change the fact that you are not a mistake.
Choose to stop listening to the lies. Believe in the truth. You are NOT a mistake.
Day 7 - Today (okay yesterday), is a prayer day.
"God tell me the truth of who I am. I am listening. I want to be free from the lies- do that for me. Rescue me. Bring truth like a waterfall." - Annie T Downs
Day 6 - The lies you believe. Lies were told to me throughout my childhood and stuck to me for so long that I believed them to be true. I believed they were the truth about who was and who I am; and believed they were absolutely the truth about who I am supposed to be.
Except, lies are not the truth.
As obvious as this sounds, when lies are so vividly real they become core beliefs. Core beliefs formed by lies are satan's way of keeping us from who we are truly meant to be. They make us feel like grasshoppers in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. They keep us from living the life God designed for us.
What is so incredibly painful about this realization, is in just how powerful these lies are. Satan is powerful. Satan is also a liar. Satan perpetuates these lies that we believe keep us in vicious cycles of abuse, poverty, addiction, and passivity to enact change. We become so stuck to the lie, we may even fight ourselves over how the lie must be the truth.
Except, lies are not the truth.
I am debating with myself how honest I want to be about the lies I believe. Dare I expose the lies in my head for what they are? Or, do I keep them firmly inside the boundaries of my mind? In all honesty, I'd like to keep them safe in my mind. Then again, the who purpose of this 100 day journey is find my brave. I'd like to challenge anyone reading this to dare to be brave. I will list 6 lies I believe that I know are lies. Sx core believes I am going to tell Satan are not true, and I refuse to believe from here on out.
In the comments, I challenge you to call out Satan on a lie he perpetuates in your mind you no longer accept as truth.
Here's my 6:
Lie #1 - I am lazy, If only I tried harder...I could have...would be worthy.
Lie #2 - I am stupid. Slow as molasses going uphill on a cold day stupid.
Lie #3 - I am sloppy, even when I am at my best, it's still too sloppy
Lie #4 - I am not worth supporting, I will only fail, waste time, and money.
Lie #5 - I am only a good person if I give all my time, money, and talent away
Lie #6 - If I am fat, I am not worthy of having a husband.
The lies Satan tells me again and again are NOT the truth!!!!
The next time I hear any of these lies in my head, I will smile and say "Not today Satan".
Are you ready to confront your lies? Be brave, you can do it.
Day 5 - Just start. "The moment you take that first step, little seeds of courage begin to sprout in your heart". Just start. Two words. Just two little words bring all the anxiety I work to manage on a daily basis to the forefront of my being. Just start. How? Where? What? Me??? Just start. You can do this, Maria. You are stronger than you think. You are braver than you think. Take a deep breath, and start.
When I told my husband I wanted to pursue a career in music, he began throwing ideas of where I should perform, and songs I should sing. As excited as I was that he was so wonderfully supportive, I was also scared out of my gourd at the ideas he had for me. He actually told me to perform at Potbellies. Side note for those of you who do not know about Potbellies, they make amazing sandwiches and salads. The toasted ones with fresh ingredients, served in an old-fashioned vintage-style fast food place, featuring a potbelly stove somewhere in the dining area. The sandwiches are awesome, but the best part about going to Potbellies is the music. Local musicians played their guitars like they were born with one and sang covers as if they were originals. I love listening to the music while enjoying my roast beef sandwich. This place is cool...me...not so much. Thanks for the idea though, Chris. It's sweet you think I'm cool like that.
After a year of practice, researching interesting versions of cover songs, performing and hosting Open Mic Nights, meeting fellow musicians with this shared hidden (sometimes not so hidden) anxiety and stage nerves, and even writing a few songs of my own, I overcame the feeling that I would never be one of those cool musicians who perform at Potbellies. It took alot of talking myself into it. It took listening to the compliments, and taking in the feedback, to improve my music skills. It took me digging through my memories from my music theory classes to analyze chord structures, phrasing, and dictation to learn enough music to perform for 90+ minutes. It took the seeds of courage to grow strong enough inside my heart to walk me through the doors of the Potbellies with my baritone ukulele in hand and request an audition. I was given three songs to start, and told if you're doing well, we'll let your keep going until your run out of music. Most musician shifts are 1.5-2 hours. Good luck.
Just start. Walk over to the "stage" area, set up, breath, and start. You can do this. You are braver than you think. You can do this. You have a binder full of music. You practice all the time. You've got this. Take a breath. Just start. Three songs turned into 90 minutes before I ran out of music. I did it...and I got tips (which are being donated to Caring Hearts and Voices)! I did it. I took a step of courage yesterday.
By the way, If you see me performing at the Potbellies in Elk Grove Village please know, all of my tips are being donated to Caring Hearts and Voices!
*Google search images of Potbellies.
Day 4 - When you see Brave, say so.
Annie, you are totally right. When we see bravery it inspires us to be brave. When we hear about fictional characters being brave in fictional stories, we are still emboldened to act courageously. Then, when we witness bravery in the lives of real people in the world around us, we stand with them becoming this wall of support. Or, do we witness bravery when we provide a wall of support at just the right moment for someone teetering on deciding between braveness and fear.
I find it brave when people new to open mic nights walk on stage for the first time and perform for a new audience. I also get nervous for them. Will they be awesome, and blow us away? Will they freeze up in fear? I watch to see what happens, prepared to clap in applause no matter what. In general, they do great! The audience cheers for the stellar performance before the performer walks off the stage with a ginormous smile on their slightly flushed face rushing back to their seat to relive their first performance in their head several times throughout the remainder of the evening. That's the moment I wonder...was this person brave because we provided the support they needed to act, or would they have been brave regardless?
Yesterday I said I am brave. I act bravely often. I know it because I feel fear all the time. Seriously, ALL. THE. TIME. I move forward anyway. Today I wonder what has made me brave? Was I always brave, or was it the wall of support I draw upon on a daily basis? My answer is both. I remember moments in childhood where I was brave...like when I climbed the tree in my front yard to reach the rooftop of our home where I would sit and watch the neighborhood pass by. I was scared of falling, but I wanted to get away from people...no one else in my family climbed trees. No one really supported this aventure of mine, it was all me.
Then there were the times as a teenager I feared talking to anybody about the abuse I was surviving. It took a friend who knew me well enough to know something was wrong, and I needed help. He was my wall of support to help me put an end the abuse. As an adult, I feared seeking counseling to help me heal from my childhood traumas. It took all the bravery I had in myself to find the right person to walk me through the healing process. As a healed adult, I needed courage to found a non-profit to support those in need through music. My inner braveness was moving me in the right direction, but it wasn't until the amazing human beings, I now am thrilled to say are part of the Board of Directors for Caring Hearts and Voices, cheered me on, and became a wall of support to push me to make this organization happen.
Annie, you are totally right. When we see bravery it inspires us to be brave. When my wall of support inspires me to be brave, I feel unstoppable. Which also means, when I notice someone teetering between braveness and fear, I will be a wall of support. Let's encourage others to be brave!
Day 3 - Moments someone else might label as brave.
People who hear my stories often tell me how brave I am. They tell me they could never do the things I do. Looking back, I know I have lived a brave life. I take chances...big chances...sometimes too big. In my outwardly brave life, I have experienced awesome adventures, witnessed beauty in small moments of time, and longed for and inwardly braver self. I am brave on the outside, not on the inside.
Annie mentioned in her book, 100 days to Brave, she too never felt brave. She said "...each day, I just did the next thing, took the next step, said the next yes." Looking back, I have said the same thing to myself. Let's look at where I am with establishing Caring Hearts and Voices as a non-profit.
I vividly recall telling my mom I wanted to help homeless people when I was young. (I think I was maybe 10 years old?) I stood behind my mom in the kitchen, watching as she stirred her deliciously fluffy mexican rice in one pan, then dropping rolled up meat into a pot of boiling tomato water with some carrots, onions, and potatoes. The smell of her homemade mexican food comforted me in our humble home...a luxury I knew I was fortunate enough to enjoy. She said she used to want to do the same thing, but never really did, there's too many people to help. "There has to be a way to help, even if there is too many people to help." What she said next, shaped my life. "Listen to your heart, Maria. God will tell you what to do." Everytime I hear the whispers in my head "there's too many people to help", I replace them with "listen to your heart, Maria. God will tell you what to do."
God led me back to music. He led me to performing at church, then a random coffee shop in Aurora, IL, then to senior communities, then to a hospice center in Woodstock, IL (where I will go later today), open mic nights, and so on. He led me to people who needed music. To people who also love music. To people who have amazing talents in music and advertising, and building small businesses, in running non-profits, in leading volunteer groups, in writing books, and in building communities for those who typically work from home and need to get out and socialize! I have met amazing people. Each person I met was me saying yes to building connections. Each performance I offered was my next yes to sharing my music to those in need. Each form I completed was my next yes in establishing this dream of my to help people in need through music.
People often tell me how brave I am. Each time they do I withdraw within myself not really knowing what to do with the amazing love I feel from inside me with these words. I think I am starting to realize that his amazing love I feel is God hugging me. Thanking me for listening to His words of encouragement. I am brave. You can be brave too. Listen to your heart. God will tell you what to do.
I am Maria Jordan, founder of Caring Hearts and Voices. I started this organization to honor my mom, my sons, and my own story. We all have gone through difficult times. Times where we needed support from family, friends, and the people around us. For me, music was often a greater source of comfort during those times. Caring Hearts and Voices is dedicated to providing support to people in need through music. How can our Caring Hearts and Voices be there for you?