Expectation Frustration

Of all the track and field events I did in high school, high jump felt the craziest. Fortunately, cell phones didn’t exist when I was in high school, much less phones with cameras, so there is no evidence of my brief high jumping career. But in case you’ve never seen the event, here ya go. The whole idea is to see how high you can get the bar and still get over it without knocking it down.

I wasn’t great at the event, but mentally I embraced the idea of setting a high bar and going for it. I wasn’t even deterred when my knee came crashing down into my nose during practice leaving both me and the mat covered in blood. I live for high bars.

My poor husband.

When we were dating, I think he found my drive attractive. Little did he know how readily and eagerly (and with little to no awareness), I would share my high expectations with those closest to me, which is why the first message in the “What Happy Couples Know” series hit hard and true. If you missed it, check it out here. The short version is that if we’re not careful, we take all of our hopes, dreams and desires and hand them to our spouse as a set of expectations. And expectations create a debt/debtor relationship. And those kinds of relationships leave little to no room for things like gratitude and love.

Yea, so…I did that to Clark when we got married. Oops.

I didn’t know I did it. I didn’t mean to do it. But I did, hard core. I walked boldly into marriage and the rest of our lives with expectations falling nowhere short of perfection – perfect marriage, perfect kids, perfect life. Bless my heart.

One of our biggest fights happened the first day home after our honeymoon. We got back to our shiny, new apartment on Friday night and I was headed back to work at the church where I was interning on Sunday morning. Clark went back to work on Monday. So, naturally, on Saturday, I got up early and started the laundry, made a grocery list, began putting away wedding gifts, and kept checking my watch every five minutes to see exactly how long Clark was going to let me do all those things while he slept. Tick, tick, tick… By 8:30, I was boiling. (I know, you wish you could be married to a gem like me.) I tried to play it cool when I finally woke him up at 9am.

I failed. By 9:15, we were throwing laundry at each other across our one-bedroom apartment and hot tears of frustration and unmet expectations were flowing down my face. To be clear, Clark also had expectations I wasn’t meeting – crazy ones like sleeping until 9 on our first Saturday together in our newly married home and life.

We pulled it together and ended up having a fun first day of “real life” together. And in the 13 years since, we’ve made steps forward, also plenty backward, and by the grace of God (and I don’t say that flippantly), we are still married and in love, and have the privilege of continuing the growth journey together.

For me, I have to remember that I didn’t marry Clark so he could meet my expectations. I married him because I love him and made a choice to share our lives. And so, he gets to keep his box of hopes, dreams, and desires, and I get to keep my box of hopes, dreams, and desires. And ideally, we can champion each other’s hopes, dreams, and desires for many years to come!

Don’t miss the next message in the series this Sunday at Ashley Ridge Church – in person or online!

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Jesus sighs

Twice. Jesus sighed twice. At least, that’s what Mark said (7:34, 8:12). Maybe the other disciples were just embarrassed to write about the times Jesus had to shake his head at them and sigh. Maybe there wasn’t a good Greek expression for “palm to the forehead.”

Anyway, the point is that Mark tells us about two different times Jesus sighed, and I’m glad Mark took the time to write that down. I need to know that Jesus sighed. I need to know that sometimes the Savior of the World looked at the world He was dealing with and sighed.

To me, a sigh comes from that deep place where the words can’t go or come. And for some of us, that’s an awfully deep place. I have words – lots and lots of words – for almost all of the things in all of the times. But sometimes, there are no words, only sighs. Or, at least, no words that can be found until a sigh pushes us back up to the place where words live. Sighs fill the space where our frustration or our anxiety or our anguish needs a voice that can’t be understood, only felt.

I like that Jesus sighed. It means he gets my sighs.

It’s also important that Jesus only sighed twice (that we know about). He had plenty of opportunities where he could have sighed more. The disciples and the Pharisees and the siblings and the parents (remember Mary pestering him at that wedding) – they tried Jesus’s patience. They pushed his buttons – he was fully human, so we know he had buttons. He could have spent a lot of time feeling frustrated and sighing, but he didn’t. He kept pursuing, kept explaining, kept being patient.

Sighs can be abused, much like eye-rolling. Jesus lack of sighing means he really cared about people; stubborn, frustrating people like me. He didn’t just show up with an agenda of things for us to do and understand. That’s where my sighing often comes in – when I just need my kids to cooperate and for things to go smoothly for a change. And by smoothly, of course, I mean for things to go my way.

Jesus showed up to love us and care about us. He didn’t just need us to understand. Jesus wanted us to understand. He showed us again. He told us again. He looked for different ways to explain. He didn’t just sigh.

It’s both – the sighing and the not sighing. It’s the knowing we have space to sigh and be understood and feel what we feel, and also knowing that we need to check our motives from time to time. When sighing becomes our default, it’s time to be still, spend time bringing our wordless sighs to God so He can bring us back to the place of caring for and loving the people around us.

That’s all I’ve got for now.

Sigh.

Something about chapters and rhythms…

I judge a book by my inability to stop between chapters. If I can stop between chapters, it’s probably not amazing. If I have to force myself to stop in the middle of chapters, I know I’ve found a treasure.

My life so far has been a lot like that, one chapter moves quickly and eagerly into the next. In my 20s, I went from meeting a really cute guy to dating him to getting engaged to him to marrying him to having babies and now hungry-all-the-time, smelly-soccer-playing kids. Professionally (and simultaneously with the previous list), I have gone from college to graduate school to full-time ministry to church planting to being Lead Pastor of a quickly growing church.

And believe me when I tell you, I am grateful for all of it. This life – it is a treasure.

Only the difference between my life and a book is that no one and nothing has forced me to stop or take a break between chapters or in the middle of chapters. And before someone or something does, I’m calling a time out.

Of course, in life, there really is no such thing as a time out, but I’m doing something as close to that as I can. For the month of April (post-Easter), I am stepping away from the day-to-day operation of our church. I’m not checking my e-mail – for a month. (Fear not, I have a virtual assistant who is totally on top of it.) I’m not going to my office or attending staff meetings or leadership team meetings. The beauty is that I can do those things because I have an incredible team. I am surrounded by brilliant people who know what to do and how to do it, and everything will continue to move forward while I am away.

Of course, I won’t really be away. The first week I am resting and vacationing with my family. After that, I will be spending most of my time working on new growth track content for our church and some writing projects that hopefully will make me a stronger communicator going forward. Additionally, I will be in Atlanta with a team of staff and volunteers from our church at a Leadership Conference. And without blinking, I will be back – only, if I do it right, it will be both a break in the middle, and the start of a new chapter.

My goal is to come back having gained solid footing in my writing and teaching, sharper focus, and a greater sense of clarity as we continue taking significant steps forward as a church. I am changing my rhythm and embracing my role as the primary communicator for our church which means giving other things away. It’s going to be sooooo good!!

Be on the lookout for a couple of new blog posts (already written 🙂 that will pop-up in the month of April to go along with the message series at Ashley Ridge. And if you see me around town, please, please say hello.

Thank you for your prayers and I’ll see you again in May!

 

 

I still haven’t seen “The Greatest Showman”

Womp-womp! I know. I should have seen it by now. I wanted to see it. I said I was going to see it. Other people saw it and raved about it. I still didn’t go see it.

I had good reasons. It came out at Christmas and that’s a really busy time. It is for everyone, but I lead a church and it’s one of the two busiest work seasons I have. The other one is right now (Easter!)…which is why I’m writing about a movie I haven’t seen…what am I doing?…anyway, what were we talking about?

Oh yea, I still haven’t seen “The Greatest Showman.” It’s about a circus. I like circuses, mostly the elephants, but also the acrobats. Do they still do the thing with the lady who gets pulled up by her hair on a string? I never understood that, but I admired how calm she always looked while it happened. “The Greatest Showman” has Hugh Jackman (love him!) and great songs so I know I’m going to love it if I ever get to see it, but for now, I still haven’t seen it.

greatest showman

My dad tried to get me to see it. We traveled to Pennsylvania after Christmas to visit my parents and my sister’s family and my dad worked really hard to get me there. They had all seen it and knew how good it was. My dad also knew that if I didn’t see it while we were there on vacation and had extra hands to help with kids, I wouldn’t see it in the theater. He was right.

And it all makes me wonder – how many other great things are we missing out on because we didn’t make the time? And, how many great things are others missing out on because we didn’t invite them, and keep inviting them, knowing that there will always be things getting in the way of them experiencing something great that we love and believe they will love too?

Eventually I will see “The Greatest Showman” and I know I will love it. It won’t be on the big screen and it will be well after everyone else is finished talking about it, but I will see it. Only, it’s just a movie.

What about the big stuff?

Easter is this Sunday. It’s a really big deal. It’s going to be amazing – the music, the lights, the baptisms, the preacher may not even be half bad. And even though you may really want to be there, it could be really easy to miss because of all of the things. Believe me, I know about all of the things. It could also be really easy to show up and not bring someone else. But, why wouldn’t  you want to invite someone else to something you know will be amazing? Why wouldn’t you want them to hear the story of a reckless, uncontainable, death-defying love that is for them?

Don’t miss it – don’t be that guy. And be brave, friends don’t let friends miss the biggest party of the year!

See you Sunday as we celebrate Easter Together!!

“What Happy Couples Know”

Anyone else remember going to the video store and renting, not only the VHS tape you were going to watch, but also the VHS player? Y’all, that was a thing. It was a thing right before the era when people started buying their own VHS players and blank tapes to record the shows on tv we wanted to keep or watch later.

Ah, the world that was opening up. My mom had a recording of “Dirty Dancing” from the first time it aired on tv and she thought my sister and I didn’t know it existed. We would find it the minute my parents left for choir practice at church and watch it. No one was putting baby in a corner without us seeing it. We were rebels, only not good ones because my mom quickly figured it out and the tape disappeared for good.

But even while some movies were deemed inappropriate for our childhood days, the ability to watch movies at home opened up a new world of possibilities and my mom filled the Swayze void with an education in classic romances. My sister and I were raised with movies like “Three Coins in a Fountain,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and “An Affair to Remember.” Cary Grant was a household name, and even though he fell into the “old guy” category, we knew enough to realize he was dreamy.

It was around this time every year when the classic “April Love” would get pulled out. Pat Boone, another dreamy old guy, played the bad boy sent off to the country to get his act together, only to fall in love with the wide-eyed, innocent farm girl next door, played by the ever-singing Shirley Jones. Spring meant love, and love (at least on screen) meant chaperoned dances and furtive glances across the room. And we fell for it…every time.

pat boone and shirley jones

I wanted to grow up and find a man who would look at me like Pat Boone looked at Shirley Jones. I wanted a man who would wait for me all day at the top of the Empire State Building after turning his life upside-down to be worthy. I wanted a guy who could sing and dance and race cars and fix things and play football and paint…and before I knew it, I no longer wanted to be in love, I wanted “to be in love in a movie.” (Name that classic, friends!)

Whether it’s on screen or in real life, we tend to look at what other people have and want it for ourselves. Only we’re never seeing the whole picture. And even though our brains know that, our hearts aren’t equally convinced of the disconnect. We think there are secrets happy couples know, and if only we could know the secrets too, we could have the fairytale, made-for-screen love affair. We want to be happy. We want to feel like singing, even if we can’t sing at all.

Clark and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage this spring. And while Clark is far dreamier than Pat Boone, Cary Grant, and Patrick Swayze combined (Lord, have mercy!),  we know the real secret, which is that reality is far more messy, far more vulnerable, far more terrifying, far more ordinary, and far more beautiful than what could be captured on screen or in a 2-hour telling, or a snapshot taken by a stranger on our honeymoon.

Bermuda.jpg

But what if I told you there really are secrets happy couples know? And what if I told you they are not really secrets at all – just pieces of hard-fought wisdom that happy couples would love to share that could change the landscape of your current and future relationships?

Spring is coming and love is in the air, and it’s time for us to talk – really talk – about what happy couples know.

This April at Ashley Ridge Church, we’re going to be using Andy Stanley’s series “What Happy Couples Know” to have the conversation. If you’re local, we’d love for you to jump into one of our 4-week small groups. We have groups for singles, couples, newly married/engaged, married, divorced, widowed, and mixtures of all of the above. The conversation really is for everyone! More sign-up info is coming soon. If you’re not local, we’d love for you to follow along with us online and let us know if you’d like us to send you the discussion questions so you can get a group of friends together wherever you are to talk about it.

But, why wait? Let’s start talking now. What secrets have you learned? What classic movies do you still have copied onto VHS tapes in your attic? And, come on, name the movie – “You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.”

Do the Work

Growing up, I was told, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

To everyone who said that to me, I would like to say two things:

  1. Thank you. That advice helped me pursue and find a job I absolutely love. I truly feel as though I “get to do” what I do, and not at all that I “have to do” what I do. What a gift! I know how rare it is and what a privilege it is to love what I do. Thank you for your sage advice.
  2. Liar, liar, pants on fire!

I grew up and found a job I love. And because I love it, I work 10x harder than I would at a job I didn’t care about. I put in extra hours. I sweat the tough decisions, I agonize over the mistakes, and I often lose sleep thinking about it. There are circles under my eyes and at least a few grey hairs I can’t blame on my children (but, seriously, not many…because boys, amirite?).

Here’s the real deal – just because you love something doesn’t mean it always is, or should be, fun. And just because you love something doesn’t at all mean it’s easy. It simply means you love it enough to want to do the hard work, and you want to stick with it, even when it isn’t fun. You do it because it’s worth it. You do the work because you love it.

Recently, my husband bought an agility ladder to help our boys improve reflexes and foot skills for soccer and for all of the other sporting activities they enjoy. The first time they used it my 8-yr old came inside, dripping with sweat, and dramatically told me it was no fun, he was “depleted,” and “what are we having for dinner that will possibly be able to fill me back up?” Aside from telling him to get a grip and learn to cook his own meals, I laughed and told him it was time for a life lesson. I explained that one of the secrets to life is figuring out what you love enough to want to do the hard work to be good at it. I told him he could end up working hard and it be drudgery for drudgery’s sake, or he could work hard on purpose.

You may disagree, but I feel strongly about this one. If we teach our children and create a culture where we only do the things that are fun and easy, than we will always be tempted to quit on the things that matter most, because inevitably, things that matter will require work, and at some point, they will be hard and leave us feeling depleted. And if we choose to walk away in those moments, if we quit, than we miss the good stuff – we may even miss the very best stuff.

I’m not saying life should be miserable, and I’m definitely not saying we should be trying to make things harder than they already are. But we’re on a fool’s errand to think we can find something we really love and not have to work hard for it. Marriage, parenting, loving our neighbors, contributing to our communities, being obedient to God – all hard, all worth it.

So here’s my advice:

Find something you love and do the work.

Generation Z and company

Yup, it’s time to stop talking about the millennials. Thank goodness! Not because we’ve stopped caring about them, but because we’ve singled them out, over-analyzed them to death, no one can ever remember how to spell millennial (thank you, spell check), and it’s time to start talking a lot more about Generation Z – you know, the largest generation currently on the planet, comprising our 25 and younger population.

Unlike the millennials who remember dial-up internet and shared family computers, Generation Z does not know life without the internet at their fingertips (always), and they are the first generation to grow up in a truly post-Christian era. Generation Z isn’t “seeking” anything, nor are they bored. They are simply on to other things.

And so, we have to ask, what does that mean for the Church? How do we do ministry in ways that connect with generations that truly could not be more different? How do we embrace the realities of Generation Z along with everyone else sharing space with them on the planet?

I’ll be honest here – I’m still very much in learn mode so I am long on questions and short on answers. I put my two Generation Z’s on the school bus this morning for their first days of Kindergarten and 3rd grade. I watched them walk away confidently. They’re not unaware of crazy things happening in the world, they’re just convinced there’s nothing they can’t handle. Their worldview is vast because they have access to more information, more imagery, and more content than ever before in human history. They don’t believe there are obvious answers to every, or even any, question (FOR THE LOVE – give your parents some credit for the answers we actually have), but they are determined to ask anyway and sift through the possibilities as they come.

Frankly, I’m over all of the options – I’m part of the Oregon Trail generation wedged between the X’s and the Millennials. I just want to decide whether to press on for the next fort or sleep another night in the same town to do more hunting. Netflix, Amazon Prime and the lot are making it a process just to pick a movie to watch with my husband. Too many choices – ALL OF THE THINGS – are leaving me overwhelmed and weary. (But don’t take away my options – after all, no one puts baby in a corner!)

And so, what’s next?

Here’s what I know: the Church is uniquely positioned for the task of bringing everyone together because we have Jesus – the one who has never, in any generation, ceased to be relevant. And if Jesus taught us anything in his short time among us, it’s that we have to show up for the conversation. We have to go to all of the places, the expected and the unexpected, eager to learn and engage. As my friend Tom Conlon put it in one of his songs, we should have a drink with the sinners and sing with the saints. What he didn’t mention is how often we would mix up the two because we’re all a bit of both.

Maybe that’s one of the first things Generation Z can teach and remind us all – stay open, keep your skin thick but your heart soft.

I’m starting a message series in a few weeks on “Helping the Next Gen Win,” and I can’t wait to keep talking about how we pay attention to who is coming behind us, how we can help them win, and how we all can be BETTER TOGETHER.

A Time to Plant and a Time to Uproot

No one told me that planting a church would be this hard. Actually, everyone told me, but I didn’t understand what they were saying. I saw the possibility. I saw the need. I saw the opportunity to reach people no one else was reaching, and the open door to establish a local church where we could come together and find freedom and hope in Christ, even if that often looked more like a wrestling match than a prayer circle. We were going to create space to ask questions and be different. We didn’t have the language at the time, but ultimately, we were going to cultivate environments where people could belong before they believe. (Thank you, Jeff Henderson, for supplying the language and demonstrating the heart for that idea.) We were going to take off our boat shoes and walk on the water.

No one could have prepared me for all of the relationships I would lose – the people who would start with me and believe with me and work with me, but with time, move away for one reason or another.

I remember all of the people who cautioned that this would be hard on my marriage. My friends, someday I will write a book on the miracle that is my marriage to Clark – a marriage that is holding together and growing stronger despite all of the times it probably should have, and almost did, fall apart. Our walls could tell stories, many of which need to be shared in the right time and place to help see others through their darkest moments. For now, I just want to say publicly and loudly, thank you, Clark, for never giving up, for showing up when it was hard, and being the man who consistently goes to God with me and for me.

I was told that my job in planting a church would be to set, maintain, and protect the vision. I was given the illustration of a train boarding in Kansas that I knew was supposed to go to New York. Plenty of people would want to stop and hang out when we reached the first place that was a little more populated and offered some creature comforts and predictability, but I was supposed to make sure the train kept moving. Some people would see Chicago as an easier possibility as the ride got longer and space got tighter, but I was supposed to remember that the destination wasn’t Chicago and the goal wasn’t comfort and keep the train moving. Other people would make it the whole way to New York and realize they didn’t like how it felt, how many other people were there who didn’t make the journey but wanted to join the party, how it didn’t look like they had pictured it, but I was supposed to shout the walls down anyway, and despite all of my fears and my own weariness, remind everyone we were sent for such a time, and for such a place, and for such a people as this.

No one told me that with the planting there also comes the uprooting. Sometimes the very seeds that got you started become the ones holding you back from the places God is asking you to go. And it doesn’t mean the seeds weren’t good, or even that they went bad, simply that there is a time for everything.

Ashley Ridge Church started as a missional congregation of the United Methodist Church with me, an ordained UMC elder, as its pastor. We were given a challenge to start a different kind of church, and in the process, God gave us a clear vision for what that church should be – a church that believes we’re better together (with God, with each other, and with the world). And so, we relentlessly do everything we can to find people who are going it alone and we make our table bigger so they know they have a seat, a place, an identity, and a purpose. We share life at the table (in circles), and a lot of times it’s messy – mostly because we have a TON of kids. But, if we’re being honest, the kids are simply the outward messiness that covers for the inward messiness we’re all carrying. The kids are the permission we often need as adults to learn things again, or maybe for the first time, things we thought we were supposed to already know or believe and were ashamed to admit we didn’t. Sometimes I get tired of cleaning up for the next meal, but mostly I could just ugly cry for days at the beautiful mess of people who pull up chairs beside each other day-after-day, desperate for what only God can give. And when we show up, God reminds us He never left and He’s eager to give us exactly what we need.

We’ve reached a place in our journey where this living thing God is growing no longer fits within the structure of the United Methodist Church. We didn’t intend for that to happen, and it’s not because one is right and the other is wrong, but in the process of creating something different, we created something different. So, maybe it is exactly what everyone intended, just now how we thought it would look. In recent months, we’ve been asked to adapt what we’re doing to make it fit, but the truth is, we couldn’t do it even if we wanted to. God is leading us into unchartered territory and doing things we can’t describe and certainly for which we can’t take credit.

For some time, we had hoped to keep everyone happy  and make everything fit together in the more obvious ways (recovering people-pleaser, right here, raising my hand high), but God has made it clear that we have to trust Him with both the planting and the uprooting. And so, Ashley Ridge Church will not be chartering as a United Methodist Church, but instead continuing on our journey, trusting God for what is next. And I will be giving up my credentials as an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, trusting that my call has not changed, but the location has shifted. And while there is some sadness in this change, our faith reminds us that what holds us together is still so much greater than the things that seem to separate us. We really do need each other.

I am incredibly grateful for our mother church, Bethany United Methodist, and their willingness to help start something different, and also their ongoing ministry that reaches and touches so many lives in our community. The United Methodist Church is in the midst of a lot of changes and uncertainty, and whatever happens, I believe we should celebrate the ministry and work that has been done that has given birth to what will come next. The Church as a whole was and is God’s idea. It is imperfect because it is made up of imperfect people, but God hasn’t given up on it, and we won’t either.

 

Knowing Less, Understanding More

I just turned 36 years old. Today, actually. That rounds up to 40, but no one else should point out that detail to me because it would seem I’m a little sensitive to the math.

I am 36. Eight years ago, I was 28. I miss the age of 28 because I knew everything then. And when you know everything, you’re not afraid of anything. Words like “hard,” and “challenge” feel like an invitation to be awesome, which, of course, we all want to be.

Now I’m 36. I know so much less than I did when I was 28. It’s funny how that works. But even while I know less, I understand so much more.

I understand that hard things leave scars – not the cool ones you show off to your friends, but the ones that still hurt when you press on them, or when the wind blows, or even when you simply remember they’re there. I understand the expression “ride or die” not just as a hip way to describe your best friends, but as a means of identifying the precious few who will stand with you, in front of you, beside you, and behind you through ALL THE THINGS. I understand grace – not as a nice, theological concept – but as the only explanation for why marriage is possible and parenting is survivable and the Church still exists. I understand that showing up for people matters a whole lot more than having all, or any, of the answers.

I’m not ashamed of my scars – I earned every one of them and I know there will be more. I’m not sad about getting older – it turns out there really is wisdom that comes with age and experience.

And so, here’s to another year of knowing less and understanding more…together…because it’s better that way!

Family Meal

I grew up in a family that ate dinner together. Not every night, but most nights. Sometimes the meal was homemade, and sometimes it was pizza at 10pm as we ran in the door from after school activities, but we made it to the table.

As an adult, and especially as a parent, I’ve decided that time spent at the table is the special sauce. Our kids are at that age where going out to dinner is an exercise in exhaustion, frustration and, often, public humiliation (ours, not theirs – they are still oblivious to the fact that some people might frown on eating the food once it has hit the floor). But at home, table time means silliness and laughter, excerpts from our days spent primarily in four different places, and even tired silence, the kind that’s acceptable when you’re with your people and you don’t have to pretend to be or have more than you do.

Beyond table time with my family of four, one of my great joys is making the table bigger as often as possible. I love having people at our house and around our table. I love standing around the kitchen island on a Friday night with five of the most unhealthy dips ever concocted, an obscenely big bowl of tortilla chips, and the friends and family that make up the most incredible “framily” imaginable. Our children turn into a loud, untamed herd, but it doesn’t faze us because they’re having fun and we’re being so loud ourselves that we haven’t actually noticed.

A little over two years ago our church launched a ministry called “Expanding the Table.” At the heart of the ministry is a food truck, painted loudly in true food truck fashion, that goes out into different parts of our community three nights a week to serve free meals to whomever needs one.

To date, we’ve served well over 12,000 meals, but the joy has been watching our “table,” and consequently, our family, get bigger and bigger as we find ourselves at picnic tables, tailgate tables, and benches with neighbors in our community we may not have met otherwise. Our table includes kids, who much like our own, don’t sit still for long, but they devour grilled cheese sandwiches and look for the closest group of adults who will play soccer and kickball with them. Our table includes people still caught in the clutches of alcoholism and drug addiction, but sitting around the table we experience the gift of mutual encouragement to keep going, keep trying, and keep hoping for better days.

Family is complicated and often messy, but sharing our lives with each other is a gift. And because God says there’s room at His table for everyone – we get to keep inviting without feeling the need to protect what is our own. Jesus said there’s enough to go around. And so, we keep making the table bigger. We refuse to eat alone, and do everything we can to make sure others aren’t eating alone. And somehow, far beyond the food, our family meals give us strength for whatever is next.

What do your family meals look like? I’d love to hear some of your stories!

And if you’d like to know more about Expanding the Table, or if you’re local and you’d like to volunteer, check out expandingthetable.com.