Let’s Have a Grand Adventure

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“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an adventure is going to happen.” –A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

I was driving the now familiar route between Cedar Falls and Waverly a few days ago when I had a moment of deja vu. My mind went back almost two years to the moment when our family was driving that same stretch of Highway 218, headed into uncertainty and possibility as we went to interview at Crosspoint Church. On that day, Oceans started to play on the radio and as the music filled the car and my heart, Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior, I knew that whatever happened when we got there that I wanted to live those words.

See, two years into this adventure of pastoring at Crosspoint I’ve had the joy of getting to know some of the most amazing people and calling them friends. But on that day two years ago, I had no idea what was ahead. There were any number of good reasons not to even interview. What if my kids didn’t adjust well to a new school? Would we be a good fit for the church? What if we move there and then they decide they don’t like us? We love what we’re doing and it’s going really well. Why should we give up the certainty of Chi Alpha for the uncertainty of church planting?

All I knew for sure was that I saw God opening a door, and I had a choice whether to walk through it or stay rooted in my own comfort. I don’t believe it would have been disobedient for us to continue in Chi Alpha, but I do think we would have missed an opportunity to go on another adventure with God, missed a chance for our faith to grow deeper and to be stretched in new ways. I’m so glad we chose to open the door to adventure.

Is God calling you on a new adventure with Him? Are you willing to step out into uncertainty with Him?

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

 

What I Wanted to Be When I Grew Up

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I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

When I was about six-years-old I declared to my mom, as we drove down the street with the wind in our hair (probably because the A/C didn’t work!), “When I grow up, I want to be a mom and drive a blue convertible.”

Over the years, the answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has changed and evolved for me.  Although I stuck with about half of that original declaration–being a mom–I decided the blue convertible might not be that practical.  But there were other dreams and loves that I had as a child and teenager that I had forgotten about, or shelved, in the busyness of fulfilling my dream of motherhood.

In a previous post I mentioned the book Quiet by Susan Cain and promised some follow-up on my blog about introverts.  Well, I came across this particular section of the book where Cain gives some very practical steps for introverts to discover where they fit in the workplace (but it translates to ministry just as well).  I thought it was fantastic!

Cain says: “First, think back to what you loved to do when you were a child…the answer you gave may have been off the mark, but the underlying impulse was not.  If you wanted to be a fireman, what did a fireman mean to you?  A good man who rescued people in distress?  A daredevil?…If you wanted to be a dancer, was it because you got to wear a costume, or because you craved applause, or was it the pure joy of twirling around at lightning speed?  You may have known more about who you were then than you do now.

Second, pay attention to the work you gravitate to…

Finally, pay attention to what you envy.  Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth” (218).

Good stuff, right?  Like I said, it got my wheels turning and I remembered, for me, those things I loved as a child were writing and creating things.  Making things with my hands.  Creating beauty with words or objects.  Those were the things that brought me joy–and really still do–I had just forgotten.  I’m so glad that God has given me the opportunity find the joy in these things again.  I’m pretty sure he’s delighting in my delight! 🙂

What did you want to be when you were a child?  Why?

How can you find an outlet in your life and ministry for the things that bring you joy? 

 

The Search for Significance

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I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

Living cross-culturally is a challenge (and all of you who have done (or are doing) it are laughing at that gross understatement!). Equally challenging is living cross-culturally with two small children. We had finally settled the problems that we faced living in the mountain village and moved to the Delhi area where I was finally able to devote some of my energy to something other than mere survival.

However, as I began to get healthier I started to feel like my ministry role was very insignificant, even non-existent, and a deep dislike for my “gifts” was beginning to bloom in my heart. Jonathan was thriving, learning language and participating in countless ministry opportunities, while I stayed home with the kids. Now, don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe in ministering to my family. I know that’s hugely important, but I had come from a place where I had been able to do both, and I was feeling frustrated. Many of the places Jonathan would go were just too difficult to take a two and four-year-old along, and while I knew that I was part of everything that he did by making it possible for him to go, part of me longed to be an active participant in a much more tangible way.

During this time, our house turned into a bigger hub than Chicago O’Hare. Being in the Delhi metro meant that people were constantly coming in and out and needing a place to stay (nice hotels were/are ridiculously expensive). Our house was that place. The entire time we lived there very few nights didn’t include guests. And I loved it, but I didn’t feel any sense of significance by providing a place of rest and rejuvenation for weary travelers.

Delhi was also the entry point for many missionary families coming to minister in Northern India. One of the things I loved to do (and still love to do!) was shop. I knew where to find just about anything–at the best price. A giant Pottery Barn rug for $25, I had you covered. Gap kids clothes for super cheap, I knew exactly where to go. So one of my ministries was to help women find things to help them feel more at home in India. But who really considers shopping a ministry? I sure didn’t.

Having the benefit of hindsight, I can now see that much of my frustration was just the season of life I found myself in. Being a full-time mom to toddlers is hard work.  Sometimes certain things go on the back burner, even good things, so that we can take care of our families. And God honors that. While I didn’t feel like either of my gifts were significant, they were significant to the people who were blessed by them. It wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do (or at least all I wanted to do), but it was what God gave me at the time…

 

Calling All “Loners” and “Oddballs”

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I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

I could feel twenty pairs of eyes boring into my skull as my third-grade teacher said, “Erica, could you please read that again. Louder. The class couldn’t hear you.” A barely audible collective groan escaped from my classmates’ throats, and a few of them rolled their eyes. My cheeks flushed in utter humiliation. Swallowing the hard lump in my throat, I tried to keep my voice from wobbling as I began reading the passage for the third time because my teacher said I was reading too quietly.

Fast forward a few years to high school where I was conveniently ill on speech days, preferring to take an “F” over standing in a room full of my peers with all eyes on me. Horrifying!

All those years I thought something was wrong with me. I silently berated myself for being so shy. Why couldn’t I just get over it? Why couldn’t I be like the other kids who gave flawless speeches with nary a flub or stutter? I wondered why I wasn’t good enough, and I began to develop an extreme dislike for my personality.

I’d be lying if I said the feeling hasn’t followed me into adulthood. We live in a culture that rewards outgoing, socially-polished individuals, and is a little suspect of the person who enjoys solitude, generally labeling them as “loners” and a bit “odd.” It’s hard not to feel inferior when you don’t fit the mold. However, the older I get, and the more I get to know Jesus (who loves me just the way I am! Imagine!), the more I realize that I am not a mistake. My personality is not second-class. God can use me–wants to use me–just as I am, the way he created me.

I’m reading Quiet, by Susan Cain. The tagline of the book is “the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.” I was intrigued. Introverts, powerful? Interesting. Cain says, “Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform…there’s zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas.” Wow! If you’re an introvert, let that sink in. God’s not asking you to conform to something you’re not. You have something to offer just as you are. It might not look or sound the way the world expects it should–and that’s okay.

Since the focus of my blog is ministry and missions, in future posts I’m going to talk about some challenges and strengths of introverts in ministry. My hope is that all of us can find a way to thrive by not only accepting the way God made us, but embracing it.

What are some unique challenges that you face as an introvert in an extroverted world?

How do you overcome them?

If you’re an extrovert chances are someone you love is an introvert. How can you support and encourage them to embrace that?

If Mama Ain’t Happy…

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Photo Credit: jonathan mcintosh via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: jonathan mcintosh via Compfight cc

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

Today=a Happy Day!! Sort of. My globe-trotting husband is back from eight days spent gallivanting around Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia (OK, he wasn’t really gallivanting, it was for work, but really, how awesome is that?). So now he is home, but he’s sick. Boo! And he’s really only home for today (and he will spend it in bed, sleeping) and then he’s on the move again, headed for Chi Alpha services at the University of Northern Iowa and then youth convention this weekend and a service out of town this Sunday. So we might actually see him again next Monday! 🙂

Please don’t think I’m complaining, because if you’re involved in ministry this probably sounds vaguely familiar to you as well. Ministry life is all about sharing. Your husband, your family, your time, your heart. And it’s a great life! But too much sharing, and not enough time for each other or yourself (especially if you’re an introvert like me), can start to wear away your joy. Healthy boundaries are the key to surviving in the middle of ministry demands. I know that my husband enjoys being busy–he thrives on it–and is generally not happy sitting around twiddling his thumbs.  With that said, I feel loved when we spend time together. So we make it a priority to have a weekly date night. Things often pop up to get in the way, but we have to make it non-negotiable or else my family understands the full meaning of the phrase “when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” 🙂

That’s one of the ways that we stay connected with each other, but I would love to hear what you do!  I’m always looking for creative ways to thrive as a family in ministry.

How do you stay connected with your spouse in the middle of a hectic ministry life?

What are some boundaries that you’ve established that seem to help?

What have been some of your best ways to stay engaged with your children that ensures they aren’t being overlooked in the busyness of life?

To Be or Not to Be…It’s Not Really a Question

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Photo Credit: __MaRiNa__ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: __MaRiNa__ via Compfight cc

I’ve started a new blog at www.droppingtheact.com. Check it out for the latest content.

Have you ever found yourself “working so hard for Jesus” that your attitude went sour and you suddenly realized that you resented everything you were doing. I have. I’ve run around like a cat with a bag clip clamped on it’s tail “doing things for Jesus,” only to realize that I was really doing them for me–for my glory. So someone would look at me and say “Wow! She’s amazing. Look what she’s doing.” And Jesus kind of got lost in the chaos. I’m not sure how well I was really representing him, and our relationship was certainly suffering. Unfortunately, I’m so hard-headed that it took moving to the other side of the world and having all of my “ministry opportunities” stripped from me to understand this.

So the question of the day is: Is it okay to “be” in relationship with Jesus instead of “doing” things for him? Culture sometimes says no, but Jesus says yes. When we are “being” children of God everything else falls into place. Jesus makes it simple. He only asks two things from us. Love God and love people. That’s it! But we can’t do either of those things well if we’re too exhausted from “serving” him to think straight.

There is a freedom and a joy in discovering what God really desires from you, and knowing that he has no intention of wearing you out and bringing you to the brink of exhaustion and burnout. Jesus said in Matthew 11, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (The Message–emphasis added)

Don’t get me wrong, this is not an excuse to do nothing. But “being” is about who we are–not about what we do. When who we are comes from living in vibrant relationship with Jesus good things flow out of us, and for the right reasons. There is a verse in Galatians about this that rocked my face off. Paul wrote, “The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you.” (The Message–emphasis added) Wow! I couldn’t say it any better.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that when I enter into the things that God is doing for me I’m not exhausted and burnt-out, I’m rejuvenated and recharged.  God delights in seeing us use the things we love and the gifts he’s given us to glorify him. I’ve found that saying no to some things (even good things), so I can be free to say yes to what Jesus is really asking of me, allows me to love God and others more powerfully and truly.

Is there anything heavy or ill-fitting that you’ve put on yourself that Jesus is inviting you to relinquish?

What have you given up that brings you joy because you’re too busy to pursue it anymore?

What is God arranging for you? Are you ready to embrace it?

Bucking Bulls and Ambiguity

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Photo Credit: Al_HikesAZ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Al_HikesAZ via Compfight cc

One of the things that threw me faster than a bucking bull knocking a cornflake off his back was the ambiguity of life in missions. It is what you make it to be. Before we became missionaries we had been happily working as youth/worship pastors at a church in Des Moines. Our roles, and the expectations, were clearly defined. I knew where I fit into the big picture of our ministry and what that looked like on a day-to-day basis.

Insert India into my life and everything changed. India has a way of doing that! I no longer had a defined role or set of expectations. Outside of learning the language, our options were limitless–and overwhelming. I was being given an opportunity to basically reinvent myself and the way ministry looked for me, and I was paralyzed.

My husband is an amazing man and an incredible minister, and for most of our married life, and certainly in ministry, I had been hiding behind him. Mostly out of fear. Fear that I wasn’t good enough, that people wouldn’t like me, or that I would say or do the wrong thing (all things I still deal with!). I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was inviting me to step out of hiding and begin to walk out the individual call that he had just for me. Of course, Jonathan and I still have a call to do ministry together as well–and I love that!–but God had something for which he had uniquely equipped me. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to figure that out–and I’ve only recently started doing it! It’s been a long road of God whittling away my excuses!

Many of us, especially us women, will have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and the roles we play over and over again in our lifetimes. In our families, our careers, and in serving Jesus. Very few, if any, of us will occupy a static role for our entire lives. From someone who’s finally(!) being obedient to God’s direction in her own life, I want to encourage you to listen to the voice of God and don’t be afraid to celebrate the new seasons and step out of hiding. Someone’s waiting for you to be obedient to whatever God is calling you to do.

Has God been speaking to you about something that you are uniquely gifted to do?

What’s keeping you from doing it? Education? Opportunity?

What can you do to remove the obstacles?