4 Ideas for Navigating Change

“It’s coming. I can feel it.” That’s the refrain I hear too often these August days as the light mellows earlier in the evening and green things have lost their luster. Everything looks a little dry and tired. A little droopy. Long shadows seem shadowier.

I want to yell “NOOOOO!” and stamp my foot like a toddler fighting bedtime.

Instead I breathe deep and stay outside as long as possible, trying to ward off the inevitable, and the deep feeling of loss that accompanies it.

“Seasons change and so did I.” as the song says.

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I have friends going away to college, those who are moving from single into married life; some who are expecting babies, one who just got fired, others who are sending their kids off to school for the first time, and those who will become empty-nesters.

Thirty years ago my husband John and I moved from our home and families in the Chicago area to serve at a church in Washington D.C.  It was a huge seasonal change for us.  John was required to attend a seminar on transitions and while he was there he had to take an assessment that assigned points to the the different changes in your life.

POINTS???!  We love points!  We’re a tad competitive :).

We were moving away from family for the first time, expecting a new baby (I was 8 months pregnant with our second when we moved), buying our first house, starting a new job in a new church culture.  Each of these got points assigned to them indicating the amount of pressure in our life.

John came home and said, “Honey, I have good news and bad news.  The good news is, we WON!   We had more points than anyone there!  The bad news is they said we should have been in counseling 50 points ago!”

Change, even good change brings stress. There’s an article I’ve saved for years that documents the effects of moving. Even a short move across town causes a level of anxiety because it’s fruit basket upset for relational patterns. All of a sudden there’s a new dry cleaner and mail person, and supermarket checkout person – the people you interact with daily. For students it’s new teachers, for others it’s new bosses or a new gaggle of moms to get to know.

Holy buckets! I hate change like most people do. These are just a few things that seem to help me:

  • Phone a friend. We are relational beings, and it’s community that seems to take the hardest hit when we’re going through seasonal change. So when you’re low, call an old friend, but also reach out. Be brave and call someone new. Remember, if you’re feeling lonely, others are too.
  • Be aware of the impact of change.  Give yourself and your family extra grace during times of transition.  (John had perpetually wet shoulders from absorbing all my tears the first year in D.C.)
  • As much as possible, continue the spiritual rhythms you have put in place.  We feel more out of control during these times.  As I look back on our years living in D.C., the one thing that kept me going was a weekly community Bible study I attended where my kids were taken care of.  What are the positive choices you can make that will be nurturing to your mind, heart and soul?
  • Anchor your life in the one thing that is unchanging – God and His character.  Make a practice of voicing the many things you’re grateful for.  Specifically thank God for who He is, not just what He does.  In our family we have a “Twelve Stones Book” taken from the biblical examples where God commands the Israelites to build visible memorials so they’ll remember His power (Joshua 4).  In our book we record instances of God’s faithfulness in our family since we seem to have spiritual ADD.

So here’s to strolling through crunchy leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, and “bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils”.

The Question Fear Asks

This weekend I had the privilege of preaching on Matthew 14:22-32 – the super familiar story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. I LOVE this story and I felt like God had so much to teach me as I prepared.

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One of the most important things I learned as I was studying the passage of Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee and sinking, was that it was about more than Peter’s faith. It was about Jesus’ greater grace.

Jesus reaches out when we’re sinking and lifts us up. 

This morning I was thinking about a related story I heard a million years ago about a little boy trapped in the bedroom of his home which was on fire.

He was at the window, the home swallowed up in flames, no way out.  Smoke everywhere.

Below, a fireman called up to him, “Jump son!  I’ll catch you!  I’m here!”

The little boy screamed “No!  I can’t SEE you!!!”

“I know,” yelled the fireman, “but I can see YOU!  Jump!”

Cheesy story?  Maybe.  But it makes me think about the question fear asks of God.

The underlying question in the little boy’s heart was the question that fear asks:

What if…?

What if you don’t see me?

What if you miss?

What if you’re not strong enough?

What if I get hurt?

What if I look silly?

Sometimes I can’t see God.  And I’m afraid to jump. (or step out of my boat)

 

What does Love ask of you today that’s scary?

To go someplace uncomfortable?  Talk to someone uncomfortable?  Serve in way that’s uncomfortable?

Quit a job, or stay in a job that’s hard?  Give something away?  Build a bridge, or shake the dust off your feet?

Are you afraid to jump?  I am.  And I’m thinking about the lyrics from this Nicole Nordeman song:

But what if you’re wrong?
What if there’s more?
What if there’s hope you never dreamed of hoping for?
What if you jump?
And just close your eyes?
What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
What if He’s more than enough?
What if it’s love?

Jumping, or taking a step outside our boat of comfort. There are different things that God may use to prompt us.

Invitation to go on an advocacy trip with World Vision when that’s not “my thing” prompted me to step out this summer.

Frustration over the lack of sanitary equipment for girls in northern Uganda, causing them to miss school, prompted our daughter Maggie to step outside her “boat” and solve the problem.

Fear of the overwhelming emotions around returning to church after her husband died, prompted my sister-in-law to cling to Jesus and take the hard step back.

Loss of her beloved son Brett, who had Downs Syndrome, prompted my friend Nan to start ministries to kids with special needs.

What are you afraid of?

What might God be using to prompt you to jump, or step out, trusting Him? 

If we step out and sink, we can be assured that God’s grace is greater than our faith.

The Other “F Word”, part 3

One more repost…#3 F- word. We’re all a mess! Let’s celebrate that God doesn’t leave us that way! We are beloved works in progress.

I once put 2 CUPS of salt into a recipe of lasagna instead of 2 teaspoons.

Ok, actually I ran out of salt after a cup and a half, but still…  Inconceivable that anyone could be such an idiot?  A failure?  I know, I know it’s hard even for me to believe.  I can only chalk it up to the fact that I was multi-tasking and my mind was elsewhere.

You’ve never made a stupid mistake?  Or failed at something serious you worked hard for?

Did you fail your driver’s test the first time?

Fail to make the varsity tennis, football, or swim team?

Been fired?

Have a failed marriage?

Failed to get a promotion you applied for?

Failure.  Another uncomfortable “F word”.

Even writing the word brings feelings of humiliation and embarrassment.  A sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I have plenty of failures to reflect on.  I’m a passionate, fire-ready-aim kind of gal.  Leap before you look.  It’s all good.  Enthusiasm wins the day.

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As a result I’ve inadvertently stepped on toes, lost money, received rejections for less-than-best work submitted too quickly.

Maybe your pattern is different, but you can still think of failures that make you cringe.

As I’ve been reflecting on failure I’ve read some inspiring stuff.

“Grace means our failures don’t define who we are anymore; they just shape who we’re becoming.”Bob Goff

“If you know you are the Beloved, you can live with an enormous amount of success
and an enormous amount of failure without losing your identity.
Because your identity is that you are the Beloved…” Henri Nouwen

Somebody asked Winston Churchill one time, “What most prepared you to lead Great Britain through World War 2?

This was Churchill’s response: “It was the time I repeated a class in grade school.”

The questioner said, “You mean you flunked a grade?”

Churchill said, “I never flunked in my life.  I was given a second opportunity to get it right.”

What we would like to delete, God wants to complete?

We all are going to fail, but what’s next?  How do we “fail forward”?

Stop trying for a minute and hold your “failure” (whatever it is) before God and say,

Here it is Lord.

Use it.  Redeem it.  Teach me from it.  Show me my next step.  But don’t let it define me, paralyze me, or tempt me to turn from You.  Thank you that I am Your beloved child.  No matter what.”

What have you failed at that God has redeemed?

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

The Other “F Word”, part 2

Yesterday I re-posted on the F- word in our family. Today another one, and tomorrow one more – I’ll let you decide which you relate to most! 🙂

On reflection I think there’s more than one other f-word.  There may be a whole slew of others that lurk around like stealth ninjas ready to take us down.

So here’s number 2.  Fear.

I don’t think I’m a particularly fearful person.  But I might have slept in the car instead of with the bats in a mountain cabin once upon a time.  And Maggie and I might have told the producers of the Amazing Race that snakes were a no-go for us when we were auditioning.

I’ll admit I AM afraid of heights, failure, suffering, looking foolish in public, and dying in an airplane crash to name a few.  But so is everyone, right?IMG_0767

(John, not me, bungee jumping at Victoria Falls, Zambia)

If I’m honest, what I’m really afraid of is losing control.  At least the illusion of control.

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The Other “F Word”

Good Morning! I’m taking a little sabbatical this summer, and thought maybe with all tragedies in the world, and “other” bashing, I’d repost a series from several years ago. I pray you are having  a delightful summer and regardless of your circumstances you’re finding ways to make it more than “fine”.

One afternoon when Katy was in kindergarten she got off the bus and informed me that she had learned “the f-word.”

“Fart.”

She later told us she had also learned the “sh-word”

“Shut up.”

Honestly, in our family the real “f-word” isn’t fart.  And it isn’t another word that might come to mind.

It’s “fine”.

To my mind, “fine” may be the most terrible word in the english language.  And words matter as my friend Sharon always reminds me.

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Some Notes on Anniversaries We Just Don’t Want to Celebrate

Anniversaries.

You may remember marking moments like the day you started a new job, a first kiss, college graduation, the day you accepted Jesus. You remember the date of your wedding, when babies were born, your Mom’s birthday…

These are life-giving, joy-filled moments we savor.

But what about the anniversary of a death?

A year ago today, just after midnight, my brother David died. This morning I’ve been re-reading the passage of Scripture my other brother, Cris read at the memorial service. He was struck by the fact that David lived the verse:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

I’ve been meditating on it, praying it.

Psalm 34

1 I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.

I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

I “will” – it’s a choice, a discipline, a commitment. I will glory “in the Lord” – not in my circumstances. He is good and unchanging.

“Everyone worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” Timothy Keller

David lived this. When cancer came, yes, he prayed for healing, but he worshipped God, not his own desires.

Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

Together. We choose, especially in times of pain, to draw together. Though our voices may falter, we invite each other to join us in a broken hallelujah.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

I look at all the verbs in this Psalm that refer to our action – “sought”, “look”, “called”, “fear” “taste”, “take refuge”.  We can cry out to the Lord with all that is in us. We look to Him to bring Life in the midst of death.

He “delivers”, “hears”, “saves”, “blesses”, “encamps” around us.

 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  

To be blessed is to will Life for someone, to flourish. With the Lord we will experience blessing – Life even in the midst of death.

Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.

Other versions translate “fear” as “reverence” or “worship”.

“All shall work together for good; everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds.” John Newton

And then verse 18… The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Lord, we praise You that though the darkness of grief can threaten to eclipse everything else, You are a good God and your Light will not allow the darkness to overcome. We have felt confused, comforted, crushed, and carried this year… But we choose to trust You no matter what. “You are a good, good Father. It’s who You are.” We praise You for your faithfulness and compassion. We praise You that though we miss David terribly, You have overcome death and that we will live forever with You and him.

Tonight, family and close friends will gather at Susan’s for one of the grilling dinners that David loved so much to host. As we come together we look forward to laughing and sharing “Dave stories” which are really “Yay God!” stories. Once again, we will “Taste and see that God is good.”

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Bubble Wrap and 3 Ways we Respond to Criticism

Back from Africa Friday afternoon with lots to process and amazing experiences meeting many heroes. Daughter Maggie, and son-in-law Austin arrived Saturday so I’m thankful for the summer blog sabbatical and the space to be present. I’m reposting some thoughts from a few years ago today that started with a text from Maggie.

IMG_2565This was a text I received from daughter Maggie awhile ago:

This afternoon a man from the DC Legislature and Regulatory Services in the office next door reprimanded me for playing with bubble wrap too loudly.

BTW, You raised me.” 

Hmmm…Really.

This text raises so many questions.

The Jesus-y way people used to say this back in the day was “I rebuke thee!”  And it came with flames of fire, and lightning bolts.  Like Jason Bourne, Bruce Lee, and 007 doing their super hero moves in a whirlwind smack down of high kicks, karate chops, back flips and flying tackles.

Rebuking seems like the biblical free clobber card although these days it often comes under the guise of “doing a Matthew 18:15”.  If we’re honest, sometimes I think we can enjoy being the clobberer (or imagining it), but as the clobberee we usually we feel like we’re picking ourselves up off the matt, bruised and bloody after being called out.

A few weeks ago I was corrected loudly and publicly for a mistake I made.  Then later in the day I was scolded for something I wrote.  It felt like Simon Cowell had told me he had never heard anyone with less talent.  On national t.v.  Want-to-crawl-in-a-hole-pain-full.

We Christians don’t like making mistakes.  It feels so, you know…ungodly.

Once in awhile critique comes wrapped in love from those close to us, like Mr. Rogers putting his arm around us and gently saying “You messed up, but it’s ok.  We all do.  You’re still a part of the neighborhood.”

But more often it comes from a stranger and it feels like Mark Driscoll has put us on his “Jesus hates you” hit list.

All this bubble wrap stuff has made me think about the ways we usually respond to criticism or correction.

1.  We hold hoard it like an 80 year old grandma saving plastic baggies to reuse.  We let it define us.  Maggie could see herself forever as the “Bubble Wrap Bimbo.”  Let it drown out any affirmation.  Research shows that it typically takes 4 positive interactions with someone to offset one negative one.  We’re giving reprimands a lot of power!  Maggie might so focus on the rebuke that she’d miss the three other compliments on her creative bubble dance moves, her cat-like reflexes, and her innovative use of trash.

2.  We rebuke the rebuker.  Replay the conversation in our heads complete with witty original comebacks.  In these scenarios we always emerge righteous and are able to do an end-zone victory dance with moves like Victor Cruz in the Super Bowl while the other person begs forgiveness for being  SO wrong about us.  Victim turned Victor.

3.  We look for the truth, learn from it, and move on.  Borrrrring, you say?  Yeah, and it’s about as easy for me as competitors on the Amazing Race, sifting through the mud to come up with the prized Japanese frog.  But I’ve seen it done so I know it’s possible.

What might a redemptive text from Maggie to Regulatory Guy look like?

RG, Sorry the noise bothered u.  It was thoughtless of me not 2 tone it down, but bubble wrap is joy in plastic!  Next time I’ll invite u 2 join us in the dance.  Have a great day! 😉

Just recently Mark Batterson tweeted, “Criticism, even unfair criticism, can be a blessing in disguise. It keeps you humble.”                                                                              Great.  Thanks.  Yea for humility.

I’m trying.  End zone victory dance fantasies aside, my prayer this morning was, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.  Help me to hear the words of truth in each criticism aimed at me.  Let my words of correction always be few and seasoned with grace.”

What’s your most common reaction to criticism?  How do you handle it?

The 3 Words You Need in the Costco Parking Lot or ________________

I’m taking a blogging sabbatical this summer, but will occasionally be sharing some posts from the past.

In spite of my vow never to leave Minnesota in the summer, Friday I leave on a trip to Northerwestern Kenya to take a closer look at the work World Vision is doing in maternal and child health and learn how to be a better advocate. Traveling in the developing world always requires me to lay aside any agenda or timetable, so this post from a few years ago is a good reminder to me. Maybe you too.

I was maneuvering laboriously, with stops and starts, through the parking lot at Costco yesterday, thinking for the millionth time that the Costco parking lot is either an outer ring of hell or a brilliant opportunity for spiritual formation.  

As I dodged runaway giant shopping carts,

and waited for pedestrians absorbed in studying their shopping lists wandering blindly in the middle of the row,

and backed up for cars in front of me that slammed on their brakes upon spying the tell-tale white reverse lights of a car vacating a parking place they could nab

I thought of a spiritual practice a friend of mine has been advocating.  The simple practice of saying “Come Holy Spirit” throughout the day in situations like this that require patience, understanding, and discipline beyond me.

When I say “Come Holy Spirit” it reminds me that God is with me in every small moment.  It encourages me to try to see the situation through His eyes.  It reminds me of His character.  It says, “I’m depending on your power because I’m weak as a baby and about as mature.  I need you.  Your power perfected in my weakness.”

I love to think about Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…

Which of these names do you most need to be reminded of today?

Come Holy Spirit.

Come Counselor.

Come Mighty God.

Come Everlasting Father.

Come Prince of Peace.

Come.  

Even to the Costco parking lot.

Soul Food Friday for Father’s Day

My small group sat around the other night sharing horror stories about teens and sexual assault, young men who don’t have role models and don’t have high ideals, don’t respect women…It can be discouraging as we see a lack of honorable young men, but there ARE inspiring stories out there! I want to share some this Father’s Day weekend.

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And last…my favorite Tweet from @XplodingUnicorn

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Happy Father’s Day!

What My Daughters and I are Learning About Community

I’m taking a blogging sabbatical this summer, but will occasionally be sharing some posts from the past. This one was a guest post written by daughter Katy 4 or 5 years ago.

Have you ever taken the Meyers Briggs personality inventory?

It’s where you answer a bunch of questions, and at the end you’re assigned four letters that make up the basics of your personality.
4 powerful letters that tell someone all they need to know about how you’d respond…

  • If strangers showed up at your door inviting you to a costume party,
  • Or if you had to decide under pressure, which wire to cut to diffuse a bomb,
  • Or whether you’d say “Suck it up.” or “You poor, poor baby!” if someone told you their hamster died.

Well in our family, the 4 letters that sum up Maggie are exactly the opposite of the 4 letters that sum me (Katy) up.

In spite of being opposites, while growing up, the two of us were inseparable.  Walking to and from elementary school together, taking (voluntary) trips up to the local library to stock up on Sherlock Holmes books to read aloud to one another in the privacy of the latest edition of our ever-improving fort.  We’d rally the neighborhood kids for night games and home made video productions, snow forts and magic shows.

We were a dream team.

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But then, something happened. I think professionals call it “puberty”. We turned into the worst versions of ourselves, camping out on the far edges of our opposite personalities.

Things that were cute about Maggie became shallow and annoying. My attitude went from an indulgent older sister to, frankly, a superior jerk. Those halves on Meyer’s Briggs became like some sort of bizarre science class punnett square exercise gone wrong.

In our case, it took about 6 years apart and the advent of g-chat to start a new season of communicating. Rather than the cutting remarks and dismissive sarcasm, we began to speak with each other as people, rather than sisters.

Each of us slowly slid towards the center of that personality chart, first recognizing our weaknesses, then working to develop into more balanced people.

It sounds quite nice and simple in that sentence, but some of this “realization” came through heated phone calls and the occasional adopting of our high school personalities.  AKA our “worst selves.”

Now, years later, here we are, co-inhabiting a 900 square foot apartment in the heart of our nation’s capital.  Had you told us 5 years ago that this would be our living situation, we would have thought you were a lunatic.  Surprisingly, it is going quite well.

There have been a few flare ups where we’ve seen those high school selves resurface, and it’s embarrassing.  But we’re truly enjoying one another’s company, the sharing of friend groups, being invited to the same parties, and attending the same church for the first time in years.

We find ourselves working to carve out “sister time” and we’ve seen this time become increasingly more meaningful.  As we earn one another’s respect, we are better able to speak into each other’s lives.

The bottom line is that when we allow the other person’s strengths to threaten us we’re our worst selves.  But when we move towards each other in humility, ready to learn from the other’s strengths, and seek help in the areas where we’re weak, we thrive.

When I can sincerely say, “Maggie, what would you do in this social situation?” where I feel unsure, and she can sincerely ask “Katy, what bus should I get from U Street to get home? or Who is Christine Legard and why do we care about her?” we both benefit.

What I’ve learned from watching Katy and Maggie grow as they live in community is to ask questions.  When I’m in situations where the emotion seems to rumble in my stomach and travel to my face and threaten to come out of my mouth in unwise words I’m trying to ask:

1.  What am I afraid of?  Really.

2.  What can I learn from this person?

3.  What questions should I ask to gain better understanding?

What collaborative, or community building situations are the most challenging to you?  When do you feel most threatened?  What is helpful?

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