I know I love you

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind.  It’s the combination of retreat season and our denomination’s pastors’ conference a couple weeks ago.  Add in a couple of new things going on in my “normal (non ministry)” world and you get the insane pace I’ve been running lately.  My apartment has been in a constant state of chaos – laundry half done, books scattered and shoes/purses everywhere.  Where did I get all these bags and shoes?!
All that to say, I’ve popping back in for a little #FridayFive and an update.  I’ve been keeping up fairly well with all my 2016 healthy habits – except keeping my apartment clean and blogging.  But I have been writing more – they just aren’t quite ready for mass consumption yet – they’re coming soon, I hope.
But today’s #FridayFive topic got me intrigued, especially with Valentine’s day this weekend.  I’ve been so thankful recently for all my wonderful friends who do life beside me (even from afar).  So today’s topic is giving me a chance to talk about how to love well! So here we go!

#FridayFive: Five Ways to Show Your Love

From your Love Language
The other day one of my friends said to me, “My love language is quality time, so you must know I love you because spend a lot of time together.” We all have ways that are easiest for us to express love.  My love languages are touch and quality time.  When I’m expressing love for my friends it’s by spending time with them, just us, talking about life or doing something together.  I’m also a hugger – which makes some people uncomfortable so I lean more on the time one with some people.  The easiest way to show your love is to know what your predispositions are and then love well out of them.
Learning their Love Language
I have an older brother and like most brother-sister relationships we sometimes have a communication issue.  There was a season of life where I felt like I really needed him to be there for me and he always seemed really distant.  The ways I needed him to love me weren’t happening and it was really frustrating.  I was getting ready to move across the country and he took my car to get serviced, washed it inside and out and then packed all my belongings inside of it.  That’s when it hit me – his love language is service.  It was never on my radar because how often do brothers and sisters actually serve each other.  I looked at him through a new lens that day – recounting all the ways he’s always taken care of me, subtly.  It changed our relationship completely.  I was able to appreciate him more which made me love him better.
Brag on your friends
There’s this hashtag going around lately: #FangirlYourFriends, I’m not sure if we started it but my For the Love sisters have been doing it really well.  They are bragging on each other and their endeavors all over the internet.  We all know it feels good to be recognized for the things we are doing, to be encouraged in those moments that we feel like all our work is fruitless.  I think we need to take to the internet and brag on our friends more.  Fangirl away, or Fanguy (is that a thing?) away!  Whether publicly or privately – if you see your loved ones doing their life well, tell them and tell the world.  What if the internet was just all of us bragging on each other instead of pulling people down?  I’d read that Facebook feed!
Be Kind
Kindness is contagious.  It’s the best and easiest way (in my humble opinion) to show Christ’s love in our world.  I often say you should be kind simply because you don’t know what the person standing in front of you has gone through that day.  Following the rule of being kind helps you to not accidentally stomp on someone’s heart.
Then I heard a quote today on a podcast that really hit me.  The podcaster said, “If you’re not kind on the internet, you’re not a kind person.”  It really struck me.  The internet is the place where we get to say what we “really mean” so if that’s the case, this quote is true.  The internet gives us the freed to share with little accountability.  Think about that as we go into this political season.  I’m not saying don’t call out truth, I’m saying to do it with love and kindness.
Don’t be afraid to love
I know I’m typing this one for my own benefit more than anything.  Don’t let past hurts keep you from showing love to others.  I’m a very guarded person.  I’ve been hurt a lot by close people, so I only let certain people in.  But it means that I am sometimes fearful to share how I really feel.  I shut down instead of express myself.  I’m working on getting better at it, but it’s a process.  When we hold back our expressions of love, it’s holding back the chance for deeper relationships with others.  That whole “love your neighbor” commandment Jesus gave us – we’re not doing it well when we allow the pain of the past to hinder our expressions of love.  We aren’t being Christ when we’re too worried about the pain it will cause ourselves.  This one takes work, painful work of digging into your past pains and risk of loving people who may not be able to return it.  But I think it’s worth it.  I’ll let you know when I find out.

This weekend is our High School Winter Retreat – so I will be spending Valentine’s at one of my favorite camps with my some of my favorite HS kids.  Plus some of my closest friends will also be there, so I’m looking forward to showing love this weekend!

How are you showing love this weekend?

As always, I’m linking up with my FTL sister Kelly for #FridayFive.  Click over to her post on Five Ways to Show a Stranger the Love of God!

Something in me would not let me turn and run

Finding community has always been really hard for me.  Partially because I’m a pastor and the statistics on pastors’ loneliness are enough to shock us into reality.  Partially because I’ve been really wounded in that area by people that I thought were friends.  But about 2 years ago I found my stride here in Chicago.  I had found my people and felt fulfilled.
Then my Roomsmate moved to California.  So I pressed into another group, focusing all my “excess” energy there.  Then my other two best friends moved to Seattle.  I wasn’t used to being left, I had always been the leaver in the past.  I never thought about what it would mean to put roots down in a place and have others leave around me.  It was heartbreaking saying goodbye to the people who had loved me so well and who got me on such a deep level.
I’ve posted a lot about Jen Hatmaker recently, and about this book she’s written called For the Love and this Launch Team I’m been a part of since March.  Up until now I haven’t been able to fully put into words what this new community has really meant to me.  Maybe because on some level, I thought it was really weird that we had this online community of women (and 4 men) that were basically pouring their hearts and souls out for one another on Facebook.
But then I went to Austin.  And I finally got the words.
Yes, online relationships aren’t usually that real.  So I went into the weekend with very little expectations of what my interactions with these other women would be.  I didn’t have any time ahead of the weekend to really focus on making sure I knew people’s name or stories, I only knew about 9 really that well.
From the moment I got in the car at the airport to the moment I boarded the plane back home, we were on the go and meeting people.  It was overwhelming, even for this extrovert.  But as I watched all these interactions happening around me I realized, this community was real.  This community was the kind of community that people dream of, the kind of community we want to have in our churches and in our lives.
I had some of the deepest conversations with girls that I had just officially “met” a day ago.  I knew people’s bents and hurts in the church before I even knew their last names.  I knew what they were struggling with before I even knew what tv shows they watch.  We prayed for each other, we cried together, we laughed together and when we got back on our planes pointed all over the country, we hugged each other tight and promised to keep in touch.  It was beautiful.  It was the Church.
And then I came back home and I got into my friend’s car who picked me up from the airport and I realized the beauty in this relationship.  God brought this new friend to me when so many loved ones had left me.  She and her sister have encircled me in their arms, invited me into their group and allowed me to be me.
As we sat around the fire the next night with another dear new friend, I realized something.  I had found another community.  And this new one, I have to attribute to For the Love.  I was tired of complaining about now having my people around me.  I had gotten tired of being sad that Seattle and California were so far away and I started to invest in something tangible.  Now these three women are my people.
And I’m seeing that happen within the Launch Team.  These 496 women and 4 men have poured deeply into this community and are now taking that back to their lives.  What if all of us take this message of grace and community back to our lives?  What kind of movement could that start?  If we start to live out of love rather than fear of not being accepted?
So here’s my real endorsement for the book, no fluffy language or vague references, just my real life opinion of this book that brought my heart back to life:
For the Love is a reminder to all of us that in this world, it is hard to be a woman in this world.  We are created for community but we have been conditioned to compare, to tear down and to be envious of what we are not.  We have made an imaginary list of what it really means to be a good woman, friend, mom, wife, single person and we are trying to live up to that list.  Every chapter may not hit you were you are currently at, but if you dig in deep, it will help you remember the grace that has been bestowed upon you as a child of God.  And it will help you to find that grace for others.  It just might change your whole approach to life, if you let it.

I Just Want To Make Something Beautiful

Yesterday as I sat in the plane and stared at the blank page before me I was speechless. I had the task of writing out what these last few months as part of the For The Love Launch Team has meant to me.
I stated at the page for a long time. The dark plane was quiet and there I sat with my little light on recounting all the moments.
From the moment I got the email saying I was chosen, to the moment I said yes to the Facebook group page, to many prayer requests, heart shares, meet ups and discussions to now – boarding a plane to Austin to celebrate this amazing Launch with 200+ of my fellow FTL ladies.
This group of women have become a little community of encouraging, joking, teasing, praying sisters (and some brothers). I am so thankful for this group that has become exactly what Jen has been talking about in this book. Exactly what we need more of today in our world.
And what’s more is this group gave me what I needed to move in my own world. To take what I’ve been experiencing virtually and create it in my life physically with some amazing ladies I’ve begun to do life with. It’s been amazing.
So here’s to a weekend meeting in person for the first time all of these ladies who have loved me well from afar these past few months. And getting to squeeze Jen Hatmaker around the neck!!!

I need your grace to remind me to find my own

This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.
When I joined the Launch Team for For the Love I had no idea what I was about to come my way.  But I can honestly say now that I needed this.  I needed this community, I needed this encouragement and most of all, I needed this book.
Jen Hatmaker is a best-selling author who finds a way to balance hard hitting truth and laugh out loud humor. In this book she tackles a topic that so many women today struggle with – grace.  Grace for ourselves, grace for those around us and grace for the church.  She finds a way to help us shine a light on the competitive and judgemental habits we all have, whether within ourselves or with others.
We all know that it is hard to be a woman today.  Everywhere we look we see messages of how we are not good enough.  It sows within us insecurities and an edge of judgement and comparison.  We get caught up in the need to be the best at everything.  The best crafter, the best mother, the best wife, the best girlfriend, the most content single person, the best baker, the best cook, the best friend, and the list goes on and on.
I think there’s a lot of reasons why this happens.  Whether it be age old stereotypes and expectations on women, the increase of social media forcing us to display our best lives or even just the complications of the modern age, there is an invented standard of what it means to be a woman.
If you ever looked at your life and wondered if you’re doing it right, wondered if you were enough, wondered if you really had what it takes – this book is for you.  If you’ve ever been told that the key to life is balance but then struggled to find that unicorn known as balance than this book is for you.
Here’s a quote from Jen that further illustrates this:

But maybe if we reject the invented standard, if we stop fearing a “no” will end the world, if we pare our lives down to what is beautiful, essential, life-giving, if we refuse to guilt one another for different choices, and if we celebrate the ordinary accomplishments of Ordinary Good Hard Life, then we’ll discover there wasn’t a beam in the first place, that God’s kingdom never required a balancing act, and Jesus was in the fun foam pit all along. 

Jen helps us to reclaim the grace of God that has been freely given to us.  She gently reminds us that we are more than our current position in life.  She gives tips and encouragement to help us walk this road to rediscovering and fighting for that grace in our lives.  Both for ourselves and for others.
Every section of this book spoke truth into my life, into the life of my ministry as a pastor to families, and into the life of my own family.  It caused me to look deep down into my heart and strive for something better.
It also made me laugh out loud more than once, and more than once in public.  It’s sensible, witty and at times it’s just right.  This book is a way for us to open our eyes and see the beauty in ourselves and in others, the beauty that comes from being completely who God created us to be and not an ounce more or less.
I could go on and on, and in the coming weeks I just might, but for now you can read more about the book at www.forthelovebook.com or watch this video below to hear about it in Jen’s own words:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjyZ91Z0nFs]
I encourage you to find a group of women and crack open this book together.  I promise you won’t be sorry you did.  I sure am not sorry that I found this group of 495 women and 4 men who have helped to launch this book.  I am not sorry I read this book and have found myself more centered and alive because of it.