Friday, April 27, 2012

The Start of Something: Sifted

I attended my first church planter's conference this week. And I'm shaking my head, thinking about how just over a year ago, I had NO IDEA I was going to add "church planter's wife" to my list of roles. What a crazy ride we've been on!

This week has caused a lot of emotions to rise within me. I think a lot of the questions, doubts, fears, whatever you call them, have been simmering beneath the surface of my soul for a while, and I think two things caused them to finally boil: a week away at a conference titled "Sifted", and the approaching reality of Baby L's arrival.

The theme of the conference was "Sifted", based on Luke 22:31-32:
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail."

I kept thinking about how relatively easy the move to Madison was for us. And how smoothly we settled into a new life, a new routine. But then I thought, "Has it really been that smooth? Or have I just been 'gettin' it done'?" Moving forward, accomplishing, driving, settling, "succeeding" ... have I really stopped to allow myself the emotion of moving across the country? Or of taking such a huge step of faith? I think at times I had, early on, so I just assumed I was okay by now.

Well here's the thing: I think I'm being or about to be sifted.

My fears of being a mother of two, my anxieties of the "7 year itch" in marriage, my constant voice of discouragement in my head about my job and ambitions (or lack there of) in my field, my insecurities about my ability to support my husband and help lead a church ... these things are all coming to a head, and honestly?

I WANT to be sifted. I WANT to face some (or all) of this junk head on, dig to the root of it, and figure out a way to come out on the other side, not unscathed, but stronger because of my battle. I'm sick of running, hiding, denying, ignoring. 

One of the workshop leaders encouraged me to read this psalm, and I'm in love with it. :)

"Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Who have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works."
Psalm 73:23-28

Monday, April 16, 2012

17 Weeks: Movin' & Groovin'!

My goodness--this baby is on FIRE!

I've been sitting in this comfy chair for about 20 minutes, doing some journaling, reading, and crafting an email that I hope will encourage my ladies in my Growth Group, and "Baby L" has been having a BLAST bumping around inside me! This is the most consistent, lengthy bout of movement yet! So far, since week twelve, I've had random, unexpected jolts of movement, followed by stillness--sometimes days of stillness. But in the last 5 minutes, Baby L has apparently found his or her inner gymnast! I'm sitting here as long as I possibly can to enjoy this confirmation of a growing baby!

Something's been really bothering me lately ... I cannot for the LIFE of me remember how much weight I gained with Joshua! Why does it matter, you ask? Well, it doesn't, really. But the competitiveness in me--the part of me that loves to be competitive with myself (ala "Monica" from Friends, "Take THAT last year me!" Anyone? Anyone?!) really wants to know where I'm at now compared to then.

Anyway, just a random thought I thought I'd share as I sit here and revel in the dance moves of my second child. :)

Second child--whoa. I Skyped for like, 9 minutes with my sister-in-law and long time friend Elizabeth today. She had all four of her adorable children with her--and by with her, I mean climbing over, under, and on top of her. For a very brief moment, I saw all of their precious faces in the camera lens and I thought, "Sheesh! She's got 4 kids! And I'm freaked out about a second??"

My friend Becky told me on Sunday that it's when number 2 comes along that you discover just how strong you really are. She said you'll realize you're stronger than you ever thought possible. I groaned at her and said, "But I already DID that--when Joshua was born!" She laughed and said that nope, you can and will be even stronger.

We'll see, dear friend ... we'll see.

(Becky also has four children, and is one of my heroes. I just don't know how she does it .....)

Well, it seems as if Baby L has ended his or her dance party. I sure enjoyed it while it lasted. I can't wait until Baby L is here and big brother Joshua can teach his younger sibling all of his awesome dance moves and they can commiserate in their baby language and conspire to create all sorts of wonderful mischief to help show this mama just how strong she actually is.

I seriously can't wait--even though it makes me tired just thinking about it. :)

This is what life is all about--learning that nothing, absolutely nothing in this life is about me. If marriage is a relationship that makes me holy (thanks Gary Thomas for that tip), then motherhood is a joyous role that makes me frighteningly aware of my shortcomings, and increasingly and incredibly aware of His strength.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"It's All About Community"

I don't even know how or why it started, but the phrase has stuck with me.

"It's all about community."

My friend Terri came to visit me in Denver in what feels like many many years ago now. (We're so old you know.)

As we tootled around Denver and the Front Range area, somehow we got stuck on this phrase "It's all about community."

I honestly don't remember why this came about, but like I said, it has stuck with me.

And it's so stinkin' true!

As many of you know, we moved in September to Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, just outside of Madison to help our friends, Dave and Becky Tilma, with the church they were in the process of launching. After a few months of settling in, it was decided that Erik would take over "community" at Ezra, while Dave headed up the one-on-one discipleship component.  (This is of course among the dozens of other things they divvy up as the only full time staff. :) )

This suits Erik--and his wife (me :) )--well, as our experience in ministry has caused us to become firm believers in the importance of some type of small group--life group, growth group, cell group. Call 'em what you want, but the key idea is this: It's all about community. (Of course, it's also "all about" Jesus, getting in the Word, serving etc, but community's right up them in importance.)

So in February, Growth Groups were launched. I've been leading a women's group with eight attending, including myself. And may I just say, it has been a BLAST! Because ....

It's all about community. 

Some comments from the ladies throughout these 10 weeks so far:

At the start of week 2: "I loved knowing people at church on Sunday! I could say hi to, like, 6 ladies I usually would have walked right past!"

"I wish this Growth Group could go on forever!"

"Yeah--her husband's going to help us fix our car this weekend. I love knowing people at church!"

"I love coming each week--even though we're all different ages and stages, I've learned so much from these ladies!"

"Can we do another women's Growth Group?"

"Can we do a women's retreat? I think that'd be a blast, now that I know people."

"I've never thought about these topics before ... and I love discussing the book with my new friends!"

"Can we have a reunion?!"

I could go on and on and on ... but let's suffice it to say .... :)

It's all about community. 

We can read the Word, pray to our Lord, even show up weekly on a Sunday morning and sip coffee and eat donuts together. But if we're not investing in someone else's life, and allowing someone else to invest in ours, and taking off our masks and getting real with each other, we're seriously missing out.


So, if your church offers some sort of small group experience and you've been too scared, or too busy, or too whatever to try one out--DO IT NOW.

Because ..... Say it with me ....

It's all about community!!!