creating a village life (in 2014)

creating a village life (in 2014)

I’ve been thinking about this article all week. It popped up in my Twitter feed on Tuesday afternoon, and I have to tell you that I wondered if Bunmi broke into my home and stole my journal when I read this part:

I miss that village of mothers that I’ve never had. The one we traded for homes that, despite being a stone’s throw, feel miles apart from each other. The one we traded for locked front doors, blinking devices and afternoons alone on the floor playing one-on-one with our little ones.

Afternoons alone playing one-on-one? Check.

Locked front door and blinking devices? Check.

Feeling miles apart from people who live a stone’s throw? Check check.

I know the danger here of romanticizing a time I don’t really know, mistaking longing for nostalgia (or an unhealthy dose of both). But I must admit that I’ve felt all of this lately. I don’t think it’s geographically centered, or that it has to do with my neighborhood or city or where I live. I think it has to do with me, when I’m painfully honest. I think it has to do with all of us who grew up finding community online and forgot to put down our phones/computers/iPads/whatevers to find community in the real faces we pass by every day.

Case in point: my neighbor followed me on Twitter a few months ago (hi, Jessica!) and I had a strange reaction. My first thought was, “Now my neighbor knows so much about me!”

Y’all.

Do I even need to tell you that my own thoughts stopped me in my tracks? Since when was it possible for people who live thousands of miles away to know more about me than ones who live within ten feet?

I don’t have very many answers, but I’m seeking. I agree with Donald Miller when he says that when a consumer longs for community, he or she goes looking for a place to plug in or “sign up,” but when a creator longs for community, he or she invites neighbors over for dinner, puts up a screen in his backyard, or starts something new. Although I’d like to think I’m more on the creator side of life, in this area–lately–I think I’ve fallen more on the consumer side.

What an odd little world we’ve created for ourselves. We’re more connected and lonelier than ever. I want to, as my friend Mandy Smith said, work every day to weave this longing for “the village” back into this strange world we’ve made.

I’d love to learn from you, friends. If you’re experiencing (or creating) this village existence in 2014, how have you managed to do it when (most) of your local friends live at least 20 minutes away? What steps have you taken to create real, face-to-face community in this digital world we’ve created?

a letter to graduating seniors

barely have the experience to speak with any sort of authority here, let’s get that out of the way now. Think of me as a slightly older sister, sitting across the table, listening and nodding along, and then pulling out a few pieces of advice that I’ve received from much wiser people than myself.

Can we start there?

After graduating from college in ’09 (I know, I know, it was hardly five years ago), I immediately went into my first full-time ministry position. Well, actually, I should back up. A month before graduating, I got married and moved two hours away from my college with my new husband. For the last three weeks of school, I commuted to class and studied for finals at Skyline Chili between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. It was a logistical nightmare, and then I don’t think I even thought twice about it.

And see, that’s the thing. Looking back, of course I wouldn’t do it like that, because it was pretty stupid. But I didn’t care because I didn’t know any better.

(Here’s proof. Just look at that awful haircut.)

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I think that’s kind of the beauty of where you’re at now, too, if you’re honest. You might take the first opportunity you’re offered because… what else is there? You don’t know quite yet, and neither did I, and that’s okay.

There are all kinds of ways to approach your early twenties, and I’d say that’s a pretty good thing. We’re all from different places with a variety of family backgrounds and the church needs more of that. So I’m not going to tell you a bunch of steps on how to do your twenties just right, or how to pick the perfect relationship, but I am going to tell you this:

Don’t close up shop on the learning and growing thing; this is only the beginning.

Shauna Niequist says it this way, “There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming.”

This may look like a million different things: going to graduate school, moving across the country, getting married, breaking up, starting over, staying put, acquiring lots of roommates, applying for scary jobs, and some just working and paying the bills with crappy jobs.

But hear this, friend: now is the season to hunt down a mentor, invite friends to speak honestly into your life, and start building relationships that will last. Now is most certainly the time to learn the hard truth about yourself, work hard, get counseling if you need it, read lots, and discover.

Now is the time to fail. And you know what’s really, really scary about failure? Failure doesn’t happen without risk. And risk doesn’t happen without putting yourself out there. So if you don’t get your dream job out of college, that’s all right. Not many people do. But invest yourself in your job, anyway … learn, anyway.

Here’s what’s really great: if you start developing those habits now, they will truly become second-nature to you as you keep growing. The most fascinating people I know are the ones whose kids are grown and out on their own and are still continuing in adventure. They’re still learning, reading, growing, changing, and evolving.

I hope when I’m nearing seventy, I can look back and say, “I never stopped growing.” I hope I learn something new about Jesus every year, and continue to change and adapt along the way. And for you, I hope and pray the same. I hope this journey is hard and beautiful for you. I hope you take great risks and learn the art of an apology. I pray you learn that humility is really the only characteristic that precedes growth, and that you can’t have one without the other. And most of all, I pray you that learn, anyway.

it’s back: what i’m listening to, watching, and reading | february

It’s been a while, and I’ve missed doing these posts. In many ways, they serve as a reminder for me of how I’ve grown, what I’ve learned, and ways I’ve continued to change. So I’m bringing it back! Here’s what I’ve been listening to, watching, and reading this past month.

Listening… These days, it’s all about podcasts. For everything. Spiritual growth, parenting, friendship, writing, literature, family dynamics–you name it, there’s a podcast for it. When I’m home with Keegan, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc., I’ve started listening to podcasts in the background as a way of practicing soul-care.

Watching… Parenthood took a little hiatus this month for the Olympics and so television has fallen to the wayside. Have I ever told you all about how my extended family keeps a running email dialog about The Bachelor? Well, they do, and it’s amazing (my grandmother has the best commentary of all). I tried to watch this season just to keep up, but I was so bored I fell asleep. So I’ve been watching recaps from Kristen and Sarah because they’re far more entertaining and I have a friend-crush on them both.

Reading… In case you missed it, Kyle and I are in the middle of a little reading challenge, so I started off with The Calvin and Hobbes 10th Anniversary Book. And I love itAlso on my nightstand now is Song of the Exile by Karen Davenport and a couple other books for work. I confess: it’s been almost four years since I’ve read a fiction novel, which is just gross. I’m back in the groove and it feels good.

Eating… It’s true, I needed some extra incentive to lose the baby weight from Keegan. I mean–let’s just call a spade a spade, I gained 70 (!) pounds during pregnancy. It was outrageous. So I’ve been using Weight Watchers for the past six months and I love it! It helps me keep a balanced perspective when it comes to my body and lose weight in a healthy way.

Wearing… Stitchfix. I went on a purging rampage this past fall and got rid of so much stuff. And this sounds ironic, right? Like I purged everything to just buy more things? It’s actually been the opposite. I got rid of the sizes that will never fit me again, the clothes that just look ridiculous, stopped shopping clearance racks, and got rid of anything that had been sitting on a hanger for a year. If I hadn’t worn it, I said goodbye to it. Extra bonus? I consigned as much as I could and earned some extra cash. Insert Stitchfix. It really is like it sounds: a personal stylist delivered to your door. I’ve only done it a couple of times, and probably won’t for another year or so, but the items they sent me (particularly pants because wow pants and I struggle) fit so well and I wear them nonstop. If you do decide to do it, here’s my advice: be as specific as possible, use Pinterest to your advantage (the stylists look at your style board to get inspiration for what to send you), and put a realistic price for your budget.

Needing… To start and finish the laundry. We’ve got a situation here, people.

Feeling… Grateful and excited about things to come. I’ve joined a writing group and continue to learn from the amazing women from The Influence Network. We had a local meet-up recently (photo by Kaitlyn Meeks) and it was fun to just learn and hear about what other women in my community are doing.

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Enjoying…My job. I get to work with an unbelievable team of creative people and can be found pinching myself on a weekly basis.

What about you? What are you enjoying these days? Listening to? Reading?

longing and begging

It’s December 17th, we are right in the season of Advent, and I can’t recall a time I have longed for Jesus so badly.
This week has been nothing short of longing.
Longing for hope, peace, and anything that remotely resembles joy.

And this is just my little life.

One of my friends had her heart ripped out of her chest on Tuesday morning, discovering that the little boy she thought was going to be hers was in fact not anymore. They call it adoption reversal, which sounds like a cold way of saying, “You can’t have your baby anymore.” Her and her husband are now grieving parents, with nothing to show for it except empty hearts, pockets, and bedrooms.

That same morning, my other dear friend told me she and her husband went into hear the heartbeat for the first time of her precious 12-week-old, and the nurses “found nothing.” And used the cold, non-empathetic words, “this is not a viable pregnancy.” I don’t know who invented that phrase, but they should probably redo that year of their life. I can’t imagine a more lifeless phrase when telling a woman who dreams of being a mother that she is, in fact, not.

On Tuesday afternoon, one of my family members suffered from a mild stroke, which leads to lots of challenging conversations and rearrangements as they navigate what to do in this next very unknown phase of life.

Again, this is my little life.
I know suffering is everywhere.
I’m not blind to it.

I read the prayer requests every Tuesday afternoon in our staff meeting . . . heartbreak after heartbreak, loss after loss, and sometimes my heart gets so swollen I cry right there, in a conference room with gray walls and business suits.

And again, this is only my little corner, with the faces I know and love.
I know it’s everywhere.

On Friday afternoon, I got a text from my husband that said, “Try not to saturate yourself with the media coverage of this.” Of what!? I immediately turned on the news, ignoring his caring request, to find the horror that the rest of you saw and for a minute I said right out loud, in the stillness of my living room, “What in the world is going on?”

All of this coupled with joy–visiting with friends late Sunday evening, eating cinnamon popcorn, laughing about nothing and then eating some more. Listening to my sweet baby’s heartbeat today at the doctor’s office, and hearing, “You and the baby are getting along perfectly,” as I breathe relief because let’s face it, this seems like the week people are supposed to get bad news.

I’ve read Brene Brown‘s wise words about not selectively numbing emotion, about how you can’t numb pain without also getting rid of joy . . . and so I have fully embraced the pain that surrounds me, knowing that without it I cannot receive full joy.

But I confess that I long for Christ in a way I never have before. I long for Him to heal my friends, heal these hearts, and to bind up wounds. I long for Him to bring about restoration in the midst of darkness, and then I stop right where I’m sitting because I remember . . .

He came into darkness.

He was not surrounded by a world full of rainbows, unicorns, and butterflies. He was born right into a dark, unknown world, full of uncertainty and hatred, and yet He was called the Prince of Peace.

And this year, I long for Him.

I long for Him to hold my friends that sit with an empty nursery, to hold their hearts tightly and whisper into their pain and hear their angry questions. I long for Him to heal my sweet friend and her husband, whose entire paradigm of life is now something I cannot imagine, fathom, or begin to understand.

I long for Him to usher in peace to the little corners of our worlds, in the brokenhearted places we dare not say aloud. And during this season of Advent, I am not ashamed in my questioning, no–begging.

Christ, I beg of you to come close.

We beg you to be close to us.

things to say (and things to not)

In my short 16 weeks of pregnancy, I have gained a little insight and perspective into the danger and beauty of spoken word. Words can encourage, brighten, make light, and speak truth. Words hold the power to make people laugh, pee their pants, and slap their knees.

But words can also be… not-so-good. Most are well-intentioned, just not thought through. Allow me to give you a short, compiled list of things that have either been said to me (or a woman I know) during pregnancy, and we’re all thinking, “Hmm. I could’ve gone without hearing that.” 

So here is my brief list of things to say, and things to not, to a pregnant woman. I don’t care what “kind” of pregnant woman she is–the “all belly” kind, or the one who gains it everywhere BUT her belly, here is my short list.

Things NOT to say . . .
“I knew you were pregnant because normally you’re pretty skinny, and I noticed you’re a little thick.”

“I know this friend who has this friend who (insert incredibly traumatic pregnancy/miscarriage story here).” (Sidenote on this one: pregnant women know about these stories. We’ve read about them, know friends with them, some experienced them personally, had nightmares about them, and pray against them. So please, unless we bring it up, or ask about it ourselves, spare us the awful story.)

“You just look swollen, not fat.”

“I can tell you’re pregnant because you look really, really tired.” (We know this, too.)

“You don’t even look pregnant! Are you sure you’re that far along?”

“Are you sure you aren’t having twins? You’re huge!”

(While passing butter at dinner), “Here’s the tub, you’re gonna be a tub in about five months!” YES, THIS HAPPENED.

Any use of the word F-A-T, no matter the context, or intention. Just avoid that word (and others like it) all together. It’s a four-letter-word.

Things TO say . . .
“You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen in the history of this planet, to ever walk, drive, or run. In fact, I can’t recall a time I’ve ever seen someone so beautiful, glowing, and magnificent.” (Magnificent is the key word. Emphasize it greatly.)

“You look extremely alert and ready to take on the day. Do you even need caffeine? I mean seriously, I can’t get over how on top of life you are now!”

“WOW! You’re amazing! Incredible! Stupendous! Unbelievable! You are going to have the best labor anyone has ever heard of! I’m not going to tell you some insane story that will give you nightmares!”

But seriously . . . 

“How can I help you?” is always good.

“How can I pray for you?” also… good.

There you have it. If I hear any more absurdly awkward or offensively funny things, you will be the first to hear (and laugh) about it.

we are not enough.

My husband is not enough.

My friends, nope, they are not enough.

My mother, she is not enough.

My father, he is not enough.

My brother, he is not enough.

My coworkers are not enough.

My students, daggonit, they are not enough.

None of us are enough.

We want people to be enough. We wear them out, force them into roles they were not meant to play, beg them to be playdough in our hands–shaping them into the exact people, leaders, spouses, friends we hope and dream them to become.

But, I am not enough. And I so desperately wish I was. I frantically run through life, hoping that everyone I meet will be amazed, “Wow, isn’t she marvelous?” And yet I continue to disappoint the people in my midst. I used to think the solution to this was to just be better, achieve more, impress higher, be stronger.

I am finding that real courage comes from saying, “You know what? I guess I am not enough. I have so much to learn. I suppose, no, I know I need other people. I cannot do this on my own. I am flawed. Deeply, deeply flawed. I know it; I embrace it, and know admitting it will be the only thing that frees me.”

This morning I have peace in knowing I am not enough. And neither are you. We’re not supposed to be.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 “Who is this who darkens counsels
with words without knowledge?
3 Get ready for a difficult task like a man;
I will question you
and you will inform me!
4 “Where were you
when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you possess understanding!
5 Who set its measurements – if you know –
or who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its bases set,
or who laid its cornerstone –
7 when the morning stars sang in chorus,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea with doors
when it burst forth, coming out of the womb,
9 when I made the storm clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 when I prescribed its limits,
and set in place its bolts and doors,
11 when I said, ‘To here you may comet
and no farther,
here your proud waves will be confined’?
12 Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,
or made the dawn know its place,
13 that it might seize the corners of the earth,
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features are dyed like a garment.
15 Then from the wicked the light is withheld,
and the arm raised in violence is broken.
16 Have you gone to the springs that fill the sea,
or walked about in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Have you seen the gates of deepest darkness?
18 Have you considered the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know it all!
19 “In what direction does light reside,
and darkness, where is its place,
20 that you may take them to their borders
and perceive the pathways to their homes?
21 You know, for you were born before them;
and the number of your days is great!
22 Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or seen the armory of the hail,
23 which I reserve for the time of trouble,
for the day of war and battle?
24 In what direction is lightning dispersed,
or the east winds scattered over the earth?
25 Who carves out a channel for the heavy rains,
and a path for the rumble of thunder,
26 to cause it to rain on an uninhabited land,
a desert where there are no human beings,
27 to satisfy a devastated and desolate land,
and to cause it to sprout with vegetation?
28 Does the rain have a father,
or who has fathered the drops of the dew?
29 From whose womb does the ice emerge,
and the frost from the sky, who gives birth to it,
30 when the waters become hard like stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen solid?
31 Can you tie the bands of the Pleiades,
or release the cords of Orion?
32 Can you lead out
the constellations in their seasons,
or guide the Bear with its cubs
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens,
or can you set up their rule over the earth?
34 Can you raise your voice to the clouds
so that a flood of water covers you
35 Can you send out lightning bolts, and they go?
Will they say to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who has put wisdom in the heart,
or has imparted understanding to the mind?
37 Who by wisdom can count the clouds,
and who can tip over the water jars of heaven,
38 when the dust hardens into a mass,
and the clumps of earth stick together?
39 “Do you hunt prey for the lioness,
and satisfy the appetite of the lions,
40 when they crouch in their dens,
when they wait in ambush in the thicket?
41 Who prepares prey for the raven,
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?
(Job 38:1-41 NET)

Thank you, Yahweh; You are enough.
I am sorry for expecting everyone else to be what is reserved for You alone.