Give it all away

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My current job is a ministry job. I work at a homeless shelter that believes that Jesus is Lord and when he changes hearts, he changes lives. I work at this job 8:30am until 5:00pm Monday through Friday. My husband and I also lead a married small group every Monday where we provide dinner. We volunteer at church a couple Sunday’s a month. We continue keeping in contact with friends near and far, and my dad spends almost every other weekend in our 750 square foot apartment. This is a lot of people and a lot of time. I am telling you all of this because I am an introvert; I refuel by being alone. Most of the time I can wiggle in one or two nights of rest. I can choose to say no to things most of the time. I tell myself I should say no because I already do “too much.” Though, I’m starting to wonder if this is more a selfish attitude than an attitude of Christ.

The implementation of boundaries is being preached on more and more. Saying no to something that may make you too tired or too busy is often encouraged. Let me first say there is a balance, and I do believe we need to take care of ourselves and our mental health. I’m not promoting burn out, but I am promoting being interruptible.

I am a very selfish person. I almost always choose myself. It requires the Holy Spirit to make me want to think about other people. I’ve picked up the idea of boundaries, used it and abused it. I have built walls around myself so that I don’t have to give too much, I can give just enough without being hurt. I can love Jesus and love my neighbor, but only when it is comfortable for me and when I am not too tired or when it is convenient.

Four years ago I was doing overseas missions. I was gone for about a year. Every day I was spent. I was pushed to my breaking point. I was asked to give more than I had. More time, more energy, more food, more money, more passion, more prayer, more praise, more effort, more everything. Every day I would go to bed exhausted because every ounce of me was being given. That time in my life was where I felt more alive and the closest to God. I was living and breathing the scriptures. I couldn’t do anything before first being filled with the Spirit. That’s what I think I’m missing, and maybe you’re missing it too. I’m not filling myself up. I’m not allowing God to “pour me out like a drink offering” (Phil 2:17). I will allow just enough to be poured out, but don’t pour out too much, Lord! I need to save some for myself, I need to take care of me, no one else will, right?

I’ve picked up expectations and boundaries like luggage, carrying them around with me, never letting anyone forget that these are mine. You cannot touch these.

Jesus asks for more.

He asks for me to lose my life to find it. (Matt 16:25) To love others so much that I forget about myself. He asks me to seek first his kingdom, not my own. (Matt 6:33)

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6)

Jesus lived his whole life submitted to what his Father wanted. He was interrupted time after time.

I’m reminded of the story of the woman who touches the hem of Jesus’s robe in Luke chapter 8. He is walking with his disciples through a large crowd and so many people are grabbing him, including his disciples. This woman who has been bleeding for twelve years reaches out and touches the hem of his cloak and is immediately healed. Jesus, in the midst of this chaos asks “who touched me?” The story continues with a conversation with the woman. I urge you to read it on your own, but, what I want to highlight is how Jesus stops. He stops in the midst of a crowd that the scripture says is “crushing him.” He allows himself to be interrupted. He allows himself to be given to this woman. I don’t do that often enough.

I want to live my life in submission to what the Lord has in store for me, for his family. I want to be able to come home from work and still be available to be taken from. I want to say yes to someone who is in need and desires my time instead of pushing them away because I’m tired or because I need my “alone time” first. It is all an excuse. Jesus promises to be living water. We have access to that water any time we want, just as he promised the woman at the well. (John 4:14)

I believe when we are giving ourselves and serving others, Jesus is going to provide for us. He is going to fill us because he is the well that never runs dry.

That’s what it was like while I was doing missions. Living to the fullest, and pouring it all out to be filled again. I want to know I am living at my full capacity, loving with no agenda and serving without expectation. To give all I have of myself. To love so boldly it is impossible for me to keep any for myself. None of what I have is mine. It’s all his. All my gifts, all my talents, all of myself. He’s asking me to give it all away, and that is what I am going to do.

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Planning the Unplannable

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For months i’ve been fighting against unknown territory. I’ve been fighting against things not planned and not laid out in bullet points.  Trevor and I have been on the edge of something new, but just far enough from the edge to make us crazy. We have not been pushed over the side yet and we don’t really know what’s at the bottom. We’re not quite sure where we are headed and lists aren’t helping us at this point. We know God is moving us into something, we feel it, the air around us is thick with promise, but my head is going to explode planning the unplannable.

I’m with the majority of people who like to know what’s going on every second of  every day. I like to know the plan before the plan exists. I wasn’t always like this. Three years ago, while I was overseas doing missions, I was the ultimate go-with-the-flow girl. Over there you aren’t given a chance to be anything else. If you had plans, they most likely would be ruined, which is why we had to learn not to make plans and just let whatever was going to happen, happen.

My hands are clenched so tightly around control: clenched around this perfect list so it looks like I have my life together, or create the illusion i’m doing something special. Ultimately, by trying to have so much control I’m not listening to God or his plans. I’m focusing on what I can see and what I can make into nicely color-coordinated schedule. I want to let go of this false control. I don’t want to lose my sh*t every time something goes wrong or we’re running late (gasp!).

If you’re in our close circle of friends you may know how hard this season has been for Trevor and I. It’s hard to explain without making it sound like we’ve hated every aspect of our last two years in Kalamazoo. We’ve had good days while living here and I’m so glad we have met the people who have chosen to invest in us, but most of the time has been us fighting hard against this shallow community.

I have avoided talking about our experience with church because I don’t want to step on toes, but i’m not sure it’s the healthiest response. Our first year in Kalamazoo we deeply invested our whole-selves into a local church. We served in the youth group. I interned in the office. Trevor performed in a play.  We did everything extracurricular we could enroll in and volunteer for. From our experience; if you wanted community you had to invest in the people and in the church. We invested, we planned parties at our apartment, we did everything we knew how to do to build community. Now, before I go on, Trevor and I have fully owned up to any wrong on our part. We turned down some opportunities that we probably should have taken. In hindsight, we believe we did everything we could to become part of this community without burning ourselves out. After a year with no real interest from others in reciprocating investment in us other than attending Sunday’s services, we decided to leave that church. There were also checks in our spirit about the gospel they were preaching but I think less is more on that subject. Since we’ve left, I’ve seen multiple things happen that have confirmed for me leaving was the best decision. One being, not a single person from the church has tried to reach out and see how life has been going for us. After a year: nothing!

Even moving churches we have yet to see any form of intentional relationship building. One of my friends from out of town said to me recently she believes Kalamazoo is “spiritually apathetic.” After two years, I can see it. Despite the great lack of genuine community out here, we have made a few authentic relationships at work and through our new church. Even so, our community is dry.

For me church isn’t the building: it’s the people. Church will still exist if every church-building burns to the ground. The Holy Spirit lives inside of a believer. I have had the unique experience to personally see what genuine community is and what church should look like. I don’t think I will ever see it again until Heaven, but I want to at least try. Trevor’s and my heart are so invested in intentional community and no matter how many people deny our invitation we are still going to give it out. I will continue to invite people into our home even if only one person shows up. I will continue to invest in the ministry of a church-building because I believe it helps broken people see Christ.  I’m aware there is no such thing as a perfect Church; i’m not looking for that, believe me. I’m looking for a church that talks more about their weaknesses than their strengths. I’m looking for a church not afraid to cry, not afraid to admit when they are wrong. I want a church that doesn’t cover up failure.

This new thing God is doing is getting closer, but we are still in the unknown. This unknown is giving me inexpressible joy. Joy that only comes from a God who is planning my life more beautifully than I ever imagined. I know we are moving out of this season. I know he is bringing us into a new place of rest and understanding.

I think I grasp so hard at control because I can’t control what is hurting us. I can’t control the way people invest in us. I can’t control the fact that my husband doesn’t have a community of men. I’ve wanted some sort of control and I made it my mission to make our lives seem fine with a I-don’t-need-you-anyway type of attitude. The truth of the matter is we were hurt and some days we are still hurt. I think a lot of the time when we are hurt we cling to what we can control instead of an unchanging God. God isn’t a broken church or a lacking community. God isn’t a yes than a no. God never disappoints and never fails.

My heart is for community, and I know God’s is too. He’s been teaching me a lot about saying “anything.”  He’s been teaching me a lot about “yes” and about “no.” He’s been teaching me about how to show up broken, but to allow him to do it despite all of the mess. Trevor and I have come to the conclusion that we don’t really want what we thought we wanted. We’re praying the prayer, “God, we will do anything.” We are saying yes to things that help us see Jesus and no to things that are too much, too soon. We are learning to take breaks and to breathe. We are learning that God is in the resting, just like he’s in the going.

The new thing is coming, and I’m excited. I’m excited because I know I didn’t plan this. It’s not on a color-coordinated schedule. A plan unknown to me, but held by an unshakeable God. I know whatever it is, it’s out of my control and I think i’m finally ok with that.