You Are Not Disqualified

I almost didn’t publish my last two posts.

 

After all, I’m a Christian. I work at a Christian company and am heavily involved at my church, including being a youth leader. There’s a Bible passage stating, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned…”

 

Giving God a Piece of My Mind” and “I Stopped Reading My Bible” are not exactly “good little Christian” titles.

 

As I sat in our first youth gathering of the school year, I wondered a bit if I should have published them. If maybe spewing my insecurities and doubts and issues with God onto the Internet was not a wise move for a youth leader, or even just as a Christian.

It crossed my mind that maybe they were words I should have kept to myself, because maybe putting them out there made me a bad example, a bad youth leader, a bad Christian. Maybe they disqualified me, and maybe I should have waved goodbye to those high school and middle schoolers and walked out the door.

 

Then I wondered if it would’ve been, in some way, worse for me to not have published them. Nothing I wrote, of  not really knowing what the deal is with God and having mostly stopped reading my Bible right now, was untrue.

Which is exactly why I decided to publish them anyway.

I chose to put the messy, ugliness of what I’ve been thinking and feeling into a public space, but doing so wasn’t what caused me to think and feel that way. It was simply putting words to what already was.

 

But would it really have been the publishing of those words that disqualified me? Or the thinking and feeling and them?

 

As I sat there, it hit me: I am not disqualified. 

Those messy thoughts and feelings and questions I have about God and following him do not disqualify me from serving him. They don’t disqualify me from hanging out with high school and middle schoolers, they don’t disqualify me from greeting people at church, they don’t disqualify me from being a Christian. 

 

And here’s the thing:

YOU are not disqualified either. 

 

I don’t know what your messy thoughts and feelings about God and Jesus and prayer and the Bible are, I don’t know what you’re arguing with God over right now, I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve read your Bible. But I do know those struggles do not disqualify you from serving him and being used by him.

If they did, there would be no pastors, no seminary professors, no Christian conference speakers. No one who follows Jesus has it all figured out, all the time.

God is in the business of using imperfect people. They’re the only kind he ever has.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever felt disqualified from being used by God? How were you reminded that you’re not?

I Stopped Reading My Bible

For the most part, right now, I have stopped reading my Bible.

It is a petty, passive aggressive way to handle what feels like God’s silence, and it is not the response I’d exactly recommend.

It is, however, my present truth.

Photo Credit: Flickr User net_efekt, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User net_efekt, Creative Commons

 

This seems like one of the things I’m not supposed to say out loud, not supposed to admit to people, much less put out there on the Internet.

But I can’t help thinking I must not be the only one.

 

I can’t be the only one who, while still believing the words, has stopped reading them for a time.

Not because of some tragedy that’s left you staggering and doubting, but because a gentle weariness has set in, and it feels too much to keep repeating the same thing over and over when it seems that nothing changes.

Because even when you believe in the words, their meaning can go missing. Not lost in a broad sense, but misplaced, at least by you, at least for a time.

 

Eventually I’ll read those pages again, as I always seem to, but I am done beating myself up for setting them aside for a time. While giving up on reading my Bible entirely might be cause for alarm, I am not ready to admit that, by failing to regularly read my Bible for a stretch of time, I have fallen short in any way greater than I do each day as it is.

 

I’ll make my way back, just maybe not today.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever stopped reading the Bible?

Giving God a Piece of My Mind

Oh, God, where are you now?

It feels almost wrong for me to be the one asking that question. On the list of true tragedies, I’ve suffered none of the big ones. Yet, not being able to see you kind of feels like one, in a way.

So I’m writing, because good relationships have good communication, and it’s probably past time for me to tell you how I feel.

Photo Credit: Flickr User  kevin dooley, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User kevin dooley, Creative Commons

This silence has gone on for long enough, don’t you think?

I thought maybe you’d show up on the mission trip; I saw a flicker of you, but not a flame. Maybe it was my own skepticism getting in the way.

It’s not that I don’t believe in you or that I don’t think you’re entitled to do what you want (you are God, after all), but everything feels rather messy. God, there’s so much Broken here. The fighting and the uncertainty and the illnesses and the doubting and the death.

There’s an ache here, in the world, but also in me.

They tell me you cry when we cry, that you’re near to the brokenhearted, and I believe that about you—it’s one of the things bringing me back, time and time again—but it really doesn’t always feel that way. Because even though I know the textbook answers of why you don’t always step in to fix the Broken, they don’t always make sense in the here, the now, in the dust and the ugly.

 

It’s not just the big questions that bother me, either.

 

For one so big, you have mastered the silence.

 

I know this is part of faith, the times where you are so near it is breathtaking and the times when you so distant it is maddening. I am not the first, or the last, to experience and to question this. To question you.

And I am questioning you. Not whether you exist, because I am quite certain, even in the silence, you hold me so tightly and tenderly that I can’t ever truly walk away. But I do question your ways.

 

I don’t think you’ll strike me down for writing this; nor do I think that, because I’m being honest, putting this all out there, airing my grievances, you will “reward” me by showing up in some way I’ve been hoping you would for quite some time. You are no genie, waiting to be summoned from a lamp.

Because if you were, you would have showed up by now. I’ve tried everything but rubbing lamps to get you to appear.

It frustrates me that you show up so readily for other people, who seem to know you and feel your leading in ways I just don’t. Maybe it’s a faith thing, and I don’t have enough, or maybe it’s because we’re different people and simply bound to experience you in different ways, but I can’t help but wonder why you can’t give me a dose of what they get.

 

You’re kind of a shifty fellow who’s hard to figure out, because you don’t work the way I want you to work.

 

And maybe that is what the silence is about—teaching me that you work here, in the silence, as well as in the noise. You might be standing right off the edge of the stage, waiting, quietly, patiently, to make your appearance, because the time hasn’t come yet.

But I’m hoping it’ll come soon.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

p.s. What do you do when God seems silent?

Growing Up is (Still) Hard to Do

For a while now, I’ve been thinking of making some changes to this blog. “Musings of a Recent College Graduate” seems less fitting now, considering I graduated over two years ago.

And yet, whenever I try to think of a new name for this grouping of writings, nothing jumps out at me. I am still getting used to this phase of life not having a set ending, of not being able to section it off nicely with an end and a beginning. Before, it was always beginning of a grade, end of a grade, on to the next level of school, and so on.

Here, it is an ever-stretching land, with no concrete beginnings or endings I can clearly see, called Adult.

I still don’t even know for sure what the word “adult” means.

I think it’s how I’m supposed to describe myself now, but when I try it on, it still doesn’t seem to fit quite right. The sleeves are a little long, the shoulders a little too boxy, and the hem hangs a little crooked.

And there’s something about “Musings of an Adult” that just doesn’t have a nice ring to it.

Two years ago almost to the day, I wrote about having an Identity Trial.

Graduating from college and attempting to enter “the big kid world” has brought about significant changes in many aspects of my life (some of which I mentioned here). I’ve lost my familiar rhythms of life, the frustrations and joys of schoolwork, and perhaps one I’m struggling with the most, the label of “college student.” So although for most of my life I had a fairly strong sense of who I am, right now my identity is…a bit in flux. Not quite an identity crisis.

An identity trial, if you will.

At my core I still know who I am; my belief in God is firmly intact, and I have a sense that I would like to do something with my life that is bigger than me, but not FOR me. I still know my likes and dislikes, things I am good at and not good at, things that make me laugh and those that make me cringe.

Though my circumstances have changed—I’ve been at my “big kid” job for a year and a half and out of my parents’ house for over a year—a surprising amount of those words still feel true. When I look back at old pictures or am reminded of college in other ways, it still feels so recent, so important, and still not something I’m entirely ready to completely let go of. There’s still so much I’m trying to figure out about how to be an adult well, about how to find and create meaning and goodness in whatever stage of life I’m in.

And a still a blog name that no longer seems to fit, but that I can’t quite bring myself to replace just yet.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What’s hardest for you about growing up?

When Home Isn’t Where the Heart Is

Last Saturday, I moved. If you’ve been around this space for a while, you probably know that change is not my favorite thing. But the lease was up, the roommate was getting married, and it was time to go. So nearly my entire family (including a five-year-old and two three-year-olds) descended on my house at 8:30 a.m., and by 11, we were done.

Done in the physical sense, at least.

Photo Credit: Flickr User z287marc, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User z287marc, Creative Commons

But just because your stuff moves from one place to another doesn’t mean that all of you does.

It’s nothing against my new abode (it’s lovely, close to Target, has space for my hammock inside during the winter months, and comes with a rockin’ roommate), but, even after almost a week, I still feel like I haven’t fully detached from the other house and gotten comfortable in the new one. Which feels especially absurd, considering I only lived there a year.

At the root of it though, I think my issue is that I don’t know what home is for me, right now. I’ve been skimming through a book  full of beautiful pictures and inspiration for imperfect decorating in order to truly make a house (or apartment or condo) a home. But when she gets down to giving some sort of definition of home, she loses me.

I realized that no matter what happened or where we went, it would be okay because we would be together. Wherever we were, that was home. Home was us. 

And therein lies the disconnect. It’s a common refrain, to say that home is where the heart is and where your people are, but if true home is people, mine is only very partially in this dwelling I sit in right now.

If “Home is where the heart is,” then my home must be scattered in pieces across the city, state, country, and world, because my heart is scattered in all those places too.

As much as I want to make this new place a home by decorating it and throwing parties in it and spending lots of time in it (and I certainly will do all of those things), I think it will always feel a little like something is missing. Part of it is connected to being single, I’m sure, but it’s deeper, too. It’s a sense of being unmoored, slightly adrift. It’s a very twentysomething thing for me to feel, I suppose.

Last year around this time I wrote, “Maybe ‘home’ is about creating enough of a sense of it within me that I can carry it with me wherever I go.” I’ve had year to work on it, and I’m not sure I’m any closer to figuring out what that looks like.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How do you define home?

The Singles in Your Sanctuary (From the YALT Blog)

I’m a monthly contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. My latest post there is some further thoughts on singleness and Church. I know, I keep writing about it, but I keep writing because I think it matters. Here’s the first bit, and I hope you keep reading over here.

 

The Singles in Your Sanctuary

In my last post in this space, I presented the results of a survey about single pastors in the church. While my survey focused on pastors, it became apparent that a scarcity of single church leaders is only the beginning of the problem. Based on my own experience, conversations with others, and reading about the experience of many other single people, it is not uncommon for single people to feel marginalized in the Church. As I wrote last time, many churches focus heavily on marriage and families, which can result in not understanding how to embrace singles and their good, but different, experiences.

I think the topic of how churches enfold singles into the community is of particular importance for the Church right now. It has been widely documented that Millennials are getting married later than previous generations did, and also that they are less likely to continue or to begin involvement in a church. As more Millennials remain single for longer periods of time, the Church must be willing to meet these people where they are at and to intentionally seek to be an environment where all people are valued for who they are and not because of their relationship status.

Keep reading at the YALT Momentum blog.

Confessions of a Youth Leader: When God Doesn’t Show Up

Last Saturday, I returned home from the much-angsted-over mission trip. I tried so hard to look for God in the unexpected, to see him working in ways other than the ones I’ve grown accustomed to. And for some on the trip, he did. Students talked of how, for the first time, they realized their faith could be something real, something that shapes their lives. They worked, they sang, and they prayed like they truly didn’t even know was possible. It was beautiful to see.

But I wanted some of it for myself, too. As nervous as the thought made me, I wanted God to show up. I wanted him to show me that he’s much bigger and better than I’ve let him be in the corner I’ve tucked him into.

And he just didn’t.

I had a hard time setting aside my skepticism about ways of doing things that I’m not used to–I’ll be the first to admit that. While I like to say that I think differences in how we worship, how we experience God, the way that we interact with people, what we believe about baptism and communion and any number of things, are okay, sometimes I fall into thinking that my Christianity is better than yours. As hard as I tried to set all my preconceived notions aside last week, I didn’t do very well. So maybe I didn’t see God working in unexpected ways because there was still a small piece of me that didn’t want to see him work like that.

Fortunately, God is at work all the time. Even when we look so hard for him to show up in unexpected ways that we kind of miss the point.

Because one night we sang a song I have sang more times than I can even count. It was a regular on the roster in the church I grew up in and in any number of “church-y” events I have attended.

And as much as many of the students felt God in the words of the many flashy new songs we sang last week, I felt him here. In these tired words that have been cast aside by many of my peers, I was reminded that God doesn’t just work in new ways: He works in old ones too.

In the same ways I’ve seen and felt him working all through my life.

It doesn’t mean that he can’t use new ways, but there’s nothing wrong with the old ones. Nothing wrong with these words I’ve sang so many times before, just like there’s nothing wrong with the Bible verses I’ve read over and over again. Just because they’re familiar doesn’t mean they need to be retired.

And so, I suppose, God did show up in a way I didn’t expect him to: He showed up right where I’d left him.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How have you been reminded of how God works in the same ways you’ve experienced him before?

There’s More to Life Than Marriage (Today at Relevant)

Today, I’m honored to have another post appearing at Relevant Magazine. If you’re stopping by from there, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Feel free to take a look at the archives and share some thoughts.

There’s More to Life Than Marriage

This time of year, churches, banquet halls and barns get decked out in tulle and lights. Everyone seems to know someone who’s in a wedding, going to a wedding or having their own wedding.

And quietly, subtly, the chatter begins.

“They’re just so young. I mean, they’ll probably be OK, but it doesn’t seem like a good idea.”

“It’s about time they got married. They’re not getting any younger.”

“So when’s your wedding going to be? Why don’t you have someone in your life yet?”

They’re common thoughts we’ve probably all had or even spoken. Yet between the words, it is easy to weave a gentle judgment; someone has done things differently than we have, and we think to ourselves that our way is slightly better, more correct and, perhaps, more godly.

Keep reading at Relevant.

Til next time…
~Brianna!~

Confessions of a Youth Leader Before a Mission Trip

As a student, I loved mission trips. They were some of my most formative experiences, and though they were tiring and at times emotional, I think back on them with fondness. I made friends, some of whom I corresponded with for some time afterwards, and had so much respect for the leaders. They were Adults, in charge, and, I assumed had their lives put together, spiritually and otherwise.

Now, as I get ready to go on my first mission trip in several years—this time, as a leader—I realize how mistaken I must’ve been about my leaders. All my feelings about this trip, of nervous excitement and wondering if everyone will get along and if God will break in like I’m sort of hoping he might and secretly crossing my fingers that I won’t have to mow lawns, feel much more like those of a teenager than of an Adult. Except now I have the added responsibility of having to actually sorta kinda be in charge of things on top of it all.

I think it escaped me that my leaders were real people too. Sure, I heard them talk about their jobs or their families or what God had been teaching them, but I never stopped to really think about them as human beings. They were just leaders. Now, as I stand on the other side, I am entirely aware of my very humanness. I would so much like to be able to set aside all my own feelings about the trip and focus 110% on doing these service projects as best as possible and making sure it’s a great experience for the students, but there’s so much ME getting in the way. Once I’m actually there, I imagine my priorities will shift—out of necessity somewhat, but also, I hope, out of God correcting me as I move along throughout the week.

But that’s part of it too. As much as I think I’d like to have God blow me away with the ways he shows up, it kind of terrifies me too. It’s been a while since I’ve felt God in a big way, and I hardly remember what it’s like. I’ve put God into a corner, where I expect him to act in predictable ways that don’t unnerve me, but I’m standing on the edge of a time where I suspect he very well might blow the whole room, much less that corner, to bits. Which I want, only without the uncomfortable unsettling that goes with it. But I don’t think I can have one without the other.

Part of me wishes I could take this all a bit less seriously, but I simply can’t–and really, I’m not sure I’m supposed to. I am a real person, and these are real, live students I’ll be hanging out with. We’ll be working on actual houses and lawns and parks that are lived in and run on and played in by actual people. We’re going with the mindset that a real God is going to show up for all these  people in very real ways. There’s a weightiness to all of it.

I wish I had a neat, tidy ending to this post, but the rest has yet to be lived. I’m going to have to figure this out as I go.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have any tips for a leader about to go on a mission trip?

Of Hammocks, Decisions, and Singleness

There’s something about seemingly significant purchases that make me feel All The Feels about being single. Last time, it was a mixer.

This time, it was a hammock.

This hammock, specifically.

This hammock, specifically.

 

I spotted it in a Groupon Goods email.

“It’s just a hammock,” I told myself.

But I’ve been dreaming of hammocks for a while, or perhaps, more accurately, of the lifestyle a hammock seems to represent. In my current house, the backyard doesn’t have the right trees for a hammock, and hammocks with stands cost more money. I didn’t know where I’d be living next, so I didn’t want to buy a hammock and not have somewhere to put it.
Recently, though, I decided where I’ll be living next, and not only is there space for a hammock outside, there’s space for it inside. In a spacious basement that’s just crying out for a hammock.

 

Yet, when I spotted the hammock (and stand!) for $100, it was not an immediate decision for me. Did I want it? Certainly. Did I have $100 to be throwing around on such frivolities as a hammock? Somewhat debatable.

And so my decision making began. Messages were typed and texted and sent to friends in a flurry, explaining the situation and asking their input. My semi-obsession with the Hammock Lifestyle is one I’ve told many people about, so their responses were mostly a resounding “YES.”

And still, I waffled. As I contemplated the purchase, I had the somewhat-overwhelming realization that, though I could get input from as many people as I liked, the decision was mine. Mine and mine alone. Which is both the awesomeness and the frustration of being single.

 

With something like a hammock, it was awesome. I didn’t have to consult another person about the state of “our” bank account, or try to justify the expenditure and explain how much enjoyment I would get out of the hammock and how long I’ve been wanting one and how it’s a good deal and the stand should last even beyond the hammock itself. I used all of these arguments to rationalize it to myself, but I didn’t have to present these to someone else. It was my decision.

I wanted the hammock, so I bought it. (It’s supposed to arrive Tuesday. I’m very excited.)

There are some decisions that are a little less freeing to have to make completely on my own, though. When trying to figure out where I should live next, I talked over my options with various people, but ultimately, the decision was mine. And it felt kind of big, and a little intimidating, to be the only one who had anything depending on the decision. I’m pleased with where I’ll be living and think it will be great, yet sometimes I still don’t feel old enough to be completely in charge of my own life. 

Sometimes it still startles me that I’m a person who has a full-time job and health insurance and makes decisions about where to live all on her own and buys mixers and hammocks. I know how old I am, of course, but I don’t always feel that old on the inside.

 

So, as often seems to happen with me, a hammock has become much more than a hammock, and turned into a complex examination of where I’m at in life and how I feel about it. I’m fearful of what I might discover as I begin to look at buying a car…

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Do you like making decisions all by yourself, or do you prefer to have someone to make the decision with?