Opinions, part 2

I wrote Opinions, part 1 because people’s opinions have felt weighty lately. People’s voices have felt louder than they should, in a way that they haven’t since that dismantling years ago. I wonder what God is up to.

One thing I learned before was that feeling as I am now was an indicator that I needed to withdraw from people and spend time with my Father. I learned that his voice was easier to discern in the quiet, and I grew to love the silence and the stillness. I learned how to fight to preserve this time as necessary for my soul. As a way to refuel so that I would be equipped to love others.

Something interesting happened as I began to experience freedom from the weight of people’s opinions. I became less self-trusting, and more self-confident at the same time. I knew my tendency, and as I spent time listening to God, I was more sure of how to listen and respond to people. I was able to wade through opportunities with freedom, confidence and joy.

When Jeremy and I got married, our separate, large communities began to feel like more than we could keep up with and we similarly felt the need to withdraw. We needed to spend time together and with the Father, building a foundation. Looking back, I feel like it was a gift, almost like the Father covered my ears with his hands so I didn’t even have the option of discerning opportunities.

As we have been drawn back into shared community more recently, I have felt the din of the crowd growing louder. And not just in community, but everywhere – at work, with family, old friends, new neighbors. My instinct is to withdraw, to assume I must have forgotten to spend time with my Father. I must need some quiet.

But I feel Him calling me into something different this time, and I’m perplexed. Am I hearing Him right? I feel like He is asking me to listen, to engage, to hear them. To be sure enough that He is leading me that I’m able to wade through opportunities and to discern to what and in what way to respond.

I don’t like it! I’m afraid I will give people’s opinions too much weight. That their voices will drown out His, and that I will be back on the roller coaster. It’s not that I haven’t struggled with this since, I have, I do. It’s something I keep coming back too, but now it almost feels like He is asking me to “get on board” and trust that He will be with me.

I wonder if He is reminding me of my struggle, making it feel fresh, so that I can relate to some women in my life who are learning similar lessons now. I wonder if it’s so I can right about it so others can read it. Or I wonder if it is His voice at all…

Am I trying to do more than He is calling me to? Am I doing what others want? What I want? What He wants? Or is all this simply a reminder to seek Him…

P.S. As mentioned last week, I wrote this post awhile back, and at the time was feeling “in the thick of it.” More recently, particularly, the last month or so, I’ve felt the call  to rest once again and enjoyed opportunity to do so. Interesting how God works, isn’t it? 

Opinions

I wrote this post last winter about circumstances which took place 6-8 years ago.

For most of my life, I have cared TOO MUCH about what other people were thinking of me. First, I made assumptions that I knew what they were thinking or that they were thinking of me, and secondly, I assumed (most of) these thoughts were critical. Maybe these assumptions reflect more what I was thinking of others than any accuracy of others’ thoughts!

I came face-to-face with my own approval addiction at age 27, and it was a dismantling that I found devastating. I began to see, for the first time, how my thoughts were my choice and how I was continually choosing to give people more weight than they could handle. My expectations were high, and while I had always ridden a roller coaster in light of my performance and others’ approval (or lack thereof), I began to see that I was choosing to “get on board.” I also began to experience a lack of approval from many different directions all at the same time.

I entered what I would say was possibly a bit of depression. I stopped caring about everything and didn’t know who I was anymore. During this time, I moved into my pastor’s family’s basement because I knew I needed people to speak truth to me. It was mostly awful… until it wasn’t.

My family was worried about me because they didn’t understand how someone who had always known she was a sinner could suddenly be discouraged by it. What had changed? Why was I dwelling on the bad news when there was more to the story? But you see, the good news isn’t really good until you know how desperately you need it.

As I began to experience the depth of my sin for the first time, I felt its’ despair, heaviness, hopelessness. I knew grace was undeserved, and I was in the midst of experiencing my sin being “worse than I knew.” All during this time, my pastor’s family and others around me spoke truth. I heard what they were saying and I watched how they lived.

They didn’t care for people in the way that I had always perceived care. They weren’t warm, placating or affectionate. In short, they weren’t trying to “make me feel better!” But I knew they cared about my soul. Like in a deep, “I-don’t-even-know-if-I-want-people-to-care-about-me-that-much” kind of way. It was uncomfortable, frustrating, and frightening because it challenged everything I knew.

I also made some dear friends during this time because unbeknownst to us, we were experiencing the same dismantling of our worlds. They were the ones who were in the trenches beside me, trying to make sense of what was happening. Together, we were trying to find ourselves, or perhaps trying not to lose ourselves.

It took a couple of years, this process of my kingdom crashing down and God’s truth actually becoming good news. I’m not exactly sure how or when it happened, but I know that it did, and I know that people were part of the process. A few years later, I visited a handful of people who I wanted to thank for their role in my process, and I was able to declare: God is good! and really mean it.

GodSpace

One of my favorite authors has a new book out!

I was especially pumped about GodSpace before reading it because it promised to include topics that Keri Wyatt Kent has written about previously, in books which have challenged and encouraged me, while expanding in new directions.

Topics such as: Sabbath, Hospitality, Worship, Simplicity, Gratitude, Generosity, and Critical Thinking.

I was especially curious to see the big picture of how creating space for God connects to each of these topics from her perspective – years spent living and writing – knowing that I am particularly passionate about this concept and some of it’s implications.

I started reading GodSpace over the break, and I have not been disappointed!

It reaffirmed ideas I’m particularly passionate about in ways that encourage me to pursue living, reading and writing in a way that is unique to me. It also fleshed out inherent challenges in each of the topics presented, many of which I have or am wrestling with, and thus, also serves as a reminder that all of life is a journey. I appreciated hearing from someone who agrees spiritual practices are worth writing about, and who has gifts that are both similar and distinct from mine.

Highly recommend!

Advent 2017 Week 4

The last Sunday of Advent was a bit different for me this year.

I was with the toddlers!! We played Hickety Pickety Bumble Bee (a name game), sang Christmas songs, looked at a picture of baby Jesus and then made a manger-scene sticker ornament. We had very special snack with the big kids – cookies and cuties – and watched a very rhyme-y movie.

My favorite part of the morning was watching them connect the craft to the picture we had just discussed. They recognized the HAY, and the STAR, and the BABY from the picture and from the song (Away in a manger). They were so excited!

I think perhaps they understand Advent better than any of the rest of us.

When I told them that our morning was going to be a little different than usual, I asked if they knew why, if they knew what was coming up. My expectations were too small. I thought they’d say, “Christmas!” of course, but the wildest one of all responded enthusiastically and seriously: “The baby Jesus is coming!”

Yes, indeed, little one.

He is… He has… and He always will.

P.S. Jeremy summed the sermon up as because God sees and engages with people, so too we see people and engage with them. He thought our local UGM brother spoke well! If you want to get caught up on that with me, listen here.

Advent 2017 Week 3

This week’s sermon was a classic story that packed a punch.

The Son of God spent time with those who didn’t have a great reputation in the eyes of the religious. Those were the masses that you’d find crowded around Him. He also often had the self-righteous watching Him, and He had words for both groups of people.

To the outrightly rebellious, obstinate and ungrateful, Love runs toward, embraces, and bestows honor:

Let’s celebrate because you are here with me; yes, you; you are mine.

To the outwardly obedient, but inwardly unloving, Love still goes to meet and entreats:

Come celebrate with us at the party too because you are ALL my beloved children. Everything I have is yours, but I want ALL my children with me. Loving me means loving your brother.

I didn’t even get to the punch yet.

Which brother do you relate with so far?

I’ve been both at different times!

Here’s the punch.

THERE ISN’T A THIRD OPTION.

I know, it would be so much easier if we could just point a finger at one brother and say “well, at least I’m not like him,” but the hard fact is neither brother in this story is a model son.

Likewise, the church today is full of SO MANY SONS AND DAUGHTERS and sadly, we often spend more time pointing out our differences than we do reminding each other the Father loves us. Because remembering the Father loves even us motivates us to love one another – to actually want to spend time with each other –  celebrating together the good news that we don’t have to fear our standing with the Father and we don’t have to compete with each other. We are all invited in to the party!

-from Luke 15, full sermon available here

 

 

Two Women on Ministry & Culture

Hey Ladies.

I wanted to share two resources with you today.

One, if you or someone you know leads a small team and would like to hear from everyone about their experience this past year this questionnaire from Beth Moore may be helpful.

 Use it, adapt it, share it.

Then read this:

Two, this is a great article from Ann Voskamp about standing strong as women in the midst of a comparative culture.

 

Advent 2017 Week 2

GUYS, our guest speaker knocked it out of the park on Sunday.

Snapshot #2 of Jesus on Mission is Him interacting with a well-educated, rule follower. A lawyer or a teacher, one well schooled in the idea: Love God, Love your neighbor. Jesus first tells the man he has asked a good question and knows the answer. Then as the man, motivated by a desire to justify himself, the text says, asks for clarity on who his neighbor is. To this second question, Jesus responds with a story.

We are all familiar with The Good Samaritan, but often hear it out of context. In essence, Jesus is telling the man that his second question is “not the right question.” The more important question is “Who are you?” How the man answers that question will determine his answer to “Who is my neighbor?”

Fitting this season especially as it is so easy to pick and choose how and where and to whom we want to give, serve, love. As He does, Jesus reminds us that as we seek God, or perhaps as we become more attuned to the fact that He is seeking us, we learn more of what it means to be the recipient of love. This Love motivates us to love those around us.

Who can you love this holiday season?

To hear the full sermon on Luke 10: 25-37, click here.

Giving

There are so many opportunities to give this time of year.

How do you decide what and to whom to give?

I long to be generous, yet also a good steward.

2 Corinthians 9:7 says “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart”

There is beauty in that – we all care about different things.

There is challenge in that – none of us can rely on our hearts to be pure.

How can we help each other dialogue about giving? What are some organizations you’d like to invite others into? Perhaps some ways you can give that require more time or service than money? What are your favorite gifts to give? to receive?

 

 

Advent 2017 Week 1

4 more Thursdays, and the weekend before Christmas will be upon us!

I’ll use each one to reflect on our Advent series this year, described as “snapshots of Jesus on mission.” Sort of a “why did He come” question based on Luke 19:10 – “He came to seek and save the lost.”

Advent week 1 – This week we looked at the first ten verses of Luke 19 – Zacchaeus’ story. You know the song. I recommend the sermon. Here are a few takeaways –

  1. There is always a self-righteous crowd around Jesus; get over the crowd to see Him. Decide for yourself who He is.
  2. Jesus accepts every individual for who they are in all of the mess. He loves and forgives each of us as we are, no expectations. Yes, He has a message to share, but He also came to share his life.
  3. His acceptance, love, forgiveness and shared life rename us, motivating us to do for others what He has done for us. Who around you would benefit from being accepted as they are today?

For more information on this series, or to listen to the sermon, click here.

Once Upon A Thanksgiving

Today is my cousin Jon’s birthday.

I remember the Thanksgiving when Jonathan was born. I was nine and eager to meet him, along with the whole family who had been anticipating his arrival for A LONG TIME. My aunt and uncle had received a call on their 10th anniversary, weeks prior, and they were able to be at the hospital when Jon entered the world the day before Thanksgiving of that year. With my mom’s help, Jenny, Katlyn and I got a peek at him in the nursery while Papa fell asleep in the waiting room guarding our neighbor’s borrowed video camera (clearly, it was the 90’s!).

Waiting seemed to take FOREVER, but then there was a super cute, tiny baby to bring home for the holiday. The adoption lawyer worked it out so Jon could come home the next day, Thanksgiving. We took turns holding him, and without a doubt, we knew what we were most grateful for that year.

Well, cousin Jon, I already ate my turkey, but I’m still grateful for you, and I wish you a very happy birthday!

P.S. This Thanksgiving was good as well  – turkey trot, cooking, eating, socializing… it was a record 55 here in Spokane, reminiscient of the Virginia air from my childhood. My parents were with Jon and family, and my sister and I so enjoyed calling “home” and hearing this story.

Jeremy and I hosted his parents, my sister and a friend – our second Tgiving hosting and everyone’s dishes worked great together. Our chef neighbor also contributed a dish, and while there were no complaints on my potatos, I’m motivated to make them creamier in the future. Pie turned out delicious, but a little, umm, lopsided?! I was joking about how I never understood why the grown-ups were so tired after the meal, but mom, I get it now!! Grateful for all the hard work of those making the meal, then and now.

P.S.S. Jeremy made the turkey again!