grace

I’ll Sit With You in the Pain

“I guess I thought if I prayed about it, I would magically feel better and suddenly have a group of friends with whom I could share my heart and there’d be a rainbows and unicorns.”

I woke up this morning still feeling very melancholy. It seems the last couple of weeks I’ve been experiencing a lot of ups and downs, and I find myself wondering

“God, where are you in all of this? Why are you leaving me alone? Can’t you hear me?”

I thought if I prayed about it, I would magically feel better and suddenly have a group of friends with whom I could share my heart and there’d be a rainbows and unicorns. This morning as I was scrolling through Facebook before I got out of bed, God sent me a message. Yes, it’s true – God sent me a message on Facebook. No, I’m not crazy, at least not now. I believe that God can speak to us through other people sometimes, and this morning he spoke to me through Brene’ Brown.

“I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort’, but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.'” Brene’ Brown

You can listen to her 6 minute message here.

Another quote that really spoke to me this week was from author Lysa TerKeurst (I have never read any of her books, I just follow her on Facebook and I like her quotes. She is on my list of books to read)

“How to overcome that seemingly impossible issue… pray more words about it than you speak.”

I find that I’ve been praying about things, but not an intense, fervent, journal for hours, pour-my-heart-out, fall-on-my-face prayer. I’ve been thinking about things, things have been on my mind, and when they come to mind, I’ve said a little prayer.

That is not the way I need to be praying about things.

Prayers on-the-go are not the same as deep conversations with God.

Just as a text to a friend is not the same as an hour-long phone call. Or a message on Facebook isn’t the same as a handwritten card or letter. Or a “how are you doing?” as you pass one another in the morning isn’t the same as a heart-to-heart conversation over a cup of coffee.

It’s no wonder I sometimes feel that God has forgotten me in this move. It seems I have also forgotten how to have a deep relationship with Him. So I ask myself, what am I afraid of? Why am I avoiding heart-to-hearts with God? And deep inside, I know the answer.

He’s asking me to do hard things. I can feel that nudging in my heart and I keep trying to distract myself. I stick to prayers-on-the-go so I don’t have to listen.

He’s asking me to step out of my comfort zone.

He’s urging me to reach out in grace and love to people in my life who have been unloving to me.

He’s asking me to be patient. It took years to build the purposeful relationships that I left in Vancouver. It will take years to build new ones.

He’s asking me to remember the commonality of suffering in people around me, when I selfishly just want to focus on my suffering. Everyone wants to experience happiness and avoid pain. He wants me to love those around me, and remember that everyone has a story, and every story matters.

He’s asking me not to wait for other people to come to me, but for me to reach out in love towards others. And that puts me in a vulnerable position. What if I’m rejected? And selfishly, what if it’s inconvenient to me?

So, I commit to prayer this Holy Week. I commit to real prayer, kind of prayer that builds relationships. The kind of prayer that restores me and my heart. The kind of prayer where I don’t just pour out all my feelings and tell God what I think He should do, but the kind of prayer that sits quietly and listens, which is so hard for me.

And I’ll remember that in the discomfort, in the loneliness, in the hard things, in the quiet listening,

He sits with me.

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Google Search: Hipster Church, Louisville, College Kids

I can’t pinpoint the day when church made me want to run screaming, but it did. For many years. There are reasons that I won’t elaborate on, but it has to do growing up in a performance-based church with a legalistic upbringing and little experience of God’s grace, as well as some deep church wounds that were difficult to heal.

And even though for a time I couldn’t walk into a church, or stand to listen to people talk ‘Christianese’ at me, or sometimes even listen to others pray,

I still longed for community, I longed to be a part of the body of Christ that loved one another.

I just didn’t see a lot of it. And I became very cynical, so that even the genuine and grace-filled people in my life became tainted in my mind with the pain from my church wounds. My faith, at least in terms of ‘organized religion’, had been deconstructed. I wanted no part of any of it. And I know that countless others feel that way, too. I hear others talk about it all the time. Believers are disillusioned, and non-believers feel that their judgements of believers are confirmed as they see some of them behave in ways that are anything but loving. (A post I wrote a year ago, “Why Church Breaks My Heart“, was my most popular blog post to date.)

But my heart still clung to Jesus, even though my face was turned from his people.

I was (and still am) so disgusted by the beliefs and actions of many who claim to love Jesus. But I slowly learned that the church is messy, and that it’s just not going to always be beautiful messy as I had hoped. Sometimes it is even ugly messy. And what was I going to do about that? Stay away forever, or jump in and get my hands dirty?

To be honest, I still don’t know that answer to that question. But my wounds are healing to the point that I can talk about my God once again. I can listen to people pray without cringing. I can listen to people talk about their faith without judging them and doubting their sincerity.

It was quite the ugly place to be.

I feel like I can once again have hope for God’s people, for his Church. I have found other people of faith who are open and exploring social justice issues and are trying to  truly discern what it means to Love One Another as opposed to just towing a certain political line. We don’t always agree, but we can agree to disagree and listen to each other. And once again I can believe that Love Wins.

We had found a church in Portland, Or that we thought would be our church home – they were involved in helping the homeless, improving race relations, serving refugees.

And then we moved from the Pacific NW to Louisville, Kentucky –

the middle of the Bible belt, the heart of Southern Baptists, which sometimes represents the very type of ‘Christian’ that I had been trying to distance myself from. How could we ever find a church home? Did we even want to? We weren’t even sure that we were going to stay in Louisville, so was it even worth trying to find a place?

I talked to people about their churches, at work and in my neighborhood. We live in Clifton, a close-knit neighborhood, and I really hoped to find a church close to home. Like within walking distance. We tried a few, but they didn’t seem like a good fit. I attended a book study with women from a local mega-church, which was okay for a small group, but I really wanted to steer away from the mega-church mentality. I started googling the terms that were important to me: missional, social justice, homeless ministry, addiction support. One thing I was also hoping for was a church that was integrated – not just a bunch of white people. This is a very diverse city, but the churches we had attended were not diverse.

It is fortunate that most churches now have their services online, so you can ‘try out’ a church by listening to their podcast before attending. That won’t tell you everything, but it’s a start. My husband and I really have a heart for college kids, and I liked the Portland church’s vibe, so I googled

“Hipster church, Louisville, college kids”

Yes, seriously.

I scrolled past the extra-large churches and came up with a couple of names. (Honestly, I’m not sure how I found the names, because if I google it again, I don’t come up with the same results). I listened to their sermons, and one of the pastors, Matt Ness, did not make me want to run screaming. So we decided to try that church.

The Avenue Church started about five years ago as a ministry to University of Louisville students. They hold services in space in the middle of an office building/small business center. We walked into the small room with less than 100 people, where we saw a stage with a background of pallets, blue lights, and a pole in the center of the room. I was intimidated at the small size of the group, and I might have left, but Craig said “Let’s stay”. During the welcome time (and can I just say – WHY do churches still do that? but I digress) the pastor introduced himself and told us a little about the church. They recently decided to merge with the church that meets in the same space directly after them – a church called The Soul Center. This church is predominantly black, and the two pastors and congregations had decided to combine the two and become an integrated faith community.

How cool is that?

The two churches are forming a new church together, which will be called One Church. And it is just in the beginning stages – the first official combined service was to be in a few weeks (which will be this coming Sunday, December 6). AND they are involved in helping the community. They support an organization called the Family Scholar House, which helps single parents attending college. The Family Scholar House states their mission is “to end the cycle of poverty and transform our community by empowering families and youth to succeed in education and achieve life-long self-sufficiency”. AND they are involved in an organization called Eyes That See, which works with women in Ethiopia who desire to leave the sex industry.

From what I’ve seen, there are a lot of college kids and families. Not a lot of us ‘mature’ couples (yikes) but maybe we can offer something to this newly formed church. For the first time in a long while, I am excited about attending a church, being part of a church body, and finding a church community.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes . . .

 

Growing a Friendship: pt 4 in finding community

   October 9, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 Day 9: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 

Once you have found friends with whom you can share your heart, how do you grow a friendship?

In the past year or so, these are some of the things I have learned (and am still learning) about growing a friendship.

This is my sweet friend. Shelley. We met when our sons were in the same class in second grade. For five years we said, "We'll have to go out for coffee sometime." Instead, we would just chat in the school parking lot, or when the kids had sleepovers, or if we saw each other at church. 20 years later, we are still friends.

This is my sweet friend, Shelley (she’s on the left, that’s me on the right). We met when our sons were in the same class in second grade. For five years we said, “We’ll have to go out for coffee sometime.” Instead, we would just chat in the school parking lot, or when the kids had sleepovers, or if we saw each other at church. Twenty years (and two grown children) later, we are still friends.

 

You must be purposeful.

Relationships rarely just happen on their own. You need to be purposeful and plan at times. Set regular times in the calendar. Call when you haven’t heard from someone in a while. Send a text, or better yet, a card or a letter to let them know you are thinking about them. Ask how they’re doing, and really want to know.

You must be present.

In the screen age, I find that this is more challenging. We are used to texting rather than calling (even I prefer a text to a phone call). But there is nothing like face to face, sit down for coffee heart-to-heart chat. And put the screens down. If you can, turn off your ringer so you’re not checking notifications every two minutes. I know it’s hard, because our phones have become an appendage, but try. I read last week that the message you send if you’re looking at your phone while talking to another person is “You are not enough for me right now, at this moment.” Even if that’s not our intention, is that really the message we want to send? Look people in the eye. It can be disconcerting – people don’t look each other in the eye any more. Try active listening – ask open-ended questions, and really listen to their answers instead of planning what you’re going to say next.

You must be vulnerable.

Take down your guard. I’m not saying that you have to do this all at once, but piece by piece, share your story. Share your flaws and your imperfections. As you open up, they just might open up, too. If you’re scared, it’s okay to say it. We are all just garden variety humans trying to get through life together. Don’t pretend that you are something other than that.

You must have grace.

Have grace when your expectations are not met, or when you’re disappointed. It is scary to put yourself out there, and being rejected, or feeling like you’ve been rejected, hurts. If someone is late for a coffee date, or if they don’t return your phone call or text, give them grace. Lives are busy, and we don’t know what is happening in their lives. Maybe they’re just forgetful. Maybe they’re just flaky. Maybe they are trying to scrape together every last bit of patience to deal with their kids. Maybe they just got in a fight with their significant other. Be forgiving and show grace, and don’t take it personally. It’s not all about you. Life happens. Move on and try again.

You must show up.

The most important thing you can do is just show up. Even if it takes you seven coffee dates before you can share your story, show up. Being vulnerable is scary, but just show up. Be there. Be available. Not just physically, but emotionally. Be present. If you know you are both going to be dropping your kids off at school, buy an extra coffee and just talk in the school parking lot for five minutes. If their child is sick, bring over some crackers and ginger ale. I love the phrase that author Bob Goff uses in his book, Love Does. “Be love with skin on”.  Just show up.

What does it mean to JUST SHOW UP?

Shelley just finished her last round of chemo and radiation. When she had her surgery, I came over to help her shower, empty her drains and give her injections in her stomach. Sometimes you just show up. Because LOVE. (She is the silly one on the left.)

Shelley just finished her last round of chemo and radiation. When she had her surgery, I came over to help her shower, empty her drains and give her injections in her stomach. Sometimes you just show up. Because LOVE. (She is the silly one on the left.)

 

* There is one more thing –

You must have FUN.

We’ll talk about the importance of fun in the next post.