Weary Wings

Friday, March 7, 2014

Come See My New Page

To My Tiny but Significant Band of Subscribers:

I've got a new blog that I'd love to have you check out. This one will still be updated with posts that are fitting here, but I've got some new things on my mind and needed a new space to share them. I'm over at:


My first post on division in the Body of Christ is up and you're contributions to the discussion are welcomed. 

See you back here when the time is right!


Friday, August 16, 2013

And then it was over....

And just like that, it was over.

The hospital visits. Sleeping there with him, or not sleeping those nights, actually. Waiting for the doctor to make his rounds. Updates. Medicare days. Endless bills. 


The home care. Learning how to suction his trach. Tube feedings. Nurse visits. Medical equipment and supplies. Finding out what Medicare doesn't pay for. My name called over and over at all hours of the day. 


Telling a quadriplegic with dementia that they can't walk. Every. Single. Day. 

No more. 

Just when we got our footing on the new normal, it ended. And there was another new normal. No sooner than I got used to a life with my dad in it, he was gone. 

I'm not sure where to go from here. I miss him terribly. I long to be woken to the sound of him calling my name. For any reason, whatsoever. I wanted so badly for him to be at home with us. And he was for a bit. And then went back to the hospital. And then he returned. Just long enough to be home when he died. 

I wasn't ready for that. Not that you ever can be. But, he was supposed to be healthy, and well enough to be home. We were supposed to have more time with him. I wasn't finished with so many conversations. I hadn't told him I loved him enough. I hadn't heard him tell me enough. 

Even so, our time ended. 

I am guilty of not realizing how precious that time was. Caught in the constant daily struggle of the mundane tasks his care required, I failed to see how precious the moments in between were. 

God was gracious enough to lift the veil at times and give me a glimpse. I'll hold onto those moments until I die. And I'll wish I had recognized them more. 

I'll wish for that night he told me he'd never been ashamed of me.

Or when he shared his own regrets, and hurts.

I'll wish for another chance to tell him how much I respected his demeanor in the middle of painful twists and turns required in order to clean and dress wounds.

I'll long to watch another Giant's game with him. I'll never forgive MLB for blacking out the one they played the Saturday before he died.

I'll wish I could have made him a meal and never regret not eating one in front of him for 7 months. Not even a sip of water was taken in his presence. Because he couldn't, we wouldn't. 

I'll think back often to the day he said to me, "I always wanted to be good."

And I'll thank the Holy Spirit for saying through me, "Jesus was good, because we can't be." 

I'll regret the days that I didn't visit but be so glad that it was never out of anger, just exhaustion.

On, dear God, how can we know? How can we know when this time is slipping through our fingers? When this pain isn't  even scratching the surface of what will come? How can we? How?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

When Missional Becomes Personal

Missional. It's a word we use freely in church now and it conveys the idea that we are all to live as missionaries wherever we are: in our neighborhoods, at the workplace, in the grocery store. It suggests that we live our lives on mission every chance we get, whether we get paid to or not. We love, serve and pour ourselves out as Jesus did for us, because Jesus did for us. To live on mission is to be missional.

My family has come to understand what it means to be missional over the last 17 months. It started with a move across a very large city to help plant a new church with a vision for reaching our lost neighbors and friends. So, we jumped in the deep end and went out and met our neighbors and made some friends. We went from only having friends from church and not knowing ANY lost people to knowing only lost people other than the friends we had from church. Jesus moved us and made us able to respond, so we did.

The change was drastic. Two years ago, when the end of the day came, we closed our door and didn't think another thought about who outside of it might need Christ. Let's be honest, we didn't care. Then, we moved and sacrificed and it was hard and all I could think was, "If I gave up all that to obey Jesus, then I'm going to do it for real." And it wasn't just me; it was all of us.

The result was having a door that was incessantly knocked on. Really. At any hour. One in the morning even; for toilet paper. I'd conditioned myself to pull into the parking lot after a long day at work to find at least one neighbor who needed a ride somewhere. I quit trying to know how many would eat with us at dinner because if anyone in the complex was hungry, we fed them. It had become such a way of life that when my six year old told me he gave a neighbor at the door what she asked for one morning, he followed by saying, "It was the right thing to do, right?" And I cannot tell you how much I love that he's learned that in our home.

Yet, if I'm honest, even all that was a little shallow, for me at least. I have no problem digging into someone else's mess. I'll roll up my sleeves and help and serve and make sure they know how much I love Jesus. I'll even tell them that's why I'm doing it. And, the truth is, I mostly don't care what my lost neighbors think of that. I'm so pridefully confident I am blessing them that I foolishly think it outshines any misgivings they might have about Christ. And, even if it doesn't, I'm not that close, it won't really hurt me.

In spite of my faulty thinking, God has blessed our efforts. He's given us favor with a specific group of people in our community. They are kind of messy, they're rough around the edges, we don't see much fruit sometimes, and even when we do, we mostly can't take credit for it ourselves. And, often, our motives are misunderstood. People think we're just really friendly, and we are, but with purpose.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, none of these people have access enough to my heart to make it really risky. I'll love them and serve them without condition because Jesus called me too and I will come to know that He has a plan even if He never tells me about it. I'll often remind myself of God's promise to Abraham that his descendants would outnumber the stars and that Abraham died without ever seeing the fruition of that promise. Mostly, I'm ok with that. I know it's what being on mission is about. And I revel in the freedom I have to love that way, because, for the most part, it's still pretty safe.

Then the call came. One Thursday afternoon my dad's ex wife called to tell me he had fallen and was in the hospital, in critical condition. When they asked who she was and it was known that they weren't married anymore, they asked for a next of kin. That was me.

I don't know how I would describe the relationship between my dad and I up until that point. He had been largely absent from my childhood but had resurfaced when I was an adult. He lived in Laredo, I in Houston. It was about a six hour drive and comfortable enough for me. Close enough to visit, but far enough to not be really involved.

Then, in one month, I had been there three times. Not just to visit, but to sign for and care for him. All of the sudden I was the adult child of a patient who needed care. In spite of the chasm between us, intimacy was demanded. I had to be involved. And I was faced with the reality that as much as I worried for my dad's physical condition, it was his soul that was bringing me to my knees.

The first visits were awkward. I was quiet other than to tell him I was there. I listened to the prayers prayed over him and was uncomfortable, not because someone was praying, but because I knew he wouldn't want them to be. As I visited more, I spoke more and even prayed a little. Yet, my experience with my neighbors had taught me that we'd need more than bedside prayers to win my father to Jesus. We were going to need a relationship.

Relationships are tricky with rough people. They know they can be scary and often capitalize on that. That's certainly true of my dad. We had learned, however, that real relationships are not rooted in fear, they are borne out of respect: something I had never shown my father. I'd tolerated him. I'd snarked at the jokes he told that I didn't like. I'd bit my tongue when he broached subjects I felt were not his place. I didn't ever really listen to him, yet, here I was, in his hospital room, hoping he'd listen to me.

As we learned more about his injuries it became clear that he was going to need some specialized care in a rehabilitative hospital. Initially we thought that would take place right where he was in Laredo. But Jesus was moving in my heart and turning it to see my father through His eyes and over the course of three weeks I developed a longing to love and serve him in much the same way I had done with my neighbors. With his case worker, we started exploring options to transfer him to Houston for the rehabilitative phase of his care. As the longing to love him in a new way grew, I realized that being missional was on the verge of becoming incredibly personal.

I don't know how I'd missed it before. We had learned that loving our neighbors did not mean trying to change them. We didn't spend much time talking about what was wrong in their lives. Not that those conversations didn't happen. They just happened after many conversations about the weather and family and jobs. They happened long after we'd shared our own failures, past and present. Those conversations weren't taking place with our Bibles open and marked by "Romans Road". They were taking place over dinner and maybe even a little wine. We had practiced serving and valuing our neighbors enough to gain their trust. In contrast, I was so busy not trusting my dad and judging him for his failures that I never got around to considering that I needed to convince him that he could trust me. And as I thought about how much I wanted to show him Jesus, I realized that I was going to have to let my guard down and get to the business of serving and loving my dad without condition. I was going to have to truly forgive the relational debt I felt he owed me and in turn offer him a true relationship with me; one that might even hurt.

And, even still, I wanted to bring him closer to me so I could do exactly that. Jesus had put a new love in my heart for my dad. My mission now included him. I saw how hypocritical I'd been by loving my neighbors and trusting the Holy Spirit to open doors with them all the while assuming that those doors were already open with my dad and if they weren't I was going to kick them in. I'd thought the same thoughts and said the same things that people had thought and said to him his whole life. "Stop that. Be better. Quit drinking. Don't smoke. Be kind. Take better care of yourself." I'd forgotten that without Christ my dad can't do any of those things and neither can I. And while he should stop drinking and smoking, those things aren't keeping him from Jesus, his hard heart is. I'd seen with my own eyes that the only cure for a hard heart is the wooing of the Holy Spirit and lots and lots of love. I knew that it was God's kindness that led and continues to lead me to repentance. I had trained myself to practice that with my lost neighbors and had completely missed that I needed to be doing that with my dad. The conviction was deep and I longed to have the opportunity to be kind to my dad. I am now still longing and praying and hoping that Jesus gives me the opportunity to be kind to and love and serve my dad.

He's not here yet and I realize that all this is easy to say before the real work begins. I'll need your prayers so that I can love him in obedience to God and set aside any selfish motives or expectations. I'll need to remember that it's the Holy Spirit who does the work in us and who will do the work in him. I'll need patience, and lots and lots of grace. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give me a love for him that is relentless. And pray that he can learn to trust me and know that I love him just as he is.

Empty me, Jesus, so that all that's left for him to see is You.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thorns In Our Flesh

"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with The Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9

There's some debate about the "thorn" that Paul references in this passage. The opinions generally fall into two camps, one being that the thorn was a physical infirmity and the other that it was an area of sin (or the temptation to sin) that Paul struggled with. I side with the thought that this was a sin struggle for a couple of reasons. First of all, throughout Scripture, when the word "flesh" is used it is most often referring to our sin nature. It doesn't make sense to me that Paul would use the same word here to mean something else. My other thought is that when we see pride in believers it often presents itself as self righteousness in relation to our performance morally more so than in relation to our physical bodies, not to say that we cant be self righteous about our bodies, however.(I realize that I don't generally jump into exegesis, but stick with me, I promise I'm headed somewhere.)

Seeing it this way makes Paul more human to me, which he was, and it gives me hope that the things I struggle with and that tempt me are being used by God to glorify Himself. It comforts me to know that I don't have to be perfect in order for God to show Himself through me and that he uses my own thorns to keep me close to Him.

Nevertheless, recently Jesus opened my eyes to a whole other kind of thorn that is neither physical, nor spiritual. It is a thorn that a friend of mine has no power within herself to overcome and it presents itself daily like a constant reminder of her dependence on others and ultimately her dependence on Christ. All of our thorns are like that, it just isn't always so obvious.

If you know me at all you know that I am not easily shocked by people's stories. My own past (and often present) was a dark ugly mess that Jesus saved me from. I lived through some hard things that hurt me deeply and I did some really horrible things that hurt others. When people share their stories with me, I am most often calm and able to engage in the conversation without much reaction at all other than to affirm their experiences and assure them that I see them no differently and love them just the same. God has gifted me in this area and often uses it to let me let people know that they are heard and that their stories matter.

I genuinely cherish that God has given me these opportunities and for that reason I often enter into relationships with people as a very open book. I was born with a deep desire to know and be known and the times in my life when I felt I couldn't be authentic have often been the most difficult for me. I feel intensely lonely when I cannot be honest, yes, even brutally honest, about who I am and what I am going through. I force myself to be transparent because I believe deep down we all want to be loved and accepted for who we really are, no matter how messy that may be.

And, ya know, we all have thorns. When I share my story and others privilege me with their's, I am often reminded that the ground is level at the foot of the Cross and the same blood was shed for us all. As a storyteller who has heard many stories I am not easily shocked. If we haven't dealt with it in our own home, I probably know someone who has. I get that life is hard and am not afraid of a hard conversation. I felt pretty confident, maybe even prideful about the fact that I truly thought I could not be shocked. At least not easily.

As we sat around the dinner table the other night sharing stories I even said those exact words when I sensed our new friends hesitate to be as open as I was. I made a joke about not being shocked by much and we all laughed and the conversation carried on. Just a few moments later Ephram came to the table with a book and asked my friend to read it to him. It had happened earlier in the evening and I noticed that she had the same look on her face as she did earlier. I interpreted it to mean that she wasn't sure if I would be ok with that. I then said, "If you want to read to him you certainly can, but if you'd rather just chat with us feel free to tell him no."

I was totally unprepared for her response. She looked at me and slowly mouthed the words,"I can't."


Again she mouthed, "I can't read."

It was clear to both of us that I was, in fact, shocked. I immediately felt terrible that I had lost my composure fearing that I sent her the message that I thought something was wrong with her. I apologized and sent Ephram to go read alone and did my best to enter back into the conversation with everyone else at the table. I clumsily moved on hoping she didn't feel like she was any less precious to me than before she shared her secret.

Don't get me wrong, we shared all manner of history that night. We opened up some hard stuff as we visited. We rejoiced in the ways that God had saved us and how He was continually changing us. It was authentic and real and good and I was grateful for it. However, for the first time in a long time I was reminded that when I rely on my own flesh to make people feel comfortable rather than the Holy Spirit, it will only be a matter of time until I fail. And fail I did.

You see, I am an avid reader. Along with that, I, obviously, love to write. I LOVE words. I love reading them and rhyming them and seeing how beautifully they can be put together to give voice to thoughts, hopes, dreams...fears. Growing up in a house filled with chaos and violence, I spent my time stringing words together to make sense of who I was and how I felt. I escaped into any book I could find and sometimes, on rare occasions, I even read my Bible.

It is terribly difficult for me to imagine my life any other way. My love of reading and writing is a deep part of my identity. Maybe even a bit too deep. At any rate, it was (is) certainly something I took for granted never even thinking to be grateful for it.

I've thought a lot about that short conversation since it happened. My natural tendency is to figure out how I can fix a situation. It's arrogant of me to think that way, but it's true. Nevertheless, the more I thought about it, the more the Holy Spirit reminded me of Paul's words, of the thorn in his flesh and how God used it for His glory.

I can't attempt to reflect on how this might be the case for my friend, but I can tell you that knowing this about her and reflecting on the implications increased my respect for her exponentially. We live in a culture that uses knowledge and education as measurements of status and power. Our society insists that we be independent and able to fend for ourselves lest we be shamed by our inabilities, our neediness. Yet, this is not the way of the Cross, it's not the the life that Jesus called us to. He calls on us to rely on Him fully and I realized that not having the ability to read well could cause a person to understand dependence in a very real way.

Our response to the Gospel is defined by our need for it. We don't get to Jesus through self-sufficiency, we come to him with nothing to offer completely trusting that His work provides for our salvation. This is a challenge for most Americans. We've been taught that our abilities increase our worth. We reward those who need nothing and depend on no one while we scorn those who have needs beyond what they can provide for themselves. Our self sufficiency sets in us the idea that we can save ourselves. And if you can save yourself, what do you need Jesus for?

Frankly, I imagine that if I couldn't read I would feel helpless. I don't know if that's how my friend feels but I am sure that needing help with something that seems to come so easy for everyone else is frustrating at best and at times even humiliating. And I can relate to those feelings on many levels. Yet imagining having to depend on others to gather information and navigate in a culture so dependent on the written word really gave me a glimpse into how pridefully independent I falsely believe I am.

I observed my sweet friend and her husband for the rest of the evening and was struck by how he must treat her with such dignity as she is obviously convinced that he loves and values her immensely. She's confident that she brings something to the table in their marriage no matter what challenges she brings as well. And I was humbled because that does say something about their relationship, but it also says something about her having a grasp on the fact that her identity is in Christ.

Don't get me wrong, I am aware of my own thorns but I don't think I am confronted with them daily in a real tangible way. Most often I plug along insisting on my own way, convincing myself that I am capable enough until disaster strikes and I am faced with a mess of my own doing. Not to say that my friend is immune to that, but this thorn of hers presents a challenge every day that requires her to ask for help in order to accomplish things most of us take for granted. Until that night, it had never once occurred to me to thank God that I could read because in my mind it was something I had learned to do on my own. The fact that God, Himself, gave me a brain equipped to learn to read never even crossed my mind. I arrogantly failed to acknowledge reading as a gift to steward and be thankful for. I wasn't identifying with Jesus, my identity was rooted in my confidence of my own mind.

And let me be extremely clear, this woman is an incredibly talented and creative individual. She is smart and has some keen insight about her own experiences that I couldn't even come close to when I was her age. The truth is, I might have loved to read anything I could get my hands on at that time in my life but I was completely ignorant of the fact that I needed Jesus. I dug myself an incredible pit that took years to recover from and I read my precious books all along the way. Being able to read well did not save me from that destruction, Jesus did.

As much as my conceited flesh wanted to pity her for this thorn, my heart envied her knowledge and familiarity with being dependent. That's what the Gospel is all about. It's about trusting someone else to do something for us that we cannot do on our own. I've lived my life convinced that I could do anything I set my mind to. Having to make peace with our neediness is an obstacle to the Cross for most of us. It has certainly been so for me.

Ironically, earlier in the evening we had made a "first world problem" joke, you know, the kind that reminds us how easy we have it here in America. I thought of that after they left and realized that we had been graced with the company of an American who actually knew something about a problem that went beyond living in a first world country. She's dealing with a hurdle that most of us cannot relate to and one that requires her to be honest about it in order to get the help that she needs. Nobody knows by looking at her that she struggles to read, she's got to confess it to them in order to get help. She's got to trust, rely, depend...every single day.

And that's what we're called to. Complete and utter dependence on the Holy Spirit in order to walk with Christ. Just like when we come to the Cross in need of that cleansing blood initially, we are to come to it every day reminded of the thorns that He allows to keep us dependent on Him because His Grace is sufficient and His Strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. In our neediness.

I pray that I can hear the Holy Spirit when my own thorns make me feel so inadequate. I pray that He gently reminds me that I am inadequate and that I do need Him and was never meant to do it alone. I pray for a daily reminder to depend on Him rather than my tendency to believe my own lies about being capable. I want to rest in being incapable. I want to make peace with being weak so that Jesus can be glorified and I can be more like Him and less, so much less, like me.

Monday, August 6, 2012

On Being a Part of a Church Plant

              About four or so years ago James started listening to sermon podcasts while he was on the road. He spends a lot of time driving and he found that the time he spent alone in his truck was redeemed when he used it to fill his mind with God’s word. He listened to Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Darrin Patrick, Tim Keller and many others, most of whom were at churches that are part of the Acts 29 Network. This led to him listening to the podcasts that were available on the Acts 29 site, many of which were about their efforts to promote church planting.
                This put in James a desire to either plant a church himself, or be a part of a church plant. Statistically, planting new churches is the number one way to reach the lost in America and as James learned more, his desire grew and in the meantime we were led to Clear Creek Community Church just as they were in the process of joining the Acts 29 Network. We had been searching for a church to call home since we got married and we were finally where we knew God wanted us.  We were excited to be a part of a church that was doing everything it knew how to proclaim the Gospel to the lost. We found a place to serve, joined a small group, even eventually leading one, and became members of CCCC. My heart was finally at ease and I began to put down roots loving the fact that I was at a church where I was accepted fully in spite of how miserably I sometimes failed. I imagined us being there for years and living life with the church family God had brought us to. I got comfortable.
                We were serving in the junior high ministry under Ryan Prater whom we had grown to love and respect. His enthusiasm and love for the kids was infectious. He set clear expectations of his volunteers and taught us to engage the kids during small group time where we would be fleshing out the message he gave which was always full of the Gospel. We, also, as I mentioned before, served as small group leaders for an adult group and I was serving as a leader in the churches Redemption Group program. We were doing everything we knew to plug in and serve and grow. We had loving relationships with our friends there and loved and were loved by the people who led us there. It was a precious time that I will always remember fondly. However, James continued to talk about this desire to help plant a church and we often wondered where that would lead us.
                Sometime in the winter of 2010, Ryan called a meeting of the volunteers for the junior high ministry. It wasn’t unusual for a meeting to be called and if I remember correctly, it was on the same Sunday evening that many of the other ministries were meeting for encouragement and training. However, during that meeting Ryan began to talk about something he needed to tell us. I knew what he was about to say.
                As he described the journey that he had been on I prepared myself for a goodbye. With tears in his eyes he told us that God had called him to plant a church and that in six months, his time would end at Clear Creek and he would be moving forward to do that. I was choked up, but comfortable. Then he said that he would be moving 50 miles away to the city of Katy to plant this new church. My eyes immediately moved to James and I knew then what he was thinking. I started making a list of reasons why this wouldn’t work for us in my mind, knowing that we would be going.
                Over the course of about a month we prayed and talked and finally came to the decision to let Ryan and his family know that we were on board and would begin preparing to move. James was ecstatic and I was in shock. I desperately did not want to go, but knew that as a wife, God had called me to submit to my husband’s leadership. I tried to talk myself out of it and kept coming back to the fact that I wanted my own sons to know that as husbands they had the responsibility to follow wherever God lead them. Digging in my heels was only going to undermine that and dishonor my husband. So, I began packing.
                We moved to Katy almost a year ago. We had been meeting with Ryan and the other families for about two months before that, making the fifty mile drive each Sunday. My transition out of Clear Creek Community Church was abrupt and I was in no way prepared for the ways my ideas about church would change. About a month before we moved I had lunch with my dear friend Susan Wesley who had planted Clear Creek with her husband seventeen years earlier. I asked her then what I should expect and how I could best serve there. Her answer? “You do whatever needs to be done. That’s how it will be for a long time and you just keep doing it.” She is very wise and I appreciated her candor. Honestly, though, I was hoping for something a little more glamorous. (Can I be any more na├»ve?)
                Nevertheless, I pushed forward moving to Katy with my family, enrolling my kids in new schools, moving into a new apartment, and then five months later yet another new apartment (that’s another blog post altogether).We made a commitment to this new church and in doing so made a commitment to a new way of life. We started seeing our neighbors as lost people who needed to be reached and sought ways to connect to them as such. When moving here, we decided to take the mission seriously in a new way. We had lived in an apartment complex previous to moving to Katy and in the two and a half years we had lived there we never had one neighbor over for dinner. Not one. Don’t’ get me wrong, Clear Creek had implored us to reach out to our neighbors, and we even talked about it. We just didn’t do it. I guess in some way, being on mission enough to move fifty miles helped us take the idea of being missional seriously. Maybe that’s what it took for us.(Jesus, please change my heart so I can learn these lessons without moving in the future.)
                It has been an interesting journey. It has cost us. I don’t say that to gain accolades but because that’s what Jesus says following him will do. It will cost you. We moved with our family and within four months our eldest son decided to go back to finish his senior year at his old school. I was devastated. How could that have been God’s plan? I wasn’t supposed to have to give him up so soon. Yet, God provided a way for Cal to go back and made it clear that we were where we belonged no matter how much I refused to believe it. (My son, Lord? You require my son?)
                We’ve also had to sacrifice other things. Things that we had come to believe were very much a part of church. For example, our children’s ministry is limited to babies and preschoolers right now. That’s all we can accommodate. We are doing everything we can to get more people to volunteer so that we can extend it to include our elementary age kids, but right now, we don’t have that. Coming from a church of 5000 where checking your child in to kid’s ministry was akin to going through airport security, that was a hard pill to swallow. And I get frustrated by it sometimes when my 6 year old is clearly bored stiff during adult service. However, it has cemented the fact that his spiritual upbringing is not the responsibility of the church, it is ours. We have had to be intentional about sharing God’s word with him on his level and also making time for him so that he doesn’t grow up thinking that we cared more about “religion” than we cared about him. It’s stretched us and we are learning as we go, but, it’s been a good learning. A good stretching.
                I’ve also learned to love in a new way. First, like I said before, we’ve really engaged with our neighbors and have done our best to have an open door policy in our home. Our neighbors know that if they knock on the door we’ll answer and unless we are truly unable, we will invite them in. It means being inconvenienced and having conversations when we’d rather sit in front of the TV. But, it’s good. It’s made our lives richer as we’ve gotten to know them and listened to their struggles. We give when we can to meet the needs that we see and sometimes, we can’t give enough. At those times, we continue to point them to Jesus who is the Giver of all good things.
                Another way I’ve learned to love is in how I love the people in my church, those I’m in spiritual community with. In a large church you have the luxury of finding the people who are like you to do life with. In a church plant, you’ve got who you’ve got and you’ve got to learn how to get along. I, myself, struggle with feeling similar to many of the Christians I know. In a word, I’m not very “churchy”. This has been true at Cross Community, where those of us who’ve committed are from all walks of life. I feel a deep sense of commitment to “know and be known” and that has led me to be very open about my life with those in our church. Often, I’m clumsy at doing that, but I feel strongly that I can’t invite people to a church gathering where they’ll have to hide who they are. So, I refuse to hide who I am. It gets uncomfortable and messy and I don’t always see my brothers and sisters through the same Grace I am afforded. However, I believe Jesus has called me into community with them and I press on to love them as I long to be loved and as I have, in fact, been loved.
                Susan’s advice all those months ago was key. There’s a lot to be done in a church plant and often, there are only a few doing it. Many times when Ryan is asking for someone to step up to do something an uncomfortable silence follows as everyone waits it out to see if they can avoid it. I’ve learned that when hard works needs to be done, it doesn’t necessarily have to fall under the category of your “calling”. Most often, in a church plant, if something needs to be done and you are able, consider yourself “called”. And it’s hard to see the same people responding over and over again. Even harder for Ryan, I imagine, as he worries over whether or not those who are serving are close to burnout. I pray we’re not. And I pray for others to come forward and serve and accept the calling to invest in the community God has brought them to.
                And hear this; we know we’re not doing it perfectly. We are struggling with our own sin and shortcomings along the way. We get tired and sometimes long for the days when we closed our door and no one would knock. We remember back to times when we knew that if we didn’t show up to serve, someone else would. And it was safe then, and comfortable, and the church would function without us, but is that what God really wants for us?
                Being part of a church plant isn’t easy, but I think it’s how being a part of any church is supposed to be. We are supposed to be serving and working and opening up until it hurts. We are supposed to model giving the way Jesus gave, giving that costs us. We are called to go out into our neighborhoods and preach the Gospel and invite the lost into community with us. These things aren’t specific to church plants, they’re specific to Christianity.
                I look ahead to the days when our church grows and functions differently. I am eager for the Cross Kids Ministry to grow and for there to be a rotation of volunteers to take their place in serving the body. However, I pray that even when we enter that stage, we don’t give up the urgency we feel now to reach the lost and serve those we come in contact with. I pray that those of us who are called now can maintain our identity as the “called out ones” to continue love Cross Community Church as we do now. This business of planting a church isn’t meant to be for a season, but rather, for life.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Checking in, Life's Been Crazy

Hey Everyone!

I wanted to check in and let you all know what's been going on. I haven't forgotten about you, but we are going through a season of change and I haven't quite figured out what my blogging schedule will look like in all of that. Here's what's going on:

As you know, it's summer. I've graduated one son (Cal) and have two at home. I'm trying to keep them busy this summer, but with this Texas heat, we spend most of our daylight hours indoors. The perpetual teacher that I am, this involves a lot of reading and some other "school work" to keep them in practice. Every season is a season to learn.

I've also started working. It's a part time job at a Texas grocery store chain, HEB. Any Texan will tell you, it is the PREMIERE grocery store here and so far has been a great company to work for. I am doing product demonstrations and also (when I'm lucky) I get to do some cooking demonstrations. If you know me at all you know I find that incredibly fun and it's something I'm good at as well. I interviewed for so many jobs and thought I had a fancy one at a downtown law firm, but, ultimately, they weren't convinced I'd be willing to do the commute long term. As much as I wanted that job, I am grateful to have not had to give up my entire summer with the kids. My schedule is flexible and I'm off some weekdays. I am working more weekends, but that's OK too and as it's super busy, the time passes really quickly.

As usual, I am always looking for more opportunities to write. Part of why I've been away from here is because I've been writing for a website that actually pays me (www.slumpedover.com)! I can't tell you what that means to someone who hopes to one day earn her living writing. It's been a fun blessing to know that what I hash out on the computer is actually worth money to someone. As most writers, my ultimate goal is to change the world, but, some cash money in the meantime never did hurt.

As I mentioned above, my eldest son, Cal, graduated. It was a sweet time for us to see him close this chapter in his life and move on to more grown up ventures. He's working at a tire shop right now and is in the process of starting to train to work on tug boats in the Galveston Bay. Cal has always been a hard worker and one to give it his all when working with his hands. He's very creative too and not much cut out for traditional education. Of course, this college educated mama wants to see him follow in her footsteps, but, mostly I want to see him pursue whatever gifts God has given him. I trust that he's doing what he thinks is best for him and know that he will excel in whatever field he chooses to pursue. I'm proud of Cal and look forward to watching the journey my incredible God takes him on. It will be the ride of his life no matter what that looks like.

DJ is raising money right now to head off to Tacoma for a week in July. He will be participating in the Immerse program put on by Soma Communities, a church in the Tacoma area. The emphasis of the program is to teach high school and college students how to live out the Gospel in a missional way. Soma is known for the way it has trained it's members to live life seamlessly between their neighborhoods and their church communities resulting in the ability to share the Gospel in a way that makes sense to the people they are living life with. It's a different experience than what we are used to in the Church and I am eager for him to come back and teach us all he has learned. He is also looking to apply his knowledge at his high school so he can enter into relationship with other students and lead them towards a life changing relationship with Christ. (If you are interested in helping him with this trip please let me know.)

Ephram is just himself, being six it all its glory. Some days he doesn't get dressed until the late afternoon and I don't mind at all. When it cools in the evening, we take him to the pool to burn off some energy. During the day, he reads his books, plays his games and enjoys the leisurely pace summer brings. When I asked him the other day what his favorite part of summer was, he said, "Not going to school, of course!"

James is traveling a lot lately. We pray regularly for him to find a job that will not take him away from home. Until then, we endure. Thank goodness for Skype and unlimited evening minutes on the cell phones. It's a struggle to stay connected when he's gone, but we do our best. It will be even more challenging as I will be working most weekends, but we trust the Lord to keep our family connected as we pursue excellence in all we do.

And me. I am turning 39 tomorrow. I've had all kinds of thoughts about what this last year in my thirties will mean. I have visions of where I want myself to be when I turn forty and, Lord willing, I will accomplish some of that this year. I try to remind myself when setting these goals that if it weren't for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, I would have accomplished nothing so far. And, because that is so, I am a work in progress. I will step, in faith, into each place He lights on the path in front of me. I hope that means more writing and more sharing His work in my life. I hope that means getting to know my neighbors and sharing Christ with them. I hope that means growing in my relationship with Jesus and in my relationships with my family. I hope it means setting aside the things that weigh me down and keep me from running the race. I pray that means becoming a woman grounded in His Grace for me and generous in His Grace for others. I hope to grow a little and I pray to learn a lot.

I hope you all are well. I will return soon, Lord willing. Keep us in your prayers and know that you are in His hands.

Love to you all,

Friday, May 25, 2012

Catching Up

It's been a bit since I've posted so I wanted to check in and let everyone know what's going on. I'll be back to my series of letters soon, there are so many to write, but for now a quick update will have to do.

For the last few months I have been completely consumed with searching for a job. After six years of being at home and working part time here and there, it's time for me to go back into the workforce. Truth be told, it's been time for a while. Our finances simply cannot stretch any further and we need the second income. As much as I know that working will add some stress to my life, it will be nice to have less stress regarding money.

So, back to the job search. It totally sucks. I have found myself in this weird position with lots of education and a minimal amount of experience in a variety of areas. My resume looks like it tells the story of someone who can't seem to decide what to do with herself, which is partly true, but it's also been circumstantial to some degree. Nevertheless, that resume is my introduction to people who haven't decided to meet me in person yet and it doesn't seem to be doing the job. Thankfully, we have a friend at church who works as a recruiter and has offered to look it over and help me out. I've also found a church (some distance away) in the Houston area that has a ministry specifically for people who are between jobs. I've been once and it was helpful. I will go back in the next week or two to have their resume coach look over it as well. With all this extra help I've got to be on my way to getting a resume together that will get me those interviews.

That's not to say that I haven't had any interviews or interview offers. My first interview in this search was with a marketing company. I was all ready to sell myself and my skills and be personable until he asked me who my role model was in the business world. Ummm, what? I froze. The only person I could think of was my pastor. Truthfully, that answer is the truth. He left a comfortable secure job at a mega-church to move to another city and plant a church. He has done the work of getting out into the community and meeting people to build his network and thus grow our church. Honestly, I think it's a valid answer, but I didn't really have a chance to pull myself together and articulate that well so I ended up sounding like a bored housewife who doesn't know anyone and never leaves the house. Needless to say, that was my last contact with that company. Ah well.

Then came the dry spell. Sending out countless resumes each day. Obsessing over checking my email. Getting on Craigslist every hour to hopefully catch new posts as soon as they came up. If I'm honest, this is how most of this job search has been. Searching, sending, obsessing, searching, sending, obsessing...you get the picture. In the midst of all this I did start the process of writing a test to be a freelance writer for a company in Houston. In addition to that, I was connected to a website that is actually willing to pay me to write and post articles. It doesn't pay very much so I can't give up my job search but it's been nice to get to break up the cycle with a little writing now and then. My days have since evolved to searching, sending, writing, obsessing...still very much a dry spell.

I finally broke down and started applying to any job I could think of. Grocery stores, Target, Sam's Club. I even took a day and walked through the mall filling out every application I could get my hands on. It's been humbling to realize that when I apply for these jobs I am just as inexperienced as any high school kid applying as well. Doesn't matter though. I need a job. Any job. Any pay. Any hour. I need a job.

Finally last week I got a call from a law firm asking some pre-interview questions. It wasn't much and they didn't promise they'd call me back, but I was encouraged. In another couple of days the grocery store called and invited me to a group interview. I said I'd be there. Then the law firm called back and invited me to interview. I've gone to both of those now. I'm waiting to hear from the law firm and was invited back for a second interview with the grocery store (weird that you need to do more than one interview to work at a grocery store).  In the meantime, one of the mall stores called and set up an interview. And even with these interviews coming in, I know this job search is a marathon and I keep searching, sending and, yes, obsessing. (Oh me of little faith.)

Here's what's funny. As much as I think I am qualified to work at the law firm, I'm beginning to wonder if one of the other jobs isn't a better fit for the time being. It's not that I don't want a career. I most certainly do. But this period of unemployment has given me a clearer vision of what I want that career to be. I want to write. I have always wanted to write I just never considered that it might actually be a possibility until now. And I'm wondering if taking a job at the grocery store with a flexible schedule and less stress would allow me to save some of that mental energy for when I get home so I can do what I love. Write. And maybe, just maybe, someday I can get paid a decent paycheck for it. Wouldn't that be amazing?

I'm writing all this here to let you all know that I really need prayer in all this. Prayer for direction. Prayer for whatever job God has for me to open up quickly and help meet some of the financial needs that our family has. We just need your prayers. It's been a difficult time of scraping by and we are really at the end of our rope. We need a miracle and I need a job. The truth is, I'll probably take the first job that is offered to me. I can't afford not to. So I guess I would also ask that you would pray that God in His sovereignty would allow the first job to be the right job. I ask that you would pray that He would be directing all of this and showing how to step into His plan for my future, whether it be short term or long term. Or both.

Also, since I've learned that the best way to take my mind off my own stresses is to invest in others, why don't you leave any prayer requests you have in the comments. Let's commit to be praying for each others needs and trusting for one another that God will have His way in our lives. Let's pray blessings over one another and believe in Our Father to do the wonderful miracles He wants to do in our lives. And, most of all, let's be praying that no matter what we're going through, it would be growing us closer to Him.

Until next time,