Sunday, June 14, 2015

What is the one brave thing you will do today?

“What is the one brave thing you will do today?”  

In October, Don Miller encouraged an audience of 1,000 of us scared humans to wake up in the morning and ask ourselves that question.  A few months ago I started to make this a part of my every day.  At first it just felt a lot like fear, and if I am honest, it still does. It feels like going on a high ropes course and you get to the point where you have to jump off the platform in order to go swinging through the air.  You take that first step and you don’t know if you are going to die or if this is the greatest thing you have ever done. 

That jumping off place, it had been years since I had known that feeling.  Somewhere along the way this thing called “familiarity” and “comfort” had lulled me to sleep.  Can anyone relate?  

However, I love Psalm 37 where the psalmist says to, “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”  Sometimes life is about jumping, but also there is something powerful about remaining faithful with the daily routine of life.  Daily cultivating relationship, showing up and doing your job to the best of your ability, raising your children and wiping their backsides, apologizing to your wife or husband, pressing in to your relationship with God. I think there’s something to the everyday showing up for life. This daily cultivating of faithfulness is where trust is built, character is formed and new dreams are birthed.  Anything of value takes time to be birthed - it mirrors creation. 

So whether you are in the “everyday” or whether you are “jumping off the platform” - what single, brave thing do you need to do today?

Monday, May 11, 2015


I was nervous.  I was about to tell my friend Chastin that I was going to have to leave her bachelorette weekend early.  In the chaos of job change, starting a non profit and all that entails, the process of communicating with supporters has been slow.  My home church invited me to come and speak and it was the same weekend as my friends bachelorette festivities.  In no way did I want to communicate that it wasn’t important to me to be there with her.  I anxiously told my friend what was happening and do you know what her response was?  


Nothing but grace and kindness.

Chastin told me that just because she was getting married didn’t mean there weren’t things going on in my world that were important.  

She gave me a gift that day and a gift I want to give others.  She told me there was room for both of us.  You can’t imagine the care I felt from her.  I want to be like that too.

I remember reading Shauna Niequist’s book, Bread & Wine in which she talked about something similar.  She was struggling with the pain of her own infertility and yet 17 of her friends were pregnant.  It was a brutal time for her during which she wrote a blog describing how she felt.  Her friend Emily wanted to get lunch with her to share that she was also pregnant.  Here’s an excerpt from the story in Shauna’s words:

She told me that she had read my post, and that this was the point in
friendship when sometimes two friends walk away from the other for
a while, because the pain and the awkwardness and the tenderness was
too great.  She said she thought we could do better than that.  And then
she handed me two pairs of safety goggles.  She said, ‘When you feel
like shattering something, I’ll be right there with you.  We’ll put on our
safety goggles.  I’ll help you break something, and then I’ll help you 
clean it up.’  She said, ‘You’ve been celebrating with me, and I’ll be
here to grieve with you.  We can do this together.’”

By creating a space for “both” to be shared, friendship flourishes, burdens are carried and celebrations are richer.  Isn’t this the struggle in life? To hold both joy and pain?  Today I am grateful for those in my life who allow “both”  and am challenged to do the same for them.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Selfie no more?

The Selfie.

Urban dictionary defines it so eloquently - “A picture taken of yourself that is planned to be uploaded to Facebook, Myspace or any other sort of social networking website. You can usually see the person's arm holding out the camera in which case you can clearly tell that this person does not have any friends to take pictures of them so they resort to Myspace to find internet friends and post pictures of themselves, taken by themselves. A selfie is usually accompanied by a kissy face or the individual looking in a direction that is not towards the camera.”

Dear Urban dictionary, 

Myspace is gone. #RIP.


Here is my definition of a selfie.  A selfie is a picture of just the picture taker who then proceeds to talk about themself.  

This is just my opinion and I realize I'm treading on sacred ground - the self, but here it goes. I haven't made anyone mad today yet, so maybe this will count. The occasional picture of something hilarious, a new haircut, skincare advertisements or botox procedure gone wrong can be quite entertaining and just fine, that is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about the constant self-promotion. 

Let’s  be honest.  We all spend too much time thinking about ourselves anyway.  Don’t you ever just get on your own nerves?  I do. Well, if you are narcissistic you probably don’t because you are perfect, but for the rest of us, don’t you sometimes just want a break from YOU?  

I keep trying to imagine if Jesus had recorded himself on his iPhone.  “Look Dad!  I turned water into wine!  #miracles” or  “Anyone need some fish? I have extra. #12baskets”  or how about this one, “Check out this before and after of my friend with leprosy.  #ihealedhim”  

How awesome would it be if we coined the term, “you-ie”??  I love the community I am a part of because they do such a great job of honoring other people.  Wouldn’t that be amazing if we could start highlighting those around us? Interesting things that are going on in our world?  Hilarious moments of others lives?  

Right now our church is going through the book of Philippians, and whether you believe in Jesus or not, these words are powerful. 

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
(Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

This is why I am anti-selfie.  I already struggle enough with being self-centered and need help remembering to look around me.  We all see the people who constantly post selfies and have our different judgements and thoughts, but I wonder if anyone ever talks to them who truly loves them and seeks to understand what is going on in their interior world. Is there pride, loneliness and/or so much insecurity? Are we afraid we will be forgotten? All of us have our struggles and if God were to ever allow me to meet and become friends with Kim Kardashian I hope that I could talk to her out of a place of deep care for her and not annoyance and maybe she could help me dress better and show me more of who she is as a person. 

Larry says it best, “Never speak hard words to someone unless your love for that person has formed a vision for who that person could become, a vision that generates tender feelings for the other.  And never speak hard words if you discern that you are demanding a change in another for your sake.”

So, for all of us selfie takers, myself included, join me in becoming a “you-ie” culture?  I think there’s more to you than what you post, so lets find out who that person really is.  Show the world and people around you.  I think it will shift things in relationships and in perspective.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

To my faves

Pegs, Kathryn, Jenna, Blake, MC, Bethie, Christa, Carly, & Danni,

Was it really just 9 months ago that we looked at each other and said, “Ok. You’re in my life. Now what?” 

Discipleship is this weird, churchy word for, “I’m older and lets hang out and maybe you will get something of Jesus out of us walking together.” 

I thought I would wade into your life slowly and carefully. You were hurting and sad about the move of our beloved Jeff and Sara and so was I.  Loss was one of those weird things that bonded us, and in retrospect, it was fitting. We bonded over love.  You embraced me without hesitation.  Where was the slow, wading in that was supposed to happen?  

From day 1 you showed up and I’m not just talking about physically. YOU showed up.  You were hungry and struggling.  All of you in different ways had your own load you were carrying and when your load became a burden, you learned to share it.  You told your secrets and wondered if there was anything lovely inside because you felt your behavior wasn’t.  You wrestled with the age old question that plagues every woman at some point in her life, “What is wrong with me?”  (To which I wanted to scream, "NOTHING!!!!")

You felt insecure and other times you were so sure and anchored.  You prayed for one another and never tired of hearing repeated struggles when one of your sisters was self-conscious about sharing “again.”  You moved towards one another with compassion, truth, love, and fierceness that comes from knowing and being known. You’ve moved
from timidity to confidence and strength.  You will disagree and that’s ok, but I’m older and bossier and wiser so you have to listen to what I say.  You think tears and struggle means weakness, but dear one, it is exactly what makes you strong……your weakness and honesty about it.  

You loved one another WELL.  You walked a road of courage and at times, loneliness that no one could “fix.”  You had  conflict and didn’t avoid.  You learned to listen to Jesus for yourself and not for conformity.  You ran marathons and worked hard jobs. You risked what was expected to walk a path less traveled.  You stepped out and led when you were afraid and you stepped out of leadership roles when you felt it had become an identity.  You prayed for strangers, stood by your sisters through family agony, and rejoiced when one fell in love.  

Almost every year that I’ve been on staff I’ve had a group of girls that I’ve invested in and each year I say the same thing because I mean it. YOU ARE MY FAVORITE.   Whoever God has placed in my life is my favorite and remains my favorite.  It’s just expanded by 9 more this year.  

Pegs, Danni, Carly, Jenna, Kathryn, Christa, Blake, MC, Bethie, truly you have CAPTURED my heart.  We have laughed hysterically, danced, cried, written songs, cooked countless meals, walked through loss,  spa’d it up, eaten our weight in chocolate,  prank called, and fallen more in love with Jesus in the process. 

Words can’t quite capture what a band of misfits we are, but somehow it works and just when I think there’s no more room for my heart to grow before bursting, another one of you comes along and hops in (don’t leave us, Danni).  Truly, you have changed my life and it is strange that I cannot remember (nor do I want to) what life was like before you invaded every space in my house and heart.  :) Thank you, God that I still have another year with you. Cue Friends are friends forever. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

What's next?

I whipped out some classic Amy Grant this week.  Over the past two days I think I have played Thy Word about 50 times.  

When I feel afraid and think I’ve lost my way
Still you’re there right beside me
Nothing will I fear as long as you are near
Please be near me to the end
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
You’re the light unto my path

I need the comfort and strength of His words. I mean, I need them all the time, but I am just more aware of it in this season.  Many of you know that I am leaving Cru staff after 17 years of service.  I will still remain in partnership with them for a few things, but overall, this season is ending.

Let me tell you a little about the journey that led me to where I am now.

In early September I went to the mountains with Debbye and Kathie. Debbye and Kathie are older than me and for the past 3 years we have met every other Thursday to share our lives and to speak honestly to one another about what we see God doing in one another’s lives.  It has been very significant to each of us and we have grown to love one another deeply.  When we went to the mountains I began dreaming out loud about what I was/am passionate about and Debbye asked the question, “Is that a fit in the Cru world?”  She probably asked me that question 4 times and each time she would ask me, I would get up and go to the bathroom and not answer her.  

The next day I left to go to the beach with three friends from grad school.  It was incredible, but I was troubled.  Jane, Jen and Casey would ask me questions about my dreams and I was overwhelmed.

In October, friends and family rallied together to make it possible for me to attend a conference called Storyline. Donald Miller taught on what makes a good story and one of the questions I had to answer was, “What if I never left staff with Cru?”  I lost it.  I had no intention of leaving staff. I was comfortable there. These people are family and when you leave it is somewhat of this unspoken thing that basically you die. It’s not meant to be mean, but when you live in such a transient world, hello’s and goodbyes are as normal as breathing, and there are only so many relationships you can maintain. 

My friend Beth basically asked me to say what I knew in my heart and as I said, “I’m going to leave staff.” something in me broke free.  It had nothing to do with Cru, but had everything to do with me being obedient.  

Freedom follows obedience.

This isn’t props to me, there are many times I am not so quick to obey, but God had been setting this up for awhile.  

I also want to note that it seemed significant to obey without knowing what was next.  

During this whole process I never doubted that decision.  There have only been two other times I have had 100% certainty about the decision I was making:  1. where I was going to college and, 2. that God was calling me to join staff with Cru.   

Here is #3.

In August I am launching With, Inc., a new non-profit ministry based off of my favorite name of God - Emmanuel - God WITH us.  

More details will be coming over the next months, but here is some of what it is going to be about:

  • a hunger for more people to want more than just circumstances to change so they can be happy 
  • a genuine desire to celebrate the joys in life
  • help facilitate conversations on healthy emotion with God, self and others - especially in the Church
  • helping others enter in to one another lives in ways that speak to the heart and Spirit 
  • educate on anxiety and depression - but not just how to fix, but to find the meaning in the challenge and pain 
  • lead retreats for those in full-time ministry
  • lead retreats for lay leaders who feel burned out
  • address the shaming should’s in life and Church
  • speaking on Shattered Dreams
  • speaking on Femininity 
  • facilitate processing groups on disappointment, anxiety and emotion
  • reach out to be a resource to businesses, Cru staff teams, & church staff teams on shepherding teams & conflict resolution 
  • writing a book and blogging more

So here I stand at a major crossroads in my life.  I’m cliff jumping, but as Larry would say, “You have a rope tied securely around your waist that is anchored to the Father.”

I just want to help others across the finish line.

Thanks for caring and for reading.  I would appreciate your prayers.  I am asking all my current supporters to transition their support to With, Inc. starting August 1st.  I still have a lot of support to raise.  I plan on using my summer to regroup, plan, pray, prepare and close out with Cru and begin With, Inc.  The next big step is filing with the IRS for 501(c)(3) status and that should happen this week.  

Seriously, thank you for supporting me by even just reading my blog.  I know many of you have different beliefs and might not agree with all that I am doing and that’s okay, but thanks for reading anyway.  For those of you who pray, I would be grateful for your continued prayers as I take this huge leap from my comfort zone.  

Here we go. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My love letter to Cru

Dear staff friends, former students, current students and past teammates:

This letter is for you.

There’s a joke in Cru world, well, there are a ton of jokes in Cru world, which can annoy those who are not, and understandably, but the joke is, “Who is Cru?” Is Cru a big fat man behind a desk?  Is Cru the people who work at Headquarters? Is Cru a giant 4 Spiritual Laws booklet?

Cru is all of us.  

When I was 20 I walked into the Knoxville Hyatt for my first Christmas Conference.  I was the only one from my campus attending and I didn’t really know anyone.   I finally got to meet my long-distance staff discipler who had been talking with me on the phone every week since August. She had been trying to coach me on how to lead a ministry on a campus where there were no Cru staff. Her name was Debbie and she changed my life.  I shared a room with 3 girls I didn’t know and got the flu.  I remember hearing Nancy Leigh DeMoss share about broken people and proud people and I was in awe of the presence of God.   

When I was 21 I went on my first Cru summer missions project to North Myrtle Beach.  I had to raise $1,400 for 10 weeks and I was so nervous about asking people to give me money.  What would they think of me? It felt risky.  I showed up to North Myrtle Beach and learned what it meant to be honest with a group of women about my struggles and while I still didn’t disclose all that I could, I took a baby step.  On the first two day’s of outreach where we had to do beach evangelism (poke my eyes out), I faked sick, hid and eventually shared my faith with a girl who prayed to receive Christ. It was the worst presentation of the Gospel in the history of mankind, but I was convinced that truly salvation does belong to God and not me. :)   For the record, I have been on staff for 17 years and I still do not like beach evangelism and I doubt I ever will. There. I said it.  You can still love Jesus and not love beach evangelism and get this, you don’t even have to feel guilty about it.  Freedom (William Wallace). 

It was with Cru, at 22, that I went to Russia and spent 3 different summers in that country that Churchill describes as “a mystery wrapped in an enigma” (not to be confused with “enema”).   I’ve never been as far away from home as I was when I flew to Russia, took a 28 hour train ride to our city and then a six hour boat ride to Tchaicovksy, a small village on the river where we would lead English camps, eat cow tongue and watch The Patriot & The Jesus Film with Russian college students.  Jon Dando and Andy Wood were the first two staff guys I ever led with and they brought endless amounts of laughter and encouragement.  I have such respect for those men. They empowered me to lead, and as a woman who wasn’t quite sure how I felt about leading, their words had weight and power.  My friends Anna Claire, Jen Carey and myself also listened to endless amounts of Celine Dion and talked about weddings a lot. It was Mother Russia in the summer. Give us some grace. 

Right after my broken engagement (from a Cru boy - great guy, no hard feelings), I joined staff and started raising support, because what else is more miserable than trying to heal from heartbreak than asking people for money?  That was fun. While it was one of the hardest seasons of my 24 years, God brought ministry partners into my life that are still with me 17 years later.  I cry when I think about my ministry partners. I think about all they have invested. They could’ve just as easily taken their money and given it to another worthy cause or taken their family to Disney or bought a new car, but instead chose to risk on God’s call on my life.  

My first assignment was at Western Kentucky University.  If you know me at all, you know that was a challenging place for me to be, not because of the people, but just where I was personally. It was the first time I realized how much I had stuffed and how little I knew about myself.  When I sat down across the table from college students who were sharing their struggles, things in me were triggered that I had never dealt with.  I was also dealing with my first disappointments of “I thought life would be different at this age.”  

It was during this time at WKU that God gave me two shepherds in Thomas Weakly and Janie Farwell, along with a hilarious team and a dear roommate who was also on my team, Kim Davenport.  Thomas is amazing.  He is beloved and sometimes misunderstood if you aren’t around him a lot.  He taught me hard work, integrity and that I could be a mess, yet still loved.  He was the one who encouraged me to open up my heart again.  He was the one who told me I would make a good director.  He and Janie were the ones who so patiently sat and asked questions while I was crying so hard during staff meeting while talking about the Bonding section in Changes That Heal.  :)  He and Janie were the ones who gave me time off to go to counseling. Thomas and Janie were the ones I confessed watching Days of Our Lives in the dorm rec room when I was supposed to be knocking on doors sharing my faith.  I was such a hot mess and they knew it yet loved me anyway.  Janie was the first person to ever ask me to speak for a women’s time.  Janie and Thomas, you both changed my life.  Thank you for putting up with such a green staff girl who was hurting.  

Janie had told me when I first reported to WKU that when I started my freshmen bible study that there would always be that special place in my heart for them that no one could ever replace.  She was right.  Jill, Kristin (two-eyed), Sarah, Sara, Abigail, Laura, Kelly, Krystal, Michelle…..16 years later and you still hold that special place in my heart.  You were the guinea pigs, my first born and for that I am grateful and I am sorry.  

The funny thing about life and Cru, as you disciple women year after year and you grow up yourself, you realize all the stupid things you did and ironically next year I’ll realize something I’m doing now that was stupid. So you go back and apologize and you keep growing and owning.

Sitting with college girls I have learned how much they need grace and truth in the presence of love (don't we all?).  I’ve learned how much they struggle to confess really hard things, yet they risk because they want freedom.  I’ve learned how each student is unique and those gifts need to be called out.  I’ve learned not everyone needs or should be on staff or leading. The fact that someone might not lead in an up front, more seen way, doesn’t make them any less important.  I’ve learned that your words have weight, so be careful.  I’ve learned that most are forgiving and gracious when you screw up or disappoint them.  I’ve learned they are fiercely loyal if they know how loved they are by you.  I’ve learned that they disciple me as much as I disciple them. 

After 3 years at WKU, I moved to UT and became the director of the ministry with Hank.  What a dream team we had those first years.  Eric, Darren, Matt and Jill, Brad, Haley, Tif and DL….such hilarious times.  I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed that hard.  Sweet Jill and Haley were my guinea pigs with training and leading.  I didn’t know what I was doing.  Then there was the group of seniors I inherited and the group of freshmen that I started leading. Becca, Katie, Crystal, Heather, Kristen, Stephanie, Holly …..such a great group of women.  

Hank and Chrisy taught me so much and still do.  Hank said UT was just as much my campus as any of the college students and I should walk on campus like it was mine.  This was huge in my heart growing and expanding for my school.  Historically UT had a reputation for lots of men being raised up and sent to the world, but on the women’s side of things, staff women didn’t stay there very long due to marriage or career changes.  I wanted a vision to pray towards. God gave me a picture of a crowd of women standing arm in arm on top of The Hill in front of Ayers Hall and they were praising God and running hard after Him.  I’ve seen God do this with women from UT.  Just this past weekend I was able to speak to the student women at UT's women's retreat.  It was a full circle moment for me. 

All throughout my time on staff I’ve met people who have become like family.  It’s hard to explain the culture of Cru.  Some resent it, have been wounded or deeply miss it when they leave.  But like any family, there’s always dysfunction, but ultimately there is a lot of love and understanding.  With Cru I’ve seen the world on a salary that frankly was laughable when you are talking about seeing the world. It has been God’s kindness and generosity. 

With Cru I learned to share my faith and how not to.  I learned how to have conflict and not avoid; a quality that I am learning is not normal, even in the Church, but is normal in Cru culture. I’ve learned to hear hard things about myself and respond poorly and receive grace so I then respond better the next time.  I learned about laughter and sharing vulnerably.  I’ve learned about servant leadership (Barry Bouchillon) and loving staff well and creating space for community (Mike and Sharon Mehaffie).  I’ve learned that leadership is lonely and that the audience you work with never ages, but you do!  

I’ve learned that you fight for things that really matter and eventually someone will listen (single women being included in the wives conference, the need for staff care, knowing your calling even when others say you can’t do it).  I’ve learned that a great boss is truly a gift (Bonnie, Thomas, Hank, Cindy, Janie).  I’ve learned there’s a lot of freedom that comes from stepping away from leadership for awhile in order to remember who the heck you are and what drives you.  There are just things that need to die and ministry will surface those.  The shame and guilt that compelled me so many years would say, “Do more! You are disappointing people.”  I learned to address that voice and march a little differently, but it was a severe mercy that got me to that point and a whole lot of crappy decisions.  

I’ve seen how young, new mom’s feel so alone and wonder if they have anything of significance to offer outside of changing diapers and barely sleeping.  I’ve seen how grown men can love one another deeply and come in from all over the country to be with a struggling brother.  I’ve seen how teams can hurt one another and wonder if they will ever heal.  I’ve seen single women share and weep over the longing to walk in purity, yet it is so rarely talked about and can this space be safe to discuss it? I’ve seen Dr. Bright in his blue suit and white shoes weep over the people who do not know Jesus in our world.  I’ve heard Steve Douglass share his story of being a student at an Ivy League school and telling his professors and peers he was going to join staff with Cru and their response was crickets.  

I’ve heard Ney Bailey share about the great flood where many staff lives were lost. I’ve worshipped with Fernando Ortega and Chris Tomlin right after Dr. Bright passed away.  I’ve seen Vonette in her coronation dress. I was able to go to New York right after 9/11 to just be WITH the people there in such pain.  I have seen headless puppet shows in Santa Cruz and marched in midnight parades in Gatlinburg.  I’ve seen White Nights in St. Petersburg and stunning sunsets in Clearwater.  I’ve sung God of This City more times than I ever care to, yet still cannot remember the words.  I’ve emceed our staff conference with my buddy Eric for 9 years and have loved every minute of it.  Largely because of Cru, I’ve been in 23 weddings. I’ve gone through cynical phases and blamed everything wrong in my life on “Cru” and then fiercely defended her to people who have called her a cult.  Ain’t nobody gonna talk about my mama like that, but me.  

Cru, I have loved you for half my life. In many ways I don’t know who I am without you. You’ve been my Act 1 and now it is time for Act 2.  Leaving you will be the hardest thing I have done up until this point.  I grieve and yet my heart is full.  Each of you that I have met on this journey has had a profound impact on my next season.  In the coming months I will share more about what’s next for me, but know that in July, the curtain closes on my full-time staff season with Cru.  For now I want to stand on the stage a little longer and linger.  I want to pay attention to every face in the crowd, every college student that I’ve sat with, every staff member that has walked with me.  I want to memorize the details of this season and say, “Thank you.” with every part of my heart.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Lessons from Community

February 3, 2015

My last semester of high school something strange happened. My best friend Anne and I started getting invited to slumber parties of the really popular girls.  Maybe it was our Tina Fey/Amy Poehler like humor (yeah, right) or the fact that we had been in a mime and clown group (okay, so not that either) but we said yes and just went with it. Surely this was real community. Community that would last forever.

I didn’t see most of them again until our 10 year reunion. 

I love people. I love relationship.  My biggest love is a group of about 6 or 7 people on some sort of shared adventure. Put me in a room with others who risk to be known and “show their cards” so to speak, and I am one happy girl.  

This weekend I am speaking to a group of college girls and the seniors asked me to speak about community.  I have been praying and mulling over the topic for days now.  I thought I would share some of my observations over the years about what I think does or doesn’t make a community:

  1. Real community is hard work.  Rarely does it just happen (unless it is a mission trip, summer project - short trip with a shared goal).
  2. Real community requires time. 
  3. Disappointment with others can lead to something good.
  4. Conflict either deepens the relationship or ends it (ending meaning be shallow or fake and act like nothings wrong)
  5. Real community requires risk to share and be known - believes the best. 
  6. Real community lets others be a mess in your presence. As Larry Crabb puts it, “You can be a mess because you are in the presence of love.”
  7. Real community won’t happen if you are with people who cannot give, they only take and focus on what is in it for them.
  8. Real community gives space and time for God to move in one another's lives without feeling the need to "fix."
  9. Real community includes the social, but if it is just social then it isn’t real community.
  10. Real community with certain people is often just for a season.
  11. Real community shows up in others dark night of the soul.
  12. Real community sacrifices for the others.
  13. Real community reminds you of who you are and who you are not.

I could elaborate on each point, but I think I will give the talk first. :)  I would love to hear your lessons what makes or doesn’t make real community.

Monday, January 19, 2015

39+366 days

Two months before my 30th birthday I woke up in a full blown panic attack.  A producer from the Dr. Phil show (I cannot make this stuff up) had contacted me wanting to know my story with getting ready to turn 30 and the fear that surrounded it.  I remember throwing around phrases like “life isn’t what I thought it would be” and “Great Aunt Wanda asks me why I’m not married every time I see her” and sweating.  Wait, sweating doesn’t happen until 47.  I errantly calmed myself down by saying, “It is ok. At least you aren’t 40 and God would never have you be 40 and single and not a mom.”  Sigh of relief.  The imagined sweats dissipated. Crisis averted.

I am typing this blog as my cab driver from Bangladesh weaves in and out of Manhattan traffic on a beautiful, cold and sunny MLK day, my 40th birthday, and I’m dressed like a string of colored Christmas lights. 

I’m remembering the first summer I lived in NYC - ironically I was 30.  My friend Chad and I ventured out into the city and we stopped in the middle of the sidewalk outside of Grand Central and opened up a map. In my mind we screamed tourist and were about two fanny packs shy of being mugged. I was scared to go out of my apartment by myself and the first time that I attempted I accidentally got on an express train and wound up in Harlem at night.  Man, did I think that was a good story. White southern girl hits the big city and lands in Harlem at night. I went to staff meeting the next morning to express my grand bravery (and ignorance) to the beloved New York Cru staff to which one said mockingly and hilariously, “Ohhhhh!!! So scary! Harlem!”  Harlem is amazing and the people are wonderful and rich in history and pride and beauty. I just had never had that perspective before because I had never been and obviously had no idea what I was talking about, just stereotypes and fear of the unknown. 

I have had a lot of time to reflect over the past six months as I have wanted to embrace this new season of 39+366days. Hashtag denial.  Many of you have written me letters about what you wish you had known at 40, over 50 of you took a day leading up to and on into next week to pray for me. Some have sent flowers and given gift cards.  My family threw me the most beautiful and fun party which 70 people gave up a holiday weekend to drive in for or attend. I have been honored in every way and am deeply grateful and I know that I am deeply loved.

I believe 40, similar to visiting New York, will require some confidence and guts.  I always feel small when I first enter The City - a little intimidated and surrounded by the unfamiliar.  People either love New York or they hate it.  You can look at it as overcrowded, rude, and dirty or you can embrace the culture, the different feel of each neighborhood and realize how much God loves people. This whole process of turning 40 thing will require me to keep looking at it honestly and through a different lens than my 29 year old self having a panic attack.  

As I was walking this afternoon, I stopped as I was passing Juilliard. Obviously photography is not my calling.  Juilliard was a dream of mine in high school.  I wanted to be an actress and win my first Oscar by the time I was 25.  Never mind the fact that I really can’t act, nor can I sing well and my attempt at ballet culminated into greatness the day I mastered the Running Man and Roger Rabbit.  

God’s dreams are always better.  You know what is fun?  When my dreams and His are the same.  Today I find myself NOT having panic attacks, but walking around the streets of New York singing and waving. Oh yes, people. You can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl. 

There are no false assurances today, only real ones. Real ones such as this:

When you enter in to the places you thought you would never recover from, you will find something solid. The lie is that there won’t be anything solid for you to stand on. Your fear will tell you to avoid, but when you “go there” you will find yourself more anchored and trusting.  You will learn about God and his heart for you and here’s the kicker, your heart for Him.  If you follow Jesus, he gave you a new heart.  This is the unshakeable foundation of your life - that no matter what does or doesn’t happen, He is trustworthy and has bigger dreams than you could ever dream for yourself, even in the midst of longing, loss, gains, and waiting.  Especially in the waiting. 

Thank you for sharing in my life.  I love you all so very much. 

Now consider this 40 horse beaten and dead. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Confession is healing

This past weekend I sat in on a conference about becoming a true spiritual community.  Sounds kinda weird, huh?  I did not do trust falls or yoga, but I did hear a lot of powerful content that brought about a much needed breakthrough in my desire to love people around me and to confess more of my junk.  

If you are reading this and you do not have a faith background let me introduce you to a commonly used word in the Protestant community: sin.  Sin has been defined for me as anything that misses the mark of perfection.  I believe that we all miss the mark of perfection and only God is perfect in everything He has done, is doing and will do.  This weekend the speaker expanded on sin and he said, “sin is a strong commitment to self.”  OUCH!!!!!!

Sin is a strong commitment to self.  

If this is true, and I believe it is, then we are always looking out for self.  One way of looking at “sin” - a strong commitment to self, is to look at what we fear.  Fear is a powerful and driving force that will direct our life.  If you aren’t real sure what your “sin struggles” are, look at what you are afraid of and you will see how your actions, interactions and thoughts are driven to live a life in which you avoid what you fear.

Living this way keeps us from entering in to one another’s lives in a way that is pure and good.  As I begin to see what fears drive me, I see ways in which I interact with people that are manipulative and self-centered.  Sometimes I can have the appearance of being others centered, but in moments of honesty and revelation through God’s kindness of his Spirit, I SEE and I confess and “it is all grace” as C.S. Lewis would say.  

Today would you join me in seeing what your strong commitment to self is?  Would you look and see what fears are driving you and keeping you from others-centered relationships, peace & trust with God?  It might be painful, but confession and repentance (a deep change of heart) will free you to love just a little bit more like Jesus.  Not only that, but you will experience God’s love to your own wounds, realizing you are too needy to not accept his gift.  Humbling and sacred.

WITH you in it, my friends.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pick-up lines from *&^%

A friend of mine once asked a group of girls to be honest about being hit on.  She said, “I don’t care if a homeless man has just climbed out of the garbage dump, if he whistles at you, you still think, ‘Yeah, I still got it.’”  Many argued with her,  but I laughed and agreed.  #issues

Yesterday I was leaving a store after having been fitted for my 24th bridesmaid dress.  That’s another blog, but just know I’m trying to catch up with Katherine Heigl.  I walked out of the store and two men walked by and one said, “I like your trunk.”  I looked around because I was not in a car nor was I near my car.  The man grinned at me and I tugged my shirt down.  My friend Eric asked me if I had on an elephant costume.   Seeing as how I do not normally leave the house (or stay in the house) in my Dumbo costume,  the answer was “no.”
I started to think about other times I have been “hit on” or stories my friends have shared. 

Recently my friend Haley was hit on by an older man  in Thailand.  He asked her to come die with him.  Was this his version of The Notebook?

Let’s not forget the cross-cultural approach: the one-legged Russian war vet who asked my boyfriend at the time if he could borrow me for the night.  Um, no.  

Or what about the carload of guys who pulled up to me on campus and asked if I, “got down with the brown?”  Jesus, take the wheel.  

Here, however, is my all time favorite.  This is where my brother-in-law or fellow New York City Cru friends would say, “You’re an idiot.”  I spent a few summers in NYC with Cru and there was a lovely OLD Pakistani man who worked the front desk/entrance to the building.  Sweet old man.  First mistake was to think old=sweet.  He brought me gifts, asked me to dinner and I said, “Please bring your wife.”  (Here I will note that I almost said, “Please bring your wife, Papaw.”) He did not want to bring his wife.  He wanted another wife.  

It’s a jungle out there, women.  Stay strong and away from old men.

I would love to hear your best, “Did he just say that?” story, because we all need to laugh a little more.