HOME + Community

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Last week, I met up with my first friend.

tiffany

We grew up together. We went to church together growing up. We have taken different life paths since graduating high school, but we remain friends through it all. We are both pretty determined women who set goals and accomplished exactly what we set out to do. Her goal was to become a lawyer and mine was to become a youth minister. While she is still a lawyer, I am flexible to what a youth minister looks like. I prefer being in the education system and meeting tons of different kids rather than working at a church.

While her life looks different than mine, she is a sense of HOME for me. Community is something I will continue to fight for, but it is so encouraging being around people you are automatically comfortable with because you’ve known each other so long.

I sat by her in church last week, and it felt so nice, especially after my recent struggle for connection in churches in this area (see the previous blog post). Her mom sat on the other side of her and commented how nice it was to sit with her two young ladies again!

The crazy part is that while my friend left our hometown area, I’ve gotten to know her mom better. This is the second time I’m back in my hometown connecting with my friends’ moms. Community is messy (thanks for the phrase, Heather Zempel) and something I will always fight for. One of my favorite books is Because of Winn-Dixie because the girl finds community with a multi-generational set of people. Community no longer consists of only my peers.

Keep going, keep pursuing community, and be thankful for those special friendships where you can pick up right where you left off when they are back in town.

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An Open Response to 9 Reasons It’s Hard to Attend a Church Once You’ve Been Involved in Leading One

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Carey Nieuwhof wrote a post that put into words all that I have been feeling for the past ten years. I really appreciate the fact that Carey said “Everything I’m writing about in this post, I have felt.”

I have been in paid ministry positions and in the workforce. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly within the church setting. Please hear me – I LOVE THE CHURCH. JESUS DIED FOR THE CHURCH. Like Perry Noble, I believe the best is yet to come for the Church.

Sidenote: Because I’ve been on both sides, I need to set the record straight –

For those who have never worked for a church, don’t be disillusioned that “working for God” is the greatest job ever and without difficulties. We also have people in the church who think they are our bosses because they “pay” us through tithing.

For those in ministry who have never been a part of the workforce outside the church walls, don’t take for granted that people work their normal jobs and then spend a few hours volunteering, even when they don’t feel like it.

We need to honor each other.

Ok, back on topic. Here are the 9 and how I relate to each:

1. Your identity is tied to what you do, not who you are

This has always been a struggle for me. One of the last chapel services in college was by Professor Wendy West and she addressed this. One of my strengths is Achiever, so for me to just BE is really hard.

A Bethel Ministry student prophesied over me a few years ago. He said I was stuck in a pauper’s mindset and needed to see myself as a Princess and a Daughter of the King. He just cut through everything to call out something I struggle with daily.

2. You like being the center of attention

As an introvert, I would love to say this is not true…. and for the most part that is. But there is a small part of me that loves the fact that I have a voice in the Church. I loved my intro to preaching class in college because I was finally heard as a woman in ministry (another post for another day). I wanted to be Beth Moore-like – but not in women’s ministry. Men need to hear truth from women as well.

3. You’ve seen how the sausage is made and have lost your appetite

With any experience in life, I have always looked to the story of the OT Joseph. You can get better or get bitter about experiences, especially when other people’s decisions put you in difficult circumstances.

I have been involved with a variety of churches – church plants and megachurches. Each have their challenges and benefits. The Church is a beautiful thing and one thing I loved about the Church I was a part of in DC was that the pastor regularly said, “It’s not about the name above the door frame, but about the Name of All Names.” There was a beautiful Church unity happening in DC. They were One Team.

One church that is really striking a cord with me these days is South Bend City Church. Thankfully, they have a podcast so you can listen to them, too, no matter where you are. They spent the month of January going through their values. I I love fields, not factories and practices, not performances.

4. You’ve become more of a critic than a worshipper

It’s easy to become cynical about something you know well.

Sometimes the best thing I can do on a Sunday is nap. It shuts my brain off.

Sometimes the best way to worship God is to stop thinking so much about everything and create something or move your body – get out and walk. Listen to beautifully great music.

One of the best experiences I had in December was going to a Dustin Lynch concert. Great music makes me worship God. I was able to see more joy after that concert then I had in a really long time. Btw, Dustin Lynch is a country artist and not necessary “Christian”. God uses all kinds of things to bring us closer to Him. From that, I knew I needed to experience MORE great music, so I went to a May Erlewine concert. LOVED IT. Keep seeking Truth, Beauty, and Creativity to curb the critic.

5. You think you’re better or smarter than the people who merely attend

Pride is a sneaky little *****. Enough said.

6. Somewhere in the process, your personal walk with God tanked

I had a rough year last year. I was teaching in DC and exhausted in every sense of the word. I had my DC community through friends instead of a consistent small group. I wasn’t really a fan of the 3-month rotation small groups my church set up, so I didn’t go to them.

Moving back to my hometown area last summer, I felt like I’ve “been there/done that” with most churches in the area. I also feel like I am 16 years old again and people see me from the perspective of when they knew me, not realizing it has been four years since I lived in the area and we have both changed.

I continue to struggle for community.

People assume because you’re in ministry, you live, eat, breathe the Word. And sometimes you do. It is your Text – inspiration for messages.

But it is also a wake up call that people’s spiritual lives can be inspired by Audio Bibles on commutes or something else that is practical instead of constantly pushing “Quiet Time”. I believe more along the lines of Brother Lawrence and Oswald Chambers, living to see the Beauty of God in every day life. Don’t get me wrong; we need to be students of the Word. We just might need to change some of the methods we are using.

7. You’ve forgotten you’re a follower, not just a leader

At my school last year, teachers would often tell kids, you’re a leader – don’t be a follower. I told my students – in order to be a good leader, you must be a good follower. Again, putting yourself in the humble position is a struggle because of pride.

8. You’re neglecting the fact that you still have a role to play

I do not know my role – I was paid in ministry to work with the kids, but now that I am a teacher, I need to find some adult interaction or non-kid related way to serve. I have taken some time to heal from previous hurts, but it is weird and awkward to begin again. I was (and am) a backrow/balcony person. I love observing people in Church – but at some point, we all need to realize we’re either going to USE IT OR LOSE IT with our spiritual gifts.

9. ‘Why’ has died on the altar of ‘what’ and ‘how’

Everyone has personal preferences, which means someone is going to be unhappy in your Church. I have talked to friends and family who tell me the best way they worship is through music. I don’t leave it to Sundays to help me worship in that way, but it obviously helps if you don’t cringe during music time in Church.

I have a long way to go in my journey. I love Jesus and will continue to walk this out and grow from all these experiences. I met with a couple this week that reminded me sometimes you just need to dig in and serve – not for yourself but for others. The Church needs us and what we have to offer. When one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer. I mourn for hurt, but I also know there is JOY coming. Let’s pick each other up, dust each other off, and keep going on the journey.

The following song is dedicated to my best friends in DC who saw the good, the bad, and the ugly in me last year and still loved me through it all. Jason and Allie, you guys are true blue friends who stuck by me in the messiest year of my life. I am forever thankful for you.

May this song be a healing comfort to those who have been hurt and looking for their place.

Best of: January 2018 Part 2

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How could I forget to include the ONE movie I saw in theaters that I wish did not end after only an hour and half?!

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN:

Ok, so apart from all the musical-loving fans (I’m with you, now that I’ve seen it), I went into the experience of watching this movie more for the story aspect. I had seen so many people rave about the soundtrack, but HELLO – HUGH JACKMAN! Wolverine is one of my favorite movies — and as we saw in Les Mis, the man can SING!

This movie can resonate with everyone who has ever felt like they belong on the Island of Misfit Toys. To anyone who has ever dreamed – and watched their dreams shift.

GO SEE THE MOVIE!
GO BUY THE MOVIE!
(and if you love it enough, go buy the soundtrack).

PS Good to see Zac Efron in another Musical outside of High School. 🙂

Best of: January 2018

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January kind of sucked – because I was sick the last half of it!

But I’m celebrating what was great about it!

Live Music: May Erlewine

I heard about May Erlewine when my church played a couple of her songs in early December. I was excited to hear her live. She was a part of The Livery + LMC’s Living Room Series. It was so amazing to hear her in person – her music is as magical as her storytelling powers! I also liked her personality and I’d like to think if she planted herself in my area, we’d be good friends. Do yourself a favor – BUY her music. Or if you’re in Michigan, check out her schedule to see if you can see her live. SO GOOD! I firmly believe good music creates HOLY MOMENTS.

Because of this concert, I’ve decided I want to see one concert/month in 2018! YEA LIVE MUSIC!

Fitness: Yoga With Adriene

I love that IT’S FREE – on youtube!

This is exactly what I needed to kick off 2018. Like everyone else on the planet, I’m not where I want to be with health. But I finally found a fitness coach that doesn’t yell at you to put on a cheesy smile as you embrace the pain of getting stronger. She is quirky, funny, and calm. I got through nine days of yoga in January from her True January calendar – and I’m counting that as a win. I had never tried yoga before and actually think my old roommate used to do Yoga with Adriene years ago! Glad I found her; wish I had this in my first year of teaching to calm down after tough days at work.

Books: Quiet

What list would be complete with a book recommendation?!

I don’t know what made me pick it up again, but I reread Quiet by Susan Cain. I don’t normally reread books, but I find so much empowerment to embrace my personality and life from this book. Not apologizing to people for needing time and space away from them!

Drink: Minute Maid Lemonade

I gave up drinking Coke. I haven’t had any pop (other than 7-up when I was sick) since 2017 (but I’m human and have had three Dr. Peppers this week).

Because of this newfound life without pop, I’ve tried fruit punch and lemonades when ordering fast food meals. Jimmy John’s got me addicted to the real deal (no LIGHT!) Minute Maid Lemonade. Yum. I miss their Cherry Coke, but this is a great alternative.

How are you CELEBRATING LIFE in 2018?

Tension

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Anyone else constantly feel the tension that the last few days of the year epitomize? Reminiscing the past while hopeful and ready for the future – whatever it may bring. Looking back on lessons learned, while hoping with all your might that the year ahead will be just a little kinder than the year that somehow happened so quickly?

I often feel like this – finding it hard to be in the present moment. I remember great times when I had plenty of friends to choose from within five minutes of me at college instead of binge-watching FRIENDS. Or anticipating the time I can get my own place again.

But here. Now. In 2018. I am healthier than last year.

The first six months of 2017 were NOT pretty. I woke up already behind on my to-do list, dreading my commute, and crying almost every day en route. This time last year, I spent FOUR DAYS driving back to DC after Christmas break – crying A LOT – going back to a place that was just breaking my heart. But, God is faithful and helped me be faithful to finish out responsibilities in DC.

I am truly blessed – in this exact moment – to finish out 2017 with six months of living with family. I am not back in my hometown anticipating my next move out of this small town life. I am not back here dealing with a family crisis. I am here because I finally WANT to be here. I am soaking up all the snuggles with my niece and nephews, I am grieving over DC and the loss of the life there, and I am truly embracing family in all of its ups and downs (and believe me, there have been some rocky roads with family in 2017, too – we’re messy imperfect human beings!).

My hope is that I will be better at living in the tension, living my best story and inspiring other to live theirs.

December 10

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December 10 has meant a lot to me for the past seven years. It was the end of my three months living with stepfamily in Italy, checking out mission work opportunities there.

Seven years. (Check out my adventure getting home.)

Too long since I have been in that beautiful country with those beautiful people. Thank God for Facebook, helping me stay updated on some of the people I met while there.

That being said, I just spent four years living in DC, where the nations come to us! It was so amazing hearing so many different languages and seeing the diversity of the city. It is a city that I love, that is misunderstood, and has so many different cultures represented. I met so many people fighting for justice, passionate people who want to be the change in the world.

My favorite DC event is the Embassy Open Houses in May. It was my time to “travel” to European countries without leaving DC. The Italian Embassy has fantastic pizza and gelato for sale, a favorite of mine. (*Sidenote: a favorite DC Italian restaurant was Toscana Cafe by Union Station. It was across the street from Ebenezers, where I worked and spent a lot of time. They changed management but still have legit Italian pizza.)

Italy and DC have stretched me as a person. I am an introvert, and I was surrounded by extroverts in both places. I love being around people who are different than me. I love learning from all people. I once heard in a sermon that Heaven will be filled with Dutch and Italians. Dutch are reserved and Italians are LOUD! Love it.

I think Heaven might be like DC. Not because of a political party, but because of the beauty I saw in the people there. Thankful for my times abroad and home that show me a little more of what the Kingdom is like.

Thanksmas

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I have friends who have their own families and celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving as one holiday. Sometimes I think that is the simpler, better version of what we have made holidays.

Thank-mas. Thank more.

There’s something to be said for a holiday like Thanksgiving (removing the historical background and all the PC-ness). The gathering of family and/or friends, people COOK REAL FOOD, and watch football.

Sidenote: I’m looking forward to seeing Michigan BEAT OSU this year!

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it is a confrontation that relationships are not perfect and we have to work on changing things about ourselves. Being with family can be tough. I’ve had to get used to the fact that everything I grew up with no longer exists – tradition-wise – as an adult child of divorce.

However, there are bright moments like the sweet laughter of my nephew and brother bonding at the dinner table. The sweet pictures my older nephew drew me. The cute bracelet my niece made me. Everyone being comfortable because we like hanging out with each other, which I know is not the case in every family.

What are you thankful for? How can you encourage someone today? How can we be thankful for more of our lives? Thankful for the good, the bad, and the ugly that has shaped us and gotten us to this moment in life?