Disenchanted: High Expectations

chocolate chipI can’t eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie without craving watered down tropical punch Kool-Aid to go with it. Weird, I know. Cookies and Kool-Aid are actually time traveling devices that transport me back to 90 degree mornings outside on the front walkway of the church during the best week of my summer, Vacation Bible School. Every summer, at our small Lutheran church, the halls were transformed and the cookies were baked. I loved our little church. I went every single Sunday, well almost. I had a God-mother who took her title very seriously and expected us to show up, me with my panty hose and patent leather shoes. Church was a place where I belonged, even though most of the time I was the only kid in my class. My teacher still showed up every week, to teach, just me. I wasn’t ever combined with another class or made to feel like I wasn’t important enough to be taught.

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After Sunday school I would walk over to the church building, where the women were scattered about in the kitchen, making coffee and serving cookies. The men were picking up chairs or standing waiting on their women. I would sit next to my grandmother, waiting for her to dig out a piece of gum for me, always making too much noise and gaining disapproving looks from everyone around. She would simply roll her eyes and make all the noise she wanted, even during prayer. I made sure to memorize all of the liturgies and “sayings’. I would flip through the hymnals and pretend that I could sing, and that I knew them all. I don’t ever remember saying that I didn’t want to go, or that I was ready to leave.

I loved church.

I still love church.

Church was such a safe place for me, away from the realities of my somewhat dysfunctional and painful life. Somehow, a midst all of it, Jesus found me there in that church . I was in Christmas plays, and read from the Bible on Sunday mornings. We went to banquets and dinners and celebrated holidays and grieved the dead.

Best friends were made at church, and those friends, somehow became family. Life happened at my little Lutheran church on the corner of that aging neighborhood. I found eternity at church, ministry was planted in my heart at that small church, the love of Christ became real there through people and family and experiences.

There is a part of me that feels like this is the intended definition, and maybe what I still search for. Or maybe it’s just a really great childhood memory that I relentless try to recreate. Whatever it is, it’s something. And I keep looking for it.  The countless churches I’ve tried and prayed about it and sought after all were missing it.  Even though ‘COMMUNITY’ was in the name of most of the churches, community is what lacked most. I give high fives to those that try to create and imitate, but it just can’t be forced.  It just can’t be programmed or designed or modeled.

That little church growing up really understood genuine love and concern.

Most churches miss that…

Our society misses that…

How do we fix it?! Ironically, the church is where it must start.

What is your favorite church community memory?  What are some things you see working in the church?

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Yah, Let’s do THAT.

At church on Saturday I was reminded of the triumphant story of GIDEON and his seemingly ill-equipped self and just a few dudes willing to fight with him. So much goodness from all of it,  but there’s THIS that just won’t go away…

…and put trumpets into the hands of all of them & empty jars & torches….  [judges 7:16]

Gideon was a scared-y cat, a runt, an unlikely pick to lead an army.  He answered God’s call to defeat the enemy.  Through a drastic selection process, of sending the scared home, and watching how each of them drank water, God dwindled Gideon’s army down to 300. Through major showing off-because God does that- he handed Gideon and his soldiers

  • trumpets
  • empty jars
  • torches

These were their weapons, their tools…well those things and a great faith.  Then Gideon instructed his army, to blow their trumpets, to smash their vessels, to hold their torches high. And they were to shout…

For God and for Gideon

I’ve spent most of my life as one form of Gideon’s soldiers. In His process of selecting me, God has tested my vision, my focus.  I have willingly left in fear. I have done it wrong and was sent home.  I have been handed tools, but instead of great faith, I have compared myself to what my enemies hold, as well as my allies.  I have complained and sulked and whined.

I sat in church wondering how many other woman have done the same. How many of us have discarded what God has given us as not worthy to win the battle?

So often we wish we could be artists, or writers.  We desire perfectly clean houses, and God-fearing children and a husband who is bound to be called into full time ministry at any moment because of his stellar spiritual leadership.

We hold our trumpet–our noisemaker–and instead of a weapon to slay the day, its sounds more like fighting children, siblings who seem to hate each other. And a snoring husband, who falls asleep before he prays with you.

And we stare at our dishes in the sink for two days & we can’t remember the last time we washed our hair (true story).  We don’t even write down our grocery list, much less the next best seller at all the Christian book stores, that all the mom’s who have THEIR *ish together read between yoga and playdates at Chik-fil-a and putting something in the crockpot for dinner.

And we sit and think of the degree we should have finished, and about that other lady at church who leads so well and started her own non-profit and in her first day got 3,000 likes on Facebook, which is weird because there are only like 85 people at your church.

And we want that families income, and her house, and her wedding ring, her job and her self-discipline to wake at 5 am and drink a cup of coffee from the Keurig before Crossfit.

Only to be left to become the noisemaker ourselves (as we yell at our kids) and utterly empty.  An empty vessel, nothing left to give. nothing. Hand us a torch, and we will burn it all down, just so we don’t have to do laundry.

But there must be a time — a time in our life — in my life–like now.

Yeah, a time like now.

To rise up, gripping whatever God has handed us…

All of our beauty, all of our flaws, all of our giftedness…

The gift of rocking a baby or saving an animal…

We must embrace our weapons, of kindness, of patience, of love…

Holding tightly to the gift of organizing, or multi-tasking, or encouraging or serving, or just making it through another Monday…

We have weapons of forgiveness, and a clean car and shaved legs…

All of them exactly held by the exactly right person.

We are not noisemakers! 

We are trumpets, sounding loudly to drown out the voice of comparison, rejection, shame, self-hatred.

We are not empty vessels!

We are merely poured out in total surrender, daily being filled by living water so we may thirst no more.

We do not live in darkness! 

We have a torch to carry, to usher light into the darkness that surrounds us.  This torch is to be passed on to the very bratty kids we raise, the ones that hate each other.

All of us, in this camp together, can sound our trumpets, fill our vessels and proudly hold our torches, and we can all shout together

For God and for [insert your name here].

We can defeat this enemy that daily rises against, whispering that we aren’t enough, that we don’t have enough, that we don’t do enough.  When we do this, we don’t have to be afraid, for the Lord is with us….

And God’s presence is enough.

Humans of New York published a photo of a lady in the subway, who is a Christian, planting churches in New York.   I see these in my Facebook Feed, anyone can subscribe, which means anyone can comment. And people are mean, and hateful and tell you that your trumpet is useless and your vessel is ugly and your torch isn’t Scentsy so it’s not good enough.  Boldly she proclaimed the Gospel, and then said, “Feel free to share it. I won’t be reading the comment section.”

So let’s do that.

Let’s not read the comment section.

Instead, let’s live in obedience, and the safety of God’s gifts to us and his calling to use them accordingly. His gift of humanity, of being real and imperfect, Let’s stand with our different versions of trumpets and should with confidence and peace, because he assures us that it won’t kill us.

Those 300 of Gideon’s men were victorious with what God gave them, because of the faith to do what he instructed them to do. We can, too. They won. We win.

FOR GOD AND FOR TIFFANY

I Am A Horrible Christian

I am, without a doubt, an absolute horrible Christian.

Often people see my FB posts, or even read a blog or two.  I’ve had woman who have told me how “amazing” I am to follow God the way I do.

I just laugh.

My sister-in-love mentioned to me one day, while in conversation in the car…. One day I’m going to expose you for who you really are.  Everyone out there thinks your so sugar sweet and super Christian, but little do they know.

I just laugh. It’s funny, because it’s true.

Seriously though, I’ve never meant to misrepresent myself.

I truly follow Christ.

I love Him completely with my whole heart.

Daily, I attempt to live for Him and live out my purpose in Him.

But, really, at the end of the day, I’m human…and I pretty much suck.

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So for those of you who don’t know me, or don’t know the sinful side of me….allow me to confess…now keep in mind, I don’t need judgement for my confession or for what I do. Nor do I need you to tell me it’s okay, nor do I need you to be offended because of whatever reason you have.

  1. I LOVE Horrible TV Shows like Sex In The City and Will & Grace.  It’s great writing, with great characters.
  2. I sometimes, occasionally, every now and then Cuss. Almost every single day. Sometimes I even drop the “F” Bomb.  It’s definitely cleaned up in the last 20 years, no more do I hang with the sailors, but I do have a potty mouth.  My kids are constantly correcting me, when it should be the other way around.
  3. I fight with my husband. And sometimes I say mean things I can’t take back.  We are not the perfect couple. Our arguments are meaningless at times with no resolution.
  4. I hide from my kids. In a secret room, because sometimes I just can’t “mom” or meet their needs.
  5. I am HORRIBLE about finishing anything.
  6. just kidding
  7. Sometimes I just don’t understand people, so I judge them. Like seriously judge their shoes, or why they think the way they do.  And I look at them with funny faces…and they think I’m interested, but really I’m confused.
  8. I sometimes think about stealing stuff from stores.  I don’t actually do it, but I wonder if I could get away with it.
  9. I don’t always feel like talking about Jesus or sharing my “story” or witnessing or testifying…i’m okay with getting out of Walmart without even making eye contact.

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We know that the list is longer and the sins deeper, because this list isn’t all that impressive or funny or shameful.  So when you see my posts or blogs or tweets and think how deep and reflective and thoughtful I am, imagine me instead, avoiding all my projects, and ignoring phone calls.  Imagine me just being a human trying to get along, without perfection, hoping for a giggle, working on cleaning my mouth out with soap.  I’m a work in progress, but aren’t we all?!

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When Your Daughter Leaves For College

I was laying there in bed holding my new sweet girl.  I was alone, twenty and a new mom.  I had to pee and was in so much pain.  I didn’t know what to do.  I pushed the button.

“Yes, can I help you?”

“Umm yes, I have to use the restroom.”

“Did you need help?”

“No I just don’t know what to do with my baby.”

I’m certain the nurses at on the other end of the intercom either a. laughed hysterically at me or 2. shook their heads and murmured, “Bless her heart.”

I pulled myself up and put her in the clear plastic bassinet. I waddled to the restroom, pulling her behind me.  “don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry.”

She had never been alone. Not for a minute. She was with me for nine months and in the nursery, and now I was not going to be the one to leave her. She had to pee with me.  That’s just all there was to it.  And if she cried while I was peeing, I have no idea what I would do.

But we made it, we made it through the first night in the hospital, and learning to breastfeed.  We made it through the hours I watched her sleep and periodically poked her to make sure she was alive. We made it through a new brother, and the loss of a family because of divorce.  We made it through a new family, with new siblings. We made it through moving and tears from stupid boys. We made it through the trauma of leaving friends, and the disappointment of new schools.

And we will make it through when she leaves in two weeks to start a new life, at a college, with new friends, and new rhythms.

I’m embracing this relationship thing. This humanity thing. How changing our lives can be but our connections remain. God told us about new seasons, and to live in expectancy of them. In watching Jesus’ life, he had ever changing relationships. And still does.  One day you seek after Him, the next you fail to acknowledge him.

Humanity is about this, changing relationship thing. As our relationships transform, we are forced to as well. Sometimes I wonder if what we struggle with the most in the changing of ourselves. Wondering if we are strong enough, courageous enough to make it through.

That’s why we need a constant, a ‘never changing’. That’s why we need that thing that no matter what relationships come or go….

  • the marriage
  • the girlfriend who ditches you
  • the death of a parent
  • the sister who just wont’ talk to you
  • how she just doesn’t look at you the same anymore
  • how he just doesn’t want to be best friends with his mom
  • the business partner that betrays you
  • the daughter who leaves for college

He will be that  constant, the forever, unchanging…the timelessly faithful.  God knew this humanity he created would be always transforming, so He himself forever remains.  Be courageous, when everything changes, He is there.

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Why Cliques Don’t Disappear After High School

cluelessI hated high school. Dude, did I hate it. So much,  that the moment I discovered I could drop out, get my GED and go straight to college, I ran as fast as I could to sign up. I was an emotional mess and high school was daunting for me. My school educated approximately 3,600 students, 980 of which were in my future graduating class. I hated  feeling lost, I wasn’t challenged in my studies, and spent most of my time utterly confused.

What was hardest on me was the cliques. I was tall, awkward and to say I lacked confidence is a severe understatement. I constantly compared myself to other girls, tried my hardest to find my place, but I only found myself even more misplaced. The girls were ruthless, and loved only those who loved them. Those girls who were my friends in middle school found other places and spaces and boyfriends and activities. I simply roamed the halls, skipped classes, and felt alone.

Ironically, one of my favorite no-brainer movies is Mean Girls. It’s a story of a girl who moves to public education aftspartaner being homeschooled by her missionary parents in Africa. She discovers the hatred & the treachery of the realities of the clique. Oh and then there is Clueless…and of course our favorite SNL Skit with Will Ferrell….

And then there is the Breakfast Club. The absolute quintessential high school movie about cliques, and how at the end of the day…the end of a day at Saturday detention, we are all pretty much the same. This whole idea of exclusion is a universal struggle among all people. I felt like the poster child.

High school was tough and I thought by escaping the hallways, I would escape what I hated the most about them.  One of my Besties and I have had several conversations in the last few weeks about how our problems follow us no matter which state we attempt to escape to….or which school we try and ditch, or job we quit. I remember my first job in corporate America. I discovered rather quickly that high schoomean girlsl antics don’t go away after high school, they simply follow us. The haunting of the clique just seems to never go away…not even in the church.

It’s interesting to me how the entire ministry of Jesus was centered around abolishing the cliques, destroying the idea of exclusivity and challenging people to open their hearts to the least, the confused, the emotional mess. In the Kingdom of God, everyone has a place and it is one of honor. Yet within the Christian community, I witness these groups of people that sometimes seem impenetrable. The same women attend the same Bible studies, the same recovery people attend their groups. There are those who belong to this small group and those who belong to that volunteer group. And everyone has the same group of people they say hi to every week. We tend to only talk to those select neighbors, and those select friends. Seems we have missed the point completely!

We just don’t have time for everyone.

It’s just so uncomfortable.

We want church to be ours.

We want our evenings to be relaxing.

Three or four friends are enough.

We are afraid.

We are too worried about ourselves.

The reasons, the excuses, the rationale, all of it convince us that the safety of our clique is justified, because we are Christians doing life with other Christians.  It’s convoluted, and it’s not Biblical.

We must love everyone, and we must do it intentionally. We must go out of our way. Jesus went out of His way to love me, to give me a place to belong. After years of feeling alone, and even times now when it seems I have no place, I find a place in Him.  There are so many–lots of people–who need for once to NOT feel as if they are outside of the clique. It has to start with us. When Jesus called us to love others, it wasn’t intended to be from a distance. That command was so that we can love others in a way that make us uncomfortable, that forces us to depend on Him, that requires much of us.

Go to a different Bible Study.

Go outside after dinner and take a walk, and talk to your neighbors.

Invite your co-worker to sit with you at lunch.

Say hello to the lady at the grocery store.

We can never have enough friends.

Have that family over for dinner.

Everyone wants to be included.

Why do we love Facebook? Because anyone and everyone is there. Why do we want our kids to play for the YMCA? Everyone gets to play and everyone gets a trophy, everyone is included.

The cliques won’t disappear, but you can choose to not be a part of them anymore. You can choose to include and accept everyone. You can offer the love of Christ to every. single. person. within your reach. You have absolutely no idea who just might need it…it might be me, it might, in fact, be you.

LG|LP

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