Managing the Tension between Change and Consistency

There are two kinds of families: the ones that eat store-bought cookies, and the ones that stick to homemade cookies. My family, both the one I grew up with and the one I have now, falls decidedly in the homemade cookie category with one notable exception…OREOS!

We love Oreos. I love Oreos – double-stuff, mega-stuff, all of the stuff! I would eat them on a plane, on a train, and in the rain. I like them on their own, dipped in milk, and definitely in my homemade ice cream. Forget the green eggs and ham. I love Oreos, Sam I Am!

I also thrive on change, which means the parade of differently flavored Oreos over the last couple of years has been right up my alley. I’ve tried almost all of them – candy corn

oreos

Oreos, mocha Oreos, s’more Oreos, marshmallow krispy Oreos, peppermint Oreos, and more. I played the Mystery Oreo game (those were gross!). I even tried the recently released cherry cola Oreos – probs not the best idea you’ve had, Nabisco, but, let’s definitely talk about making the key lime Oreos a regular deal! (I know, you’re wondering how I’m not 500 pounds with all of this Oreo eating – Answer: I’m raising boys. If I’m lucky I get to eat one or two cookies out of a pack before they are all gone.)

Change is good. It can be fun, and it definitely creates momentum. But too much change can be confusing. There’s something to be said for consistency and constancy. We all want to know what and who we can count on.

To borrow another Andy Stanley-ism, we have to know which things are problems to solve and which are tensions to manage. I believe change and consistency represent a tension to manage. We need both – the new and the same, the willingness to try different things and the wisdom to keep going down the same road even when it gets bumpy.

Part of managing the tension is knowing which way you lean naturally.

As mentioned, I lean toward change, which means I need people in my life and guardrails in place to keep me from changing too readily and too quickly. Once I’m convinced a change is the right call, I’m ready yesterday and eager to move to implementation. I’ve learned through trial and error that those kinds of knee-jerk reactions (especially when you’re in the pilot seat) can create chaos and confusion. I’ve learned to slow down and ask questions like, “If we make this change, what does the timeline need to look like so others are ready and we’re all prepared? What are the potential side effects of this change that we need to mitigate or prepare for? Who needs to know about this change well before it happens?”

If you lean the other direction, toward consistency, you need to have people in your life who are willing to challenge your assumptions and ask questions like, “Is there anything you’re hanging onto for comfort that is actually holding you back? What is the possible gain from making a change that could outweigh the effort of getting there?”

We need both – change and consistency, regular Oreos and double stuff (although for the life of me, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t want more filling!).

Which way do you lean? What questions would you add to help navigate the tension?

 

 

 

 

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To the Ladies Living Strong in their Skin

A few weeks ago a new book came out and several of my friends posted about it on Instagram. I didn’t know the author, but they did and they were excited to celebrate the release, and the woman who wrote it.  Because several people I knew were posting, I took an immediate interest. I leaned in (as Sheryl Sandberg would have me do), and then I saw the title – “The Third Option: Why a Woman Doesn’t Have to Choose between a Career and Family, but Can Actually Have Both and Succeed.”

Ha! I’ve written a similar book in my head over and over again, only it goes back and forth between – “Nope, you can’t have it all.” And, “Of Course You Can, Just Don’t Expect to be Happy Too.” Shannon Miles gets all the credit for actually writing a book, which means she sorted her thoughts and wrestled them to the ground and created something helpful.

Shannon Miles

I got to meet Shannon Miles two weeks ago at the ReThink Conference – she’s fantastic!

I’m still stuck in the snark phase of the conversation. And if I’m really honest, the ugly part of me is even stuck in the dismissive phase where I see a book like Shannon’s and immediately look to see what her career is, because surely it can’t be the same as mine. Women – we’re our own worst enemies, and I am so sorry and ashamed for my participation in that.

I struggle with the “fairer sex,” whatever that means. I’ve always gravitated toward the guys in the room. In high school, my best friends were guys. In college and grad school – I hung out with the guys. Even now, if you put me in a room with couples, and the women and men naturally gravitate toward their own circles, I’m more comfortable in the circle with the guys.

This may explain why I don’t like women’s ministry. I’m not against it. It’s just, by definition, all women, and I’m not comfortable in that space. See also women’s retreats and “Magnificent Mom” mornings at school.

It’s not that I don’t like women. I even have really good friends who are women. One is a pediatrician, one is a kindergarten teacher, one is a foster mom, and one owns and operates her own business (her employees include her husband and a homeless man named Ronnie). These women are game-changing, gravity-defying, faith-filled giants. When I sing along with Kelly Clarkson to “Whole Lotta Woman” – these women are the ones I picture, along with my mom and my sister (more on them later).

Women like these, and so many others, really do run the world as Beyoncé intones – only I’m not sure it’s because they’re women. I think it’s because they’re living on purpose, and the most extraordinary among them are refusing to have their life and role defined in comparison with others, male or female. They are comfortable in their own skin, or at least trying to be.

I believe God made men and women different – and that it’s good. I gave birth to my second son with no drugs (and yes, I would like several gold stars for this feat even though centuries of women have done the same – they can have gold stars too). I know my husband could not have endured the pain I felt that day, and it’s not because I’m better or stronger or more powerful than him. It’s because I’m built for the task and he is not.

Women and men are different and there should be lots of space to celebrate those differences, but we shouldn’t need to tear down one to build the other. We can help each other in the best possible ways. We can also make each other bananas, which is why dating has been the source of the greatest literary and cinematic comedies for years.

I have a friend who used to tell me that when it comes to dating women, there is sane, pretty, and smart, and you can only get two out of three. His theory was that finding all three is like looking for a unicorn, so when you find someone who fits two of them, you should stick around and probably marry her. Take his theory for what you will – he was mostly kidding. Personally, I feel like most women have all three, just rarely in her possession all at the same time. Which brings me back to having it all…

I don’t think you can. You can have a lot. Certainly families and careers can co-exist and I reference you back to the likes of Shannon Miles and Sheryl Sandberg who’ve done the legwork on that tandem. But we need to own the fact that whatever we decide we want also means deciding what we don’t want, or at least what we’re willing to sacrifice to have the other.

My sister is upper management for an international paper company. She has worked for the same company for eighteen years, having started with them immediately out of college. Her years with the company have included four moves, numerous promotions and department changes, one major recession, a complete overhaul of their industry, and lots and lots of travel. The company has not yet had a female occupy a VP role, but my sister will likely be the first, and likely before she turns 45 years old. Basically, she’s awesome. She has done all of this while maintaining a healthy marriage for the same amount of time, and giving birth to three children who by all accounts are surviving and thriving at the ages of 14, 11 and 10. Her stout resume also includes three Avon Breast Cancer Walks, multiple half marathons, and the running of numerous ministries in their church and community, including the women’s ministry at her church in their last town (that part I can’t explain).

She will be the first to tell you she misses a lot. She misses baseball games and swim meets and dance recitals and school programs. She misses family dinners and sleep – lots and lots of sleep. Her husband doesn’t work full-time outside of their home. He is a brilliant teacher and historian, but he gave it up when the birth of child number three ran right into move number three. It’s a privilege for their family to be able to make that decision, but it’s also a sacrifice, and one they continually navigate.

It would be easy for people on the outside to judge the decisions my sister and her husband have made. It’s not lost on them that others may think she is a bad mom for the number of things she misses, or that he is less of a man for staying at home. I struggle with the women in this conversation more than the men, myself included, because instead of allowing space for others to make decisions and sacrifices, we assuage our own varying levels of career envy and mommy-guilt by trying to find more women to mirror our own decisions and sacrifices. We feign confidence but we’re desperate for reassurance.

I often find myself stuck between wanting to feel special for the work I do that few other women do, and wanting to deny my womanhood completely so it doesn’t have to be a thing for me to defend or empower. I don’t want to be a woman in ministry, I want to be a person in ministry who happens to be a woman – especially since my calling isn’t specifically to women’s ministry. But I’m also lonely a lot of the time because there is something different about being a woman in the role I’m in, and darn it all if I don’t desperately want people to see it and to get it – and, ouch, affirm it.

I talk a big game about knowing I’m doing what God called me to do, but most days I wonder if I’m wrecking my kids, holding back the church, and basically a complete and total hypocrite. I wish I had a bit more gumption, which brings me to my mom.

My mom took herself to church as a little girl. She grew up in the city and decided she wanted to check it out. So one Sunday morning, she got up, put on a dress, and walked a few blocks down the street and through the doors of the closest church. I can’t imagine what the people who saw her must have thought. She liked it though, and kept going back. Eventually her twin sister came along, and then her mom, and soon enough, on rare occasions, her older brothers and her dad would come too.

Spring in New York

Mom, Sister, Me in NYC

I love that about my mom. She’s by far the quietest one in our family (quiet being relative – we’re a pretty loud bunch), and in a sea of strongly-held opinions, she is the peace-maker who simply wants to make sure everyone is included and having fun. But without prompting or even invitation, she took herself to church as a kid. I like to picture her doing it. I would have gotten dressed really loudly and made a production of my decision to try something new, and be “different,” but that’s not my mom at all. She probably got dressed as quietly as she could and slipped out the front door and back in as inconspicuously as possible. She didn’t go to make a point. She went because she wanted to – for her, and for someone bigger she could sense even then. She didn’t feel the need to impress. She just felt the need to go, and so she did.

My mom and her twin sister went on to be the first in their family to go to college. Mom got a degree in music and education. She sings like an angel, which you can tell just by hearing her laugh. She could have done a million different things. She chose to marry my dad and move into the old slave’s quarters of an estate in Princeton, NJ, and work at a bank to help support my dad while he finished seminary. She chose to take job after job as a teacher’s assistant so she could freely move with my dad whenever necessary. She said yes to a life in ministry even though no one ever ordained her or paid her to do it. She spent years directing the church choir as a volunteer and leading Vacation Bible School. She started the prayer ministry, and when churches first began gravitating away from Sunday School and toward small groups for adults, my mom paved the way and led a women’s group that stayed together for over a decade. She also planned and led multiple women’s retreats (yes, the same ones I would avoid like the plague – clearly, the issue is mine).

My mom became the quintessential pastor’s wife, and she did it on purpose without anyone telling her it was the role she was supposed to fill, and she did it while raising two daughters with the gift of her presence at home and also her permission and encouragement to do otherwise – as long as we were listening to God above everything and everyone else. None of this is to say she doesn’t at times regret the opportunities she may have had, or things she may have missed. But we all make choices and we get to own the growth that comes from them.

Also, worth mentioning – my mom started running when she turned 60 and has since done multiple half marathons and other races. She is my hero in every sense of the word!

running with Laura and Mom

A few years ago, our local newspaper named me a “Woman to Watch.” It came with a picture and a write-up and a reception where we were honored and given gifts. My favorite was the “Women to Watch” drinking glass with the logo of the ob/gyn on the back who was sponsoring the event. My kids were ages 3 and 1, and I was a few years into planting a church that still had the opportunity to succeed and break new ground in the church world, or implode without warning. I was equally flattered and mortified by the “Woman to Watch” moniker. While the other women being honored brought family members and friends to the reception, I told no one, brought only my husband, and slipped away early.

As I said, I’m still struggling. I’m long on snark and short on certainty, but grateful for the skin I’m in and the incredible women who amaze me every day as they walk their walk and live on purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Question of Placement

The lady married to my husband is a real piece of work. She gets stressed about work, takes it out on him. Her kids act up, takes it out on him. Frustrated with herself, yup, takes that out on him too.

Man, she’s hard to live with. I should know.

Sometimes I wonder if other people just handle stress better, have perfect kids, and are totally content. That must be why their relationships look happier…

Of course, the other option is that they’re just shoving everything deep inside, or behind a closed door. Repression, maybe that’s the key…except, no, it’s not. I’ve done that too.

So, assuming the perfect kids, 100% stress-free environments, and personal perfection are out of the question, where should we actually go with all of the stuff we’re carrying? It’s easy to ask the people closest to us to carry it, and most of the good ones will really want to, and many will even try, but they have stuff too. And trading stuff can provide temporary relief, but it’s never a long-term plan.

So, back to the question – where do we go with all of the stuff?

Jesus says, “I’ve got you. Bring it all to me.” (Matthew 11:28)

And while that sounds good, most of us don’t do that either. We’re either afraid to talk to God at all, or we’re busy being too polite and proper – talking to God the way we think we’re supposed to talk to God.

But what if God wants the unedited, honest version? What if God can handle it and is, ultimately, the only one who can do anything about it? What if God loves you so much that He cares about what you care about because He so desperately cares about you?

We all have stuff – good stuff, bad stuff, and indifferent stuff. Having stuff is part of life. It’s a question of placement.

We can ruin good marriages by expecting the other person to deal with all of our stuff. We can run off friends with our pretending that we think is working. We can drown silently and alone.

Or, we can take it all to God.

That’s the one I recommend.

(Check out more with week three of Andy Stanley’s “What Happy Couples Know: Sometimes You Have to Throw Things”)

 

 

 

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!

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.