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Being the people we are raising our kids to be-Trying New Things

I love my daughter. I love all 3 of my daughters. I love my son too, just in case he’s reading this, (he’s not…he’s five). Our oldest daughter is 7 and she is smart, determined, and loves to read. She takes leadership of many things, siblings included, and she is a perfectionist, which is a tough combination to contend with when you are doing something new.

Whether it is math, piano, or baseball, if she can’t preform the task perfectly the first time, she wants to give up. Tears run, voices are raised, bedroom doors are slammed shut in frustration. Over and over, the words of her mother and I come, “Babe, you can’t expect to do something perfectly the first time. If you want to get better at something you have to practice.” Often, our words go unheeded.

I was recently asked to write a couple things for a good friend and mentor who is developing a training curriculum for new church planters. I said yes because I love and respect my friend, and I believe in the project he is working on. Yet, as I began to write I was so frustrated! Nothing was coming out right, I hated what I had written and wanted to give up over and over again. My internal dialogue was filled with biting questions, “Why can’t this be easier, sound better, or come out right? Why is this so difficult?”

Why is it, when we can challenge our kids to try new things, to practice, and keep going, even when something is new and difficult, we as the adults become so discouraged and want to give up when we do the same? The reasons are legion. For me, the questions sound like this, “What if I suck at this? What if people hate what I write? What if I hate what I write? What if someone actually reads this and has an opinion for good or ill?” While I like to talk a big and inspired game to my kids about doing new things, working to get better at what I struggle with, and not giving up; often my fear of failure, the opinion of others, and my pride combine to short circuit my good intentions.

It’s helpful to remind ourselves that before we do something well, we have to do it poorly, and before we do it poorly, we have to suck at it. The quicker we get about the business of being terrible, the quicker we can perform adequately, then reasonably, then exceptionally. Anne Lamont says, “it takes a thousand paragraphs to find one good one.” Yet, you don’t get the good one without the thousand bad ones. It was that initial ask by my friend to write for him that made me realize my deficiency and then commit to writing more, albeit terribly to begin with. Hence, the great amount of activity on this site as of late.

With anything we put our energy towards we will run into those that throw stones, cast dispersions or generally don’t like us. Yet, that only matters if we are doing it for them and their approval. If not, just keep going, grinding and realize the reward is ultimately internal, in the process of getting better. If we are raising our kids to be the best possible versions of themselves, we owe it to them and us, to be the people we are raising them to be.

You wont be seven forever

I took you out last night, Daddy Daughter Date. You were so excited. You looked so pretty. When your brother looked at you in your blue dress, midnight, the color I remember half moon lake where I grew up, he said, “You look like a women!” his cheeks blushing. The necklace was made with your own hands, and you were both beautiful. Your mom took our picture, and that’s when I saw it, you wont be seven forever.

I walked you to the Volkswagen, and you climbed into the back seat, a mess of arms and legs. You were slightly annoyed at having to ride in your old cast off booster seat, and I had to help buckle you in, but I will take it today.

The dinner was Italian buffet and you ate two plates of spaghetti and noodles, and two breadsticks. I even got you a cherry Sprite, and you were so happy. I know in 10 years it will take more than a cherry Sprite for you to be happy, but I will take it today.

Rainbow sherbet for dessert and we took a silly picture with a polaroid camera, the memory of the evening seared onto photo paper, and that’s when I knew it, you wont be seven forever.

You gave me a handwritten card that said you loved me because I was “Brilent” . Please always give me cards. You held my hand as we walked through the parking-lot and called it a perfect night, commenting on the nice breeze, the moon rising, and how nice we both looked. I opened the door for you and you said excitedly, “Daddy! You are like a gentlemen in disguise!” That’s when I heard it, you wont be seven forever.

I know in 10 years it will take more than noodles, cherry Sprite and holding my hand for you to be happy, but I will take it today. Even though you wont be seven forever, you are seven today, and that is enough.

 

Sweet Spots

Yes… I do post lots of pictures of the best moments of my day. Why? Because I think we need that reminder sometime.

Real life in my house is always messy, lots of sibling fights, short remarks I make to my husband after a long day with the kids. Real life is me trying to keep my eyes open to make it through another lesson… Opening the fridge at 5:30 and thinking what on earth will I make for dinner when remnants of school and snacks liter the kitchen ( along with ALL the Tupperware on the floor… By my 14 month old😉).

I get so tired and the kids are needy and I’m needy…

But then a great moment happens and I snap a picture because right along with the crazy is the beauty. We just have to stop and recognize it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those mothering. To those serving, loving and giving day after day.

Don’t forget to find the beautiful in the mess. I’m not trying to hide my mess from anyone. Just trying to remember all the sweet spots.

Leadership failures in Church Planting (part 2)

Earlier this week I posted the first of two parts in Leadership Failures in Planting. You can read that post here. Today I want to continue by giving you the other six reasons our plant failed from a leadership perspective.

I launched us without enough preparation

While our core group had been meeting for several months before we moved to the community we planted in, our family had only been in town about 3 months when we held our first “preview” service. Most of those who came initially were well wishers and servants from our sending church about 25 minutes away. I didn’t give myself enough time to build relational and missional credibility in the community before we began worshiping weekly. Also, while we did a great job with serving in the community once we started, this should have started months before the first service and lasted much much longer. Additionally, while I thought everyone was on the same page with the vision, purpose and mission of the church, and how we would pursue and fulfill the mission, the truth is they weren’t. The sole responsibility for casting clear and compelling vision was mine, and while it was clear in my mind and heart, I’m not sure our people embodied it very well. It didn’t translate, even though it sounded really cool! As I’ve heard Brian Sanders say, “If you have to remind people of the vision every seven days, there’s a good chance they don’t get it.”

I didn’t listen as much as I should have

Not listening enough has a direct relationship to not being prepared. When those in the church came to me with legitimate concerns, I needed to take time to listen. Instead of slowing down, practicing pastoral patience and listening more intently, I used “my vision” as a stick to beat people with. This resulted in feelings of inadequacy and guilt in those who in my eyes, “just didn’t get it.”. 

I didn’t consider the perception of our meeting space

We were very blessed to partner,  with a local parachurch youth ministry in our community that has a sterling reputation! The ministry owned a wonderful facility with a great meeting space for us to use and even office out of at no charge! Yet, what began as a great opportunity limited us when we never moved from there. The longer we remained in their facility the more our church became associated with that ministry, and we failed to establish our own identity in the eyes of the community. The biggest reason we stayed so long is we didn’t have enough resources to rent any other space. Another result of not raising enough support.

I didn’t bring a seasoned leader with me

De Soto Community Church was the first church I planted, and the first church I ever lead as the sole Pastor. While I had served on staff at a church prior to this, and lead other aspects of ministry, I had never lead a group of people on a level like this before. The combination of my lack of senior leadership, my age when we planted (26), and the fact that we had no children at the time, lead to what I saw as a reluctance to follow leadership coming from someone unseasoned. While I couldn’t do anything about my age or our current family make up, I could have built my team with people in different phases of life to ensure that as decisions were made, it wasn’t just my voice speaking. Planting with a plurality of leadership voices would have also served to help guide me personally through decision making.

I didn’t capitalize on the victories we did experience

God did a lot of incredible things in De Soto!  The Gospel was preached, lives were changed, and the name of Jesus has a good reputation in the community through the work of which we were a part. Our neighbors grieved when we left, (we grieved as well), civic and governmental leaders voiced sadness we were closing, and teachers and administrators in the schools we were active in also were saddened. Yet, when good things did happen, I didn’t celebrate. When our members gave tirelessly of their time in sports camps and block parties, I didn’t honor them. When we received more contacts than we could handle at outreach events, I didn’t follow up as thoroughly as I should have. Many times these things occurred because I never asked and equipped others to join me in the work.

I wasn’t humble enough

I let my pride, hubris and youthful arrogance get in the way. I didn’t walk closely enough with others who could speak with clarity, honesty, and focus into the specifics of my life and leadership. These people who could have helped weren’t there because I didn’t invite them in. As young leaders we must fight for other people to pour into our lives. One constant in the lives of the leaders we most want to emulate in our lives and ministry is how full their schedule is. If we want time with them, we must be teachable and persistent. I always wasn’t. Saying you didn’t meet with your coach that month, because they didn’t respond to your one call or email is on you, not them.

So, what are some lessons learned? Read about that here.

Read Part 1 here

Read Part 3 here

The Move

IMG_20160602_174000We live in a great house; Midcentury modern, open floor plan, wood floors, lots of light, plenty of space. We live in a great house in a great neighborhood; brick paved streets, awesome neighbors, short walk to amazing coffee and Allen Fieldhouse, (Rock Chalk), and close to the highway. We live in a great house, in a great neighborhood, in a great town; Lawrence, Kansas; home to Kansas Basketball, incredible food, (like this, this and definitely this), (and this and this) great church plants, and dear, dear friends. And we are moving…

Three years ago, Jessica and I moved to Lawrence with the expectation that we would spend at least ten years in this house, in this neighborhood, with these friends, raising our two, almost three, and now four kids. We expected our family to live out the mission of God in our neighborhood, planting roots and seeking the good of our city together with other sojourners who wanted and were lead the same.

Yet, this life we were building in the pursuit of all this good, increasingly brought us out of alignment with each other, our kids, and ironically the mission we feel called to.

The thing about great old houses in great neighborhoods is they aren’t cheap and they are prone to breaking. The thing about having four kids is, they aren’t cheap and they also are prone to breaking. The way God built, is building our family requires a lot of bandwidth both housesalepicin terms of time and resources. Over time, the combination of a growing family (and growing medical bills, living expenses) and a house in constant need of updating and repair, lead us to a situation where me having secondary employment wasn’t just a nice bonus, but an absolute necessity financially.

Over the last four years, in addition to my work with the North American Mission Board as a Church Planting Catalyst, I have been incredibly blessed and humbled to serve four different churches in an interim pastor capacity. God has been incredibly gracious in each of those situations, both to myself and the churches we were involved with. In each, God has brought growth and healing for myself and the churches involved and each stop has allowed us to stay afloat financially. Yet, in the intervening months when I wasn’t serving a local church as interim, our family fell off a cliff financially. This cycle has repeated itself yearly over the last four years and has combined to place us under a mountain of debt and stress. Additionally, and more importantly, for the majority of the last four years, our family has worshipped in different locations on Sunday mornings, as some churches have been at a considerable distance to travel with four young children and I have missed precious time at home when local church responsibilities have required my presence.

For me to continue leading my family in worship with them, as well as spend the time I desire with each of them as they grow, things had to change. If you remember, here; Jessica and I shared an expression of the Mission God has called our family to and for us to complete that mission requires time; time from and with both of us. In short, our current life was increasingly out of alignment with the goal and mission of our family.

At the end of the day, while we love our home, it’s not the idol that defines our identity and it’s not the most important thing in our life. Rather, our home is a useful tool in our God called work of building “a family of missionary servants“. Our hope is that again soon we will own a home that we can joyfully work on together and for that place to be the place our children remember growing up. IMG_20160602_173918It is also our hope to serve a local church as a family together, not separated as has been the case for too long.

So, for the time we have remaining in this house we’ve made a home, instead of sadness and mourning, we choose to live in thankfulness and gratitude. And instead of fear and unknowing, we choose joyful expectation of what God has ahead.

 

 

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but where are those who think of changing themselves? People may genuinely want to be good, but seldom are they prepared to do what it takes to produce the inward life of goodness that can form the soul. Personal formation into the likeness of Christ is arduous and lifelong”

— Richard Foster

Less is More

While perusing lifehacker the other day I came across this great piece by Greg McKeown on how our unrelenting desire for success is often the very thing that fuels our failure. For McKeown the process looks something like this.

Clarity of Purpose—>Success–>Options & Opportunities–>Diffused Efforts–>Undermining of Clarity.

We are a society and a people addicted to activity; to the pursuit and acquisition of more. While this is easily seen in the accumulation of material goods,it has now filtered into our energy and efforts as well. Instead of focusing in on what we are most passionate about, well equipped, gifted and enabled for and making a dogged commitment to those few things; we have instead become a culture and people obsessed with diversification, becoming jacks of all trades and masters of none.

Think of this as it relates to areas of personal growth and church life?  How easily do we allow competing vision, value and activity to undermine or sidetrack our original direction?

How often do we agree to take on a new project or opportunity without considering the potential cost to other areas of focus?

With a little focused effort we can begin to recover the clarity of purpose that led to our initial success. McKeown offers some questions to help guide our thinking.

…ask three questions: “What am I deeply passionate about?” and “What taps my talent?” and “What meets a significant need in the world?”…We aren’t looking for a plethora of good things to do. We are looking for our absolute highest point of contribution.

 

Read the whole thing here.

Crafting Good Questions

One of the things I most enjoy, and sadly seem to run out of time for, is blog reading. Among many of the benefits of the internet is the opportunity to learn from and engage with many others, across several disciplines, for the purpose of mutual edification, promoting of understanding and sheer fun. Regardless of whether or not I happen to agree with everything I encounter, I seldom leave something I have read without a better understanding of whatever the topic in question is. An essential element in cultivating understanding is a desire to see the author prove his/her point in a conversation even if there is disagreement.

In this post from one of my favorite sites, The Art of Manliness, guest author Tony Valdes writes the third and final post in a series on active listening. Focusing mainly on the art of crafting good questions, Valdes gives us a series of templates to use in seeking better and cordial understanding in conversation. In an evangelical culture that sadly tends towards looking for ways to disagree rather than finding common ground, words like the following are refreshing and needed.

The importance of respectfulness and tact in our responses cannot be overstated, regardless of whether we are asking questions, agreeing, disagreeing, or qualifying.  As gentlemen, we need not stoop to rude or abrasive responses.  Even the best listening can be nullified and the interaction ruined by boorish behavior.

Read the whole thing here.

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