Rebecca Burtram

WHERE DO YOU BELONG?

There is a quote on belonging from Brené Brown that I love. It is exactly, in only one paragraph, so much of what I have been trying to communicate for about three years on this blog. 

Sure, she manages to pull it off in just a few sentences, but I’m not jealous of her communication skills. Okay, maybe I am a little jealous.

Here are her three sentences that put several years of my writing to shame:

Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance. -Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. (emphasis my own)

Yes to authenticity. Yes to letting go of trying to present who we aren’t because it divides rather than unites. I told you; I love this quote.

God placed a longing for community and belonging in us to draw us together and to draw us to him. Just think about the two greatest commandments: love God and love others.

Every commandment is there because God is giving us a guide to live our very best lives. When he told us to love God and to love others, he was giving us an instructional manual for emotional and spiritual health.

Our primal longing to be a part of something bigger stems from the fact that we were made to be in community with God. The entire Bible is telling us that he doesn’t need our perfection; he wants our humble acceptance of his power in our lives so he can do infinitely more through us than we could ever do alone. He is asking us to simply acknowledge our weaknesses and join him in community and allow him to fill in the areas where we lack.

However, God did not simply say to be in community with him. He says we should also love our neighbors (and our enemies for that matter). Our love for people reflects our love for God, and our love for God is reflected by loving people. God created us to be in community with him and with others.

We were made for so much more than most of us ever discover. Belonging doesn’t occur when we are better, smarter, or prettier. It begins when we accept our areas of weakness as our strengths. The areas we lack are what help us to realize our need for others and draw us into true community.

When we authentically love others with honesty and vulnerability, we become stronger communities and stronger individuals. It’s in our DNA. God made us for each other. 

LEARNING

MINISTRY CAN BE LONELY

 I have been at pastors’ wives retreats and leadership events/trainings where dealing with the loneliness of ministry has been a topic of discussion. I never really understood it.

It seems I have served in some capacity of ministry my entire life, and I have never felt lonely in ministry… until now.

My ministry role has changed. I am no longer a volunteer/team member. I share the lead role with my husband. Jon and I started this church together, and everything we are seems to be poured into it. Starting a new church is a lot like having a newborn at home while already having older kids too.

We have an amazing and dynamic team. There aren’t enough positive adjectives to describe our team. However, when it comes to human input, the responsibility of the church belongs primarily to Jon and me.

We are the ones who hear and see everything that needs to be done to keep it running and healthy. We are the ones that eat, sleep (when we can), and breathe the life of the church. We counsel, we listen, we cry, we pray, we work with our hands, we study, we prepare, we meet, and we dream for the church.

Ministry wasn’t lonely for me, but lead ministry has felt very lonely.

Only others in leadership can quite understand the weight of leadership. It isn’t just the time. It isn’t just the physical energy. It is the spiritual and emotional drain. It is the deep desire to see God’s best in each person’s life. Genuinely and honestly, we want that with a passion….maybe even a desperation.

When God called us to lead a church, he called us to love. He then expanded our hearts with an intense love for people we didn’t know we could have. Who knew love could be so lonely?

Why am I lonely?

I am lonely because I cannot share all of the stories I hold on to and pray for- the stories I worry over and want to make better. I know I have to listen, pray, and let go… but I can’t stop caring and wanting to see the best in the lives of the stories…and they weigh on me.

I am lonely because I work two full time jobs, and I don’t have time to spend with the friends I love and who love me.

I am lonely because I forget to spend more time with God. I read my Bible before I get out of bed, then I spend the day shooting up prayers of gratitude, petitions for grace, and pleadings for people. However, I don’t Sabbath. I don’t rest in him. I don’t rest.

I am lonely because I don’t share what it is to be me. I don’t share because I don’t want to complain, but I also don’t want to pretend I’m okay when I am not.

My friends, my dear friends. I am tired. I want to see you more. I am just really tired….and sometimes stressed. Please love me anyway….

Here is a snap-shot of my world on a weekend:

Friday-

Work from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. teaching, grading planning lessons, meeting with professional learning community members.

Rush home and take middle daughter for a girls’ date from 5:30-6:30.

Go to neighbors’ house for dinner ….fall asleep on their couch (I’m a bad friend, but I have good friends that let me fall apart in front of them).

Saturday-

Run with a friend/coworker. Spill my guts and passions about school with her because she gets that part of my life.

Clean the house with kids and hubby for two hours… still not all the way done.

Take a bath while reading a book for school.

Sew some clothes. (Sounds super crafty and awesome… the clothes had holes… they sat in a basket for months… I finally took care of them because I am too cheap to throw things away.)

Take a short nap.

Feed the family.

Work on church stuff for two and a half hours to make sure everything is ready for Sunday.

Spend not enough time having fun with my kids. Go to bed feeling like a bad mom.

Sunday-

Arrive at 8:15 a.m. for set up. Set up a couple areas. Talk to team members about things we need (and ask them to put it in writing because I can’t remember anything by the time I get home).

Share in leading our team meeting. Teach the kids. Run the connect center after service. Talk with more team members about things we need. Go to our Life Group leaders meeting.

Grab bucket of chicken and fixings to bring to park to meet friends from church and the parents of our new intern.

Come home and meet with our social media point person/friend. Talk a lot about church stuff because she gets it.

Set up tables, tidy the house up, run to the store to get dessert.

Host people for our Connect 101 class.

Kiss my kids goodnight.

Stress about the papers I didn’t get graded for school. Realize how little time I spent with my kids.

Go to bed feeling like a bad mom and frustrated about not getting enough done for work.

Monday-

Drive youngest to school while grumpily asking her why she didn’t give me the papers to sign earlier (I’m sure it had nothing to do with the hectic weekend schedule).

Work from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Eat dinner with the family.

Attend staff meeting from 7-8:30 p.m.

Talk with middle daughter about school briefly. Rub her back and hug. Lay in bed with youngest and tell stories for a few minutes. Fall asleep on the couch between my son and husband watching football.

Wake up stressed about all the papers I didn’t have time to grade and the lesson I didn’t prepare yet. Try to sleep anyway.

Give up. Get up. Send emails for church. Edit a blog post for the Church Multiplication Network Wives Blog.

Decide to do my own blog because I can’t sleep- and I wouldn’t grade papers fairly when I am this tired. Don’t edit the writing of the blog and produce total garbage.

Feel less lonely because I have dumped a chunk of what it is to be me right now….

……

Ministry can be lonely (even when you have good friends) because so few people understand what it is to be me in the moment, but I refuse to let it stay that way.

We may not get to hang out the way we did before Redemption Church was born, but, like any baby, it will grow. I will have more freedom and independence again. I will look back and reminisce  about the baby days (but deep down be glad they are over).

I will get to spend more time with you, my friends. In the meantime, I’ll keep it real here to beat the lonely (because no one wants to talk at 1:30 a.m…. and that is when I let it out).

If you want to be in a church that loves people even when they are messy, check us out. Redemptioncc.com

 

 

CHURCH PLANTING

CHUB RUB AND SWIMDRESSES

CHUB RUB

I have lost ten pounds since our church opened Easter Sunday and I committed to less of me, more of Him. I’ve been working to be healthier, less prideful, and more reliant on God.

The ten pound loss was not enough to beat my old enemy and intimate companion- chub rub. There is nothing like a good patch of chub rub to keep you humble.

If you don’t have thigh gap, you might be familiar with chub rub. Chub rub is the raw, painful sore caused by the friction of chubby thighs rubbing together during athletic activities- in my case, running.

Last Monday night, chub rub caused me to choose between walking a little funny while wearing a dress and heels to keep my thighs from touching or walking normal and pretending my inner thigh was not on fire. Not a proud moment.

Tuesday night, I had to choose between my cuter tankini that would expose a red patch of raw skin or a swimdress. Neither option screams hot mama.

Yes, I own a swimdress. I bought it to be more conservative and possibly to hide the chubbiness of my thighs….

My neighbor mocked me pretty hard (with love of course) when I told her I bought a swim dress.

I am in this weird place of trying to be fit and healthy but still appreciate my body and the beauty of exactly where I am. I’m also trying to balance how to be a hot wife for my husband and an appropriately conservative pastor’s wife (and pastor)/ woman in her mid 30’s/mama of three.

Thus the mix of a renewed pursuit of fitness and the purchase of a swimdress.

I stand by my claim that the swim dress I bought is still fashionable.

I swear, it is.

No, really, it is cute.

I promise.

As I age, I am finding myself in a weird mix of accepting the realities of chub rub and swimdresses while still fighting the body’s natural inclination to get soft and relaxed.

One of the lessons I am learning is the less I focus on the media image of who I should be and the more I focus on the Biblical image of who God says I am, the healthier I am overall.

On my good days, I run without feeling the need to prove anything to anyone. I run for health and for fun rather than to prove to myself that I am worth something more because I can achieve a pace or a distance. I eat better because I want to take care of the body God gave me, not because I am trying to look like a fitness magazine model. I wear many styles of swimsuits because no one at the pool cares if my thighs are chubby, but also because I don’t need to look “hot” in front of anyone besides my husband.

When pride and ego win out, I do most all the same things, but for the wrong reasons; and I feel a lot less joy in doing them.

As I navigate between pride and humility, I find myself in a love hate relationship with chub rub and swimdresses. I am a work in progress. Maybe I’ll get it all figured out when I am in my 40s… or maybe my 50s.

In the meantime, I hope you will give me an encouraging smile at the pool when you see me in my swimdress or in any other type of swimsuit. Because, really, aren’t we all just trying to figure this life out together?

 

 

 

 

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

SMALL BEGINNINGS

SMALL BEGINNINGS

The church is officially off the ground. We had a relatively small start in the church planting world (125 on launch Sunday). However, I wouldn’t change a single thing about the way the service went. People connected to God and felt loved by a community of believers.

The only thing wrong was my hurt pride. I wanted a big launch for a million pure and good reasons and for one ugly one- pride. Pride is an issue I have learned to reign in…. most of the time.

I wanted to post to our church planting groups on Facebook about our really big launch. I wanted the numbers to prove we are a success. This reason was about me and the man I married; all my other reasons for wanting a big launch were about God and the good of others.

I have been working to live authentically and honestly. I have shared openly about major failure, shame, a messy house, insecurity, etc. However, I have struggled to post some of the “honest” pictures from the events leading up to launch and the launch. The pictures show me as I am right now, which is heavier than I have ever been (pregnancies aside). Again… a pride issue.

This realization of my prideful desire combined with a recognition with how unhealthy I have become physically have led me to begin a new process- less of me, more of Him.

So, the Monday after our first service, I began to live to intentionally be less and to let God be more.

What does that look like?

It looks like gratitude for the opportunity to connect others to God’s amazing grace, a grace I constantly need.

It is letting go of what I used to be able to do physically and embracing what I can do now.

It is eating for health rather than convenience, entertainment, or to cover stress.

Less of me, more of Him is not caring what people think about Jon and I as church planters because of the numbers. Instead, it is only caring that people connect to God and the church, discover who they are created to be, serve their world, and grow into fully devoted followers of Christ… because of the work we do at Redemption Church.

It is, like all growth, a process. The first step was admitting my prideful attitude and my need to make a change.

I am a week in and loving it. I am 5 pounds less of me and making room in my heart for more Him. I am celebrating the 76 people who came week two, the lives who began to relate to God as a redeemer of broken circumstances, the children who understood God is love, and the authentic community of our amazing team.

Celebration and gratitude don’t leave a lot of room for hurt pride and selfish ego.

Part of letting my pride go is admitting where I am at. I’ll be sharing my journey of less is more here and there as the church grows, I shrink, and God is given more of my life. I hope my small beginnings will be an encouragement to you as you journey to accept grace for all the imperfections of life.

 

Letting go of pride by sharing some pictures of myself I really don’t like…

preview less and more

PicMonkey Collage

Focusing on what matters…

CHURCH PLANTING

Doubts, Fears & Preconceived Notions

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Doubts, Fears & Preconceived Notions

By Tabitha Caplinger

About a year and a half ago I was sitting in an arena full of women listening to Christine Caine speak. (PS I love her.) I had spent over ten years toying with the idea of writing a book. Then I wrote one. It was non-fiction, a collection of essays about youth ministry. I think ten people have read it. Its fine because it was my first book and I had no idea what I was doing and I self published it and did no marketing because I didn’t know you were supposed to do that. (Inhale.)

Fast forward a couple of years and two devotional attempts later and I started writing another book. This one was young adult fiction. I don’t know how I went from trying to write devotionals to a book about demons and angels and sword fights. Really I don’t, and that brings us back to that women’s conference.

I sat in my seat and told myself I was being selfish. I was a pastor and a wife and a mom, and taking all this time to write an imaginary story was wasteful. I should be focused on ministry. I should be spending that time discipling girls. I should go back to those devotionals because that’s what pastors who write, well, write.

God had given me a vision for my ministry and fantasy novels wasn’t going to get me there.

“Who says it won’t?”

That’s what my spirit heard so loudly as I sat in that arena. (I actually sat up straighter because the silent voice was so clear it startled me.)

It was a pivotal moment for me, God speaking to my personal doubts, fears and preconceived notions. For the first time since I had started writing my trilogy I knew that I knew that it was more than just a story that popped in my head one night, it was part of the calling God had placed on my life.

I wasn’t being selfish, I was being obedient.

Now, don’t think I’m tooting my own horn here because there are still days I struggle with the time I put into writing when it isn’t paying the bills. My family makes sacrifices for me to be obedient in a way that often still feels arrogant and selfish. (No one tells you about all that marketing you have to do and that it’s not for the book but yourself. It is weird and awkward and I worry I’m coming off self absorbed. I promise I’m not.) So I am constantly reminding myself of that moment where God whispered to me over the roar of several thousand women.

He whispers to you too…in the middle of cleaning up your kids’ mess, writing your blog, teaching that class, cooking dinner, taking that morning jog. (I can’t speak from experience on the jogging part, if you see me running its from bears, or dinosaurs, or zombies, but I’m sure it applies.)

We all have a purpose and there is no formula for which to figure it out. There is no template you have to fit within aside from God’s Word. So, if you have ever been like me and worried your dream was selfish or didn’t seem to fit, talk to God about it and take the time to listen for His voice of assurance.

Don’t be afraid of obedience that the world might not understand. After all we aren’t being obedient to them but to our Maker. In the end, it is Him we need to make happy and He doesn’t care about your, or anyone else’s, doubts, fears and preconceived notions.


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ABOUT Tabitha Caplinger

Tabitha Caplinger has been in student ministry for close to 15 years, and currently pastors at Faith Community Church in House Springs, Missouri with her husband Brian. They have two sassy daughters, Lila and Rory. Student Ministry is core to who Tabitha is; she loves discipling others and helping them see themselves through Jesus’ eyes. Her goal is for every young woman to be confident that, “she is loved more than she will ever know by someone who died to know her.”

When not working, Tabitha and her family like taking in a good movie or walking through the park. She also admits to being a little obsessed with TV.

Connect with Tabitha online:

Facebook: Tabitha Caplinger

Twitter: @pastortabitha

http://www.tabithacaplinger.com

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My little novel, if you’re interested, is The Chronicle of the Three: Bloodline. Its the first installment in a trilogy. The second book is releasing this June.

Available on Amazon| Barnes & Noble | iBooks

WRITING

FORGOTTEN MEDALS

FORGOTTEN MEDALS

In the back of my closet, tucked deep behind dresses I don’t fit into right now, are my medals. They are slightly dusty and largely unseen.

Why, then, are the subject of today’s post?  …Sometimes, we need reminders that we can do really hard things.

You see, I am tired. I mean really, really tired. I have not slept well in weeks…. maybe months. My brain just can’t shut down. I am constantly thinking about school, the church plant, my family, the church plant, lesson plans, the church plant, my kids’ well being, and how to find more time in the day.

The past 9 months have been exciting and fun. I’ve loved the purpose, pursuing a vision, building a team, seeing God show up again and again. It has been amazing. However, I’m starting to feel worn out. That is why I needed to know where to find my medals.

I first thought of them early in the morning when I was texting my cousins and my sister about possibly running another half marathon together. It occurred to me that I wasn’t certain where the medals had ended up when we moved here in July.

I forgot to look for my medals until I was changing for bed last night. I pushed my clothes aside and reached to the back of the belt rack to see if I had hung them there.

They were there, telling me I am capable of hard things and reminding me I am someone who goes the distance.

I needed to remember I am an endurance athlete. I have played the mental game, and I have won. I have run 20 miles and had these thoughts, “I am exhausted. I want to stop, but there are only 6.2 left. I can do this.” That is where I am today. I am at mile 20, facing the wall that says I might not have the energy needed to get to the goal.

My medals are useless 98% of the time, but, right now, they are the reminders I need to push me forward.


 

I remember now:

-Training and preparation can carry me when I am struggling

When I am tired, I can lay back on the training and truths I have learned through years of study and seeing God come through without fail. When I feel like I don’t have enough to go on, I remember it isn’t about what I can do. It is about what God can do if I give it to him. Then, without fail, I can keep going.

– Friends and family support me as I push on

I am surrounded by an amazing network that loves Jon and I and that works alongside us at separate moments to encourage us and push the vision forward. We are never alone. Each stride with someone beside us helps us to go just a little further.

Aid stations provide me just enough to get me to the next station… until I have accomplished the task. 

Each day that I feel the most worn down, I get just enough encouragement from the word, prayer, a conversation with a friend, etc. to get me through to the next day and closer to our goal- a church where people connect to God, discover their purpose, serve their world, and grow into fully devoted followers of Christ.


My prayer for you today is that you, too, would find your medals-the representations of what you can do. You can do hard things! You are capable of more than the exhaustion of the moment; you are not alone; and there is enough hope to get you to your next mile.

 

 

 

CHURCH PLANTING

TEMPORARY INSANITY

straight-jacket1

Today, I am convinced my husband doesn’t love me; I am considerably overweight; and I just might be the worst parent ever. Oh, not to mention I am hideously ugly.

Yes, each of these things are completely unfounded, but somehow they seem true. In fact, they seem true every 28 days or so.

Although womanhood comes with many joys, battling the ups and downs of temporary irrational thoughts and feelings is definitely one of the great trials of the female population.

10 THINGS I THINK MONTHLY:

  1. I need to eat all the chocolate in the house.
  2. I am so fat because I ate all the chocolate in the house.
  3. This song is so sad; I need to cry.
  4. Why am I crying while listening to Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”?
  5. I am too tired to get up today. I am going to stay in bed.
  6. You are a horrible mother for trying to sleep in. Get up.
  7. How did I let myself get so chubby?
  8. Is there anymore chocolate in the house?
  9. Why do I feel so crazy?
  10. When was my last period?… Oh… That explains it.

Now, you would think at the age of 34 I would be in tune with the exact dates of my cycle, but somehow it sort of sneaks up on me every month.

The nice thing about the temporary insanity that comes with my cycle is I have learned to identify how fickle emotions can be. I have learned that not everything we feel is truth or reality. With this in mind, it is much easier to give myself and others grace when emotions lead to behaviors that aren’t always desirable.

Life is one giant opportunity to give and receive grace. Days of temporary insanity are the little reminders that anyone can lose it a little on any day.

If you need to weep while listening to Justin Bieber, go right ahead. I won’t judge.

 

LEARNING

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

DROP THE WEIGHT

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Now that we are over a week into the new year, I think it is appropriate to address the topic on so many people’s minds: weight loss.

Some of you may be finding your healthy resolutions are proving hard to keep: avoiding sugar, getting daily exercise, avoiding carbs, lifting weights three times a week, etc.  Wouldn’t you like to find an easier way to cut some weight?

Recently, I have found the secret to real weight loss. (Actually, I knew it already, but, of course, I forgot it for a short time. There are some lessons in life we have to learn again and again.)

The key to weightloss is grace.

Grace releases you from life’s steady downward pull. Grace alone cannot remove the weight. You must master the art of extension and reception if you want to drop the pounds of regret, criticism, and self doubt.

When I live without giving grace, the world seems to settle on my shoulders. Spending my time focusing on the problems around me causes me to become tired and worn out. I need to extend grace to the situations and the lives around me.

When I live without accepting the grace that has been extended to me, I become pinned down by the pressures I place on myself to be better. So often, I forget that it is by faith we are made right. It is by God’s love and grace in action in our lives that we grow and mature. I don’t have to do everything on my own strength. I need to welcome the unmerited favor.

Maybe if I do enough reps of extension and reception my bathroom scale will reflect the weight that has been lifted. A girl can dream can’t she?

PARENTING
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