Reflections in the [Bridge]Water – Crossfit Staunton

 The fourth and final impactful community I’ve experienced in the Shenandoah Valley for this series is CrossFit Staunton. It probably wasn’t smart to plan this post just before our wedding, but hey better late than never right…three months later?

When I moved to Staunton, I knew I wanted to maintain some level of fun, physical activity and hoped I could also meet some new people in the area. The first day, I walked in a completely uncoordinated kid and clumsy as anything. After my first workout after the five fundamentals classes, which covered all the basic movements, I nearly made the coach poop his pants in trying to press the bar overhead and instead, threw myself backwards into a wooden post.

Got to start somewhere, right?

From there, things only got better. I slowly picked up the rhythm of this particular gym. Physically I felt stronger. Coordination became easier and overall the rigor was well, invigorating!

Since I’ve been a member the past year, I’ve seen the culture of this particular gym evolve into one amazing group of people. The owner and coaching staff have done a brilliant job embracing not only a mindset of continued physical growth, but also relational. Men, women and kids of all ages and backgrounds, body types and goals find safety in this community pursuing healthy lifestyles together.

The biggest joy of being a part of CFS was it simply added another layer to the ever growing pocket of people in my life. Crossing paths multiple times a week at work, church, home or a combination of the three was by far the best way to encouraged and be encouraged by others.

Similarly (though not through Crossfit, I’d imagine) Jesus lived with people to impact them daily. Not weekly for a simple hour but he very much became a part of many individuals lifestyle. I am filled with joy and have loved seeing how he has taught me to live in the same way in the pockets of people I have loved in Staunton.

And now flash forward three months to a new city, new husband, and new pockets to fully integrate into are ahead of me and I couldn’t be more excited to see how the Lord continues to stretch me.

How have you changed or changed others through the community around you? How does Jesus’ model of impacting lives apply to the pockets of people you interact with?

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Reflections in the [Bridge]Water – Church Downtown

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Fellow community group kiddo at her school’s play.

As part three in this series on the community I’ve been a part of in Virginia, I want to share about a wonderful group of people known as Church Downtown.

Leaving college, I had the opportunity to serve and grow with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at Virginia Tech. Our staff and the chapter as a whole painted a beautiful picture of what it looked like for an eclectic community to follow Jesus together. This made  thinking about finding a church outside the college world pretty difficult in comparison.

Then I found Church Downtown. A new church plant in downtown Staunton that met in a movie theater (to this day, I haven’t even been there to see a movie) became my family very quickly. I started attending a community group with several young families with the cutest kids ever. I stepped up immediately to help in the kids’ church. I volunteered to greet people on Sunday mornings.

Within a few months though, I went from willingly serving to carefully scrutinizing the church’s ministry structure. I started of thinking of ways I could lead things better. After all I did come from a great christian fellowship in college.

This is when the Holy Spirit began to gently rear me backwards and ask myself a couple questions:

Why are you serving?

Who are you serving

What is the church?

WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU DOING?!

My heart had completely lost focus of why I started serving. Pride does a lot of damage to community and quickly changes a willing and ready heart to one that says, “I know what’s best.”

As a newcomer to this community, I failed to realize I didn’t know the people in this local church. I didn’t know their needs or how Church Downtown had structured themselves in such a way to meet those needs. I was an outsider trying to take control of people I was a stranger to knowing.

Jesus shows so much grace to his prideful children. He takes the time to show us why he even cares that the church exists. I am so thankful for the humble and serving families and individuals who he has brought into my life here. This church is not perfect, and has no problem announcing that on Sunday mornings, but beautifully speaks of the love it has for God’s created humans.

Reflections in the [Bridge]Water – The Office

As the second community my series of reflections, the office has served as one of the biggest learning curves (and no, not the one with Michael Scott).

I received an offer for my first full time job outside of college internships early January of 2014, just a month after graduating. My mind has a hard time developing locational expectations for a new place, so I had no preconceptions of what work life would look like in comparison to university life.

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The first lunch in college on the first day of classes I ate at a table by myself (don’t worry, I think that was the last time that happened). The first lunch at work I ate with about a dozen +50 year-old men. Talk about some entertaining (and educational) conversation.

From here, I met dozens of my other 400 or so coworkers of various ages, walks of life, and interests.

It’s easy to describe what I learned technically and professionally. I think most of the questions you ask yourself in a first job follow a fairly universal trend. What’s my role? How do I interact with my coworkers? How do I learn as much as I can from the fire hose of information?

It’s a bit harder to express how I grew. “What’s my purpose?” loomed overhead everyday for me.

The very word “community” means to have a common characteristic or goal. In essence, work life is community life. This mindset seemed to kick in a lot quicker in college, but I realized quickly that it doesn’t look the same in a 9-to-5 setting.

Community living requires investment. Paul served as a great example of what intentional work life looked like in Acts:

“Paul went to visit Aquila and Priscilla. They were tentmakers, the same as Paul, so he stayed with them and worked with them… During the night, Paul had a vision. The Lord said to him, ‘Don’t be afraid, and don’t stop talking to people. I am with you, and no one will be able to hurt you. Many of my people are in this city.’ Paul stayed there for a year and a half teaching God’s message to the people.” 

Paul’s profession was a tentmaker (because that’s what people lived in then). He made money to put food in his belly and clothes on his back. That’s all. You can see it right there. One sentence attributes to his career, not an entire resume.

Paul’s mission was spreading the Good News of Jesus. What better way to get to know people and understand their needs than to work right alongside them! He didn’t concern himself about how good of tentmaker he could make himself. People were his concern.

On days where I had a difficult time going to work, this mission humbly reminded me that my job is not as important to Jesus as the people that he loves in the next cube down the hall. Should my sour attitude or personal work agenda affect the way I could love people that day, then I have vainly accomplished nothing.

With a heart full of joy, I leave this office and these amazing people only to continue loving new people with the love God has given me!

Reflections in the [Bridge]Water – The Dragonfly

Looking back at posts such as this one or this one, I realized the idea of community sits on my mind quite frequently. As I prepare for a move from Virginia to South Carolina this week, reflections on this past year or so in this little town of Bridgewater have pretty much planted themselves in the back of my mind.

With that, I want to share four distinct communities (in no particular order) I’ve had the privilege of living in and growing with the people in them.

The Dragonfly

For those of you fortunate (or unfortunate) to have watched “Gilmore Girls”, you’ll recognize “The Dragonfly” as Lorilei’s Inn. Somehow my roommate Sarah found a correlation between the show and our fantastic little home and thus it got the name.

Sarah interviewed me as her first Craig’s List roommate and bravely took me on as a fellow Dragonfly-dweller. Immediately she explained her vision for living in community. The kitchen is open to anyone (including food, unless marked otherwise), chores would be split evenly, and roommate dinners were a must. Above all, The Dragonfly would serve as a place of rest from work and ministry throughout the day.

I fell in love.

This place was my dream. But like all dreams, you got to wake up and smell the pansies sometime, and those pansies sometimes end up turning into compost.

From there, unrealistic expectations built up quickly. Very soon, I let bitterness creep in about things like dirty dishes being left alone. Having no dishwasher makes it pretty difficult to keep a clean sink, but my pseudo-clean freak mind expected otherwise. In short, when expectations get let down, the mental blame game commences.

I learned very quickly that living in community meant something I didn’t know: communication and potential surrender of expectations. To expect my roommate who served people all day long at work to keep a spotless house was unrealistic. The home is a place of responsibility, but also a place of rest….a place where your rump rests (shameless Pumba quote).

Releasing expectations for something better means things like 30-person Thanksgiving potlucks in a 3-person apartment happen because you don’t mind cleaning up for the next week. It means receiving new roommates from out of no where when you least expect it (and finding that you have a new wonderful friend). It means opportunities to pray over each other as roommates happens more frequently because we see each other’s needs more clearly. It means we begin to look at the things that are important to Jesus and his vision for intentional community.

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How do you view your home? What expectations are holding you back from community investment?

Seeing Community Growth through Beautiful Demolition

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Mill City Museum | Minneapolis, MN

“Community only exists when action is taking place.”

I’ve thrived in seeing this phrase lived out among people I interact with in various communities. Most recently, I’ve had the joy and privilege of living it out with several colleagues from around the world over the past few months in a training program through my company. We’ve spent hours struggling through classwork and have continued to build relationships through other outside activities. It has been amazing.

Until a “bad” thing happened.

Our director sat the class down for an intense discussion regarding some perceived unprofessional behavior as a group. My heart sunk. In that moment, I could pin point exactly where I was guilty of giving a bad rep for the company. It made me feel ashamed that as ambassadors to this company, we had failed. Others around us couldn’t tell how hard we wanted to work to do well and to give the company a good name. I could do nothing but sit stone faced and feel scared poopless about where this conversation would end.

But somehow, as class members started to express various concerns, complaints, and compliments, I found myself incredibly joyful. It was one of maybe two moments I have felt intimately close to this group of people. In the middle of addressing a conflict, I was witnessing the process of our great relationships growing even more in depth.

I don’t believe action in relation to growing community is always “good.” Take for instance Jesus’ group of followers/friends. Sure they faithfully followed him around, but they sure didn’t do the “good” thing all the time. During his last night before the religious leaders put him to death, Jesus and his friends went to a garden to pray with him. Well instead of praying with him, like he asked, they fell asleep. Not quite the most “professional” or dutiful thing to do during a critical time.

Fast forward several years and we see that these very same nappers are the people planting the first churches in the history of Christianity. They are the leaders raising up more leaders to follow Jesus. Their very lives were at stake for the work they were doing and yet continued to fulfill it faithfully.

Guilt is no effective way to respond to doing a “bad” action in the midst of community. From the planting of guilt grows no “good” action for the future. Had Jesus’ friends let guilt bog them down, they would have missed out on being part of the amazing work he had set out for them.

I find it beautiful to see imperfect people mess up and through grace, have it redeemed as something incredible. Our little eclectic group is far from perfect, but throughout this experience, I believe that a strong sense of community is understood amongst all of us. Do I think this is the last time any of us will receive correction in our careers? Absolutely not. Will this group succeed through learning as a community? Yes, yes, and again yes.

Where have you witnessed growth in your communities? How do you see difficulties/joys affecting the way individuals interact with each other? Please share and I would also love to hear feedback!

The Toddler Twist: This is Who You Are

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About a month ago, my dear boyfriend, Chris, came to visit and we went to the new church I’ve been attending in downtown Staunton. That week, I was scheduled to help in the nursery, so I dragged Chris along with me. An hour and a half later, we had successfully kept all seven, precious toddlers from destroying each other during the morning playtime (with the help of another great mom). Lesson learned: three-year-olds can’t quite reason with you and the assumed innocence that miniature plaid button ups and beautiful little eyes portray don’t fool me no more.

Jesus isn’t fooled either.

Picture this: the group of kids from above comes to Jesus. Some are rough-housing with each other, a few have snot dripping from their nose, and others just don’t know where not to stick there hands. Why would you not push away these little guys away from your dignified teacher? Why would he, Jesus, want anything to do with kids who may have not been able to even read, much less even know who he was?

We see that instead of pushing them away, He tells his followers to let them come. He picks them up. He holds them. He explains that wisdom of God has been “hidden from the wise and learned, and revealed…to little children” (Matthew 11:25).

God the Father values the humility of children, and even tells his disciples to “change and become like little children [to] enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). This isn’t to say He expects a gullible mind (though a good chunk of them are and oh the fun you can have!), but a trusting heart. At church when we announce snack time for the toddlers, they don’t worry whether or not they get their share of animal crackers. Each one instead expresses excitement in his/her own way. Not always patiently, but never doubting.

Jesus loves that children have the ability to trust what he says, however, he understands that they’re messy, require a lot of work, and don’t listen all the time. Big surprise right? Yet he still desires them to be the people to enter into his Father’s kingdom. Kids are stubborn, yet teachable. Needy, yet ready to accept their need for help in even the smallest tasks. Who else would be a better candidate?

Why then do we feel guilt or shame when we fall short of the things Jesus asks us to do?

He doesn’t expect us to be mature from day one of saying we follow him. In his eyes, we ARE children, both for the good and for the ugly. He anticipates the need for growth, but only expects us to be teachable.

In choosing to follow Jesus, you’re not signing up to be spanked after every act of disobedience and fear displeasing him the next time. You are given the freedom to take joy in being a child of a divinely gracious Father. His desire is to see you trust his promises, learn from failures, and to look forward to spending eternity with Him in His Kingdom.

Do you view your failures as traps of guilt? How does living in the context of a child of God changes your perspective on personal growth?

 

Laundry Time

066copyThis week I went for a walk. Recently moving to a new town, I wanted to explore it on my own two feet. To become familiar with the sights, the people, and really the only two streets in the little town of Bridgewater (seriously, think Stars Hollow except… smaller) was something I hadn’t had the opportunity to do since starting a new job nearby.

I passed 7-Eleven on my left, El Charro’s on my right, a horse and buggy further down the road, a woman walking her dog, and a once auto repair garage turned bakery shop just up the road (from what I can tell, the goods look tasty).

But then I saw the laundromat. I thought, “Jesus, I think you want me to stop there, but I don’t want to.”

He said, “Go in.”

“Only if a woman is in there, Jesus.”

I’m still not sure why that was my stipulation, but in any case, I walked closer and saw through the big glass front a man and woman doing their individual loads of laundry. Dangit. “Jesus! Do I have to go in? What do I even say to her?”

“Tell her I love her.”

Simple as that, right? But all I wanted to do was turn around and walk briskly back home. However, after walking up and down the sidewalk three times and feeling a sharp pain in my eyebrow that made me believe I had to go in, I started to make my way to the door. I fought the urge to run back out and convince myself that the overload of onions in my dinner was doing weird things to my head, but instead turned the knob and took a deep breath.

It wasn’t hard for her to see me, and probably like every other stranger she’s seen at the laundromat in the past, she continued unloading her clean laundry from the washer to her white plastic basket.

I interrupted her with an, “Excuse me.”

Blank stare.

In a jumble of some words, I gave her the message.

“Who is this Jesus?” she roughly asked.

Wasn’t expecting that. So in another jumble, I simply said he was God’s Son who loved her and asked if she wanted to hear more.

“I don’t know who you speak of. No, I don’t care to hear,” and continued loading her damp clothes into the dryer.

I was baffled. During my time at Virginia Tech as a student, I participated in several campus outreach opportunities with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to share the gospel with various students on campus. Sure, we had our rejections, encouraging conversations, and some even responding with a desire to follow Jesus, but to meet someone here who didn’t even know his name or acknowledge that she did? Someone who wanted nothing to do with the God who loved her? Who wasn’t even curious enough for a short explanation?

Bidding her a “good evening” (as I had no idea what else to do), I walked out the same door I had walked in just seconds earlier expecting her to receive Jesus’ message with great joy. Instead, my heart felt like this woman’s heap of wet laundry, soggy with tears and limp from sadness.

“Jesus, what just happened?”

In this one encounter, I felt the smallest bit of what Jesus experienced almost daily in his life on earth: rejection of his love. I fully expected that out of my obedience I would have an encounter beyond belief with this woman right away. I hoped for a response that would lead her to trusting this mysterious person who sent a stranger to tell her that he loved her.

Is it wrong to expect immediate acceptance of the gospel? By no means! Will we see our testimony of God’s love rejected as followers of His Son? Absolutely. Should be discouraged? Not at all. Our words have no power in changing hearts, but obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit living in us when we decide to follow Jesus will not fail to change our hearts. Your heart is as valuable to the Lord as the people he prompts you to love. In loving others out of obedience, a gateway is made into their hearts that the Holy Spirit has access to entering.

I don’t think I’ll ever see a laundromat the same way again.

All the Eggs in a Basket

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For the first time in approximately four years, I have no new consistent entries in my Google Calendar past December 20th (graduation day!).That may not seem like a big deal for those of you who like to live off the charts, but I love structure and I love when my schedule has structure. It allows for me to set goals and makes my life more predictable.

Having the opportunity this year to meet and get to know more freshmen has made me realize how much I’ve changed… and how much I still don’t know. As freshman-Karli, I looked at seniors who weren’t sure what they were going to do after graduation as lazy and slightly crazy. I mean, honestly, after four years of school you have no idea what you’re doing after you get that diploma? That sounds like a ship sailing for disaster.

Now, 51 days away from graduating (Lord willing), I’m sailing the exact same boat. Funny how judgment often comes back to bite you in the butt.

Initially realizing that I have no set plans put a little fear into me. Playing the compare and contrast game, it’s hard not to look at peers and other friends who have graduated are in full swing on the next phases of their lives. I know the grass looks greener on the other side, but at first glance, I saw myself as somewhat of a failure. Not in a pity-me-I’m-pathetic manner, but in such a way that I had convinced myself somewhere along the way I had missed opportunities to succeed.

This year I’ve had the privilege of co-teaching middle school Sunday school at my church in Blacksburg. Two things I’ve learned thus far: sometimes I am NOT smarter than a sixth grader and Jesus can speak some pretty amazing things through these “little” people. This year we’re studying Daniel. Yes, the book where men are fed to lions and live and kings turn into grass-grazing beasts.

Beyond the familiar stories Veggie Tales has so creatively depicted, Daniel’s life is more incredible the more I read through it (if you’ve got a minute, just peruse even the first few chapters and you’ll see what I mean). A young man, probably the age of one of my students, was taken from his home and culture to serve the government. This guy lost control and order of his life, but really only cared about one thing: his relationship with God.

Through a series of unbelievable events, Daniel reaches a point in his career where the king is so impressed by him that he promotes Daniel to a position in the royal court. Did he see any of this coming? As a teenager, probably not. Did he prepare for his position by pursuing a life that was power-driven? Far from it.

Where am I going with all of this? When I see Daniel, I don’t see a person who brown-nosed the king to get what he wanted. I don’t see a person who pursued what he wanted to make other jealous or simply make himself look successful. I see a faithful man who saw his relationship with God, the one who gave him head knowledge and ability to interpret dreams, as the single-most important thing regardless of any position he filled.

Does that mean if he wasn’t committed to God he would have been a poor, nameless nobody? Absolutely not! Why else do we see all these other poor leaders Daniel serves under in authority? God is far less concerned about how we look to the world in our success than he is about how we interact with him. Whether I become the next president of the United States, or end up pumping gas in New Jersey for the rest of my life, is practically irrelevant to the purposes God has set up for me.

Paul, a writer of many letters in the New Testament to various new churches, wrote this:

“11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13

I can do ALL THINGS. Not “all things if I get the perfect job” or “all things if I become super successful,” but all things, in any situation. Now that’s a pep talk for the day!

I love the idea of adventure, but hate the idea of being “off the calendar.” I can step out of class today and simply follow my Google Calendar to the next event, or as a part of the trust I have with my relationship with God, I can simply ask, “Where do you want to take me next in pursuing a committed relationship with you?” I can follow my simply planned schedule, or step out completely exposed and vulnerable knowing I am under something bigger that my God has opened up to me.

Sing it Out!


So as of late, I’ve been finding it really hard to set myself on a set book or topic to study in my own personal time in the Bible. I believe that it’s a good thing to have some sort of contextual reference when studying different sections, however I think the Spirit is able to speak clearly through points where we can’t seem to hold focus on one book for more than a day.

As a result, I often find myself gnawing on the words of David (and others) in the Psalms. Again, I end reading them in random order, although I tend to sift through the different chapters until I find one that I deem as appropriate for what I’m feeling. This morning however, I just opened up to where I had last placed my bookmark and picked up in chapter 67. These next few verses are what made me sit up straight on the sofa and knocked out any leftover sleepiness:

“May the peoples praise you,
O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
The the land will yield its harvest,
and God,
our God,
will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him”

At this point I had to take a step back.

To know that God expects our praise is one thing, but to hear that praising him is what will make this world fear him…that’s heavy.

If you’ve been to any sort of church or campus ministry or anything of the likes, you’ll probably see one form of praise in the context of singing. Now granted, it made be weird and a bit awkward the first time you see it, but initially, fear isn’t a word that comes to mind. When you get to thinking about it though, singing praises to God is a way of declaring him name, uttering the various truths, strengths, and power of our Creator in song, and that, is truly frightening to Satan. He acknowledges our God’s existence, but when proclaim that we love God and trust his protection, Satan has no power in the matter of controlling us. Praise be to our Lord for that!

This also made me realize all the more that while structural environments for praise are crucial, we aren’t limited to singing only in church or campus fellowship. What’s keeping you from singing of the love of the Lord right now (ok, maybe your roommate is still sleeping or something, although waking up to the sound of praises to Jesus wouldn’t be a bad thing)? Why not on the way to the grocery store? In the shower? God loves our praises to him all the time and is willing to bless us for them. Even if it’s once today, make known to the Lord your love for him in praising him.

Summer Love

After roughly four months being back stateside, the ache of missing my Betel family back in Birmingham, England is still prevalent. Rarely a day goes by without reminiscing on a memory of one of the girls whether it be singing 12 Days of Christmas in the middle of July while out on flyers, making dinner for 40+ people while dealing with a broken water pump, or simply trying to interpret someone with an extremely strong Scottish accent.

There are a multitude of things I miss, but more than anything, I miss the relationships. Under what normal circumstances would someone become not only roommates, but friends with an ex-heroine or gas addict? When else would you see a former gang leader cooking dinner and setting the table while singing in pure joy?

Under normal circumstances? Probably nowhere.

Coming back home to live in seemingly “normal” life — your typical 20-year-old, college-going, person – still hasn’t been easy. I want nothing more than to wake up to day where I’m not the one planning what I do for work that day past breakfast, be joyful at the sight of fresh vegetables come through in donations, or treasure being “forced” to have quiet time for an hour.

But right now, that’s not where I live. I’m heading back to school today to return to classes, leadership in campus ministry, and more importantly, continuing to be a model of Jesus Christ to everyone around me. It’s a daily reminder from the Lord that he wants a heart of service all the time… not just when it “feels” more so necessary.

If I, or anyone for that matter, expects to see the Lord work in amazing ways and change the lives of others, he first needs to see dedicated in us as his people.

“…you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Ephesians 2:19-22

I’ll let scripture speak for itself, but take a second and read that again. We are being built as a dwelling where the Spirit of the Lord lives. This is by no means what this world would call a “normal” circumstance. Yet, it’s exactly where God has placed us in his plan. How else could we respond except in gratitude and love for a God who has purpose for us, not just as little minions running around, but as representatives of his love for his people.