When You Don’t Want to Wait Any Longer

It’s all so magical, the belly-warming glow of the lights juxtaposed with the sparkling winter chill, bells lingering in the air, chimed from towers and bell choirs, scheming up just the perfect gift for children and friends, imagining their faces a million times before they even open the gift: there is so much to love about Advent and the Christmas season.

I think the most reassuring part is the countdown, the knowing when Christmas and presents and family and cider and joy will finally be here. There is stress in the preparation and travel, but there is a knowing: it will be here soon, and it will all be worth it.

I am thankful for the ritual of Advent, to remind us that waiting has an end, that the thing we long for will come if we are faithful.

But I think our adorable Advent calendars with 25 little doors hiding tiny chocolates are a little misleading. Unless it is a pregnancy, a wedding, or the day of school starts or ends, there are rarely clear beginnings and endings to the biggest things in our lives.

We cannot count down until we meet our future husband or wife. We cannot schedule a date on the calendar for when we will finally be done with infertility and celebrate a pregnancy. We cannot put an end date to the painful season of unemployment when no matter how hard we try, nothing is opening. We can’t say of our estranged spouse or child, ‘Well, at least we know they will be home next year.’ Because we don’t know. We just don’t know.

Most of our lives, the crises, the hardships, the sorrows and joys promise no guarantee of beginning or end. We live day by day, just making it through, at times breath to breath, extracting every last ounce of grace to deal with the disappointment that we are not…there…yet.

This is why we need Hope so badly. We are lost without it. We give up on dreams and quit living when we lose our Hope.

The Pessimist, claiming to be a Realist, says, “Because it has not happened yet, it will probably not happen,” to which Hope replies with confidence, “Each day that passes is one day closer to the longing fulfilled.

Hope is not drunk on idealism, envisioning a perfect future and erasing the pain and ache of the waiting. No, Hope is a perspective, a lens through which to view the world.

Hope can co-exist with waiting, and when we wait in Hope and do not let the waiting jade us, then we can move through time and space toward our desire, all the while becoming the person we must become in order to receive it.

Pessimism feeds on the idea that waiting is empty, that time between now and the arrival of The Longed-For Thing is simply finger-tapping, clock-watching and gut-wrenching ache, all the while entertaining the idea of giving up on desire for fear of letdown’s freefall.

But when we choose to feed Hope and return ourselves to the truth of who we are and who God is, we grow the very thing that readies us for the blessing.

The struggle between now and the blessing we long for is the cocoon of hope and faith.

When we wrestle with our doubt and our anger, when we tenderly let ourselves feel our disappointment but keep it in check, always surrendering it beneath the tide of God’s goodness, the struggle ends with us as champion, released from the season of claustrophobic darkness into something we never knew we wanted: a kinder, bendier, more generous version of ourselves.

Sometimes it feels it takes forever, but in the end, we’ve either become the person who is ready to receive the desire-made-manifest, or in all our fighting, we realize what we thought we wanted all along wasn’t really it at all and discover a new longing to pursue. (I have seen this happen again and again with people who were smitten by someone, longing for their love returned, but as they got to know them, they realized this person was not who they thought they were at all.)

This cocoon of waiting is an essential process for our broken human hearts because imagine if we got exactly what we wanted the precise moment we wanted it? What a curse to get your every wish granted at your beck and call.

No, the waiting is full of becoming, of warring, sculpting, shaping. The edges come off, our truest priorities and values surface, our faces and hearts soften.

The waiting is not merely waiting. It is becoming.

This struggle of waiting, or let’s call it becoming now, is not as much about receiving the thing you long for as it is about engaging with the ache and letting it shape you, letting yourself grow all the stronger and wiser for having trudged this path or wrestled this giant.

So in this New Year, let us not discuss amongst ourselves or our friends what we are waiting for, but who we are becoming as a result of the waiting. Let us not move through life, mired in resentment and disappointment without allowing the wrestling between Now and Then to beautify and enrich us.

Let’s not simply wait, my friends. Let’s Become.

Happy Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Becoming.

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It’s Always Opposite Day In Hell

I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a while, but hell was beating me up. Just like it’s been beating you up. I finally got ahead in the past several days, but I am tired. It is 2:00 in the morning as I write today, the first time I’ve been simultaneously awake, coherent and motivated enough to get the words out.

I want you to know what’s going on in the world, and why it feels so bad right now. Why you can barely take a breath without anxiety clutching the air out of your lungs. Why despair and depression are clouds over each of us, seeming to form one giant rain cloud none of us can escape.

For weeks I read the news – this was my first mistake – and each story of terror and fear fell around me like prison bars of horror, trapping me inside my mind. I tried to escape, but the images, the anxiety, lurked around every corner, every empty moment where my mind wandered.

But ten days ago, something shifted for me when I sneaked into an old Catholic church and read the mass of the day. God knew I was coming, and he met me there.

Something shifted again when I finally told my friends and my husband what was going on inside my head. How horrible I felt every day. I had an epiphany, just from talking, and relief swept in.

And then again, more breakthrough flooded my soul when I sought counsel and prayer from a woman who could lead me straight to God when I could no longer find him.

I want you to know what is going on so you can find the real God too. I want you to have the upper hand in the battle for your peace, your security, your hope and faith.

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First, you must know it is always Opposite Day in hell. Whatever God wants to do in heaven, Satan directly opposes by releasing the opposite. That’s because Satan cannot create anything new – he can only distort the good God has already made. Here’s what that looks and feels like in our lives:

  • When God is about to give you breakthrough, Satan throws up a wall so you feel like you will be stuck forever. You may have been fighting this fight for months or even years, but right before you’re about to crash through to the glorious other side, it will always feel hardest. The moment you want to give up most is the moment you MUST keep going.
  • If you find yourself fighting anxiety and fear all the time, or just at certain times, it’s because God wants you to walk in a divine level of peace and confidence. It is likely that you have the gift of faith that Satan wants to snuff out because he knows the effectiveness you would live with should you live with this faith.
  • The joy of the Lord is our strength, the Bible tell us, but depression renders us weak and feeble. In despair, we feel joy is a liar. But joy is contagious and brings great healing to you and to others.

The reason we don’t receive the hope, joy, peace and confidence at any given point is because when Satan gets to us first, we tend to agree with him. The despair and fear sidle up to us like trusted friends, and we grow wary of this cheerfully optimistic God. We assume he is powerless or blind to stop the pain in the world because otherwise, he would not be acting like everything is okay.

The truth is that we cannot be both hopeless and hopeful, both anxious and trusting. We cannot possess both fear and peace.

A room can only be light or dark. Darkness is the absence of light, and once light comes in, darkness is no longer there. But in our hearts, we have to hand over the darkness. We have to invite in light. Truth.

You do not have because you do not ask, Jesus said. And so we must ask. Boldly.

If you want peace, you have to hand Jesus your fear and anxiety, and ask for peace and faith.

If you want hope, you have to hand Jesus your despair and ask for hope.

The most important thing to know about hell’s Opposite Day is this: If you struggle with a certain thing, it’s because part of your calling and destiny is to release the opposite into the world. 

It doesn’t matter how bad your fear or despair, lust, loneliness or compulsion is, these are not evidence of how messed up and hopeless you are. These are actually signs of what your calling is. Your fear means you are to carry great peace. Your lust or addiction problem, which are both a form of distorted worship, means you have a calling for purity and worship.

So what’s tripping you up? Instead of asking God to just take away your addiction or your fear, thank him for your calling to release the opposite into the world. Then hand over your distorted, dark version and let him give you the beautiful torch you were meant to carry. 

If you want to get your world rocked a little more with God’s perspective, I want to introduce you to Bob Hartley, one of God’s greatest messengers of hope in our time. I resonate with him so much. Read this article about God’s hope for the United States, and other nations in the earth.

 

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{God is speaking during this wild time in our world’s history. I have more to say on this, and I will be sharing it in the next few weeks. I want you to know what is going on. Pray and let him speak to you. But also join me as we learn to live with hope and courage together.

Subscribe to the blog today, and I’ll send you two FREE eBooks to help you do just that.}

Sometimes I Don’t Believe In Redemption

It breaks my heart to say this, but sometimes I think people can’t be saved.

Our church’s mission is Live the Restoration, to literally display what the Gospel story looks like in my life so others can imagine it in theirs. Sometimes I pray for people I meet out in real life, or at work or church.

I love to tell my transformation stories – there are many, new ones all the time. And I love to hear the stories from
others.

But I meet some of these people, and I wonder if they really can be saved. If the blood of Jesus can give them back the things I could never restore: sanity. Human relationships. A life free of addiction.

I secretly think their minds are too far gone or their inability to feel empathy or connect with others renders them destined for a life of Outside the rest of us. I fear they’ve given their best years to the drug.

I fear because I feel my limits.

I would’ve thought this real Walter White was too far gone. But he wasn’t. He made the best meth in Alabama for ten years, shredded his family and lived like an addict. But God didn’t give up the chase.

This story is beautiful because it reminds me I should let God run after people if he wants to. And if he wants me to do the running, I am going to have oblige cause we just never know who Love can save.

Live big and brave with me. Subscribe to the blog for free updates and the first copies of my book, Dream or Die, at its release early next year.

An Inconvenient God In The Pizza Shop

He was just a white kid in a Bronco’s football jersey, maybe mid-20s. He looked like all the other white kids with shopping bags leaving the mall. He walked right past our window as we sat in the downtown pizza shop. The second I saw him the strange thought came to my mind with surprising force: “God is doing something in his life.”

I dismissed it as vague and random I watched him disappear down the sidewalk. Weird thing to notice, and what should I do about it anyway?

I continued my conversation with my friends. A few minutes later, I turned around, probably to find where John went, and there was the guy with the dark blue jersey, the one I’d just seen, the one God was working on, standing in the pizza shop.

I didn’t say anything cause God hadn’t said anything besides he was working on him. And that’s really just not a way to start a conversation.

But the white boy in the football jersey just stood there, with sad eyes somewhere else, waiting for his pizza. And I had the sense that maybe I needed to tell him what I heard, and I asked God if he wouldn’t mind telling me one more thing so I didn’t feel so random. I sensed there was a change in his life, a sad change, but it still didn’t come in clear.

Nevertheless, I felt responsible for him, like if he left there and committed suicide and pizza was his last meal, that I could’ve done something.

I walked up and asked his name and told him mine. And I told him God said he working in his life, but he didn’t tell me what was going on. “So what’s going on?” I asked. He told me his wife was about to divorce him, and his eyes filled up with tears. I kept saying, “I’m sorry,” and he kept saying, “It’s not your fault,” and I knew that, but I wasn’t going to try to fix it.

So I didn’t try to fix it. I just told him that must be really sad and hard, and divorce feels so bad. And then I said we had people who come to our house on Tuesdays, and we have a church where he could get hugs and be understood, and if he wanted any of that, he could come. I wrote down my address on a pizza box in case he wanted to come to our group, and maybe that was a terrible idea, but I suspect it wasn’t.

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Before we parted ways, I prayed for him because I wanted to do something really meaningful. Something that might actually have the power to change him besides an invitation to come sit on our couch. He thanked me for talking with him, and I think he really meant it.

This guy in the Bronco’s jersey was special, but the truth is, God is doing something in everyone’s life. Yet most people don’t stand out to me like this. It’s not because I can’t hear God talk about people. It’s because I don’t want to. It’s because it’s inconvenient. It’s because I will have to stop what I’m doing and risk looking crazy and start a conversation on basically nothing. I know this is random and my name is Sarah but God said something about you and I don’t know what I’m talking about… That’s what it sounds like coming out of my mouth.

But I think saving life will always be inconvenient. I can’t think of a time when salvation fits neatly into the agenda.

God, I’m selfish so I you will just have to bug me and help me love better. I need to love myself more so I can others better. I want to be marked by love so make this encounter the rule and not the exception. Amen.

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People Who See The Past and Future You

I am one of those lucky people who seems to have friendships that never end. My bridesmaids were nearly all women I’d known and been close with for the better part of a decade, if not longer. And we are all still friends.

L-R: Ingrid, Holly, Jen, Ica, Rachel and Jazzy. [Photo credit: Sara Tafoya Photography]

L-R: Ingrid, Holly (my sister), Jen, Ica, Rachel and Jazzy. [Photo credit: Sara Tafoya Photography]

I met Jazzy on the playground when we were 12. My cousin, Jen, helped me leave the party scene and (try to) stay on the straight and narrow the summer before I turned 17. I met Rachel in high school, and Ica in youth group. Ingrid was my newest, college friend, but by my wedding, we already had a few years behind us.

Each of these friends in their own way grounded and stabilized me. I could look into my past and see how each of these women helped shape and define me, dreamed with me about our future husbands and lives, splashed my canvas with creativity and fun, and helped deepen my love for God, giving me someone to walk life with.

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These friendships are foundational for me. In many ways, they are the launch pad of my life, the shoulders I stand on. They know the old me, the historic Sarah who changed her major at least three times and finally pulled the last major out of a cereal bowl in indecisive desperation. They knew what I looked like after too much to drink, they talked me out of bad relationships and consoled me when I couldn’t make people think I was cool. We shared wardrobes and bad ideas, midnight road trips and slumber parties.

They know me well. But in many ways, they know the old me best.

I am so thankful for these friends who are still integral in my life, but I also needed friends who didn’t just know my past. I needed friends who could see my future.

During the past two years, I’ve developed friendships with two women who have been brave enough to believe in me in an unprecedented way. They don’t just know I’m a writer – they read my blog regularly. They tell me they know I’m going to make it, that I will be an author some day. They tell me God wants me to write, that my “words will set the word on fire”.

These friends know little about my past, but they see the future me. They know the today-me struggles with discipline and self-doubt. They know sometimes I get writer’s block. They see my insecurity. And yet, they believe in me. They remind me of the God-breathed, Spirit-enhanced version of me.

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And I can see this in them as well. In these friendships without years of history, we only have a short collection of months to go on. But in getting to know each other, we are intentional to listen in to heaven and see what God says about the other, to not let one another dwell in the painful present but to call out the gifts and destiny in each woman.

No one friendship is better than the other. I need all these women. I need all these friendships. I need the foundational, grounding voices, the ones who know my past. And I need the friends with binoculars who know that what I only dream about is really my future history.

I am so thankful for the effortless friendships of the women who’ve known me in every season. And I am grateful for my new friends with their confident, reassuring voices of what’s to come.

As I write, I remember the importance of aiming my eyes toward the future for all my friends, no matter how long I’ve known them. We all need someone to see the giant in us when we feel next to invisible.

We will always need shoulders to stand on and eyes to see the future we are afraid to dream of for ourselves.

So let’s be intentional to nurture all our relationships, the old and the new. We can’t neglect any of them.

Do you have both kinds of friends? What can you do to cultivate these friendships in your life? Tell me in the Comments below.

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Hope Is a Song: On Waiting

Four years ago, I was waiting. Waiting for a child. It’s a painful, helpless kind of waiting. (But then, isn’t most waiting that way?) I didn’t know if my body could do it. I hoped. I knew being a mother was part of the dream I was becoming, a God-breathed desire in my gut. But the longing ached. How would it come to pass? Natural birth or adoption? I didn’t know.

I just knew I was a woman who would one day be a mother. Who in some sense of the word was already a mother, one who just hadn’t been born yet. The dream was not just to have a child, but to BE a mother. A nurturer, a destiny-breather, a lullabye-singer, a boo-boo-kisser, a dreamer, a co-adventurer, a fierce guardian, a launch pad. Isn’t that what a mother is?

So I prayed and begged and argued and cried and waited and shook my fist at heaven. There were strong days and weak days, days of faith and days wringing with doubt.

But in those times of waiting, I grew to be friends with Hope. I defined her many ways. In one of my journal entries from August 2009, I wrote what I called “a revelation”, words that moved and consoled me.

I didn’t wait forever. God heard me, and son was born the next fall.

I’ve been in a waiting period since my son was born, and going back to my journal from that year before we got pregnant feels refreshingly familiar, like there is a safe hope in my own words knowing God arrived at just the right time. And from his aerial view where he can see the perfect timing, I can trust him completely. I pray these words move, comfort and settle you as you wait for God in this season.

Hope is a song I write.  Every time I sing it, it takes on a new form.  I learn when to give inflection; I learn the nuances and the rhythms of the verses. I know what to expect as I reach the chorus.  I learn when to crescendo and when to quiet down.  I learn that some parts have to be repeated. 

At some time, hope, my song is written.  I don’t know how long it will take.  But I do know that every time I sing, the song is more mine.  I own every note, every beat, every minor and major chord. 

This is my song. Swept up in the joys of the shifting melodies, I don’t have to rush to get it done. I become lost in the process, in the creation. I created it from nothing. I took a nothing and dreamed and something real came from it.

This is a beautiful thing. I must hope. I must sing these words, these notes, again and again.  The song is being formed in me, growing from deep in my belly, my deepest parts. 

Some day it will be something that can look back at me and love me, something I can hold and rock to sleep. But for now, it’s a song I sing, learning every line and every note, learning to love every moment, even the waiting.

What are you waiting for and what are you learning in the process? Share with me in the comments below.

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These stories pump water

I love brand new ideas, really good ones I wish I thought of. Don’t you?

Well, here’s one for you. Have you heard of CausePub yet? If you haven’t, you’re about to.

I just wrote a story for CausePub, an organization creating books for a cause through group-publishing. [Click here to read the story and vote]. [Their current book project is called Couch Rebels, a collection of stories about folks who rebelled against horizontal life and got up to do something, to change something, even if the thing they changed was themselves. The concept is genius. Here’s how it works.

  • CausePub identifies a charity or cause they want their book to support
  • CausePub solicits stories from adventurers and story-tellers
  • After stories are submitted, they approve the stories and post them to their site
  • Story-writers solicit votes from friends and strangers
  • CausePub selects great stories they love with the most votes
  • The Couch Rebel book will be published as a Kindle eBook on August 14. So soon!
  • When anyone purchases the book, the proceeds are divided between the cause, the writers and basic overhead costs.
  • For Couch Rebel, 50% of the proceeds will benefit Blood: Water Mission. The breakdown is in the graphic below.

[Follow CausePub on Twitter here and find them on Facebook here.]

Here’s where I need your help: I wrote a story for CausePub, and I need your vote.

The story is below. It’s a story about a time when God met me and my seatmate on a plane to Atlanta. I didn’t see it coming. I love this story because it makes me like God even more. Please read and take a second to click VOTE. Thank you so much.

What God Thinks About You

“So, where are you headed?” I asked the young brunette next to me to end the awkward silence. She smiled the stranger smile, as if wondering how long this conversation might take. “Somewhere tropical. With friends.” She needed a little prodding, and I wondered if I should just lay off. Instead, I offered my own less glamorous destination: Atlanta.

I attempted to stir the conversation with more questions about her destination, responding with appropriate amounts of awe and jealousy. I hoped we would catch a common thread in our lives and the chatter would take off, giving me an opportunity to eventually talk with her about Jesus.

But no such luck. The conversation flailed, and we politely took up our books. I leaned into the window, pretending to read, but inside I argued with myself, knowing God might have bigger plans for this three-hour plane ride.

Eventually, my discomfort with silence grew larger than my desire to be well-mannered company. “What are you reading?” I finally inquired. She stammered a bit. “It’s a little unconventional. I’m not sure I want to say.” She tucked the pink book cover down toward her lap. I attempted to reassure her I didn’t have plans to judge, but I wasn’t going to push it. But what was she reading?

“I’m reading about artificial insemination,” she offered hesitantly, waiting for the verdict to read on my face as she turned the cover toward me. “I’m not married yet, but I’m 35. And I want to have a baby.”

Oh.

Click the button below to keep reading and vote.

Vote

The God of Self-Help

If you’ve been in church, or been around churchy people, you’ve heard people talk about God. Mostly he sounds like a philanthropic celebrity, but kind of religiousy. The hazy God-descriptions based on scriptural references don’t help.

“He’s the God of the oppressed.”
“He’s the Father to the fatherless.”
“He’s a friend to those in need.”
“He is a refuge for those who seek him.”

While these might be true, why the archaic language to describe someone who is supposed to be “closer than a brother”? These antiquities of speech only widen the gap between confused little me and a God who already feels far away.

I grew up in church, and for those of us who did, at some point we decided if we wanted to interact with God or not. If he was really there and worth our time. The general malaise present in many North American churches serves only to sedate and even quench the passion for the divine with which children are born.

Eventually, if you stay in the shades-of-slate suburbia long enough, you’ll be introduced to The God of Self-Help. This God wants you to “be good”. With only rare head nods to a nicely tanned, smiling Jesus, DIY spirituality is the flavor of the millennium. The mantra: “I can do it myself, with a little help from Jesus.”

Needing help is reserved for only special occasions, like praying for orphans in Africa or the parent with a rare form of cancer. People who really need it. Otherwise, we rarely have to bother God. After all, he hath bestowed on us Deepak Chopra and Oprah and Dr. Oz. What more do we need? A full life awaits us.

I’m a Christian, and I follow Jesus. Self-help affirmations and feel-good quotations give me the willies, but if I’m honest, I will usually pick The God of Self-Help over Real Jesus. Why? Four main reasons:

1. I can do it on my own.
2. I should do it on my own.
3. I owe Jesus to get my crap together after all he’s done for me.
4. I don’t want to bother with all this relationship stuff. It’s too unpredictable.

Self-help offers the thing we all want so desperately: a formula for success with little mess. How do I get to heaven? How can I make the boss like me? How can I have one more baby? How can I get the things I’ve been wanting, tangible or intangible?

I want to achieve. I want to check boxes. I want to feel good. I want to make a difference because I want my name on something. I want people to be impressed with me. And I don’t want anyone questioning my motives or giving me a hard time. Get out of my way. I am trying to get rich and famous, or at least be decently oblivious and happy over here.

And it sure seems like Real Jesus wants to come in and mess it all up.

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It’s easier to dismiss the King James deities, all unrelatable and distant. The Self-Help God offers me a solution to my surface desires, which distracts me with niceties and a busy spiritual life.

Then along comes this Jesus guy, God with flesh on, messing everything up. Touching lepers, playing with kids, drinking wine, sitting in dirt. And dying.

Suddenly it becomes quite clear that Self-Help God is holding out on me. Because why would this other God go to all this trouble to redeem a bunch fully qualified humans? Why the bloody death if we can just read a handbook to pass? Overkill much?

Or perhaps self-help is not enough. Perhaps I am a giant, flailing mess and not even the people around me can toss the tube over cause they’re too busy drowning in it too.

Indeed, self-help is help yourself. Every man and woman for him or herself. There are no extra resources. I need all the points I can get. It’s “I can’t save you so you better work and try to save yourself.”

I’m sorry I’ve been dialing the God of Self-Help while keeping the Real Jesus at arm’s length, suspiciously eyeing him and fearing for what he will ask of me.

I still want to fix myself. I think I need to try harder. But Jesus’ crazy life says I’m desperate, and if I slow down long enough to look around, I can see that I am. I need way more than self-help. I need a rope deep enough to reach into hell and pluck me from the flames seconds from the burn.

God, I’m sorry I drank the Kool-Aid thinking you were gonna help me be a nice person, that you were peddling best-sellers on formulas for a better life. You couldn’t care less about my manicured lawn and nails if my heart is rotting out. You look past skin and landscaping to see the whitewashed tomb inside.

It’s ugly. I need a makeover. This is no DIY project. It’s major surgery. There is nothing worth saving here. I need a life-transplant.

Real Jesus, I’m done with The God of Self-Help. I am really sorry I’ve been one of those friends who only calls when she needs something. And I’m sorry I’ve been a liar, liar, pants on fire about my relationship with you. I’m a novice. A born-yesterday beginner. But I’m aware now.

Help.

Unafraid

Yes. To all of the above. One of my big goals this year is fearlessness. I was afraid to commit to it. (LOL.) But seriously, I really was. Being unafraid means potential loss, pain and other things we religiously aim to avoid.

So why put ourselves out there? Whenever I choose to risk, it’s because the pain of regret is bigger than the pain of failure.

May I remember the pain of regret only long enough to make the strong and fearless choice. And may we all live lives unafraid.

What’s the one thing holding you back from taking the leap into living unafraid?

{Let’s stay in touch. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter. And you can subscribe to the blog right here. Thanks.}

[Image cred: found this one from Em and Kat over at The Refined Woman. Love that blog. Those girls are too fun, sassy and they know how to dress. Stop by for a visit and get a few wardrobe ideas from these fearless gals.]

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When it’s all up to you: the value of legacy

{If you found me through my article on Catalyst, welcome. And if you’re a regular or a visitor, please let me share my news: I had the privilege to be featured on Catalyst this week, talking about the church planting life and the value of raising up the legacy of the next generation of leaders. I’m hoping to have the opportunity to write more on church planting and leadership, something Josh and I are growing intimately familiar with. Thanks for reading. Please leave thoughts in the article comments section. Thanks. Now, without further ado…}

Church planting is like parenting. It’s exhausting, and in the beginning, you’re doing all the work. It’s a good thing you love your new, baby church.

But as it grows, it gains independence. It can tie its own shoes. And eventually, you get to go to the bathroom unaccompanied.

Yup, this is pretty much what it’s like in the beginning.

Okay, it’s not a direct analogy, but you’d be surprised by the similarities.

If you’re a church planter, you know: the policy writing, program development, volunteer training and recruiting, preaching and teaching, discipleship of new converts, janitorial duties, midnight counseling, Sunday bulletin design, weddings and funerals and hospital visits and baby dedications are simply all part of the job. Your job.

But this is only the infancy of the church, the stage of greatest need and dependence, and in many ways, the highest level of pastoral involvement. But it’s not supposed to stay this way.

After my son was born, we returned home from the hospital and tried to adjust to life without sleep. I remember hearing him cry one day and wondering when his mother was going to come and help him out. It was dreadful to realize I was the mother. Who gave someone with no parenting experience a new child who has no use of the English language?

Like parenting, church planting is a startling thrust into the fire. When we got the 2 AM call from a local hospital that the husband of one of our parishioners passed away suddenly, we searched about wildly. “Someone should call her pastor,” we muttered in our groggy stupor. And then we realized we were the pastors. We left our three week-old infant with my mom, who happened to be in town, and hurried to the hospital to comfort our friend.

Even if you’ve never comforted a new parent, cooked a casserole for a potluck, or provided the homily at a funeral service, suddenly, it’s up to you. You’re up.

Like parenting, it’s almost a given that whatever needs to be done will fall on you in the beginning. But that’s only the beginning.

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