you keep me without chains

As I continue to shape my next post series, here’s another post pulled from the unpublished files.  The moment recalled in this story was a defining moment in finding my pastoral identity.  I’m still thankful for the challenging words of this denominational leader. 

I walked confidently into that room.  I knew who I was, I knew what I was called to do and I was ready to share it with the people on the other side of that table.  

I was most of the way through an interview process where I had to sit with various leaders of our denomination and basically sell myself.  They would say it’s more for them to get to know the graduating class, but we all knew what was really happening – we were pitching our personal brands of ministry hoping that someone was willing to help us find a place to practice said ministry.  

My interviews had been going well, I felt encouraged and I had no reason to believe this next one wouldn’t go just as well.  My time in this seminary had helped me fine tune exactly what I felt God was calling me to. So I entered that room boldly, sat down and shared what I had to share.  

When it came time for them to ask me questions, one of our leaders looked me squarely in the eye and asked if I would consider a senior pastor role.  I was caught off guard and so I said something about how I didn’t feel ready. All my experience was in youth ministry. I was 27 years old. What church would hire a young youth pastor to run their whole church?  That seemed crazy.

He paused a second before he responded.  “Why do you think it is that the majority of your male colleagues have come in here with less experience, younger than you and every one of them has said they wanted to be a senior pastor?”  

I stared blankly at him, not quite sure how to respond.  I knew what he was saying was right. I’d walked three years beside these men.  I sat in class with them, I led worship alongside of them, heard them practice preaching, debated ethics with them.  I had first-hand knowledge of their brazen self-confidence.

I knew the question wasn’t meant to get a response from me.  I think the point was being made that I had put a glass ceiling above myself.  Because even in my own denomination that ordains and calls women, even though I had served alongside and under the leadership of many gifted and talented women, I couldn’t see myself doing it.  

And this man was calling me out on it.  Because my response could have been that right now my call was not to be a senior pastor.  I could have said that I’d be open to it someday. But my response was that I was not ready which he could see through to the heart of what I really felt – I didn’t see myself doing it.  

The truth was that I had just spent three years in seminary trying to prove to myself that I really was called to ministry.  I spent three years wrestling with my identity as a leader in classes full of men who seemed to never question those things.

So the reason that ceiling was there for me but not for them? They’ve probably never been asked whether or not women could be pastors.  They probably never had someone laugh in their faces or ask them if they were becoming nuns. They probably didn’t get feedback in preaching class about the amount of make-up they had worn.  

I am not at all minimizing their own soul work that had to be done.  We all have stuff we have to work through. But in that moment, in that interview, I realized that even I looked at myself and wondered if I could really do this.  Not because I am not capable, but because I am a woman.

I thought of you and where you'd gone

Grief is a complicated thing.  Sometimes it’s a wave of emotion that you feel like will never subside.  Sometimes it’s a dull ache or a phantom pain.  Sometimes it sneaks up on you when you’re least expecting, to remind you that something you once loved is gone.

24 year old Alicia thought December 5th would be the darkest day of her life.  She ran out of the ICU to the sit on the curb outside and have a moment of quiet tears away from everyone who was feeling the same grief and pain she was feeling.  She gulped the fresh air after 36 grueling hours of recycled hospital air.  She just needed to find the courage to keep breathing on that day when it felt like all the hope she had been holding had died.  

25 year old Alicia tried to find a way to turn that dark day into something different.  She tried to celebrate the memory rather than mourn the loss.  She pushed through the pain and let others into her life in a way that felt foreign but also needed.  

December 5th became this weird day that I never really know how to plan for.  I never know what version of grief is going to radiate from my chest.  There was a year that I had the privilege of standing under the Brooklyn Bridge and remember how much my dad loved that city I was looking at.  Most years I put up a picture or find a way to write myself out of this funk that sets in – to remind myself that it’s okay to feel pain and okay to not feel pain.  

Last December 5th I stayed silent.  I was 5 months into my life in Minnesota and hadn’t let anyone in far enough to tell them what this day meant.  I don’t remember fully what I actually did that day.  I think I avoided most people, if I’m honest.  Later that week I let one person in, I told her I didn’t know how to tell her or what to say about how I felt about it.  

Because to be honest, the thing that crosses my mind every December 5th is – what would my dad think about this life I’m living?  Somedays I’m sure he’d be proud of me, proud of how I’ve created a space for myself.  Proud that I’ve taken adventures and lived life as fully as I can.  Other days I’m more realistic with that question – he would have no frame of reference for this life I’m living.

On December 5, 2009, not only did I lose my dad.  I lost the hope of a restored relationship.  The ugly truth of our broken relationship was that for the two and a half years prior to his passing, we hadn’t spoken much.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I had hope that we could eventually get past it all and move forward.  But we didn’t get that chance.  

My dad never knew what it meant for me to be a youth pastor.
He never saw me get my masters.  
He didn’t help me move into any of my apartments.  
He didn’t see me get ordained – although I honestly can’t even imagine what he would have thought of that.  

So 33 year old Alicia is angry and frustrated at this broken world and that awful disease of alcoholism that robbed her of a future where she gets to have an adult relationship with her dad.  

This year December 5th comes more bitter than sweet.  I will try as I do every year to remember happier times, to remember the things about him that I loved so deeply.  But I also know that this year I mourn a little deeper that I can’t share any of the beauty I have in my life with him.  Because while I don’t know what my dad would have thought about my being ordained or being a youth pastor – I do know that he would have been over the moon to see how happy I am. 

what a privilege it is to love

I was called a nerd in staff meeting yesterday.  It was a term of endearment (I think) because of my love (obsession) for the Enneagram.  I was giving an update about the Enneagram workshop I had done with my Youth Leaders on Sunday afternoon.  Let’s be honest here, I was gushing about it. Because I love the Enneagram.

I first took the Enneagram in 2012 as a piece of a cohort I was a part of in Seminary.  I liked the insights but if I’m honest, I didn’t fully understand what it meant for me.  We went through it as a group but didn’t quite have a grasp on the reality of what it was revealing about ourselves and each other.  It’s come up a few times in the years since and each time I am amazed at how much it explains who I am and why I do the things I do. But it was kind of just an acceptance that this “Personality test” had me pegged and I would move on.  

In the last year I’ve dug more deeply into it through the help of an amazing life coach we are utilizing at church to teach and develop our leaders with the Enneagram.  She has stretched me and pushed me towards growth through my Enneagram type. Through this process each staff member was given a 30 minute coaching session with her to talk about our results.  Since I already knew my number, my coaching session focused on creating a growth plan for myself. After a long bit of rambling around the topics that were currently causing me distress or disunity in my life, she asked some clarifying questions and then challenged me.

First though, a bit about who twos are.  Enneagram type 2s value love and nurture.  They are deeply relational and connected people.  They are emotionally charged and intuitive. A common phrase spoken about 2s is that they often know what others are feeling before the person knows it themself.   Chris Heuertz says that “2s are here to help us connect to our hearts.  They give us permission to explore our own hearts – they validate our connection with our emotional selves.”  

One of the areas where Enneagram Type 2s can struggle is in meeting and knowing their own needs.  It’s kind of a funny idea that they strive to meet the needs of others and yet are so clueless on their own needs and emotions.  My two friends and I often use the phrase “I have all the feelings, I’m just not sure why or what they are about.”
Twos can also have a hard time defining themselves authentically.  We often find ourselves defining our identity based off of who we are for other people.  Twos are capable of a lot of deeply intimate relationships because of their being so rooted in their feelings.

So much of my own identity has been wrapped up in who I am to others, but not just my relation to them, the type of relation I have to them.  I’m not just a youth pastor, I’m a relational youth pastor. I don’t see myself as a friend, I’m a confidante – someone you can rely on and trust with your junk.  I hold myself back from difficult situations and conversations because I’m afraid of how someone else will perceive me, especially if I feel like I’m letting them down.  
So that’s what our friend and life coach challenged me to – to take time and define myself outside of my relationships to others.  To spend time really searching my heart. Chris Heuertz echos that in his challenge to Twos, “I suggest that that’s consenting to solitude – That’s finding that time alone to explore the gifts of who you are when you are not giving yourself away because when you can know the truth about yourself, that’s when you can find all that it is you have to offer.  And there’s a lot there. Don’t cheat yourself and don’t cheat us.”

I love that Chris says, “Don’t cheat yourself and don’t cheat us.”  Because that’s what happens when a 2 doesn’t take care of themselves first – they cheat themselves of the ability love others well, which of course is what we want to do.  We are eager to love others by caring for them. But when we allow that to define ourselves, when we don’t turn that love inward first, we are cheating ourselves. And we end up cheating others because our loving kindness can become manipulative.  

In his podcast explanation of his song about the Enneagram 2, Ryan O’Neal of Sleeping at Last says, “Once the two steps away and gives the attention to themselves… it’s probably a difficult process and I imagine it being a really uncomfortable thing.”  He nailed it. It’s extremely uncomfortable, but it’s so necessary. And so I am learning to take the time outs from being a helper and turn that care inward. I am learning to define my own needs and then asking for help myself when I need it.
Self care is hard for a two.  But if we want to continue living into the relationships that give us so much life, we must learn not to depend on those relationships to define who we are.  

All quotes taken from The Sleeping at Last Podcast episode “Two” & the Enneagram.

For more reading on the Enneagram, check out books and podcasts by Ian Cron, Chris Heuertz (Linked above).  And keep checking back here, I’ll be writing more on my own journey with the Enneagram.

she wouldn’t dance with another

After a recent visit to a local record store, I thought it was time to revisit some of the records I’ve obtained from my dad’s collection.  When I moved into my first (solo) apartment and bought my first record player, I made my brother go through our dad’s records over the phone with me and set aside a group of them.  Mostly Beatles, a James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Four Seasons, a B.B. King and others that were nostalgic for me.  He boxed them up and sent them to me.

Tonight I sorted through them, put them in order and pulled out a couple to listen to while I cooked dinner and got myself ready for the week.  First a Haim record I bought myself right after I moved to MN.  Then the Joni Mitchell because I was curious about it.  Then my favorite Beatles album – A Hard Day’s Night (the movie soundtrack version).  And lastly, Meet the Beatles! (US Version).

As I lay on the floor and listen to John Lennon and Paul McCartney sing over me, I’m instantly transported back to my childhood.  So many evenings and weekends listening to these records with my dad.  Playing air guitar or drums, harmonizing and dancing around the coffee table.  Songs that shaped my early concepts of love – “This Boy,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and of course, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” which I’m convinced began my obsession with holding hands.

Those late night jam sessions with my dad were everything to me.  I’m sure they drove my mom crazy, she was probably more concerned with getting my brother and I to bed at a decent hour.  But my dad would flip that album over, “just one more time.”  We’d get to that one rare song with George Harrison on lead vocals and sing out how we were “happy just to dance with you.”

Those early Beatles albums were full of hopeful love, romantic gestures promising “all my loving” and calling the girl “darling.”  Childhood Alicia only knew of that kind of love.  It was before my friends’ parents started getting divorced.  Before my own first heartbreak and all the ones that came after that.  Before my parents announced their separation and later divorce.

As we walked around that record store the other day, we talked about our top 10 albums.  What were the albums that lasted the test of time in our lives.  It’s hard to name any newer albums because who knows if they are going to continue to have that kind of impact on us.  Are they going to instantly transport me back to a season of life like these Beatles albums?  And what artists had a good few songs and which ones had albums you didn’t skip a single song?

So I listed off the first few that came to my mind.  Obviously A Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles (although I mistakingly called it Can’t Buy Me Love and am tempted to text my friend to correct myself).  Then Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle which instantly takes me to that grey Jeep I first drove around after I got my freedom (aka my driver’s license).  Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers self entitled album was next – few have heard of it but the song “Such a Way” will always by my college anthem and young love aspiration.  I struggled coming up with just one Sara Bareilles album.  Or John Mayer – his albums got me through that awful first year of college (Heavier Things),  my parents’ divorce (Continuum) and my dad’s death (Battle Studies).  Not to mention driving around in my youth pastors’ car to get Starbucks (Room for Squares).

Music just has that effect on some people.  It’s filled with nostalgia and promise.  It shapes the way we see the world, the way we interpret the people and things around us.  Music can help us to voice feelings and emotions that seem impossible to understand.  It can make us feel connected to a bigger story with other characters.  Music has been a home for me in spaces and places where home has felt disjointed or distant.

Someday we can talk about the ways music has led me astray or molded my opinions and outlooks in not so healthy ways, but for now, it’s time to flip the record and listen just one last time.

how many miles must it take to break through

Have we talked about the Enneagram yet?  Maybe not, but we’ll start here.  I’m a two.  The Helper, the Befriender, the Loving One.  You can read about it online, but that’s not the point here.  One of the key fear motivations for a two is shame/humiliation.  We do things in a way to keep shame and humiliation away from ourselves.  When I first heard that about twos it resonated so much with who I am.  I’ve always had this bent toward not making myself look silly or embarrassed.  But I’m also realizing it keeps me from taking a lot of risks.

Earlier this summer I took a trip to the Boundary Waters with a fellow youth pastor and her volunteers.  I’ve done some canoeing and camping in my life but not nearly as intense as this trip.  For those who aren’t familiar with the Boundary Waters, Canoe Area (BWCA) it’s a series of lakes along the boarder of Canada/Minnesota.  It’s a “Leave no Trace” area so everything you bring in you have to bring out.  And you can only access most of the area by canoe or kayak.

We entered the BWCA on a Tuesday afternoon and came out Saturday morning.  We traveled 40 miles by canoe and portaging.  It was simultaneously amazing and incredibly challenging.

Learning a new skill set is never easy.  Especially in front of others.  I have a hard time navigating between wanting to impress others and being okay to make a mistake.  Until we got to our first portage, I didn’t know what that word even meant.  (It means we carry everything we have – packs and canoes – through the woods to the next lake).  I had never learned the different types of paddle strokes to turn the canoe this way or that.  It was all new to me.  But in a group of 5 people – we all had to take turns.

So I learned to steer.  The person in the back of the boat steers.  There are three types of strokes that help the canoe turn left or right and depending on which side you are paddling on, you use either a C stroke or a J stroke to turn the boat.  My first time steering was on our second day.  I quickly became frustrated at how hard it was to judge which stroke to use and when.  I was constantly overcorrecting.  I asked my canoe partner how he got so good at it and what I needed to do and he simply said, “You just need to predict where the boat is going.”  Or some other nonsense like that.

Not.  Helpful.

But in a lot of ways, he was right.  But moreso, I needed to be patient.  Because what was happening was that I saw I needed to go right, so I’d start paddling really hard and over and over to make the boat go right.  But then we’d be going too far right, so I’d have to quick switch strokes to go more left.  But instead of going slowly or waiting for the boat to make its’ adjustments, I would just keep paddling.  I was learning that if I slowed down and didn’t panic, I could make the corrections more intentionally.  And save my arms a lot of work.

I was learning to have patience and trust in the system.  In this particular situation it was to trust that all the interactions between the water, the canoe, the paddle and the wind were going to eventually work together.  I just needed to slow down and be patient enough to wait to see how the boat would react.  I needed to learn to not rush to the solution that seemed the easiest but to let there be some breathing room.

On my second day of steering it felt like I was starting over again.  All the lessons I’d learned the day before felt like they had flown out of my head.  I was frustrated that I didn’t remember which stroke turned the boat which way.  I was too prideful to ask for clarification because that felt humiliating – all we’ve been doing is canoeing, why don’t I remember?  Eventually the fear of falling behind forced me to ask the question of our guide – how do I do this?  He answered with grace and expertise because he is an expert.  It’s literally his job to teach this.

And the second day I got better than the first.  By my third day, I wish I could say I had mastered it OR that I had no qualms asking for help, but I’m stubborn.  So I had to fight against the boat one more time before asking for clarity and admitting I didn’t know what to do.

There are so many areas of life that I don’t have the experience in but they seem to be things I should just know.  So I struggle against them, afraid to ask for help or admit I don’t know what I’m doing.  I’m learning that about myself.  I’m fine to be vulnerable when it comes to things I can control, but admitting I’m not good at something that feels easy to others – that’s not a vulnerability I’m ready to hand over just yet.

But I’m learning.  Learning to lean into areas of weakness and letting others speak into them.  I’m learning to not be afraid of my weakness – it will actually make me stronger and more capable of growth to embrace it.  I need to let go of my expectations of perfection or being a master.  It’s okay for me to not be the best.  There’s beauty in knowing my weaknesses and knowing I’m working on it.

**Title from Mat Kearney’s “Face to Face”**

walking the thin line between Oppression and Privilege

I recently heard someone describe privilege as the ability to walk away. It struck a chord in me the moment I heard it.  Because when I’m honest with myself, it’s a feeling I’ve had before – you can walk away from this conversation if it gets too hard or too real for you.  When people look at me, when they interact with me, most people see what they want to see.  Sometimes that means they think I’m just like them and sometimes that means I’m nothing like them.
Let me clarify, because you’re reading this and not seeing me, I’m biracial.  My mom is Caucasian and my dad was Hispanic.  We moved from CO to NJ when I was three, far away from my extended family on both sides.  So all of my early childhood that I can remember was spent in North Eastern New Jersey.  Looking back at the demographics (according to the census), my town was approximately 13,000 and 91% of the population identified themselves as white.
My parents never really talked about the fact that they were an interracial couple.  If it was ever difficult for them, I didn’t know about it.  I never thought we were that different from the run of the mill families that surrounded us. I was just your average kid.
Until one day when I wasn’t.
I remember we were playing at a friend’s house.  I must have been about 8.  We were out in the front yard and a pick-up truck drove by.  In the bed of the pick-up truck were a group of Mexican American men.  One of my friends stopped playing, spit on the ground next to her and muttered, “Dirty Mexicans.”
It sent shock waves through my whole body.  I watched the truck drive away and thought about my dad.  I thought about my grandma.  I thought about my aunts and uncles.
I didn’t say anything.  Looking back on it now, I’m sure she had no idea what she was saying.  She must have just been repeating something she’d heard and I am almost certain that she wasn’t thinking about my dad or my family.
I don’t recall ever telling my parents that story.  It wasn’t something we talked about.  I don’t even think in that moment I could have named what changed in me but it was the first moment that I realized something was different.  That a part of me was somehow less than the rest of these girls.
It began the journey of a segmented life for me.  Because we were far away from any extended family and because we didn’t talk about where either of my parents came from, I never really wrestled with this identity.  I was simply drawn to others around me that didn’t quite fit this classic mold that was being praised by TV shows and magazines.
From that moment on there are countless moments where I felt that same feeling I had felt in my friend’s front yard.  I have had to wrestle to become comfortable inside my own skin.  To love the things that are so oddly distinct to my biracial make-up.
I recently was talking to a friend and I made a comment about how most people look at me and think I’m white.  His response to me was, “it’s because they aren’t looking hard enough.”
And it’s true.  Most of the time when I’m interacting with white people they see what they want to see – my lighter skin.  It’s given me the privilege to walk away when I didn’t want to engage and to hide behind the majority culture surrounding me.
But it’s also shown me the ugly side of privilege.  I’ve had comments made to me and around me that were nothing short of racist.  It has felt obtrusively oppressive.
In my early years of identity work, I could walk away from these conversations with my true self still hidden.  Almost like a mole, I was able to take in the information without being found out.  But I did not leave those conversations unscathed.  It started this narrative of white supremacy in my life –
That one half of me was better than the other half.
The thing with lies is that when they creep into your brain, they tend to repeat themselves over and over again.  The beauty of living in community and knowing the saving grace of Jesus is that those lies don’t have to win.
What wins is that I was made new by a creative God.  That my biracial make up was no mistake.  I’m biracial because God created me biracial.  As I walk this line between oppression and privilege, I get to decide how my voice is going to be used and how my story will be told.

All I need is You

I had a dream last night where I was preaching at a church about Lent.  It was a really vivid dream which is why it caught my attention – my dreams aren’t usually that vivid.  The sanctuary I was in was one I’ve never seen before and it was weird.  On the level where I stood there weren’t really that many seats.  But there was a balcony that came out pretty far that was packed full with people.  After I finished preaching we went into a coffee hour and even that was clear.
I don’t know what this dream means – probably nothing, but Lent is coming up.  It’s been a while since I’ve addressed Lent here, so maybe that’s all the dream mean, let’s talk about Lent.
Some background on my faith journey and Lent – in my house growing up we were always encouraged to give something up for Lent.  I honestly have no idea why.  We didn’t go to church regularly, I didn’t know what Lent really was other than that it meant on Fridays I wasn’t allowed to eat meat.  Coincidentally the worst food poisoning I’ve ever experienced happened because of some bad fish I ate on a Friday because of Lent.
It was never explained to me what we were doing, I just knew my mom would “suggest” something for me to give up.  Usually it was chocolate or soda.  And then on Easter Sunday after we did our Easter Egg hunt I was allowed to consume all the chocolate or soda or whatever that I wanted.
As I grew up and started to walk with God on my own, I rebelled against Lent because of my childhood of not understanding it.  When one of our youth interns talked about giving things up for Lent I would always roll my eyes because in my mind giving something up for 40 days meant nothing.  So I gave up chocolate, I could still have a variety of other candy that was just as good.  In my teenage youth I saw friends give up things for 40 days as a hope to be “healthier” which in teenage talk 9 times out of 10 means skinnier.  Lent seemed so manipulative to me.  It still had no real meaning.
Until I moved to Kansas City to start an internship.  Within my first month there the senior pastor challenged the congregation to a season of fasting and praying for our church and its impact on the community.  He challenged us to pick a level of fasting that would be sacrificial to us and spend the 40 days in prayer and fasting – seeking direction.
The youth staff decided to do the Daniel Fast.  If you’ve never heard of it – look it up.  It’s intense.  Although maybe not if you have ever done Whole30 or Paleo or anything like that.  But to me, it was torture.  It was unbelievable hard, every bit of food or drink that went in my mouth had to be scrutinized.  It changed the way our staff interacted with each other.  The lack of coffee to this caffeine addicted lady was rough.
But throughout the time of Lent we were encouraged to remember why we were doing it, in solidarity with Jesus and his 40 days in the wilderness.  To remember that there are times when we need to press in, to sacrifice our comfort in order to hear from God.
That season of Lent was the hardest I’ve ever endured.  But it was also incredibly fruitful.  I dealt with a lot of things in those 40 days and heard from God in some really tangible ways.
Since then, I’ve viewed Lent differently.  I haven’t always done as significant of a Fast but I’ve always tried to challenge myself to take something up that challenge me in my faith.
All this to say, I’m not judging you if you are giving up chocolate for Lent.  Instead I’m challenging you to know why you are giving it up.  In what tangible way is giving it up going to pull you closer to God.  Lent is not about denying yourself for the sake of denying yourself.  Or to see how strong your will power is – it’s about pushing into your relationship with the Creator of the Universe and being able to hear his voice clearer, freer from the distractions of this world than you are in other seasons.
So – What are we doing for let this year?  Share here in the comments and lets encourage one another!

I've learned to slam on the breaks before I even turn the key

I’ve never really had any phobias.  As a child I prided myself in not being scared of things.  I was in no way a daredevil, but I also wasn’t afraid of snakes, spiders, heights or other things the kids my age were afraid of.  Turns out I was also not that afraid of getting in trouble either.

For most of my childhood, we lived in a neighborhood that was a big circle and at the base of the two streets was a cul-de-sac.  Along the edge of that cul-de-sac was a line of pine trees that was our boundary.  We could play anywhere in the neighborhood as long as we stayed on this side of those trees.  Because just beyond those trees was the highway – Route 17.  But, along Route 17 was a gas station and the only thing we needed to do was cut through the trees, walk along a little path and then we had access to ice cream, candy and all the pop we could dream of drinking. 

But of course, the gas station was off limits unless we were with an adult – it was past our boundary.  But I wasn’t scared. At the ripe old age of 8 or 9, I thought I had it all together.  I could lead the crowd of kids to the gas station no problem.  The reward was far greater than the risk of getting caught. 

I look back now and see how ridiculous I was – in a world where we hear about car accidents, abductions and millions of other things going wrong within moments of them happening, I see now how foolish I was as a spunky little kid. 

Of course I did get caught.  Of course I did get punished.  And the punishment worked – I never went back to the gas station just beyond the trees that became my boundary.  For the remainder of my time on Sherwood Dr, I didn’t go past that boundary.

As we grew up, as we moved around the boundaries my parents put on us changed.  And the spunky kid in me never really changed, I constantly challenged those boundaries.  But because we lived in a small town and everyone new my mom – I got caught… a lot. 

Although somewhere along the way, I started to lose my spunk.  The courage that had always been inside of me started to slip away.  I cared more about what others thought of me.  I cared more about whether or not I was making my parents proud.  My boundaries became firmer and less negotiable. 

In some ways, it was a good thing.  I started living in ways that would make my parents proud, never stepping out of the boundaries set for me. 

In other ways, it was debilitating.  Somewhere around middle school or high school I became hyper aware of what others thought of me.  I think some of it was knowing that I was different from my peers in a lot of ways.  All I wanted to do was fit in with everyone else.  I let other people set the boundaries for my actions. 

I began living out of fear.  The fear of losing something that I thought I could obtain by staying in the lines.  Sometimes it was stability I was craving, or approval, or to simply not be the one always sticking out like a sore thumb.  That fear began to rule my life. 

It wasn’t until I was in Seminary that I started to see that fear had become the ruler of my life. 

I’ve started to realize that I am at my best when surrounded by the people who love me the most/best.  I am able to fully be that confident somewhat crazy woman I was created to be.  I think we all know that to be true, but I’m realizing that the fear that’s dictating my life has also created my own glass ceiling.  It makes me afraid to ask for what I know I’m worth.  It makes me afraid to put myself on the line because I’m afraid of what could happen. 

I’m learning to manage that fear.  I’m learning to do a gut check and see what I’m really feeling at any given moment.  Am I afraid because the risk doesn’t seem worth the reward?  Or am I afraid because the risk is known but the reward is unknown? 

It’s easy to take a leap when we know the reward outweighs the risk.  But what if we don’t know what the reward will be?  Can we still take the jump?  Am I capable of crossing the boundary someone else put up for me when I don’t know what’s on the other side?

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?

Impossible things in Your name shall be done

I preached yesterday through my life verse and the verses surrounding it.  It’s a sermon that’s been building in me for the last several years as I’ve lived into the truth found in it.  You can hear the full sermon here.

For I am confident of this, that God who began a good work within you will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
-Philippians 1:6

I’ve been carrying around this nesting dolls metaphor since last September when I first heard Shauna Niequist talk about it at Belong.  She was talking about how, as we live life, we keep putting identities on top of ourselves.  But she pointed out that the first identity – that smallest little nesting doll – is that of child of God.
What she said immediately resonated with me and confused me at the same time.  But, Shauna, I wanted to say, I had a lot of identities before I claimed the one that is Child of God.
I wandered a long time (relative to my short life) before I really encountered this Triune God that I gave my life to – so how can that be the center of my identity?  In my own mind, I was already firmly established at 16, so when I added Jesus into my life, he was the new layer put on top, not the base.
Then I looked back on my early life and there are these moments that I don’t really understand.  I came to the realization that God was there all along – alive and at work in my life.  Even before I had a name for him or space in my life for him.
My 2016 word for the year was alive. Last January I wanted to be alert to where God was at work all around me in my day to day life.  I wanted to be aware of him.  I didn’t realize that much of that task was going to be seeing where he had been alive in my past.  Where he had intervened on my behalf long before I knew it.
I’ve reoriented my whole life around this call that God placed on my life.  And yet I still was viewing my identity in Christ as something I put on as a teenager.  I hadn’t really allowed it to be the core of who I am.  It took me the last several months between when I first heard this metaphor until when I preached it to realize what I’d been missing.
In the spring of 2007, I had graduated from college and was heading off to intern at a church half way across the country.  One of my mentors at the time gave me a card with Philippians 1:6 written in it.  She was encouraging me on my journey, telling me to keep going because God was the one at work.  I still have that card and this verse became my life verse.
I see it now in a much broader light.  This God, the same God of Israel, the same God who sent His Son, the same God who revealed himself to Paul, the same God through centuries of Christianity.  The same God that found me as a broken hearted teenager.  He’s the God at work in me, in those around me and in the world.
This past December one of my students texted me asking for my favorite verse.  I sent her this verse without really thinking why she needed it.  A couple weeks later I found out.  I opened my Christmas present from four of my HS girls.  In it was an ornament with the words “Carry On” and “Phil 1:6” on it.  They told me they were at an art fair and saw these ornaments.  So when they heard my verse they looked it up and summarized it as Carry On.
Two simple words that mean so much more than they seem to.  When we claim our identity in Christ, we carry on his work in our lives and in our world.
So let’s claim that identity together this year.  We are children of God, accepted as forgiven family members.