Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I'm Not.

There are many words I would use to describe myself.  I feel that I am genuine, a tad gossipy, funny, intuitive, and prideful.   I am an idealist to the nth degree.  I thrive on relationships, and my world is not right when there is a rift between a loved one and myself.  I could make conversation with a wall.  I have, in fact, made conversation with a wall.  I count beans.  I have a proactive personality.  I know that Jesus loves me regardless of what I say or do, but I am forever, FOREVER trying to be good enough for Him.  I am a quality time kind of gal.  I can be passive aggressive.  Just ask my poor husband how many times a day I let out the dramatic sigh.  Hey.  I didn't say it was all pretty, but I'm a work in holy progress.  Amen and amen. 

But my list of what I am not is a lot more difficult for me.  Especially when it comes to serving God.  There are so many wonderful opportunities to advance the Truth inside and outside my church community.  And I want to do every single one of them.  Bake sale? Sign me up.  Worship team?  Got it.  Youth Mentor?  Totally.  Childcare?  Love kids.  Neighborhood outreach?  Yes and yes. 

What happens in all my yessing is that I run from activitiy to activity, with a hallelujah thrown up in between my driving and painting and baking and reading.  My mind is running faster than my poor body, like an obese person with a personal trainer yelling for them to catch up.  I feel panic welling up in my throat, not wanting to let anyone down, feeling like I'm doing a half-butt job of everything.  I secretly (or not so secretly) am crabby with everyone who is not volunteering as much as my saintly self.   I cringe as Madeline asks where I'm off to next as soon as Greg walks in the door. And, inevitably, I crash. and burn.

One of those committments is a community Bible study I'm in.  We are taking the year to go through the book of Acts, and it is a-may-yay-zing!  One of my favorite passages is in Acts 6, where the early church was thriving and growing.  They were selling their possesions, giving to the needy, and constantly breaking bread and praying prayers together. Love. The distribution of the daily food was getting a little unorganized and tricky, and the twelve apostles gathered the believers together and said:

"It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.  Therefore brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."   Acts 6:2b-4

I know that it sounds like Peter and his homies were cocky, but my understanding of the text is quite the opposite.  Peter was crystal clear about his purpose and calling.  He had walked with Jesus, he had waited upon Jesus, and he was being obedient to Jesus.  He didn't waste his time running around and "yessing" everything that the early church threw his way.  The apostles knew what they were.  And knew what they were not.  Because of thier obedience, the church grew by the thousands.

Although my intentions are to honor God with all of my yessings, I end up losing sight of God in the flurry of servitude.  It's like a bad romantic comedy, where the starlet spends half the movie primping, tanning, dry-cleaning and outfit shopping in order to impress her love interest, and it turns out he prefers sweats and no makeup.  We run around like chickens with our heads cut off, shouting, "Praise the Lord!" while we run into walls and ditches and all sorts of trouble.  Meanwhile, God wants our sweats.  He wants to direct us towards purpose and promise in our quietest moments.  Like he did with Peter and the early church. 

I need to have more quiet moments with God.  To know what He asks of me before I go yes crazy.  I need to know myself through His eyes.  I need to learn how He has crafted me so perfectly to fit into His body.  I believe our God is a personal God, one who has made us to serve in a unique capacity.  For me to say "no" to an opportunity to serve means that opportunity is open for someone else to fill it as God calls them to.   It all works together like a holy orchestra, each of us picking up an instrument as God calls us to play; the music reaching and blessing His heavenly ears. 

So. I am learning.  I am ever learning.  I am learning to say "maybe" instead of yes to service opportunities.  To get in my sweats and pray about it.  And then to feel confident in saying no, just as Peter did, if God is leading me elsewhere.  Therefore, my list of what I am not is growing.  I am not an artist.  I am not a Sunday school teacher.  I am not an encouragment card writer.  I am not a "techie".  I am not a grounds crew type of gal.  I'm not a speaker.  I am not a bake sale participant.  I am not a preacher.   I am not good at sending care packages.  I am not a greeter.  Maybe that will clear some space inside my head and my heart for God to whisper gently to me what I am.

Monday, October 3, 2011


My best friend and her daughter came to visit us this weekend.  Yes, I am thirty, and yes I still call her my best friend.  We don't wear the necklaces, but if asked to I would rock one on her behalf.  In my book, the title of Best Friend is one that is earned through moments of faithfulness, selflessness, and honesty that all stack up on top of each other to make something so sustainable.  Something that takes on a form of it's own and gains momentum as the years pass. Like a giant snowball of awesomeness.  Enter my snowball.  Nicole Renee (Martell) Centanni the first. 

When Nicole moved away seven years ago we cried so hard that our husbands had to literally peel us apart.  That was a dark day for me.  I knew that I could search the ends of the earth for someone like her and come up empty.   Nicole, my best friend of a thousand lifetimes, one that knew me so deeply and honestly, and she was leaving.  Stupid Minnesota.  I will punch you.

 I felt robbed because Nicole and I couldn't do daily life together anymore.  We had walked through such significant moments together:  college, ministry, young love, and our first years of marriage.  She was my go to.  Our friendship had only known side by side living.  We didn't know how that could translate with her moving three hundred miles away.   I was nervous that the depth that we had so carefully built, moment by moment would fade into the oblivion of Christmas cards and class reunions.

 However, Nicole and I resolved to keep a great thing going.  We committed to visiting one another as often as possible.  We sat down with our calendars and our Hot Tamales and marked out our best friend weekends with permanent red ink.  Friends and family would comment on how much effort I put into seeing Nicole.  It didn't feel like effort.  It felt like a necessity.  I needed her.  It actually took more restraint on my behalf to not visit more often.

A beautiful thing started taking shape during those visits.  When Nicole visited me, I paused life for a weekend.  I was able to take a deep breath, a time out, a respite from daily living.  I was able to step back and survey my life, with a companion that knew me so deeply and helped me see it more clearly.   Nicole would encourage me, help me see beauty where I saw ashes, promise where I saw disparity.   She would remind me of the things that I value.  She would "sing my heart's song back to me when I forgot the words" like that cheesy Hallmark saying.  Our hubbies would always tease us about our weekends together, bracing themselves for the "revelations" we would come home with. 

Fast forward a few years, a few pounds, and a few kids later.  Our weekends together still feel as necessary, if not more, as they had at the beginning.  Nicole and I may be more interrupted than before, and may have stockpiled the Disney DVD collection for our girls so we can actually get some talk time in, but it is so freaking worth it.  It is worth the crazy drive and the choppy nap schedules and the pounds and pounds of goldfish consumed by our children.  I still walk away from our weekends together with a fresh lease on life and the God that gave it to me. 

 There is so much value in doing daily life together with others.  God calls us to.   However, there is much to be said about taking a time out with someone you love and allowing one another the space to think aloud, to breathe, to mourn and to heal. It's like free therapy with the additional bonus of junk food and sleepovers.    A respite from daily living is necessary in order to do daily life well.  Although I would jump through fiery hoops at the chance to be Nicole's next door neighbor, I have learned to appreciate such a time as this.   

So, my dearest Nicole.  If I could have seen seven years ago what I now see, I probably would not have slashed the tires to your moving truck.  What God has developed in between our hearts, our families, and our lives is so much more beautiful than this little brain could have imagined.  Cheers to respite.  Cheers to my best friend. 

Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.   
                                                                                                                             -Dinah Craik