Rebecca Burtram

When Planting Isn’t Sexy

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So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” I Corinthians 15:58 (NLT)

At a recent network event, my husband made a joke about how he needed a support to talk with once church planting stopped being sexy. Although it got a good laugh from the audience, his comment is a surprisingly accurate description of the church planting process.

We begin the process much like we begin our relationships. There is an appeal in the newness that draws us, and, as we begin to get to know more about church planting, there is often a genuine emotional and spiritual connection. We are hooked.

Every new step in the process has our limbic systems buzzing. We find great gratification as we recruit team members, gather financial support, purchase new equipment, move into a space, and see people who might not otherwise have come to a church walk through our doors and encounter Christ.

It is an amazing and pleasure filled experience…. Until it isn’t.

Like a marriage, there are seasons that don’t feel particularly sexy. The newness wears off, and struggles come.

Finances

Money is one of the top stressors on relationships, so it should come as no surprise that one of the biggest reasons church planters start to lose that loving feeling is a lack of resources. Everyone is eager to help out when planters are first getting started, but eventually the new church has to care for itself.

Many pastors find themselves working multiple jobs in order to support their families and the occasional church bill the offering just didn’t cover.  

Lack of Growth

After fifteen years of marriage you are still fighting about the same issues. He won’t put the toilet seat down, and she spends too much money on clothes. Why won’t your partner just grow? Sounds a bit like the church doesn’t it?

We have been at it a few years, and the numbers haven’t done much. But the lack of fruit in some members’ lives is much harder on your spirit than the slow pace of growth in attendance. People doubt God when things get tough, pull back on their service, or walk away from the church.

Forgetting the Reasons We Fell in Love  

With all the financial strain and the slow or stagnant progress, church planting can lose its luster. It stops being sexy, and it just feels like a lot of work. You may even question what is keeping you in it.

What to do?

Ministry and marriage aren’t always sexy. They require grit, commitment, and a deep knowledge of God’s control. The work is hard, but the reward is great.

Get help- see a counselor, pray, read all the available resources- particularly the Bible, and talk to others who have been there. You aren’t alone in the struggle, and God has called us to community. I have often said that community is a mathematical phenomenon because it divides our struggles and multiplies our joy.

Rekindle the flame- make a list of all the miraculous ways God provided for your church and your family, listen to old testimony videos people made about your church, look at pictures from the beginning to now, and go on dates. When I say go on dates, I mean it. Set up a romantic dinner with your spouse. Go sit on the lawn of the space you tear down and set up or use the foyer of your permanent location and dream for the future. Pray together over the location and the people. Laugh about the disasters, cry about the heartbreaks, and talk about everything that is going right.

Keep God at the center Colossians 3:23-24 (NLT)  says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” Paul is talking to slaves, but it is in a section of scripture where he is giving practical advice to all believers on how to live life with God at the center. We all went into Church planting for the same primary reason- God called us to it. We can let all the expectations of others and the expectations we have placed on ourselves slip away. We have one Master, and he is proud of our labors.

 

 

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The Lives I’ve Read

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Recently, a lot of people, including Barack Obama, have been sharing reading lists from 2017. This got me thinking about what my reading list would look like. This past year I read Fahrenheit 451, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a couple books by Peter Haas, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Don’t judge, but this year was the fist time I read book one of the Harry Potter series. I read some other things too, but as a teacher of 120-135 kids per year, most of my reading is the work of my students.

My Dual Enrollment English students write 10-12 essays in a year. I have 90 DE kids this year (the rest of my students are Mentorship 9 kids). That means I will have read 900-1,080 essays by the end of the school year. Each student writes about an average of 4.1 pages per essay. That means I read 3,690-4,428 pages of student writing in a school year. I also provide feedback and editing tips. This might explain why I never feel like I have time! It also explains why I feel so invested in my students.

I am in awe of the skill of many renowned authors, but my favorite words are the ones that give me a glimpse into the hearts and minds of the lives I teach every day. Many of my students will never understand how much I care or the impact they have on me.

Let me tell you a little about the graduating class of 2018. 

They are opinionated, caring, strong, resilient, weak, hurt children, who are almost adults. Their stories are unique and the same. I have read the depressed, anxious, accomplished, athletic, artistic, musical, theatrical, brave, raped, homeless, neglected, misunderstood, abandoned, creative, determined, and abused.

Some of them are ready to conquer the world, and other’s can barely get themselves to school each day.

I don’t read stories. I read living, breathing, individuals who walk into my classroom.

I know who almost committed suicide, who is a hopeless romantic, who loves football, who hates food, who wants to help people with Alzheimer’s, who was freezing in a car watching his mom cry because they had no place to go, who learned how to be brave by crossing a treacherous bridge, and who struggles to make it out of bed in the morning.

I read them. I teach them. I love them in all their complicated and messy ways. I love them as a whole, and I love them as individuals. I love them for all that I know, and for all that I don’t know.

Teaching is an honor and a challenge that so few truly understand. According to research, teachers make about 1,500 decisions per day.

I believe it. Each block 21-27 kids sit in my room, and I have to think of those particular lives and make decisions on how to show them love, manage behaviors, and help each individual engage with and master the content.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on education, especially parents. Some of the parents will love me, some will hate me, and most won’t know anything about me. However, we will all love the lives I read.

 

 

 

 

 

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YOU THINK YOU KNOW

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

Sometimes, we think we know a lot about people whom we don’t know personally. We make a lot of assumptions based on appearances and our own ideas and views.

For example….

When we moved here, Ella immediately found her place. She is an outgoing young lady with a very active social life. Kaleb, on the other hand, didn’t really talk to anyone when he arrived, and he still doesn’t talk to many people at his school.

No one made the effort to speak with Kaleb his first day at the bus stop… or any other place on any other day. He was a new kid in the sixth grade, but none of the kids in his grade really knew because many schools feed into the middle school. I imagine the other kids just thought he was from one of the other elementary schools in town.

I have worried about Kaleb’s lack of friendships in his school. He has a couple guys he will mention, but he never wants to invite them to hang out. I feared he might be a bit of an outcast.

Ella, being the opposite of Kaleb at school and having a broad social circle, hears a lot about other kids. The other day she was telling my husband about the way other boys talk about Kaleb. It put my mind at ease, and it made me laugh.

Although he doesn’t have a strong friend group, everyone knows him, and he has godlike status.

Kids talk about how tough and athletic he is. They say he is incapable of pain. They see him walking around with his headphones in, not really talking to people, and it has created an idea that he is so cool that he doesn’t need anyone else. He has a mystique to him.

You all, he is listening to Eragon on audiobook.

Let that sink in.

He is walking around listening to a fantasy audiobook.

Middle school kids are under the impression he is walking around being awesome. I, of course, think he is awesome (especially for listening to the audiobook), but his classmates might not hold that same view if they knew what he is doing.

Also, he doesn’t not talk to other kids because he is too cool. He is just a tiny bit reserved, and no one talked to him first. He kind of ended up here because it was awkward to talk after no one talked for a while. He has also been in class groupings with a lot of kids that aren’t rule followers, and he is a rule follower. He hasn’t been interested in being part of their social activities.

He is an enigma to his peers. How can a tall, athletic, good-looking 8th grade guy not hang out with the popular kids, or anyone for that matter, and just not care? Shouldn’t he be trying to impress them all?

His classmates imagine he is doing something tough and cooler than everyone else. He is lost in a world of dragons and swords slightly oblivious to those around him.

He is awesome and amazingly cool. They just don’t know why. They think they know, and they kind of do, but they are missing it.

My adorable boy and his middle school status is a sweet reminder that we might not always know everything we think we know. If we really want to understand who someone is, we have to engage.

It reminds me to withhold judgment, good or bad. I don’t know the whole picture. I don’t know the soundtrack playing in the background. If I want life to be richer and know who people really are, I have to get close enough to hear what they hear and speak simple words in daily living.

 

 

 

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DO I FAIL YOU?

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Dear Suspended Student,

For the past couple of days I have been struggling with a question I can’t shake- Did you fail, or did I fail you?

You see, I knew from the first day that you were hard, but not unreachable.

I knew from the look you gave me when I asked you to take your headphones out and you stalled to see how I would respond to your delay.

I knew from the way you did what I asked when I waited for you.

I heard the failure of the system as you told me you didn’t have to turn your work in because you would pass regardless of your efforts. I heard your frustration with futility and the spinning of wheels. Why show up day to day and put in the time if no one is holding you accountable beyond this room? The majority of your days are spent being told to sit still and do your time.

I had no real answer for you because, in many ways, you were right, and it was out of my hands. I felt the frustration with futility and the spinning of wheels.  I spend the majority of my days creating hours of lessons to engage and enthrall the student who lacks motivation and accountability.

Still, I thought I was succeeding in reaching something inside when you asked for my help and swallowed your pride. You wrote a paper on acceptance and responsibility because you understood Frankenstein’s creation and the complexity of his situation. It wasn’t a just a hoop to jump through. You connected; it meant something to you.

I believed that maybe I had made an impact when I saw you at the store with your mom and you owned me. You told her who I was with a smile.

So, today I sit in frustration. I am fighting tears and anger at the futility of spinning my wheels. I’m doing only what I know to do, yet somehow I can’t help but feel that I have failed you.

You have been passing the class, but recently there has been a dip and a distraction. It isn’t just the score. I feel the failing not in the low number, but in the suspension. You broke a person physically, but the breaking body is not the only damage.

I am shaken from my dream that what I have invested can really change anything. Where did I fail? How did the lessons on connection, understanding, and seeing others for who they are instead of a stereotype not influence your actions and prevent you from the actions you took?

Grendel, Frankenstein’s Creation, and MacBeth taught us to question- Who is responsible? Is it the creation or the creator? The man or the society? How do men become monstrous?

Do I fail you, or do you fail?

I listened to J Cole’s “4 Your Eyez Only” at the recommendation of another student. I heard a trapped man lost. I heard a society and a system failing. I heard an individual failing.

I can’t fix it. I want to fix it. I am failing. You are failing. We are failing.

We research education reform. We call for change. We propose systems, courses, and plans for action, but still you sit with your headphones on holding anger and frustration until it explodes on another man.

You fail. I fail. We fail.

I will be here when you return, and we can try again. I’ll place the world of understanding at your feet, and I’ll ask you to walk beside me. Together we can cycle through the spinning of wheels and frustration. I’ll do my best not to fail you.

Will you help me fight the futility to find inspiration and a dream to attain something more than a hopeless future and a cycle of brokenness?

It matters to me because you matter to me.

The problem is too big to change for the masses through a policy or legislation. I can’t do it alone. Administration can’t do it alone. Policy makers can’t do it alone.

We need you.

We need you to dare to dream and aspire to more. We need you to believe you can. Then, we need to find a way to make that dream true.

Dear suspended student, don’t give up. Come back soon.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Burtram

 

 

 

 

 

TEACHING

PLAY TO THE WHISTLE

I asked the intelligent, funny, and talented author/speaker, Tabitha Caplinger, to write a post to go along with my theme of grace and imperfection.

She nailed it.

After you read her post, go check out her books!

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I just spent the weekend with 30 teenagers at a retreat. Can I be really honest? I kind of didn’t want to go.

Not because of the teenagers mind you, but, it was going to be cold, I was going to be away from my kids, and I knew I would be sleep deprived. Add to that the great raccoon/dog fight that had occurred the morning before the trip causing me to make an emergency run to the vet with two dogs and a four year old, by myself. I’m not even going to mention the fact that I have a book releasing in like 7 days. (That was me mentioning it though wasn’t it? Oh well, you can forgive me.)

The point is I was tired before the weekend even began and part of me wanted to just stay home, curl up in a blanket and binge watch.

I find myself having those days more and more. Whether it’s from my mile-long to-do list or a newsfeed of political divisiveness, or crazy raccoons, I have too many days where I just want to sit down, or lie down.

I’m not saying I want to quit completely, I just want to ride the pine for a little while ya know? Sit on the sidelines and watch the game while I take a breather. Ever felt that way?

Well, God has a sense of humor, so while I was wanting to sit on the sidelines He was having me open our Winter Youth Retreat by preaching to those 30 teenagers about playing to the whistle.

Life can be hard. It can be tiring. Maybe your situation is more dire than mine. Maybe your struggle is much more serious than a raccoon. Maybe it just feels like it is. In the midst of the stress you hear that voice saying, “It’s okay. Just sit down for a little bit. Relax for a few minutes.”

Don’t listen to that voice.

This isn’t about resting. This isn’t about relaxing our bodies. This is about relaxing our spirits. This is about sitting on the sidelines when we should be playing to the whistle.

While our minds and bodies do need rest, too often our spirits are what get put to sleep. In an effort to find some comfort in our situations we get too comfortable and remove ourselves from the things God wants us to be doing. We start to coast in our relationship with God.

This is dangerous.

I can hear you now. “But I love God, I go to church. I’m not doing anything wrong.” The problem is we can be doing nothing wrong and still be doing nothing right.

Of course you love Jesus, and He loves you, a lot. This isn’t really about you. You can’t earn God’s love, you can’t do enough things to make Him love you more. But when we stop doing the work of the Gospel, the work of the high-calling to which we have been called, the world doesn’t get to see God’s love for them.

God doesn’t need you to DO so that He will love you more. We DO so that others will see Him.

We don’t always get this, but our enemy does. So he whispers again, “Just sit down. You go to church, you love Jesus, that is enough, relax for a while.”

He’s devious and he’s smart because he knows he doesn’t need to get you to stop believing in Jesus. He doesn’t need you to walk away, he just needs you to sit down. He doesn’t care if you are a Christian as long as you are a lazy one. He doesn’t need to steal your faith as long as he can steal your impact.

Life is hard. I know I said that already, but it bares repeating. Following Jesus won’t make it easier. Really, following Jesus sometimes makes it more difficult. But we can’t coast, we can’t sit, we can’t give in to that voice that says just wait here for a little while. We have to play to the whistle.

God is trying to get you somewhere. He is building character in you. He wants to use your life to influence and impact those who don’t yet know Him, those who are struggling around you. He needs you to stay in the game.

“But I can’t. I need a break from it all. I’m too tired.”

Yes, you can! His grace is sufficient. In fact, it works even better when you are weak, tired, ready to give up. Because in those moments, when you want to sit on the sidelines, He becomes your strength and helps you keep moving forward. Instead of sitting, stand up and praise Him. Instead of coasting, dig deeper into His Word. Instead of giving up, get on your knees.

I went on that retreat. I was right. It was cold, I got very little sleep and I really missed my kids. It was also more than worth it. I saw students wrestle with God well after the altar call was over. I watched kids stand up in unity. I witnessed the presence of God stir something in our youth ministry.

When you play to the whistle you won’t always be so lucky to see the impact of your perseverance, but I promise you it is there.

 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV

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Tabitha Caplinger is a wife, mom, youth pastor and professed tv addict. It’s seriously a problem, but she doesn’t plan on getting help anytime soon. Mostly because she loves the stories. She can’t help but get lost in the worlds created and feel invested in the lives of the characters. She brings that same passion for the story to her own writing. The first book in her YA trilogy, The Chronicle of the Three: Bloodline, is currently available with the second book releasing in early 2017. Aside from writing and watching tv, Tabitha can be found singing off key and dancing in the kitchen or car with her two adorably sassy daughters and awesome husband who she thinks is kind of cute.

You can find more information about Tabitha and her books at tabithacaplinger.com

 

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Tabitha Caplinger
You are powerful, chosen, loved & never alone.
elevategirlsusa@gmail.com | tabithacaplinger.com
   

 

 

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FRONT ROW SEATS FOR THE WEARY

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While visiting my brother’s church plant that is approaching its three year anniversary, I sat in the front row and witnessed all the functions of a church balled up into one morning.

-There were five baptisms, one of which was a psychic who closed her business when she decided to follow Jesus.

-Several people raised their hands to make a commitment to Christ and followed up at the “Fresh Start” response table.

-The congregation of somewhere between 200 and 250 people in an economically depressed city pledged to give $226,715.00 to move their church community into its own space to do ministry.

Although this was all incredibly beautiful, the moment that I think really got me was the almost impromptu wedding ceremony that occurred right before the crew was able to finish packing up the church’s supplies. (The couple had sent my brother a message on Facebook earlier in the week.)

As a young man in construction boots, dress pants, a white button down dress shirt, and a flannel stood beside my brother and waited for his bride, Will announced to those in the room that he was about to perform a wedding ceremony and those who were left were welcome to witness the event or to give the room to the couple.

We took seats in the chairs that had not been packed up yet and watched as a young woman entered with a beautiful gown, tattoos, a pony tail, smiles, and tears.

Everyone quickly whipped out phones and began taking pictures and video. The man in charge of media at the church took out his camera and began taking professional quality photos.

We were all captured by the moment.

Will performed a ceremony that was eloquently simple and sweet. The bride cried, the groom looked into her eyes, and they embraced for a passionate kiss as one of the members of the worship band strummed his guitar.

Every couple deserves a wedding gift. I introduced myself and wished them well, handing them the money I had just received for speaking at an event for the church on Friday night. The bride hugged me and wept while I prayed a blessing on their marriage.

This is just another day in the church planting world.

This brief visit to my brother’s church rekindled something in me.

I LOVE our church of almost 100 people, but we are almost nine months old… and the honeymoon has ended. Just in the last month we have experienced a death of one of our key members, a couple leaving, and the vehicle used to pull the trailer failing on a Sunday morning (leading to a 100% equipment free Sunday service).

Our growth has been relatively slow, and people might be losing sight of the vision. We have started to hear from one plugged in couple how burnt out they are feeling.

I realized that I get to hear all the stories and witness the changed lives. However, not all our members have had that privilege. They don’t see the hands raised during the heads bowed, eyes closed moments. They don’t hear the phone calls or read the messages about life altering moments.

It is time for baptisms, testimonies, and impromptu weddings. Okay, maybe we can’t just do a wedding, but we can celebrate all that God is doing in and through his church.

I sometimes feel the weight and the drain of the sometimes chaos that church planting can be as trailers break down, people get weary, and I struggle to finish all my work for my paying job while doing work for the church.

However, I can remember the honor and the joy of watching someone come up from the water to publicly declare the life transformation within.

I can recall the conversations with people who are overcoming addiction, heartbreak, and damaging choices.

I can also be there each week as our people gather to create a space for love to be declared.

I am honored to be in the front row watching God do the impossible.

 

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CHURCH PLANTING

GIVE ME SPACE AND FREEDOM…JUST NOT TODAY.

SPACE AND FREEDOM

As a parent, life seems to be a fluctuation between survival mode and an attempt to capture the moments we never want to forget.

My three children of 8, 10, and 12 are on the edge of pulling away. We are teetering between the call of a social life and the security of weekends at home, and I am unsure of how to progress.

Freedom is so close I can almost taste it. The day to day pressures of three small lives is lifting as they grow.  With the lifting of pressure becomes space. Oh how I have wanted space and room to breath, and now…

Now I want to hold just a little tighter for just a moment longer the children I see in front of me on their way to youth and beyond.

A snapshot:

My baby moves with a bounce, a skip, and twirl. She is wild, savage fire and passion. She pushes and pushes and drives me crazy while making my heart burst with love.

My middle child, the dreamer, dancer, and entrepreneur, keeps me on my toes and on the move. With her nose in a book and her legs forming pirouettes as she moves about the house, she fills my ears with a stream of ideas of her next business, project, or club. I hear more work for me…. and a girl on her way somewhere before her time.

My almost man is sweetness and athleticism. He is quiet confidence in long strides. He is so easy I fear I fail him. He does not demand my attention or affection. He is steady and dependable, and I often forget to be soft and available as he races away from boyhood.

Tonight I capture a sentimental thought….

Tomorrow, I wash dishes, fold laundry, and dream of freedom.

 

LEARNING

Eye of the Beholder

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For the past ten years, my bratty thyroid has controlled my life, my sleep, and my waist line. If you’ve ever struggled with a hormone imbalance, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I feel as though I’ve been playing an unfair game of tug-of-war with my weight regardless of how healthy I eat or how much I exercise.

Today, I’m through with allowing my thyroid to order me around, but I’m also through with expecting my body to be perfect.

Aside from starting thyroid medication to help my body function properly, I need to remember to allow what God says about me sink into my head and surround my wounded heart-all the way down into the depths of my soul.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~Psalm 139:13-14

It’s not easy, let me tell you.  

Just the other day, I was tagged in a series of church photos on social media.  My church family, Redemption Church Charlottesville (RCC) in Charlottesville, Virginia, was celebrating its launch, so every single person had their phone out, taking videos and pictures.

As I hit “hide from timeline” over and over, I realized I was allowing perfectionism to steal my joy.

Then, as if God wanted to remind me, I read this today:

31 … “Love your neighbor as yourself…” ~Jesus (Mark 12:31)

How am I supposed to love my neighbor or those I’m serving in ministry with if I can’t even love myself?

I was so proud of RCC and how hard everyone had worked to get to launch day.  Why was I allowing perfectionism to take away a moment that cannot be relived?

I can’t get that moment back. I can make a choice that, from this day forward, I will see myself as fearfully, beautifully, and wonderfully made. Valued.  Loved.     

The bottom line is, whether I’m a size 4 or 14, my body will never be perfect.  I need to not just be okay with my body but to joyfully thrive and be in love with who I am by reminding myself of who is in love with me.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I better make sure that beholder is Jesus.

Not my warped and unforgiving notions of what is acceptable.

Not the world and its unattainable, counterfeit version of beauty.

Only Jesus.

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About Shelly McGraw

Shelly has a heart for discipleship and spiritual growth, writing weekly devotions for the purpose of equipping the Body of Christ to better serve and follow Jesus. Her encouraging yet thought-provoking devotions are a mix of testimonies, struggles, joys, praises, and everyday life that are overflowing with grace and wisdom.

She has been involved in ministry for over 15 years, serving mostly in worship, youth, and missions. She currently serves in worship at Redemption Church Charlottesville (RCC) in Charlottesville, Virginia. Shelly and her husband, Jason, have three beautiful daughters that they homeschool.

Connect with Shelly McGraw

www.shellymcgraw.com

Facebook: Lessons of Grace and Wisdom

Twitter: @shellymcgraw

Instagram: shellymcgraw

Email: shellymcgraw.ministries@gmail.com

 

LEARNING

3 CUPS OF TEA

3 CUPS OF TEA

I never acquired the taste for coffee. I know this sounds like insanity to all my joyfully caffeinated friends. In fact, a few may have stopped reading after that first sentence.

Because I am not a coffee drinker, I don’t have a single hot beverage on most days. This is why Thursday was so unique. I had not just one, but three cups of tea, none of which was prepared or purchased by me.

By the end of the day I realized how special each cup had really been.


1. A cup of Service:

I had asked my neighbor if I could pick her brain about how to care for our church’s team members. She, like so many others, understands what it is to need a long break from serving at a church.

Not only did she agree to share with me, she opened her home and gathered several other women who are active in service. These women were each from a different church and a different denomination.

In this small Thursday morning gathering, a cup of chocolate mint tea was brewed, and I drank deeply of the sweet mixture.

These women from various religious backgrounds shared input on how to care for the people of Redemption Church. Their presence and open hearts were an inspiration and reminder of our need to reach out to each other.

We want Redemption Church to do all it can to prevent people from being hurt, undervalued, or burned out. We are humans working with other humans, and there will be failures. However, we are seeking to reflect God to the best of our ability as we come together and pour ourselves out.


 

2. A cup of Restoration


 

Life has been a little extra stressful recently as we are finalizing our preparations to launch the church (only 23 days left!). There are a million details to juggle, and so much is depending on us getting them right. This is on top of the normal day to day demands of running a home, caring for a family, and teaching.

I was holding it together really well…. until our finances hit the very bottom. The savings ran out months ago, and the credit card just maxed out with our second set of unexpected major car repairs.

Although I knew God would provide as he has again and again, I was beginning to crumble. When my phone screen broke without explanation, I just didn’t know where the money would come from.

On Wednesday, I went straight from work to the repair kiosk I had been at only two weeks prior. They refused to repair it without charging not only the full repair price but an additional fee to replace the battery they claim was the cause of the breakage. I left without repairing the phone. It was the proverbial straw breaking the camels back.

I came home, changed out of my work clothes, and, 15 minutes later, welcomed 12 friends from church into my home. When they asked how I was, my first response had been, “Fine.” Then, I looked at these people I know and love and gave the real answer.

Thursday afternoon, one of them came to our home to help match receipts to the chart of accounts. She brought me a chai tea and shared her story with me.

I had needed a reprieve from the stresses I was allowing to clutter my mind. Her presence and her authenticity were the connection I needed to remind me of why I am in this journey. It was restoration for my soul as she shared her life and warmth with me.


 

3. A cup of Gratitude.


 

Thursday evening, I grabbed a stack of papers to grade on my way out the door to take my daughter to ballet. On the way, we picked up my daughter’s friend. She came to the car with a to go cup of mint tea for me.

Her mother is a friend of mine, and she was showing gratitude for sharing in the task of pick up and drop off. She didn’t have to do a thing. Their home is on the way to the studio, and we often take turns getting the girls to and from dance.

As I sipped this extra token of gratitude, I realized it was my third cup of tea that day. I was suddenly the one full of gratitude.

These cups of tea were unique and simple reminders that I am so far from alone in this life.

I am blessed to be surrounded by people who will do life with me. I can share my hopes for the future, my concerns of the moment, and the daily tasks of living.


Our circumstance haven’t improved a whole lot. In fact, they have gotten worse. We still have a mountain of debt, the million details continue to depend largely on us, my husband’s grandfather just passed away, and, ironically, my phone (which could only function through Siri) was stolen by one of the students yesterday.

Yet, I feel the warmth and support of three cups of tea. God has us surrounded, and we can hold fast to his love and grace.

I pray that as you enjoy your coffee, tea, or hot cocoa today, you will remember you are never alone.

 

 

CHURCH PLANTING

SURRENDER

white-flag-i-surrender

Surrender. When you are fighting a losing battle, it may be time to give it up to someone who has the power to turn the tide.

 

 

There is nothing like the trials of others to make you realize how powerless you are.

As a teacher and a woman in ministry, I am often present for some hard stories. The hardest part is the stories are true, and someone I know is living in them.

I am a feeler and a fixer. I often keep the feeling internal and demonstrate my concern by trying to fix. I am getting slightly wiser with age, and I’m learning to try to keep the fixing to myself and share the feeling.

I’ve learned a lot, and there is a great deal for me to learn still.

  1. People have problems I cannot even begin to solve for them

This is a hard truth. I want desperately to do something to make everything better. I want to provide finances, give marriage saving counsel, restore broken bodies and broken hearts, and I want to make good decisions for those who can’t manage to choose the right thing. This is partially because I am a control freak, but mostly because I care deeply.

The thing is I can honestly do little to nothing about most, if not all, the situations I am presented with. I am powerless. I cannot fix these situations. I can love, I can support, and I can give the only counsel I know to be effective and true….

2. God is the answer people need.

I can’t solve people’s problems, but I can point them to the one who can change everything. This is where the why and the how go beyond my understanding…. so I will skip straight to number 3. (I am grateful my God is bigger than what a human mind can easily comprehend. Who wants to serve a simple God?)

3. God is a God of power and a God of process.

I stole that line from my husband… I’m not sure who he got it from or if it is original to him. Still, it is true. God can, in his power, change the circumstances for someone in an instant. Sometimes he does, but sometimes he doesn’t. He also gives people what they need to work through a process before they reach the other side.

I don’t pretend to know how or why God works the way he does. All I know is he works. He shows up, and he changes things. It might be the circumstance, or it might be the person. Either way, things change for the better. God is the only answer for the hopeless situations.

I cannot control and fix the painful situations of those near me. I can:

  1. Be present- listen, love, and support.
  2. Pray for the situation.

I am not enough on my own to meet the needs I hear and see, so I throw my hands up in surrender to the only one who can intervene. I surrender.

 

 

 

CHURCH PLANTING
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