Sunday, March 23, 2014

What I Will Not Put Up With

One of the first times I interacted with Jeff, he told me he planned to be a youth pastor.

“Be nice to the kids in your youth group, okay?” was my reply.

At the time I had no idea why those words were my reaction. A quizzical look crossed Jeff’s face. He promised me he would be nice to the kids in his youth group.

This conversation took place just weeks after my leaving home for college.

I had a pretty good family life growing up. My dad worked hard to put my brother and I through Christian schools. My mom was always around and took an interest in our likes and dislikes. In the few years we homeschooled in between Christian schools, mom took us all over the state to visit museums and parks.

We spent our Sunday mornings going to church and then to lunch as a family where we caught up on what happened during our week. Dad was often working a second job, which was also a favorite hobby of his, on evenings and Saturdays. So Sunday dinners were a good time to be together to talk. I felt loved and understood among my family.

Such was not always the case in my church. My dad desired for my brother and I to know the Bible well. I believe this is the reason I do know it and love it so much today. Because of his desire, we not only attended Christian school, we went to a church that taught the Bible verse by verse.

I received many good things from my church. We had a steady community of friends I was able to grow up with and I received opportunities to attend summer camps and participate in mission trips for many years. Our church was also good at putting children front and center. We served alongside adults at outreaches. As a teenager, my friends and I got to run the VBS while the adults were the secondary volunteers.

Many of my days at my church were good days. I have some fond memories.

However, much of the difficulty began when I entered youth group.

The summer before entering seventh grade, we received a stern talk. I remember what I was wearing that day. A pink t-shirt with flowers in the front and flowy, flowered coulottes that matched. They were a couple inches from hitting my knees. That night we found out that any shorts above our knees were immodest and now against the rules.

I remember shame washing over me. From my head to my toes, I felt dirty and sorry for something I would never have even known was a problem a few hours prior. I was still young enough that I had never even shaved my legs and here I was with this tremendous guilt over a pair of flowered coulottes.

The push regarding purity continued. That fall our youth pastor launched a series on dating. My best friend Amy and I sat on the front pew each week. We were the perpetual good girls. We wanted to do everything right for Jesus.

We found out that if a guy has a bad thought about us, it’s our fault. We vowed to never kiss a boy before being married. We giggled on the phone about such things. But deep down I think we were trying to process thought patterns that were outside our age as well as the unhealthy focus of male and female relationships placed on us for years. That was only the beginning.

Other confusing messages followed. Don’t listen to music that has a beat. It’s Satan’s tool because drums cause your heart to race to a certain pattern and then the Holy Spirit no longer has control over your life.

Another youth pastor came and he made rude comments to kids who played sports. As mentioned in another post, he told me God would make me break my ankle if I continued to play volleyball because it was my “god.” I just liked playing. That’s all. It was fun. I played while maintaining a place on the youth group leadership team. He did not like that I had not been able to attend a retreat because I had practices that week.

When my parents separated during my junior year, this particular pastor accused me of “not having enough faith.” He did this in front of the whole youth group during Sunday School.

That familiar sense of shame found its way from my head to my toes again that day. The whole group turned to look at me. I fought back tears and looked at the floor until I could run out after we were dismissed.

I ran to my dad in tears. He took me our Senior Pastor, who I believe did have a heart of compassion for us, even though he could sometimes be strict about things like women staying in their place and the fact that he didn’t like the college I attended. He didn’t hold back his opinion regarding those things.

All of these experiences welled up deep inside of me. And so when Jeff said he was going to be a youth pastor, I responded in what must have seemed like the strangest response imaginable.

I was afraid that this guy I was beginning to fall for would end up mistreating young people in the church and I couldn’t let it happen as far as I could stop it.

Through college and beyond, Jeff and I managed to stay in more non-denominational congregations that did not hold so tight to rules about music and dress and a woman’s place.

We experienced even more freedom when we entered the particular church we’ve been attending since Kyla was about three years old. With an emphasis on who God is and what He has done for us, rather than what we should do or not do, we realize that we are free to respond to His leading out of those things. Not out of obligation.

The spirit of shame is far from those pews and those doors. It gives me hope. I feel as if I have a healthier path to walk out my calling.

But I remain concerned about leadership in the church.

You see, believe it or not, our parent church is on the opposite end of the same street as the church of my childhood.

I find this poetic.

Being in my hometown means I run into people from my former church. I see the building from time to time. I have even attended some events, such as weddings, there in the last few years. Sometimes my heart gets confused and I am taken back into those moments of shame.

Adding to the confusion is a phone call I received a few years ago. The message I heard that day took me by surprise. I almost couldn’t breathe.

You see someone I have known most of my life was abused by a person in my former church. It was serious.

I wish I could say that the leadership acted appropriately in handling this issue once it was brought to them. But they did not. They re-victimized this person and tried to cover it all up. They tried to convince the abused that it may not have actually happened.*

This has been the turning point for me. I cannot abide the type of behavior that covers up abuse. I will not put up with it. This is beyond a youth pastor who wants control, a church leader who says terrible things to teenagers that embarrasses them in front of their fellow friends, or someone who uses shaming language to get their way.

When the news broke about the abuse, my childhood church was already going through a difficult split and the most recent senior pastor was on the verge of leaving. I get that the board was under a lot of pressure. However, I have been left wondering if I was ever really safe there? I don’t know. Probably not.

See these tendencies to want control over a congregation are not harmless. They breed an atmosphere where it’s not okay to bring sin to the light. And sin in the light is the only way for there to be healing.

The same year that this information was brought to my attention through a phone call, Jeff and I moved to another state. It was hard to be in a new faith community where I was unsure how our family would be treated. It was also hard to watch from afar as people I love began hurting from a pastor leaving and a leadership coming unraveled. Hurtful words and actions were exchanged. More terrible secrets came out about people I respected for decades. It was ugly.

It hurt.

During that time it was also difficult not to have the regular support of our parent church anymore, the one that had shown us freedom. They had walked alongside us and, whether they knew it or not, had aided in a lot of my healing. They taught us that true leadership means shepherding and a shepherd does not harm his sheep when they wander off.

Control and abuse are not God’s best. This is not how He desires for His people to live. I will shout it from the rooftops. I will join others in singing a new song. I will strive, as far as it be with me, to allow for the truth to be a part of our faith communities.

No more children with shame washing over them. No more victims being abused and then re-victimized over and over again. I will speak. For there has been silence long enough.

I pray on many days for the survivors of abuse in the church. I pray for their healing. I pray that current leaders can shepherd, truly shepherd, in ways that build up the people in their congregations. In ways that strengthen all of us in the church.

May it be so, Lord. We are Your people. We need Your help.



*My childhood church has since made some appropriate decisions regarding this situation. Damage was done, but I’m glad they did not continue on this same path of mistreating the victim.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Our Song

I open my Book to look for words for a blessing but quickly have to turn the page. I am unable to handle the black ink spelling out Galatians 6:7.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

I cannot bear the words. These are not words of blessing for me. For they were used time and time again as a way to control and shame. I have to take God’s own words to Him and cry out for help. His story, His song, is meant for freedom. But it has been abused.

We have been abused.

___________

I don’t know when I stumbled upon her blog. The first time I dismissed the posts as being rants from a slightly-angry, perhaps even bitter, girl who can’t move beyond her past.

However, within a short amount of time, I found my way back. One times, two times, even three.

Soon, I realized that the words found on these electronic pages are me. I may be the slightly-angry, perhaps even bitter sometimes, girl with a past full of hurt.

My story is not Esther’s story. But I know what she is saying. As if I am about to take my part in a chorus where I know what comes next. I know the words because I lived them. I know the tune and the tone because I have practiced them over and over in my head.

I know something else. I know there is a wrestling that comes with finding new words and new tunes. I know that there can be freedom to sing and to mess up too. It’s called practice. One is not perfect from the first measure.

And there are others joining this new chorus. There are others taking the hymns and the verses played over and over in our heads, who are changing the tune. Some of it just a bit. Other times we’re rewriting with barely a trace of the original song there.

We are stepping up to the high risers, just a bit closer to our God, who has been there all along. It’s just now we can see Him.

We are standing side by side.

We are shouting when it is necessary. From the bell towers, with the potential to ring. We know we were once locked there. Now we have some of the keys.

We are shedding those awful, frumpy choir robes. The ones that helped us conform. The ones that protected our modesty. Because apparently that was their job. They gave us the robes. We are leaving them on the steps as we take our true places in the church. Sometimes it is in the pulpit, when we were told to stay in the nursery.

Our voices grow louder. Others can hear it in the hills.

We say come. Sing with all you have, in your own way, in your own timing. It’s okay.

And there is prayer. Oh so much prayer in between the songs. When the music stops, we listen. We listen for the Savior, our true Director. And not the enemy.

We pray for healing. We pray for hope. We pray for one another.

We are together. One chorus. We will not go away. We will not be shamed. We will not grow quiet, unless The Director tells us to.

We hold hands sometimes. We walk in faith. We trust there is goodness in the words and the tune, always has been in His song, even when we didn’t know it.

We will take our places in the pews when it is necessary. Sometimes it’s the back row. And that is good too.

For all places in the Church are facing the same cross. We are fixed on Him. On His suffering. His own lamenting tune, growing into a chorus of hope. We gather bells. But we do not ring them. Not yet. For though we know there is a coda, we see the right repeat signs.

Some days we are back at the beginning. At least we know we can make it more than a measure.

We think.

And the music plays on. We are not deceived. We know there is a way forward. We are learning to live the Songwriter’s tempo. His rhythm. His way. We’re singing His words one note, one page at a time.

___________

Dedicated to those who have the courage to begin singing the new tune. Here are the names of a few. I know there are others. Perhaps it is you.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

When January Comes

Even though August often feels like a time in my life for a fresh start, I’m almost always tempted to do a little goal-making in January. I mean, all the cool kids are writing resolutions or picking a word for the year. Seems like a good idea. It’s a way to be intentional. I like intentionality.

Only trouble is that when I set goals they end up being this obsession for me. I lean into tasks so far and so hard that I tend to step over the lines of intentionality and go straight to being a “I have to do this or else I will be a failure” obsession. I know this about myself. I haven’t always known it but I have for a good four years or so.

As a result, I’ve tried to scale back my expectations. One year I picked a word for the year because I sensed God was working something specific out in my life. It turned out to be a good thing as over and over the Holy Spirit whispered that word to me and I was able to persevere through the particular circumstances that year brought.

Then this last year came. I thought I went into 2013 pretty open-handed.

I wanted to set some small goals related to exercise. I’ve always had this little problem with sticking to an exercise routine. It’s not entirely my fault. Our schedule tends to change about every six to nine months and I get interrupted. One semester Jeff is running the girls to school so I have early mornings free. Then, the next semester he’s driving to Denver more so I am on drop and pick-up duty.

This has been our life. When seminary ended for Jeff last December, more time opened up.

I decided I wanted to start some cardio routines so that I could feel good while climbing up to Ruybalid Lake with my family in July and run the Run for Rwanda in August. Those were my goals. I have wanted to do these things for years. In fact, I’ve wanted to see Ruybalid Lake since I was a little girl.

In addition to the exercise, Jeff and I began talking about my possibly pursuing a certificate in Spiritual Direction. He was done with school. Surely, I could fit in one evening a week to attend classes and some other time to write papers and work on projects. He’d been doing this for years already. Now we would swap who was doing the learning.

By February I was feeling pretty good about my decisions. Until I had to go to Urgent Care twice in one week. At first the doctors treated me for something routine but the medicine didn’t clear it up so off I went to see my regular doctors a couple of times. They sent tests to the lab. Still no answers. March turned into late April and I finally saw a specialist.

She basically told me my problem was the result of stress. She told me to slow down and I had to change my diet issues that were causing some of the pain I was experiencing. (Bye, bye black coffee, by the way.)

The day after I saw the specialist, I found out I was pregnant. (cue bellowing laughter) Sure, slow down and take it easy to let go of stress. No problem now.

I started eating everything in sight and never went for a single run.

By now you’ve probably figured out that I didn’t meet any of my goals this year. I could have done the Run for Rwanda as a walker but I have been way too sick with this pregnancy to do anything other than go to work and then come home and lay on the couch.

I tried to do some teaching at church this fall but that didn’t quite work out as planned either. I’m having to let go of many, many things I thought I would be able to do after Jeff finished seminary. I dreamed of freedom and us being able to go camping and a whole host of other things that just haven’t happened. I don’t know (again) when they will.

I’m learning to grieve and be grateful in other ways. I’m uncovering new layers of sadness and healing that remain from the miscarriages. I’m discovering that I just may have to sit still and “be” in new ways come this January.

I think one of the downsides of setting goals can be that there is little to no room for surprises. Good surprises.

As I look back over this year, I feel the exhaustion and the weight of having carried this little one (thankfully, oh so thankfully) almost to term. He is due later this week.

And I have these moments where my heart feels like it just might burst from all that unexpectedly took place in the month of November when Jeff became a priest and we hosted our first service as a church plant all in the same week. (Uhhh….I guess we should talk about five-year-long goals happening that I had given up on…?)

At Jeff's ordination, Bishop Ken praying over our family with his hand on my baby bump.

I also had a baby shower thrown by some of my favorite people who prayed over me and blessed me in ways too numerous to count. These people could care less if I met some sort of goal this year or not. They could care less if I am able to teach or get a certificate in anything. They don’t say my worth as a woman is found in the number of children I have, though they certainly are there to love my children right along with me.

I couldn’t ask for more right now and I couldn’t have anticipated any of that last January.

Yesterday, I was looking at our family calendar and realized we literally have nothing written down for the month of January. Nothing.

Now, we will have church meetings to attend and services to lead. Those are a given as that is becoming our life now *tiny squeal and sigh of relief* and I will probably add those regular events in some time soon. I love being with our church family and it makes me smile each time we are preparing to be with them again.

But I also really liked seeing all those days open with possibility.

I have no idea what 2014 will bring. I have to admit I’ve told people that I kind of hope it’s boring. Though I’m not sure that is possible for the Stones.


Maybe ask me after January?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Searching for Great Women and Men in Church History

This is my second part of a post. You can read the first part here.

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"I befriended a man once, an old Irish-Catholic chaplain named Paul. One day he said do you know what God’s going to ask you when you get to heaven? God’s going to ask if you found out who you were supposed to be." - John Blase, The Doubt





Turns out that when you search on the internet for “Great Women in Church History,” you find out that women are intimidating and we might take over the world. Therefore, we must be stopped.

You think I’m kidding. Try the title of this famous sermon from John Knox:

First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women

No joke. Monstrous Regiment of Women.

The page I pulled up also included misogynistic quotes from Origen, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.

Oh dear…

So, I’m thinking about what this means for my girls. For the one who declared she will be a “girl pastor” and the older one with leadership leanings.

I know this: I won’t squelch it. I want to find healthy ways of feeding into what God is already doing in their hearts, even if their little heart is only in Kindergarten.

As I think about these things for myself and for my girls, I’m preparing to read a book called Jesus Feminist. I know. The title is…interesting, huh?

I’m very excited about this book. Not because I believe in girl power. Not because I want to adopt this title for myself. In fact, I think we better consider long and hard and pray and converse with trusted people if we are going to adopt a strong title like feminist. I’m excited because the author of this book recently said this about Jesus Feminist:

“…the book is less about Christian feminism and more about the kingdom of God and what it looks like when we are all walking in fullness and freedom together. I see it as this kind of a love letter, maybe a provocative love letter, to the church that I really love to come outside.”

We need some sort of this call to the church. We need better ways of living out what God has called for all of His children, men and women. How can it be the good news otherwise? Would Jesus die for life, full and abundant, to be handed only to a select few, limited by gender, race, or age?

I think not.

As we talk about the ideas of equality and let the conversation of God’s gifting to each of His children open up, I want to be cautious of not sliding into saying this “movement” can only come from women now, given the history of what men have said and done that was oppressive.

While I want my girls to be surrounded by strong women who are confidently living out of who God made them to be, I can say the same about the men. I want the girls in the presence of men who step out in faith and trust Him with His church, all of His church. In fact, I know from my own life that I gained a lot of my own voice from a handful of respected men who saw not my gender but my place in God’s kingdom. They heard me and treated me like a human being, never a second-rate child of God who should know my place and my (man-made) roles. They opened up opportunities for me to use my words and talents among God’s people with no questions asked.

That is what I hope for in the church. That is what I dream of when I think of my son, still in my womb, growing up do too.

We can’t change the past in the church, and I believe there are still female role models in church history to help my girls discover. We have found a few to read about: Deborah (judge and military leader from the Book of Judges), Blandina and Joan of Arc (Christian martyrs and saints), Catherine Booth and Evangeline Booth (founders of the Salvation Army, mother and daughter!).

In addition, I will keep talking with Kyla about leadership and allow Kaelyn to tell me over and over about all she wants to be when she grows up. They should know what it’s like to be able to express themselves with confidence and receive respect.

I will surround them with God’s people who offer space for my little women to do the same.

I will sit them in the front row this week as we watch their daddy take some vows and put on a stole, symbolizing a yoke, around his neck to show his willingness to step into his calling as a priest in God’s church. They know this calling has taken five long years of walking through an ordination process to complete. They have walked it with us.

May we as the people of God never be a monstrous regiment of anything. May we be fully His, fully free, and fully living into who He gifted all of us to be.


What will a young mom find when she searches on the internet for that in a century?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thoughts on a Wednesday

Here the truth of what I’m doing in this moment. Right now. Today.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks with a lump in my throat because I want so very badly to write a blog post and the tears are seconds from flowing. Today has been just such a Wednesday, which included fixing a mistake I made on a project, forgetting to leave Kaelyn’s car seat for Aunt Susie to take the girls to Chick-fil-a (heard about that one via a phone call!), attending two parent teacher conferences, finally finishing lunch at 3pm, running (running!) Kyla to soccer practice, calling the doctor’s office nine minutes before they close to make an appointment for next week, and getting ready to grab dinner on my way to a church plant meeting after I get Kyla.

There is so very little left of this lady who is also almost thirty-one weeks pregnant with baby number three.

But I’m writing. I’m making my fingers move across the keys (and telling you all of my problems with Wednesday, I guess) because it’s the only remedy I know for the lump in my throat. It’s the only way I know to loosen up my mind, and my heart, and my words stored up that need to be come out. When I’m not creating, I feel empty. I need to create. I need to write.

So, here we go…

Did you know I completed two internships in college? It’s true. I had two distinct passions and though I can see how they overlap, it required me to complete two summers in a row doing two different types of work.

The first of the internships was as an administrative assistant at my church. I took phone calls, attended staff meetings, watered plants, and transcribed my pastor’s sermons. I have fond memories of that summer. I only got paid $40 a week. But at the end of the summer, the church took an offering and I was blessed with quite a big paycheck. I remain grateful for those allowed me to share a testimony about my summer from the pulpit and who gave to support me as I returned to school.

The following year, I was gaining confidence again in my writing and editing skills. The summer before, when I worked at the church, another woman on staff told me about her daughter-in-law who worked at Navigators. Then, sometime in that year, my uncle gave me the name of a man who worked at Navigators. Turns out the daughter-in-law and the man who knows my uncle worked together! I landed an internship working in the communications department of Navigators. I loved that job! So fun.

My first cubicle job. I wore my best skirts with my cardigan sweater sets and scarves. As I recall, I could have worn jeans or dress pants but most of the time I didn’t. I wanted to be seen as professional, mature, and capable, I suppose. I am grateful for my editors and the fun team meetings we held at The Ledge in Old Colorado City. I also discovered it’s very important to proofread or else you might send out something to thousands of donors about how their money went to rebuilding a damn instead of a dam.

I look back on both of those summers with fondness. I see how God used those few months of my life to shape me into the person I am today.

I remain grateful for that as I work my current job in my cubicle. I take seriously my call to faithfully teach children and families about Jesus via curriculum and other written materials. I am looking forward to leading a growing church plant on the east side of Colorado Springs, and though I am so tired when I arrive to our meetings on Wednesday evenings, there is no other place I’d rather be. I love our people. I love what God is allowing our family to get to do in this season as we build, and pray, and listen for His leading each day.

I hope over and over for the same for my girls. I pray for that all the time. I want God to speak to them so that they are stepping into who God made them to be even now.

Gratefully, I see this happening. Last weekend, we drove past the History and Bible museum Jeff is working at temporarily. Kaelyn says, “When I grow up, I’m going to work at that museum like daddy.” I should mention this little girl loves and adores her daddy! Kyla corrected her and reminded her the museum is only in our town for a few more months before it moves to another place.

I chimed in with, “Kaelyn, you know that daddy is a pastor, right? He leads our new church.”

She replies with, “Well then, I will be a pastor too. I will be a girl pastor.”

Okay, then. She also informed me that day that she plans to open a restaurant that serves pizza, tacos, burritos, and hot-mild sauce (that’s what she calls Taco Bell sauce). It will be called the Mixture Restaurant.

Not more than an hour later, I found myself at Target with the girls looking for Halloween costumes. Kae found her outfit right away but we spent almost another hour wandering around for Kyla. She has a very specific idea in mind to be a fairy on a cartoon she watches. I was having a hard time picturing the outfit she was explaining.

I suggested we go home and watch part of the cartoon so I could see the outfit. Well, first of all, Jeff and I have both watched this show with the girls. But I had forgotten that when they change into fairies that save the world (yeah…don’t ask….), they have outfits with next to nothing on. Ummm…no kid. Not wearing that. (Besides the fact you’ll be cold!) Also, their waist size is not human.

Trying not to get flustered, I finally asked, “What do you like about this particular character?”

“She’s the leader!”

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. So we talked about that a bit and the conversation continued when Jeff got home later that evening. He suggested we look for great women in church history and maybe have Kyla read about that some more.

Then, he tried to talk Kyla into being Queen Elizabeth.

She informed us she doesn’t like history.

Sigh.


After the girls were in bed, I searched on the internet for “great women in church history” and you won’t believe what I found.

(continued in another post soon….) Update: You can read the next post here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

When Will Life Begin?

This is a follow-up post I wrote for a MOPS blog after I gave a talk to a lovely group of moms. If you'd like to read more about the talk, you can check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

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Have you ever caught yourself unintentionally singing a song from a cartoon your kids like? My girls watch My Little Pony nonstop these days, and now I catch myself humming the theme song after one of their Saturday morning marathons. (I think the people in the grocery store are appreciative of my magical spirit when I go shopping on those days.)

Another song that often plays in my head is “When Will My Life Begin?” from Tangled. Rapunzel dances around the tower she has been locked in most of her life. She dreams and draws and cleans and does the same things day after day with no reprieve. Her life is rote and she has only been given a small window with which to see the world.

As moms it can be hard to get up and do the same things day after day. We cook and clean and draw pictures of animals for our little ones because we love them. But we also know that these things need to be done.

Beyond that, we are often given the impression that we should be at every Bible study with our workbook pages fully filled in, have our children in multiple activities, and not only make dinner but it should come with a perfectly frosted cake with a cherry on top. Every single night.

Our homes ought to be perfectly painted and organized with labels. We should pray with our children each night and memorize verses with them too.

Soon it becomes too much. Then, one evening I’m doing laundry while dinner is boiling over on the stove while asking my children for the sixth time to pick up their toys in the living room before I step on them. The phone rings with someone from church, and I shut it off because there is no way I will be able to talk with that person above the noise. Then I feel guilty for not being available…

And that’s when I start singing, “When will my life begin?” because surely this is not it. It’s out there, beyond the windows. The better way that Jesus talked about with rest and freedom? He meant I might have that in 10-15 years, right? Right?!?!

Glennon Doyle of Momastery.com recently suggested two things about living each day:

1. Show up
2. Pay attention

Four words? I think I can handle that.

Beyond that, I’ve been asking God what those words mean. What do they mean for me? What do they mean for us as moms and women and His daughters?

Because I see how Jesus did that when He came. We see this in the account with Martha and Mary. Jesus was able to speak truth to Martha about her expectations because He showed up to her home and her life, and He paid attention to why she felt she had to do more.

Showing up and paying attention involves being present to the moment, even the crazy ones that have us juggling three things at one time. Showing up means we acknowledge the activities for the day, and we wait for God to reveal Himself as we engage in what needs to be done. Paying attention involves seeing the world with new eyes because we are made new in Him more and more each day.

When Jesus left earth, the Father sent The Helper—the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is who enables us pay attention. Not only to our own surroundings but also to who God made us to be and what He would have us to do each day. The Holy Spirit enables us to know when it’s a good idea to say “no” to an activity that might impede on an opportunity to rest, even if we feel we should do this thing in front of us. The Holy Spirit helps us take notice of the passions and gifts God has given us because He is also the One who endows us with the gifting.

And then, during our days, we can ask, God, what are you doing here? Right here, right now? Our routine activities become an opportunity for prayer, even simple prayers, for prayer is both speaking and listening.

For years, my attitude for laundry was to toss it in the dryer with frustration while I muttered about how it never goes away. Ever. There’s also cooking dinner. I am personally not a fan. Not only do I struggle to not burn dinner each night, there is the inevitable pile of dishes waiting for me after everyone is in bed. It’s like the kitchen has a personal vendetta. It mocks me daily.

But then, for whatever reason, one day I started scrubbing a pan and muttering words to God. Suddenly I realized that the natural rhythm of cleaning and folding laundry could be something more than a necessity. I could talk to God while I did such things.

I remember one day I received a phone call from some family friends who found out their mom had breast cancer. Their mom was also very special to me. I was grateful I had made lasagna that day. I had some serious things to ask God for on behalf of the ones I cared about. This became my ministry. It didn’t come with fancy nametags and standing up teaching a Bible study. But it was important to me and to God all the same.

When I fold laundry, I ask God to bless my children and my husband. If it’s a soccer uniform, I pray for fun and safety in the next game or practice. If it’s pajamas, I pray for what my daughter calls “sweet dreams.” (Those usually involve cupcakes or My Little Pony, of course.)

God is already working in your life. Yours. The one that has begun. With the chaos and the dirty diapers and multiple minivan trips to the store to get milk. If we have to pick a checklist to live by, let’s go with:

1. Show up
2. Pay attention

Because that is where we find grace in the everyday. And the rest and the freedom. Those are the moments of grace that go beyond when we first said, “Yes, Jesus, I want to follow You.” In A Beautiful Mess, Kristin Ritzau writes, “Grace means not escaping the mess and learning to experience life amidst the muck.”

When will your life begin? It already has.


“Listen. Are you breathing just a little bit and calling it life?” -Mary Oliver

Monday, July 29, 2013

Now

Tonight I opened my e-mail to find an e-newsletter titled “Gain Important Leadership Lessons Now.” Hmmm…now, huh? Interesting.

In many ways I wish it were that easy. Jeff and I chose the road we are on because we sense a sacred call to lead. However, I can assure you the lessons learned along the way have been anything but now. Try more than a decade of one step forward and three steps back.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago I wore a dress to church that I bought two years ago to wear to Jeff’s final ordination service, which was supposed to be last spring. I’ve given up on the plans to wear it to the special occasion of the ordination, since we are still uncertain about a timing and date, and just started wearing it. It makes me a little sad, I suppose, but then I do feel good in that dress, so I guess that special occasion is now.

Last Saturday I planned to take the girls to the library but didn’t feel great so we stayed home and went tonight instead. The girls were disappointed on Saturday but also understanding as they skipped off to play. It was quiet in the East Library today, much quieter than a weekend, and we enjoyed ourselves. Later turned out to be a pretty great now.

Last night I spent the evening organizing my bookshelf on Goodreads. Tonight I couldn’t find any of the books I wanted at the library. I ended up getting three unexpected books. This kind of frustrated me at first. Not to mention a guy stood in the exact spot in the aisle where I wanted to pick up a Eugene Peterson book about spiritual reading. Hoping the tall man with a sleeveless cut off shirt and straw cowboy hat would shift, I circled the shelves a couple times with the girls, who were being as quiet as two excited little ones with new books can be. Finally, I gave up. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. I’ll catch you another time, Eugene.

No “now” on that one. Instead I have these others. I wonder what their pages hold….





Leadership lessons come in many ways. But rarely now and all today. They can’t all come now. Because what would we do if all of the people and experiences used to shape us showed up at the same time? We’d probably fall down on our face in amazement. Reverence. Excitement. Overwhelm. The way I would expect Kaelyn to if we took her to DisneyWorld today. The way I would expect if Jesus showed up tonight and gave me my wildest dreams and best moments all at once. I might even be a little afraid at the magnitude of the goodness He bestows.

Instead we receive our lessons and our best moments in life a little at a time. Leaving us grateful for the missed Saturday at the library and the soft teal dress that falls just right, even with a growing pregnant belly.

I wish there weren’t pain and frustration and questions and uncertainty involved along the way but there is. There always is. That is why the truest and bravest ones among us are those with decades of unexpected nows and a willingness to be patient with and for their Teacher. Those are the leaders I want to follow. Hopefully that’s the kind of leader He’s molding me to be.

There are sure to be more circles and backward steps. I’ll bring my dress. And maybe even a pair of heels to wear with it.