"In some ways we’re all asking people to tell us who we are." Join me in this post for some thoughts on choosing our circle of people.
It's funny how despite reminders on my phone and a color coded calendar I occasionally overlook the date for school pictures or even the deadline for school fundraisers, but amazingly can recall what someone said over a decade ago. I suppose once something gets in my heart it sticks.
Since we got married, Brandon and I have been in some type of small group at our church. Traditionally, it's been referred to as "Sunday School," but the same gathering has been given a more modernized term, now known as "small group." Whatever we may choose to call it, it's been an instrumental part of our family's development.
Through our time in small group, people have spoke volumes into our hearts. And while the small group leaders are obviously a huge component of what has been delivered in that time, it wasn't the small group leaders alone who always seemed to give exactly what we needed in the particular season of life, our marriage, or our family.
For instance, I remember our friends, Penny and Daniel being transparent, giving our class some humble insight into what may potentially unfold on any given Sunday morning in their home when their girls were little. Daniel shared that although there were occasional mornings in which they had to run out of the house with dishes left in the sink, it seemed to irritate Penny increasingly more on Sunday mornings-- until he brought it to her attention. After which she realized it wasn't so much the dishes that bothered her as much as it was a tool being used to steal her heart and focus away from what the Lord had in store for her in service those particular days.
This awareness seriously revolutionized our Sunday mornings. When our children were little, if they happened to be screaming and crying through the process of trying to get ready, if Brandon and I were irritated with one another, if the coffee mug lid leaked on the outfit I finally decided to wear, if we were running fifteen minutes late (or possibly even more), and yes, if there was a disaster left in the kitchen, I'd think, "This is what Daniel and Penny were talking about. This isn't going to distract me from what I'm about to give and get today."
And in the instance I forgot, someone else remembered. Let's face it, sometimes we just feel like saying, and may actually go right ahead and say, "Forget it!" That's been me. Especially in the instances of running super late. But that is when Brandon would say and does say, "No, we're going." I'd argue, "What's the point? We're only going to be there for like twenty minutes before class is over." Brandon wouldn't and doesn't let up, so we load up. We may be grumbly and gripey, but we go. And we are always so glad we do. It diffuses and distracts from whatever mishap may have occurred. We grow, realizing what we would have missed out on, even if it is sheer determination that gets us there. The realization reinforces our commitment.
I'm going to share another instance in the next post of how someone contributing in small group has revolutionized the dynamic of our home. I hope you come back and receive from it. It's all in effort to pass on to you what others have passed on to us-- those thoughts which have been influential and effective for our family.
Today, let me leave with some encouragement (and maybe a little nudge) to get involved in a small group if you're not already. Here are a few things to keep close to your heart:
1. Shop around. Okay, that may not be the best term to use, but cut me a little slack. I've heard some people say that some churches are clickish. Well, yes. They are. ***WHAT?!?!?!**** Did I really just say that?! I did. (❤️ and ☺️ ). Let's change our view of it a little. "Clickish" has such a negative tone to it, but honestly, we can't take 600 people for instance and expect everyone to have the same interests and personalities. I mean, good grief, there are only 6 people in my house and I only have about three meals that please every single one of them. Every other dinner is consumed from a grateful heart and a hungry belly, not necessarily from an enthusiasm for what's on the table. We can't please everyone, every time. With that in mind, when you're at church pray and ask the Lord to direct you as to where He wants you to serve and receive in the body of believers. There is a place for you. I promise. But it can take a bit of effort in finding it.
2. Be transparent. Okay, again. I say that with caution. I'm not implying you walk into a class and air your dirty laundry (and yes, we all have dirty laundry-- from the pulpit to the pew we all need a good wash cycle). What I'm trying to encourage is for you to find a group of people who are willing to walk life with you, sharing the struggles as seamlessly as the celebrations. Brandon and I have so many times, I mean SOOO many times thought and expressed, "We're not the only ones." Daniel and Penny's dirty dish story may have not been a three point spiritual lesson, but it was profound for a young couple with a young family. I mean people-- I'm going back to a memory over thirteen years ago. You can't convince me that's not profound right there! I'm so grateful for their transparency and I hope to sharpen others by my willingness to be the same.
3. Seasons change. And so will your group. This doesn't mean we drop the relationships, it just means we get to make more. We haven't been in the same group with Daniel and Penny for I don't know how long, but they'll always be in our treasure chest of special people. A motto I share frequently is, "life is about people." We need people. We need personal connection. Allow the Lord to move you in the different seasons to make those connections He desires to work through. Now that's not saying change all the time. Let's be people who commit, but when we've grown from young married to a family with young children to raising teenagers (Lord, help us all), we need to receive from, give to and be sharpened by those who have been-there-done-that or who are doing and surviving (😉 know you're not alone).
Alrighty. Ready. Set. Go.
Find that group waiting for you! You have something to contribute and something to receive.
I'll meet ya back here next time to share another nugget deposited into us by our small group. It's a good one.
Hebrews 3:6 NLT But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.
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I feel like I need to introduce myself. Hi. I’m Heather Meadows, the absentee blog writer. I can’t believe it’s been fifteen days since our last post.
Now would be a good time to thank you for your continued support and welcome the new subscribers. During this downtime I did a little more than get in some fabulous vacation time with the family, I also got in some fabulous opportunities to share my story with such wonderful groups of people.
I continually say there’s power in our stories. If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t be shaking up my predictable life with the forecast of unpredictability common for every speaker. Who knows what the next few months will look like? It truly is putting one step in front of the other being available to the Lord as He opens doors. It’s all about being where He wants us to be when He wants us to be there. Sometimes that doesn’t make a lot of sense when you try to put paper and pencil to it. But my God is much bigger than paper and pencil plans, so I’m going where He leads regardless if I see the whole picture or not.
So back to the power of our stories. The last thirteen years has provided a variety of experiences to speak into diverse groups. Maybe it’s because the opportunities were here and there, or maybe it’s because I’m in a different place with such vision and intention, but I’m receiving something I never anticipated out of these commitments—and it’s your stories.
I take in the faces of those in an audience. Typically they start out with a polite and welcoming look. At points they have such depths of compassion. Sometimes I observe surprise in their eyes as I share things maybe they didn’t assume, because you know we sum each other up whether we intend to or not, and sometimes we’re surprised by information we wouldn’t have thought based on our impression. Reminds me of the nursing student who shadowed me recently. She looked so young and hip, so vibrant and fresh. I was stunned when she answered my question, “So do you have children?” I totally didn’t expect her to say, “Eight.” And no, no blended family. No his, hers and ours. She and her husband felt it was God’s will for them to have a large family, so they did. And she, having double the amount of children I have, appeared far more together than what I give myself credit for; therefore, I assumed she may have not had any. Oh what surprise! The same look of surprise I commonly observe in those opportunities I’m given to publicly share my own story.
Then there’s the melting. When I expose what’s beneath my image, I watch others let their own melt away. As it does, those walls we so naturally walk around with protecting our disappointments, our hurt, our painful memories, our tragedies and losses seem to come down. Being vulnerable with my audiences provides the opportunity for them to be vulnerable with me. It’s communicating, “See how damaged I’ve been, on the inside as well as the outside. See how God can take something so broken and put it back better than it could have been before. You’re safe to think what you think and feel how you feel. And you’re safe to believe it can be more.” What moves me to tears is the thought that those who desire to speak with me at the end of an event do so because something I shared connected within them and they want to share a piece of their self with me, those pieces we typically keep so poised and polished. What a privilege to see people so personally.
Above all the expressions I see, one element fuels me to continue on bearing all for God’s glory. The testimonies. Testimonies inspire people to believe and trust God for His mighty works in their life. How blessed I feel to hear so many. It’s like I carry along a treasure chest collecting encouragement from those who take a moment to share what God has done in their life with me. Your testimonies fan the flame inside me knowing how important it is to press on down this path wherever He may lead.
What He has called me to as a nurse, as a writer, as a speaker makes me so aware of His presence, everywhere. Whether I’m wearing scrubs for the day, standing with a mic in my hand, or sitting at this computer writing, receiving your stories in return touches me and makes me so deeply grateful the Lord called me to simply share of myself.
O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure. Isaiah 25:1 ESV
Share your story with us-- comment below to tell others of such wonderful things. And remember, we're always grateful for those private messages too.
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