What I’m Into – November 2015

So, I haven’t blogged about much of anything in the last few months because over the summer I got a new job and moved halfway across the country to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Life in the Midwest if very different than life on the East Coast, and I’m still – after 5 months in my new position – figuring out to balance work and writing and dating and friending. (Yes, I did just make that a verb.) I don’t know that I’m doing all things well, as I haven’t written in months and months, but I really like my job and I’m really loving the life I’m building in this new place.

Reading

Out-of-Sorts-CoverSarah Bessey’s Out of Sorts – As is often the case, my favorite writers books tend to meet me right in the moment that I need them. Moving to GR and meeting new people and sharing my story of how I ended up here has had me confessing some ugly truths that I think about church, and I needed someone’s permission to be messy about it still. I needed someone to remind me:

“Lean into your questions and your doubts until you find that God is out here in the wilderness too.”

 “Sometimes we have to cut away the old for new to grow. We are resurrection people, darling.”

 “I’m not afraid for you: you are held. You are loved and you are free. I am hopeful for you.”

 Notes from a Blue Bike coverTsh Oxenreider’s Notes From a Blue Bike – My BFF read this over the summer and loved it, which inspired a lot of good conversations about education and food and consumerism, which is why I decided to read it too. I didn’t love it as much as she did, and I think it’s simply because I’m not in the same space to receive it – as a wife, as a mom, and all that. But that said, I did like it and Tsh did make me think about things I wouldn’t have otherwise.


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Frank Miller’s Dark Knight III I know, I know. #nerdalert. But, I truly can’t help it. Frank Miller’s Batman is my favorite and I have been jonesing to get my hands on Book 1 of his new series – which is exactly how my buddy Matt convinced me to go to the comic book shop at midnight on Black Friday. #nerdswag.

Books that are next on the docket: Amber Haines’ Wild in the Hollow, Kathleen Norris’ Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Chip Heath & Dan Heath’s Switch: How to Change Thing When Change is Hard.

I remain in desperate need of a good novel and am not above begging for your suggestions.

Watching

Joy and I don’t have cable or Internet hooked up in our apartment yet, so we’ve been binge-watching Gilmore Girls on DVD.   Which also explains why our dining room is still full of boxes needing to be unpacked.

Also, because he really likes me, Nick has been watching Parks and Recreation, so many of our date nights have been literally Netflix and chill. (Welcome to dating in your thirties when you have jobs and classes and are exhausted by 8 PM.)

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When I was mooching off living with Miranda the last three months, I subjected her to The Voice, Castle, and… Grey’s Anatomy. Which I’m guessing means she’s pretty excited that I’m not commandeering her remote anymore.

Listening

Ben Rector’s new album, Brand New.

Andrew McMahon, In the Wilderness…over and over again.

The Magnolia Record Club playlist on Spotify, compiled by the Club’s founder Drew Holcomb. (Super sweet folk indie music. I’m in love.)

I’m not a super fan of Christmas, but this year seems like one worth celebrating – 2015 has been a good year to me. So, if you have suggestions of solid Christmas music (think Sara Groves instead of Michael Buble), I’m open to those too.

Doing

Joy and I moved into our new apartment last weekend. It only took us three months to find it, so yay!

I travelled home for Thanksgiving, and basically spent the week playing with my nephews and niece-in-love. It was perfection.

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It’s hard to believe that it’s less than a month until I’m home again. It would be ridiculous of me to pretend that I’m not thrilled about this. Because it’s not the easiest thing to feel like your heart is in two places, which I know sounds crazy because most people spend their lifetime trying to find just one place to belong. But, I spend a lot of time feeling split – wanting to be here, wanting to be there. I miss my home people when I’m in GR, and I miss my GR people when I’m home. I don’t always know how to deal with the tension, so I binge watch Gilmore Girls, and text my friends and my parents, and I go to bed thinking that there really are worse problems to have than having people who love you from different pockets of the world.

What I'm Into

 

I’m linking up again with Leigh Kramer and her  What I’m Into  series, even though the last one I did was over a year ago because I’ve forgotten how to blog.

 

On being a social media specialist

I’ve been in Grand Rapids about a month now. It’s a little surreal being back in the same stomping grounds I trudged as a college kid a decade ago. People keep telling me that GR has undergone a “renaissance” over the years, that there are lots of cool breweries, restaurants, museums, and farmers markets; that it’s not the same place it was before.

Thank goodness, I say, because I’m not the same person I was before.

This time I’m in GR for a job – full-time, complete with benefits, and a retirement plan, and insurance. Next time someone asks me what brought me to GR, I might just say, “I’m here for the retirement plan.” This is, I think, a very grown-up reason to move.

But, I want to be clear about something – I’m not here just for a job. I’m not here just for the retirement plan. (Although, holy benefit, Batman!) I’m here for this job at this place with these people.

About a month ago, I moved to GR to be a social media specialist with Our Daily Bread. This means that I’m helping create and manage the online presence for Off the Page and a couple of our other blogs. If it’s tweeted, posted, or shared via social media, that’s me. I’m the human behind the avatar.

And I want to be really clear about this – my job is actually the coolest. I have no idea how I get to be the one to do it, but I think it has a lot to do with God’s grace. Like, a lot. Like, everything.

Because here’s the thing: that I have this job makes no sense. Technically, this position falls within the broader area of marketing, and I have no marketing experience or know-how. I’ve never taken a marketing or communications class in my life, unless you count Speech my freshman year of college, which I don’t because I’m embarrassed by the things that I said in front of people. Eighteen year old me was wrong a lot.

Anything I’ve learned about social media I’ve learned as a blogger trying to build a platform, as a youth leader trying to stay connected to her students, as a person hoping to find other people who are wrestling through some of the same things. My managers and supervisors and co-workers are quick to affirm that the marketing stuff is all teachable, and they want the greater voice that I’m bringing to the conversations that we’re having about Millennials leaving church, and disengaging with God (if they are), and how we can best meet them where they are.

And, let’s be honest, we all know those conversations are my jam. (My apologies to anyone who has stepped into my cube for a “quick chat” and ended up staying for at least a half hour.) The work that I’ve done as a counselor and a youth minister made them my jam, as did the reading and the praying I did right alongside them, and I have a lot of thoughts. And I wouldn’t trade that for all the marketing classes in all the world.

And there are no words for how grateful I am to be in a place that affirms the right things and teaches what can be taught. There’s a lot of Jesus in that, I think.

I’m learning, I think, that the strength of social media is its power to connect people to each other – people who wouldn’t otherwise be connected. It’s what I’ve loved about it for years as a blogger and wannabe writer, and it’s what I experienced as a youth leader with my students, and I’m working hard on figuring out how to do that for Off the Page too.

Because the people behind that blog – our writers and video makers and content producers, and our advisory team, and our content editor – they are all awesome. They’re people who love Jesus deeply, and are intentional to put in a little grace in the world any way that they can. They’re people you should know. And if social media is a means by which we can make that happen, I hope we (I) figure out how to do that well.

(Otherwise, I might get fired and lose my retirement plan. And I moved to GR for the retirement plan.)

Looking for Something Different

different

I was mean to a friend in Bible study. We were studying Romans and she was making a misinformed point about the Abrahamic covenant, and I let her know in no uncertain terms that she was wrong. I quoted verses from Genesis and some of the Prophets, and I threw out definitions of Hebrew and Greek words for good measure, just to hammer home the point that I was right and she was wrong. And I lost the argument at the exact moment my friend shut up and curled herself into the corner of her couch, like a dog who couldn’t take being smacked with the newspaper anymore.

My best friend, who is also in Bible study and who sat nearby as I reduced our friend to a smaller version of herself, was quick to hold me accountable that night. She made me get into her car and talk long after the rest of our Bible study members had gone home. She told me in no uncertain terms that I was a jerk and she was baffled that I couldn’t see how I was hurting our friend. She said she was disappointed in me because I had acted so unkindly. She told me we had worked really hard to create a sisterhood in that Bible study, and that it was supposed to be a safe place where we could ask questions and be wrong every once in awhile. She said she loved me for my study of the Bible and the Greek and Hebrew, but she said that if I didn’t learn to do a better job of teaching what I was learning, I was going to undo all that we had built together. And then she reached over and laid her hand on my shoulder and said she loved me, and then she prayed that I would soften and be less of a jerk moving forward so that the Jesus in me and in what I was learning could really shine.

Whenever anyone wants to talk about accountability, this is the story I want to tell. I want to talk about my friend lovingly telling me that I wasn’t being my best self because I wasn’t looking like Jesus…

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There’s a couple hundred more words to this post that you’re going to have to go to Off the Page to read the rest.

I’m writing a new series there this month – to be posted every Monday, though I’ll likely forget to link to here every Monday. Case in point – I’m linking the first piece now, and it’s Friday. Oops!

This is a series I particularly love because my publishing team said, “Hey, we think you should be our person to write about accountability. We know it’s a big topic with a lot of controversial turns it could take, so uh…good luck.”  And after much prayer and stillness, I think I have. Plus, it was fun. 

As I always am, I’m grateful for all of you who take the time to read what I write, whether here or for Off the Page.  You are good friends! 

Sense of my story

A few days ago, my BFF sent me a long text message early in the morning. She’d been reading a book by a blogger we both love and needed to tell me about it:

She writes about their crazy life early in their marriage and her husband’s search for a job after getting his PhD, and she says, “and one afternoon in a sandwich shop tacked onto Walmart, we cried over a phone call that offered him a job that made sense of our story…” It made me think of you. Do you feel like this job makes sense of your story? It seems that way to me.

The job she was talking about was the one I started just about a month ago – one that brings all of my heart’s passions together, one that means I get to write and edit and Tweet for money, but that also means I’ll be moving away in a couple of weeks.

I told her that this job feels like a gift, like God has been working me over the last ten years into the person that could do this job. I told her that I thought God has been stoking in me a passion to make Jesus look good especially over the last three years, so that I can write about those things and live those things without confusion or angst. I told her that I feel like I’m walking into this job clear because I can see it’s where God wants me to be, probably because I can see now how it’s probably always been a part of His plan for me, even when it felt like I was fumbling along toward nothing. I told her that I think it’s really cool that it came at a time I had been praying that if what God wanted for me was to live in my hometown and be aunt to the coolest kids and write the words He put on my heart and keep working toward being a good friend and daughter, then that was enough for me. And I told her that I felt with this job God was like, “Cool. Now you’re someone I can use.”

Then I told her that was my really long-winded way of saying yes, I think this job makes sense of my story.

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Today, I had meeting with a new co-worker to talk about a new project we’re both really excited about. We went back and forth for awhile when he interrupted and said, “We’re all so excited you’re coming on board. You have clubs in your bag that we need, as a counselor, as a thirty-something, as a woman.”

I stopped him and I thanked him for saying that because for too many years those things that this place is so excited about have been working against me in the church, and it’s nice to hear them lauded as strengths.

Then his voice got firm, “Let me be really clear on this. We know you are more than – more than a counselor, more than young and single. We know you are the sum of those parts. And the sum of who you are is someone we need. You’re filling gaps we need you to fill.”

And then I thought – no doubt, this job makes sense of my story.

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When I was texting with the BFF a few days ago about the book she was reading and the job that I’m starting, I told her that it makes going a little bit easier knowing that she sees too that I have to go because this job “makes sense of my story.” To which she said, Oh, I totally do! From the very beginning. And it’s hard, and sad, but SO exciting and SO happy and SO RIGHT.

Because this job really does make sense of my story. All the years I spent studying counseling, and working in youth ministry, and honing my skills as a writer – the sum of it all comes together in this job. All the time I spent developing my friendships and doing the scary things that go with living into a community year after year has paid off in people seeing God’s movement too. I wouldn’t trade the last ten years of living in my hometown and being an aunt to the coolest kids and writing the words God has put on my heart and becoming a better friend and daughter. Because for ten years, these things have been enough. These things have made up the sum of a really good life. But, being here has grown me into the person who needs to go.

And as she has so many time before, the BFF has it right – my leaving is sad and hard, but my going is exciting and happy and right.

The Gift of God

I’m sure she doesn’t remember the conversation, it happened so long ago, but I sure do. Jesse called after church to explain why she avoided me at the service. Her voice was firm enough to let me know she was serious and soft enough to inform me we were going to talk this out to the end. “I can’t stand being around you,” she started. “Whoever this person is that’s full of sarcasm and anger, this isn’t you. I know you have a lot going on right now and all the reason in the world to be angry, but I miss my friend. Can we get her back?”

I sat on my porch, my friend on the other end of the phone, and I sobbed. Because when Jesse said the words “this isn’t you,” I knew she had told me a truth I couldn’t see on my own. And when she asked, “Can we get her back?” I knew she wasn’t leaving me alone in the mess of figuring out how to unpack that truth…

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The last in my series on Spiritual Friendship is up at Off The Page.  Thanks for hanging with me while I get my bearings in a new space and for popping over to Off the Page to make my posts some of the highest trafficked that blog is seeing.  

You are good friends!

Active Participation

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” —James 5:16

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I’m not sure I can identify when I began to believe in the power of prayer, but I know I was an adult out of college. I was pretty good at faking it up until then. It’s easy to do when you grow up in church and you know what to say to make yourself sound like you’re on the right track.

 

I told people I picked my college and my major because I prayed about it. But really I picked my college because it was twelve hours from home and someplace snowy, and I picked my major because I didn’t want to study anything else. If I prayed about either of those things, it sounded in God’s ears much more like “Please don’t let people give me any guff about this” rather than “Thy will be done.”

 

This is why I’m grateful that God is in the business of making good out of bad, because that may be the story of my life if I consider how many decisions I have made without prayer.

 

I’m not sure when I began to believe that prayer is an essential element of friendship, but I know it took root last January when one of my favorite people on the planet, the mother of a dear friend, was diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis was beyond grim. Doctors told her she had six months if they did nothing, maybe a year with surgery, possibly five if they followed surgery with chemotherapy. Against the prognosis, against the doctors’ best guesses, all of us who loved her prayed for a miracle. And it was the very best thing we could do for her…

 

This is the beginning of another post I wrote for Off the Page, a second in a three part series on Spiritual Friendship. I’m proud of the work I’ve done there, and I’m proud of the work that team is doing. Make sure you pop over there and check out Active Participation. And then consider perusing some of the other articles there. You won’t be disappointed.

As always, thanks for reading. You are good friends.

God Loves a Crowded House

Crowded House OTP 1

I have been a student of friendship from the time I was a little kid. It was inevitable, I think, because I grew up in a military family and my parents and my brother and I shared more holiday meals with pilots and intelligence officers than we spent with our extended family. One Easter we crowded our duplex on Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii with airmen and women and their families who couldn’t make the trip home to the mainland. Those of us under the age of ten ate our ham and deviled eggs sitting on the front stairs, every chair and sofa cushion and spot on the living room floor claimed by an adult who didn’t want to be alone for the holiday.

And so I watched my parents create homes in our base houses that were open and available for people. There was always a seat for the single enlisted guy, the divorced officer, the wife whose husband was deployed. Even if the mashed potatoes burned and someone had to keep washing silverware so we never ran out of forks, my parents offered people a place for us all to be family, even if it was just for a day, even if it was for only one meal. And from my seat on the stairs, I saw how much that kind of friendship made being in the world a little less hard…

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The rest of this story can be found on Off the Page, a blog for Our Daily Bread Ministries that’s focused on bringing the Bible to life.  I’m still overwhelmed by the gift that is working with that team and getting to share my stories on that site.

This post is the first in a three-part series on Spiritual Friendship that I’m really proud of.

To read the rest, you’re going to have to go to Off the Page and follow along there.

As always, I’m grateful for each of you who take the time to read and ponder and engage with me. You prove that life is better when lived in community.

Happy reading!