I'm home now, I'm coming around

Seven months ago I got a letter in the mail from my apartment complex with the reminder that it was time to renew my lease.  I took a month to pray about what to do because I needed to move, if only simply for the reason that my rent was too high.
Six months ago I made the decision not to resign and thought to myself, I have two months to find a new place to live. Mostly thinking about which surrounding suburb to look for a place in.
Three months ago I moved to Minnesota.
Today I came home from work with the strong desire to make something.  I had all the ingredients for soup but my recipe was for making it in a slow cooker.  Because it’s been cold with a few little flurries, soup sounded like the right thing.  So I decided that I would experiment with making the soup on the stove.
So I cooked the quinoa.  I cooked the chicken.  I started mixing all the things into the big soup pot and as I did I recapped my day.  Something about the stirring motion and watching all the ingredients swirl in the pot slowed my mind enough to think through the small moments of my day.   What seemed inconsequential in the moment now flooded my senses.  That moment in the hall with this person, that side conversation, that deep breath in while I felt the warm cup in my hands.
It wasn’t a particularly interesting day, a pretty standard Monday.  But as I took stock of the day I couldn’t help but smile because I’m starting to feel settled.
I had a conversation recently with a friend about what “home” means.  She’s married and has created a home with her family.  When she thinks about home and family she thinks of the one she has now – not her family of origin.  I think that’s really true of people who are in that stage of life – married with children – they have this space they created with their spouse, their traditions, etc.  But for those of us not in that life stage – what is home?
Life pre-marriage tends to have less stability (or so it seems) – so our idea of home and family is still wrapped up in our family of origin.  But the problem is, I haven’t really lived in my mom’s house for almost a decade.
I often feel a little stuck in the in-between.  My hope is still that someday I’ll be married.  I’ll create a space with someone else that is just ours.  And because of that everything in this stage seems temporary because I’m renting and I know it’s not long term.  But I’m not yet ready to buy a house or a condo.  So “my home” needs to stay a concept for a little longer in that this exact space I’m living in – this one bedroom apartment filled with all of my things – is not a forever space.
But that’s okay.  It’s all lessons in learning to be content in my stage of life.  Hope for the future can still exist but while I’m here in this space, I might as well set up camp.
As I reflected today I thought about how I love my church.  I love the people around me.  I see the potential of some really meaningful friendships and community spaces.  I’m three months in and starting to have rhythm.  I’m starting to feel more comfortable reaching out to people.  I’m finding my place here in this physical space.
Tonight in the simple act of cooking myself dinner I realized that this place is feeling more and more like a a place I could call home.
*blog title from Tegan and Sara’s The Con

put the map on the table

Big things have been going on in my real world this summer.  Life has been moving very quickly and I’ve been trying to keep up.
One byproduct of this speed is that I haven’t written anything since May.
I don’t even mean publicly, I mean that no words have flowed from these fingers in four months.  It’s the longest I’ve gone without any words to share or record in some way.
In those four months I interviewed for, got offered and accepted a new call.  I packed everything I owned in a small truck and moved six hours northwest.  To the land of all the lakes (like a lot of lakes).
In those four months I’ve been praying, making preparations, saying goodbye to my first real home away from home, moving to a new state, a new church, a new community.  I’ve been learning names and creating rhythms.
To say these four months have been difficult would be shortchanging them.  But throughout these four months I have seen and heard God in some of the clearest ways I ever have.  He called me to this place and I’m starting to see why.  I can feel my heart falling into place here.
Every few days I look around and think “Is this really a place I get to live?”  The beauty of God’s creation is all around me at all times.  It reminds me of my first job in ministry when my friend Mark and I used to look at each other and say “I can’t believe I get to live this life.”
Last night I was on the couch, unwinding after a particularly intense week.  My phone went off and the message was simple, “I’m taking the kayaks out if you want to go with.” I literally jumped off the couch.  There was no question in my mind that a sunset kayak trip with this new friend and colleague was exactly what I wanted to do.  Sorry Dance Moms, you’ll have to wait.
And as we paddled across the lake talking about life, ministry, family and all things in between I took a deep breath in and thought, “I can’t believe I get to live this life.”

time to check in

I’m a bit behind because I was gone for a week at a pastor’s conference followed immediately by a MS retreat.  Because of that I’m also behind on my listening to Lead Stories Podcast, so today’s #TuesdaysinLeadership will be looking a little different.
Last week I got to spend a week in Louisville, KY for our denominations annual pastor’s conference.  The theme of the week was leadership which was exactly what I needed to hear about.  As I’ve been listening to Lead Stories and engaging conversations surrounding leadership, I find myself trying to pour into myself but not quite knowing how to go about that.  I didn’t have a game plan per say.  I had thoughts and different topics to write about, but nothing to really pour out into my own life.
Then I went to Louisville.  I entered a weekend of learning alongside of a group of youth pastors who are a combination of new friends and dear old friends.  I found a new tribe among my peers in my area.  I invested in some relationships that needed that extra foundation.  After the weekend of youth workers connecting, the hotel filled with more pastors from all over the US and Canada.  I entered into convos with friends who have known me for over a decade and with those I’ve never met before.
I’m taking away a lot from the week, a lot of things to process in my life.  But one of the things I’m taking away the most is the need to be more intentional with those around me – my colleagues.
I need to cut the phrase “We should hang out” and actually plan times to be with people.
I need to read more books on leadership and challenge myself more.
I need to be praying (more) fervently over my ministry areas.
I need to be pouring into others in leadership – mentoring and guiding.
I need to be poured into from others in leadership – mentored and guided.
So I guess this post is more like a declaration of intent – I’ve found the holes in myself when it comes to my leadership and I’m figuring out how to fill them up.
Where do you need to fill up?  How does that look in your context?

step out of the sun because you've learned

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  Starting on Christmas day, I was in Denver for a week soaking in some much needed family time with my crazy crew.  Then it was off to New York with the Goddaughter for her first trip to the Big Apple.  Then she came back to Chicago with me for another few days of R&R in my abode.
Now here we are, two weeks into 2017 and no new posts over in my corner of the internet.  But no worries my dear friends, I have been making some big plans for this space.  I’ve been dreaming and processing over what 2017 is going to bring to this blog and I’m excited for the future and the type of posts I’ll be bringing to ya’ll.
But before we move forward into the new year, I always feel the need to spend a little bit processing the last one.  This year I found a great resource through Lead Stories Media  called “Hello, Goodbye.”  So today’s #TuesdaysinLeadership is going to be talking through how this process went for me.  (If you go to their page and subscribe to their newsletter you can download this great resource to process your last year and the new year alongside me!)
As I listened to the first episode of this season’s Lead Stories Podcasts I realized how great this tool is.  Jo Saxton has been doing it for years and explained the history about it, so go listen to it if you wanna know more about it.  But the basic idea is to spend some time with God and ask Him what you should be saying Goodbye to from the last year and what to say Hello to in the coming year.

Goodbye 2016

fullsizerender-2 Overall,  2016 wasn’t bad for me.  I never posted this Best Nine thing to my Instagram, and it’s not entirely representative of my year but I guess it’s what people most resonated with in my feed.
But even this slightly misrepresented collage makes me remember that this year was filled with the highs and lows of life.  I know a lot of people for who 2016 was a heartbreakingly painful year.  Saying Goodbye to 2016 wasn’t a sad thing for them.  But for me it was a mixed bag.  I had some great moments, some life changing moments, some career defining moments and some great personal highs.  But I also had some hard truths that I had to face, some painful decisions that I made or were made for me, I walked alongside of some grieving friends and grieved the loss of those who have made my community home.
Overall though, there are things that I’m saying goodbye to in order to move forward in my path toward Shalom.  Among the things I say goodbye to are:
I’m saying goodbye to insecurity.  Through my time with God in the last few weeks I’ve realized how much I’ve held myself back because I think that others can do it better than me.  But as I continue to process who I am and how I was created I’ve realized that it’s time for me to own this story that I’ve been given and start stewarding it a little better.
I’m saying goodbye to bad habits.  Procrastination is a real struggle for a lot of us.  I am saying goodbye to being disorganized and not prioritizing my time well.

Hello 2017

As I move forward into this next year, one of the things I would love to do is to write more.  To start documenting this life I live both here on Striving for Shalom as well as in a private document that could some day take the shape of a book.  Insert shocked emoji face here.  I’m serious, I think I want to write a book.  It’s taking shape in my head, we’ll see where it takes me.  But for now you’ll see some things popping up here that have more of a semblance, a relation to one another.
I’m saying hello to my word of the year : Fall.  There’s this verse in Job, that I discovered through Shauna Niequist’s book Present over Perfect:

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.  He says to the snow, “Fall on the earth,” and to the rain shower, “Be a mighty downpour.
 – Job 37:5-6

Shauna expands on the verse in her book and talks about how God doesn’t ask the snow to do anything other than fall.  And to the rain shower to be a mighty downpour.  She encourages her readers to find the thing in life that falls out of them, something so enjoyable, so easy that it just pours out of them.  This next year I want to focus on the things I’m so passionate about.  I want to let go of the idea that I have to be everything to everyone and simply be who I’ve been created to be.  The thing about snow is that it does it’s one thing and it doesn’t need to do more because God also created rain and sunshine.  Snow just gets to be snow – to fall from the sky simply and beautifully.
Last year I spent a whole year looking for where God was alive in my life.  Watching what he was doing and now that I’ve seen how much he is at work in my life and the life of others around me, I feel like now my focus is on filling the space that was created for me.  If I believe God is alive and at work, then he is alive in me and has created me to fill a space in this life.  I don’t need to fill the space of others, but rather just my own.  So my word for the year is Fall.  We’ll see what/how that takes shape this year.  But I’m excited to say hello to being present in my life and in my ministry as exactly who he created me to be.
So there you have, we’ve said Goodbye to 2016 and we’re ready to say a big Hello to 2017.  Let’s see what you have in store for us in this year.

I'm old but I'm not that old, I'm young but I'm not that bold

I’m taking a little bit of a break from my busy week to update this little corner of the internet.
In the midst of preparations for Advent and Christmas Eve, I’m realizing that I haven’t really gotten much chance to enjoy the recent truth that I have a call.  I have been called as a Pastor.  For so long I’ve lived in temporary terms.  As a teenager, as a college student, as an intern, as a seminary student, as an interim – just filling in.  I’ve been waiting for so long to finally know where I was going to set down roots.  I’ve been dreaming of picking out an apartment, furniture, setting up my desk and find a new normal.
And while yes, some of those things are still in my near future, it looks different.  It looks different because I’m getting to stay at this amazing little church that I’ve been at for a year and a half now.  So a new routine – not necessarily.  Plus the call came in the middle of Advent – the craziest season for those of us called to work in the church.  It came in the midst of budget reports, staff evaluations and retreat planning.
But it is joyous news all the same.  As of January 1st, I will be Pastor of Children, Families and Administration in my little corner of the world.  So here we go.

in my love – be lifted high

I know I’ve been pretty quiet on here.  But to be honest, I’ve been entirely too busy and to be more honest – there’s not a lot going on in my life that I feel like I can write about.  Let me expand…
A few weeks ago I started a summer CPE program that is required for my degree.  This program involves my working in a hospital as a chaplain (intern) and basically my days involve wandering the hospital (trying not to get lost) visiting patients and offering prayer or just to listen to them.  While it has been an extremely difficult journey thus far, it’s also been really good for me and really honoring for me.  But within CPE, there is a lot of confidentiality issues and to be honest, I just can’t really write on here what has been going on with me and the things in which I’ve been processing.
However, I’ve had some thoughts today that need out and only some of them have to do with CPE so I’m going to write them out anyway.
There is something deeply profound about walking into a hospital room and introducing yourself to a complete stranger and then sitting down to hear their life story.  It’s really honoring to be able to be in this space with this person or family.  I mean to be honest, I am walking into their room at what is quite possibly one of the worst days of their lives.  They are in crisis, something major has happened to them, and here I come with my little three ring binder and an assigned list of patients offering a chance to chat or pray.  In all honesty, I’m surprised that I’m not refused more.
But for whatever, in this place of extreme vulnerability – they open up.  They tell me things they haven’t told their family or their own pastor.  I get to experience this place of extreme suffering with them.
There are so many moments in my days at the hospital that I think to myself, “What qualifies me to be in this place?”  And I’m not sure that I have the answer.  But then again, what qualified Moses to deliver the Israelites?  What qualified any person in scripture to do the things they did?  Now – I’m not saying I’m a biblical character … but still.  What qualifies any of us to do the things we do in the name of the Lord?
Nothing qualifies us.  I mean yes, at the end of this school year I will have an MDiv, and that probably technically qualifies me.  But most of the time I am still at awe at the fact that this dream of mine – to do ministry – is actually coming true.  I have a hard time believing that I am really trying to represent God in any way, shape or form.
And I’m not sure I will ever truly come to terms with that.  But at the same time, I think it’s that dependence on God that makes it okay.  I know I will never do a perfect job.  I know that I will mess up from time to time.  But as long as I keep in mind that it is holy ground I’m standing on at any moment when I’m trying to be like Jesus, I think that maybe, just maybe – I’ll do alright.
If I strive for my whole life, my whole world and all my love to lift the name of the Lord higher, then I think I will do alright.  For without Him – there is nothing left for me.

if I can make it there

I know it’s a little late, but here’s a vlog up from they roommate and my trip to New York City.  More about that trip to come after I finish this last paper.  Enjoy!
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRQnhBIsvks]

the oaks start twisting

As always, this semester seems to be flying by. I find it hard to believe that it is already October and even as I sit here drinking my coffee infused with Pumpkin Spice (a fall standard), I can’t help but think, Fall? Really?
And yet, here we are. The leaves are changing, everyone is baking with pumpkin, girls are starting to wear uggs with skirts. Fall is here.
I, for one, love Fall. I can’t say it’s my favorite season since I’m not sure that I have a favorite. But it is definitely up there. As I walked to Starbucks this morning and then to class I was loving the cool breeze of the morning. The crisp air, the bright blue sky and the leaves crunching under my Toms. It felt like a commercial for fall. It was splendid.
Today I find myself overwhelmingly thankful for this change of season. I needed a physical change in life to reflect the change I’ve been feeling on the inside. Life has been slowly shifting for me recently and lately there have been several places in my life that have changed in major ways and sometimes when that happens, I need there to me something around me that’s different too.
Change keeps things spicy. Although it’s challenging and at times unwelcome, it helps us to see growth, to learn to be flexible and pushes us to stay in tune with God. Too often my life gets too busy and hectic that I tend to stray away from consistent times to appreciate God and commune with him. Lately I’ve been trying to turn that around and make more of an effort to really enjoy the presence of God around me in all that surrounds me.
So today I’m seeing the change around me reflecting the change happening in me. I am seeing God’s hands at work all around me as well as in me and for that I am thankful.

you sound so innocent …

Well guys, after today my blog might have a new feature.  While waiting for our flight today at the Knoxville airport, the roommate and I decided to record a vlog and well, we kind of loved it.  So it might be a reoccurring thing if we can agree on a name and a topic.
But for now, we are basically just following suit in this thing that has been going around called an Accent Vlog.  I first heard about it over on The Nomad’s blog and well, the rest is history.  So, I hope you enjoy this little addition to honesty box. ..cause we sure had fun making it.
I’ll be posting the questions and words here in case you decide to make one too, cause it’s kinda fun.  And if you do .. send me a link.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOTAjA4f-lY?hl=en&fs=1]
Questions and words:
What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What do you call gym shoes?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
What do you call your grandparents?
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
What is the thing you change the TV channel with?
Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught