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Sunday
Dec212014

christmas is for us, too

december. the month of twinkly lights and hot cocoa, christmas parties and neatly wrapped gifts. and also, december is the month of STRESS and short tempers and messy houses.

i asked my husband if he knew of a housekeeping service that cleaned houses only during december. because of our schedules, my house is a disaster with no current plans for a good cleaning. 

working in the church during the month of december is a joy. and, PURE crazy. church-event-church-event-church-event. pastoring, pastoring, pastoring. so much need. with little margin for error, and even less margin to breathe. no room to take notice that christmas is for US, too. 

christmas is for pastors and children's ministry leaders, too. of course, our ministry is to serve. and during december, there's a lot of serving to be done. but, in the midst of our serving, leading, pastoring, we have got to notice that christ the divine child has come for us, too. 

christmas is not about crazy. it's just the opposite. jesus, a child, came to the world to bring peace and light, and a break from the crazy we've known. he came to free our souls and give new life. 

pastoring and leading in december is not just about giving endlessly to others. it's also about reflecting on the divine magic and mysteries of the season. it's about receiving the words of hope for ourselves as we offer hope to others. it's about allowing the choir's songs to inspire our spirits as we expect the songs to inspire the congregation's spirits. christmas is about renewing our simple faith as we teach simple lessons to the children in our churches.

be open. someone might just minister to you this season. WHAT.

this christmas, of course, serve the people of your church with great zeal and commitment. but, don't forget to pause a few times and receive the blessing of the christ child.

today, trying to be gracious and kind to myself -- christmas is for me, too. 

Wednesday
Dec172014

i'm hiring @Willow Chicago

BIG news -- i'm looking to hire a full-time Promiseland Director at Willow Chicago in the New Year to partner with me on caring for families, developing volunteer teams, and creating multicultural curriculum. i sense God wanting to do a BIG work in the city for families, and i'm looking for a proven, innovative leader who can make great things happen.

i'm biased, but SERIOUSLY, this job is amazing. 

Chicago Promiseland Director: This full time position will lead and direct the Promiseland ministry at Willow Creek’s downtown, multicultural Chicago campus. This key leader, in partnership with the Family Pastor will develop, recruit, and pastor Promiseland volunteers, innovate and implement efficient operational systems, and contribute to Willow Chicago’s custom children’s ministry curriculum development. If you have previous leadership experience, enjoy building and inspiring effective volunteer teams, and sense a calling to lead in an exciting, diverse, city context, please consider applying.

cheers to a new year, and God doing BIG things in all of our cities!

Tuesday
Dec092014

SANTA

tis the season. FOR SANTA. 

recently, a mom from church asked how she should handle telling her child about santa. here's the story: she doesn't want to lie to her kid {good parenting!}, BUT she doesn't want her kid to be the one who spoils the fun for all the other kids, AND she wants the grandparents to have their own fun spoiling the kids with heaps of santa gifts.

oh SANTA. 

my thoughts {for parents}:

1. YOU'RE the expert of your children. you know what is best for them. don't be parent-peer-pressured to do what all of the other parents are doing. consider your child, specifically, and do what's best and right for your kid. santa or not. 

2. it's easy to get caught up in the activities of the holidays without first determining the values we want our family to experience. before landing on the santa decision, decide what you hope for your family during the season. maybe you'd like your family to experience meaningful times of togetherness, or for your kids to grow in their mindfulness towards others, or for your family to extend generosity, or for your family to simply have more fun with each other. determine your values, then make the santa decision as a result of your hopes for your family. 

3. if you decide TO celebrate santa -- do it in a fun, truthful, meaningful way. i'm a fan of sharing the historical context for Saint Nicholas with children as a great way to connect santa with the holiday. this video and book are great resources to watch and read together as a family. 

4. if you decide NOT TO celebrate santa -- empower your child to be a good friend to those who celebrate a variety of traditions. help your child notice others, and affirm the differences they see. and, explain the values behind the traditions your family does celebrate.   

bottom line. spend time thinking about how you want the season to be for your family. this is what's most important. don't experience the season passively. you have the opportunity to create traditions that align with your values, and to make the season very meaningful for your kids. 

cheers to Christmas! and SANTA. 

Wednesday
Dec032014

on solitude, resting

last week, i took four days away from the city for solitude and resting. 

AND IT WAS GLORIOUS. 

i went to my favorite place on the lake. my sacred space that instantly calms and comforts my spirit. it's mostly a summer beach town, but in the winter, it's empty and slow and you'll only see the folks who live and work year-round in the town. which, really, is absolute perfection for a solitude trip. 

four days of sleeping, walking, eating at my favorite places, catching up on TV, late afternoon coffee, room service, reading. SO GOOD. if not for my loved ones, and my beloved city, my great job, my nieces, it's possible i might have stayed in that hotel room on the lake for possibly ever. 

i don't usually take space just for myself like this -- travel is usually best with my husband, or reserved for work, but after a VERY busy fall with loads of activities and lots of spent-people-energy and without a lot of space for recovery, i needed this. 

NOTE: i'm an extrovert. solitude isn't necessarily in my nature, or my first reaction. but, i've found that it's crucial for my emotional health. time alone restores, relaxes, refills. 

while away, i noticed my reaction toward filling time, all the time. specifically, i noticed that while i was in between activities {driving, waiting for lunch} my mind INSTANTLY went to what else i could be doing. i should text my husband, read a few chapters, get gas. i had to fight REALLY hard to stop the pattern, to reprogram my mind to sit still, look around, DO NOTHING, breathe. enjoy.

also, in the hustle of everyday life, i assume a fast paced, full life is who i am, my preferred speed. but, when i was slow, without an overscheduled day, i felt pretty dang happy. giddy, really. i felt calmer, clear-minded, more myself. maybe i've talked myself into a busy life. NOTED. 

i paid attention to my body. i knew when i was hungry, tired, over-caffeinated. without distractions, my body became my primary focus. it felt odd to be so in tune with my body. because in everyday life -- tasks and pace of life take over and the needs of my body take a backseat. 

one afternoon, i got a massage. afterwards, i asked the therapist how my neck felt. TIGHT. she said. i asked what i could do to eliminate that day-to-day. her reply was kind, but really, i knew what she was thinking -- has no one told you? CALM DOWN. SIT STRAIGHT. STRESS LESS. got it. 

i'm home now. back to life, back to the hustle. more mindful of my body and my posture, and my pace, and my patience, and those who matter most around me. i'll carry the gifts of solitude and the lake in my heart, knowing that i'm different and better because of the time. 

Monday
Nov242014

Advent @ Willow Chicago

i'm so proud to introduce this year's Advent resource -- created for our community at Willow Chicago. early on, we decided that we wanted a simple resource designed for ALL ages and ALL types of community. ONE resource that families with | without kids could do together, small groups could discuss over dinner, or roommates could text about during the week. SO GOOD.  

to make the resource practical for all folks, a small group of us worked together writing, designing, planning, creating. me + Community Care Pastor + Associate Pastor + Creative Director. LOVE. 

here's the result: 4 cards | 1 card per week. each week = a theme: hope, peace, joy, love. on sunday, we handed out a beautiful set of printed cards to each attendee at church. AND, the cards are also downloadable here, so that folks can print additional sets or pass along to friends. 

ALSO. we're trying a new texting service. folks will receive 3 prompts | week in order to encourage engagement during Advent. if you'd like to join us, text ADVENT to 62953. 

we've shot 4 short films that highlight a different group of folks engaging with a particular week's theme. we hope the films visually inspire people to consider who their community is, and take active steps towards celebrating Advent with them. for today: our first short video introducing the project.

that's us. i'm excited + expectant. what are your plans for Advent?