We Showed Up

My first year of college was transformational, weird, and wonderful.

I had moved 12 hours away from my family to attend a college where I knew 2 people, in a state I had been to twice. It was terrifying yet thrilling.

But one of the most frightening things was walking into a dining hall as a freshman.

I asked a few college freshmen earlier this week if they knew what I was talking about… they didn’t. So this very-well could just be me.

 

I would walk into a dining hall for lunch or dinner those first few months of college and become absolutely terrified. After surveying all the options, circling the dining hall a few times, then deciding exactly what I wanted, I would more often than not get my food to-go and eat it back in my dorm while watching America’s Next Top Model. Dining halls were scary. They were filled with lines, and so many choices, and more intimidatingly, people I didn’t know… who didn’t know me, but seemed to know each other very, very well.

My first couple of months of college were filled with lonely meals. Not because I didn’t have friends yet or because I was anti-social, but because I didn’t know where my family was.

 

You see, I had spent the first 18 years of my life coming home from school and having dinner with my family. That’s just how things worked in my house. Meals were connect times with people who loved me and wanted to hear about my life. And college was seeming to be a place where I’d have to go without them.

 

But there’s a shift that happens that no one tells you about towards the middle of your freshmen year. You realize that you can still have your family. It’s just going to look a little different now.

You have to allow your friends to become your family.

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This wasn’t an overnight thing for my friend group. It was a gradual thing that came after we had all subconsciously made some choices. And even now, as a young adult, I’m finding we still have to make these choices in order to keep having family. But as a young adult, these decisions must be way more intentional.

 

Looking back, I realize there were a few key decisions we all had made, un-voiced in our hearts.

  1. We decided to eat together. It sounds simple, but there is something about having a meal together that bonds people. Shauna Niequist says it best: “When we stop everything else to gather around the table and eat a meal…, we honor our bodies and the God who created them… And in that moment we acknowledge that even though life is fast and frantic, we’re not machines and we do require nourishment, physically and otherwise.” You must make an effort to eat meals with your friends. Cook for them. Let them cook for you. Sit at a table with them and enjoy every bit of the meal and company that is placed in front of you.
  2. We decided to be honest with each other. Enough with the word “fine.” When someone asks you how your day is, believe that they actually want to know. They don’t want to hear that your day was “fine.” “Fine” is the most generic and superficial answer we can give. But when we choose to believe someone cares about our day, walls are brought down and family is formed. It allows bonds to be made that proclaim “I know the season you’re in. I get it. I’m with you in it.”
  3. We decided to run errands together. My friend, Jeff, is a prime example of this. We became friends our first week of college, but he quickly became family. I’m pretty sure I ran more errands with him than any of my other friends… possibly even my real family; trips to WalMart, HEB, the mall, Jimmy John’s, wherever. He became my brother because we were together and doing the boring, mundane stuff of life together. You get to know people really well after you take a trip to Target with them. And then I started thinking how different college would’ve been if I had run those errands alone. Don’t run errands alone, friends. Drag someone along. Chances are, they need toilet paper too.
  4. We decided to become texters. If you aren’t a texter now, start becoming one. Some people are anti-group-text but I am ALL about them. It’s an amazing thing to have a piece of communication where plans can be organized and everyone can be in on it. Yes, your group-texts will sometimes go off into rabbit-trails about the latest Iron Man movie or why creamy peanut butter is way better than crunchy. Just let it happen. While we’re talking about this, let me add – you should respond to texts! Send people “How’s your day going?” texts. Be intentional. And yes, you have time for this. It takes about 15 seconds to send a text.
  5. We decided to show up. It didn’t matter who was initiating the hang out… it didn’t matter if I knew 2 or 20 people there… it didn’t matter if I had no interest in the movie we were watching or the restaurant we were going to…  if I was available, I showed up. As a “family”, we became committed to celebration – the big and little things. We chose to mourn with each other when things were hard. We came to performances, dinners with parents, birthday parties, prayer times. We decided to be there… when it was most difficult, when life was crazy, when we were tired. We chose to be there.
  6. We decided not to run away when things got hard. And things DID get hard. Disagreements were had. Breakups happened. Awkward conversations were braved. But we chose to press in when things got uncomfortable. We didn’t stop showing up because things were awkward. We didn’t stop showing up because we were offended. We had the hard, necessary, clarifying conversations. We tried our hardest to accept correction with humility and not pride. We stayed vulnerable. We forgave. We extended grace to each other in our messiness and mistakes. We learned how to do life together, not alone.





The key was pressing in.. being present.. acknowledging the now moments and living fully awake in them. It was being free from comparison by celebrating the accomplishments of another “family” member. It was realizing that each person, despite their own weaknesses, had something entirely unique that the “family” needed. It was loving the imperfections, walking through the mess, and allowing your friends to become one of closest families you’ve know.

 

That Time I Pouted in Redding

I’m aware that some of you probably read the title of this post as “That Time I Pooted in Redding.” So I hate to disappoint you that this story has absolutely nothing to do with flatulence. Maybe some other time.

I’m talking about pouting. In case you don’t know what pouting is, synonyms according to Dictionary.com are “mope, scowl or sulk.”

I just recently spent 10 days in the beautiful state of California. And when I say beautiful… I mean beautiful…

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One purpose of the trip was to visit my lovely friend Hayley. Another purpose was to visit Bethel Church in Redding and attend their young leaders conference. Bethel has been a really impactful movement in my walk with God in the past year. God is doing a major work in their church body and I have encountered Him many times simply by listening to their podcasts or watching their worship sessions on their live-streaming website.

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I was super stoked because I found out that TWO of my absolute favorite pastors/speakers would be at the conference. (Not just one, guys. TWO!) Havilah Cunnington and Kris Vallotton. So I had a slight shadow mission – I wanted to get one of them to pray for me while I was there. Actually it wasn’t so slight. I was fairly vocal about it. How I was going to ask Havilah or Kris to pray their teaching anointing over me and I would leave Redding empowered and equipped and whatever and I would have this anointing on me to be a powerhouse speaker.

The conference was amazing – filled with gifted speakers who gave fresh revelation about our definition of “success” and how to be a comparison-free leader.

Havilah was scheduled to speak on the second night, so earlier that day I resolved in my mind that that night would be the night. I would find her and ask her to pray for me and she would see something in me that was significant and call it out and my life would be forever changed. (I hope you’re catching the drama in this. But I wish I were exaggerating the thoughts that were going on in my head).

Well low and behold, the opportunity never presented itself. I wasn’t one of the 30 people she prophesied over during her teaching. And believe it or not, about half of the room had the same idea I did and approached her after her teaching to be prayed for. So I went home.

But the next day I still had hope. I heard that everyone at the conference would get the chance to go to someone from the Bethel family’s house. Last year, a group got to go to the Vallotton’s house (squeal). So I could at least HOPE that it would be true again this year. And maybe one of the other houses would be the Cunnington’s! And I knew it. I knew that I would get to go to one of their houses, they’d meet me, tell me they see something on my life and just go off on this prophetic identity-speaking time over me. This would be the moment.

The three friends I was with were all in one really large group going to house #1. I was in a smaller group assigned to house #3. My friends told me I should just come with them to house #1. But I was stuck. I didn’t want to choose the wrong house! What if house #3 was one of the ones I wanted to be at?! So I literally asked God and felt like I should go to the house I was assigned to – house #3.

Well. What do you know.

House #1 ended up being the Vallotton’s house, the house my friends were all at, while I was without them at house #3.

“This is my life.” I thought. “God, you don’t care. You don’t give me what I ask for. This is my life. I always get short changed. I’m always the one left out.”

Cue the pouting.

Like a little five-year-old, I pouted my way through that afternoon. “It’s not fair.” I muttered to myself over and over again. “I ASKED for it. God, I ASKED for it! I thought You listened to my prayers?? I thought You gave me the desires of my heart?? Oh everyone except me, right??”

Pitiful. Five-year-old status. 

And that’s when the conviction came; that the words of the speakers from the past 3 days hit me in one soft blow to my chest.

“Princess, do you believe today was a success? That your life was successful because you were obedient to where I asked you to go and that’s it?” 

*Sigh* I don’t know.

Because that was the truth. My days are only measured in their success according to my level of obedience. Was I obedient to what He asked me to do that day? That’s the only question that needs to be answered.

“Princess, do you believe that you’re significant without people who you consider to be a “big deal” praying for you?”

Ugh.

Do I seriously believe my worth is added to according to who prays over me? And does that say more about what I think of them or what I think of myself? 

The thing is, right now, in this moment, I’m as big of a deal to God as Havilah Cunnington or Billy Graham. I matter to Him just as much. He doesn’t love them more than me. And that’s hard for me to understand. Because in my mind, if I have more people who love me on earth, my worth increases.

In reality, my worth is set at a firm, non-negotiable price. It doesn’t even increase when someone prays a deeper favor or anointing over me. I’m still worth just as much as before… I’m still as significant now as the days I was living in sin. 

I had a choice to make.

I could sit in the corner and pout, demanding that what I thought I “deserved” be given to me.

Or I could see the whole week as a success, my shadow-missions aside, and walk out in my secure identity, making my life about what I can give. Not what I can get.

I think I’m done acting like a five-year-old.

Sometimes acting like a five-year-old is way easier than putting aside your flesh and living your life off of truth. But one of my favorite things was spoken last week. “We’re called believers. Not feelers.” We don’t live our lives according to what we feel. We live them off of what we believe in faith to be true.

And I believe I’m not a pouter.

I’m Not A Grasshopper

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This, friends, is what’s literally known as “The Loneliest Road in America.”

It actually has that title.

And this, friends, is what church planting to a new city as a single woman feels like.

The Loneliest Road in America.

Oh come on, I’m not being THAT dramatic. Maybe only a little bit. But if you want me to be real, I’ll be real. This road is exactly how this past year has felt. A lot. Not all the time. But often enough to make me uncomfortable.

My point in writing this is not to be depressing. Or self-pitying. Or pessimistic.

My point in writing this is to bring you in to the not-so-glamourous life of risking on a promise from God. 

I want to bring you in to the day-by-day…the unfiltered practicals…the not glory stories.

When God said move to Raleigh, I expected simplicity. I expected ease and smoothness and instant reception of the glory of God. I expected immediate and obvious confirmations that I heard Him correctly… getting the perfect house He promised, ease in finding a job, abundant friendships, people getting saved left and right.

Because in my head, if it was His will, it would be easy.

HA.

“Let me just…reimburse you for that soft-serve.”

Here’s a taste of what the past 9 months have had in store for me:

-Applied for over 200 jobs before moving here and heard back from exactly 3. (Mind you, I only needed to hear back from this one.)

-Depleted most of my savings account in the process of moving. (AKA ate Ramen for a solid 2 weeks.)

-Debit card got declined at Whole Foods TWICE because I mis-calculated how much money I really had. (Whoops)

-Didn’t have water in our house for the first 2 weeks

-Didn’t have a lot of windows either in our house, now that I think about it.

-Oh and we found mold. Yay.

-(Almost) got kicked out of a coffee shop for using their internet because we couldn’t afford to start ours up yet.

-Family entered one of the more difficult seasons of their lives immediately after me moving

-Started dealing with old sin patterns again (dumb)

-Car overheated in rush hour on the side of i-40 on the one day I decide to wear heels…

-Unexpectedly had to buy a new radiator and…

-Commuting 45 min to work in a jeep every day is way more expensive than I ever thought it’d be so I…

-Began the process of selling the car… only to realize I had to get a NC license, tags, insurance, etc.

-Cue me taking my driver’s test

-Meanwhile, I never get called back after a date with a guy that I thought things went really well with.

-6 months later, my car is still for sale.

-Cue me dropping the price of my car every week on Craigslist

-So I learned how to apply for car loans

-Get denied because … wait for it…

-My identity was stolen by someone in Wichita.

-Cue filing police reports

-Cue talking to credit unions

-Also, taxes. (But those actually weren’t so bad)

-Meanwhile, Raleigh named “Worst City in America for Dating” Good.

-4 of my best friends are currently in the most difficult season they’ve ever faced

-Roommate unexpectedly moved out

-And in a new city, as a single woman, I’m doing all of these things what feels like alone. 

Y’all. Moving to Raleigh has been the furthest thing from easy.

The thing about the Promise Land is that God left giants in it. 

In Numbers, when the Israelites are right on the edge of the place God promised, the land that FLOWS with milk and honey, they send in spies to check it out. Not only was the Promise Land completely occupied, it was occupied with GIANTS.

“Then the men who had gone up with him (to spy) said,

“We are not able to go up against the people,

for they are stronger than we are….

There we saw the Nephilim,

and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers,

and so we seemed to them.” – Numbers 13:31 and 33

If anything, this only further confirms that Raleigh is my Promise Land. But it also teaches me something else…did you catch that last verse?

I will not see myself as a grasshopper. I will not be squished by my circumstances. There is joy to be had in them! There is glory to be experienced in the MIDDLE of the pain, the frustration, the confusion, the mystery. This is the ONLY time I have the chance to choose hope and victory! I won’t have to choose hope or victory in Heaven; I will LIVE it. My time on earth is the only time I get to do that. I will only be a grasshopper if I truly believe I am a victim. And I’m not a victim. I’m victorious. I’m a warrior. I have the King of kings in my corner fighting for me. I already win. 

SO BRING IT ON, GIANTS.

I will FIGHT for my Promise Land…with everything I have…and I will not quit.

And if “smooth seas never made a skilled sailor,” then I am becoming the most-skilled sailor that ever was. There are so many things I know how to do now that I wouldn’t have even known where to start with a year ago.

I am tougher. I am more resilient. My hands are calloused. I am stronger, more worn, experienced. But I am steadfast.

Because He tells me to not quit. He tells me He won’t give me more than I can bear. And He tells me He’s in the middle of the storm. So why would I leave it?

Life is hard. But often the hardest and most difficult places have the most treasure behind them.

Be sure to stay long enough to see it. 

What Hollywood and Church-Planting Have in Common

I honestly started making this a Facebook post, only to realize that what I had to say was way too long and obnoxious to flood someone’s news feed.

So you’re welcome.

I was just watching a documentary about the Oscars. Towards the end, someone who I can only assume to be a director or producer was describing the morning after the Oscars, where he was in his sweats, drinking nasty coffee, sweeping a floor. He reflects, “That one night…that is what everyone thinks Hollywood is about. The glamour and everything. But really, that’s the one night a year where we all dress up and put on a show. Hollywood is the waking up and doing everyday, difficult, ordinary, grimey, mundane things, behind the scenes, that no one sees. That’s what Hollywood really is.”

And it hits me.
That’s what church planting is.
Everyone sees the glory moments, the moments that are publicized and broadcast and celebrated. Coming from a church that is missions-based, the “powerful” testimonies are the ones that fuel you. We hear about the churches that have doubled in size in a week, the gang members who are transformed by the love of Jesus overnight. And we BEG God to send us. We want revival NOW. We want to see it all NOW. We want those glory stories.

But it’s more than that. Hear me out…I am not trying to undermine these amazing works of God. And I am not trying to stifle anyone’s fire. Please…stay lit.

Church-planting is mostly unseen and unheard. The every-day, ordinary, mundane, difficult things. The behind the scenes that make for the glory moments. It’s stuffing and addressing envelopes. It’s making sure there are enough Krispy Kreme doughnuts for every guest. It’s measuring the width of a middle school door to make sure a banner can fit. It’s having the slides cued and ready for worship on Sunday. It’s taking hours to pray and plan every week.

The unseen moments really do shape the seen.

It’s the same with our relationship with God. It’s in the quiet, solitary places where intimacy with Him is formed…when so many times all we hear are the glory stories. Cultivating deep, rich, history with God is about consistency and commitment. Am I going to stay consistent in the ways I pursue Jesus? Am I going to stay committed to Him and the things He’s called me to?

These award-winning movies…Think of where they would be if people hadn’t been consistent or committed. If people refused to do the dirty, unseen work. If there hadn’t been that lady fixing Helen Mirren’s makeup off-stage. If that man whose only responsibility is to bring the director exactly what he needs when he needs it simply quit. That girl who sweeps the set and makes sure props are in place worked half-heartedly. The glory moments can’t happen without their seemingly inferior acts.

Don’t despise the seasons of the mundane and ordinary….for they cultivate a richness and depth with God that will lead to greater glories than we could ever imagine.