If we were having coffee

having coffee

One of my favorite things to do with friends is to chat over a cup of coffee. This was something my girlfriends and I started doing in high school, and it carried into college and beyond as well. I don’t get to do it nearly enough, anymore. Busy schedules, babies, budgets  and distant borders now make having coffee with a friend increasingly difficult. That’s why today I’m going to share with you what I’d tell you if we were having coffee.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about how terrible my work life is right now. On the surface, my work life seems ideal: I work from home, I have a robust amount of autonomy, I work almost entirely independently and I get to set my own schedule. However, all is not as it seems. Our board of directors have recently made broad institutional changes that are affecting top level leadership and impacting me directly. These changes have been abrupt and ill-planned. The morale among my team and the organization as a whole is low, and it’s not a great place to be. So, I’m updating my resume and brushing up on my interview skills.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about how Oklahoma’s schizophrenic weather is causing my allergies to go bat crazy. I can’t breathe, my throat itches and I’m hacking like a middle-aged chainsmoker named Barb. Ryan went out for some allergy meds tonight, and all of the major brands were sold out. It seems I’m not alone. Oklahoma’s extended forecasts have had more highs and lows than the Zingo at Bell’s. Go home, Oklahoma weather, you’re drunk.

If we were having coffeewe would inevitably talk politics. I’ve generally avoided these conversations since law school, but I believe our country is in a critical place and we need more engaged citizens. And while I don’t expect to win you to my side, I thrive on the exchange of ideas. I think we’re all better for it when we can dialogue with those of different worldviews.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about how Ryan’s starting a new ministry position in a local church that has us so excited. Since moving here last summer, we’ve really struggled to find a church home. However, a church just a few blocks from our house recently hired Ryan as their bivocational worship leader. This new faith family has made us feel incredibly welcome already, and I’m so thankful for new possibilities.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how my firstborn is turning four years old this week and I don’t even know what’s happening. Tonight after her bath, she asked me to blow-dry her hair, and I was struck by how much of a little girl she is now. All signs of my baby are gone and it’s exhilarating and devastating all at the same time. I’d also tell you that parenting her is the greatest challenge of my life so far (and I’ve had many). I’m daily forced to my knees in prayer for how to be the mom she needs, and it’s a humbling road to walk. Where all my mommas of strong-willed humans at?

Okay,. Your turn. If we were having coffee, what would you tell me?

Loneliness, friendship and faith

Loneliness, friendship, and faith

In case you didn’t know, we recently uprooted our lives and moved to a new town. (Again.) (For the 7th time in 5 years.) (You can read more about that here.) Since we’ve moved so many times, we often find ourselves displaced from our network of friends and having to start over in a new place. With these many transitions, I’ve observed that, in my adult life, it’s much harder to start over in a new place and establish quality friendships.

Now don’t get me wrong, acquaintances are easy to come by. But, real friendships, the kind that span the years and traverse the miles between you, are difficult to grow and maintain as adults. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is. What is about adulthood that makes nurturing relationships with others so challenging?

I find this struggle all the more troubling because I’m a Christian. The church is supposed to be synonymous with community. Especially in the Southern Baptist world, we hold fellowship meals and talk about the importance of “not forsaking the fellowship of believers,” and yet church can be the loneliest place for many, myself included.

For example, since moving here last August, we’ve visited most of the churches within our denomination in town. We found ourselves gravitating to one in particular – it’s doctrine matches ours, the pastor preaches through the Bible expositionally (which is our preferred preaching method), and our daughter enjoys the children’s ministry activities on Wednesday nights. We have grown increasingly involved in the life of the church – we’ve joined the choir, and I’m playing bass for the worship team.

Yet, we can go through several Sunday and Wednesday services and nobody talks to us. This isn’t a large church, either – there are maybe 100 people there on a Sunday morning. You may think, perhaps the problem is that we haven’t connected to a small group. That isn’t the case. We’ve been regularly attending the small group class for our age/season of life since we started attending in September. People do talk to us in small group – but, if we are absent for several weeks in a row, nobody reaches out to us – not even the small group leader. 

You may also think this is an isolated incident – that this particular church might need to grow in their biblical understanding of community. However, in our many moves, we have found this situation occurring more often than not. I have often wondered if maybe there is something wrong with me/us because it happens so often. Yet,  the more I talk to other believers inside and outside of my denominational affiliation, I keep hearing this same story of loneliness and isolation among the people of God.

The weight of this problem struck me last week. I was at the gym with an old friend – someone I’ve known for over 15 years. We’ve known each other since high school, and though our lives have gone different ways at different times in adulthood, we have reconnected recently since I moved back to our hometown.

During our time at the gym (we call it “treadmill therapy”), she confided to me that she and her husband are starting marriage counseling. As she shared this deeply intimate struggle in her life, she said to me, “I’ve felt like I can’t talk to anyone about this. I can’t tell my parents, and I can’t talk to anyone at church about it.” She’s felt isolated and alone – navigating the murky waters of the sea of marital conflict on her own.

Her experience is just one of many similar to it. Bible-believing, faithful, church-going men and women who sit in pews every single week are battling unseen conflicts on their own, without a community to circle up around them and go to war with them.

Why? That’s the question I’ve not been able to answer, yet. I don’t understand why it’s been so hard for us to find a community of gospel friendships. I don’t understand why it’s easier to find camaraderie among coworkers than among co-laborers in the church. I think familiarity has something to do with it – the more you’re around someone, the more the relationship grows. Yet, if the gospel is anything, it should be the ultimate source of familiarity – our mutual need for grace in light of our shared weakness.

As you can see, I have more questions than answers. Have you had this struggle in your adult life? Have you ever had to start over and build new friendships? What was your experience like?

To the working mom at church

to the working mom at church

Dear Working Mom,

I see you waking in the early fringe hours of the morning for self care – claiming a few precious moments of solitude for bible study and prayer, or for exercising and meditation. I know how tired you feel throughout the day because of the lack of sleep, but those wee hours of the morning are the only time you feel you can spend on just you.

I see you swallow back tears when your toddler looks in your eyes over breakfast and says, “But mama, I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay home with you.” I know how hard it is to hear those words, to try to make your little one understand how you wish you could stay home with her too and why you have to work.

I see you running errands on your lunch break, so as not to consume precious evening time. I see you grabbing a quick bite to eat in your car in the midst of grocery shopping or paying bills, or munching on a snack at your desk because you used your lunch hour to get a haircut or go to the doctor.

I see you missing group bible studies and/or moms groups, because they’re all in the mornings and you have to work. Or, when there is an evening option, the guilt you feel from sacrificing more time with your kids prohibits you from feeling the freedom to join. I know you wish there was another way, because you miss the fellowship with other women, and you know you need it.

I see you talking with other moms before and after service on Sunday, feeling out of place as they talk about homeschool curriculum or play dates. I know you feel like it’s hard for you to have friends. Most of the other church women are SAHMs, which is fine but you live in an opposite world. I know it’s lonely there.

I see you downcast during Mother’s Day sermons, when your well-meaning pastor extols the virtuous wife and mother who keeps the tidy home, raises the well-mannered children and serves her family joyfully. I know you feel less than. I know you feel like your brothers and sisters around you turn their nose up at you because you choose to work, as if your decision was made without regard for your children’s well-being or the good of your marriage.

I see all of these things because I’m a working mom, too. I know how hard it is to find a kindred spirit, to feel out of place among the family of God, to wish there were more bible studies or blogs written from the working mom’s perspective or to us.

I pray you can find friendships with fellow Christian sisters who encourage you, edify you, and empower you.

I pray you can find church family who support you and love you.

I pray your husband appreciates you and strengthens you.

I pray you know that your sacrifice is not in vain. I pray that you can have confidence that, though you work outside the home, you are motivated by what’s best for your children and family at this time.

I pray you can find rest for your weariness in Jesus. I pray you can believe him when he says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I pray you know that, no matter who cares for your child during the day, there is no replacement or substitute for you. There is no one like you in your child’s life.

I know you’re lonely, but you’re not alone. I know you’re weary, and though you can’t see it, I know you’re strong, because Jesus has you. Jesus is with you. He is with your children when you can’t be with them.

With you in Him,

Rachel

Easter recap: don’t find joy in the pork chop, find joy in Jesus

Easter Recap

Easter Recap

I open my eyes and it’s still dark outside. My early riser is tapping on my face, telling me to get up. I roll over and tell her to go back to bed until the sun comes up. It’s Sunday, I want a little more sleep. She resists and a tantrum ensues. Suddenly, cries from the other room reveal her brother is awake. So much for sleep.

We scramble to eat breakfast and get dressed for church in time to make it there before morning rehearsal starts. Amid the flurry of teeth brushing, hair styling, clothes changing and shower taking, I’m trying to get lunch in the slow cooker and prepare myself as well. Finally, we fly out the door with just enough time to get to the church.

Punctuality is one of my love languages, and the chaos of the morning plus running late has soured my mood. My family receives the brunt of my grumpy condition. My husband remarks, “Your bad mood is becoming a Sunday morning habit.” I know he’s right.  But still I brood.

After church, we arrive home to be greeted by a smoky odor. Lunch is burning. I quickly assess the damage to salvage what I can while also putting the pasta side on the stove to cook. After it’s finished, I do a taste test to discover that it’s terrible. I dump the whole dish in the garbage and grab a pack of potato chips instead.

This was how Easter started for us this year. There were a million moments of mess and mania that I allowed to quickly steal my joy.  I was so fixated on making the perfect dinner and sharing the picture of the perfectly posed kids in their perfectly coordinating outfits that I missed the forest for the trees. And as I sat there lamenting our then cold, burned lunch, my husband remarked, “don’t find joy in the pork chop, find your joy in Jesus. He didn’t die and rise again for Easter dinner. He gave his life so you can have joy in this chaos.”

I needed an attitude adjustment, and my husband’s kind admonishing was the antidote to my angst. I let the enemy win that morning. I behaved like Jesus was still in the tomb. Praise God he isn’t, and his resurrected life renews my mind and transforms my heart even when I live like he’s still dead and buried. He reclaims my joy when I just completely miss it.  By faith I can say with Paul, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

He didn’t give himself for me to have the perfect Easter. But he gave his perfect life that I might live. Hallelujah.

Photo credit: First Sight Photography