Small Groups

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about small groups, the friends I’ve made, and the ways in which those relationships have altered the course of my life.

Around a decade ago I joined a new church. I wasn’t looking to change “religions” exactly, but I was longing to find friends in my age group that shared my beliefs and values. My little sister was kind enough to accompany me on my search, and I finally settled on a non-denominational church that felt like home.

A few weeks into attending regularly, a young woman tapped me on my shoulder & invited me to join her small group for an ice cream social the following week at the small group she co-led. To be completely honest, the idea of attending a social event full of people who were already friends, while I knew no one, sounded like the worst idea ever. However, I’d been praying specifically for Christian friends my age for a couple years now, & I figured I kind of HAD to suck it up & go.

Once I was there, it was pretty much what I expected. Everyone was really friendly & sweet, and I felt completely awkward inside. But… God had a surprise for me! While I stood awkwardly in that kitchen planning my escape, in walked one of my best friends from high school (Marie). We lost touch during high school, but when she walked in, I knew I was where I needed to be.

I stuck it out & began attending regularly. Those girls became like sisters to me, and I can honestly say they changed the direction of my life. In addition to attending small group, most of them served in the teen ministry at church, so I joined too. Through that I had the opportunity to be mentored by some incredible leaders and I was taught to understand the Bible in a real & tangible way I’d never experienced before. I can honestly say that my relationship with the Lord would not be what it is today if it were not for the leadership I served under & the friendships I enjoyed during the several years that followed joining that small group.

Over the years several of us went in different directions. Marriages, families, & careers took some of us across the country & other across the world, but those girls will always be like sisters to me. I was honored to be in Melissa’s wedding. Karen invited me to her wedding after only knowing me a few weeks. I was so honored to be included and I can’t even express to you the blessing I felt when she later allowed me to love on her kiddos like they were my own.

Through the years I’ve been fortunate to belong to several amazing small groups. My leadership skills were developed by observing great leaders. For years I’d felt a tug on my heart to lead a small group of my own. I always tucked it away for “someday.” After-all, what do I know? What makes me qualified? When I brought it up to my current church though, they didn’t even hesitate. They trained me, encouraged me, and supported me… and away I went!

I’ve been leading a group of young adult women for almost 2 years now, and it’s amazing to me what God has done. I’ve made friendships I never knew I always wanted. The truth is, I’ve been blessed with some pretty great friends, so I didn’t think I needed any more. Plus, I really hate awkward small talk with strangers, so I was really hoping mostly people I already knew would come… but they didn’t.

It’s been such a privilege to meet & develop friendships with the women that joined this group over the years. Whether it was for a season or the long haul, these ladies have changed my life. It’s been incredible to watch them grow in the gifts God gave them. It’s taken my breath away to watch them step up & meet one another’s needs. One friend came to this group, and through her friendship & support I landed the career of my dreams. It has the potential to completely alter the course of my life.

I’ve really been struck the past few days with how much God has done with simple acts of obedience, stepping out of my comfort zone to attend that first small group and later to step out & host/lead a small group of my own. Who knew so much could come from stepping through my fear & anxiety into what God had planned for me? My life would be radically different today if I chose to remain in the safety of my comfort zone.

If you’re on the fence about joining a small group, or anything else you feel God calling you to, I hope you’ll choose to take that leap. It probably will feel awkward & uncomfortable at first, but I believe God wastes nothing, especially acts of obedience. I can’t wait to hear what He does with your leaps of faith. Leave them in the comments below. =)

 

 

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Egg Shell Carpets

I’m just going to say it. Girlfriend, we are too easily offended. Yes, you. And also, me. If I see one more blog re-post of what not to say, I’m going to scream. I’ll probably be alone in my living room, so you won’t hear me, but just know it’s happening the moment you hit “share.” You know the posts I’m talking about, the top (insert random number) things not to say to a new mom, or an expecting mom, or a nursing mom, or someone without children. Its not just about parenting though. I’ve seen posts about what not to say to runners, to singles, to any career path you can think of, etc. In fact, I just typed “what not to say” into Google & received 1,890,000,000 results. That’s a lot of results.

When did we become so easily offended by people showing interest in our lives? When did we start carrying around carpets made of egg shells to throw down anytime a friend or casual acquaintance might approach? Why do we feel its necessary to take home someone else’s baggage?

When we throw down our egg shell carpets it hurts us and it hurts our relationships, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t bother the haters at all.

Egg shell carpets keep us isolated. Those that are brave enough to navigate the landmine don’t have the freedom to be authentic. Those that respect the boundaries of the carpet miss out on getting to know YOU, and you them. We are designed to be in honest & authentic relationships. In order to grow as individuals we must give the people we trust permission to ask questions & speak truth into our lives.

Yes, we need to create healthy boundaries. Not everyone should have the same access to you, the same clearance to speak into your mind & your heart. And what-of those well-meaning loved ones that sometimes get it wrong? Or what about those abrupt ogres blindly barreling over your egg shells with abandon? Do they get to determine your identity? NO! Like any “truth” you MUST compare it to God’s Word. Is this what God would say about you? Does this sound like His voice? Were these words spoken from a place of love & concern or of brokenness & hurt? It makes a difference.

What of those side ways glances from strangers in the grocery store or casual acquaintances on your way out of church? You know, the looks that give you the super-human ability to suddenly read their minds & know exactly how much they’re judging you with absolutely no knowledge or life experience to do so. Here’s a secret… Its probably not about you. True story. We live in a fairly self-absorbed culture. Chances are that glance had more to do with self-focused inner talk than it did with you. Even if the thought was about you, its still their thing to carry, not yours. Hurtful words, hurtful glaces, and hurtful thoughts flow from hurt-filled people. We all have enough of our own stuff to carry around, lets give ourselves permission to not lug that stuff home with us too.

When you’re offended, its either rooted in your own insecurity or in the insecurity of the offender. Life is messy, inconvenient, and often incredibly frustrating. If you focus on that, you’ll just be miserable and you’ll find yourself surrounded by miserable people.

As Lysa TerKeurst says, “What comes out of a person’s mouth is a reflection of their heart, not yours.” What do you say we take this opportunity to set aside our egg shell carpets, be kind to one another and ourselves, and choose not to be offended by the things that likely have very little to do with us. Yes? I think yes.

2014 In Review – Thanks for doing life with me.

I have readers in Germany, Italy, & Turkey?!! You guys are awesome. Who knew my little blog went global. Thank you for sharing this journey with me. Looks like I better get posting again! – (: Andi

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 630 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 11 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

#LifeWithLuke

Luke

It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to this sweet boy tonight. I’ve debated back & forth on whether to say anything at all, for a few reasons.

The first being, I attended the funeral of an incredible man just two days ago. My precious friend lost her father & two grandfathers within the past two weeks. It puts losing a dog into perspective.

Secondly, I don’t really want to get into the reasons behind the decision publicly. Suffice it to say, its necessary and all other reasonable options have been exhausted.

I spoke with Dave at Sit Means Sit dog training. He was gracious enough to listen & advise me regarding the situation, despite my inability to pay for training. He confirmed that I’m making the right decision. It doesn’t make it any easier, but it helps to hear it from an expert. I appreciate his time so much. If your dog needs training, please help me pay it forward by referring you to Dave.

This breaks my heart. I don’t really want to talk about it. However, so many people have been following my Luke story, that I feel its important to include them in the ending.

If you know me at all, you know being a dog-owner has never been high on my list of desires. I don’t have the time or financial resources to invest in a pet, I don’t like picking up dog-poo, and I have very little knowledge when it comes to doing this dog-thing well. However, after 3 1/2 years with our family, it became necessary for Luke to find a new home. I couldn’t bear to see him go, so I welcomed him into mine just under a month ago. You wouldn’t think an animal I didn’t want could make such an impression in a few short weeks, but to say I’m devastated is an understatement. I’m really going to miss this dude.

Let me tell you some of the sweet & wonderful things about Luke.

  • He’s REALLY good for me. There was some initial boundary testing. He hates when I leave for work & tried to protest a few times by refusing to come in before I had to go, but we’ve worked it out. He’s very obedient.
  • He’s completely house trained. I’ve never had to clean up  mess in the house. He used to snag food off the counter or out of the trash, but I’ve never had a problem here. He even stays off the furniture.
  • When I leave, he runs up the stairs, puts his little feet in window box & watches me go. Its really cute.
  • He’s a gentleman. He prefers to walk on the outside of the street, so he gets splashed instead of me when we’re walking. I’m pretty sure that’s his intent anyway.
  • He protects me. He makes would-be intruders well aware of his presence. If someone were to make a move, I’m certain Luke would save the day.
  • He loves me. He prefers to be in whichever room I’m in, and normally will only eat if I stay in the kitchen with him. He’s my buddy.
  • He gives me great hugs when I get home everyday.

Tomorrow is going to be difficult. Tonight is excruciating. I’ll give him all the loving I can before I leave for work. My brother will pick him up and take him to the vet later that morning. I’m grateful that Josh will sit with him for me. I’m not looking forward to returning to a Luke-free home; to packing up his things; to moving on without him. I know its the right thing, I know its what must be done. It breaks my heart to do it.

I miss you already sweet puppy…

Bring on the ugly cry.

Aside

When At Home

I am incredibly honored to be able to share my voice on the When At Home blog. Part of me wishes I could have been a tad more eloquent, as the ladies in this series have been, but I am so grateful & blessed by this opportunity. Thank you, Kristen.

Check it out here:

http://www.whenathome.com/finding-hopeandreas-story-non-mom/

Being Single

I don’t know what this is about.

I’m not here to complain. I mean, Lord knows I could find things to complain about, but that’s not why I’m here.
 
I’m not desperate. I’m not looking to marry anyone, or to settle for someone who I KNOW isn’t right for me. I’ve been accused of being too picky. It’s important to give people a chance, even if they aren’t necessarily your “type.” There’s a fine line though, between being too picky and knowing when a match just isn’t right. I’m not willing to settle, just so I won’t be alone.
 
In fact, I do like being alone. There’s something really nice about coming home at the end of the day to a quiet house where I don’t have to interact with anyone. It’s amazing to slip into my comfiest pajama pants (the ones with the holes and stains and fabric that feels like heaven against your skin.) Its freeing to pull my hair back, wash off my make-up, and watch whatever I want to watch on TV. It doesn’t matter what I look like, because no one else can see. It doesn’t matter that there are dishes in the sink & the house is cluttered & messy. Popcorn for dinner when I don’t feel like cooking? It’s just me, & I don’t care. Its awesome. You know you’re a little jelly.
 
So, when friends ask if there are any men in my life, I laugh (out loud – there hasn’t been a man in my life in nearly a decade). I tell them its cool. I love my life the way it is… and I do. But also, I want more.
 
I’ve read some really awesome blog posts over the past few days, including Let Your Husband Love You by my amazing friend, Kristen,  10 Marriage Tips Every WIFE Needs to Hear, and 7 Keys to a Happy Wife by Karen & Frank Lotado. Marriage has been my passion for as long as I can remember – not only to be married myself, but to help others be intentional & do it well. I love soaking up wisdom in this area. I love learning how to do things God’s way, because He loves us & He wants good things for our lives. Long ago I dreamed of being a marriage therapist, but I allowed that dream to be squashed. I’ve been trying to reclaim it, but its been a challenge to say the least. Grad school costs a lot of money these days, & I’m done with taking on debt. I’m not giving up, but that’s another blog.
 
In reading these articles, watching sappy movies, and one very sweet episode of How I Met Your Mother, I felt that all too familiar twinge of longing. The one I stuff deep down inside. You see, when you are a chronically  single lady you need to balance between two extremes – Miss Independent and Miss Desperation. If you say you want to find someone, you look needy and desperate. If you don’t, you just go on being alone. I kind of hate being needy so I tend to try to do it all myself. (Generally I fail at this & my sweet brothers pick up the slack, but you get the idea.) I don’t NEED a man to make me whole… I just want to fall in love.
I would like to be a wife and a mother, not for the title, but because for me there’s great value in the role. I want to be someone’s soft place to fall. I want to love & encourage my husband in a way only a wife can, to help him be the man God created him to be. I want to give him the respect he desires and honor he deserves. I want an opportunity to live out the lessons God has placed on my heart. I want a chance to mess up, eat my words, and do better next time. I don’t expect marriage to change my life in some fairy-tale, everything-is-finally-perfect, happily-ever-after kind of way. My heart longs to experience the kind of emotional, spiritual, and (yes) physical intimacy only a God-centered marriage can provide. I want to be a mom. I want the privilege of loving, cherishing, & raising children of my own. I welcome the overwhelm, frazzled-hair, no-end-in-sight-to-this-madness kind of days, weeks, years. I know they are hard. I know you’re worn out mommas. I know you wouldn’t trade them for the world (most of the time). I love that you share your little blessings with me. I cherish the opportunity to “help” out & love your children with you. Some days it makes me grateful for the peace & quiet at my house. Secretly, deep-down, it’s all I want out of life.
 
Dreams are crazy. They are rooted so deeply in our identity that admitting them, out-loud, can make us feel naked & vulnerable down to our very core. That’s how I feel. I want to keep living the lie that I am 97% satisfied with my life the way it is, and I don’t need anyone else. Really, I don’t need a husband & children to complete me. I have Jesus, an amazing family, & the best friends ever. I have everything I need, even if it does mean working 13 hour days to maintain it. However, I firmly believe God loves His children and He enjoys giving us the desires of our hearts.  I have no idea why I felt the need to share those desires with the world, on this blog, but it’s happening. It’s out there. Yikes. Oh well. 😉
 
Like I said, I don’t know what this is about…

Aside

Grace

As I walk through this season, if I’m really honest, I do have fear about my future, based on my past.

I’m not a helpless victim. There were many opportunities for me to do things better, to handle situations differently, to keep my mouth shut. It doesn’t matter whether or not my grievances were true. I wasn’t honoring God and I could have/should have handled things differently, more directly. Griping behind someone’s back never honors the relationship. I regret my choices, even if they weren’t the reason I was terminated. They do not reflect the level of character & integrity I want to possess. Its a lesson I’m continuing to learn.

Years ago I lost a job due to false accusations made by another co-worker. The conversation never happened (with me anyway) and the information she claimed I shared wasn’t even accurate. It was a shock. It hurt. It was God’s way of moving me on from an otherwise bad situation that I probably wouldn’t have left on my own. It left me with emotional scars I’m still healing from today.

Deep down, one of my biggest fears is that it’s too late, I have too much stacked against me. No one will ever hire me again.

I have a lot of great things to offer: I work really hard. I learn fast. I’m eager to please & try to do my best to make the load lighter for others. I’m intelligent (with enough coffee). I’m dependable, dedicated, & loyal. I’m good with people. I’m fairly well-spoken. I can operate a computer & learn most programs pretty easily. I do good work.

Still, I am far from perfect. I fall short. Sometimes my best effort is not enough. My fear is that potential employers will look at my resume, see the gaps in my work history, & move on. They don’t know me, why take a chance? I don’t blame them, but my fear is that I will never be enough. I fear that life will always be this way.

Today, God assured me that I don’t have to be enough because He is. In reading my daily devotional, I came across this quote from Joyce Meyer:

“Today, don’t just hear about grace, but understand that everything in our lives depends not on our merits or abilities or works, but on God’s willingness to use His infinite power to meet our needs. This is grace.” – Joyce Meyer

You can read the entire passage here. I recommend you do.

It left me with the peace of knowing its not about me. Yes, I still need to work hard. I need to keep trying. I need to work on my weaknesses & I need to do better. But, I can’t earn God’s blessings or provision. That’s a relief for me, as I impatiently wait for a breakthrough. Of course, I knew all along that it was God who would open doors & make a way. Still, its helpful to be reminded that He’s not limited by my shortcomings.

Ephesians 2:8 reminds us, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” HE saved me. I belong to him. I am His child. He will take care of me.

“The Lord will not abandon his people, because that would dishonor his great name. For it has pleased the Lord to make you his very own people.” (1 Samuel 12:22)

I know I share a lot online, but I’m hesitant to speak publicly about work-related things, especially during a season where I’m hunting for a job. Admitting I’m aware I’m not perfect seems counter-productive. However, I’m more excited about what God is doing in my heart than I am afraid of how I may look & of potential repercussions.

I want this season to end. I can’t wait to get back to work. I really hope its soon. Until that time, I will do my best to honor God in my current season, & praise Him for His GRACE.

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