(This post isn’t so much about my week at VBS, like the exact things we did, but some of my thoughts that came with it as the week progressed.)

This past month I taught music to younger children at VBS. This was the first time I had been back to VBS in the last 5 years. It’s hard to volunteer in a new town, especially when your own kids aren’t truly old enough to participate. Being back in my hometown area made it much easier to just say, “Hey! I want to help!” and get plugged in. When I asked my friend if I could be a part, she asked me if I was willing to teach or if I just wanted to volunteer. I was up for anything so, lead teacher it was!

I’ll be the first to admit to you, I’ve become a reluctant person and too often a skeptic. About a lot of things… but especially church. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love The Church and I believe she is an important part of life on earth — being a part of a body of believers — but I also know how messy and sometimes dark places they can be. So volunteering for anything isn’t something I jump into without at least a small degree of hesitancy.

When I began this volunteering journey, I felt so many of the exact same things that I’ve commiserated with my friends over for years. I felt isolated. I felt like I was on the outside looking in. It felt lonely and I was wondering why I stepped out in the first place. It was everything I could do to not want to turn tail and run in the other direction. I felt these things and this was the church I grew up in! This was the easiest place for me to get plugged in and I still felt it — it would have been magnified in a totally unfamiliar place.

I want to stress this to you — I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and did this. So many things we crave in a church: feeling welcome, making connections, finding value, that warm fuzzy feeling – It won’t happen without some work on our own part. That was perhaps the greatest thing I rediscovered this week. I had to lay down my pride. Let me tell you, my pride is huge. I had to decide that I was going to do this task without assurance that it would go well. I had to dance, jump, and look quite silly in front of other adults. I had to reintroduce myself to a lot of people in a church that I used to assume I was a “big fish” in (that’s quite laughable, but it’s true that I felt that way) and it was hard to tell people over and over again that I had once grew up in this town.

I want to share this with you because I think that often we crave to feel involved and important in a church. We often call it a church home, don’t we? We crave the creature comforts of a home: a place to be ourselves, to feel cherished, to feel as though we contribute to the whole. It’s hard to feel that when you first enter a church. Hovering on the outside allows us to claim ownership to a place, but we force ourselves to a strange half-life, where we are no longer considered “non-church” but also we aren’t truly utilizing the church in the way it was meant to be used. This may be handy on a surface level, but it will quickly contribute to a discontentment that will grow within you. You’ll either find yourself bothered by the church itself for its real or imaginary walls, or you’ll feel guilt within your own mind.

The problem is, you won’t really know the heartbeat of a church until you get in there. You need to join a smaller group of any kind (ministry, sunday school, etc), and you need to be consistent. This is hard to do. I know this.

We just have to remind ourselves that the risk can be great …but so can the reward.

By the end of the week, I began to feel those things I so long desired. Now, I haven’t settled in to that church as my home church yet, but I will take this lesson with me and I plan to put it to good use. Regardless if this is the right place for our family or not, I feel further compelled to make sure we have a place where we can be a part of something greater than ourselves. I’m so glad I stepped out there.

I hope you will too.

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Marshall_Hall_ETBU

I loved my college experience. Loved it.

I know a private Christian university isn’t for everyone, and you wouldn’t think an 18 year old whom had never had a curfew and had very lenient parents would choose to attend a school where many policies were considered antiquated. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I know. While the fact that I suddenly had a curfew and I learned you could get fined for virtually anything did shock my senses, I loved my time at that little Baptist university.

I was a Resident Assistant, which meant I had to enforce the rules (but I also knew how to better break them), and I was located right in the heart of campus, so I knew a whole lot of people. Freshmen are the heartbeat of a university such as ETBU; their enthusiasm and willingness to make friends is often contagious. They don’t have the pressure of being in the thick of their respective majors yet, and they also go just a little bit crazy at the idea of freedom. Many of them were easing their transitions from a very conservative and often strict home, and the idea that they could stay out until 1:30 am on the weekends was exhilarating. It makes me smile just thinking about it.

Being a part of a choir as good as ETBU’s was one of the highlights of my time there. Singing in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra is probably the most amazing experience I had in college. More than anything, my time in the music department at that little university took a girl who was in love with singing but terrified of her own ability, and molded me into a person who feels more confident in music than I have been in many years. They taught me how to read music, how to appreciate classical music (and the fact that “classical” is a subgenre within the genre), and how to truly listen to a piece of well-crafted music.

What really shaped my life at East Texas Baptist University, was not the campus life or the social aspect (although they were good to me). It was the faculty and staff that comes with being a part of a smaller university that truly cares about its students. I was very fortunate to make personal connections with some of the adults on the campus. They were always willing to sit down and get into a deep discussion with anyone who truly cared to learn more. I’ll never forget the time that I sat down with Allan Thompson in the Chick-fil-A cafeteria and we discussed concentric circles of faith. His passion for missions and getting your hands dirty — working hard to show people grace and goodness — rivaled anything I have ever known. I spent hours in Dr. Claire Rodgers’ office, discussing our Oklahoma roots, music, theory, and life.  She made me feel like I was back at home for just a little while. More than anyone else, I spent so many afternoons talking to Dr. Bruce Tankersley. Sometimes you just find a kindred spirit. I used to be terrified of him in class! He had a well-deserved reputation for making you work for your grade. He challenged you. He often taught in front of his desk, not behind it. He moved with a restless energy, as though the words he spoke were vibrating with life itself. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I would say they pulsed with Life, as I find it impossible to speak of Jesus without excitement. You also never knew when he was going to tap on your shoulder and call you out for an answer (again I say, terrifying!).

I don’t know exactly what it was that led me into his office that first time. Was it a grade? Or to tell him that something he said personally convicted me? I’ll never remember. All I know was that the minutes turned into hours. We would talk about music often, and I remember him lending me the musical score to Les Miserables. “You must listen to it,” he insisted. It changed my world. I felt as though anything was possible, when we talked. I was no longer limited by money, or fear, or familial obligations. I could go to seminary — and I could do well! I never thought myself capable of a master’s degree before. There were times I wished I could have counted him as family.

It’s a precious and rare thing to connect to a person. We search our whole lives for meaningful connection, to feel safe in the company of another. People who understand you and allow you to dream allows your ideas to take flight. It lifts your soul, right here on our own little piece of pavement. These moments carry you through until you connect again, like a musical interlude — these ribbons of hope and faith that you are, indeed, meaningful.

To hear, “You are special.”

This is priceless.

I met back up with Dr. Tankersley this past week. His walk may have been a little slower, but he has the same kind eyes I remember almost ten years ago.  We lingered over soup and caught up with each other’s lives and the news of this past decade. It will be one of the most special memories I will carry with me from now on. I am extraordinarily lucky to have had my experiences at ETBU. They have carried over long past my days as a student, but the feeling of promise still lingers.

If you ever read this Bruce, thank you. Thank you for making me believe I could do anything.

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A year of Squishy in pictures.

July 8, 2014

 Sunday, my sweet boy turned ONE. I’ve actually been working on this post for a few days — I still can’t believe it has been a year since I was in labor with him and the hospital stay that went with it! The days leading up to his birthday has been pretty emotional. The 4th of [...]

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Influenster’s TLC VoxBox: a review

July 6, 2014

I’ll begin by being completely honest (as I always am) and say that this was not the easiest VoxBox I’ve ever received, but not because of the products! I just happen to be busy enough in my life right now that it’s hard to sit down and properly review anything, so I guess the fact [...]

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I’m wearing my grandma’s clothes. True story.

June 20, 2014

I’m hot. Seriously. I’m sweaty and gross and yes, I’ve even had a shower. Do you ever have one of those days that starts out kind of fun but then gets really crazy and you just want to throw the day away and start all over? That was and is today. The morning started off [...]

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Take a hike, my friends.

June 18, 2014

I mentioned in my last post that I have begun walking around my neighborhood. If you don’t know me in person or haven’t been around me a lot, you need to know this one fact: I am not an athlete. Not naturally. I like books, food, music. These are the things that make me go [...]

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Where I’m at. A sad mama’s tale.

June 11, 2014

The truth is, I’m not entirely sure I’m going to post this. This is going to be raw and uncut, and simply written out because I need to see the words. I need to see what I feel. All I know is that I’m sad. I’m tired. I’m lonely. I’m angry. I’m feeling emotions that [...]

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Texas love.

June 5, 2014

While laying in my hotel room in San Antonio, I was reminded of how much I do miss Texas. When we were in our heavy season of moving, all I longed for was to lay down roots– to be in a place where I knew where I was going and where I felt comfortable enough [...]

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Lexi graduates!

May 26, 2014

When I was a little girl, I idolized my older cousin Alicia. She was in high school and she was so … everything. So beautiful, so talented, so active in everything! Plus, being the late 80′s/early 90′s she had the best bangs ever. Wish I had a photo handy to show you! Well, this past [...]

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May in Photos

May 24, 2014

Is it possible to update my blog more than once a month anymore? Obviously not. Life has been busy in these parts — and we’re not stopping yet!  May has brought us flowers, Mother’s Day (my first as a mom of 2!), a trip to Texas, a trip to Tulsa to see my beautiful cousin [...]

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