Archive for the 'Community' Category

06
Mar
17

Middle of Life Grown Up Lessons

soil and plant

I think I might almost be a grown up.  At least, I’m heading that way. I’m 45 years old, and some might think that it’s about time. But, for me, it’s been a process. And I absolutely love it, and sometimes I hate it. It’s hard, and it’s messy. But I love that I’m here, and I love that I’m learning things about myself that maybe I, personally, would not have been able to learn in my twenties. Some of my growth required time and experiences that I wasn’t looking for earlier, and some lessons I actually didn’t even know existed until now.

I get excited when I get to share what I’ve learned and what I’m learning, because, honestly, growth is not really an age thing. We’ve all seen younger people who seem to be wise beyond their years, and we’ve also seen older people who are still demanding their own way and who act like three year olds in old people bodies…it’s not pretty, but it’s a real thing. So I think growth and grown up-hood is not only a thing of grace, but it also has to do with our openness to receiving the gifts given to us. It’s having eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart that’s open to new possibilities.

Lesson #1:  We all have core value because we are made in the image of God…we are God’s image bearers. That’s incredible. However, we all have core hurts that some of us live out of. And after continually walking in those core hurts, it’s hard to know and feel our own core value and virtually impossible to see other people’s value if we can’t even see our own. We are valuable, and we are worth it.

Lesson #2:  Feelings are not bad. In fact, they are helpful in how we figure out why we do the things we do. We have to be able to feel and to realize what we’re feeling, and only then, can we move towards healing and growth.

Lesson #3:  In order to know and love others well, we have to know ourselves. We have to be compassionate with ourselves before we can be compassionate with others. Jesus said, “Love God; love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Lesson #4:  Boundaries are vital. Everyone has a “yard,” and we get to decide who comes in and out of our yards.  While boundaries don’t initially make things easier, they make things healthier, and eventually, things do get easier with use.

Lesson #5:  We all have a voice. And finding and using our voice is important.  We have to be able to use it for ourselves before we are able to use it for others.

Lessons #6:  We are all unique individuals who have different gifts, and when we grace people with our particular gift, those around us are enriched and encouraged. No one’s gift is better than anyone else’s, so we don’t have to compete and compare.

Lesson #7:  I no longer have to put people in boxes labeled: good box and bad box. If I am establishing appropriate boundaries (Lesson 4) and seeing other people’s core value (Lesson 1), then I no longer have to make people the bad guy and me the good guy. People are just people.

Lesson #8:  You only know what you know. This seems like a very obvious kind of statement. But if we really believe that about ourselves and others, we can begin to not only show people grace, but we can cut ourselves some slack, as well.

Lesson #9:  You are not alone. We are all in this together.  Your story may have different details than mine, but our stories are connected. We don’t have to do this alone.

Lessons #10:  Life is hard. It just is. There is always going to be stuff that we would rather not go through. But as I get older, I ask myself, “What am I supposed to be learning from this?” I want to look for the beauty in everything, but especially in the struggle.

Lesson #11:  Everything is connected. If you start looking for the connections, you start seeing them everywhere.

Lesson #12:  “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am” is not just a nice principle or a cute Bible verse, it’s a real, life-giving mystery. And that’s the “following Jesus” kind of church that anyone anywhere can be a part of.

Lesson #13:  Questions are good. I have a couple friends who ask questions well, and I’m learning from them. If we’re willing to ask, there will always be someone there to answer.

Lesson #14:  Things are not happening to me; they are happening for me. When hard things come my way, instead of asking “Why me?” I now ask “How do I get to grow up in this?” If I look at the world through this lens, I no longer have to be a victim. It’s the difference between knowing that God is for me, not against me.

Lesson #15:  I absolutely have to have solitude and silence and wide open spaces. I cannot breathe well without these.

I don’t usually do lists, but I thought this might be a not-so-Kim-kind-of-way to look at how I’m becoming a grown up. A lot of these lessons overlap because everything is connected, of course (Lesson 11). These lessons have not been easy, and I hope to share stories in future blogs about how these lessons came to be.

For some of these lessons, I’m at the very beginning, while others I’m somewhere in the middle, and other lessons have been long and hard, and I’ve had to endure way more than I cared to. But I have a good Friend who has walked beside me and continues to walk with me on this amazing journey. And I’m grateful for the lessons He’s teaching me on a daily basis and for the friends He’s given to walk with me along the way.

09
Feb
17

The Gift of Stories

After almost three years away from publishing anything that other people can see, I’m kind of at a loss as to where to begin. A lot has happened in that time. I never stopped writing though. I journal my thoughts, frustrations, and prayers most mornings.  I have things to say, and I have this longing once again to put it “out there.” I don’t even know if I want people to read my stuff anymore. I don’t know if my insecurity in my writing ability and my vulnerability can handle people’s criticisms or even validation at this point. And yet, I still have stuff to say. I still have stories to share, and I’ve seen that in my openness and honesty about where I am that others gain strength and courage and are able to open up and share their stories and their innate desire to be known and loved.

It takes courage to share honestly the stuff that all of us are going through. And sometimes, it takes years to awaken to our own stories and tell others, but in the process of sharing, we find healing and more courage and more strength. I think that’s why I’m back. Not for validation or approval or criticism, but I want you to know that you have a story to share, a story that the people closest to you need to hear, a story that helps us all share in becoming more human, more real, more honest about where we are in this messy journey. We are all struggling with the same stuff. We all need community, and we all need to be able to share ourselves with the people who love us and want us to grow into the people God created us to be. We need friends to be able to hear our stories, cheer us on, encourage us, and love us, and we need to do the same for them. No judgment, no advice, no competition, just listening and openness and love. I think it’s amazing when I’m able to sit with a friend with nothing on the agenda and the day stretched out before us with no plans other than to sit and hang and rabbit trail. I honestly think that’s why I like camping so much. It’s sitting around a campfire with no agenda and no time issues, where you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything. Just enjoy each other’s stories and the time it takes to share them.

Our stories are powerful because they reveal who we are and who we are becoming, and they are ours alone. But not to keep hidden. They’re meant for us to give away. And every once in a while, our stories help others find their way, and sometimes as we’re telling them, they help us find our own way. So I’m back to share my story, the one that some need to hear. But more importantly, the one I need to tell.

06
Feb
14

Courage: I Can’t Do This Without You

We have huge opportunities in our neighborhood, in our community. But honestly sometimes I’m a little afraid. I’m nervous that I won’t do things right, that I will zone out when someone is telling me something important, that I will be confused and won’t have any idea what I’m supposed to do. And yet, God is opening doors and placing opportunities to go outside my comfort zone and offer myself. To show up. Are we willing to step beyond our little spaces and offer a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty? (Matthew 10)

I like the thought of helping people. I like the thought of volunteering and being useful, but for me the actual doing it is the hard part. Finding the courage to step out and maybe not do things the right way, admit my lack of common sense, admit that I have a directionally challenged brain and just be willing to do what is needed and to be able to a laugh out loud at my limitations and see what God can do with them is still hard for me. But it’s really not about me or my fear, my pain, my insecurities. But what I’m learning is to show up with open hands and an open heart and see what God can do with them.

Some of us from Trinity volunteered a couple of weeks ago to help in our local school with a vision and hearing screening. We had no idea what we would be doing going in there, and I have to admit I was nervous. I talked with one of our church people when we were at the school, and she admitted she had been nervous too, and that after she originally signed up, she thought, “What in the world am I doing?” But she showed up anyway, and she did her job well. Her courage amazed me…she’s 79.

The task that I was given for the screening is one of the things I’m no good at; I had to pay attention to what I was being told and then go find different classrooms. My brain does not work at all with directions and finding stuff. I totally freeze up and cannot even pay attention to what I’m being told. But I honestly did the best I could, and I walked around and around and up and down halls and eventually found what I was looking for. It was good for me to have to try to find my way around; it was good for me to be uncomfortable. It was good for me to have to walk around the building and “own” it.

During church last week, we talked about several more opportunities to volunteer and help in our local school, and a friend came up to me and said that she wanted to do things like that, but she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to do what was asked of her. And this is what I told her…I’m scared too. But what if we do this thing together? What if we face our fears and “kumbaya” it together? There’s not only huge encouragement in it being more than just myself, but there can be real community in serving together, knowing that we’re not left alone with our fears and insecurities, knowing that the people around us are facing the same fear, different situations maybe, but the same paralyzing fear to see beyond ourselves to the world around us and to actually show up in this life we’re called to live.

We’re really in this thing together. Matthew 18: 20 says, “When two or three are gathering in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Jesus sent His disciples out in groups of two. And it’s pretty amazing when believers are gathered the things that God can accomplish through them. He works individually as well. No doubt about that. But the sense of togetherness, the courage that God can build in a community of people who are focused on Him can be pretty amazing. The energy, the strength, not to mention the excitement of being involved in something that is bigger than ourselves and not for our own glory but for His glory is just a downright “jumping up and down for joy” kind of thing.

Paul and Silas, beaten and thrown into jail, prayed and sang praises together at midnight. The result: the jailer and his family came to know Jesus. Together. There’s something about doing stuff with other people that gives us a boost of courage. A “we’re not in this alone” kind of thing.  We’re serving Jesus together. If I fall down, there’s going to be someone there to help me get back up. I don’t have to do this stuff alone.There will be someone to sing praises with to God.

Even when Jesus went back to heaven, He told His disciples that He was not going to leave them alone. He told them that He was going  to send a Comforter who would be with them always…the Holy Spirit within them, within us to give us courage to be bold and do the things that we cannot do alone, on our own. We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”(Ephesians 2)  But it still takes courage to take the first step and the many steps thereafter. But we don’t have to do it alone.

So whether it’s just me and the Holy Spirit or a whole bunch of people and the Holy Spirit, God can do this thing that He’s called us to do. It’s His kingdom. He’s in charge, and I may not know the specifics of what I am supposed to be doing all the time, but I know this: God has called me to this life, and He’s called me to give this life away for Him, and this absolutely begins in my home and with my family. He may be calling me to other things as well, but it starts with the people closest to me and works its way out. Jesus says in Matthew 5 that we are to let our light shine, so the good works (you know, the ones that God created that we just have to walk in) point people to God and bring Him glory.

I don’t have a lot of courage. I don’t particularly love doing new things. But I know God can do this thing through me (whatever the thing is He’s calling me to do at the time), and it’s even more exciting to see when He does it through others. And then, when we all join hands and hearts and do it together, I almost come out of my skin with joy.

Courage bleeds neediness.

Courage sees hope in dark places.

Courage leans heavy on Jesus and moves in the middle of fear. –Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways, 136

01
Jan
14

Surprise Gifts

Jeff just recently became the pastor of a small church in our community. And when I say in our community, I literally mean two streets over from our house (.5 miles on the odometer).  In fact, Jeff walks over there routinely.

For the past few years, we got to know some of the people at Trinity. I went to most of Trinity’s children’s events with my kids, and our family did some community service projects with them. So when Trinity started their pastor search in April, one of my friends from the church emailed me to pray for them as they began their search. But it absolutely never occurred to me or to them that Jeff would be the person to fill the pastor position.

One night in September, we were over at Trinity for a Neighborhood Watch Meeting, and God, in His funny kind of way, had me thinking “what if this is actually a possibility?”

Because I had no idea how Jeff would respond to this idea, I kept this God-nudge to myself longer than I keep most things to myself.  Much to my complete amazement, God planted the same thought in Jeff as well. Once we threw our thought out to our friends at Trinity, then it was just a matter of trusting that God would direct everyone the way He wanted. I had this peace about the whole thing that was surreal. I really wanted to be at Trinity with those people, but I knew God had this thing, whichever way it went.

So when the church called our family to come be a part of Trinity, it felt much like a surprise gift, an unexpected gift that I had not seen coming. Maybe the best gifts are actually the ones I don’t see coming, the ones I haven’t picked out for myself, the ones I trust God to gift me with.

Without being overly dramatic, I just want to say that I love this…the way God led us here, this church body, getting to “be the church” in our very own neighborhood, the crazy bigness of God.

And I absolutely love what God has called me to do: to know and love these women, these families. I feel that this is what God prepared me for…especially after all those months sitting in my backyard, praying and searching and singing and reading and listening, but I feel like this is also the path that He’s been leading me down my entire life. Nothing is ever wasted.

I keep looking at the opportunities that Jeff and I have had over the years,  and I’m surprised (I really shouldn’t be) at how God prepared us for what we are now called to. I never saw this coming. But I believe now more than ever that this is my calling, my purpose in this short life God has given me…to love God, love my family, love this church family, and walk with all of these people toward Jesus.

For those who have done church work forever, I know like this may seem overly optimistic and hopeful in a very naive kind of way. But, honestly, my hope isn’t in the people in our community or in Jeff or even in myself, but my hope is in a God who knows and loves us all very much and has called me to this community, this mission, this life. And I’m grateful.

The hard stuff will come. I know church can get weird and people are messy (me included), and I won’t stick my head in the sand when tough times come, but I don’t want to brace myself against anything either. I just want to be and let it come as it will. And really trust that God is good enough to lead everyone through the places that He chooses.  I know that the struggles and the trials are gifts from a gracious God too. This is faith for me, real and simple.

Above all else, I have to stay grounded, and that means that I have to fix my eyes on Jesus. I can’t make it one single moment without Him. And out of that and as a result of that, I’m called to “maintain an intense love…since love covers a multitude of sins.” As I walked into Trinity Church that first Sunday, I felt a deep sense that the people just wanted to be known and loved. And I know the God who can do these things, and I’m blessed beyond belief that He has chosen to pour His love through me, through Jeff, through our family. 

And, really, that’s all I’ve got. But I’m pretty sure that’s all I need. My life, my heart, my hands are wide open these days, trusting that God will fill them with His good and perfect gifts.

16
Oct
13

words that float

I recently saw a friend at a soccer match. She had slipped and hurt her leg badly and was having trouble getting around, doing the stuff she normally did. She had a huge brace on her leg and might have to have surgery. She had a great attitude but was still struggling with everyday tasks like driving kids to stuff and doing laundry and walking up stairs and things that you take for granted with two good legs.

As I listened to her story, I realized that I personally had nothing for her. I had no solutions, no advice. I couldn’t fix her problems. I couldn’t make it all better, make it all go away. I found myself saying that I was sorry that she was going through this. But I know somehow that’s not enough. Even if I had unlimited time to help her in her situation, it still wouldn’t be enough.

So I keep finding in these types of situations that I hear this little voice in my head that says to pray with them. Not later, but right then, right there. Out loud. In those few short seconds, I argue with God about doing this. I argue that I can pray in my head, and I promise Him that I will pray later. But I realize that this may or may not happen since I am so out of sight out of mind. I argue that this is weird and will make the person uncomfortable, not to mention my uncomfortability in all of it. I used to think it was not okay to assert myself, and here I am praying out loud for another person to God about that person’s needs. And I worry that someone will mistake it for a goody-goody, holier-than-thou attitude.

But I do it anyway (most of the time); I pray out loud. I pray using gestures because that’s how I talk. And sometimes it’s loud and it’s long (I don’t mean to be; I just keep thinking of stuff). I pray touching them with my arms around them or grabbing a hand. I want them desperately to feel God’s arms around them, and His love for them.

I find as I pray, my prayers come back to what we all essentially need: faith, hope, peace and love in something much bigger than ourselves and our situations. And I’m no longer thinking about myself and my own insecurities or even the other person’s uncomfortability, but something happens within me, and I have this feeling of freedom and understanding and falling into hands that are much larger than my own. And I hope that the other person will fall with me.

The prayer itself is not a solution, but I’m finding that the words or sighs or groans that float up to God are more than the requests themselves or even the answers; prayer is about connection, relationship, awareness of Someone outside ourselves and also something between each one of us. Prayer is the connecting point that ties us to God and to each other. The kingdom of God truly is among us…between us.

05
Sep
13

no more dirty laundry

In one of my latest posts, I shared how God used our broken washing machine to get my attention off of myself and onto people who had to do their laundry and pay crazy kind of prices in some of the laundromats. (where do I even start?)

I absolutely refused to use the laundromat, but I still had dirty clothes to wash. And we were kind of getting desperate in the underwear department. So a few days later, I drove to my in-laws and did my laundry at their house, grateful that I had this option. Not having a washer was inconvenient, but we could make do and wait until God provided another one. In the meantime, we would wear our dirty clothes a little longer, and I could continue to use my in-laws’ washer when we needed to. I didn’t know how or when God would show up in this, but I knew He would. We’ve seen Him provide again and again the things that we need. And, really, in terms of the whole rest of the world, whether or not we had a washer that worked was very small.

The day after I washed clothes at my in-law’s house, we went on a camping trip with some friends. As we got to the campsite, my brother-in-law Josh called Jeff to let him know that he had just dropped off a washer and dryer in our car port. We had no idea that this was even a possibility. God had once again provided for us. And so soon….

But the craziest thing to me was how God provided this time. We originally thought that someone was just upgrading their washer and dryer (Jeff and I don’t live in the world where you upgrade something before it breaks. :)) But we found out that the man who owned the washer and dryer got back together with his wife, and they both had washers and dryers and didn’t need two sets now, so the husband gave his set away to my brother-in-law. We were in need of a washer and had not even thought about a dryer. But, by no coincidence of course, the heating element in the dryer we owned was worn out. I hang our laundry outdoors most of the time, but it’s nice to have a dryer that actually works when it rains.

God gets the glory for this couple’s reconciliation and for providing our new washer and dryer. And we get to praise Him for the abundant blessing of it all.

22
Aug
13

where do I even start?

Where do I even start? That’s what I feel like when I write this…it’s been so long, and God has been doing so much that I don’t even know where to begin.  So I’m going to begin with Him. He is good. I know this goodness; I’ve tasted it, felt it, experienced, clung to it. And because of His goodness and knowing His goodness toward me, I started spending more time looking up and looking out.

I’m finally realizing there is no system for this. There are no ten steps to finding God (which is good because by step 3 I’m bored and overwhelmed anyway). But I think this is good for everyone, because there is nothing anyone else can put on you or put on me that ends up becoming a burden and not the easy yoke that Jesus intended.

But as far as “how to” seek Jesus and His kingdom and His righteousness, I know it’s happening for me right now, but the way it happens for me may not be the same way it happens for the people around me. I really thought I knew, but I just don’t. Which is good because when I thought I knew, pride settled in and took over.  I know for me He used a camping trip and someone listening to my long story and openness to Him, but I don’t have the answers, and I’m finding He uses different things to open other people’s hearts.

Not long ago, I came across a passage that pretty much said, Love instead of talking about what you know;  and if you think you know stuff, you don’t have a clue yet; and God really knows who loves Him. (my paraphrase, of course).

I know there is openness and yielding and surrender and waiting and leaning in and repentance and belief and laying down your life and “help me” prayers or whatever other words and ideas begin to open our hearts up to a big God, but I don’t believe this is a scavenger hunt to try to find God. He is there, and I don’t have to make it into a ten step program to get Him to pay attention to me. When I do this, when I make knowing God about a “how to” lesson for me and for those around me, the program, the agenda, the formulas always seem to take over, and I seem to lose the very thing I was after. And many times it seems God is nowhere to be seen in all the organization and practicality and boring-ness of it all. And I’m beginning to start to think that God just isn’t all that practical.  I’m not saying God is not a God of order; I know He is; it’s just not my order, and I don’t get to determine the outcome. And He began to show me that I really wanted to be in control, which is really quite laughable.

So this is my story…my finding Jesus or Him finding me in the midst of all of my junk and my self-righteousness and even my formulas for finding God that didn’t work. It’s just a story, not a prescription or a recipe…

In my early thirties, I struggled to know God, only to see small glimpses of Him here and there. I began to taste grace and freedom, but I didn’t seem to pay attention for very long. I knew He was good; I knew He was God. But in the last year, I feel like I’ve been taken hold of by the Master of the universe, and I now know that He will never, ever let me go. And in Him taking hold of me and me surrendering myself to Him (becoming His slave), that’s where I’ve found freedom.

God began by tearing away some of the doubts and the lies I had believed about Him, about myself, about people, and about my marriage (Marriage: Being All In) that I had allowed to seep in over the years. I began being in community with other people and began to really hunger for God which I believe He gave me, and little by little I began to submit to God and the things He wanted for me. Even though these were such tiny, tiny baby steps, I struggled immensely with letting go of what I thought I wanted and allowing myself to fall into Him.

God also began speaking to me through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. I had a thirst for His Word and for Him that was almost unquenchable.  Some of the words that I couldn’t get out of my head that began to reach down and take hold of my heart were:   Stop saying you love people and do something about it. (my paraphrase again) So what in the world does that look like? What does it mean to truly love God and love my neighbor? Because loving my neighbor is loving God. The two go hand in hand.

So, one of the first things He worked on me about was gentleness. And the hardest place for this mom to be gentle? My own home. “Be gentle” showed up everywhere I looked for months. I realized I was powerless to do this in my strength, so what did it look like to do it in His strength? Honestly, I’m not really even sure. It took months for Him to make it go from my head and sink into my heart and gradually I noticed “gentleness” began to really be a part of every day.

Even after God’s gentle treatment of me, I started to think that I knew something or at least more than other people did. So, I got this whole self-righteous thing going on, and it manifested itself in bragging about reading the Bible and pushing other people to do the same. What is it about us humans that want to take the good things we are learning and shove them in other people’s faces? We want to be the “haves” and show the “have-nots” that they don’t understand God’s grace and love. Which again is just laughable, not to mention ironic. But God is good, and He opened my eyes to my sin, and I was able to repent and ask forgiveness from one friend who had taken the brunt of my holier-than-thou attitude.

During that time, God took away every source that I had to lean on, and I learned to really lean into and depend upon Him; I took everything to Him. I had no one else to take stuff to, but I realized in my frantic journaling/praying that He alone could take my stuff and give me peace in the midst of whatever I struggled with at the time. Sometimes my anxiety or anger still threatens to overwhelm me, and giving those things to Him sometimes takes longer than I think I have, but I continue to sit until I am able to walk away in peace knowing that He will take care of my heart much better than I can take care of it myself.

I’ve begun to be thankful for everything, even the things that don’t look so great because I now realize that difficulties are the opportunities to really grow and lean heavily into God more and more. This is no big deal, but our washer broke a few weeks back, and I had been putting off going to the laundromat for weeks. I finally loaded a few basket loads of dirty laundry in the back of the van early the other morning and drove there. I haven’t done laundry in one of those places for close to 20 years, so I was stunned to walk in and see that to use the largest washer cost 9 dollars, and that price did not include hot water!  I couldn’t do it. To use even the very smallest washer was over 3 dollars, and that would have washed about ten items on cold. I walked out. As I got home, my heart did a turnaround, and I realized that this washer dilemma was no longer about me, because God showed me that this is what the poor have to do all the time. They have to go to the laundromat and pay, what I think are, exorbitant prices to just be able to have clean clothes. I got angry, and then I started crying for them. Over laundry. Yep, that’s what God used this time to get my focus off myself and my own dirty laundry.

So that very morning, the washer opportunity led Jeff and me into a discussion about boldness and what it looked like to love our neighbor. So we began to pray for boldness, and three hours later we were driving near our home in north Nashville trying to see if we could help our most recent flood victims. God showed us the needs and directed our paths in a neighborhood that I would have formerly driven through with my doors locked. A day later, our family was able to go back and help these families. The physical part of the job we did was important, but the spiritual aspect of encouraging people who had just lost everything and praying holding hands in circles in their front yards is kingdom stuff. And this is what God does. He takes my shock, my outrage at the poor being taken advantage of, and He uses this to get me off my couch and out of my comfort zone for one moment. And things happen, and my eyes open to His love, His crazy kind of love for me and for all people, and that makes me want to shout for joy and thank Him forever.

I realize more and more that everything God does is for our good and His glory. And, some days, that’s all I’ve got. But it’s enough.

This I know: God is for me. (Psalm 56:9)




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