About lauracrosby

I'm a follower of Jesus trying to pay attention to the story God desires to write with my life. I love creating all kinds of things, including a welcoming place in our home where there’s good food and lively conversation. I’m a friend to twenty-somethings journeying with Jesus (and mother to two of them). I’m a walker and a Starbucks groupie. This blog is about creative discipleship and reflections on leadership from my perspective as a friend, wife, leader, mom, daughter, mentor. As I write, the people I have in mind are the young leaders my husband and I are privileged to call friends, but I hope anyone who stumbles across this blog will go away encouraged.

5 Questions to Ask When You’re “CRAZY Busy”

“We’ve just been so CRAZY busy!”

I have a friend whose emails contain this phrase along with profuse apologies about her perpetual stress level almost every single time she writes me.

Sometimes I want to shout at the computer “Well STOP DOING so much!”

Brene Brown says exhaustion is the new status symbol. If we don’t feel overwhelmed we must not be doing something important.  Are you buying into that?

I want to tell my crazy busy friend about my sister-in-law who realized that they had had so many people visiting their lake cabin over the past few years that none of their family was actually able to enjoy it.  They were always hosting someone else, so she called a moratorium for this one summer.  A time out.  To that I say “Bravo!”  It can be done.

But I also realize how hard it must be to think of disappointing friends who don’t have lake homes and who look forward to visiting every year.  Boundaries are not without their downside.  They take courage and resolve.

As I’ve been thinking about my friend and my sister-in-law, 5 Questions have come to mind that might be helpful to ask ourselves when we’re “CRAZY Busy”:

1.  How does this level of busyness affect the state of my soul? Really.  Am I at my best at these rpm’s?  How much does my busyness feed my false self – the part of me that needs to be validated by my achievements?

2.  Is this just a season (temporary), or is it an on-going pattern of over-extending myself?

3.  Why have I said “yes” to each of these commitments?  Which have I said “yes” to out of fear or a need to prove something?  Examine your commitments one by one.

4.  Do I have choices where I may have been making excuses? (Ex.: I have to work on the sr. high school party because I did it when our other child was a sr.)

5.  Who are the right people to disappoint?

I’d really love to just sit down and have a conversation with you about this over a DQ Blizzard because I’d like to hear your thoughts too.

What do you think?  Is there one person you feel like you need to be willing to disappoint in order to have a healthier rhythm of life?

Need a little more encouragement?  You are not a victim.  You own your choices. Learn from Bob Goff who tries to quit something every Thursday.photo-157

 

 

Hospitality: Ideas For those Who are Hospi-phobic and Those Who are Fearless Too

It’s One Word Friday!

Like I wrote recently, part of “Choose Life” means choosing to exercise our gifts.

And you’ve got ’em!  You’re talented and capable and you’re gamers.

Hospitality seems to be one of mine, (although it’s easy to see how others are doing it so much better).  Some of you may have this gift too.  I hope you’ll add your ideas in the comments.

For others the thought of guests ringing your doorbell makes you want to hide under your bed.

Whether hospitality is one of your gifts or not, it’s a reflection of God’s welcoming heart that we’re all called to live out.  I hope this post will give you some resources and encouragement!

4 Suggestions if you’re new to opening your home:

1.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Potlucks take the pressure off and this is about community not performance.  Everyone has a recipe they’d like to try or time to pick up a bottle of wine.  Before or during the evening, people feel good when they’re asked to help.

2.  If you have an extra fridge/freezer, or a little extra room, keep some some basics there so you can pull them out in a pinch.  (Twice this year I’ve had people who said they’d bring a dessert forget, so out came the homemade brownies I had in the freezer) And pick up a bag of ice every time  you get gas.  You ALWAYS need ice.photo 2-4

3.  Do everything you can ahead of time.  I will set our dining room table even a day or two ahead (I know this may not work if you have tinies at home, but…).  This also gives me the freedom and space to be a little more creative with a theme if I want.

4.  Keep it in perspective.  I do this by making of point of stopping to pray for the people who will be coming to my home.  This is about THEM – making them feel welcome and valued.  I also matted and framed this great free printable I got from Myquillyn at the Nesting Placephoto-166

Hospi-phobics are you feeling a little better?  Deep breaths.  

Veterans, want some more ideas?

In the summer we do a lot more entertaining because our backyard becomes a huge additional “room”.  One of the best investments we made years ago, was to buy a “carport” tent on sale at Home Depot (I think) for about $90 and some 6 ft tables from Costco (also on sale).  We use them constantly in the summer.  Investing in some matching tablecloths also pays off over the years.

** Caveat!  If what you have is a 500 square foot apartment, USE IT! Fill it up with people and good conversation and laughter.  Reflecting the welcoming heart of God isn’t about size.  For us using our yard and investing in some reusable pieces has just been helpful.

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I often do a Tex-mex theme.  I bought some red bandanas super cheap (I think they come in packs at Walmart) to use as napkins.  If you want a cheaper alternative to tablecloths, get some of the stuff they wrap trees with to use as burlap table runners.  Mason jars are fun for glasses.  If you are smart, you can find pie tins at garage sales to use for plates (but I’m not that smart. Or committed)

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We went to dinner at some friends’ house abut a month ago and she gave me this great idea.  She got these marinated meats to grill from Trader Joes, and put out all the fixings for Tacos or whatever.  This is great for a potluck too cuz everyone can bring a different topping.

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And then there’s this new salad recipe I’ve been making over and over this summer.photo-135

  • 1 can black beans (14 ounces), rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels (I USED FRESH CORN OFF THE COB)
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (half a palmful)
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Tabasco (eyeball it) (I OMITTED)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil (eyeball it)
  • Salt and pepper
  • I HAD SOME CHERRY TOMATOES SO I HALVED THEM AND ADDED

The original recipe had this option (but I really like fresh corn): Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Let stand for at least 15 minutes for the corn to fully defrost and the flavors to combine, then toss and serve. The corn will also place a quick-chill on this easy side-salad as it defrosts – no need to refrigerate!  Serves 4

We have a great family recipe for homemade guacamole, but an easier alternative is to buy some at the store and “doctor it” with some fresh cilantro and avocados.

And lastly… an ice cream dessert.  Think about it… You don’t want to waste food!  There won’t be any left, but if there is, an ice cream dessert won’t spoil.  Just put it back in the freezer!
Oreo Sundae Dessert
Crust: 1 pkg (35) oreos, crushed.
1/2 stick butter melted.
Mix and pat in greased 9×13 pan  (can reserve 1 cup crumbs for topping if you want)
Filling: 1/2 gallon ice cream (i used java chip)
Topping: 
melt 3 squares unsweetened chocolate
3/4 c. butter
2 t. vanilla
4 well-beaten egg yolks
2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
Beat 4 egg whites beaten stiff.  Fold into chocolate mixture and pour over ice cream. Freeze 🙂

Now it’s your turn!  If you’re a veteran at hospitality, what works for you?  If not, what overwhelms you?

 

How to Make a Difference Today

I’ve been a little “off” lately.  A bit of a cranky pants.  And as I examined why, the thing that I noticed was that I’ve really been neglecting the soul rhythm of time in God’s Word.  So this morning I started on a new Bible reading plan, breathing in Genesis 1.

And two things clicked together – God’s words for me, and words for others

First, when I read… I read, pray, & meditate (RPM).  Actually it’s not usually in that order, but RPM is catchy :).

I read the passage and meditate on it.  And what I mean by meditate is that I try to pay attention to verses God quickens my spirit to, and specifically I ask “What does this passage teach me about God and about myself?”

Then I pray the passage into my life.

Here’s what I breathed in from Genesis 1:

  • God is powerful.
  • His Word is powerful. It makes a difference.
  • Words are powerful.
  • God’s words call out life and beauty.
  • I am made in HIs image.

So…then I pray about reflecting God’s image.  How can I call out life and beauty today?

Second, I received the Best. Note. Ever. from our daughter, Katy.  It was another reminder to me of the power of our words to call forth life and beauty in others.

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As our communications guru friend reminds us, “Words Matter!”

Katy’s note was a tangible example of someone reflecting the image of God – making a difference with her words.

This practice of note writing has been a powerful one for me.

Years ago I felt prompted to write a mentor from college who I had been out of touch with.  I thanked him for his influence in my life, growing me to be a leader more like Jesus.  He wrote back that my note had come at the lowest day of his life, where personal challenges had tempted him to believe maybe nothing he had done in ministry had really mattered.   That little note I wrote at that exact time made a difference.  God used it, and God can use your words too.

I try to reflect each morning on different people, conversations, experiences…Is there something I’ve noticed, or some conversation where someone else was affirmed and I haven’t told them?  And I’m reminded of this sign at the airport:

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Here are a few of thingsI’m learning:

  • Emails are ok, but there’s something special about receiving a “real” card with someone’s personal penmanship that you can save.
  • Being super specific is the key to a life-giving note.  There’s a huge difference between “I really appreciate you.” and “The way you welcomed me with a hug and a smile the other day made me feel so loved. It was such a reminder of God’s care for me.”
  • What’s not turned to praise is turned to pride.  We’re all in this together.  We’re dependent on God and His gifts to us through those around us.  Let’s encourage each other!

What is YOUR experience with words of encouragement?  What would you add to what I’ve learned?  Share in the comments!

 

 

 

What to do when School Starts

As I write this it’s almost Labor day, and I’ve been thinking a lot about you Moms with kids of every age starting back to school – thinking about transitions and All Of The Feelings.

It’s the end of August and I’m “up north”.  This is my view.

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Don’t hate me, but I can breathe deep and enjoy this lake air (and the mocha John just brought me, thank you very much) without being interrupted by an 8 year old who wants to play UNO. or a 12 year old who wants me to take them on a jet-ski, or a toddler who can’t find his Thomas the Tank pez dispenser (and all the drama that comes with).

I love this season of life and the freedom it gives me, don’t get me wrong.  But this – this time of transition from Summer to Fall is also a time of grieving for me.  I miss the back-to-school shopping and the exciting beginning of all of the THINGS for the new year.  I miss “bouquets of newly-sharpened pencils”, the season of hands-on parenting with all the family traditions and night time prayers and snuggled up in jammies story reading.  I miss our first day of school chicken pot pie dinner, and I miss the annual measuring of our girls.

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Moms I know you.  I’ve been you.  Most of you are a little schizophrenic at this point.  You tackled summer with gusto, doing the strawberry picking and the zoo visits and fishing pole baiting memory-making, but you’re just so over summer now.  You’re ready to take a break from your role as Camp Director of all the Fun Outings in the Universe.

You’re thrilled about taking the FIRST DAY pictures, making the special FIRST DAY breakfast, and walking the kids to the bus stop.

But then??  Then, you’re all about running inside, collapsing back against the door of your house and exhaling with a “Praise Jesus I’ve made it through another summer without inflicting bodily harm on my kids (bless their hearts)!”  There may even be a little Hallelujah-Chorus-humming going on (don’t deny it).

That’s good!  You’re doing great.  You really are.  And you should celebrate!

I get it.  I’ve been there.  But can I make a little suggestion?  A tweak to your celebration?

Sometime today when the kids are out the door to pre-school or high school or college, (or their job because the empty nest may be a myth), take a minute in the stillness after the “get ’em out the door storm” and look around you.  Even walk through your quiet house. Look for signs of growth in your kids and in your family.  And thank God.  

Maybe it’s a picture of one of your kids learning to horseback ride on a family vacation, or the first chapter book your grade-schooler read this summer, or a Scripture verse you memorized.  Take time to mark the moment.

In our hurry up culture we may FB post it or Instagram or Tweet a moment, but I wonder how often we truly sit in an experience with thanksgiving.

You’ve been faithful to show up and nurture your tribe of yahoos all summer and they’ve grown.  So have you.

God has been faithful to show up and equip you and grow the whole lot of you.

Well done!

“He who began a good work in you (and your kids) will be faithful to complete it” through every season.

So maybe a little “Yay God!” party at the dinner table?  Perhaps ask each person to share a way that they feel they’ve grown this summer.

Are your kids back in school?  How are you feeling during this season?  What do you do to mark the transition?

 

How Jen Hatmaker Interrupted my Perfectly Lovely Summer (and may wreck yours too)

It was the beginning of June and the whole summer stretched gloriously before me.  Oh the dreams I’d dream, the goals I’d achieve, the books I’d not only read, but remember and apply to EVERY AREA OF MY LIFE!  I was especially excited to get my grubby little hands on the new edition of Jen Hatmaker’s book, Interrupted.

I pounced on the opportunity to get an advance copy in order to link up and post on it.  After all, my merry little band of spiritual misfits had joyfully jumped into “7” and experienced our own mutiny against excess a couple of summers ago.  I figured we were game for something new.

But here’s the thing…I missed some “fine” print.

Ok, it might not have been so “fine”, but I definitely missed two important details.

First?  The subtitle: When Jesus Wrecks your Comfortable Christianity.  WHY in the name of sweet baby Jesus would I want to read THAT??  If I’m comfortable with my Christian life (and I definitely am!), why would I want to be wrecked?

Note to marketing department: No one who actually reads the subtitle of this book is going to want to buy it.  “Wrecking” is not a selling point.

Second?  Due date for this post.  I read Interrupted last week on flights while John and I were traveling to and from a leadership conference (It’s SUMMER, for Pete’s sake!  I haven’t had time to read MEANINGFUL THINGS earlier than this with all the sun-filled lolly-gagging I’ve been doing!).

Friday night late we landed, John re-packed, and left for another trip.  I threw the book at him as he went out the door shouting, “Here! READ THIS!  I refuse to be the only uncomfortable, wrecked disciple in this family!”

The next thing I know I’m catching up on email and there’s a reminder from Jen that our posts should go up on Monday.  Cue the frantic texts to husband.  (Extra !!!!’s since he rarely reads his texts.)

Me: You didn’t really take the book with you did you?!

John: Well, yes I did, Darling, light of my life, because I’m the dutiful husband and I always do exactly what you tell me.

Me: Ok, here’s the plan. You’re going to take pictures of the pages where I had the most things underlined and email them to me.  Then I’ll figure out something coherent to write.  And YOU come up with a catchy title!

Aaaand here’s how that worked:

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But, as we say in our family, “It’s better this way…”

Honestly, it’s all good because, this provides a convenient metaphor for what discipleship and being the church is all about – just showing up together and doing our messy best, mucking it up and trying again, right?  Seriously, Jen illustrates this delightfully, and authentically as she shares her personal journey with Jesus to a counter-cultural understanding of church and family life.

As much as it was uncomfortable, I loved this book because Jen writes with a beautiful mixture of grace, truth, and self-deprecating humor.  She is where most of us are – truly doing our best to respond to the stuff Jesus shows us, as we gradually let our guard down.  We have these little (or not so little) revelations… like, Ohmygosh! WE are to be the church, loving people wherever we are, not just inviting them to our church building where the PROFESSIONALS can “tell them all the things.”

The good news is that Jen writes like we’re in this discipleship stuff together and it’s gonna be ok if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other and not taking ourselves too seriously.  Making mistakes as we befriend homeless folks will not result in eternal damnation. It was gentle encouragement like this that kept me from throwing the book and yelling, “Leave me alone Jen Hatmaker (and Jesus)!.”

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book (If I get a word or page # wrong, grace please!  I’m squinting, half-blinded at the pictures John sent :))

“Because my experience with poor people was limited, I placed the emphasis on poor but misunderstood the essential part: people.  Which is the polar opposite perspective.  When they were ‘poor’ to me, then I was the benevolent, hyper friendly white girl who had a hard time entering into a real conversation.  The emphasis was on what I was offering: food, gloves, water, a bus pass.  What I saw in them was need, so that is what I addressed.  You require something; I’m here to deliver it with my White Savior Complex solidly in hand… (Eventually,) I started noticing not so much their need but their humanity.”

This makes me think of what we learned in Toxic Charity, (another good read) and my experiences with the homeless and Jesus on the corner.  Oh so easy to see projects instead of people. Lord have mercy!

“It’s easy to visit the bottom with works while our hearts remain higher up.  That’s just charity.  It’s a moment, not a permanent relocation. It is something entirely different to adopt the mind of Christ.  That’s when we don’t just act lowly; we are lowly.  Our minds are not safely secured up higher, awaiting our return after we’re done patronizing those at the bottom.” (p. 146?)

How am I living incarnationally, like…everywhere?  In my neighborhood, at the post office, at work and school?  In the Costco parking lot!! Arrgh!

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“For all my self-proclaimed love of God’s Word, what I really loved were the parts that worked for me.  For my good.  For my blessings.  The sections that made for a great outline or fit a funny story I had in the queue.  The themes I knew my listeners wanted to hear.”

Ouch, OUCH, OUCH!!!  Now you’ve stopped preaching and started meddling woman!

“I believe the largest factor in feeling unfed is not feeding others.  It has less to do with your pastor’s preaching style or the curriculum you’re studying.  We have an innate craving to live on mission with God in the dangerous, exciting world.  Out there is where we come to life, get over ourselves, are fed.  Fulfillment exists in becoming a slave to everyone in order to win someone to Jesus.  Discipleship was never simply about learning; it was constructed on living.” (p. 232)

Amen sister!  One of the phrases we hear in ministry that makes me the craziest is “I’m just not being fed”!  Come say that to me when you’re DOING everything Jesus has showed you and need more of a challenge.  And I say that to myself too!  How many verses can I quote but don’t live?  Anyway…enough of that…

To sum up, this is a book about having your life turned upside down by Jesus in the best possible way.  It’s about really, really being the church in the world – loving all of it – every dark corner and broken heart that Jesus came to redeem and restore, even if that means stretching a teensy bit outside your comfort zone, because wherever you go He’s there too.

My little group of crazies is looking forward to using Interrupted as a study book this fall and anyone is welcome to join us!  More later…

What scares you most about following Jesus?

 

 

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Praying Aloud and Letters from Camp

I love Ellen Degeneres’ quote: “August is like the Sunday of summer.”  I agree!  I’m going to be traveling the next couple of weeks and taking a little Sabbath so I’ll be re-posting some favorite thoughts from the past. Let’s just call it “Throw Back End-of-August.”  Ok, maybe we won’t call it that because it’s super awkward.  Let me know if you can think of a different title. This post was from August of 2012.

Some (most??) people dread praying aloud as much as they dread getting on a scale the day after Thanksgiving.

When it comes time for closing prayer in your small group do you hyper-ventilate?  Suddenly decide you need to go to the bathroom?  Get a case of laryngitis?

Me?  Like it or not, I’ve been doing it for a long time.  Occupational hazard.

So I’ve gotten at least fairly ok at the “lifting ups” and the “if it’s your wills” and Bibley words like “grace and mercy”.

My out loud prayers are kind of like business letters all proper and punctuated, politically correct and polite.

But my real prayers?  They sound more like David’s prayers of desperation than Mary’s Magnificat.

My “real” prayers sound like:

“Helpmehelpmehelpme!  Oh, look!  There’s a bird!”

Or like a letter from a kid at camp home to his parents:

But here’s what I’m thinking.  As a parent, any communication from my kids is golden.  I don’t care what they say, I just want them talking to me.

And as a parent, I know they’re kids.  They’re not going to talk like me or think like me, or always remember their manners.

Yeah, I want them to know me, to trust me, to obey me, to ask my opinion, but they’re kids, and if they’re talking to me that’s a start!

What do your “real” prayers sound like?  What do you really want to say to God?

5 Questions About…Parenting Teens

Ok, so I know many of you don’t have teens, but you interact with teens, or you’ll raise teens someday or you’ve already raised teens and can add to this post in the comments section!  I’m super excited for you to hear from my wise, authentic, fun, friend, Molly Dykstra sharing on our “5 Questions About…” series.  You might recognize her from Wednesday’s post too :).

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1.  You are a parent I admire so much!  Can you tell us a little about your kids and their personalities?

Admire?!! I have three “kids” although they are really all young adults now (need to keep reminding myself of that.)

Mackenzie is 18, just graduated from High school.  She is articulate, insightful, outgoing, an organizer and initiator, can be impatient, has learned to love time on her own to recharge her batteries, loves photography and creating beautiful spaces.  

Clara is 16, going in to her junior year of HS.  She is open, adventuresome, empathetic (intensely), laser focused about things she is excited about, passionate, daring, can be indecisive, loves being at the cabin, and caring for kids on the margins.

Bennett is 12, heading into 7th grade.  He is charming, witty (funny!), thoughtful, talkative, prone to forget to pick up after himself, caring, gregarious, smart, loves lacrosse, skiing, and drumming up fun with his friends.  

2.  People look at your family and see an ideal, but I know parenting hasn’t been without its challenges (just like for anyone).  What have been the dynamics that have been most challenging to you as a mom?

Not so sure about people seeing an ideal in our family, maybe a collection of craziness!! Oh the challenging dynamics…. Lots and lots of personality/opinion/need to voice that opinion–not a quiet one among us which makes for many heated dinner table ‘conversations’ (when we are able to corral the troops), slammed doors, raised (?!!) voices clamoring to be heard; having two girls close in age–tons of comparison/feeling they ‘fall short’ vs. the other who ‘has it all’; having a home with tight quarters that can feed the intensity.

3.  What are the resources that have been most helpful?

Partnership. Being married to someone (Jeff :)) who ‘gets it’ (the emotional dynamics) and is willing and wants to talk things through, be intentional, roll up his sleeves and do it together.  

Friends. Spending time with/sharing in a vulnerable, authentic way with friends who are in the same life stage–getting past our well kept homes and conversation about our jobs and kids’ schedules and into the nitty gritty…gives us the sense (Truth) that we are not alone. 

Spiritual Disciplines. Being willing to do the hard work of taking care of myself (therapy, forced rest, time alone, capturing early morning as my Sacred time.)

Most “parenting” books have been the WORST thing for me (Ahhcckk!  We aren’t doing allowance/chore chart/family devotions/serving together/fill-in-the-blank well/consistently/at all!!)

Like Dew Your Youth: Growing up with Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson is the only book resource specifically about parenting that I would stand firmly behind.  I picked this book up off a shelf at a house where we were staying a few years ago because I didn’t get the title (it’s a reference to a psalm-something about how dew is fleeting, so is adolescence, etc.) and have read it over and over.  The premise is that going through the stage of having adolescents is about something WE, as parents, need in order to refine us and humble us and bring us back to a place of dependence on God.  Seriously.

4.  What have you learned about yourself and God in the process of walking alongside your kids through hard circumstances?

About myself: I am vulnerable to self-condemnation; I am prone to panic and try to do rather then pause and pray for strength and wisdom; I need my support crew–they don’t just need me; I am good at listening to my kids; I do not have answers/solutions/programs that work or stick or last, so it’s best to not put too much stock in those.

About God: He is near-even in the middle of the night when the overwhelm can be most intense-especially in His Words in the Psalms; He is shaping all 5 of us all the time–we are all in process; light does come again after dark, spring after winter– He carries us THROUGH things.

5.  What advice would you give parents of teens?

Trust that God is at work and will finish what He has started.  And know that, at the end of the day, you are loved and that doing the best you can (which is often not that great) is enough–He fills in the gaps.

Taking Out Drones, and 4 Thoughts about Meaningful Community

This is a picture of my small group from when we met the other night (with a few missing).

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Yep, these are my people.  Ready take out drones (which one of us is sure are pervasive and always spying on us).

photo 1-3 In addition to gun-popping, the evening included a potluck of appetizers, brainstorming about beer sleigh-rides, hysterical laughter, and prayer.photo 2-2John can’t get over how loud we are and how we are able to talk over each other in excitement, but still hear and respond.  These are the same yahoos who joined me in an “experimental mutiny against excess” ala Jen Hatmaker.  They are gamers for sure.

But what we were talking about the other night was relationships.  We’ve been using Donald Miller’s Creating Your Life Plan, which is a great set of ten modules looking back to evaluate different areas of your life, and looking forward to set intentional goals. So this week we were mapping out the most significant relationships in our lives and analyzing them.

“The people you hang out with the most over the next 10 years, will determine the kind of person you will become.” Donald Miller

Two of the questions we talked about were:

  • What relationships are positively affecting who I’m becoming?
  • What relationships are negatively affecting who I’m becoming?  What changes can I make or boundaries can I put in place?

I’d encourage you to go through the exercise yourself (or order the whole deal!), but actually it was the tangential conversations we had that have kept me thinking this week.  In addition to getting side-tracked onto talking about beer sleigh rides, we noticed these things:

1. We all experience loneliness to some degree, no matter how healthy or friendly or connected we are.  We long for meaningful relationships and can find them, but no other person will completely satisfy our desire for knowing and being known and completely accepted.  We were made for God and only are complete in Him.  But we are made for each other too, so doing the hard work of finding and investing in meaningful friendships is worthwhile.

2. Different seasons require different degrees of intentionality.  When we are young and/or single, or older and empty-nesters we have more freedom, more choice in our relationships, but we also have to do more initiating.  There aren’t as many relationships naturally built into the rhythm of our life.

For those in a season with kids, there are many years when community is comprised of “have to’s” – the people who are there at the soccer games, or on the PTA committee with you, or parents of your kids’ friends.  You have a lot of relationships built into the rhythm of your life, but not as much time to choose who you’re going to spend time with.  It’s important to identify what choices you do have.

3. There’s a wide variety of relationships where we need change. They may be family members.  They may be unhealthy people.  But they may also be great people who just bring out the worst in us – tempt us to compare or reinforce the negative voices in our head.  It’s important to ask both, “What might God desire to teach me through this relationship?” and “What boundaries might make this relationship healthier?”

4. No matter how extroverted we may be, we all have a limited capacity – a limited number of relationships we can maintain healthily.  And that may differ according to the emotional needs of family in different seasons.  It’s good for us to acknowledge our limits, adjust our expectations, and be gentle with ourselves.

That’s a little of what I’ve been learning about relationships.  That, and pop-guns make any gathering more fun.  What about you?  What are you learning or struggling with in this area?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Important Truths about Encouragement

Good Morning!  Hope you had a refreshing weekend soaking up God’s goodness.  This is what greeted me this morning as I started to write.

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Now don’t you wish you lived in Minnesota (or woke up earlier :))? 

Since it’s summer and we have lots of new readers to the blog, (and, let’s be honest…I’m ready for a writing break), I thought I’d share a post from a couple of years ago.  Hope it’s helpful to you. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Last weekend John and I preached together on the topic of Encouragement from the book of Acts.

AARRGGHH!  When we do this he is exceedingly kind and because I’m a planner and he’s a “fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants” guy which freaks me out, he lets me study and write the sermon and then he just naturally does his thing, which is always authentic and conversational and makes everything better.

Anyway, I’ve always thought about encouragement as a good thing, a nice thing…

But as I studied it in the book of Acts I began to see it as a crucial tool that God uses to combat Satan in a spiritual battle that is continually raging.  I fear that sounds all hokey/pokey intense and mystical, but think about it…

Satan’s goal is to get us to believe the lies that

we don’t matter,

that God is powerless,

and that we’re all alone.

When we encourage, we remind others of God’s truth – that they do matter, it’s gonna be ok, and they’re not alone.

You can listen, or get more resources here, but what I’ve been thinking about is three things we didn’t say.

1.  Discouragement is personal. Not only does Satan lie to discourage, but he is also crafty liar.  He tailors his whispers to each of us uniquely.  His attacks usually center around our identity.  So if we’re tempted to find our worth in being married, he’ll whisper “You’re not lovable.  You’re not attractive to anyone.”  If we’re tempted to find our worth in accomplishment he may whisper “You’re only a mom, or a secretary, or a barista, or a whatever…  You’re not making a difference.  You’re not good enough.”

Be aware.

2.  Encouragement is personal. The most powerful encouragement is very specific.  When someone says, “Nice sermon.” I tend to discount it as just polite small talk.  It’s like the difference between “You’re terrific!” and “You have a gift of hospitality that helps people experience the welcoming heart of God.  Thank you.”

Be specific.

3.  Timing is personal.  Never underestimate the power of encouragement used in a timely way by God.  Years ago I “randomly” felt prompted to write a guy in another part of the country who had been a mentor in leadership training for me in college.  I hadn’t had contact with him in 20 years.  I wrote of the impact his modeling had made in my life, specifically how his investment had made a kingdom difference.  Little did I know that this was a divinely timed prompting from the Holy Spirit.

I received a response from him saying “Your note came at the absolute lowest point in my life.  I had lost perspective.  I was in despair, convinced that my ministry hadn’t made any difference, that I had sacrificed for years with no fruit.  Your note was the reminder from God that I needed.”  Wow.  Blew me away!

Be responsive to promptings.

In what situations are you likely to be discouraged?  What has been most encouraging to you?

5 Questions About… helping people in pain

The next in our “5 Questions About…” series!! Patty McGeever is my best friend from college.  When John met her he said, “I can sure see why you guys are friends!”  She’s fun and funny and compassionate and wise, and has all-together the best laugh ever.  She has been on an amazing life-journey where God has been using her to come alongside people in pain, or resource people helping others in pain around the world.  This picture was taken this May when our paths crossed in London.  She had just come from Nigeria and was on her way to Turkey and then Azerbaijan. Crazy, eh? 
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You have a background in counseling and social work.  How did you discover that God had given you gifts in this area? 

I didn’t discover this. My father was the one who recognized this for me.  He was diagnosed with cancer when I was 16 and treated for 9 years at MD Anderson in Houston, TX.  During that time, he got to know 2 Social Workers and shared with me that he thought I would like their job.  As I began studying this in college, it was the one subject that I made good grades in without a lot of work.

Upon graduation as I sought where God might want me to work I read:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Suddenly, it was like all the pieces of the puzzle were put together.  This was a job I could do well and God had created me this way because He knew the path my life would take. He had equipped me in ways I had not realized.  

2.  Can you share a story of a time when God used you beyond how you felt you were capable?

Always.  

But you asked for one.  

My family and I had moved to Papua New Guinea to serve with a nonprofit organization there.  I was a counselor in a community of over 300 ex-pat workers from over 14 different countries.  The students had gone on their annual retreat.  Early one morning, I received a phone call informing me that a 17-year-old girl had been gang raped by 3 Papua New Guinea men.  A helicopter would be bringing her back to our compound and I was to meet her with our doctor at the clinic. 

I was overwhelmed.  How could I help this young woman, her family and the youth on the retreat and then the entire community who would know that this event had taken place?  

I had not received any training that would prepare me for this type of scenario.  But I was the counselor there. I had to cling to God to provide the words I did not have. 

In looking back, I realize that God could have picked someone else who had experience in this but He didn’t.  He picked me with all my weaknesses.  He must have His reasons for doing that and I just need to show up.

3. What’s one lesson you’ve learned over the years about helping people in pain?

Bad things happen to good people. So much of the time I encounter well-meaning, really wonderful people who are experiencing really challenging things. There isn’t an easy explanation for this either.  Somehow telling people that ‘in all things God works for the good to those who love him’ just wasn’t helpful or appropriate.  The truth is that so much of the time the good seems very far away.  I had to learn to trust God even when I didn’t understand why things were happening in a certain way.

4. Even those of us who don’t have specific gifts in this area want to help friends who are hurting.  What are some mistakes you see people making?

People try to fix the other person’s problem when most of the time the best thing we can do for a friend is listen.  

People worry about saying the ‘right’ thing. Often there isn’t anything to be said. The best thing you can do is be there and stop thinking about you.

5. What advice do you have for those walking alongside others in crisis?

  • Listen, listen, listen.  
  • Ask questions to help them continue to tell their story… like ‘what happened, what was the hardest part for you, or what else happened’?
  • Don’t make judgments.  No one needs to hear that they are doing something wrong in the midst of their crisis.  
  • The process of telling their story will bring healing.  

Additional resources Patty recommends: