Unstoppable God let your glory go on and on

I’m currently sitting in the car driving back from a staff retreat in Michigan. It’s been an amazing couple of days as we’ve celebrated, processed and enjoyed the company of each other.
We started off this retreat with a spiritual practice on the shores of Lake Michigan, listening to God and reflecting on what is setting in our lives. Like the sun sets, what in our lives is it time to let go of in order for new things to rise.
I realized that for most of my adult Christian life, this Lake has been where I see God. Where he has revealed himself to me in so many ways. And how many times I almost missed what he had for me. So as I join in on this week’s link up at Mrs. Discple, I’m continuing to process this. So here we go –

#FridayFive: Blessings I almost missed out on 


When I first moved to MI in 2007, I barely knew anyone. It was my first experience away from my family. I was also in the midst of a particularly challenging season where it felt like I was constantly running away. One day I went to the beach of Lake Michigan with my head phones and iPod, ready to spend time with God through my music. Only I got to the beach and my iPod was dead. I remember being so mad. How am I supposed to hear from God without my music??  But I sat down in the sand anyway. I had never been still before God. Silent before God.
In those moments I felt God in a new and powerful way. It started me down a path of healing. I’ve always struggled with being alone- I’m an extrovert. But I’ve come to a point now where I can be alone and not feel lonely. There are so many times in my life I wish I could go back to and tell younger me to be okay by herself.

Paying my dues

When I’m in a healthy place I understand my own limitations. There was a time in my early ministry days when I was offered a job I was not ready for. I turned it down because of it. But there was another time of my life that I wasn’t offered a job I thought I was ready for. Instead I was offered an opportunity to be mentored and grow. I was really disappointed. But I took the opportunity given to me and now I know that God still had things to do with me.
The year that followed that hard decision was an unbelievable blessing. My ministry has benefited from that year of refining and growing. But I almost missed it because I thought I was ready before my time.

Influence of deep friendships

I am a 2 on the Enneagram – I’m called the loving one. The way I function in relationship is to always be looking to care for people. Sometimes that opens me up to being used and taken advantage of, I put others needs before my own. I went through a season of life where I was constantly giving of myself but not getting much back. It closed me off to having meaningful relationships. I always felt that no one could give me what I needed and I was constantly giving others whatever they needed.
I had a friend come into my life that was also a 2. Frequent readers know her as my Roomsmate.  She entered my life in a time when I needed someone to care for me. To ask me how I was doing. Through her love and friendship I was able to open up more. Process why I felt the way I felt because she felt it too. I wasn’t alone.
Through that blessing of a relationship, I was able to quantify what I needed in friendship. So now, I can see relationships for what they are and choose my investment level. I understand more now what I need in my closest friends in order to feel filled.


I might just be writing this one because I’m the last month I’ve been to three of our denomination’s camps. But let’s just talk about camp.
I did not grow up going to camp. I went camping a ton and I went to sleep away Girl Scout camp. But I did not do camp the way that most of my colleagues did camp.  To be really honest, I never understood the appeal. I didn’t get why people talked about it all the time. It seemed a bit like a cult classic movie I’d never seen.
But then I discovered camp. As an adult I’ve fallen in love with camp. Mostly because the three camps near us are really spectacular but also because I’m starting to see it through their eyes. The beauty of life at camp is something that tugs on my heart. I love my job and I love getting to do ministry in this church so don’t worry friends- I’m not leaving. But I’ll be glad to drive up to camp any day.

Trying new things      

I can be a bit of an nay sayer. I’m sure we can talk about my psychological development and get to the root of it. But simply put, I’m not super into trying new things. I’m set in my ways, just a bit. But recently I’ve found myself trying to do more out of my comfort zone. Challenging myself to shake off my insecurities and just live my life. Suddenly I’m thinking, what have I been doing all these years?
When we let our insecurities stop us from living, we are being robbed of a blessing. We may hate the new things, but what if those new things let us understand God or others in a new way.
More on this to come because I’m still processing. But I’ve almost missed out on a lot of blessings and moving forward I want to keep my eyes open for more of God and less of the lies that hold me still.

you're the reason I'm still up at dawn

I’m in both a career and a life stage where I am surrounded by moms.  I serve as a Pastor to Youth, Kids and their families.  And all my friends are having babies… okay not all my friends, but a lot of them.  So while I don’t have kids of my own, I recognize the struggles that come along with being a mama to little ones.  I see them in the eyes of my friends, of the women I do ministry with, of random women I see at the grocery store and at Target.
So today’s prompt for the #FridayFive over at Mrs. Disciple hits me right in the heart.  My version of this prompt will be things I want all my young mom friends to know.  Five things from me to you, things I want to know in your heart of hearts.  Think of it as a little love letter from me to you.

#FridayFive: Five statements to my Mama to Littles friends

I see you.

I know it’s easy to get lost in the fray of small children.  I’ve seen it time and time again when we’re out.  People address your kids more than you.  OR WORSE – they critique your parenting choices from a 10 second observation in the aisle of a store.  You are a beautiful mama and yes your kids are SUPER cute and that’s why people coo over them, but you are amazing too.  You are their mama – those cuties are your cuties.  So I want you to know that I see you – doing your best, keeping your kids fed, clean and happy.  I see all the hard work that goes into it, even when it feels like no one sees you.

Your child’s crying doesn’t bother me

I don’t know when it became socially unacceptable for kids to cry.  They have very little control over their little bodies and their big emotions.  To mamas I don’t know in the stores – I wish you didn’t need to feel the need to apologize for your child’s crying.  You can’t control it and chances are that they can’t either.  I know you’re doing all that you can, sometimes kids cry and it’s okay.  You just do you and I promise I’m not judging.

I’m sorry when I say stupid things

I know they’re going to come out.  No matter my experience with kids or my own nieces, chances are I’m going to say something that I don’t mean.  It may come out as judgmental or like I’m telling you what to do.  Or I may accidentally be braggy about sleeping in until 9 a.m. on a Saturday.  I don’t have kids – I don’t fully understand.  I know that, you know that – but I’m human and I’m going to slip up sometimes.  I’m also sorry for all the times other people have said mean things or given you advice that makes you feel like a bad mom.  You’re not a bad mom.  They don’t have your kids or your situation.  You need to do what’s right for your family, so you do you.  Always remember Amy Poehler says we’re allowed to say, “Good for you, not for me.”

I’m so proud of you

I seriously have some of the greatest mama friends.  I see them fighting for, loving, protecting, playing with, comforting their kids every day.  They’ve each seen struggles in their journeys and they have triumphed in amazing ways.  They get up every morning and do what needs to be done for their kids.  I’ll never get over how cool it is that they get to be moms to some of the most amazing kiddos I know.  How great they each were created to be exactly what those kids need.  God has shown up in amazing ways in their lives and I’m so proud that I get to call them my friends.

Thank you for letting me be a part of your kids lives.

I don’t say this enough – but thank you.  Your kids are a delight to know.  I know it is an honor to be able to be a part of their lives.  To be an extra Auntie, to be their Pastor, to be a Miss Alicia, to be a presence in their lives.  You’ve trusted me with one (or more) of your most precious possessions and I am honored.  I love knowing your kids.  That first time they say my name, the first time they choose to come to me to tell me about their day, those days they ask if I can come to lunch with you, the sadness when they finally learn to say all the letters in my name – I treasure it all.  I will never get sick of hearing their stories, of reading the same books over and over again, of pushing them on a swing, of retelling them all my bee stories.
To all my mama friends – I love you all.  You’re doing great and I’m on your side.

I'll give credit where I think credits due

As you can tell, I’m trying to get back into the rhythm of writing more, so I’m rejoining the link up over at Mrsdisciple.com.  Today’s prompt for the Friday Five is Men I admire.  I should have started last week – her prompt was women I admire, but since I’m constantly talking about those women out there that I follow,  we’ll start here.
I’ve decided to take some liberty with this week’s prompts – I’m choosing characteristics of men I admire.  This is not to say that the list I include within each category only fit into that category, but they are the people who I think really encompass these traits that I admire.  These will be both people I know in real life (whose last names I’ll leave out for privacy purposes) and those who I follow online.  So without further ado:

Friday Five: Five (Types of) Men I Admire:

World Changers

I admire men in this world who are trying to leave their spheres of influence better than how they found them.  They know that they have influence and power and they use it to challenge the way we see the world.  I admire this because I aim to do this as well and I’ve learned from all of these men in one way or another.  Included in this category: my dear friend Dominique who challenges me daily to be better.  Propaganda.  Cameron Strang.

Artists (mostly Music)

I’ve always had an admiration for people who are creative.  I love artists who can take their craft and create something worth listening to, looking at, watching … I admire people who use honesty and vulnerability to create something beautiful.  Of course this includes Ben Rector, Matt Wertz, Lin Manuel Miranda, the men of The Fray.

Good Fathers/Husbands

This category I can only fill with people I do know.  I think it’s hard to look at people you don’t know and say that they are really good at this, but I also think it’s been so important for me to see what this looks like.  As someone who grew up with a complicated relationship with her own father, I really value the people in my life who have retaught me what it looks like to have a healthy marriage and a positive relationship with their kids.  This list is long, which is only to say that I have been blessed to be surrounded by some of the best men (and women) there are out there.  This includes both Papa Curt and Kurt, both Tims, Fredrik, Chris, Lee, Mark, Nate, Gary, both Adams, Tyler… the list could go on and on and on…


I obviously learn a lot from other pastors who have taught me what it means to be in this role.  It’s one of those types of positions where everyone who holds it is the same but at the same time so vastly different.  I have learned a lot from past mentors, colleagues and others who have poured into me.  This includes Curt, Tim, Nate, Mark, Russ, Bill, Josh, Nate, Paul, other Tim, Eric and countless others.


Lastly, those who I aspire to be like in my writing and teaching.  Men who have taken topics and given them life through words and deed.   This includes Brandon Hatmaker, Donald Miller, Nathan Albert, Klyne Snodgrass, Soong-Chan Rah, James Bruckner.  Some of those men I now personally but I want you to read there stuff or take their classes, so I’m including their full names.

time after time I hit rewind

Today I’m linking up with Mrs. Disciple for her #FridayFive because I simply cannot help myself.  This week’s prompt is Smiles – and well, that makes me smile.
Pouring the cheese on with that one – but I simply do not care.  Here are five things in the last few weeks that have made me genuinely smile.

#FridayFive: Things that make me smile

Small children saying my name

In general, when a kid learns how to say my name, it absolutely melts my heart.  But there’s a specific subcategory of this one recently that is just killing it.  Right after I became a pastor of my church a whole slew of families at our church announced they were expecting.  As in five families, which in our church of 120 is a lot.  When these kids entered our world they were my first hospital visits in this call.  They were my first baptisms and dedications in this call.  They all hold a very special place in my heart.  These kids are now about 18 months and starting to talk.  I have recently heard my first “Pastor Alicia” from one of them and I couldn’t help but smile.  Okay – it was more like “P-tor Lesh-a” but I’m counting it.  There’s a special relationship that blossoms from being a pastor to young kids and that moment when they reciprocate the relationship is nothing short of a holy moment.

Post surgery wake up

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you have undoubtedly seen pictures of one of my students.  She received a kidney transplant from her mom a couple of weeks ago.  She’s had some non-kidney issues that have kept her in the hospital and last night she had another surgery to take care of business.  I was lucky enough to be present during both surgeries.  Last night’s surgery was a long one.  We paced the halls and waited for the good news.  After it finally came, it was a little bit of a wait until we got to see her.  When I came into the recovery area, I spoke quietly to her.  Made my way up to the side of the bed and as I touched her hand she opened her eyes and looked at me.  I couldn’t help but smile.  She gave me a brief smile and while she probably won’t remember that moment, I’ll treasure it.  It’s one thing to get news that the surgery went well but it’s a completely other to get to see her, touch her hand and praise God that everything went well.


As someone who lives far away from a lot of people she loves, I’m a huge fan of technology.  But this week what brought me a smile is my Roomsmate.  Two years ago she moved back to California. I miss her more than words can say.  She was my confidante, my partner in crime and the best roommate.  But with technology we get to talk every day.  Whether it be silly snapchats, texts, gmail chat, FaceTime or twitter, we are still living life together.  This week she sent me an article to read that she had loved, it gave words to things I had been feeling for a long time.  I’m amazed that even from more than a thousand miles away she is still challenging me and helping me to see God’s hand in my life.  So maybe this one is less about Technology and more about her deep loving friendship.

Meghan Trainor

I’ve been a long time fan of Meghan Trainor.  But she recently released a new song and it cemented my love for her for a few reasons.  First of all, the song “Me Too” is all about loving yourself and your body.  I’m all about promoting positive self-talk.  Secondly, when her video released she saw that she had been heavily photoshopped in it.  She called all the people in command and took the video off the internet.  She approved and re-released the video unphotoshopped.  She’s not the first celebrity to take a stand on photoshopping but this week, that made me smile.  Lastly, in her recent performance on the Tonight show, she fell at then end, because her heels were CRAZY high.  She made it through a whole dance break without falling, but turning around at the end was what made her fall.  And she had the perfect reaction to it – she laid on the floor and laughed.  Keep doing you, Meghan.

Graduation Announcements

It’s that time of year again!  I’m loving seeing what my students come up with for their graduation announcements.  But this year also marks a very special year of graduation.  I’ll be traveling home next week for the graduation of my dear (adopted) little brother.  His mom was my boss in my first internship.  They moved to my home town when he was little.  Very little.  I once wrote about him in a blog saying that if he asked me to give him my car I’d give it to him – he was that cute as a kid.  This year he graduates from high school.  I cannot believe this is where we’re at.  He and his family are like my second family, related by the blood of Christ.  I got a huge grin opening his announcement and even now as I anticipate a trip home to celebrate him.

What’s made you smile this week?

as the days keep turning into night

This has been one crazy week of ministry.  It’s been up and down emotionally speaking but through it all, God has shown me some great moments of beauty, community and faithfulness.  I’ve been a bit busy to write, but I’ll try to catch up. #famouslastwords
This week’s #FridayFive topic is The Ways You are Nailing Motherhood – which doesn’t necessarily apply to me, so I thought instead I’d go back a week and write on last week’s prompt.  I still encourage you to go over to Mrs. Disciple and read some of the posts in this week’s link up!
So here’s last week’s #FridayFive:

Five Days I Would Live Again

April 24, 2016

IMG_4065I’ll start with the most recent.  This past Sunday was our Confirmation Sunday.  We confirmed 11 students and baptized one of them as well.  Part of the service was them each sharing their faith.  A few months ago I had given them a paper outlining some questions they could answer and I encouraged them to get creative.  My hope with this many confirmands was that they would each show our congregation a bit of who they are as individuals.  That God’s creativity in creation would shine through them.   And it sure did.  They each prepared their testimonies in their own way: we had videos, songs, slide shows of photography, drawings, some comedic relief.  They did an amazing job and I wish I could relive that service, that day of celebration again and really take it all in.  I’m so proud of each of them!

November 25, 2015

IMG_3123This one day could actually be a number of days – any days that I get to spend with my nieces are days to relive.  But this one was particularly fun.  I had just flown in that morning, these two greeted me at the airport with a hand made sign.  Once we got lunch and back home, I took them to the park – well two parks because they couldn’t decide between the two.  Then we went for ice cream.  I can count on one hand the amount of days I’ve spent with them when they haven’t fought but that day they were like best of friends.  It was a day filled with laughter, sunshine and plenty of “look at me Tia!” Not pictured is going to pick up the baby who came running into my arms the moment she saw me.

April, 2000

I don’t have a picture, or a specific date for this one – but it’s the day I first met my goddaughter.  Her mom had just adopted her and they made their first visit to see us, it was also the weekend she was baptized.  The weekend I first became a godmother.  The day they flew in we were waiting at their gate.  My aunt was carrying  all their bags from the plane so the Goddaughter was walking.  The minute she saw us she shrunk behind her mom.  She wasn’t quite ready for us but it was a busy airport so my aunt told me to pick her up to walk to baggage claim.  She stared at me like I was an alien.  She cried for her mom.  It wasn’t until we were in the car and I offered her a sip of my iced tea did she warm up to me.  The rest of the day she loved me.  It all started with some Arizona Iced Tea.

December 2ish, 2011

DSCN0712 Once upon a time two seminarians decided kind of last minute to fly to NYC for the weekend before finals.  We were burnt out for lots of good reasons that year and we needed a weekend of no homework and no drama.  Our friend who shares my name also came and joined us for one of the days.  I would relive that trip times a thousand and every trip to NYC since then.  Every time I go to NYC I learn something new about the city and about myself.   I love that city and I loved running around it with my favorite Roomsmate.

December 16, 2012

IMG_0762 This day. This was what I would consider the beginning of our real friendship.  I remember it so clearly, I had been having a rough couple days and the Kindergarten Teacher (who has since become the One that Moved to Seattle) called me after church and asked if I wanted to go get lunch.  Then we went to Target and wandered the aisles.  It was the first of many many lunches with her and her husband on Sunday afternoons.  Afternoons spent wandering through stores, going to movies, living life together.  Very few friendships have that starting moment – and this was ours.  Our first selfie and the beginning of a friendship that I miss dearly now that she lives on the West coast.
This was a really fun post to write – there are so many days I’d love to relive.  So many moments that are precious to me, captured through pictures that I keep dear to my heart.  But for now, we’ll stick to these five.

I'm looking for a mind at work

Oh hey friends, remember me?  The reluctant blogger who can’t seem to keep on a writing schedule?  I’m still here.  Glad you’re still here too… hopefully you’re still here too.
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write here.  Mostly because I’m in a season of life that doesn’t allow for a lot of space to write – both physical time and the ability to publish what’s going on around me.  But alas, I’m popping in.
When I’m in seasons like this, where the things I write can’t be published, I like to fill my brain with good things – through my ears.   Which means that this week’s #FridayFive posed by Mrs. Disciple fits right in to where I’ve been setting up camp.

#FridayFive: Five Things I’m Listening To

1. Podcasts

I’ve become a little bit of a podcast junkie.  Is that a thing?  It all started with the Relevant Podcast.  About a year ago I was housesitting and stumbled upon this podcast which I listened to while I walked the dog.  I got hooked by their witty repartee and insightful interviews with people living cool lives.  Now it’s a year later and I’m hooked on podcasts of all kinds.  Most mornings and car rides find me listening to podcasts to fill the silent spaces with meaningful conversation.  It’s almost like I’m tricking my extrovert self into thinking I am constantly surrounded by friends – friends who have cool jobs are and changing the world.  But they also give me a glimpse into worlds that I don’t fully understand.  I try to broaden my horizons through podcasts – purposely listening intently to stories other that my own that will make me a better pastor and friend.
Here are some of my favorites: The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, The Popcast with Knox and Jamie,  The West Wing Weekly.  My friend Nathan just started one called The Why Behind the What that is really good. I also dabble in the Liturgists, and I’m just starting on Lead Stories Podcast.

2. Musicals

I’m on a musical kick right now – I’m not sure what it is about Broadway, but it calls to me.  This recent kick started off with Sara Bareilles’ new musical called Waitress.  She release an album of songs she had wrote for Waitress and they are magical.  Sara has always had the amazing ability to speak to me through her music (actually, let’s be honest – it’s God working through her).  This album is no different.  My favorite songs include: She Used to be Mine, You Matter to Me, and When He Sees Me.  She has been able to capture what it feels like to be single in today’s world.  It’s really magic in song – so very good.
This led me to discover the Hamilton soundtrack.  Also, very good.  Well-written music, innovative, great lyrics and some hip hop influence.  If you haven’t given it a listen, please do so.  And of course there’s all my old standards – Rent, Newsies, Wicked and Legally Blonde.
A subcategory of this one could be “Music that Makes Me Feel”.  It’s a category that I’ve discovered, music that have lyrics that make me think, make me feel, make me challenge myself.  I’m all for a good pop song but if you listen to those lyrics, like really listen, they aren’t provoking much deep thoughts or feelings.

3. Laughter and kind words

There’s this group that I hand out with on Thursday nights.  It’s a group of my youth group parents.  They hang out for one hour every Thursday nights while their daughters are in dance class.  Last year they invited me to join them and I’ve been going ever week since. We all say it’s the best hour of our week, an hour where we just sit around a table and hear life updates, tell stories and enjoy each other’s company.  I treasure this group for two reasons – their legacy of friendship and their willingness to let me in.  This group of parents have been friends for over ten years – when their daughters all met in preschool.  They have this friendship that runs deep and they love each other so tangibly.  It’s beautiful.  If I am ever fortunate enough to have kids, I hope that I find friends like this to walk through their childhood with me.  Secondly, they have let me in so lovingly.  I have learned so much from them in the last year.  About marriage, about raising kids, about friendship – because they have invited me in.
That’s just one group that I spend weekly time with, I’ve really noticed how many people I’m surrounded by constantly that make me laugh and say kind things to me or to others.  I am trying to focus on those moments rather than the ones that cause pain or confusion.

4. The meaning behind the words

Along the same lines, I’ve been trying to see past the surface level of conversations.  It might be a trick of the trade but I have the tendency to be able to pick up on the sentiments behind the words being said.  In a world full of technology, this is getting harder and harder.  We used to say that e-mail was a hard mode of communication because you couldn’t read the emotion behind the words.  Now I’m beginning to think that we no long expect emotions to be behind words.  We’ve lost the ability to read between the lines and really see each other.  Context is subjective, but are we losing the ability to parse conversations?  We take everything at face value.  I’m not sure that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but I’m seeing more and more that when I take something at face value, I’m taking it at my face value – what I would mean if I said that sentence.  This means I’m not taking the other’s story into account, I’m assuming everyone thinks and acts like me.
So recently I’m trying to see things through the eyes of others – including my own words.  When I say this – what are they hearing? What am I actually meaning?  This could be the topic of a whole other post (and it just might be) but it’s been an eye opening experience.

5. Myself

My last audible would be my own thoughts.  I’ve been in my head a lot lately and it’s caused me to discover a lot about myself that I didn’t really see before.  I’m sure eventually that will lead to some more posts but I’m starting to see myself more clearly than I had before.  I’ve always had a fairly high level of self awareness, but it seems to be higher these days.  I’m connecting pieces of my story that have created tendencies in myself.  Good, bad and just plain interesting.

What are you listening to?  What’s taking up space between your ears lately?

You will always be more than enough for me

This last week has been one of those weeks.  One of those weeks where you cling on to the promise of faith because not much else seems to stay still long enough to grab on.  We lost a dear member of our congregation this week.  This woman was such an example of what the body of Christ should act like – she was a constant encourager.  But in a way that you knew she really meant it.  It didn’t seem like a platitude.  It was a genuine pointing out of your gifts and acknowledging God’s work in your life.
She came to our church shortly after I did.  She came with her daughter and son-in-law, always sitting towards the back on the left from where I stood up front.  Her smile was contagious and her hugs in the receiving line were always a highlight of my week.  She always greeted me with a smile and a “Hello my friend.”  She asked me questions about my life – not to pry but to let me know that she cared for me, the way she cared for her own grandchildren.  She always encouraged me to share from my heart – to be honest with who I was because she loved it when I was real.
In my last post I shared that I have a hard time really speaking my truth from my story.  So today’s #FridayFive is about names of God – I’m going to share the Names of God that I have discovered from the margins.
So today’s #FridayFive is in her honor.  I miss you already my dear friend.

#FridayFive: Five Names of God from a Self Appointed Outsider

Heavenly Father
When I first started Seminary I took a class called Spirituality and Conflict.  The first day of class one of the teachers did a devotion asking us each what our go to name for God was, I picked Father.  At the end of class, this teacher gave us each an image for our name for God with a note in it from what we had shared over the course of the class.  It was amazing.
I often get asked about if it’s hard to see God as father considering my past.  The question comes from a good place – I found God during the most difficult time in my family.  Most of my pastors and youth workers had never met my dad.  Most of my mentors have only heard the hard parts of the story.  But we had good years before the bad years.  I knew what it was like to have a dad which made the sting of his withdrawal heavier.  I grew up knowing what it was like to have someone teach you how to camp and hit a ball.  A man who I knew loved me deeper than I could comprehend.  Then in my teenage years it went away – the years when I needed someone to fight for my worth, to teach me what relationships were supposed to look like, to show me how I deserved to be treated.  But God picked up where my dad left off.  Through mentors, surrogate father figures and his soft whisper, God showed me the love that my earthly father could not.  I still mourn the years that alcoholism robbed me of with my earthly father, but I praise a God who sought after me in that time.  That still seeks after me, as a father does for his daughter.
I heard a sermon recently that rocked my world.  It was on the story of Joseph and she taught about the different stages of Joseph’s life and how it led to something great because of God’s work in Joseph’s life.  God did some great things through Joseph, he refined Joseph’s gifts and blessed many people through Joseph.  At the end of Joseph’s life, his brothers are lamenting selling him into slavery – the evil that they did to him – and Joseph says: Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
I’ve read that verse so many times and it usually gets cut off after “good” – but the rest of it is so important.  It would have been enough for God to have just redeemed Joseph’s story – to end the story at Joseph not being killed or treated harshly in slavery.  But God took Joseph’s story and redeemed it so that people could have life.  Not only does God redeem our brokenness – he does it so that we may bring about life in a world of brokenness.  I love that God redeems – that he takes broken stories like mine and redeems them, gives them life again so that they may be used for his glory.
I attended a seminary that publicly endorses multiculturalism and women in ministry.  Because it’s the seminary of our denomination that says these are values we hold dear.  But my time in seminary was extremely difficult, partially because God was working in me and partially because I am a female and I am biracial.  In one of our degree seeking meetings with a professor, I was asked, “What is it like to attend this seminary and not be Swedish?”  He was asking because he really wanted to know, he was one of our professors who was constantly challenging us to hear the stories of others.  He wanted to hear my experience and challenged me to share it freely with my classmates.  There were many difficult moments in those three years – moments where I felt silenced, discriminated against, marginalized but there were also moments where I felt empowered, valued and cared for by my brothers and sisters.
There was a moment I clearly remember.  A fellow classmate came to me with something that was being said about me.  He sat across the table at Starbucks from me and told me that he had gone to bat for me.  That he had defended me against what was being said about me because he knew me.  That he told the other person that wasn’t who I was, to give me a chance and hear my story.  The moment stands so clearly because my classmate and I had walked alongside each other.  We knew each other’s stories, we had taken time to talk through difficult truths.  God was sowing unity between us.  God used this person to help me find unity in a community that was anything but unified.
I fully believe that God works as reconciler.  That we cannot reconcile conflict without him.  I hate conflict.  I hate disappointing people.  It makes me physically uncomfortable.  But I am human and I make bad choices sometimes.  And when I am hurt, and I have hurt others – I am not fully capable of doing the work of reconciliation.  I mean I can say I’m sorry – but I cannot find reconciliation without my God.  I’ve tried.  Something always slips in and stops me from full reconciliation.  But with God, I have the strength to fully forgive and forget.  To sow back together relationships that were broken and ready to be abandoned.
Almighty One
I am always in awe of what God can do.  Through all of these other names I’ve written about – he has done a mighty work in my life.  This year my focus is on recognizing his hand at work in my present life.  He is the Almighty.  He is alive.  I believe these things, but it’s hard to see his hand at work in the present.  I can look back and see his fingerprints on every step of the way, but to really be in tune with him and see his hand in the present has been hard.  To see him in the midst of my crappy weeks, the times when everything seems to be chaos.  I cling to faith but am I truly able to see his hand at work?  I’m trying, I know He’s Almighty – I know he will do a great work.  I know He is Alive.  I trust that he will work all these things for his good.

What are your names for God?

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!

When we were young we were little but we didn't know it

This week’s #FridayFive is coming in under the wire … I say that because as I type this, I am packed up and ready to leave on a winter retreat with my Jr Highers.  A weekend at our denomination’s camp, with other jr highers from our conference, for an intentional few days of worship and fellowship.
Kelly, over at Mrs. Disciple posed this week’s #FridayFive : Five Adjectives about You.  So here we go, I’m cheating a little bit because since my mind is in retreat/youth ministry role, I’m going to share Five adjectives others have used to describe me, and Five Adjectives that I use to describe myself.  The way that others see us has the ability to change the way we see ourselves, sometimes we have to fight against that in order to see who God has created us to be.

#FridayFive: 5 Adjectives about Me

5 that others have used to describe me:
Easy Going
I heard someone once say that the best thing about me was that I was easy going.  I’m going to take this as a compliment, even if the circumstances that surrounded it weren’t really a compliment.  I do have a “go with the flow” type of personality, which I think is what he as getting at when he said it.  I picked up this habit a long time ago and for the  most part, I like that about myself.
Another thing I’ve heard said about me (rather than to me) is that I’m Intimidating.  Sometimes it’s in the realm of relationships with guys – I’m too intimidating for them.  Other times it’s with friends.  I’ve been described as brooding, when I was younger.  I have this tendency to be up in my head – over analyzing everything – this sometimes comes off as stand offish to those who don’t know me.
I’m not sure if this is actually an adjective.  Every personality test I’ve taken has told me that I’m someone who enjoys taking care of others.  It’s partially what led me to being a pastor.  Partially why I love being an aunt and a godmother.
I have always been loud.  I’ve quieted down over the last few years, but my “quiet” is an average person’s loud, so I guess that still makes me loud.  I’ve been shushed a lot in my lifetime, especially in public.  I’m also told my laugh is really loud and distinctive.  I’m still on the fence as to whether this is good or bad.
Stubborn/The Princess
This one comes from my family.  I’m the only girl in my little family of origin and the youngest.  That’s where the “princess” nickname came from – my brother was always lamenting that I was never in trouble while he always was.  We have this hilarious story about the time that I accidentally backed up through the closed garage door and he got yelled at.  He would say that my stubbornness got me preferential treatment, I would say it was because I was the cute one. #YoungestSiblingsUnite
5 Adjectives that I would use to describe myself
One positive aspect of always being up in my head is that I self critique a lot.  I tend to over analyze all sorts of situations, but it also has helped me to understand myself better.  Understand why I act certain ways and what needs to be changed about my behavior.  I come to these realizations about my life and I try to make the change that makes it better.  I love this about myself.  I love the new found self-confidence that God has given me in my older age.
I’ve seen a lot of life.  A lot of things have been challenging over the years.  But this has made me deeply compassionate.  Deeply loving towards others.  I have a lot of empathy for the pain of others.  I try really hard to see things from others’ perspectives because I think it makes me a better person, a better pastor. 

I know this one’s true.  I don’t think I’m a princess though – but I do know I’m stubborn.  Most of the time I think it’s a good thing – it helps me to stand my ground, to stand up for what I believe in.  It means I don’t let others walk all over me or over others.  I’m a justice seeker. …But I also realize this makes me a little difficult to deal with.
I think this is different than compassionate.  I have a high capacity for love.  I love easily and I love hard.  It helps me in friendships – they seem to sprout out of the ground.  But a high capacity for love means a high capacity for pain.  It means that when I get hurt, I get hurt hard, and it makes me retreat into myself a little more.  But I work on it, I lean into God’s love to help me love others better.
I am deeply deeply protective.  Of others, and of myself.  Sometimes to a fault.  I protect those I love by being loyal and caring for them and by standing up for them.  I protect myself by setting boundaries in my life.
What are 5 adjectives that others have used to describe you?  What does God say?  What do you say?

have yourself a merry little Christmas

December?!  Where did you come from?  No, seriously, where did November go?
It’s time for a new #FridayFive, the first of December!  This week’s prompt from the ever-lovely Mrs. Disciple is Five Christmas Traditions.
Traditions are a funny thing – by definition they are meant to remain year after year.  They are things that we do during this season every year, but the thing about holiday traditions is that they change as we change.  As our families grow up, move around and change, our traditions have to change.  There aren’t many traditions left in my life that linger from the days of my childhood.  From the days we were just the four of us: Mom, Dad, Brother and Sister.  (Well five, my Aunt has spent every Christmas with us that I can remember.)
Our traditions changed when we moved back to Colorado in HS.  They changed again when my parents separated at the beginning of college.  Once more when they got divorced at the end of college.  Again the second time I moved away. Again when my brother got married and filled our house with the second round of children.  Again after my dad passed away.  Once more when I moved away the final time and again when I was called as a Pastor.
So my #FridayFive Christmas Traditions are all my own now, separate from my nuclear family, although a lot of them include those 8 people I love the most.  Without further ado here they are:

#FridayFive: Five Christmas Traditions

Advent Devotionals
Every year I scour the internet for some good Advent Devos to pass along to the families of my church.  A new and interesting take on celebrating this season of Advent within your family.  But also while doing it, I look for my own devotionals for this season.  Something to help me remember to pause during this season and take time for my relationship with God.
IMG_0312Christmas Morning at the airport
Now that I’m a full-time pastor and not just an intern, my presence at the Christmas Eve service is a non-negotiable.  Which means the days of being awoken by my nieces on Christmas Morning are long gone.  However, that does not mean I am sleeping in!  I usually book the earliest flight I can on Christmas morning which means I can land in Denver by 9 a.m. and am greeted by my littles at the airport in their Christmas jammies.  They have created their own little tradition, they can wake up early and open their stockings, and then they pile in the car to pick me up.
Present Time
This tradition has changed the least over time, sure it’s morphed as we’ve gotten bigger, but it’s still basically the same.  Once all the Santa presents are out of the way for the littles, we begin opening presents from each other.  We always go from youngest to oldest but in groups.  All the littles together, Goddaughter and me, my brother and sister-in-law, and then the moms.  Everyone has strict instructions on the order in which the presents are opened.  And the last one opened is always the “best” present.  I strive to be that “best” present giver every year – whether the goal is to make my mom or aunt cry or my nieces squeal with delight.  Or that year the Goddaughter finally got a cell phone and it was ringing under the tree.  We all want to be the one who gave the most meaningful present.  I know this seems really materialistic – and it probably is – but it’s also just a really cool moment when we see everyone’s creativity coming out in their gift giving.  Sometimes the girls are more excited about the presents they are giving than the ones they are unwrapping.
It is not Christmas season until I have watched Elf.  I usually watch it while I wrap presents, last year I watched it with my kids at church, this year I may just pull it out and watch it all by myself, maybe this weekend.
Christmas Eve
I know I just talked about how I no longer get to spend Christmas Eve with my nuclear family, but I really really treasure my Christmas Eve here at home, with my church family.  I love our Christmas Eve service.  I love that I have friends who invite me into their Christmas Eve celebrations whole heartedly.  I love the treasured time I have here with these people who make my life so full and my heart so happy.  The moments during and after Christmas Eve service are some of the warmest of the season. I get the best of both worlds between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.
So there you have it, Five of my Christmas Traditions.  As I continue to build my life here as a real adult, I look forward to new traditions coming my way.  We may have lost a lot of traditions over the years to change and growth but we’ve also picked up some new ones.  And it’s not the traditions that matter, it’s the people you do them with that matter.