To our friends and our church family on Moving Eve

Packing up over a decade of your life into boxes with tape and marked with sharpies seems oversimplified. Staring out at the sea of boxes you wonder where all those years flew by, where you put all the meals and all the laughter, all those shared tears, and the days that seemed to be to mediocre to remember before, but now you feel desperate to never forget.

You can’t box up twelve years of your life. You can only box up possessions: photos, a few greeting cards, a special coffee mug, little pieces of memories of a life shared together.

You can’t box up people and take them with you. I promise you that if this were a possibility I would have duct taped and labeled more than a few individuals with a tag that said “Living Room: friends, must enjoy more often!”

So, instead as we transition to something new, a new day, a new challenge, a new journey, I will only say these few words for our church and our friends. We have lived life well together, in close proximity, and we will live a life well, though there be miles between.

First, Love one another.

Not just love a little. It’s so tempting.

It’s so tempting to show care and concern and stop short of deep and meaningful love. This Love is wonderful and painful. We avoid it because it means knitting little pieces of ourself into others and they into us. The stitching involves recognizing where we have failed, where we are imperfect. It means confession and forgiveness, recognizing what they know and do better than us, and rejoicing that we don’t know everything, that we need one another.

Loving also means listening, really listening. I do this utterly imperfectly. I like my words, but every day I learn a little more what it means to listen to understand rather listen to be heard. By listening, we hear who people really are, not who we think they are, or who we’d like them to be. This is Christ’s perfect love for us in action. While we were still sinners, He walked among us, loved wholeheartedly, and chose the cross rather than losing us in eternity.

Second, be kind.

In 12+ years of ministry I am shocked by the absolute care and affection that God shares through His people. Our body of believers in our local congregation and communities really is family. We have been cared for and loved on and have been blessed to share in life’s greatest moments of joy and sorrow with you all.

That said, I am also shocked by people’s ability to say hurtful things. The human person’s desperation that runs so deep as to destroy another standing right in front of them. Speak well of each other. Speak well to one another. Please speak well of us as we leave. Speak well of the next pastor and their family. We’re all in this together. Those outside the Church on Earth do not know what they are missing in this beautiful Family of God, but they will never know if we only show them our grouchies. Be kind.

And lastly, invite one another in.

It’s so tempting to be private. To keep our dark stuff and our hard stuff to ourselves, and even life’s everyday joys tucked in. If we don’t share, then it might be less embarrassing, less intimidating, but guess what, life doesn’t actually hurt any less. It hurts more. We were intended to share the burden. To walk together. Don’t keep it to yourself. Share it with the person sitting next to you, share it with your pastor, share it with your sister. Going it alone works for a very little while, but if we had known the struggles and gifts and joys that we know after twelve years with one another, imagine what God could do with that! It robs each of us of time and energy, hiding our best and our worst selves.

Let people know you are hurting, you’re sick, or you’re disappointed, in your family, at your work, at church. Don’t hold it all in. Don’t try to manage. This, my friends, this is what the family of God is for – confession, forgiveness, life together, life testifying where in the world Christ is at in the middle of it all, with and for one another.

If I could pack you all up with me, I would. If I could have all those I love in one small commune in the middle of the cornfields, with Ohio sunsets and Nebraska hills, I would. But He has other plans, so I will embrace them wholeheartedly, when it hurts, and when it’s good…and when it’s all of the above, boxed together, closed with packing tape, and marked up with a sharpie.

Sports, kids, Jesus, and trying to make it all work

 

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Hockey is kind of an important thing in our family. It’s our jam. We own giant bags to hold the gear. I may or may not have a hockey mom emblem for my van. I may or may not own a giant button with my goalie’s picture on it. Last year at one point we had three out of four on the ice at the same time. I am a pro at lacing skates and have sweat-soaked laundry down to a science.

Jesus is also an important thing in our family. He’s so important that we focus all of our life on Him, as Christians. We aim to walk the walk and talk the talk, and make everything revolve around Him.  We’re so into Jesus that we chose jobs that let us spend 24 hours a day helping other people know Him. In fact, Jesus is our life.

Here in lies the difference. Hockey is part of our life.
Jesus is Life.

You’d think that knowing this difference would make it all magically easier. You’d think it would make things cut and dry. Always choose Jesus first, then hockey.

But what does it mean to choose Jesus first? Does it mean choosing church first? Does it mean opening my Bible at the hockey rink? Does it mean showing up in the pew every Sunday? Does it mean having conversations with my hockey parent friends about someone I know who changed my life- Jesus?

Can you see how complicated it can get very quickly?

And honestly, it’s not about hockey either. Our kids do any number of things – guitar, soccer, violin, lego club, etc. What makes something worthy of missing church or midweek or whatever church activity?

Add in the factor that my husband is the pastor. That’s fun. Are we held to a different standard? Are we models for putting church first? What is expected of me and what am I willing to give?

This blog won’t provide answers. I’m convinced that blanket rules and statements only push children from the church, push members from the church. When we push with the law, especially without a conversation, we push away from Jesus rather than towards Him, which was never our intention.

So, here are three very basic suggestions from me to you, from my perspective as a hockey mom, pastor’s wife, therapist, and, yep, Jesus freak –

1. Honesty in the struggle.

Every home is different. What works in my context for my family, my home, and my church, will not necessarily work in yours. There is no easy answer, but there is good conversation. I am convinced that this is what will help our children see Jesus living and walking in our lives – the hashing it out, the discussing it around the table, the sharing of concerns and frustration and figuring it out together.

One day this burden was so heavy on me that I stood in front of our church and told them, wringing my hands, “Hockey is a Sunday morning sport. Jonah’s the only goalie. If he’s not there, they can’t play. We decided he should miss practices for church, but if it’s a game, he should be there. This was a hard decision for us. During hockey season, we may be coming to church late, or leaving early. Very occasionally, when he’s supposed to play during church, we’ll go to a Thursday night service nearby. Sports and kids are hard. If you have ideas that have worked for you. Please let me know. Jesus always comes first, always. We love Him in a way that we could never even begin to care about hockey, but it’s not as simple as yes or no.”

I had whole families come up to me after church and tell me how grateful they were for the honesty. That they were in the struggle too. Honest is the beginning of real life together.

2. Figuring it out around the Word together

Open your Bible. Pray about it as a family. Pray with those who have gone before you and those who are in the trenches now. As a ministry wife, there was a another layer between my husband and I about missing church. That had to be hashed out too. It’s hard conversation. We don’t always agree, and I’m glad we have our Bibles open for it.

Ask, seek, and knock. “God, what would you have us do in this situation?” He will answer through His Word. This is His promise to us.

Matthew 7:7-12: 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

He is our Father and He wants to hear from us. He is faithful in responding.

Sometimes we will have to make hard decisions that make people unhappy. This includes ourselves, our children, the people at our churches, and the coaches of our teams. Sometimes hard boundaries are called for. At other times we can go with the flow and take it as it comes.

3. Get creative!

If you have more than one church service, pick another one. Some churches have services during the week or on a Saturday, when Sunday morning doesn’t work. Talk to the coach about the fact that church is important to you. Some are hard and fast. Many are kind and understanding. Most leagues have rules that players can not be penalized for missing practice or even games for their faith. Consider recreational sports over travel, to have more time available for other things.

Last year, our goalie was blessed to be on a team with two goalies. We showed up when we could and the team was extremely supportive. When Jonah missed a playoff game so that we could be in worship, one hockey parent came up to me later that day at the rink – “We knew you all were praying for us.” The team families knew what mattered to us most – Jesus and the people He loves, including them. Throw in a little hockey and it’s like icing on the cake of life.

No easy answers my friend, just authentic Faith, and a whole lot of Jesus.

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Sneak Peak – Fall Online Study Tools

Our Fall Online Bible study “He Calls Me Loved” is an 8 week study. You decide how much time you can commit to each week. Every option is designed to get you into the Word and to create community around the Word! The study begins Monday, September 12th, right here. Subscribe to the blog by email to join us!

I Love My Shepherd studies are intensely theological, and intensely practical, every time.

wedding

 

If you have 10 minutes a day….

Read the study post 5 days a week. Each day will take you about 10 minutes to complete. Get behind? Catch up on the weekend or skip a day or two! You will not feel behind in any way if you miss a day or more.

 

If you have 30 minutes a day….

Add community!

Join in the discussion by commenting on the blog posts or by creating a Facebook small group discussion page with friends or members of your church. Post links to the study posts in your group and discuss when you’re available.

Want something more…

Download and print off the Scripture engagement tool that goes with each week’s study. Jot down notes while you read the Scripture passages and posts, write down a Scripture reference or word that sticks out to you, share your prayer requests in the artwork, color and pray to the God who hears every request of your heart.

Now, for the sneak peek – A giant thank you to Peggy Thibodeau at www.peggyart.com for designing and creating our Scripture Engagement tools for this study! They are beautiful and each one is truly unique.

BELOVED
Beloved – Week One of He Calls Me Loved: A Study of Isaiah
AWAKE
Awake – Week Seven of He Calls Me Loved: A Study of Isaiah

Looking forward to studying with you!