community is a treasure

Community is a treasure

God has been doing some reordering of my priorities, so I’ve been thinking a lot about busyness.

We spent precious time with friends and family on our vacation, so I’ve been thinking a lot about community.

A National Treasure 1 & 2 marathon may or may not have happened over the weekend, so I’ve been thinking a lot about treasure.

Lord, let the way I invest my time reflect the things I hold most dear.

Further Reading:

In Celebration of Wailing

in Celebration of WailingThe weather here in Northern Idaho was still bouncing between Winter frost and Spring thaw while Tim and I were on our little staycation a couple weeks back. So, after a
depressingly chilly day or two when I was thankful for the condo’s powerful heater, I did the happy dance around our borrowed living room as the sun rose brightly one morning. This called for fresh air so I opened all the windows, enjoying the cool breeze as I folded laundry and washed dishes.

Not only was I afforded a constant flow of Spring air, but because the condo was on the ground floor, a few feet from the sidewalk, I had a steady soundtrack from the day unfurling outside our windows. Several people shuffled by with dogs on jingling leashes. The mailman rattled keys against metal as he delivered envelopes and packages to the group of mailboxes between buildings. Construction workers a couple blocks away shouted instructions over the scrape of bulldozers ripping up concrete.

The noise trade was not one sided. Passersby could also hear the soundtrack coming from inside our open windows. This included the clanking of dishes I was scrubbing clean, the lilting melodies of worship music streaming from my iPad, and the piercing cries of baby James.

Our son is not colicky and generally only fusses when he’s hungry or tired. But on this particular day, James decided to test his pipes. I looked up from the dishes just in time to see our peaceful sleeper go rigid, all appendages stuck straight out from his body. From his mouth erupted a most piercing scream that quickly transitioned to rhythmic wailing.  I hustled with dripping hands from behind the sink to console our crying child.

Normally, crying doesn’t bother me. I hold, rock, whisper, bounce, and shush for however long it takes for James to settle down. But this episode got my heart rate up as I frantically tried to quiet our screaming son. It dawned on me as I furtively glanced to the open windows that I was embarrassed by James’ outburst.

I could hear the neighbors thinking, “Ugh, there goes that baby again. I hope they leave soon.” I could imagine a person out for a stroll wondering if they should call the police for fear a baby was getting abused. What if James was disturbing someone? What if people thought I was a bad parent because my son wouldn’t stop crying?

I looked to the open windows and wished I had kept them closed.

in Celebration of Wailing (2)

The open windows provided a peak into our reality – James isn’t a perfectly peaceful baby and I’m not a perfectly calm mother.  Had I kept the windows closed, I may have been able to mask our imperfections but I would have perpetuated a lie.

There’s something to be said for throwing open the windows of our lives, allowing others to glimpse the imperfections in our hearts, minds, and souls. Vulnerability is an important part of building community, but it’s also scary and embarrassing at times. It’s much easier to keep our windows closed, to muffle our crying, and let passersby walk past thinking everything is hunky-dory.

God’s desire is to work through human vulnerability rather than overcome it.

Mike Erre in Astonished (a fantastic book!)

I think vulnerability is valuable enough for us to not only open our windows, but open our doors – invite people into our messes and our brokenness.

To borrow words from a popular song:

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the good [person] you always have to be. Conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know. Well, now they know.

Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore.

Let It Go from Frozen

Oftentimes my tendency is to conceal, to not let people see the true nature of my heart. Let’s not be people who conceal the imperfections, who hold back for the sake of appearances. God shows up powerfully when we let it go. Let’s open our windows, open our doors, and celebrate wailing.


Did community leave with the pews?

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I can just imagine what they looked like brand new. The deep brown wood shiny under the lights. The curved arms on each side smooth and supple. The faint vertical grain stretching feet after feet, interrupted only by the mini shelves built to hold a slim Bible. Even when they weren’t brand new, they were beautiful.

My earliest memories of Big Church were anchored by the pews in our stone church. The rows created by their solid forms were familiar. For the first half hour of the early service, I got to be nestled next to my mom and brother on top of that worn blue padding. I got to squeeze past my Grampy, who always occupied the aisle end of our pew, when the children were sent off to Sunday school after worship.

I spent lots of time in those pews. I sang the words printed on the bulletin insert gustily with the rest of the congregation on Sunday mornings. I wore my AWANA vest proudly on Wednesday nights with the rest of my Sparky comrades. I stole frequent glances at my jr. high crush and wrote notes back and forth with my best friend at youth group. I helped my wedding coordinator mom attach tulle and flowers to each Many ages and stages of life made their temporary home on those pews – listening, talking, ignoring, learning, wondering, and waiting.

I can’t remember when our church made the transition, when we bought poofy, interlocking chairs to replace the pews. But one week, they were gone. Our family took one of the pews home and with some reconstructive surgery, it became a seating option in our living room. I wonder now if the familiar blue color of our chairs was chosen to pay homage to our seating forefathers.

Even though my young bum appreciated the plush seat and padded back of those new chairs, I missed the pews. They were a novelty, yes, with a pocket in each back conveniently shaped for a pen and giving envelope, but they seemed so sterile, so individual. There wasn’t a sense of being hemmed in on either side by those sturdy wooden arms. I missed the closeness of too many people smooshed together in one row.


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My eyes rested on the floral fabric lining the back of the pew in front of me. So old-fashioned, I thought. But before my internal lament against patterned fabric and out-of-date seating got too out of hand, I was remembering those wooden pews in that stone church on the corner.

In a culture that clings to individualism, I want pews not chairs.

I want to welcome people into my row and not worry about how many people (or how much baggage) they have with them. I want to smoosh and make room for others. I want to feel the heat of others as they wrestle with the things they hear, see, and feel. I want to reach past my chair’s limits and get messy.

In a culture that clings to individualism, I want community.

photo credit: DaveLawler via photopin cc

Can introverts and extroverts actually do life together?

Expanded discussion guides for Bread and Wine{This post was prompted by a question in Bread and Wine discussion guide, part 2.}

After planning for an hour or so our conversation turned serious. Just a couple feet of table separated us but it felt a little like miles and miles sat between us. As she filled me in on some of the tough stuff that was happening in her life, I sat in silence. My hands rested around my empty coffee cup and I wished there was at least a drop so I could do something other than stare.

I was already formulating what I would say before her voice petered out. In situations like this, my friends are generally looking for advice, so I went about scripting my opinion. It was probably my lack of any response that prompted her to ask, “what do you think?” And the flood gates of my opinion opened on this hurting woman I had only known for a month or two.

My spouting sputtered out and an uncomfortable silence settled. In the batting of one of her long eyelashes she was back to business as usual, firming up the plans we had been discussing previous to her moment of vulnerability. As our meeting drew to a close, I couldn’t ignore that sinking, icky feeling developing in my gut, the sign you know you’ve messed up. I knew I had missed the mark with my response…

Can extroverts do life with introverts?Since reading Shauna Niequist’s first book, Cold Tangerines, I have held her commitment to honesty and vulnerability in the mess of life in high esteem (okay, maybe idolized it a bit). I wanted to be a person who could be real with others and wasn’t afraid to slog through the mud with broken people, my own self included. In my efforts to do life with this new friend, even those messy bits, I hadn’t paused to consider who she was and what she actually needed. I wanted to approach the mess with a vacuum cleaner and make it disappear.

As an introvert, my natural tendency is to listen, observe, analyze, and make suggestions based on those three things. Because I don’t offer a multitude of words, I like to make the one’s I say count. I realized I had pushed my own agenda (in my advice) and my own strengths (in delivery) onto an extrovert who really just needed to verbally process. My mishap made me wonder if it was even possible for someone like me to do life properly with someone like her.

An apology and various discussions later, we are still doing life together. God is teaching me that being messy with people is just that, messy! As much as I’d like to, I can’t just cross “do life together” off my daily chores list. It’s a process, just like life is a process.

And you know what? Our differing personality types had little to do with my missing the mark (as much as I’d like to place the blame somewhere else…). I missed the mark because I wanted to stay comfortable. She was looking for someone to express love and give prayers, not someone to analyze the situation.

Doing life with people is less about compatibility and more about sacrifice and humility.

The mess becomes a beautiful mess when we are able to put our preferences aside, admit our weaknesses, and love others how they need to be loved.

PS – Shauna talks about her own mess-up in ministering to a friend in “Cupcake in The Oven.” (from Bread and Wine)

PPS – This girl and I are still friends and understand each other better and better as we do life together :)

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If you missed them:

My People plus Bread and Wine Discussion Guide for Part One

My People

My trip to New York last week was more than just a week with family (which was wonderful). It was a time to be with my people, as Shauna Niequist would call them. The Ideals, my Bible study group from when I lived in California, decided to have a Fall retreat at my parent’s place and there was no way I was going to pass up the chance to a. go to New York again and b. spend time with some of my favorite women! It was refreshing to laugh, study Psalm 31, and do autumnal things together, even if it was just for a few days.

I’ve never been one to have a large group of friends, just a few really tight ones. Maybe that’s why I really resonate with Shauna when she talks about “her people” in Bread and Wine. They are the close ones. They are in the muck and mire of your messy life – cheering, crying, correcting.

My People 2

Since I like consistency, I struggle with the fact that some friendships are seasonal. Not seasonal in a flaky way, but seasonal because life circumstances change. Aside from my one life-long friend, I met my first people in college. Kayla, K, Nat, Brit – these women did life with me in a very formational time. One of the worst parts of graduating and moving back to California (I attended William Jewell College) was knowing they wouldn’t be  daily part of my life. Even though I keep in sporadic contact with them, I know God gifted them to me for a specific season.

Getting older doesn’t make the seasons in friendship easier. I’m thankful that despite another geographic gap, my California people are still my people from afar. I could call (most likely text since I hate talking on the phone), or email them for any reason and I know they’d be there with prayers, ears, and a virtual hug. However, it’s important to be known where you are, too. Finding your people isn’t easy. And it takes time. I fee like I’m in the in between, loving and missing my people (who will always be my people) and in praying for people in the present.

Bread and Wine1

Here’s an expanded discussion guide for Part One of Bread and Wine. (Read the original post if you were wondering why the heck I’m writing a discussion guide for this book).

PS: Shauna talks a ton about her people, especially in What The Table is For.

Digging Deeper into Bread & Wine – Part 1 

And, in case you missed it: Digging Deeper into Bread and Wine- Introduction

Happy chatting!

Who are your people? Have the seasons of your life influenced who your people are?

Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazonany purchase you make supports Primitive Roads (with no extra cost to you!)