Thursday, October 13, 2016

The one where she called out the good

At 2pm yesterday, I had an unexpected surprise. A dear friend of mine from Texas let me know her schedule had shifted a little and she was in DC, free for the evening, and wanted to see if I was free.

Was. I. Ever.

I made a quick reservation at Founding Farmers (always proof God loves you when you get a last minute reservation at this place) and finished up my work day.

I met Rachel at the restaurant, got the best Texas-sized hug, and sat down at our table. I looked across at her and said "We are talking about ALL THE THINGS. So much to catch up on. Are you ready for this?"

Five years prior- almost to the very day- Rachel had come to my apartment in Texas, coffee in hand at 9pm, and helped me pack up before I left the next day for my new job in Florida. Since then, we've talked a few times, we've met up a few times when I've been in Texas, but for the most part- we had a LOT to catch up on.

After dinner, we did a nighttime stroll through the memorials (my favorite thing to do in DC with out of town friends) and I can't even tell you how encouraged I was by this evening.

When I got home, I washed my face, crawled in bed, and felt a couple tears stream down my face. Rachel encouraged me in ways I've been missing for quite some time. She spoke words of life over me; she called out the good in me. She didn't say these things to flatter me; she said them because she believed them to be true.

Who is calling out the good in you? I think we do a good enough job of calling out the bad in ourselves. We need someone to join forces with and call out the good.

Rachel, I'm grateful for you.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The one about a pastor's role

When you grow up as a pastor's kid, the idea of a 'pastor' looks a little different to you.

When you grow up as a pastor's kid in the middle of East Texas, it looks a lot different to you.

Growing up, I attended a church where everyone knew everyone. We knew all the people, knew their families, knew their jobs, knew their lives. When life was hard, we rallied. When life was good, we celebrated. No one was excluded from this circle. There was no one in our congregation that didn't have full access to my family. And I loved that. We were a community of about 150 people. And it was good.

For my first church experience in college, I hoped to find and recreate something similar.  I didn't mind a big church. That only meant I got to know more people. I babysat for pastor's and their kids. I found myself in their homes for family dinners. I easily found my way into the lives of my pastors and their families. But then again, when your dad is a pastor- the pastor's family never feels as though it should be off limits- especially when your home was never off limits. It feels natural and RIGHT to want to be a part of their lives.

When I transitioned out of this college church (of about 800 people), I found myself attending Gateway Church with about 10,000 other people. Everyone thought of it as a big church, but I never did. I never considered that a mega church. I just saw it as an opportunity for more people to know, more to be involved in, and more opportunities to serve.

Within the first 6 months of attending Gateway, I again found myself in the homes of different pastors and their families. Babysitting, watching movies, grabbing coffee, feeling supported. My pastor growing up was my dad, which means I looked to my pastor for more than just a weekend message. I looked to him for advice, counsel, support. I found that at Gateway. Pastor Preston Morrison, Pastor Jan, Pastors Randy and Cheri, Pastor Zach, Pastors Marcus and Lexa, Pastor Lynda....the list could go on. Sure, I was involved in other ministries (worship, small groups, etc) but my pastoral care came from these families. The church now has a weekly attendance of about 30,000 people. And still, there are several of these friends I could call at the drop of a hat and I know they'd be around.

What is your experience with the role of a pastor? Maybe not a senior pastor- but pastors within your church... Are they someone you only see on a weekend? Are they someone you can call or email without getting an automated response? Do they know anything about your life? What do you think a pastor's relationship with members of a congregation should look like?

Just posing some questions.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The one with the closed chapter

Today will close one of the most exciting and rewarding chapters in my life.

Five years ago I came to the Foundation bright-eyed and very green.

I didn’t know much about ‪#‎EdReform‬ but I knew social media. Jaryn saw that as an asset and gave me a chance to make it in the big leagues.

I left my home and all the people I loved in Texas and moved to Tallahassee Florida to take a chance on a social media gig with an education reform organization I didn’t know much about.

The Tallahassee team made me feel welcomed, loved, and appreciated. They didn’t just make sure I knew EdReform, they made sure I had things to do, people to see, and places to visit. Mary Laura took me out one weekend with her daughter to the ‘Tallahassee Zoo’…. Jaryn invited me to watch the World Series (Go Rangers!) with her family, Alexis became my running partner, Erin Price hosted an Oscars party, Clare Crowson helped me find the best diet Dr Pepper close the office. You get the point. The ExcelinEd team invited me into their world.

Cari Miller, Joanna Hassel, and Mary Laura Bragg would sit with me for as long as I needed as I learned the intricacies of our ExcelinEd policies.

2012 was quite the year. First with the RNC and all the crazy that came along with that (oh the stories to be told), the new additions to our team (We gained a DC office that year with John B, Adam P, Dave M, Josh V!), Neil Ruddock, my girl ALLISON, and then….

The summit. That first morning. Summit was about to begin and I received the 5am phone call letting me know my apartment was in flames.

The way they rallied around me in that season will never be forgotten. Whenever I tell the story of the fire, their names will always come up. Joanna breaking the news to me that in fact my apartment WAS considered a total loss, Dave Myslinski feeling uncomfortable with my tears and doing the only thing he knew to do: get the girl a diet dr pepper!, Sarah Powell holding me as I sobbed (and subsequently pressing the button on the walkie talkie I was wearing so that EVERYONE could hear my sobs…cool), Joanna coming back later with a photo showing me that all my journals had been saved from the fire, and how the entire team helped me pull it together so we could pull off the biggest event of the year. (I think there were a lot of drinks to be had that night as well. Erin Price and Nadia kept my glass full.)

The team even pulled together gift cards for me upon my return home so I could get some of the necessities taken care of while I figured out what I’d be doing.

2013 marked the year of DC. After the fire, I opted NOT to sign a lease in the same apartment complex and moved about 14 hours north to the DC office where the Screaming Eagles welcomed me with much gusto. Food truck lunches, the search and move to a new office space, and the addition of Jess Langhaim to the team (memorable NOT just because she brought ME iced coffee on the first day.) DC life became the new normal and we continued to grow in numbers, policies, strategies, and grants. Just shy of my 5 year anniversary, the time has come for me to move on from the #EdReform world.

As I prepare to sign off of our social media channels this afternoon, so many of these memories are flooding back. So many memorable moments.

More than anything, I am grateful. Thanks to the @ExcelinEd for being a part of my life, for taking a chance on me, for helping me grow professionally and personally.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The one about Phase 10

I played Phase 10 with friends this weekend. If you are not familiar with the game, here's a little insight.

It is a card game and there are 10 phases. For every round, each person individually has an opportunity to advance to the next phase. You play until one person reaches phase 10 and conquers it.

While playing, some people might be on phase 1 while others are on advanced phases. There are additional cards to be used… A wild, and a skip card. When using the skip card, the person playing the card can choose who they want to skip. Typically the skip card is used on the person who is on the highest level, or the person who is about to win the round. Other times, it is used out of spite.

While playing this weekend, I used the skip card on a person who was on phase 1, while others were more advanced. It did not make sense to anyone. But once I explained, I think they understood a little more. One person had just been skipped, one person I had previously used the card on earlier, and one person hated the game and I didn't want to skip him and make him hate it anymore. I wanted him to enjoy the game. So I ended up using the skip card on someone who was just trying to advance even one level!

As with most things in my life, I immediately applied that to my personal life. So many of my friends are in phases that are much more advanced than mine. Weddings, babies, promotions, more babies, new homes... All the while, it feels as though I am still on phase 1, and continually being skipped. It doesn't make sense and sometimes we just want God to explain His reasoning!

Imagine playing a game with friends and being skipped every single turn. That game becomes no fun. Often times you want to quit and find a new game altogether. The game is more fun when you are surrounded by people who are in similar phases.

Who are you surrounding yourself with? Are you playing phase 10 with people who are on phase 8 while you're on phase 2?

I am grateful for the weekend I just had. I was surrounded by people who are on the same phase as I am. We can challenge each other and encourage one another in a way that people in other phases can't do.

Thanks for a great weekend, friends. Grateful to play Phase10 with you all.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The one with the cheer squad

Five years ago I ran my first half marathon in San Diego. My uncle had called me in January of 2012 and told me he was planing to run the full marathon and if I wanted to run the half, he would pay for my airfare out to Cali. That seemed like a pretty sweet deal, although it was a VERY tough decision. I don't make decisions lightly and I don't go back on my word. So if I was going to say yes, there would be no backing out. I really WOULD be running 13.1 miles. California seemed great, but the running part was going to be tricky. I found a training plan that seemed doable, talked myself into it, and said "yes!"

I will never forget that moment, crossing the finish line. Actually, I will never forget each mile of that race. Remembering how I felt, how nervous I was to see if I would actually be able to do it. I had only trained up to 10 miles and that race would be the first time my body had ever gone 13.1 miles.

This weekend, almost to the exact day, I ran my 5th half marathon. With each race, my goals have changed.

1.) San Diego 2012: finish, and finish without walking.
2.) Washington DC 2013: finish, and have fun.
3.) Virginia Beach 2014: bring a friend, finish, and set a new PR.
4.) Philadelphia 2015: Finish strong & new PR.
5.) Brooklyn 2016: Finish.

I had some major knee issues the last few months and quite honestly, I wanted to finish. I was worried I might have to drop out of the race if my knees didn't pull it together and cooperate. I felt like I'd been set back, going back to square one of having a goal to just finish.

For San Diego, I was so focused. I never missed a training run. I may have been a little obsessive about it, but I knew if I was going to make it- I had to do EXACTLY what I was told. I had to follow the directions I was given. Did not swerve to the right or to the left. I trained. If someone suggested an idea that wasn't on the training plan, I said no. I couldn't mess with the plan. (I laugh as I write this remembering how uptight I was. Gosh.)

For Washington, DC, I had just moved to a new city, my apartment had burned down a few months prior and I needed a goal to look forward to. Running in a new city helps you gather your bearings, and when it was suggested, I agreed to run. I walked quite a bit during that race but I finished and enjoyed it! There was SO much less pressure. This time, I knew I could do it. I knew I was physically capable of finishing.

For Virginia Beach, I was first going down to watch and cheer for a friend when plans changed and I decided to run with! I recruited two others to come along as well and we turned it into one big beach weekend party. I had started cross-training in prep for this race and I knew I could beat my time. So I decided to go for it, set the goal, and make it happen.

For Philly, I wanted to finish strong. I trained, I cross-trained, I wanted to finish and not feel like I was going to die after :) I knew the course, I knew the elevations, I knew what parts could be troublesome. But I was going to finish and finish strong.

For Brooklyn, my original goal was to finish, have fun, and enjoy the route. It was going to be a no pressure run. It was going to be a "run because I like running" run. Seven weeks in and it turned into a "oh gosh. This might be my last half marathon" kind of run. My knees were aching. After every run I had to come home, ice them, take meds, and rest. Going up and down stairs at my apartment was painful. I began mentally planning for my final race. I wouldn't stop running altogether, but I would not be running long distances anymore. I had friends praying for my knees. That they would be strong and help me cross the finish line.

Two weeks before the race, I found out I would have a cheering squad on the sidelines. Several friends from DC were coming to NYC for the weekend and changed their plans a bit to make time to come cheer for me. The pressure was on. I HAD to finish. My friends were coming. To cheer for ME! I had to finish the race.

Saturday morning comes and my friend Leticia and I arrive at the start line with every intent of running our own race. That's the beauty of running. You run your own race- at your own pace. We said goodbye and knew we would meet up at the finish.

I had decided to slow things down and listen to my body. I repeated to myself more than a dozen times "you don't have to be a hero. If you need to stop, do it. This is your race. Run your own race." At mile six I felt good. At mile seven my knee buckled. I stopped, massaged it out, and walked a bit. I attempted running again and it felt OK. I kept going. At mile 10. Oooooh at mile ten. The most beautiful site. For the first time in any race I'd ever run, I saw a sign. "GO MINDA." And I saw six beautiful faces of friends who sacrificed their cozy and restful morning to come cheer. There was nothing in it for them. They received no medal at the end. They didn't get the free shirt. They just came to cheer me on. I tear up even typing this out. Guys. Having friends cheer for you is the best. I stopped for a selfie, some high fives, and finished my race. I felt strong, I felt energized, and I felt ready to tackle those final three miles.

I crossed the finish line, got my medal, visited the medical tent for some ice and had them wrap my knee, and went to find Leticia.

Five half marathons complete.

I'm not sure what my next race will be. I will most likely visit a doctor to have my knees checked out. I will keep running. But my next goal is to find someone to cheer for.

Who are you cheering for? In life... Who is cheering you on? Who shows up for the big events? Who are the people that you say "it's a non negotiable- I'm gonna be there."?

Weddings and babies aren't the only times we should be showing up and cheering for people. We are really good at celebrating those things. We like celebrating those so much we even created things called "gender reveal" parties and engagement parties. Those are big things, yes. But there are other big things happening in people's lives.

Go show up and cheer for someone this week. Find a reason to celebrate them. Especially if it means there is nothing in it for you. You will make their day/week/month/year. I promise.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The one about singleness

Saturday night, our campus pastor asked me if I would be willing to sit on a panel his wife would be hosting. To talk about singleness.

He and his wife are leading a May-term small group on Love, Sex, and Dating. With no offense to them, I really thought there might be 20 or 25 people in attendance. So I agreed. 

Robin sent over a few questions she planned to ask the panelists which gave us good direction to gather our thoughts, put some notes together, and come prepared. Sunday morning I was enjoying a full day of rest... you know the kind. NOTHING on the agenda. No plans. No responsibility. No commitments. The only thing I had to do was to stay in my pj's, drink copious amounts of coffee, and read a book. (Oh wait. You only know these kinds of days if you're single. Forgive me.) 

I was in my oversized chair with my journal, bible, a cup of coffee. (And my cell phone....because, honesty.) I started taking some notes and quickly realized that I have a LOT to share on this subject. I'd never publicly talked about my {FreakingForeverLong} season of singleness. Just with good friends. Only with people who care about me and who have offered to dive into that tender subject with me.

Pages and pages of notes later, I realize I could teach a 6-part sermon series with as much as I'd written down. And I was going to be on a panel. Answering a few questions. And I was relieved. While there might be a lot I could share on the topic, I didn't know if I was quite ready. Singleness is a sensitive subject. I truly believe one should speak about singleness and to singles the same way you would speak to someone dealing with infertility. It's something they want badly- and for whatever reason- can't have. Speak with care, concern, sensitive tone, etc. Infertility isn't a joking matter for a mom desperate for a baby. In the same way- singleness isn't a joking matter to those of us who are single. While we may pass it off jokingly in attempts to deal with it ourselves... the laughs or jokes are a cover. 

As we were setting up the room, we put about 25 chairs out and said "eh, if we need to set up more, we can do that." 

Guys. That was a JOKE. We needed a LOT more chairs. As people kept pouring into the room I needed to pick my jaw up off the ground. This suddenly became no longer a small little panel of a few people I'd be talking about this subject with- but a room full of almost 100 young adults who actually WANTED to come and learn more about how to navigate this subject as a follower of Christ. 

I've said many times before, give me a microphone and I can sing with ease in front of thousands of people. But ask me to speak and I am NO good. I get so nervous. But last night. It was different. There were no nerves. I told my sister "maybe it's because it's an area I'm actually an expert in." HA. But seriously. I can speak on the subject with ease, without fear because I've learned how to be single. And quite honestly, I'm pretty good at it. This in NO way means I don't want to get married {cause i do!} but it's a subject matter I'm well versed in. 

I'm grateful for the opportunity I was given to share a piece of my heart with others who are in the same season, to hopefully encourage someone and remind them that while singleness can indeed feel lonely, they are certainly not alone.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The one post-Greece

I wrote some post-Greece thoughts for my friend's blog. You can check it out on Facebook: P327 or by clicking on the picture below.