Monday, April 22, 2013

Lauren Schwaar Is My Hero

Meet Lauren
Today I miss Lauren. There is no one in the world quite like Lauren Schwaar. She is priceless, hilarious, tender-hearted, pleasantly sarcastic, humble, patient, a fantastic listener, and actually human, just like the rest of us. Last summer (two summers ago?) I played sand volleyball every week with my church, and I would always try to be on Lauren's team, not just because she is a kick-ass athlete and made the rest of us not-so-great athletes look better, but because Lauren is a team player. She genuinely wants others to achieve what they can, and she wants to be there to help make that happen.

I am not a great athlete (shocking, I know) I am however, irrationally competitive. So, sports are a stage for frustration. One week I had enough - enough failure, enough irritation with myself for being the weakest link, and enough angst to stubbornly not quit. While in between  matches, I took out my angst on trying to serve overhand - mostly so I could hit that ball with all of my might and to try my hardest to get something right without being in the way. The ball went under the net again and again and again, and Lauren lobbed it back to me again and again and again. We never talked about it. I did not ask for help, and in fact I did not really want encouragement or coaching. I needed the space to be upset at my lack of athletic ability. I still have no idea if Lauren knew all of this.  She is one smart cookie, and I would guess that through her years of basketball that she knew what state I was in, she saw a need, and a way to meet me in that place. She simply did what she does- she was there, letting me be how I was, quietly helping me get past my own frustration so that I could get better. There was little hope of ever learning to serve overhand, but there was realistic hope that if I could work out my frustration that I would have more fun.

I have no idea what is going on in this picture, but there is a llama and that is awesome
And I did, because Lauren was not afraid of my angst, and she was not afraid of my poor athleticism and she was willing up to her ankles in both. Lauren is a steadfast friend. This quality carries over into many, many parts of Lauren's life and I am excited to see what God will bring about through her and in her. I miss you, I love you dear friend, and you are my hero. ;)

Doesn't she just look like a boss?
My point is further illustrated by my search of Lauren's facebook to steal pictures of her. (Calm down, Lauren, they were already on the internet and you have more facebook friends than I have blog followers) 1. It was not east find a picture of Lauren by herself. 2. In almost every picture I did find Lauren was doing something crazy badass or just crazy like running, hiking, jumping off of heights, or pretending that she is upset by being hugged, squished, or in other ways celebrated by others. 3. There are a bazillion pictures of Lauren, all posted by other people. Laruen. is. awesome. And no, darlin, I don't have a back-up super hero.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

sometimes good things hurt

Sometimes it hurts to press into a good thing. I want to stay at this church. It is alive and tender, and it is a healing place. And I want to be actively involved in youth ministry. I cannot have both. The tension pulls at my heart, and I need guidance. Your voice, Your answer is what I want and dread. Neither choice is complete, but the one You have lead me to is full.
I wince at Your compassion; I am tender and unable to hold back the tears that come when my pain is not hidden from the soft, knowing touch of the Spirit who is my shepherd. Though I still feel shy and unknown by people around me, I hear Your voice, leading me by still waters, restoring my heart.
Now I am faced with a greater challenge to step forward yet again with that internal courage to share with others - to enter into this church body.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Church Search- Church Without Teenagers?

Every time I see Josh Garrels, I walk away with something new in my spirit, some way that my soul was challenged, filled, or usually full to bursting. Annie and I saw him and Mason Jar Music Sunday at the Athenaeum Theater, which is a lovely venue and reminds me of the Goodman Theater in Waukegan. Half of the show, a feature-length film- The Sea and In Between, ended with a call to enter into other's passions and gifts, and therefore enter into each other's joy. What a beautiful, godly call to community.

That seems like a gap in my life. Am I entering into the joy of those around me? Am I sharing myself in the way that I ought to be? What are my passions and am I sharing them?

I am passionate about teenagers and about youth ministry. I am currently without an outlet for those passions, and I feel like small pieces of myself are withering. I ache to walk with adolescents as they discover their thoughts about God, truth, themselves, community, and spiritual reality. I have been volunteering for over ten years and this is the longest stretch I have gone without being actively involved in some form of youth ministry. Here is the kicker- there are 2, count them, 2 adolescents in the church I have been attending. 

Can I really contribute to this body? Since some very deep parts of myself are enlivened in youth ministry, does that mean that I won't be able to fully contribute by listening deeply to others? And what about sharing my joy? Will I really be alive and awake and bringing all of who I am to this particular church? Am I able to give all of who I am when so many parts of me already feel atrophied? 

Do I leave what I am building to start the searching part over, looking for a church where I can get involved in their youth ministry?  The thought of going back to the searching process is heartbreaking; it was so grueling and hollow. Are there other ways to bring more of who I am? Is there a challenge in this for me? A growth edge? How long might that take and what does that mean in the interim? I can't know what is next and it has already been a process to get here, How much longer do I want to be a volunteer without helping to form and change the way they are doing youth ministry? And how long do I wait? 

Sigh. If I am not actively involved in youth ministry I fear I am walking away from part of my calling and functional design. That seems like a loss not only for me, but for whatever it is that the Lord is going to do with this seed that falls to the ground and dies. So if I need to walk out my calling, where does this particular church body fit in? I really like this church and there is something alive, and good, and nurturing  and challenging here. 

But can I enter in, really enter in?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Church Search - A new layer of questions

Even though I have been attending the same church for a few months now I still feel in many ways that I am without a church home. I still feel the loss of knowing and being known by those around me. I feel the strangeness of not knowing what to expect from week to week and where I fit into that rhythm. I find that it is still challenging to remember people's names, let alone have a meaty theological conversation or pray for one another. I miss being an established and involved church member.

It is challenging to get plugged in at a new church, and I find myself asking if I really want to go through that work. It is work -I have to keep putting myself out there, and there is the natural in between stage before there is interaction of depth. And it is work to get through that stage, and I am not sure I am going to stay long term. And there are no teenagers in this church. That is a fairly big obstacle.

Since I am not plugged in, it would be easy to leave and just go somewhere else, but that is a wearying thought. How on earth do people switch churches? How do people get through this with their sense of Christian community in tact? Or do they? I am already tempted to throw in the towel and I have fairly good social skills, and a healthy measure of boldness. I have to gear up every week to try to break into what is going on in the church. People are very friendly, and easy to talk to, for which I am very thankful. But what I am really craving in a church is to serve and to grow with others. And that takes time and effort. Is it worth it here? Would it be worth it somewhere else?