Yes, It Is Normal…

I want to be known for my blending of Grace and Truth exactly perfectly…

Unfortunately, I tend towards Truth naturally and really have to work on being better at HOW I say things.

And, in the spirit of honesty, one of my biggest struggles is learning how to blend Grace into my words to mitigate my natural leaning towards Truth in a way that reflects the Holy Spirit and Jesus well.

You see, I believe that one of the biggest tricks the devil uses against us is making us to feel like we are isolated. I think often many do not share openly their lives in a way that could be helpful to someone else because it is personal, private, and feels intimate… But, if we are alone, and if that thing we are struggling through is believed to be abnormal, if we are the only one, then clearly we are weak or there is something wrong with us…

I regularly find myself in conversations with people that allows for me to share my own story, struggles, and in a completely honest light offer them authentic encouragement because, after all, we are now in this struggle together.

Over the last few months, I have been given this amazing opportunity to share about my ministry/job with other churches around the country. Some of them were referred to me, others found my name and title (First Impressions Director) on our website, and others I am not entirely sure how they found me. But, I have gotten to talk to them, encourage their ministries, hearts, and share whatever information I could about how and what I do… As well as simply connect over our common bond of “overwhelmed but passionate” for our ministries.

One of the biggest things I have come to realize, regardless of the ministry, church size and even occupation, it needs to be said frequently: 

What you are feeling, that’s normal. 

It doesn’t really matter what you’re feeling:
Overwhelmed,
Annoyed,
Blessed,
Content,
Frustrated,
Excited,
Like you’re drowning,
Struggling,
Overjoyed,
Dry inside,
Agitated,
Numb, etc…
AALLL of the feelings are normal, they are being experienced by someone else also in your same place trying to keep that same pace.

I have been asked SO many times, “How do you manage it all?”

And, my very real and honest answer:

Sometimes I handle it well, flawlessly, and feel energized!…

Aaand then other times, I find myself binge watching Netflix with a glass of wine and snacks, locked away in my room with my puppy for six hours. – Totally healthy coping mechanism 🙄

Sometimes my daily Jesus time is SO GOOD! Then all of a sudden I look up and it’s been TWO WEEKS and I’m not entirely sure where my Bible is even located.

Sometimes my journal and prayers are overflowing, and other times I just sit and stare blankly.

Sometimes I wake up looking forward to my day, having slept well and stoked about what I have planned. Other times I hit snooze until I’m late for work (sorry boss!) and have to bolt out the door without brushing my teeth (I promise I make up the work time)!

Sometimes I go to the gym and eat so well totally dominating the meal prepping for the week. Other times I can’t even remember the last time I ate something other than fast food.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with the love and joy for my job and life. Other times I am just overwhelmed with a heavy and discouraged heart.

Life is hard. 

Following Jesus is hard. 

Life and following Jesus are all real things, real struggles, authentic joys and sorrows, love and hate, anger and repentance. These are normal life things that so many try to hide or pretend are not a normal part of their lives. Why are we not highlighting the good, bad, beautiful and ugly as ENTIRELY normal?!

Some days we will feel ready to go and like we can conquer the world. Other days we will do all we can to merely survive the day. 

So, Yes, it (whatever “it” is) is normal. 

Don’t let the smiles, adventures, Instagrams, Facebook posts, snapchats or 30 second conversations of and with others fool you… We are all swinging back and forth on this pendulum of so good, and really just trying to survive the suck.

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.”– 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Trust me, those feelings are normal, and experienced by others! Share your feelings with others, be honest, choose to help someone else see their feelings are normal and accepted too.

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Generosity is the Key…

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I have always sorta known that being generous was important. Without realizing it, I saw it growing up in my parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents etc.. I understood that they were kind and loving, but I do not think I interpreted their actions as generous at the time because it was just sorta how they were.

Grandparents on both sides of my family were generous with food… Literally feeding everyone who came and went from their house. People in my family seem to be known for taking people in to live with them… and feeding them. They always had things to give them, and lived a life that repeatedly said “people are more important than things” – Sometimes actually repeating this mantra.

Now that I am grown, and trying my best at this adulting thing, I have realized so many of the ways that my parents were generous. My parents never ran out of time for you. Hours upon hours have been spent talking and spending time with people in my house growing up. Sometimes it was me and my siblings that needed the time, other instances it was cousins or other family members, students, co-workers, friends; regardless, my parents have always been generous with their time.

Growing up it would drive me bonkers because we were endlessly late places. – Why? Why could my dad not stop talking and get in the car so we could go?!… Looking back, so many hours were spent in parking lots and at restaurants giving people what only my dad could give, and what people needed most: his time. People are drawn to my parents, to their kindness, to their wisdom, to their knowledge, to their genuine authenticity, and to the joy and love that they spill out to everyone. Whether people realized it or not, they have always been drawn to the way that Jesus exudes from my parents.

Thankfully, I feel like these traits of my parents has been passed on to me and all of my siblings.

I never totally understood growing up what was happening because generosity was just a part of our family… But, because we did not have money, I had separated in my mind that generosity was supposed to mean with your money, everything else was sorta just how my family was.

As an adult, I realize how flawed and totally wrong that perspective was. So totally wrong.

Being generous certainly can include money.. which is why I think tithing and gifting is so important. It helps you separate yourself from the control that money can have on you. But, in reality, generosity is so much more pervasive and multi-dimensional that just currency.

Generosity of any kind changes people’s lives.

Generosity has a rippling effect that impacts people we will never meet face to face.

I find that as I get older, I take note of the generous people in my lives and are drawn to them, respect them, and desire to surround myself with them at an ever-increasing level.

Two of the most generous people I have ever met are my lead pastor Mark Batterson and his wife Lora. I do not really understand how they always find the time, money, and attitudes of generosity, but they do, endlessly. Pastor Mark says all the time that he wants those who know him best to respect him the most; and it is true. The more you get to know him, the more you respect him; I am fascinated by how true this fact plays out, even working at the church that he has been pastoring for 20 years! He and his wife’s giving spirits are so built into their lives that I do not even think they realize some of the ways they are generous. Interactions with them are teeming with graciousness, kindness, and generosity… So much so that it is tangible!

Sometimes, I think my friends get tired of how much I love and respect this next person (who I have only met once); but Josh Garrels is another person whose generosity has made a huge difference in my life. I shared once a while ago about how much his generosity weathered me through a horrible season because he put his albums up on Noisetrade for free. This week I was once again reminded of his double blessing generosity; he put out on Noisetrade an anniversary album that included bonus tracks, and instrumental tracks from his album Home. While the album is free until April 28th, he also included a note that any tips you leave him on Noisetrade will be donated to World Relief and One Million Thumbprints (Check them out, it’s pretty amazing).  – All I could think is of the abundant generosity that exhibits of him and his wife!

Here I am as an adult, finding that the most generous thing I have to offer is my time, my joy, my kindness… and a little food certainly doesn’t hurt. People are more important than things, and letting people become more of “my people” and join my community is one of the most generous things I can do. And, oh how I love it.

I cannot always give money, but I can always give time. – Especially as I become more diligent with my time management.

I think the world can absolutely become a better place with more kindness, more generosity, and more stepping into community that is hard to love people well.

Generosity is the key to changing the world one impactful moment at a time.

The Single’s FOMO…

I was talking with a couple other girls not long ago, and we were discussing the difficulty in being single in Christian circles…

In many instances, and in many churches, getting married quickly becomes the goal or at least the thing that girls (and guys I suppose) should aim towards. Getting married young is common, and in some cases being married is seen as automatically having more maturity than single counterparts.

Quick side note before I plunge deeper into this thought; I am still firmly in the I think it would be great to find someone one day, but this post is not at all a reflection of feeling lonely or jealous of my married friends.

I know from personal experience, it is pretty frustrating to have someone who got married much younger than I am currently, try to offer encouragement in the form of “just be patient”. And, not so much because what they are saying is not true, but because they have not experienced the additional years of patience, and it can feel like they are entirely missing the feelings of desiring to find someone and being unable.

However, while we were talking the other night, we stumbled upon what I believe is the real (ok, maybe just a huge portion of the) struggle for girls (and maybe guys) as they get older and find themselves still single: The fear of missing out (fomo).

“What if I don’t get married until my mid-thirties and miss so many of the things my friends are getting to do now?”
“What if I am too old to have kids when I get married?”
“… I don’t want to miss the possible ten or more years that we could’ve spent together!”

It can definitely be hard at times to watch so many people get married young and have amazing love stories, being so happy and thankful for the person God has brought into their life… While you are still single, and in some cases single for many more years to come. Watching others have these experiences of building lives together, someone to adventure with, someone to support and encourage, families, children.. and of course someone to help you through difficult times… all while being told to be patient just feels like an insult at times. There is a very real fear of missing out on years of love, laughter, and support…

“IF I end up getting married, will I regret the years we didn’t have together?”
“IF I get married, will we be young enough to also have years and energy to enjoy each other’s company?”
“IF I do get married, will we be young enough to have the number of children I’ve always wanted?”

But, the fear goes deeper than just fear of missing out on being a 20-something with a spouse.. What if, by the time you do end up getting married, you still regret and mourn the lost years that you were single?

I do not know of many pastors or churches that even touch on these fears.

But, the reality is, both faith and hope in not just who God is, but how much He loves us, and how much our singleness (for however long we have it) bring Him glory.

I am by nature a more adventurous person, I enjoy seeing what could happen, traveling to far away places, or just sitting and talking with friends laughing until way too late into the night. And while one day, I would love to find a man, fall in love, and get married, that time is not now, and I do not regret my life so far. There have certainly been difficult seasons, and they would have been easier for sure with a partner, at the same time, I realize there are elements of things that I likely would not have learned… and would not be able to use to help someone else later.

So, in my experience, if you have a “young but older young single” person in your life, be gentle and wise in the way you encourage. For the love, do not quote Jeremiah 29:11 to them, instead take time to wade through the complicated maze that is their heart. Understand where the fears come from, and instead of offering trite quick bits of advice, take the time to share their journey with them… I have discovered that my struggle to traverse my singleness (alone) is much more satisfying when I feel like my situation is understood by someone else, I feel less alone when I am not given a quick “you just need to..” and instead, my heartaches, thoughts, fears, wondering, and desires are listened to and responded to with wisdom and insight.

Being single and fearing the potential loss of years of building a life together are real, but put in the right perspective that our God is a good God, He tenderly loves us, and looking back we will have the satisfaction that even Job experienced at the end of his (much more traumatic) journey.

Prayer Summer 2013…

My church is doing a summer prayer series, and one of the recommended readings is The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. While I have already read this book, I am actually really excited to read it again and gain fresh perspective on it.

Yesterday was the start of a summer small group I am leading. I am excited about the group, and I am really looking forward to seeing where God leads each of us. One of the things we are doing is, today we are kicking off a 21 day prayer challenge. I am looking forward to it, but, I am even more excited to see how He chooses to reveal Himself, and all the ways He is going to answer prayers this summer. I am fully anticipating looking back on this summer and realizing how many amazing and crazy things started this summer. I am fully expecting to be blown away, even though I have no idea in what way or what area of my life. I just know I am excited.

My biggest goal this summer is to gain a larger understanding of who God is, and for who He is to be immensely expanded in my life.

I am not looking to do things ahead of God, instead I am praying and expecting Him to show up immeasurably more than I can even possibly anticipate. I figure, my imagination is pretty large and pretty extravagant… And yet, God is bigger than that, which means I think He is going to show up in some pretty intense ways in the next 21 days, 40 days, and over the course of the entire 2013 summer…. (And likely beyond.)

While I certainly have a list of specific things I am praying for and through, mostly I am just focusing on starting new habits. I am purposefully spending more time with God, but also being sure to intentionally pay attention to and create space for Him to speak to my open and listening heart.

If you would like to join the 21 day prayer challenge or the 40 day prayer challenge with me, give me your address and I will be sure to add you!

In case you have not figured it out, July’s blog theme is prayer. Should be interesting!

Share your stories with me!

What are you praying for this summer?

Stepping Into Dancing…

I have begun looking into the possibility of heading to Seminary in the fall. I have two main motivating factors:

1. If I am going to truly do this “full-time ministry thing” as a career, it might help if I have more education in the realm of Jesus and religion in general!

2. I will need a new/larger vehicle soon, and I cannot afford a car payment and loan payments at the same time… So, staying in school is a good way to differ my loans while I pay off my car at record speed!

I am well aware of the slight ridiculousness of my reasons, but I also tend to be a go big or go home kinda person, and I pretty much always choose to go big… No, really, I do.

This past week, I began checking into various programs, and decided I will likely pursue a Master of Divinity because let’s be honest, it is among the higher levels I could get. Which sadly means it is a three year program (noooo!!!). However, I might be able to get between a semester to a full year off due to my MS in Leadership degree I will have completed in April (woot woot!)! So, off to visit a seminary I went last week.. And, while the courses seemed incredibly interesting, and a couple of the professors seemed amazing, I was less than excited about the other students I encountered.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that a lot of Christians are very conservative, but I was incredibly discouraged with the degree to which the students exuded their identical conservativeness. — I also realize that I am making a pretty judgmental statement when I say that… However, I was very overwhelmed with the level at which everyone (and I really do mean everyone) I encountered seemed the same. Like carbon copies of each other.

Which left me with the thought: “WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE!?”

In ministry I feel like we have two distinct callings:

A. Minister to people like you.

B. Minister to people dramatically different than you…

Or possibly third variation C. At various seasons in your life both A. and B. are your calling.

But, what struck me when I was in a room with about 40 other students; who theoretically are in seminary to be the next generation of Christian leaders, and that they seemed… boring and exactly like each other.

Never in my life have I been in a situation like that… It was such an overwhelming feeling that it is actually hard to describe accurately.

Again, I am well aware that I am taking a fairly judgement position on all of the students I encountered, but I cannot help but feel as though Christians will miss large swaths of people if we forget to be exactly who God has made us to be!

We were not created to be like each other, each of us are created unique!

When we step into the uniqueness of who God fashioned us to be, we are exhibiting His creativity and diversity.

I also recognize that there are a lot of people who do not yet know who they are, and/or have not yet become comfortable in their own skin… But, it was very discouraging to be in a room with so many other Christian-leaders-in-training and feel like I stood out like a sore thumb simply because I did not look nor act like them. — I know that this is a viewpoint based off of 30 minutes, but never in my life have I been so overwhelmed by a feeling based off of a group of people around me.

I left feeling like although the program/education itself would be amazing, I did not fit, and the other students would not be “my people.”

Conversely, I went salsa dancing for the first time last night since August, when I injured my hip/leg, and since moving to MI.. Which means, it has been almost six months since I have danced last. I was a little unsure of the location and venue, but after quite a bit of online research, it seemed like one of the better places to go, especially by myself for the first time… And, while it was different in regards to the type of venue I am used to, the evening was perfect. The other dancers were fantastic, and I was asked to dance on a very regular basis despite being a new face.

My first lasting thought was, I am ridiculously out of shape. But, I was incredibly pleased that my hip and leg did not give me too much of a problem. I was also thrilled that I had numerous great dances, and, more than a few patient leads as I re-figured out my rusty and careful dancing.

At one point in the evening, I sat watching everyone dance (one of my favorite things), and I realized that I felt more at home with these diverse looking people moving to the rhythm of Latin music, than I did with a group of people aiming to learn more about the God of all… — In that moment, my heart broke. Not for myself, but the students I encountered last week. My heart broke because in the 30 minutes I spent with them, not a single one exuded an understanding that in Christ we have an infinite amount of creativity and uniqueness at our fingertips. In Christ we do not have to fear being who we are…

We all look different, love different, and are drawn to different styles because we were meant to show the diversity of our God with those things.

We were meant to point to the God who is creative enough to make an endless number of galaxies that each look different, while simultaneously creating billions of people each unique and different.

It always amazes me the things I learn or am reminded of when I go dancing.

In a perfect world, we were meant to each be unique, created to move to the rhythm we hear in our hearts, and encouraged to express what touches us, all in an effort to glorify I AM.