Saturday, June 30, 2012

finding waters in Embrace Me, puzzles and coffee

Friday was a pretty awful day, with a garbage disposal failure (plumber can't come until NEXT THURSDAY and I will be out of town) and the discovery of a major leak in my drip system. After the week I had, it just made sense this will all happen to me yesterday.

Tuesday I had the women's book club to set up and run. I was up all night Monday worrying about it, as it was the first time I'd done this kind of thing and it was very new for this church and this culture. I was getting asked on Monday, "Where do we get the book" "Do we come with it read?" After I'd been advertising for two months. Ugh. People are frustrating. 

Tuesday went fine but was very stressful. Wednesday was another stressful day with two unexpected meetings eating up my morning and Wednesday night's class not quite prepped yet. By the end of class that night I was done for, so when two young women in the class asked to be let back into the church while I had an armful of class material in the pouring rain, I very nearly lost it in front of them. Instead I decided to go to the grocery store and call my mom on the way. I sat in the parking lot for 45 minutes crying to her about how much this job was killing me inside.

But it’s not the job, really. It’s the constant neediness. I didn’t grow up in a household like that. I grew up fending for myself, and being told to get it done – and figure out a way on your own how to get it done. The fact that people need their hand held through something as simple as a book club makes me want to scream. And cry.
A friend asked me to come over for a game night on Thursday. I just couldn’t do it. All I wanted to do was sit at home and cry. While I’m sure the invitation was sincere, it felt like just another obligation to someone in the church who needed me for something. Another friend texted me Friday afternoon and asked if I would go shopping with her this morning. Knowing I needed to get out of the house after my crappy day of household breakage, yard work and more frustration, I agreed.

I open the door this morning to her and two other friends, with donuts, puzzles and smiling faces.“We’re kidnapping you.” They pushed their way into to my home, began to make coffee and set up a puzzle. I was stunned. It took me a while to process what they were doing, so much so I couldn't really even enjoy the fact that they were here because they were worried about me, knew I was struggling and wanted to be there for me. I was stunned because this has never happened to me. Honestly, never. With the obvious exception of my family, I’ve never had friends put away their own concerns and needs for mine, so much so to sacrifice a morning just to heal me. I really didn’t know what to do with that.

We talked, ate donuts, drank coffee and put together two puzzles. They left at noon. I’ve been reading and watching TV to spoil myself for the rest of the day.

I finished the book Embrace Me by Lisa Sampson. Wonderful stuff. I’m putting it on the book blub list for next spring. Lots of redemption and a wonderful story for God’s ability to transform our heart and forgive others.
Tomorrow is full of more neediness. I have to run children’s church and sing opera at a colleagee's going away potluck. I am, however, refusing to bring a dish for it. I am not superwoman.

 This post is part of the he caused waters to flow project

Sunday, June 24, 2012

dry bones

This last week was a very frustrating and difficult time for me. There was a big event going on at church. It was not one I was in charge of, but one in which I was more of over-seer and a support of a volunteer who was in charge. It was a week full of complaining (you get that a lot when you're on the staff of a church) quite a few truths stretched and spome back-biting and gossip I just don’t appreciate. All in all, I'm really glad the week is over. So as I sat down to write the next post in the waters project, I found myself... dry.
I had a week full of so many "to-do" lists and so much chaos that I barely had time to breathe and be refreshed.

I worry that one day I will forget how. Forget to breathe. Forget to slow down. Just... forget.

So what I am to do? I t am I to do about a week that I know God caused waters to flow, but I neither had the presence of mind nor the heart to see it?

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” (Ezekiel 37:1-3 ESV)

Sometimes God gives me times of dryness not because he’s angry with me or because he’s forgotten me. He does it because he’s testing me.

And he wants me back.

Reading Ezekiel 37 at this point in the waters project is transforming, because it is reminding me of that my own dry spirit is not the point, that my own spiritually dry heart is not what it’s about. It’s about what God chooses to do. It’s about the power of his presence, and how in it, we are able to live.

Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:12-14 ESV)

This time of dry bones is reminding me that he is the Lord. I belong to him, even when I fail to see it and he is mine, even when he feels far away. Even when it seems the waters aren’t flowing.

This post is part of the he caused waters to flow project.

Monday, June 18, 2012

in which a "kid" takes care of me

Thomas is the first person I've ever hired. I didn't do it by myself - I put together a committee of four people to help write the job description, go through resume submissions and then ultimately interviews and the hiring. We could only afford to hire a part-time youth director, so we knew it would be tough to find the right person. Thomas was that person.

As I was on my way to Starbucks Saturday morning (I managed to wake up with sun at 5:30 on my “day off” – though I spent most of the day working on VBS) and I hit the stop light just outside my subdivision and there he was to my right in his little red car… heading the same direction as me. Thomas has always been an early riser, so I wasn’t too surprised to see him out and about. He waved at me, and when we stopped at the next stop light together, he laughed and smirked, undoubtedly hearing my Mumford and Sons music blaring. Early in the morning in Arizona, you relish having your windows down because of the cool weather.

Thomas has been a refresher for me. He’s young (22) and mature in his faith, a big kid inside but I also joke about him being a 40 year old man inside as well (he goes to bed at 9:30 and it more responsible that most 40 year olds I know, especially for a youth pastor). He’s quite conservative and I know he wasn’t much for women leadership in the church before he met me. We have one mind theologically otherwise, and also both have a passion for worship. It’s like having the little brother I always wanted but never had.

After Starbucks I made a quick stop for my vice and rare indulgence – a BoSa’s glazed donut. By the time I got home I had a text from him, “Get your morning coffee fix?” He knows me well.

It’s amazing how moments like this can water you. I realize I’m not like most people – I’m quite introverted with an outgoing personality with a staying power against burnout I don’t fully understand. God has made me amazingly resilient, and I’ve found I rarely only break not from working too much but from lack of people caring for me.

Thomas is someone who cares for me.

I don’t ask for much when I’m sick or when I’m having a bad day. I don’t expect people to come take care of me or to run my errands or even really commiserate with me. But when the people considered close friends can even be bothered to check on me? That’s what breaks me. 4 months after I hired him I got very sick during a difficult time a work. Thomas was the only one in my life here in Arizona who called to make sure I was ok. He sends me encouraging text messages each time I preach and I regularly get a text from him tell me he’s praying for me. That’s not bad for a 22 year old kid. I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate working with him.

This post is part of the he caused waters to flow project.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

in which i fall in love with jr. high kids

Some days I feel like I have my hand in just about every area of the church (which I guess is bound to happen in a church our size - 500 - when you and the senior pastor are the only full-time ministry staff) Last night I did one of the staples since I took this job – family movie night.

Last week I had a helper in children's church who was telling me about how she was about to start meeting with the Jr. High girls part of the Seeds of Hope ministry - a ministry in town that seeks to provide opportunities and help to those in poverty and/or challenging home situations. She asked if one of the mission projects she could do with the girls was come and help with movie nights this summer. I love the Seeds of Hope ministry, and I love Debbie, so my answer was an immediate yes. 
So last night Debbie and the girls arrived about an hour before the movie to help me set up the room, pop popcorn and get the sodas ready for the concession stand. I already knew 3 or the 4 girls she brought, which was a bonus. I hadn't seen them since last year, though, and I noticed what beautiful young women they are turning into. Sweet spirit, sweeter smiles and wonderful respectful attitudes about everything.
All night they were a wonderful help. Constantly asking me what they could do... making an effort to look around and make things as nice and organized as possible. Then after the movie we threw the volleyball around a bit, vacuumed up the popcorn and went home.
These wonderful girls don't have much of a chance in life. Teenage pregnancy is extremely common in this part of the world, and one of the girls was telling me that she had eight siblings at home, not including a sister who just left (she turned 18) and a mom now pregnant again. The Seeds of Hope ministry works to give them chances they wouldn't normally have, and Debbie meets with these girls and several others twice a week in the summer to mentor them, share Jesus with them, and be a wonderful presence in the lives.
Ah… this is water for my soul.

This is part of the he caused waters to flow project.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"he caused waters to flow" - a project

When I lived in St. Louis, I grew very tired of the rain. The humidity I could deal with, (sort of) having grown up in the mid-west. It's never pleasant, but it is simply part of living there. But the rain in St. Louis? But the time I graduated I was over it.

God has a great sense of humor; because of course after that experience with the rain he put me in the desert. It's been here that I've realized just how much I am emotionally affected by the physically environment around me. Some of what I’m experiencing right now – inside – I’m sure is due to my season of life and the calling I’ve received in my vocation. As these two aspects of my life collide, I find myself in fear of remaining “in the desert” so to speak – in a place of dry bones, of a dry heart and a dry soul.

So I am beginning a new writing project that I hope will inspire me and turn me from the desert growing inside my restless soul. I’m calling it the “he caused waters to flow” project. While it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, I’m basing in on Psalm 78:16 which reads “He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.” (ESV) What I love about Psalm 78 is how is recounts all the ways God is faithful to his people. That will be a big part of this project, without a doubt, but it will also be about focusing on the water in our lives, not the dryness. I will be looking for uncommon things that are balm for my soul, that quench my thirst, and inspire me to follow a God who is always faithful, even when I am not.

Here’s how it will work: I will do my best to post at least twice a week throughout the rest of the summer on the things that are helping me seeing how he is making the water flow in my life. You, reader, are welcome to join in whatever fashion you’d like. Feel free to use the image I’ve created as part of your post, and please link back to the original post so that perhaps your own readers will like to join in as well. I will also do an evaluation at the end of the project on how God has transformed my heart. (I believe he will transform instead of just hoping!) In the word of a great writer and blogger, Leigh Kramer, “I am beyond tired of running into the same wall. I am tired of the hours and, sometimes, days that catch me not living like the woman God created me to be.” So I am doing what i can to change that. I'd love for you to join me.