Friday, January 31, 2014

I Love PCPS

It was 10:00 on an August morning.  I had just sat through my first college lecture with my twin sister by my side—roommates, sisters, and students pursuing the same degree.  Dr. Ausband dismissed the class, and then pointed to us and said, “Could you two stay after for a minute?”

We had never gotten in trouble at school, and we were being asked to stay after our very first college class ever?!

When the room emptied, Dr. Ausband asked where we had completed our freshman years of college.  We explained it was our freshman year of college, and that we had AP credit for freshman English.  Then he asked, “Where did you go to high school?”

“Powhatan.”

“Powhatan?  Where is that?”

We explained the place that had been home since we were six-years-old, the town about an hour west of Richmond.

Dr. Ausband replied, “I’ve never heard of Powhatan before.  But I won’t forget it.  I’ve never seen two students so prepared for this sophomore English course; I wouldn’t have guessed you were just out of high school.”

We walked back to our sweltering dorm room on the third floor with no air conditioning in Virginia in August, proud of the hometown we already loved.  We thought of the teacher who had earned us most of Dr. Ausband’s compliment, Kay Meredith, our junior honors and AP English teacher.  But there were so many others, teachers from all subjects—English, chemistry, calculus, French, history, physics, algebra—who had invested in us, challenged us, celebrated with us, cried with us, encouraged us, and taught us very, very well.  The investment went all the way back to Powhatan Elementary School, with notable teachers like Mrs. Payne and Mrs. Burruss.

My sister and I attended Powhatan County Public Schools first grade through twelfth.  My sister and Sammy Frame were in the same first grade class at Powhatan Elementary School, and they went on to have classes together every year until graduation.  

Sammy and me the day we graduated PHS
Sammy and I started dating our junior year at PHS; we’re one of those couples with a sickeningly sweet story of high school love, college separation, and a reunion resulting in marriage.  Sammy and I completed grad school together, walking across the stage to grasp our Master’s degrees the day before I went into labor with our son.  That son is now a kindergartner at Powhatan Elementary School.


We are proud to be raising our kids in the community that raised us.  We look forward to the day that our kids will go to their first college classes and astound professors with their PCPS educations.  We are committed to being part of their educations and their schools.  We would love the opportunity for Sammy to represent our district on Powhatan’s School Board.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Come Thou Fount

I’m not good at having nothing to do.

I’m very good at getting stuff done.

“Just sit and relax,” is much harder to hear than, “I have a big, stressful job for you.”

As I’ve transitioned roles at church over the last year, I’ve become more hands off of the hard work that gets done day-to-day, and my arms now stretch widely over large areas of ministry that extend across our four campuses. 

I first experienced this change last fall as I sat in my living room recliner while a team of adults and students prepped a bonfire event at the church—a mile from my home.  It was horrible.  I held my kids on my lap and hugged them tightly, because my muscles needed something to do, and I needed a reminder that I still had important work to do.  Not being there was much harder than being there.  Sitting at home itching to be there was much harder than running around like an Energizer bunny with an adrenaline shot for three hours. 

Tonight was similar.  Tonight I simply attended a fundraiser for a student mission team.  I didn’t lead it, plan it, or advertise it.  The other leaders did it all, and did it exceptionally well.  I sat.  I ate.  I enjoyed the show.

And a few quiet tears rolled down my cheeks.

I wasn’t needed.  And that made me feel like I didn’t matter.

I suppose that reveals the pride and self-centeredness of my heart.

Then, three young men came up to close out the evening.  As I watched two of them, Elijah and Travis, I was seeing clear flashbacks in my brain of two high school boys walking through my front door for small group.  Tonight they sang about how God makes beautiful things, and at the risk of sounding like a really creepy 30-year-old woman talking about 20-year-old guys, I thought of the beautiful things God had created in front of my eyes.  I looked at those two young men on stage and saw the beautiful worship leaders God’s made those high school boys into.  And I was proud.  And my insecurity continued, because if I don’t do the day-to-day work with guys like that anymore, then what do I do that is important?  That was clearly important work.  I can see the results of that.

But those three young men also played a version of, “Come Thou Fount.”  I first worshipped to that song March 2001.  It was my first mission trip, and the worship band played that song.  That trip is a marker on my spiritual journey, a turning point.  I raised my hands in worship for the first time.  I prayed more than I’d ever prayed in my life.  I saw God work in and through me, and others did, too.  I got in the college van to depart from campus that Friday morning a wreck—spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  I returned the following weekend a different person, a person God was calling close to Him, a person whom He would soon call to ministry.

Tonight, God reminded me that I’m still prone to wander, and that He still seeks me when I do, just like on Spring Break in Panama City Beach in 2001.  This blog post reveals the wanderings of my heart into pride.  I think God also reminded me, with timeless words and familiar voices, that He still has work to do in me and through me.  It may require as big a change within me as was required on that first mission trip of mine—how fitting that the reminder would come at a fundraiser for a student mission trip.


I’m thankful for streams of mercy.  Lord knows I need them.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Spain Fundraiser

I’m just home from a fundraiser at church.  Next summer a team of students is traveling to Spain where they’ll teach conversational English in schools and follow-up with the Spanish students in the evenings for further conversation, hopefully about God.  Tonight that team hosted a Variety Show complete with dinner catered, in part, by Carrabba’s, lots of gift basket raffles, and unbelievable talent. 

I’ve been part of lots of fundraisers for student mission trips, so I authoritatively deem tonight’s fundraiser a success!  Jackie Heberle and Erik Edwards led, like always, with humility and servants’ hearts.  Their love of God, students, and missions was evident in the way they interacted with the large crowd that showed up tonight.  Speaking of that crowd, what a great turnout of support for our Spain mission team!  I was thrilled that our students could tangibly see, in the room full of people, how much support there is for them, their spiritual journeys, and their upcoming tangible journey. 

And the talent tonight was a huge part of the success.  When you advertise for a Variety Show, you never know what you’re going to get.  What tonight’s crowd got was blown away.  We saw some of our usual music leaders debut their band, the #Hashtags, kicking off the event with fun and high-quality covers of songs we all know.  We saw the versatility of Matthew O’Donnell’s musical ability and talent as he tirelessly performed with almost every musical act, switching instruments and genres every five minutes.  We saw tiny Brenda Whiting surrounded by men (her husband and two Warinner boys), whose hidden talent unfolded in delightful crowd pleasers.  Paul Myers took the stage with his sisters-in-law, while his wife was home with the stomach flu.  She would have been proud of all of them; they did fantastic!  The talent continued, each act winning over the crowd, until we ended the night with some powerful worship songs.

My heart was full, watching students and their parents work hard for the trip ahead, watching a tech booth full of volunteers who will do it all again—at all three of our physical campuses—in just a few hours, watching talented adults pour out their talent for others’ benefit, watching the room fill with supportive community and church members, watching leaders lead with grace.

And I wondered, do they know what this fun night means?

Do they know that this trip will stretch the faith of the entire families, as parents put their babies on planes to cross an ocean?

Do they know that this trip will enlarge understandings of who God is, what His Church is, who His people are, what worship is, and where God is? 

Do they know how much work Leah, Angela, Regina, Jackie, Erik, and countless others contributed to make tonight happen?  Do they know that those parents and leaders did it, because they want to offer our students opportunities that will change their lives?

Do they know that other adults will pay $2,000 and a week’s vacation to chaperone students on this trip?

Do they know that the mission team members’ hearts will unite with the children of God they will meet next summer and that parting will be hard, after only a week?

Do they know that the people of Seville, Spain and Powhatan, Virginia will see the image of God when they look in each other’s faces?


Do they know that you never see God or the world the same after a trip like this?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2013 and 2014

Here's my expected, conventional, beginning-of-a-new-year blog post:


2013 was a good year.

My kids reached ages when, for the first time, I could genuinely utter the cliché, “I wish they could stay this age forever.”  They are fun, articulate, kind, and loving kids—showering me with more love than I deserve.  When Tristan was 2-years-old, I wanted him to stay that age forever.  Then I had a baby, and life and parenting became overwhelming.  But now, I have two little people who are increasingly independent.  They have ideas, concerns, and dreams.  They are aware of, and compassionate toward, the people around them.  I still want to pull out my hair occasionally, but less often than a year or two years ago, and I find delight in my kids.

My marriage strengthened, and we re-connected.  We still fight for adult conversation and quality time amid young kids and full-time jobs, but we’re surrounded by a great support system of people who love our kids and believe in our marriage.  Like the cheesy line in one of the songs we loved as teenagers says, we’re each other’s greatest fans.  We admire each other, sometimes to the point of jealousy, we believe in each other, and we’re maturing well together.  I sometimes get a glimpse of the naïve, passionate teenagers we were, and I also see the place we’re headed; both sights give me joy.

Both my husband and I are growing up and into new roles at work/church.  I suspect that will make 2013 a defining year in my life—the year “youth pastor” stopped defining me.  I’m still fumbling my way into new roles, feeling humble and insecure as I venture into new areas.  It’s good.  It’s time.  It’s hard, and nothing puts me in my happy place like reverting back to Angie, the Youth Pastor, when the opportunity arises.  The biggest surprise to me is the role preaching is beginning to play in my job and in my calling.  I wrote and preached a sermon about Ruth and Naomi this summer that was an important step for me.

I lost 12 pounds in 2013!  Someone who hadn't seen me in a while saw me walk on stage to preach and thought, “Who is that thin blonde?  Oh my gosh, it’s Angie!”  December 2012 found me at a weight I hope to never reach again—a weight I only reached in my third trimester with my daughter.  I exercised and ate well sporadically, but I kept going, kept getting back into the gym and the healthy eating after falling off the wagon, and I feel great about it.  Thirty-two looks good on me; in fact, as I look at friends from high school and college on social media, I think most of us look better now than we did fifteen years ago.  I'm learning that grace, confidence, and maturity are tangibly beautiful.
And, I’m excited about 2014.  I’ll be Matron of Honor in my sister’s wedding.  I’ll officiate my first wedding of former students and walk them through the pre-marital journey.  I’ll lose 3 more pounds.  I’ll talk about myself less and be a student of others more.  I’ll figure out more of what it means to be the Guide Pastor and a teaching pastor.  I’ll continue falling in love with my husband, who will or will not be elected to the School Board.  I’ll watch my kids become more of the people God created them to be.  And, I anticipate some changes in 2014; I have no idea what they are, but I sense their imminence--with less fear and trembling than I usually experience with change.

Monday, January 6, 2014

With

With.  This small word is a preposition.  It’s not exciting like a verb or descriptive like an adjective.  It’s just a preposition—a puny part of speech.  Often we don’t even take the time to write out all four letters of the word; a “w” and a “/” suffice. 

And yet…

With is powerful.

        Sitting with someone as they cry, mourn, or die.

        Being with a woman as she births a baby.

        Promising with the love of your life before God, family, and friends.

        Being intimate with your husband or wife.

With describes and defines monumental life moments. 

With also describes and defines Christmas.  Immanuel, God with us, is why we celebrate.  We have a God who came to earth as a baby to be with us—in our vulnerability, in our dependency, in our pain and agony, even in our mundane moments.

Jesus was on this earth with humanity for a little over thirty years.  A few of those thirty years were remarkable, but most of them were likely mundane.  He worked—honest, hard work with his hands.  He ate and slept.  He related to his immediate family. 

Then Jesus promised to be with us always, even to the very end of the age.

At Christmas we celebrate this withness—how Jesus came to be with us on earth, and how we find hope and comfort in his promise to be with us always
.
But Christmas is over.  The remarkable joy on kids’ Christmas morning faces has waned.  They’re back in school; their parents are back at work.  Bulging boxes of Christmas decorations are packed away, hidden for the mundane months ahead.

The season for celebrating Immanuel is over until next year.  So what do we do now?  

What if we inverted Immanuel?  What if God with us became us with God

God became flesh and came to earth.  What did he come here to tell us?

“Follow me.”

God came here and told us to come with Him.

What if we worked at being with God until we celebrate God with us again? 


What could being with God look like in your life, in your community?