Stronger Together

Where are you right now, as you’re reading this?

I picture you, like one of my daughters – a 27 and 29 year old, scanning this on their iPhone in a coffee shop or in front of their computer at work before they start their day, maybe needing a reminder that they are not alone, that they are part of God’s larger story and what they do today matters.

Or I see one of the young moms I mentor who may be scrolling through a post while they’re in the bathroom, because those are the only moment she has without kids clinging to her. And she too, longs for perspective in the midst of chaos and the reminder that God sees her and what she’s doing has eternal significance.

But the survey that many of you took the time to fill out (thank you so much!) says that while these are typical profiles, there are women (and men) of all ages who are joining us here. Teachers, businessmen, missionaries, students… And while most are here in the U.S., there are others in Uganda, and Israel, New Zealand, the U.K., Switzerland and Singapore…

But as different as we are, we share oh so much in common. I don’t know the details of your unique story, but I do know this…

We all long for safe places to be our totally messy selves and know there is grace enough for it all. We want to be honest with each other and know it’s ok. We want the reassurance that we’re not the only ones who often feel clueless or lonely or confused about our purpose. We struggle with the “shoulds” and fight not to compare ourselves with others.

We’re tired, busy, bored, seeking. We yearn for a date or a spouse or healing in our marriage. We all show up with our own brokenness, longing for redemption. We are precious. We are capable of more than we think. We are enough because God is enough, but we often forget that.

I believe that God has given us to each other. We need to tell each other the life-giving truth when the voices “out there” are shouting bad news and death. We need to say to each other, “me too” and “I’m listening”, and “you’re doing just fine.” We need to search together for those hidden moments of grace and redemption masquerading as everyday life.

So, this is what I want to say to you today… You are not alone. Whether sitting together at the long harvest table in my home, passing bowls of pasta around candlelight, or finding your voice in this virtual community, your story matters. Your voice is important. We need you because we are stronger together. God has given us each other.

We’d all love to hear from you, either here in the comments, or on our new Facebook Page.  If you haven’t subscribed, you can do that by filling in your email address in the sidebar. If this community is valuable to you, sharing posts on FB will invite others in.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for showing up here!

By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.Ecclesiastes 4:12 MSG

 

 

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2 Questions and Next Steps for Your Spiritual Journey

I am a map person. First of all because I have to be. I have a pretty good sense of direction, but there was the time I was driving from Galena, ILLINOIS to Chicago, ILLINOIS, and I ended up in Janesville, WISCONSIN, so there’s that.

But also I’m a map person because I want a sense of where I am and what’s around me and where I might be going.IMG_9873

Also, some of us in our family (I’m not going to name names) are known for getting lost – a tad disoriented, if you will.  One daughter in particular has been know to have us “Talk her in”, keeping us on the phone like Mission Control. Thus, the map obsession.

If someone calls you and says, “I’m lost, can you help me?” what’s the first question you ask?

“WHERE ARE YOU NOW?” Right?

In other words, “what are the landmarks you see around you?”  The same is true for our spiritual trek.

As Jesus people our “destination” is wherever we are becoming most like Him.  

Every once in awhile I think it’s good for us to ask ourselves a few questions like:

1.  Where am I now?

There are as many “YOU ARE HERE’s” as there are individuals. You’re at a road block, or reorienting, or at a rest stop, or charging down a black diamond trail. What are the “landmarks” around you that give you clues – like your responsibilities, circumstances, and opportunities? The landmarks for a single career person and a young mom of toddlers are going to look very different.

2. What is it that’s going to help me live more like Jesus where I am, or get me where I need to go with Him? 

Is there a relationship, experience, or spiritual practice that would help me become more like Jesus? Is He prompting me to be content where I am and learn from Him, or is He nudging me to move, take a risk, step out?

At our church we take a spiritual inventory each January to look at the journey we’re on and ask these questions. This morning I’m meeting with someone who wants to talk to me about what next steps she might take as a result.

For me, as I looked at where I am, I recognized that I needed to climb a steep trail in the area of honoring God with my money, so I signed up for a Financial Peace class.  John still laughs at my small steps in this area, but he’s also encouraging and supportive.

How I wish we all could sit down together over coffee and help each other in this process of navigating and map questing, asking God together for His guidance! 

If you want to read more on getting your bearings, look here and here.

If you have a question, or an insight might you throw it out to the community in the comments here?  We’re in this together!

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God. Hebrews 11:8-10 MSG

The Genius of Inconvenience

Our family loves travel like E.T. loves home.

But travel is often tough. Uncomfortable, patience-stretching, anxiety-producing tough. This is what we’ve learned – it doesn’t matter whether it’s a road trip, or driving a carpool, or taking a bus downtown, or business commuting to 3 cities in a day, or something more exotic.

We heard a leader once say that he doesn’t make any major hires unless he has traveled somewhere with the candidate because travel can reveal so much about a person’s character.IMG_5483

(In case you can’t read this it says there may not be a toilet on the plane :))

Although travel can reveal our character, God can also use it to refine our character.

Recently, we were headed out on a trip and John discovered the night before that he had booked his flight for 7 P.M. and mine for 7 A.M. (Uh, no…I have no idea how that happened).

When we arrived, we found that he had booked our rental car for a different city (on the opposite coast) where he had traveled not long ago.

While walking to the car rental desk we got a call from our friends who were supposed to host us in their home, saying they had food poisoning and we’d have to find a hotel.

Lastly, when we were heading home, a freak snowstorm hit and our flight was cancelled.

We’d like growth to happen while we’re flying first-class with wine and fluffy pillows, but that’s not the way it works. Growth is uncomfortable – found in the middle seat at the back of the plane or in the driver’s seat of a mini-van carrying toddlers.

Continue reading

When Life is Loud and Crazy and You’re Doing All of the Things

Confession: I went running on a tiny island in the Bahamas this morning and I felt guilty that we have generous friends who have lent us their home here, and we can take the time to enjoy it in this season of our lives.  And as I am running feeling all the guilty feelings, here’s what I’m thinking…

I’m wondering how many of you read the post on Wednesday about doing good, and you sighed deep, and your shoulders slumped, and you Just. Felt. Tired. Even more tired maybe than usual. Because for you it’s a season of weariness.

  • You’re a single 20-something working two jobs while trying to put yourself through grad school.
  • You’re a business owner with huge responsibilities to bring in revenue, and cast vision, and lead your staff well.
  • You’re a married mom working outside the home and raising kids while trying to keep your marriage alive.
  • You’re homeschooling 4 kids and volunteering as a coach or a deacon or a leader in some capacity.
  • You’re a single mom juggling job, daycare, car-pooling, finances, house repairs and….

You’re stretched to the max.

You read the post and wanted to throw something at the screen and yell, “I don’t need a kick in the pants! I need a latte and a massage!” Continue reading

How to Push Back Darkness in Your Corner of the World

Ever think much about the quality of “goodness”?  It’s always sounded really vanilla and fuzzy to me, but recently I listened to a message my friend Heather Zempel preached on this fruit of the Spirit. I was both convicted and encouraged (the sign of a great sermon!).

She was clear, making sure her audience understood that our salvation is not dependent on our goodness, but on the goodness of God.  We don’t do good things to get God’s approval, but we do good things because we’ve already experienced His approval.

The Fruit of the Spirit aren’t just habits for us to engage in, but qualities of God’s character to bless us…for us to soak in first, and that then to ooze out of us, like a sponge soaking up water and then being wrung out.

Goodness isn’t just an inward quality. As Heather says,

“Goodness love in action – strategically pushing back the darkness of the world to allow the light of the goodness of God to shine in.”

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Wading in with Yoga Pants On

Not long ago I sashayed out the door with what could be considered “yoga pants”.  I wore them even though I don’t do Yoga except approximately 1.5 times a year when I’m overcome with all the feels of delusional optimism and thinking “Holy Yoga could probably be magically transformative – making me bendy, AND super spiritual at the same time”. Anyway, that’s not the point.

The point is that I didn’t think twice about wearing said yoga pants because:

a. I had not yet heard of “the controversy”  going in in cyberspace and

b. I am a woman of a certain age who (sad as this might be) does not need to worry that men’s minds will turn to lust when I pass by. BUT if you are a millennial or a Gen x-er this may be something to think about, so keep reading.

In case you haven’t heard, it has been pointed out recently that yoga pants, leggings, jeggings and such are sexy. (They are also comfy like p.j.’s which is mostly the reason we women are wearing them more and more.)

The issue being raised is that they are tempting men to think thoughts they shouldn’t be thinking, and contemplate acting in ways they shouldn’t act. Consequently, women are being encouraged to consider dressing more modestly.  The response from many women has been: “What in the name of sweet baby Jesus??! No! We’re not responsible for the inappropriate, undisciplined, potentially animal-like behavior of men!”

As much as I would not have previously thought yoga pants were an instrument of satanic destruction, I also wouldn’t have expected the passionate pushback to the idea that women might want to help a brother out.

In community we’re kind of like kids at summer camp using the buddy system when they swim to make sure no one gets lost.  We stick together. We look out for each other. Continue reading

“No People”

Today I had lunch with a dear friend. We sat at a table outside on an upper terrace, eating in the toasty sun. Yes, you read that right. Outside. In MN. In March. Clearly evidence of a benevolent God.

One of the reasons I like my friend is we agree on pretty much everything. Religion, politics, Kim Kardashian… Who doesn’t like spending time with “yes people” who support all your opinions?

But as I was driving home, I thought… one of the many things I admire about my husband is that he actively seeks out “no people”.  He engages and asks questions of people he knows have different opinions or perspectives than he does.  You know…people who see a blue dress when you know it’s white.

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Now, don’t get me wrong; John’s no push-over.  He’s grounded in an informed worldview, but he’s also humble enough to know he may have missed considering some things. He knows there is wisdom to be gained in listening to those who disagree with him. I am in awe of how secure he is in Christ in a way that makes him not defensive.

It is hard, but I’m trying to be more open to entering into conversations with folks who differ from me without getting anxious, fearful, or defensive. I try to listen well. And I try to remember to breathe and say to myself “You have nothing to prove and nothing to lose.” 

Maybe think of someone who sees a different color dress and ask them more about what they think today.

And if you haven’t taken the 2015 Survey, I’d love to hear from you – click on this link.

Seeing Light in Darkness

Saturday we sprang forward and Sunday it was an unbelievable 46 degrees here. Spring, that shameless hussy, is flirting with us. There was a guy in church with shorts on. Seriously.

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If you’re reading this from Florida, or Australia, or Nazareth, this may not seem like it’s a big deal, but I live in MINNESOTA, where it often snows on Easter for Pete’s sake!

Nevertheless, I’ve been seduced.  I’m finally ready to unplug the white twinkly lights that have been dressing up our pine tree and bushes since November when the Dark crept up on Minnesota and we needed a reminder that the Light will always prevail.  We needed something to cheer us, something to assure us that there are things to celebrate even when they are hard to see.

These days, as the sun hangs around a little later each afternoon, and streets become drippy and puddly, and green things begin to consider whether it’s safe to peek out of the cold ground again, our pine trees look a little foolish with twinkles, all dressed up at 4:00 when it’s still light. Like a teenage girl anxiously dressed early for prom and trying too hard to be noticed.

So I’ll unplug the lights and enjoy the sun, and I’ve even turned off the heat, but I’m on my guard because March is the month that is constantly playing “Ding Dong Ditch”.  She fools us into answering the door, sure there is Springy goodness waiting on the other side, and then Bam! Ha! We open and winter slams us in the face.

One thing we can be sure of is that light will prevail, and the lengthening days are a reminder that.

“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5). 

Even in the long winter months when all can seem lost, there are glimmers of God-light. Continue reading

5 Things to Do When a Friend is Hurting

A few weeks ago I wrote about those times when we feel like we’re under water and we’re trying to help a drowning friend, but everything is in slow motion, silent and hollow, and we can’t communicate and it’s so frustrating.

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One of the common elements I notice with friends who are in hard seasons is loneliness. Not necessarily that they are alone, but they feel isolated. We feel bad and we want to fix it or DO something and we don’t know what to say or do.

My friend Betsy Anderson came in and shared on this subject with a community of young married couples I shepherd at church last Sunday.

She is wise and kind and has experienced a tremendous amount of pain herself.  She has written curriculum and taught workshops on caring for each other in community.  I’m not good at this, but I’m learning from her. Here are a few of her good insights: Continue reading

What to Do When Discouragement and Doubt are Winning

My “One Word” for this year is Stronger. Two years ago it was Fearless. Positive words, full of possibility and hutzpah.  I picture them hanging out on the street corner of my life like tough dudes yelling, “Bring it on suckas!”

West Side Story 1_0

But this week it was all West Side Story and Stronger and Fearless got into a rumble, roughed up by Discouragement and Doubt.

I’m guessing I’m not alone. If not this week, some week this has been your experience. And you slouch in the alley and say, “What the what?”

Maybe the the street gang of “not good enough” has been winning this week because you were sucked into the comparison game and came up short. Maybe you’ve experienced a set back in your goals, or you’ve just felt trampled by the insensitivity of others.

And maybe on top of it you beat yourself up too. If only I could…If only I did… Continue reading

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