Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kindergarten

Now that the first nine weeks of kindergarten have passed, I’m getting around to writing about this monumental life moment for my son and our family.  Oh well…

The night before kindergarten I was a little nervous.  We laid out clothes, read books about going to school, checked that the book bag was packed (for the tenth time), and went to bed early.  I went to bed, but I didn’t go to sleep right away.  My mind was racing:

Would he remember his book bag when he got off the bus?  I never rode the bus, so I was most anxious about that part.

Would he have to get help getting to his class?  I know there will be people there to help, but he’s like his Mom—having to ask for help or receiving help embarrasses him, and I don’t want his day to start like that.

Would he be able to open all the items in his lunchbox by himself?

Would he speak up if something went wrong, because again, he’s like his Mom…?

Would he talk to his teacher and the kids in his class?  Would he talk too much, because when something’s wrong, he talks and talks and talks?  (Have I mentioned he’s like his Mom?)

Would he run out of steam before 4:00?  By the way, when did kindergarten become a 9:00-4:00 ordeal? 

Would he be safe? 

Then I saw a Facebook note my twin sister wrote for her nephew’s first day of kindergarten.  It was beautiful, and I cried, and I realized how incredibly blessed my son is. 

He was ready.  We were ready.

He was ready for kindergarten after two wonderful years of preschool with teachers and friends whom he loved and who loved him.  He had the clothes and supplies he needed, purchased by his parents and grandparents.  He even had a T-rex shirt, Star Wars light saber tennis shoes, and Stegosaurus socks.  He had parents, grandparents, an aunt, and teenagers, college students, and adults from our church praying for him as he began kindergarten.  He was praying for kindergarten himself.  And I thought, “What would public school be like if each child were sent through the doors with that kind of preparation—physically, socially, spiritually, and financially?”

He was getting ready to embark on his school career at the same elementary school where his parents met as six-year-olds.  We had P.E. in that gym with that teacher.  We ate lunch in that cafeteria.  We devoured books in that library.  We scraped our knees on that playground.  We learned to add, subtract, multiply, divide, create, read, and write in those classrooms.  I’ve danced more shows on that stage than I can remember.  My husband and I have had successful college and seminary careers, in part because of the great educations we received in this same school system.

So, we put him on the bus the next morning—my husband, my mom, my daughter, and me.  And it was a great moment.  It was joyful and exciting.  There were no tears.  (Don’t judge me for NOT crying, and I won’t judge you FOR crying.)  There was, though, a little sister holding tightly to her brother, not wanting to be left behind.  (On a side note, I think she’d take on kindergarten right now if we’d let her.  But, her grumpiness dissolved when she remembered what it was like to have Nana all to herself.) 

And there was a picture sent to my phone by a friend who teaches in the school.  And there was a picture in my e-mail from a teacher who goes WAY above and beyond.

And what was my son doing in those pictures?  Brown Bear activities.  I couldn’t help but smile.

See, the first picture I have of Tristan “reading” Brown Bear was when he was a newborn.    We kept reading that book to him, and he always smiled at the blue horse.

Then, when I was in Macedonia leading a student mission trip in the summer of 2009, I got a message from home.  On that trip, I followed the guidelines laid out for students—I didn’t use my phone or Facebook.  But there was a blog where our family members could send us messages.  And my husband sent one:  Brown Bear—Tristan’s first phrase.

So, our son started kindergarten with all the support and preparation possible.  It was a great first day, and it’s been a great nine weeks. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Missing the Youth Pastor

A little over a year ago, the Blue Team (think senior leadership team—kinda) of our church met for a couple days.  We had an agenda—create a new leadership structure for our church.  Our church had long since outgrown our structure in terms of sheer numbers, and particularly, with having multiple campuses.  We weren’t structured to function as a multi-site church, so we weren’t really functioning as a multi-site church, and we knew that had to change.

We’d spent a couple months preparing for this meeting, we spent a couple days in this meeting, and we spent months editing, editing, and editing the result of this meeting.

Eventually, we completed our structure.  My name appeared in a few bubbles on the org chart:  Student Director, Powhatan Campus Student Coordinator, Online Campus Pastor, and Guide Pastor.  That’s a lot of bubbles.

We agreed I’d move myself out of some of those bubbles over time.  First up—Powhatan Campus Student Coordinator.  It was clear to me and everyone else, that as long as I was leading the student ministry at our largest campus, I would be unable to do the other roles.  It was time for me to move from being the week-to-week practitioner of student ministry to being the coach for other week-to-week practitioners of student ministry across our campuses.  It was time for me to put on my big girl pants, move beyond student ministry, and tackle the second half of our mission statement, “to guide them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ,” as the Guide Pastor.

Here we are—one year later.

I’ve successfully moved out of the Powhatan Student Coordinator position, and my friend Karen Heinike has successfully moved into that position.  I enjoy having her has a friend, I’m proud of how she’s moved into this role, and I’m excited to see what God has in store for her.

I’m slowly moving into the role of Guide Pastor.  The learning curve is steep.  Starting new initiatives is hard.  Seeing myself, and helping others see me, differently is even harder.  It’s good hard, but it’s still hard.  It’s challenging, but that’s where being competitive is advantageous.  I’ve faced many steep learning curves in my life, mostly in classroom settings, and I’ve climbed to the top of all of them.  Of course, that’s before I was a mom.  Being a mom changes everything, and it’s awesome, but the emotional, mental, and physical energy I once exerted to overcome steep learning curves is energy that now goes to raising and caring for my family.  So, I’m learning how to dig deeper and to work smarter.

And I’m learning to let go.  I was PCC’s first, and until recently, PCC’s only “youth pastor.”  I’m thrilled to share that role now with amazing friends who God is calling to follow him!  But it’s hard to let go of being the youth pastor.  I did my first stint in youth ministry in June 2001.  I know a little bit about how to be the youth pastor.  I don’t know a thing about being the Guide Pastor.  And that’s scary.  And that means I might fail.  And well, we competitive people don’t see that as an option.

A couple weeks ago, I received a text from a former student:  Missing my youth pastor right now.  I’ll never be too old to cherish the love you show all of us. 

I’m missing the youth pastor right now, too.

But then I hear the late Cecil Sherman in my head saying to me, “Don’t put yourself in a youth pastor box.  God has other things in store for you.”

So, this is me getting out of my youth pastor box, that I did indeed put myself in (despite Dr. Sherman’s wise advice).

And, as he would say at the beginning of class, “It’s time for school.”  It’s time to tackle this learning curve, no matter how steep.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Casting Director Tristan Frame

I understand this will only be amusing if you know the people listed.  But, if you do, I think you'll enjoy.

First, the back story.  Sunday morning was dress-up day at church.   Lily was Minnie Mouse.  Tristan was Darth Vader.

Sunday morning I said something I say every morning, "Tristan, brush your teeth."

But Sunday morning I heard, "I'm not Tristan, and you're not Mom, so I can't do that.   I'm Darth Vader, and you're Princess Leia."

Lily, "But I want to be the princess!"

Tristan, "Fine, Lily.  You can be the princess.  Mom, that makes you a storm trooper."

Me, "I don't think so.  Darth Vader and Princess Leia, Yoda says it's time to brush your teeth."

(I lost my position of Yoda when Aimee Krueger entered the scene later talking like Yoda--for real.  You gotta hear it.)

A couple hours later we were at church, and Tristan decided to cast those around him in Star Wars:


Daniel Brawley—Obi Wan
Lily—Princess Leia
Ryan King—Darth Maul
Sammy (Dad)—Emperor
Mandy James—Padme
Tristan C (aka Big Tristan)—Luke Skywalker
Daniel Hughes—Han Solo
David Brawley—C3PO
Courey McCoy—Chewbacca
Brian Hughes--Jabba the Hutt

Brian was not impressed with his role, saying, "Do I look like Jabba the Hut to you?!"

Tristan, "Yes."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Listening and Praying

Yesterday I got a great compliment; the kind that sticks with you and continues to release its encouragement and affirmation:  Have you been taught how to listen and to pray, or did God just make you that way?

Yes.

That’s how a seminary professor of mine answered most either/or questions.  I think I’ll borrow his technique.

On one hand, I love to listen to people’s stories, to hear their struggles, to see their faces light up with joy.  I love to ask them questions that help them dig a little deeper or to see their circumstances from a different perspective.

On the other hand, I’ve been taught a lot about how to listen.  Of course the basic rule is, “Shut up!”  You cannot listen when your mouth is running.  And I like to talk…especially about myself.  Very vain of me—I know.  I’m working on it.  I have to tell myself, “shut up,” in my head during every conversation I have.  I still get it wrong all the time.  I interrupt.  I babble on about myself.

But occasionally I actually practice the skills I know.

When I do, I’m always delighted at what I learn about people.  I cannot believe the secrets I get entrusted with, the doubts that get voiced, the regrets that finally get expressed, the hopes and dreams that are given voice.

I’ve also been taught how to pray; of course there are many different ways to pray.  This particular instance involved my praying for someone else, interceding on her behalf.  I don’t think I’ve been taught how to do that.  I simply try to avoid phrases like “in a special way.”  It doesn’t do much for me.  I also try to avoid “just,” as in, “Lord, we just ask…”  I’m not just asking; I’m asking.  Let’s not dance around it; let’s just be honest with God and what we’re asking of Him.  I also try to pray for something, meaning that instead of, “Be with Norma in a special way as she fights cancer,” I might say, “I ask that you give Norma strength and perseverance as she fights cancer.”

Mostly, I listen and try to hear the cries of the heart in front of me, and I offer those to God.

It’s very simple.

It’s easy (when I shut up).

It’s a way to be in the holy, sacred presence of God with another person,… 

and that’s a humbling, intimate, moving experience.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Recently our staff began celebrating our anniversaries.  Basically, when it's someone's anniversary as a PCC staff member, their manager says a few words about them.  

Last October, Erik Edwards became an unpaid staff member.  So, we recently celebrated his anniversary, and I got to say the nice things about him.  Getting to tell the rest of our staff team how selfless, committed, and competent Erik is was a true joy for me.  I share these words with you so that you, too, can hear how amazing Erik is, if you don't already know.  If you're a student or parent of a student, then you most likely know already:)  Please take an opportunity to thank Erik for how he has impacted you, your teenager, and your relationship with God.


October is notable for Erik for two reasons—his birthday and the anniversary of his being “staff.”  We don’t pay him, but he is committed to PCC; he’s more than competent in the ways he serves here; he has great chemistry with our team, and with our students and their families; he has highly respectable character, and he gets our culture.

Erik has served PCC in countless ways, from the Steering Team to the Safety Team to concert organizer, but his role as “staff” is as our Student Ministry Assistant.  He assists with the multi-campus student ministry efforts, namely the annual retreats and mission trips. 

Erik is the best details person I’ve ever worked with!  He can look at a monumental undertaking, like moving 90 students and adults from point A to point B, getting them all registered, paid for, and forms collected and keeping them safe while keeping an eye on the big picture the whole time—offering opportunities where students can encounter God and let Him change their lives for the rest of their lives and for eternity.  He is a details person who is extremely pleasant to work with; he doesn’t rattle easily; he stays calm, collected, and thinks through problems well—all while treating people with grace and patience.  He is a details person who knows things will go wrong and goes with it when it happens.  He is a details person who does, indeed, think through every detail, and he comes in under budget on everything.

All of these things make serving alongside Erik delightful.

But what I admire most about Erik is how he got to be in the position he’s in now.  See, the first time I met Erik, I went to his house for dinner to talk about his interest in getting involved in student ministry.  At that time, I found out that he and Becky weren’t yet members, and that was largely due, maybe entirely due, to some issues with me.  But Erik was willing to take a chance, to be part of my team, and to let those issues work themselves out.  Not once have I felt like Erik was not part of my team.  When he agreed to join our student ministry team, he seems to have agreed to be all-in, despite his initial reservations. 

One of the greatest conflicts I’ve faced in recent years in ministry with was Erik.  I proposed some ideas that he took significant issue with.  As a critical leader in my ministry, he had every right to question my ideas; in fact, as a critical leader in my ministry, it’s his responsibility to evaluate my decisions and directions and to engage me about them. 
But it was difficult for us both.  We’re both reserved people who need time to process and who’d rather not do conflict.  But we were in conflict—good, ideological conflict that makes our ministry better.  It was painful for us both.  I cried.  He cried.  We wrestled with our opposing ideas. 

But I’ve never been part of conflict that went so well.  Erik’s character showed through, and we sat down to talk, each having had time to process, and had a healthy, healing, honest conversation that defined our partnership.  We almost always see eye-to-eye, which makes working together refreshingly easy, but now we know that we can work together well when we vehemently disagree, too.

Erik has made our student mission trips and retreats bigger, more impactful, and more enjoyable than I ever could have.  He’s rented more vans, trained more chaperones, personally recruited more students, collected more fuel receipts, made more phone calls to mission trip project coordinators, and eased more worried parents’ minds than I have.  He’s made each student feel like he wanted them to come on the mission trip; he’s made them feel like they matter to him, and that helps them see that they matter to God.  He’s got a soft spot for the students who push boundaries, and he’s a tangible representation of God’s presence and acceptance to them. 

Erik has made our church’s impact bigger and better, and he’s made me a better pastor and leader. 


Happy Anniversary, Erik!  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Trust, Team, and The Government

I don’t understand the government shutdown.  I get my information from my husband, Stewart, and Colbert.  Occasionally I listen to a panel yell at each other on a news network.  I try (kinda), but I don’t fully understand.

I hear people vent about how immature it is that our government leaders won’t sit in a room, fight it out, figure it out, and walk out of the room with a solution.

I share that frustration.

I try to imagine what it would be like to be one of those leaders, but I can’t picture it.

I’m a leader in an organization of 1,300.  I know what it’s like to walk into a room with my colleagues, knowing that a fight is coming, knowing that someone’s going to yell, someone’s going to cry, I’m going to get red splotches all over my neck and jaw, we’re going to disagree, we’re going to spend hours in that room, and we’re eventually going to emerge from the room with a plan. 

But I also know what makes it possible for us to enter that room and fight, argue, cry, splotch, disagree, strategize, and emerge with a plan everyone is behind.

We’re a team.  We work very hard to be as healthy and functional a team as possible.

We spend time together.  We team build in ways that are fun and in ways that are emotionally and relationally risky.  We build trust in each other’s motives and character.  We practice telling each other the truth—the hard truths most people don’t say to one another, the vulnerable truths most people keep private. 

It’s because of our work on building and maintaining a healthy team that we are able to sit down in a room, fight it out, and emerge with a plan.

That’s why I cannot imagine our federal government leaders sitting in a room, fighting it out, and emerging with a solution that they’re all behind.  They don’t work on being a healthy team; they work very hard on defining the sides, the talking points, the arguments, and the differences.  They don’t trust each other’s motives or character, and no one else does either.  They don’t tell each other the truth; they repeat their parties’ talking points.  They don’t have the best interest of the team in mind; there are more political maneuvers and power plays than I can begin to imagine.

While I share the frustration of the American people; I cannot believe it’s as simple as sitting in a room and talking it out.  How do you do that with people whose motives you question and whose character you abhor?  How do you do that when you have no trust that anyone is being honest or authentic?  How do you do that when you know people will leave the room and undermine the plan in national media?


Clearly that kind of leadership is beyond my capacity and pay grade.  I want them to figure it out; they HAVE to figure this out, but I’m also very glad that I’m not one of them.   

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Crooked, Depraved, Polluted World

I hate listening to hype on the radio and watching it on TV.  I hate the way public personalities use their power to prey on the fears in people's heads, to spread doom and gloom, to raise anxiety, and to catalyze extreme, desperate behavior.

For sure, there are huge problems in our world at this very moment--problems that cost people their lives and their livelihoods.

But it's not new. 

It's not new, but it's been news for as long as I can remember.  And it's been news longer than that.  

In undergrad, I minored in History and did a study of Religion in Antebellum America for one of my American History classes.  While researching, I read a sermon from that time period and was struck by the doom and gloom, "the world's going to hell in a hand basket" rhetoric--because it sounded EXACTLY like what I'd heard from many people from many public platforms in my own lifetime.

It's goes back much further than Antebellum America.

Whom do you think of when you hear "a crooked and depraved generation"?

Do you think of the Millenial generation?  (BTW, enjoyed this video about Millenials last week.)  Maybe Generation X?  Surely not the Baby Boomers...

What world do you think of when you hear "polluted by the world"?  The "world" of American young people today?  

These phrases come from the New Testament in the Bible.  We've been talking about crooked and depraved generations and a world that pollutes for a long time.  (You could go way back into the Old Testament to make this argument, too.)

So what does the Bible say about our crooked and depraved generations and our world that pollutes?  What kind of extreme, reactive behavior should result?  

Well, it says that we should stop complaining and arguing so that we can be pure children of God living among the crooked and depraved generation.  It says that we should watch what we say and look after orphans and widows if we want a religion that's worth anything, if we want to keep from being polluted by the world.

Maybe every generation alive right now is crooked and depraved.
Maybe the world we live in pollutes us.
Maybe the hype is right, even if it isn't new.

The answers also aren't new.  They aren't hype.  They would never make the news:


Watch your mouth.  Take care of people.  

That'll un-pollute the world.  That'll create a generation that's neither crooked nor depraved.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Choosing to Celebrate

Like most moms, I think, I choose to dwell and to doubt, to give into guilt, most evenings.  As the day ends, I look around and see the laundry that didn't get put away, the trip to the gym that didn't happen, the project due in three weeks that needed attention today, but didn't get it, and the list goes on.

I don't think I have a Supermom complex.  I'm not terribly insecure.  This post isn't a cry for affirmation--really; it's not.

Tonight I'm choosing to celebrate instead, largely because tonight our family rallied to get some things right. But I'm also aware that I'm making a choice.  It's my choice to reflect on my evening with joy and pride instead of dwelling on the things that didn't happen.  

Here's what did happen tonight that I'm celebrating...

We ate dinner together.  French onion soup and wedge salads for the adults--bistro fare at home, homemade, a tad healthier than a bistro and a lot cheaper.  The kids ate dinner out of a can and made their own "salads" from our salad toppings, namely bacon and tomatoes.  Sounds like a good salad to me.

My kindergartener did indeed chip away at a large packet of fine motor skills homework that's due in weeks.  He's brilliant (says his mom:), but he really does need help with fine motor skills.  I know he needs the work, and he really wants to do it and do it well (no idea where he gets that:).  It's the ideal homework situation.

We are trying to house train a puppy and potty train a 2-year-old at the same time; prayers are appreciated:)  I'm tired of stepping in puddles (sorry if that's TMI).  Tonight the kid crossed a potty training milestone.  I praised her.  We called Nana who praised her and promised a treat.  We smiled, yelled, danced, laughed, and hugged.  She enjoyed that attention, but it was her brother whom she was watching.  When he clapped for her, she came to me and said, "He's clapping for me!"  When he said, "I'm so proud of you," she glowed.

An hour later it was time for bedtime stories.  When he sounded out and read the first three words of his story all by himself, it was her turn to turn on the praise, "You did it!" she exclaimed while literally patting him on the back.

Tonight, we got some things right.  That's worth celebrating.  Lots of nights we gets lots of things wrong.  That's okay, too.

Even on a good night, there's a stack of clean laundry staring me in the face, there are dirty dishes on the stove and in the sink, and I've stayed up too late again.  It's still a good night and one I choose to celebrate.

Six Septembers

Fall is my favorite.  I love the sights, smells, tastes, and traditions.  I especially love sunny fall days with a slight breeze and a crisp chill.  I get nostalgic on days like that.

September recently ended, and I found myself reflecting a lot as fall began.  Particularly, I reflected on September 2007.  Here’s what happened in my life at that time:

I started my final year of seminary, but I dropped down to part-time student and raised my hours working at church.

I traveled with Sammy, Brian & Susan, and Tim & Kathy to Calvary Baptist in Belize City.  That spring our church had taken a bunch of money and a bunch of people to Belize City to help construct their new church building.  In September we went to the Dedication of the finished product.

I, along with my husband, entered into debt for the first time in our marriage, and we went big.  We bought a house with exactly the floor plan we wanted.  We moved back to our hometown.  We moved a mile from church/work.

I got pregnant, a little earlier than planned.

I got a puppy, Vanilla, a yellow (white) lab.  I’ve had dogs since I was 6-years-old.  ‘Nilla was hands-down the smartest dog I’ve ever had.  Every morning she gave me a “hug and kiss,” which included putting her paws on my shoulders and licking my cheek. 

This September I found myself remembering back to that September and frankly wondering what in the world I was thinking.

This September I found myself reflecting on the differences between September 2007 and September 2013:

The seminary days are over, and I miss the learning.  This September I entered a new phase of my journey with God as I moved into a new role, Guide Pastor.  If you’re familiar with my church’s mission statement, then you might understand I’m kind of in charge of the second half of our mission statement:  to guide people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.  It’s a new role, not just for me.  It is a steep learning curve for me and for our church.

The world traveling has largely come to an end with little ones, but plans are in the works for a 10-year anniversary trip when the Frames might once again travel the world together—our very favorite thing.

We’re still in that house.  We’ve made some improvements; more need to be made.  We’ll probably be in that house for a while seeing as how we bought it just before the market really crashed, and we owe lots more than it’s worth.  It’s a great house.  If it only had some storage…

We now have two kids, and the result of that pregnancy six Septembers ago started kindergarten this fall and is READING!  If you know his parents, then you know this is the beginning of the rest of his life; his library is already about 100 books strong.

Vanilla was hit by a car and killed before she turned one.  It broke my heart.  We had her cremated with plans to spread her ashes in my step-dad’s pond—‘Nilla’s favorite place.  I couldn’t do it.  She sits in an urn on a bookcase by my bed.  But, this September, we signed up to be dog owners again.  Rex has stolen our hearts, at times our sleep, the skin on our hands, toys left in the floor, and our old shoes.


I still don’t know what we were thinking six years ago.  It’s been quite a journey.  Here’s to the next six...