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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Things I’m Learning About Handling Criticism

In our relationship John and I often say that the emotional trajectory of my typical day looks like this:roller-coaster-ftr

And John’s emotional trajectory looks like this:IMG_0532

So when a young woman I mentor asked if she could come over and talk to us about how John has navigated the crises and criticism of leadership with a “non-anxious presence” and how I have achieved the victory of not, you know…killing, any of those critics, we said, “of course!”

John’s temperament just naturally sets him up better for criticism, but he also has a lot of wisdom to share and I have a lot to learn.  Our conversation made me reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned  I am trying to learn about dealing with criticism.

Here are a few: Continue reading

Defining the Relationship

As I write this we’re in London with some of our closest friends, heading to a board meeting where our husbands will work, and the wives will continue to play. We pray for them and drink tea.  Or wine.  It’s an arrangement I’m partial to.  

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Anyway, I wrote this post (below) a week or so ago and as I read back over it this morning before hitting “publish”, I think it is true, and hopefully helpful, but like most things, it’s certainly not the whole story.

We are blessed beyond belief with the relationships God has given us.  If they are healthy, they ebb and flow.  We weep together in one season and laugh together in another.  Sometimes those seasons are one and the same.  We give and take, rant and chatter and share vulnerably.  We listen, and pray.  A lot.  We gather around a table or show up to help each other move or we write a note. We are all resourceful, important, trainable, nice, draining people…and somehow in the midst of doing life together we are changed.  We are iron sharpening iron and I am so grateful that God has given us all to each other.

It seems like there’s been a recurring theme in a bunch of my conversations lately.  It’s the DTR theme, and I don’t mean in the dating sense of the word. Continue reading

How Do You Picture Choosing Life?

As I’ve been traveling I’ve not been able to post very consistently and I’ve really dropped the ball on our One Word Fridays.  Sorry about that.

Like I wrote the other day, it’s been a week of living back into real life.  And part of that has been letting my heart and mind catch up with the rest of me.  Doing a kind of  Examen.  Celebrating places of Life, and mourning places of Death.

The main thing that drives me to write this blog is the conviction that we don’t just drift into becoming more like Jesus.  We have to pay attention.  When we do, maybe we end up saying with Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

So…today I’m paying attention to the “patches of God-light” or instances from the past two months that shouted, “This is what it looks like to choose LIFE!”.  Here are 6 of them:

1.  Hospitality  We had the delightful privilege of staying at the guest cottage belonging to some friends in Charlotte NC while we met with some mentors.  We had dinner with our friends and some different topics of interest came up in our conversation.  The next morning (one when rain was predicted), here’s what our hostess left outside our door.  The books are about the topics we had discussed the night before.

Choosing life = paying attention to the way I can serve others.

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2. Relationships  A week in one of my favorite cities, reconnecting with friends in ministry at National Community Church and spending time with daughter Katy!

Choosing life = learning from everyone everywhere.

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3. Travel in Israel/Palestine, Telos Conversations and at the International Justice Mission Global Prayer Gathering

Choosing life = partnering with God in His work of bringing justice around the world.

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4. Creation Life emerging from death, even in Minnesota!

Choosing life = noticing the smallest gifts.

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 5. Words

Choosing life = choosing to share life-giving words that build up rather than tear down.

Bob Goff (@bobgoff)
God doesn’t look for typos in our lives; He’s a creator, not an editor. We’re all rough drafts of who we’re becoming.

6. Random Acts of Kindness Twice in the past two months – once here and once in Florida, people have surprised us, paying for our dinner!

Choosing Life = looking for opportunities to delight others.

photo-102What are some places you’ve experienced Life over the past two months?

 

How Do You Picture Choosing Life?

As I’ve been traveling I’ve not been able to post very consistently and I’ve really dropped the ball on our One Word Fridays.  Sorry about that.

Like I wrote the other day, it’s been a week of living back into real life.  And part of that has been letting my heart and mind catch up with the rest of me.  Doing a kind of  Examen.  Celebrating places of Life, and mourning places of Death.

The main thing that drives me to write this blog is the conviction that we don’t just drift into becoming more like Jesus.  We have to pay attention.  When we do, maybe we end up saying with Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

So…today I’m paying attention to the “patches of God-light” or instances from the past two months that shouted, “This is what it looks like to choose LIFE!”.  Here are 6 of them:

1.  Hospitality  We had the delightful privilege of staying at the guest cottage belonging to some friends in Charlotte NC while we met with some mentors.  We had dinner with our friends and some different topics of interest came up in our conversation.  The next morning (one when rain was predicted), here’s what our hostess left outside our door.  The books are about the topics we had discussed the night before.

Choosing life = paying attention to the way I can serve others.

photo-98

2. Relationships  A week in one of my favorite cities, reconnecting with friends in ministry at National Community Church and spending time with daughter Katy!

Choosing life = learning from everyone everywhere.

photo-95

 

photo-101

3. Travel in Israel/Palestine, Telos Conversations and at the International Justice Mission Global Prayer Gathering

Choosing life = partnering with God in His work of bringing justice around the world.

IMG_6301

photo-100

photo-99

4. Creation Life emerging from death, even in Minnesota!

Choosing life = noticing the smallest gifts.

photo-96

 5. Words

Choosing life = choosing to share life-giving words that build up rather than tear down.

Bob Goff (@bobgoff)
God doesn’t look for typos in our lives; He’s a creator, not an editor. We’re all rough drafts of who we’re becoming.

6. Random Acts of Kindness Twice in the past two months – once here and once in Florida, people have surprised us, paying for our dinner!

Choosing Life = looking for opportunities to delight others.

photo-102What are some places you’ve experienced Life over the past two months?

 

Three Scathingly Brilliant Ideas and Two Words

My nickname in our family is “Idea Woman”.  Often I am mocked with the refrain “God loves you and Laura has a wonderful plan for your life.”

It’s ok.  I’ll own it.  I can’t help the way my mind works.  Ideas just kind of spurt out like fireworks.

While they were growing up, the girls and I used to watch the old movie “The Trouble with Angels” about Haley Mills causing mischief in a catholic boarding school.  We often repeat her line, “I have a scathingly brilliant idea! with a gleam in our eyes.

All that to say, in the past couple years I’ve been struck by three things that friends have done that seem scathingly brilliant and I want to share them with you.  These are not my ideas.  I just wish I had thought of them! Continue reading

“That” Person

I’ve thought a lot about this.

If I ever become an actress (Don’t laugh.  It could happen!), and I have a scene where I have to cry on cue, no sweat.  I’ve got this one covered.  Not because I’m particularly weepy (I’m really not at all, you know).  But because all I’ll have to do is think of “that person.”

You know.  “That person”.

I’m betting you have one too.  The person who won’t forgive you.

Or the one you thought loved you, but then betrayed, or rejected, or ignored, or walked away from you.  Or the one who pronounced a judgment that you’ve let define you.

Or the child you love who is making destructive choices, far from Jesus and you can’t control them or fix it and your heart is breaking.

And all it takes is for you to hear a certain song that brings back memories, or drive by a place where you used to feel welcome, or to accidentally see them.  Or not at all.

Continue reading

Three Things to Listen For

John and I “mentor” several young men and women, but I’m not crazy about that word.  Basically we’re all just travelers on a road trip trying to help each other find the exits, and the Culvers, scrape up enough money for tolls, and not crash.

All of us stumble and run and trudge along with each other.  Parent and child, friends of different generations, boss and staff, coaches, teachers, trainers…

Healthy or wounded or recovering, energized at times and weary at others, seeking sometimes, finding at others.  Discouraged or joy-filled we need each other.  

In all relationships I want to be present to God and to the other at the same time.  Kind of like when I’m in the Great Room at church after worship, talking to someone I can always discern John’s voice if he’s also in the room.  It’s distinctive and I know it.  How I long for that same ear attuned God’s voice while I’m in conversation with others!

Awhile ago I heard someone suggest that as we are present to God with others, there is often one of three things He may want us to listen for that may be needed.

1 Thessalonians 2:11,12 says “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

Whether it’s a child or friend or co-worker, does this person need encouragement and affirmation?  A picture of what’s possible?  Celebration of what you’ve seen in them?  Naming their gifts?

Or do they need an empathic listening ear?  Someone to sit by their side and remind them they’re not alone?

Lastly, might they need a kick in the butt?  Maybe that takes the form of correction or facing hard truth, or setting the bar higher?

This being present to God and others doesn’t come naturally for me.  It takes practice and  paying attention.  And sometimes I just ask the person, “What do need most today?”

As I reflect over my conversations from yesterday, I was responsive to God’s nudging with friends who needed comfort and encouragement, but with the boy I tutor, I think urging – more challenge – was called for, and I missed it in the moment.

What about you?

How to Write a Better Marriage Story than TomKat

Dear Max and Emily,

What a picture of joy!  It was a hot Minnesota summer afternoon and there was laughter and dancing and prayers and great hopes for your future together.  You were surrounded by people who love you.

So…right.

You did a lot of hard work to get to this place.  You did the pre-marital counseling thing and the financial seminar thing, and you really tried to honor God in every way as you walked towards marriage.

And now you’re here.  You’re married.

But the news these days is filled with stories of TomKat and John Edwards and Kim Kardashian, and Arnold Swarzenager.  And a thousand  million more examples of infidelity and “irreconcilable differences” and custody battles.  Disheartening, eh?

Why do you think you’ll be different than Kim and Arnold and whoever?  What will give you an edge so you won’t be another bad statistic in a few years.  Or 15?

Continue reading

Do you have a “Parade” Home?

I’m a house person.  I love them.  I love people who can create warm and welcoming environments where lively conversation happens and memories are made.

I love snooping around houses on the “Parade of Homes” tour in the spring and fall.  And by that I mean coveting and taking pictures and pretending someday I’ll actually have the money to create similarly lovely rooms.

But I’m also critical (as if I had a design degree, which I don’t).

The problem, in my mind, is that most houses are too divided up.

John says I never saw a wall I didn’t want to knock down.  And we’ve knocked down a wall or two in homes that we’ve owned.  These were messy propositions and the process left us feeling uncomfortable and unsettled.

For one season the microwave was in the study and there was a 4 ft. square hole in the floor of the family room that I stepped through, almost ending up in the basement.  A tad disconcerting.

This is a house I ride by on most days.  They’ve been working on it for what seems like at least 37 years.  First I watched them demolish the previous house.  Then cart off the rubble.  Then excavate and dig and pour a foundation and slowly, slowly begin to re-build.

If I were the owners I’d be going crazy.  I’d be so ready to settle for the quick version.  A little less attention to detail.

When I ride by I think of this quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house.

At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to?

The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.

You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

I’ve realized lately that there are some walls in my life that I’ve made load-bearing that weren’t meant to be.  And by that I mean some relationships.  I’ve expected them to bear the weight that only Jesus is meant to bear.

And they’ve come crashing down.

In His knocking about, Jesus has removed some relational supports that I really valued.  More than I should, perhaps.  Load-bearing walls that I was depending on too much to give me worth, identity…

Like a tiny hypnotic voice we’re not really conscious of, the whisper sometimes goes:  “If this person who’s talented, or hip, wise, or influential or popular values my friendship, or wants to date little ol’ me, then maybe I’m just all that too!  Maybe I’m actually more talented or hip, or wise, or influential, or popular than I feared.  I really am ok!”

And if we actually were aware of it, or heard it out loud we might say “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!”

But it’s subtle.

And then the demolition process feels kind of like stepping on an old barn ladder rung and having it snap.  All of a sudden you’re left hanging by one hand and the shock is a little scary and anger- producing and you’re thinking, “What just happened??”

But God whispers, “That friendship wasn’t meant to hold all your weight.  And it wasn’t meant to define your worth.  Only I am.  And I think you’re spectacular.  No matter what.  And your house is gonna be a lot more beautiful when I’m done with it.”

Can you relate?  Is God “knocking about” in your “house”?