As I was driving back to my apartment last night from Franklin, I found myself thinking about the first time I made this commute last year. I was headed to a game night at a friend’s apartment in Bellevue. I’d never been there and as I drove down the seemingly  never-ending stretch of Old Hickory, I kept hoping I wasn’t lost. Just about the time I was contemplating turning around to see if I’d missed the turn, I saw the complex. I triple-checked to make sure I had the right apartment before knocking and worried about how I was late.  By the time he opened the door, I was was so nervous I almost dropped the plate of brownies I had just baked.

Now when I pull into this apartment complex, it’s to go home. The roads that use to perplex me, especially I-440, are ones I navigate without a second thought. It’s funny how much life can change in a year.

At the beginning of last summer, I kept thinking about Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Well, I was a girl in desperate need of different results so I made some decsions and tried new  things.

The first something different was deciding that I would start wearing dresses just because. I’d always reserved dresses for church, special occasions, and girls nights. But I had these cute sundresses that hung in my closet and it seemed sad not to wear them when it’s sweltering outside just because I limited them to certain activities. So, with some inspiration from my friend Dani and if I’m being perfectly honest, Taylor Swift, I just started wearing dresses whenever I felt like it. It wasn’t a pivotal change but it was a start and it made me happy.

The second decision was to start going to Church of the City in June. This was not a decision I made lightly. It was something that took a lot of consideration and more courage than I care to admit.

The other major decision was accepting an invitation to spend Fourth of July with my best friend and her family and friends. Group activities were not my forte and I’d gotten in a really bad habit of declining social invitations. I can remember around this time my littlest brother telling me I needed friends. I had friends, the life-long and long-distance kind but I knew what he meant. Socially, I was in a huge rut. Since I had declined more than the acceptable amount of invitations from this friend and had no reason not to go, I found myself headed south for the weekend.

And while the dress-wearing decision really only changed my wardrobe, the other two turned my little world upside down so much that I had to write about it. Should you so desire you can read more in these posts: The Beauty of the Church ; A Schooling in KindnessAnother Sun Soaked Season Fade Away.

Which brings me to this summer. Last week I went to Saint George Island, Florida with my family. I love the beach. Being near the water has always been so restorative for me. I can never get over the vastness of the ocean. I still play in the waves like a little kid. It was a really great trip. Our best family vacation in recent history. I think I just appreciated it more this year. Now that I don’t see these people on a daily basis, the time I do get is far more valued. Naturally, since we are a family, we still get on each other’s nerves and push each other’s buttons. But we also have a lot of fun together whether we’re watching the sunset from our dock, laughing at TV shows, playing games, or getting lost trying to find the Barnes & Noble in Dothan, Alabama.

Sprint recently launched an ad campaign introducing what they call a “Framily Plan.” Basically it’s a plan that allows anyone to share a mobile phone contract.  Here’s a commercial if you haven’t seen one:

And while the campaign is more than a little kooky, I love that word. Framily. It’s a word I’ve needed to describe what I’m experiencing this summer.

At missional community (A.K.A. home group) yesterday, I couldn’t help noticing how we’re no longer a group that sits around the table and has stilted, polite conversations. Now we talk across each other at table and our conversations weave in and out of topics and tangents. Politeness has long been replaced with teasing, sarcasm, and blunt observations.  It’s a unique mix of all different ages and stages but to me that just makes it even more like having dinner with family. After nearly a year of meals, service projects, and Bible studies we’ve really grown to love each other. Like any home group we discuss Scriptures and walk alongside each other through serious life-issues but we also have a lot of fun celebrating and laughing together. And isn’t this what the church should look like? Shouldn’t it look more like framily and less like a bunch of stiff, polite people? I think we just might be getting something right.

Speaking of getting something right, I really did get something right when I decided to go to Florence last year for the Fourth. I’ve heard this group called many things from “friends-group” to “village” or “tribe” but if there was ever a place to use the word “framily” this is it. For starters some of the members are actually related by blood or marriage so there is an actual family component to the group. It’s usually pretty easy to see this fact when we play games. As one of four kids myself, I can vouch that games bring out sibling-rivalry more than anyone cares to admit. We are all friends but not all family in the traditional definition which is why I love that “framily” word. Because when we’re all more or less together (which isn’t as often as we’d like due to jobs, school, and being across state-lines) it has the feel of a family. There’s a lot of laughter and fun but there’s also honesty and fraying each other’s nerves.

I went back to that house this Fourth of July. It was a slightly different mix of people. We all arrived slightly different than we left the year before. But one constant is the love you can feel sitting in a room with all these family-friends. At one point, I was blinking tears as we sang around the piano because I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this group of people that adopted me last summer. Because that’s what they did. They didn’t just welcome me or invite me in, they adopted me. I didn’t know how much I needed them and now I don’t know what I’d have done this past year without them.

This weekend a bunch of them are getting together and I have to work. Funny, a little over a year ago I would have been relieved to have work to use as an excuse to get out this kind of social event. Now, I wish I had an excuse to get out of work.

Change isn’t easy. I’ll admit I don’t always like it. Sometimes change drags me along and other times I’ll live in denial that anything has changed. But sometimes deciding to walk through a new door on unsteady feet with a racing heart is exactly what you need to jump-start a better you. And if you’re really lucky you’ll find yourself in rooms of casual acquaintances that a year later become people you can’t imagine not knowing and like me realize change can be a really beautiful thing.


Why I Needed Youth Group and Wholeheartedly Believe in Teenagers

I got caught in a downpour on my way home; one of those summer afternoon storms that soaks everything it touches. I’ve lived in Tennessee for fourteen years and I’m still amazed at how the thunder echoes across the mountains. Walking  in the house, surrendered to the fact I couldn’t avoid getting wet, I found myself thinking, “This is camp rain.”

I cannot tell you how many summer afternoons we spent at youth camp with the same warm, soaking rain falling out of the skies. Sometimes we played in it, dancing around, maybe even getting a little muddy. Other times I can recall sitting in a cabin, eating smuggled snacks, talking (usually about boys) with the best girls I knew. There are so many great memories I have of being at camp. Actually, so many good memories of being in my youth group.

I had an incredible, crazy-cool, youth group experience. I’m not saying there weren’t rough patches or that everyone got along or that we liked all the changes or programs introduced along the way. But I am saying, I was a very blessed girl to be along for the ride.

Growing up, I was a fairly studious, pretty quiet kid. I had a few close friends but I lived in a world of books. I was comfortable there. I could easily entertain myself for hours. And I did, past my bedtime and wound up being grounded from reading. Yeah, I was that kid. So, when my family moved right before I started seventh grade, I was not happy about it. I did not have a good attitude. It wasn’t so much that we were moving as it was I would have to make new friends- and I was not very good at that. I hadn’t had a lot of practice. I was in the same school with the same kids from first through sixth grade. I never had to meet new kids at church for most of that time. When you are one of the pastor’s kids, everyone gets introduced to you. You are the one who knows the drill and helps the new kid meet everyone else. Plus, I’ve always been what people could consider shy (and I consider taking-my-time-wanting-to-know-if-these-are-people-I want-to-know-my-life-story) around new people.

So, there I was, in a new town, terrified I wouldn’t have any friends. I cried about it a lot. But school started and slowly I met people. Some of them I liked a lot and hoped we could be friends. Time after time, when these new people told me where they went to church they said the same name. My family started church shopping. It wasn’t an easy thing for my parents to find a place that they liked that was also a good fit for their kids ages: 13, 11, 9, and 5. After months of searching, we finally ended up walking into the doors of the place that most of my school friends claimed as their own. During the week after my first visit, an amazing lady and a couple of the students showed up at our house to welcome me and tell me more about the programs for students. I wasn’t home at the time, but their visit made me excited and I think it helped my parents know this would be a good place for me. God knew I needed this youth group.

SCAN0004 Continue reading

The Beauty of the Church

“Now, I don’t know what kind of feelings are conjured up in you when you hear the word church. For me, the church has represented the best and the worst moments in my life. I have been more hurt, more judged, more left out, more ostracized by church people than any other group of people in the world. That has been my experience of church people . . . ” ~ Darren Whitehead

When, I heard those words a week ago, I was on edge. These words, I could have written them myself. I’ve lived them. And I know I’m not alone. This is true for some of them people I love the most. This is the heartbeat of social media and pop-culture’s thoughts on church.

Rachel Held Evans wrote a great article, “Why millennials are leaving the church” that resounded with so many people. I particularly loved this quote:

“You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.
Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.”

I know this isn’t just a millennial phenomenon. This is true for the ages. I think it’s always been.

“[…] it feels like everywhere I turn, the Church (with a capital “c”) is hated, distrusted, over-trusted, mocked, angry, sad, naive, unforgiving, judgemental. Broken (with a capital “b”). It’s all of the sudden really cool to love Jesus but hate the church.” ~ Melanie Rainer, b is for broken and beautiful. c is for church.

I was blessed to grow up in a crazy-cool youth group that stretched and grew me beyond my wildest dreams. [Which you can read about here] I was exposed to teaching suited for any aged years. I made friends that became family. I had leaders that challenged and inspired me. I was allowed to step-up into leadership roles myself. I was a shy, awkward girl who desperately needed a place to belong. And I found it. It was far from perfect. There were disagreements, we broke each other’s hearts, and I’m still unlearning flawed theology I’m sure no one ever actually meant to teach us.

But I loved this group of people fiercely. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. So, when two of my former youth pastors planted Church of the City nearby I was equal parts excited and leery. Darren and Jake are people I respect and trust. They are part of my story. Their teaching and more importantly their love has greatly impacted my life. I knew that if they were involved, this would be something I could get behind. This was a place that I wholeheartedly wanted to check out and at the very same time run away from as fast as my legs would carry me. Because this church, though brand new held echoes of my past.
Continue reading

Just a Date

I was sitting across from this incredible twenty-year-old girl at coffee last week and felt that bafflement once again when she told me she’s never dated. Not because she doesn’t want to date. It just hasn’t happened. And let me assure you this girl is not homely. She’s not one of those girls you have to get to know to see her beauty. She’s just beautiful. Big blue eyes, cute figure, great smile and the fact that she’s actually got a great personality, loves God and her family, and is funny should be icing on the cake. She’s totally dateable and yet I’d venture a guess hardly anyone’s asked her out- ever. Because, unfortunately, she’s grown up in this weird Bible-belt culture we’ve created where asking someone on a date is a foreign concept.

I feel it is necessary to add a disclaimer upfront:

1. This is something I’ve been thinking about for years, like 10+ years, basically since I was of dating age.

2. I am not fishing for dates.

3. I know I’m not the only one out here thinking this, so I thought I’d join the current social commentary.

4. This is just me rambling. I’m just putting this out there, not trying to bash a particular school of thought.

5. Mainly, I’m writing this because this is something I wish I’d known at sixteen. What I wish had been okay when I was sixteen.

I’ve always loved anything set in the 1940s. I love the clothes, the history, the WWII era attitude. I adore the dances. Big band + boys that know how to dance = swoon. I think, though, one of the things that struck me as wondrous was the dating culture. The concept of casually asking a girl to a dance or the picture show without all the drama. How incredibly appealing. Back when a date was just that, just a date. I’m not saying there wasn’t drama or heartbreak involved- but I think for the most part people accepted that just because you asked a girl out to the diner didn’t mean you were asking for her hand.

And this was also fairly true in the 60s- 80s. So, what happened? Please, someone give me a clue? How did we go from the accepted casual date to what it was for me in the early 2000s- if you went out on a date it was something way more than casual. You had to have prayed (and possibly fasted) to be sure of what you were doing because essentially a date equaled a relationship. I know that wasn’t always the case, but that’s how it felt.

When did dating become so serious? Continue reading