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holy week {let's pace ourselves + eat our veggies}

holy week.  

here's the thing. it's going to be a great week. no doubt. but, it's also going to be crazy and hurried and stressful. it's only monday, and i feel that already. what i intended to be a slow, meditative, prayerful walk to work turned into an all-out-sprint to get there as fast as i could.

BONUS: i made record time!

i can see it already -- my tendency will be to RACE through this week. move too fast, and ignore what MY body and soul need most. only to look up on easter sunday feeling completely exhausted. 

instead, holy week 2015, let's pace ourselves, and take care of ourselves. in order that we may arrive on easter able to lead and give and serve and receive and worship.

let's make this week special. but not at the expense of our health.

for me, that means breathing deeply, walking slower {i'll work on that tomorrow}, eating tons of veggies, connecting with those who speak life into me, and enjoying small moments of rest. 

that also means that to arrive on easter sunday healthy, i have to resign a few things i wanted to initiate this year. because doing EVERYTHING isn't healthy.  

i'll make a note to try something BIG and NEW next year. 

may god's peace + love + strength + grace be with us all this week. holy week is for us, too. 


Easter Visual Design

i'm LOVING the branding + visual design the team created for our Easter unit at Willow Chicago. all art created by the super talented Molly Z and Aaron M. 

Unit Branding: 


Story Image:

Stage Design:


Last Supper Story Scene:

Palm Sunday Story Scene:

John 3:16 Verse Cards: 

Cross Image:


on leadership, and tough conversations

here's something i'm finding is consistent about my job: hard, tough conversations. you? 

when i started the job as family pastor i imagined that truth-telling, difficult conversations with volunteers, parents, and staff would be occasional. i found myself managing energy and marking time from conversation-to-conversation. like -- ok, gear up for this one, then you can relax. 


that lasted all of my first week. since then, i've noticed a significant part of my time involves tough conversations that require me as the leader to go first in saying the hard words. the conversations often include giving feedback, or sharing a hurt someone felt, or challenging a family to make a hard choice. let's be clear. these are NOT FUN. but, they're necessary. and i'm learning to embrace this part of my job and grow through each conversation.

just say it: when a situation arises and a conversation is needed, i usually want to take time to get my words together PERFECTLY. of course, it's helpful to take a pause, think about the right words, and move forward cautiously. BUT, sometimes i can use this space to put off the conversation. and, that's not helpful because typically a tough situation needs a conversation quickly. i'm trying to push myself to think, get my words together and get to the conversation as fast as is possible. 

seek advice: plenty of tough conversations have felt WAY over my head. and, i've become the master at making excuses for why i'm not the right person to have the conversation: my experiences, my education, my background have not prepared me to handle this. someone else would do FAR better. and, for the times that's true, i'm learning to lean into my teammates to guide me. i'm asking for their advice, or even to join me in the conversation when appropriate. the beauty of team is that together you've got a multitude of experiences. 

demonstrate a non-anxious presence: when i can anticipate a conversation might become heated, or i'm feeling anxious, i do my best in the minutes before the conversation to center my breathing and calm my spirit. i take a walk to get out my nervous energy, and then i sit and pray calmly for a few seconds. i'm finding that if i come to the conversation peacefully, there's a good chance we'll find peace in the tough words together. 

{side note}: some conversations require peace PLUS an expression of appropriate emotions. if the situation calls for me to show sadness, anger, frustration, i'm learning to show that appropriately while moving towards a peaceful resolution. 

tough conversations, and leadership. i'm slowly embracing the fact that engaging and initiating in these are signs of a loving leader. someone who loves his/her people will work to say the hard words for the purpose of faith growth and unity.

this is who i want to be. you? 


the parent {cheat sheet}

the BEST ideas come from the BEST volunteers. 

a few months ago, i was meeting with one of our best volunteers, asking if she'd help develop a system for integrating new families. she said, sure. and, ALSO, she had an idea for something else she'd like to discuss. an idea she'd had for connecting church + home. OK.

the very lovely volunteer mentioned how much she loves bringing her two-year old to church, but often finds it difficult to meaningfully discuss the lesson at home {given that two-year olds aren't the chattiest bunch}, and is never really sure how to spiritually + practically encourage her young daughter during the week. after i finished HUGGING her, i said, PLEASE. share your idea. 

i was curious to hear her idea, because i thought we were experiencing some good success with our sticker system. in place of a take home sheet in the Age 2 + Age 3 classrooms, we'd been creating a simple, colorful sticker that we place on the child's shirt as they're leaving to give parents a verbal cue for discussion. i'm a BIG fan of the stickers. i mean, adorable, right?

yes, the stickers were fantastic, she said, but we could do MORE {still hugging her at this point}. she mentioned that when she's home with her daughter, she needs ideas for activities. and, if those activities could reinforce the lesson from church, WIN. 

drumroll, please. her idea: the parent cheat sheet. a simple half-page sheet that summarizes the activities the child did during church with the purpose of encouraging parents to replicate the activities at home. use the toys you've already got, there's no pressure, no timeline, just ideas when you're home and need some ideas. so much YES. 

we're just a few weeks in, experimenting in the Age 2 + Age 3 classrooms only, but so far, VERY good. we'll keep at it a bit, tweaking + improving as we go, and then, we'll roll out to the older classrooms. a different format, i'm sure, but with similar goals. oh! and, if i could get this whole thing ONLINE, even better. all for the sake of helping parents encourage faith at home.

the BEST ideas, i'm telling you, don't often come from us, the leaders. our job is to keep our eyes open--giving the BEST volunteers opportunity to contribute, share ideas, and use their skills to implement. and for me, that's the best part about being the leader. 


lent devotional {AWANA}

i'm absolutely THRILLED to be a contributor on this Easter Devotional from Awana. an eight-week collection of devotions written for parents + families with 3 versions: standard, rural, urban.

when my pal brannon contacted me with the idea he had to create various versions, i was SOLD. easter is often experienced differently due to context, and i LOVE that awana is mindful of that.  

sign up here to recieve a free email devotional each week from now until Easter. and, maybe consider choosing a version that's wildly different from your own context in order to experience a fresh perspective this season. i chose the rural edition and am LOVING it so far. 

blessings for this season of Lent. may we all grow closer to Jesus and His ways during these days.