Lessons from The Little Rascals (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every other week, I write a post for my church‘s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on Sunday’s message. I thought this week’s had a bit broader appeal than some, so I’m sharing it here.

 

As a child, The Little Rascals was one of my favorite movies. My siblings and I watched it more times than I can count and nearly had it memorized. At the beginning of the film, Spanky and his friends Alfalfa, Stymie, Porky, Buckwheat, and others form the He-Man Woman Haters Club, which pretty much exists to keep girls out of it. As the movie goes on though, we discover that Alfalfa has not only been hanging out with a girl named Darla, but even serenading her with a love song on a romantic boat ride.

When the other boys find out, they are shocked and even a little grossed out, so they hatch a plan to break up Alfalfa and Darla. Yet through a series of events, by the end of the movie the boys realize that Darla and her friends are not so bad and invite them to hang out in their clubhouse. While there are a variety of circumstances that bring about this change of heart, it all began with Alfalfa.

Though we may not make official signs, I think the Church often creates its own versions of the He-Man Woman Haters Club. It can be easy to point this out in the Church as the worldwide body of Christ, but we cannot ignore the implications for us personally. We may not make physical signs, but we make them in our thoughts, behaviors, and hearts. There are certain types of people we are just hesitant to enfold into Church life. Maybe we base it on occupation, income level, sexual orientation, age, political views, or any number of factors. After a while, we get entrenched in the mentality of there being an insider “us” factor to the Church, and an outsider “them” label for those we don’t deem worthy.

Keep reading at The Midweek Encounter blog.

I Want to Fall in Love with Jesus

“I love Jesus.”

It’s the Christian thing to say.

But lately I’ve been wondering if I really mean it.

Photo Credit: Flickr User S. Reachers, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User S. Reachers, Creative Commons

In the past few months, I’ve met two people who love Jesus so much they cry when they talk about him.

It’s not that I think the mark of truly loving Jesus is crying when you talk about him, but it communicated something significant to me.

These people know what’s it like to love Jesus in a way I don’t yet.

I do love him, in my own way. The choices I’ve made about how I live my life are, in small ways at least, reflections of that. But I’m not sure I know what it’s like to be in love with Jesus. To feel it so deeply inside of me that I never lose it no matter what my day or month or year has been like. To be so full of love for him that it’s positively spilling over into every.single.thing that I do. To love Jesus infectiously. 

I can say that I do, but I don’t know that I really mean it.

There is no magic wand to wave to get me from where I am with loving Jesus to where I should be, want to be, need to be. These people I met who cried when they talked about how much they love Jesus have been through stuffDeep, dark, soul-wrenching stuff, and I can’t help but think that’s part of what got them to where they are with being in love with Jesus.

Is that the only way to really fall in love with Jesus though? I can’t entirely believe that it is.

 

Loving people that you see and talk to and spend time with in a tangible form is not so hard. You hang out with them, laugh with them, hug them, eat with them, show up at their house when they’re having a bad day.

But one of the most difficult things for me about Christianity is that we say we love this person who came to earth in a bodily form, but is no longer here in a bodily form. I’m still not sure what it means to love someone I never see or laugh with or hug. 

Because most of the human ways of showing love don’t work with Jesus.

 

So I don’t have answers here, because I’m still figuring it out. I can say that I love Jesus, but I’m not entirely sure what that means. One answer might be that we love Jesus by loving others, and I think there’s some truth to that–but I also think there’s more.

The kind of love for Jesus that makes you cry when you talk about him is not achieved merely by loving others. I’m just not quite sure how it is.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What do you think it looks like to really love Jesus?

Confessions of a Youth Leader: Some Things Never Change

I have never been good at sports.

Gym class was always my least favorite, especially the days when we had to play basketball. Being the kid who was picked last for a team was not a cutesy way of suggesting someone was left out, but an actual concern of my daily life. My childhood wasn’t terrible because of it, but anything involving sports are certainly not my rosiest memories of days of yore.

Now I’m a youth leader at my church. The thing I forgot about middle and high school youth group is that it, at some point or another, always seems to involve some sort of athletic activities. Games involving throwing, dodging, ducking, dipping, diving, and catching are quite commonplace.

And, despite my additional years of life, my athletic ability has not increased accordingly.

If anything, it may have gotten worse.

Not being forced to participate in sports I don’t like anymore, when I do exercise, it’s activities I can do by myself, sometimes in the comfort of my own living room where not another living soul needs to see me. Basketball? Rollerblading backwards across a gym floor with a group of my peers? Wiffleball? No thanks.

But the funny thing about being a youth leader and not a student is that I’m no longer there for me. Yes, I’m there because I choose to be, but not with my own wants and needs specifically in mind.

Photo Credit: Flickr User seanmfreese, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User seanmfreese, Creative Commons

I recently posted on Facebook that sometimes I think I get just as much, if not more, out of youth group than the students do.

While my athletic ability has not increased, my insecurity about it has not decreased nearly as much as I thought it might have. A bit, but certainly not entirely. It turns out the lessons we talk about with middle and high schoolers aren’t just relevant for them, but also for me.

Because some things never change. Like the fact that I am still kind of terrible at catching and throwing things or anything involving needing to get from one location to another with any sort of speed. 

I am also, as I learned this past Saturday, terrible at climbing out of pits filled with foam blocks.

But it’s not about me. I might still feel insecure about my lack of athletic ability, but I’m not a youth leader to feel good about myself. If I feel a little insecure myself, but students feel comfortable and welcome, that’s what it takes. And in ways, it’s a good reminder of what middle and high school me often felt like, and what students might feel like too.

Maybe my own insecurity is exactly what helps me understand theirs.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you learned anything in your experience as a youth leader?

Seasons of Mommy (A Very Special Guest Post)

Today I have the privilege of sharing an extra special guest post. Tonya is my older sister, and she’s also a wife, mother, graphic designer, borderline Pinterest addict, and for today, a blogger.

I write a lot about being single and the frustrations and joys it brings to my life, so I’m happy to share a bit from my sister’s very different perspective. She recently shared a post with me called, “Mommy, Somebody Needs You.” It is (I imagine) a pretty good representation of what life as a mother is like when your children are small, but Tonya felt like something was missing–because she’s more than mommy. She is now, and she will be when her children are grown. So here they are…some words from my big sister.

~~~~~

In September of 2013 I was blessed with the birth of my third child, my first son. As anyone who knows me can verify, baby stage is not my favorite. I love all my children dearly, but I much prefer a goofy toddler over a ultra needy baby. But knowing this is my last I have been making a conscious effort to enjoy this time with him. It is overwhelming at times when he is peacefully sleeping on my chest to know that this is it; I will never have this day with this baby ever again.

Then I started thinking, “Maybe that’s OK”. Do I love his baby snuggles, and will I miss them when he is older? Will I miss my 3 year old’s hilarious dance that she repeats 17 times a day because she knows it gets me every.single.time? Yes, most likely. Will they come up with other hilarious and adorable things 3 years from now that I love just as much? Almost certainly.

Will I be just as equally impressed and proud of my daughters and son when they have moved out of my home and are successful on their own without my help? Definitely.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die,” says Ecclesiates 3: 1-2.

What if instead of being sad of the things we will miss, we all spent more time just enjoying today, knowing that tomorrow might be just as good, if not better? What about taking a break sometimes and spending some time with that guy over there at the end of the dinner table, putting the pacifier back in the baby’s mouth for the 37th time? Or remembering to call that single friend who you’ve lost touch with? Maybe checking up on the grandma in the nursing home who spent so much time with you when you were young? As much as my children need me now, I need to remember that there were people who were important in my life before they came along and who will be with me after they have grown and moved out.

Because no matter how much you love or don’t love whatever stage of life you’re in right now, the truth is that time will move on. If we remember that everything is temporary, it seems to make the hard times more tolerable and the happy times more sweet.

And 15 years from now when my time is not spent with spitting babies and charming toddlers, there will be things left for me to do. Hopefully I will be the older woman at the grocery store who is able to HELP the mom with the screaming child, instead of just giving her a nod in solidarity as I pass by with my cart equally loaded with 3 children and a mountain of groceries.

For as much as I try to teach my children that they belong to the Lord and are here on this earth to fulfill his purposes, I need to remember this for myself. God calls us to different things at different times in our lives. Today that means washing dishes and folding laundry and reading Pinkalicious for the 4th time. Lord willing, 40 years from now that might mean traveling to Guatemala and building houses for the less fortunate, or holding someone else’s baby in the church nursery so that mom can get a much needed break. Whatever I end up doing, I know that I am HIS. Regardless of whether my children need me or not, I will still have a purpose.

~Tonya

Seasons of Singleness: Guest Posting at SingleRoots

Today I have the privilege to be guest posting at SingleRoots, a website that gives a voice to Christian singles. I’ve been reading the site for quite a while now, so it’s an honor to share some of my own thoughts there.

 

Seasons of Singleness

I live in Michigan, the Land of Dramatic Seasons. Winter, and especially this one, usually has snow, ice, and cold that can last for months. As spring approaches, I’m often reminded of the great thaw C.S. Lewis writes of in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as snow melts, grass turns green, and flowers begin to show their heads. Summer tends to be hot, humid, and sunny, and as fall approaches the weather turns crisp as leaves fall from the trees.

Just as the seasons change, I think there are seasons of life as well—such as spiritual seasons and seasons of singleness. For weeks or even months I can be mostly content with being single, reveling in the reasons being single rocks. Then, in other seasons, sometimes brought on by a specific event such as a holiday or wedding, and sometimes coming seemingly out of nowhere, all I can see are the reasons being single sucks. When it’s especially bad, I start down the trail of questioning God, pointing to all the people around me who are in relationships, comparing myself and asking why I can’t be.

Keep reading at SingleRoots.

 

If you’re stopping by from SingleRoots, hello and welcome! You can check out some of my top posts from the past year or so here.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

My Birthday Gift to Me

Birthdays are funny things. In a few hours from when I’m typing this, I will officially be 24.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Will Clayton, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Will Clayton, Creative Commons

Just because the calendar says I’m 24 doesn’t mean I feel it though. Some days I do–some days I feel much older than that, as though the sheer magnitude of what I’m thinking about and dealing with has certainly added years to my calendar. Other days, I feel as though I have so much to learn, so much to experience, that  I must certainly be years younger. But everyone gets the same number of days by the time they reach 24, we just spend them differently.

Lately I’ve been realizing how little I have figured out. It seems so foolish of me, but the truth is that I thought very little about what life after college would look like. In school I could see to graduation, and maybe a ways past that to a job, but after that it was blank. Or, to be more accurate, I had thought of it, but it looked different than my reality. In many ways, I’m still learning to give up the white dress.

Now, having been at my job for a year, I’m facing the blank, asking why I didn’t consider it much before, and looking at this upcoming year and wondering what I’m going to do with it. There’s so much I have to learn, so many places I have to go, so many different ways I could fill this year.

And the gift I really need, the one that should follow and cover and surround me through all of it, is grace.

Because I’m only 24.

I don’t even begin to have this “life” thing figured out. I don’t even begin to have this faith and Christianity thing figured out. I don’t begin to have this family and friends and loving people well thing figured out.

It doesn’t help anyone when I pretend like I do. Instead, I need to give myself the grace and the space to say, “I don’t know” and be okay with it. I want to free myself from needing to have things planned out or to know it all, because I can’t. Certainly not at this age, or any age for that matter.

24 feels old in some ways, but in a lot of ways, it doesn’t and it isn’t. There is so much of my story to be written, and I can’t fast forward or find an answer key to get me to some elusive state of “arrival.” I just need to live.

So for my birthday, I’m giving myself the grace to be what I am.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What do you need to give yourself this year?

When I Don’t Believe God is Worth It

In their song “The Cost,” Rend Collective Experiment sings:

I’m saying yes to You
And no to my desires
I’ll leave myself behind
And follow You

Is God really worth everything? My desires and plans and dreams for the way I want my life to go?

The Christian answer is, of course, yes. But my felt answer and my lived answer is often no.

In the grand scheme of my life, I believe that he’s worth it. I believe the way I’m trying to live my life, of orienting it so that everything flows from striving to be more like Christ each day, is worth it.

But in the small scheme, the dying to myself each day and each week and each month, I believe it less strongly. It seems counterintuitive that it feels like a bigger deal to give him each little bit than it does to give him the whole, like saying, “You can have the picture that the whole puzzle makes, but not this side piece and maybe one or two from the middle and that pretty sky piece, because I’m not sure it’s worth giving those up.”

He can have my life, but not all the little bits that make it up.

The song goes on to say, “You’re dangerous, but Lord you’re beautiful.” It reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, when the young girl Lucy is confused by the description of Aslan. She is told he is “King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond- the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion,” and that “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” It prompts Lucy to ask if Aslan is safe.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

I think what it comes down is that I’d often rather have a God who is safe, one who caters to my desires and wishes and who is easy to wrap my brain around, than one who is good. Safe I understand.

Good I do not.

I know my definition of good, but when I say I believe God is good and that he wants good things for his people, maybe my definition of “good” is too limited. I believe God is bigger than I will ever understand, that he is not constrained to human things like time and space and distance, yet I often assume that his definition of good is the same as mine. Maybe good doesn’t feel good, maybe good doesn’t look good, maybe good doesn’t seem good here but does in a dictionary I don’t see, don’t even have a concept of.

Maybe God’s vocabulary is different than my human one.

So maybe it’s less a matter of not believing God is worth it, and more a matter of not understanding what “worth it” really means.

Maybe it’s a matter of learning that his definition of good comes from a different realm than mine, and that his is, and always will be, much better than mine.

And that, in itself, is good.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever wondered if God is worth it?

When the Words Get Stuck

Listen up, now. Lean in close and let me tell you what I’ve been feeling for some time now, been trying to fight and attempting to understand: I don’t feel like blogging.

I don’t even feel like writing.

Writers, those real writers who turn words into dollar signs will likely be the first to tell you that you don’t always write because you feel like it. You write because you have to, to pay the bills or simply because to not write would be to betray a part of who you are.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Wonderlane, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Wonderlane, Creative Commons

There are times I’ve felt like that too.

But lately each word feels like it has to be dragged out of me. They’re stuck inside, and the work of getting them out seems too much.

It’s not that I don’t have things I want to say–I’ve thought of tons of ideas for posts. But the actual plinking out of letters to form words to form sentences to paragraphs has not been happening.

“Butt in chair,” says Anne Lamott. That’s the key to writing–keep your butt in the chair and write just keep writing.

I like the sentiment, but the reality is much more difficult than it sounds. Yes, it’s butt in chair, but it’s also fingers on keyboard, heart spilling out onto the page, hope that some of it, any of it, is worthy of sharing.

And sometimes the words just get stuck, and it’s easier to leave them where they are than dig them out.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What do you do when you don’t feel like writing?

Singleness, Desire, and Buying The Mixer

I bought a mixer.

mixer

It wasn’t something I had planned to do, but it was there at the store, boasting its multipurposeness as a stand mixer or a handheld one, all for only $30. So I bought it.

But I kind of hate that I bought it. Or, more accurately, that I had to buy it.

Mixers seem like, as this blogger wrote, “a ‘wedding ticket’ item,” not the sort of thing one buys on a whim at Aldi. In my family, my grandma gives a mixer as a bridal shower gift. My sister and sister-in-law have theirs, and my engaged cousin will get hers in the next few months. Coming from my grandma, who bakes with great skill and as an expression of love and caring for her family and friends, it is the perfect gift.

So this is not how I planned on getting a mixer. It’s not how I wanted to get my mixer.

Because it’s not just a mixer. It feels like a symbol of how my life is going differently than I had planned or hoped. It’s one of those little things that has slapped me in the face and reminded me that I’m single but would prefer not to be.

It’s irrational, I know, to be tying my purchase of a mixer to the fact that I am single. My relationship status should not be connected to a kitchen appliance.

But telling yourself your line of thinking and feeling is irrational does not take the sting away. I still would like to not be single, and at its core, that is not bad. I have a full life, and for the most part I’m very happy with it; but I desire to get married, to have that one person to live and laugh and grow with, who will encourage me to love and serve and glorify God better as I do the same for him.

When you desire something and that desire is coming from a good place, all the wonderful things in your life can’t make up for what you don’t have.

I always hesitate to publish posts like this one. It can come across as whiney and ungrateful for the people I do have in my life, but I can’t wave a magic wand to make myself stop feeling like I would rather not be single. Buying a mixer, going to weddings, seeing the Valentine’s Day cards—all of these (and so many more) can be very sharp reminders of one’s singleness.

Now, I’m not made of glass; I won’t shatter as I walk through the Valentine’s candy aisle or sitting at a wedding (I actually quite enjoy weddings sometimes), and buying the mixer didn’t ruin my week. But I’m also not made of stone, and sometimes being single hurts. Yes, I’m young, I’m grateful for the freedom being single allows me, I know that being in a relationship isn’t easy either, and there’s lots of hope for me. But none of those change my current reality of being single when I’d prefer not to be, of having bought my own mixer because I don’t know if or when I’ll get one in some other way.

So I own a mixer now. I could glare at this kitchen appliance in resentment over the way it reminds of how my life is going differently than I’d hoped, and honestly, there may be moments when I do. I could also use that mixer and learn to make really awesome food, keeping in mind that unfinished stories leave room for unexpected endings.

I’ll strive for the second.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever had something be a reminder of how your life isn’t turning out like you hoped it would?