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When He Leads You to the Desert

The Ask…

About 2 years ago, things in my life seemed pretty stable — I had no idea that 6 months later, my whole world would be turned upside down. That God would very clearly ask me to leave all my comforts, all the known places and people, and head back to a place that held very few happy memories for me. 

It’s no secret if you’ve read some of my posts or had a conversation with me, that even though I was born and raised in Indiana, I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged here. It’s been more of a black sheep feeling whenever I’ve been in Indiana. The way I think, live my life, and the life paths I’ve taken don’t quite fit in with the viewpoints or life plans of most Hoosiers. Some of these have been my choice, others have been chosen for me. 

I’m a Christian, but tend to lean to the more progressive side. I’m most comfortable in a room full of diverse cultures. Instead of getting married and starting a family in my 20s, I lived in 4 different states and obtained 3 degrees while establishing and progressing my career. I’m 32 and have never owned a home, never been married, have no kids, and am obsessed with my dog.

Desert, When God calls

The place…

So when God made it clear He was calling me from Chicagoland, the place I had settled into as an adult — MY home and my comfort place. The place I didn’t feel like a black sheep. The place where it was ok I wasn’t married or didn’t have kids or didn’t own a home. The place where I felt I belonged. The place I had a church. The place I had a job with people who felt like family and the population I loved to work with. The place where it was normal to go grocery shopping and hear multiple different languages and I was constantly exposed to new cultures. He asked me to leave MY PLACE — and follow Him to the place He was asking. The place I never felt like I belonged. 

I wouldn’t say I went willingly, but I followed. I followed, because He asked and I trusted.

The Desert

When I got here I was full of hope. Full of ideas. Full of the thoughts and dreams that maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t feel the same as I did the first 22 years of my life.

Maybe, just maybe, I would find my place. 

A year and a half in, I haven’t found my place. I miss my friends. I miss my job and the family of co-workers (side note, I love my team, they truly are what keep me going in a high stress job). I miss hearing the different languages while shopping. I miss the people who loved me for me, not what I could give or do for them. I miss the church I was excited to go to. I miss the normal restaurants I would eat at.

I miss the feeling of home.

In the desert, God led me to a boy. And when we  met, we were both transitioning through a lot of change. The change looked different, but the heartache and processing were similar. The challenge to trust, despite the pain and quietness was familiar to both of us. 

I’m still here…

And a year and a half later, I’m still in the desert. Wandering, finding water wells just when I think I can’t go anymore. They come in all shapes and sizes and forms. Sometimes in the quiet whisper that reminds me God’s got this. Sometimes in the loud reminder of a song. Sometimes in the gentle nudge of the sunrise reminding me His mercies are new every morning. In the gentle cuddles of my sweet dog. In an encouraging text from a faithful friend.

And though I haven’t found the overflowing lake to fill up my dry reservoir, I’m trusting in the One who knows the way to that lake and will follow one step at a time.

Because when He asks I follow. And never, ever has He let me down before. It often takes time (ugh, time) to see what He is doing, but it always has been worth it. So I remind myself of His faithfulness in the past. In the aspects of not only my life, but others that have been completely changed because I followed when He called. I’m reminded of the amazing people I’ve collected along the way because of going where He’s called. I’m reminded of the incredible career path and how He’s taken me from being told I was too dumb to be a nurse, to being a nurse leader.

And when He brought me to the desert… I found Mercy and Healing

Have you ever listened to a song for months and then one day, the lyrics hit you? My word of the year has been mercy. Normally with my word of the year, I’m sick of the lessons God has been teaching me 6 months into the year. But in October I realized I was just beginning to grasp what God had been teaching me about mercy. It was like the small trickles of water He has been giving me throughout the year. And the other night with just a few days left in 2018, He hit me square in the face with the lyrics that have been on repeat, but I never truly heard.

My past embraced
My sin forgiven
I’m blameless in your sight
My history rewritten

Amanda Cook “Mercy”

And to be honest, I could keep writing, because of the sweet, sweet message I have been given, but that would make for one lengthy post. So until next time, remember, His mercies are truly new every morning, even when it doesn’t feel like it…

It’s Been — A Reflection

It’s been a little over a year since I moved back to Indiana. I spent 9 years away from my home state. 8/9 of those years were within a large metropolitan area. So moving back to a smaller metropolitan area, has been hard, to say the least. I never quite felt like I belonged in the place I grew up, and I can’t say that it has changed as I’ve gotten older. In fact, I would say I feel even further removed from the place that I was born and raised now that I’m back here.

It’s been interesting to process through my first 22 years of life in Indiana, and then my life after Indiana. There isn’t anything wrong with Indiana, it just doesn’t quite fit who I am or the way my life has gone. It’s a really hard thing to admit that you don’t feel like you belong in the very place where you had so many of your formative years. But it is also a very freeing feeling to acknowledge that I’m different, and that’s ok.

It’s been interesting to watch how the majority of people around me in Indiana, followed the “Indiana dream”. They got married fairly young, had children short thereafter, now have a house, and their children are in or are starting school. Meanwhile, I’ve been developing my career, am just starting to head down the path toward marriage, have no kids, and still live in a rental. The last year the question I’ve been asking myself has been “what’s wrong with me that I haven’t had the normal life progression of people in Indiana?” So much of this also ties back to being an enneagram 2. As a 2, I have trouble feeling like I belong, but have this deep need to feel like I belong.

It’s been quite the process to realize {yet again} that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. My life just looks different. It’s not that I don’t want to get married or that I don’t want children, quite the opposite, I want it very much; it’s just on a different time table (at least I hope). I didn’t plan on my career being my priority, it just happened that way. But I also know, that if I had had kids younger, I probably wouldn’t have developed my career like I have. I may have never found my calling as an oncology nurse, which would have been heartbreaking. I also never would have gotten to live in so many different places, meet so many incredible people, have amazing experiences, and heal in ways I could have never healed living in Indiana.

It’s been eye opening to go back to Chicagoland. This past weekend I spent up there and I realized, it still feels like home. I also realized little things that I never appreciated while I was there, like that there are side walks and walkways everywhere. There are also things that I knew I would miss like the incredible food scene, the amazing friends who became family, and the diversity that is everywhere. Chicagoland makes me happy, and it’s funny because I went there not too excited thinking it could never live up to my time in New Jersey, but left kicking and screaming. Turns out, I liked it just as much as New Jersey and it developed me in new ways that New Jersey hadn’t been able to. In both places, I was able to find a place where I was accepted even when my type 2 the giver couldn’t give. I found people who didn’t care that I wasn’t married or that I didn’t have kids. I found people who loved me as I was, not for what I could give them.

It’s been a year of processing and learning since I’ve been back. A year of accepting that I finally landed back in Indiana, and though I planned to settle here, I’m not quite sure I will. I’m not quite sure what the future looks like. But when I landed back in Indiana, I found an Indiana boy, who grew up feeling much the same way as I did. However, this Indiana boy has never lived anywhere else. So now the question remains “should we stay or should we go?” I’m not sure when we’ll get the answer, but I’m finally at peace knowing it’s ok that I never felt I belonged here, because I found my place of belonging. I found that there are people and there are cultures where I feel at home and love me for me. Indiana, thank you for raising me, New Jersey thank you for taking me out of my comfort zone and giving me the feeling of home the second I hit your state for the first time, Chicagoland thank you for helping me become who I am today and giving me the place and space to be who I really I am.

It’s been a year of facing my past and walking through things that happened in the past that needed healing. I’ve been facing my pride, which ties back to being a 2. It’s hard for us 2s to not admit we don’t have it all together. Or that sometimes, when we give, we give too much and that can ruin things. Sometimes as a 2, I’ve given so much and received nothing in return which causes me to break and run the other direction. I don’t think my feeling of not belong in Indiana is solely tied to being an enneagram 2. But I do know that facing the core of who I am and my past, is allowing me to resolve what is on me and what is just because it is.

It’s been hard to stare straight into things I was able to leave when I left Indiana. Things that shaped me and formed me. Not all of it was bad, but parts of it have been very painful to face. Without the healing and accepting I found in the other places I lived, I could have never come back to look the things of my past straight in the face. Mercy is my word of the year, and even in September, I’m still grasping what this word means. I think it’s so hard for me to understand mercy, because as a 2 it goes against everything that drives me. As a 2, it’s ingrained in me that I have to earn love. But the truth is, I don’t have to earn the love of my Heavenly Father, it’s there for me no matter what. And no matter how much I do, He’ll love me, just the same — just as I am.

It’s been. Now it’s time to step into what it’s going to be one step at a time. One healing at a time. Accepting and loving myself just as I am, while facing the things I need to change to continue to improve myself. Most importantly excepting the love that is offered to me without any strings attached from up above. Secondly, allowing those to love me even when I have nothing left to give them.

It’s been, so what’s next?

 

When a Leader Lets You Down

Where this post began…

Recently someone asked me how I was taking the news that came out about Bill Hybels. They knew I had called Willow Creek my home church for 3.5 years and would still be there if I had not moved last July. So I answered, honestly. When a leader let’s us down, it’s hard. It takes processing, self reflection, and honesty about ones own feelings, to work through.

“But running from emotional pain is never a good idea, as it only leaves us damaged of soul and hindered in our ability to fulfill our purpose. We have to turn and face our torturous seasons and the scars they try to leave on our hearts.”
― Stephen Mansfield, Healing Your Church Hurt: What To Do When You Still Love God But Have Been Wounded by His People

As I’ve been processing through the possibility that these allegations could be true (and the more that comes out, the harder it seems to digest), I reflected back to the beginning of my journey at Willow Creek. I walked into Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois in January of 2014. I was broken, damaged, and so beyond hurt by “the church” I had no plans of actually staying there or at any church. I was at the point where I wasn’t sure I would ever want to be more than just a bench warmer in any church ever again.

I walked into Willow Creek broken in pieces, and I walked out 3.5 years later (kicking and screaming that I wasn’t ready to leave yet), healed and stretched in ways I could have never imagined. The church, any church, is made up of broken and sinful people, this includes it’s leaders. As a result of this, (at any church) people can get wounded and damaged. The churches I have been hurt in have provided healing and growing for others. And the church I found healing and growing in, has caused wounds, some extremely deep and unimaginable, and damage for others.

“Your horrific time of trouble offered you truths about yourself, windows into your own soul, and maps to the terrain of your inner life. Wise people learn to gather this intelligence to help them conquer themselves and then to live in loftier ways.”
― Stephen Mansfield, Healing Your Church Hurt: What To Do When You Still Love God But Have Been Wounded by His People

No one wants to be alone…

One of the biggest desires I’ve found we humans have is to resolve the “I’m alone” feelings. This has resulted in many scenarios where one group of people take one side and another group of people take another side. I think when we fight so hard to feel not alone, we often forget to keep our mind and hearts open. Because just like any story or situation, there are always 3 sides (if not more) to the story. There are the ones from each person (or people) involved and then somewhere in the middle of that, there is the truth. I think one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned as a leader is to hear out both sides before coming to any conclusions.

I’m beyond guilty of that need to not feel alone. For me personally, it stems from when I was a child. In 5th grade I was the targeted child in a very small class for bullying. I don’t know why I was the target, but it sticks with me to this day. The lies that were taught to me when I was just 10 years old were that I didn’t belong and I wasn’t wanted. These have fed into my needs and desires into adulthood and, if I’m not careful, they can run me into very wrong directions and decisions.

“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.” Nelson Mandela 

A reflection on leaders failing…

So back to the whole reason for this post. Leaders are going to fail us, they are human. I’m a leader and I’m going to fail, because I’m human. But even when leaders fail us, that doesn’t take away the good that has resulted from their leadership. It doesn’t dissolve any positive experiences or growth you’ve had under their leadership. It doesn’t mean that the church, corporation, or group of people they’ve lead aren’t going to continue to grow and flourish. It also doesn’t mean that just because they’ve excelled in certain areas, that the hurt that has resulted from their misconduct shouldn’t be brought to light and that apologies shouldn’t happen.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” Jim Rohn

I don’t know what the truth is behind the Bill Hybels misconduct allegations, but I do know this. Because of his leadership, I was able to find healing. But I also know, because of some of his choices, there are people today suffering. My heart breaks for these people. It’s a very fine line to be able to celebrate my healing as the result of leadership of one person, while also mourning for the pain of others that result from the same leader. It doesn’t take away the value of my healing and it also doesn’t devalue the extent of their pain. It doesn’t mean that just because I found healing as a result of this leader, while others found damage, that we can’t still be in it together. It just means that we are two different sets of people, in a broken world, that have to learn to walk together with different experiences and say “you’re not alone, I’m with you”.

My promise as a leader…

So what will I take away for my own life? As a leader, I promise to always be open and honest. To hear my employees out. To apologize if I’ve said something either I or they feel was hurtful. I promise to not aim to be perfect, but to be honest and real of my shortcomings. I promise to listen carefully when someone feels I have wronged them and try my hardest not to come at it from a biased point of view. I promise to live with truth, integrity, and to continue to build my skills and character so each day I can become a better leader for whomever it is I may be leading. Whether I like it or not (and it is often on the not side), I know God has called me to be a leader. This is not a responsibility I carry lightly and I sure hope the burden I feel for being called into leadership never lightens. And if it does, I hope those closest to me challenge me and ask if I truly should be in leadership anymore.

I also hope that if I should ever be unable to look at someone else’s side, that those around me will call me out. It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about the hurt on both sides and how can we come to a place where we both find healing. And to those suffering right now from leadership hurt, I pray that you find the healing you need. And as a leader, I apologize that we have let you down.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. ” Philippians 2:3-4



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