Chloe’s New Shoes

Yesterday, I took Chloe to the store and bought her new shoes.  She has been begging me for them for more than a week now, but I was a bit reluctant.  They are her first real pair of heels.  Sort of.  They are wide straped sandals with a tall wedge heel that makes her seem 6 inches taller.  Seriously, her head is up to my shoulder in these shoes.  I’m shocked that her father let her keep them.  She was so thrilled.  Last night she said she already knew what outfit she would wear today.

This morning, she came downstairs and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  The transformation was spectacular!  She carried herself with a new air of confidence.  She kept asking me if I needed help with anything and what she could do for me.  She had ulterior motives I think; she wanted to walk all over the place in her new shoes as she did chores for me.  She was standing taller and walking prouder.  She was more polite and kind.  I couldn’t believe the difference in her attitude.

Can you believe that one little thing can make such a difference in her sense of self?  Her sense of womanhood even.  I can’t believe I am writing a blog about my little girl journeying toward womanhood.

I’m excited for her, but sad (and terrified) at the same time.  I want to hang on to my little girl for a while longer. Still, I can’t wait to see her grow into the woman that God has created her to be.  If the shoes are any indication, she is going to be a strong, confident, assertive, thoughtful woman who carries herself with an attitude of grace and kindness.  Quick to show love and mindful of the needs of others.  These are all the things I wish and pray for her to become.

What about you? What brings out the more confident you?  For me it is exercise.  When I work out I feel better about myself.  More powerful.  More who God created me to be.  As a matter of fact, I think I will go do some Hip Hop Abs right now.  Stay strong, sistas.

Beauty, Resilience, and Adventure

Today I reread “God Called Me to Move to the Trailer Park.” It’s an article about Kim Dougherty, an amazing woman who chose a life of risk and adventure serving a forgotten corner of her small town–a mobile home community called Woodland Village. Part of Kim’s story is that she recently completed a residency with Forge Chicago. The training and coaching she received through Forge helped shape her life, mission, and community in her town and in the trailer park.

When I first read the article in March, I didn’t know that, come May, I’d be working for Forge America. But I did know that I loved her story and her heart. Today I’m helping to collect Forge stories for an upcoming book, and so I revisited Kim’s journey, and this passage stood out to me:

[content_box_light_blue width=”75%”]She was on a tidy Christian ministry career track until 2002, when she learned she was pregnant for the first time in her 11-year marriage. In a span of four months, she experienced a miscarriage, the unraveling of her marriage, and the death of her mother. “I lost my church, my home, my baby, my husband and my mother,” she said…

As she served and worked through her losses with friends at school and church, she began to heal. Acts of practical service reconnected her with the desire she had as a young woman to live a missional life. She discovered that the very experiences that may have disqualified her from institutional ministry leadership in some settings are what gave her credibility and authority among those she now served, including her new neighbors at Woodland.[/content_box_light_blue]

Man I just love that paragraph. I love that what Satan uses to accuse us and to “disqualify” us, God uses for good. That through the rough parts of our stories we are sharpened and readied and become, in fact, more effective.  I love that rather than giving up her calling, Kim gave up being “qualified” for church, and just became the church to a nearly forgotten demographic in her city.

I think that we all need to take a page from her book. We need to recognize that God uses every part of our story and that we are not discarded.

How wonderful and beautiful is that?


Thoughts on Time

I have been absent from the blog for the past two weeks because my husband’s mother passed away on April 27th.  She was diagnosed 8 months ago with Pancreatic Cancer.  She was 60. She was a Busia to my two girls, Chloe 8 and Trinity 4, and my niece Mariah 11, and nephew Justiss, 10 months old.  She was the only parent to my husband, his brother and two sisters.  It has been a heart-wrenching time.

I have been singularly focused on caring for my loved ones.  Besides being supportive and strong for my husband, I am trying to help my girls understand and process their first experience with death.  Truthfully, I am learning right along side them.

Busia and Trinity: Like Peas and Carrots

I don’t think that death is something that we ever really comprehend.  Of course, we know it is a part of life.  But the finality of death seems so unnatural to me.  My mind and spirit can’t seem to get a handle on it.

Though I believe completely that the spirit lives on into eternity, the concept of time is all that I have ever known.  When I tell my girls that Busia is gone, but not really gone, I struggle with explaining to them something that I have a hard time grasping myself.  Who can comprehend this?

When I talk to my sister-in-law,  I do my best to try to help her process through her grieving and sadness.  I can only imagine how difficult it must be for her to lose her mother.  I remind her that she has a child who needs her to be strong and keep moving forward.  I tell her it is okay to feel her feelings, then she has to make a conscious decision to direct her focus to what she has and not what is missing.  I hope and pray it helps.  That it gets easier as time passes.

Still, it is so hard.  Jesus understood it well when He was walking this earth.  He wept over the heartache felt by the loved ones of Lazarus and the sorrow of the widow who had lost her only child when He encountered the funeral procession in Luke 7.  So He raised them both from the dead.  Jesus understands our pain and grief when we lose a loved one.  I think that He responds from  a heart that screams out “This is not how it was supposed to be!”

We are responding by treasuring  every moment we have with the ones we love.  By living life to the fullest.  Conscious that every moment is a gift and we don’t know when our last one will be.  This is the natural response I think.  We only know how to operate within these measures of time, so to it we cling.  Until one day, when time will be no more.   And we will rejoice forever.

[content_box_light_blue width=”75%”]When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”- 1 Corninthians 15:54[/content_box_light_blue]

Communitas and Fortune Cookies

Over the past two weeks, I’ve transitioned into an exciting new role with Forge America. I’m so grateful for the opportunity, but the joy doesn’t end there. I love love LOVE our tribe. The more I get to know these people, the more I like them. Really.

I think it’s because Forge, as it’s name implies, attracts people who have been through the fire, and it attracts people to the fire, too. Any honest reading of scripture reveals that our loving God is also a refining, pruning God. You know that verse that says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend,” the one that everyone quotes in a warm, fuzzy, greeting-card voice? Shawn Lovejoy said recently, “You know how iron sharpens iron? Heat and Friction.” Yes. It’s true friends. You heard it here. (I heard it at Exponential a couple weeks ago).

Forge is not the only direction from which I’m receiving this message of struggle. Yesterday, I ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant with my friend Kellen, and this was my fortune. We both laughed–here’s to fortune cookies, right? But let’s be real, I already know this lesson pretty well. To be honest, I wish I knew it a little less–I’ve experienced a lot of “understanding.” Editing out the painful parts would make my journey more comfortable, but it would mean giving up the wisdom and the healing and the refining that God has produced in me through the hard seasons.

Forge embraces this fortune completely. The founding directors Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost talk about it extensively in their book, The Faith of Leap.  Basically, Forge seeks to move beyond community to communitas–a level of connection and interdependence that is born out of a common struggle or challenge. This is a bit different than what most churches call “fellowship.” To truly live on mission with Jesus involves risk and adventure, a de-prioritization of safety and the status quo. The early church–more of a movement than an institution–understood this well.

I hope that over time, BeBeloved creates space for a kind of communitas. Whenever I find myself in a room of missional women, there is a community born out of a common struggle; it’s not always easy for women to be on mission or (gasp) lead in the church. If you’re feeling that tension, we want to walk and fight with you–we can lend each other strength and wisdom along the way.