Crews, squads, and friendship- the fight for genuine community

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One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.                                                Proverbs 18:24

Returning from the National Youth Gathering this week, I have like 400 post ideas in my head. I was blessed to spend the week with four of the most precious girls I’ve ever met. I’m missing them already. We went to sessions and heard speakers on a zillion different topics, from purity to Islam to body image. We ate a lot of nachos and considered how in the world beignets could be so much better than donuts. We talked about identity, humility, and community until the cows came home, or rather, we came home to the cows. (Literally, some of us have actual cows. They were very much missed, right Sarah?)

One conversation rises up above the rest. It keeps surfacing on my mind and demands attention. The topic – who is your squad, who is your crew, what is community?

The girls’ immediate answer to this question was a list of people they hang out with.

“My softball team.”

“My agriculture people.”

“My church youth group.”

“My lunch table.”

I had a list too.

But as I started to give my list, I realized that my list sounded a lot like individuals and a lot less like groups of stuff I did.

I glanced around at my girls. “Who would you go to if you really needed help? If you were sad, if you were hurting, if you needed a good cry, or if you really needed good advice?”

One by one they began to name people that mattered more to them than softball, than band, than youth group and lunch tables. I watched as lightbulbs went off in their heads.

The Disney channel gives us one idea of friendship. It looks like slumber parties and besties and shared interests. This idea isn’t invalid, but it certainly isn’t enough. It’s time to call out the Disney channel version of friendship. We were made for more and our youth were made for more.

Let’s be honest…

Sports, music, clubs, and activities are great. Authentic relationships develop in these arenas, but we have to seek it. It doesn’t happen without work. It doesn’t happen without gut wrenching self-discovery of what matters most to us, which is also work. It doesn’t happen naturally and it doesn’t happen overnight.  We need good parents and mentors showing us what to look for.

Community is sharing burdens, not just having fun. Community is people who put marbles in our jar, as Brene Brown would say. It’s people who love us for us and not an idea of what we might be for them. It’s people who help you ask the hard questions of whether you are living the life God intended you to, helping you determine whether your hopes and dreams are congruent with what you do with your time day in and day out.

I hear from pastor’s wives all the time that genuine friendship is their greatest desire. Someone who sees them as a real person, not an outsider, not a pious woman, and not a facade of I-have-it-all-together. What I have discovered in my own journey is that there are hundreds of women, thousands of women, millions of women across cultural groups, economic statuses, and geographic regions that want the same thing.

The best answer I have to the friendship problem is to love one another.

It sounds pat and a little ridiculous and like no solution at all, but loving deep and wide, authentically loving in the good and the hard draws some kind of boundary line. People that aren’t up for the challenge will walk away, and that will be sad and difficult. But 1 in 100 will stay. They will cross that boundary line and hug you. They will ask to be invited in further by sharing themselves with you. They will weep with you and laugh with you and tell you to knock it off and eventually they will hold your babies for you and rock them to sleep when you are just done.

They will be so worth the effort.

In doing this we can also teach the next generation of girls – real friendship is worth all of it. It’s worth the fog of adolescent discovery, the sting of rejection, the tears of loneliness.

Worth all of it to find the genuine, to find the real, to find…community.

We have a friend who sticks closer to a brother. Let us pray to Him, present our hearts to Him. Lord, we need a friend! We need a crew, a squad, some peeps! We need to love and be loved, really and truly in return. Jesus, hear our prayer!

And He does.

It may take time. It may take way longer than we would like. But He always sticks close. He has those real and authentic people planned for us. I promise you they are out there, girls.

Genuine community is being surrounded by broken authentic people who love Him so much that they love a broken authentic sinner like me, as is, no returns. Can I be that person for someone else? Yes, yes, I believe I can.

Authentic community…worth the trouble. #squadgoals

The orange hat project

Will you or someone you know be at the LCMS National Youth Gathering this month?

Do you know a church work kid? A child of a pastor, deaconess, DCE, lutheran educator, lay minister, Director of Christian Outreach, or another church worker?

Don’t forget to look for Deaconess Heidi at the National Youth Gathering. She will be wearing a giant orange sunhat and has a gift for each of the church work kids that find her!

We love our PKs, DCEKs, and all the kids that bless us by being part of ministry life in church work families and bearing with all the good stuff and the struggles of the church. Help us get the word out so that we can love on these kids.

What’s the present? Well…my kitchen is filling up with half of them. 🙂

 

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Yum! The other half will have to remain a mystery.

Find the orange hat!

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The best tshirt ever

Dave has a tshirt. I bought it for him a couple of Christmases ago. Dave loves to tell people about Jesus, more than anything. Awkwardness doesn’t really bother him. He’s kind, but isn’t really troubled by the idea that someone may not want to have that conversation. He’s discovered that most people do really want to have that conversation, because he isn’t trying to sell Jesus, he’s trying to share Jesus.

Who Jesus is…

What Jesus in his own life looks like…

What Jesus has been and done and given…

That’s how my husband rolls. I thought the tshirt might speak to his heart.

Two years ago that Christmas morn, he opened his Christmas package and cocked his head to the side. “Well this shirt is weird.” was his only response. This from the man who frequently wears a shirt that says, “Jesus loves this happy camper” from an Alaskan mission trip. I was disappointed, but you know, you win some you lose some.

Dave reluctantly pulled the shirt out of the drawer at some point and started wearing it. Wearing it like crazy. I inquired of this shirt change of heart and Dave’s response surprised me,

“People love this shirt. This shirt does weird things.”

Um…can you tell me more, dearest?

Dave declared this tshirt “The Best Tshirt Ever”. After more conversation, I began to understand Dave’s tshirt love. Dave’s tshirt had a simple phrase on the front. It was in in very large letters, but wouldn’t be classified as bold. The tshirt said simply, taking up the entirety of the front side –

Bless the Lord O My Soul

It’s just a Bible verse, just a song of praise, poured out by a grateful psalmist. This shirt causes one of three reactions, according to Dave. People almost always notice it, but each response is a little bit different.

  • “I love your shirt.” This statement is commonly followed by the person sharing how Jesus Christ has changed their life, has worked in some way, has been faithful, has shown grace, has been merciful.
  • People read it. Out loud. It’s really kind of weird and awkward. Dave’s standing at the coffee shop register and random patrons in line alongside us will individually read the shirt out loud, even though someone else read it right before them. It’s like people can’t help themselves but absolutely must say it. Maybe even the rocks will cry out (Luke 19:40) has more applications than we thought.
  • Spontaneous conversation. Often when people are compelled to read the shirt out loud, or even when they aren’t, people will ask us where the shirt is from. Enter conversation. If all I need is a tshirt to get people talking about Jesus, I’m pretty pumped.
  • Spontaneous worship. People start singing when they see the shirt. My favorite was when the Walmart sample lady busted into praise unabashedly in front of several customers awaiting warm cookie samples. Awesome.

Can you see why this might be the best tshirt ever? Our clothes may not save souls, only Jesus saves, but they do say something. I believe I will be finding more shirts that say Jesus.

 

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Psalm 103:1-5

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
 who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
 who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
 who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.