Category Archives: Ministry

Is comfort a good thing?

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I sit looking out my window at the long train peacefully passing beneath the mountains like a scene straight out of a picture book. The windows are open, letting in the cool morning breeze. I strain to focus on the beautiful chorus of bird chatter, which is easily heard above the sounds of the train cars clicking their way along the tracks. But there is another noise that competes, a newer noise. It’s the steady stream of traffic on our now-busy highway below.

Yep, it’s summer in Glacier.

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The town has transformed. A once peaceable post for less than a hundred homes, it is now bustling with people and cars and RVs. The hotels are full, the restaurants have lines out the door, and the locals have work. Praise God!

We have much to be grateful for. Truly.

But now that we’re here, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten comfortable. I have my regular routine including about 40 hours of work, and a mid-week “weekend” with my honey, when we play in the park and soak up together time. Beyond this, we started a co-op garden with a young family and two friends, one a local Blackfeet man and the other a young-at-heart widow we’ve long befriended. In the early spring, we held regular dinner parties to map and plan the garden, and now that we’ve planted, there is lots of weeding to be done. We just might have bitten off more than we can chew!

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But this comfort thing… it’s bothering me right now. In Oregon, my life was wrapped up in ministry. My job was ministry; most of my friends were in ministry (or had been); we had Bible studies and small groups and belonged to a church. Now: I have work; I have play, and I have time with my husband.

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With all of the amazing gifts around me, I am yet unsatisfied. How can this be? After surviving the winter and all of its discomforts, how can I now fight the comfort?

I’ve been praying that God would open the door for more. I don’t know what it will look like (especially when I feel like I have no time to offer), but I trust something is in store. In a way, I am antsy to get going already. But on the flip side, I’m in no hurry at all. I suppose God will work His way in me as long as I am willing. Thank you for your ongoing prayers of support and love. We feel them deeply in our hearts!

Be blessed today, my friends. In all of your comforts and discomforts, know that God is with you.

Honeymoon, Crisis, Transformation

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Looking back, this Montana Adventure has been, in some ways, like a trip down the rabbit hole. We could not have predicted the ride to be so rough and crazy-making. But really, we should have expected it. Our experience was classic.

Like the Peace Corps’ model of cultural adjustment (mentioned by my BFF, who just spent a year-plus in Australia with her family), we suffered the typical ups and downs before coming to a place of growth and transformation. It’s striking how similar our experience matched those shown in the following two charts.

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Now I’m not insisting that our current home is a “foreign” culture, especially compared to situations where a new language is present or the country’s social-political atmosphere is hostile, or anything like that. But still, our journey took us away from our people and our home, our comforts and cultural roles. We had familiar and rewarding jobs, the closest friends you could ask for, and a loving family a short drive away. In many aspects, we entered a “foreign” culture when we arrived here, on those standards alone. Add in a crazy winter complete with terrible driving conditions, small-rural-town-type isolation, and a few unfavorable encounters with Blackfeet Nation… and the truth is, you’ve got yourself a foreign culture.

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We definitely began with a “Honeymoon” phase. It was exciting! We were actually in Montana. We did it. We followed through. Hurrah! There was good weather, seasonal work, and epic hikes to be had. But by the middle of the second month, the snow came. And we got homesick. We missed everything about our former community and began to ask ourselves why we left. By the next month, we were losing confidence. In our spouse. In our situation. In our decision. And it led to depression, anger, and frustration. Every day, our home was hostile. We lashed out at each other instead of bonding through it. Three months in, we were thiiiis close to throwing in the towel. As we planned our Christmas trip home, we seriously considered packing it all up and calling it quits.

That was the “crisis” point. You can see on the above chart that this was a pivotal place. Either we would quit or we would persevere.

I love this part on the chart. There is a split, a severing, at that crisis point. You don’t get to see what happens to the journey after quitting. Because it’s over. Done. And then there is the next branch. Its label, “extended crisis” says it all. Oof, it sounds bad. [In fact, it is. I think we did this for 2-3 months. And yes, it was ugly.]

Even sticking with it, accepting it, without truly allowing your heart to grow, takes an odd turn for the worse. Leading to a “partial recovery,” you can see there is no character transformation here. I can almost taste that life, with twinges of bitterness and malcontent stifling my peace and joy.

According to this model, the thriving comes when you “explore” your options and dive into the culture. It takes risk and challenge, and testing yourself despite your fears. Through that testing, you gain confidence in Christ’s love for you. You gain confidence in His master plan. And you begin to trust. Sure, you trust in yourself. But your trust builds in your spouse. And hopefully, your trust locks into the place where it belongs most: in God’s capable hands.

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Eight and a half months into our journey, we’ve hit our stride. We see that God did what he wanted to do in us (that round!). He stretched us and beckoned us to follow Him at a closer distance. We’re unsure of where this road will go from here. But we are willing to stick it out and see. So far, God’s blessings have been plenty! If we had quit at that crisis point, we would have missed out on so much. I tell you all of this, friends, because I hope you stick out your current challenge, too (if that’s what God is telling you to do). While quitting isn’t always bad, there are no shortcuts in life. The hard road is the best road. Usually. Let it shape you and grow you for the better.

Through this experience, I’m beginning to get a better sense of freedom in what happens. I’m beginning to accept that I’m not in control, but that the God who is in control will allow some uncomfortable events to happen in my life. There is no way to explain why horrendous things happen to good people. But maybe it’s simply so that I fully understand that this is not my home, that this whole “life as we know it” is temporary.

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” – James 5:7-8

Our Two Churches

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Churches aren’t perfect… especially in the eyes of its church body. I know I have played critic too many times, sadly letting goofy hairstyles and jokes prick my skin to the point where I can’t listen to the truth being shared. Even an “honorable complaint” like “not enough scripture” puts me at risk of pride and judgement of others. But most of all, it acts as a barrier to receiving God’s word, like chains crossed over my heart.

Home, as we now call it, entails a wide range of discomforts that does not exclude our churches. I say churches, plural, because we haven’t quite landed on one. In fact, we’ve landed on two: both in Browning, the heart of Blackfeet Nation, 15 miles away.

The first is a Methodist church run by a very likable young couple we’ve befriended. With a small, intimate congregation, they meet in a cozy, yet enchantingly beautiful sanctuary lined in cedar and stunning stained glass. It’s a bit more liturgical than we’re accustomed to (think response readings and ceremonial candle lighting), but the congregation is sweet and caring, hosting monthly potlucks for the community to enjoy. We see a range of folks join us for the meal. Some smell of alcohol; others smell of humility and good humor. They teach us Blackfeet terms and phrases and sincerely thank us when they leave.

The other church is sure something. This one has a large congregation of mostly Natives. Everyone is kind and welcoming, and upon meeting us, often ask if we are teachers or nurses, the two jobs that routinely bring white folks into town. [We never figured out how to explain why we came, and most find it strange that we didn’t come for work.]

At the onset, we struggled to feel comfortable there in our own skin, painfully white compared to our neighbors. Plus, the church was quite charismatic! While it was unfamiliar and new (not to mention, awkward at times), it was truly beautiful to witness the collective crying and clapping as everyone praised the Lord so fully with heart and soul.

If you’ve never seen someone weep openly in need of our Lord or sing with their arms stretched so high and straight that their elbows bend inward, you should at least visit other churches. I’m not saying it has to be this way, but it certainly feels right in the deepest part of your soul that knows you simply cannot fathom the incredible love of Jesus… or just how to respond.

For how beautiful I see it now, the discomfort of it all kept us away in the beginning. That’s what comfort does to us. It spoils us. Closes our minds. Robs us of experiencing something extraordinary.

I’m not sure what it took to open our eyes or give us courage to continue to show up, looking so different in our white skin and guarded mannerisms. But seven months into our fated move here, we are planting roots and experiencing great victories. Not because we finally figured it all out, but because we finally surrendered our former comforts for the challenges that God has invited us to shoulder. How lucky we are to have two churches! How blessed we are to have two congregations and pastors; two worship styles and sermons. How fortunate we are to grow in our levels of acceptance of other cultures.

So for now, we will soak in the challenges and let the Lord guide us each week. Shoot, we’re just happy we can make the drive these days! In winter, that 15-mile journey is not for the faint of heart.

On passion. And people.

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Yesterday I asked Pete what he thought was my greatest passion. Without skipping a beat, saying it so matter of fact: People.

Now that right there made my day. First of all, because he knew me so well that he could answer that question before I could. And secondly, because he was right. It wasn’t snowboarding or backpacking or even the outdoors. It wasn’t youth or women or kids, even. It was broader and more accurate. People.

It’s the kids I get to love on at church, the youth I get to engage with through YD Adventures, and the women in my life who push me or get pushed by me to trust and rely more on Christ. It’s my husband and all of the special ways we share our affection. It’s my family and my friends. My coworkers, my housemates. I really just love the heck out of them! All of them.

So what does one do with passion, anyways? What comes to mind is the word, “investment”. It seems to me that if you invest time and resources into your passions, joy will always follow. Because even if the money is lame and your status is less than glamorous, you are nonetheless doing something that makes you feel alive. Something that brings good and not harm. Something that is fruitful and joy-giving.

That, my friend, is one solid investment.

I don’t think I’ll ever look back on my life and wish I hadn’t invested in so many people. (I might even wish I’d have invested in more.) No, I’ll look back and say that was time well spent. It will not matter if it didn’t pay off financially. It will not matter if I made mistakes in the midst of it. It will matter that I did it despite those barriers.

So what is your one unyielding passion? And are you doing it? I determined that my two greatest passions were people and words. Oh how I enjoy writing. Even if it’s a simple blog that I write in my bed at five in the morning. There is no monetary reward in store, here. No pay. But dangit, I’m doing what I love. And that is enough.

Passion… pass it on.

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Mustachio (camp name) introduces us girls to my fave new hairstyle

Cora, my dear darling friend, and I embark on a birthday biking adventure, Portland tram inclusive!

Sam and Micaiah, two lovely volunteer/summer staff at YD Adventures

Enjoying Hazel Barrett, my amazing friend, mentor, and housemate

Precious Kelsey, a YD Adventures student turned friend

Erika, a delightful co-leader on YDAO trips, and an even better friend

Wyatt and Ivy, my new nephew and niece: possibly the sweetest kids on the planet

Numero Uno, himself. My loving, always-makes-me-laugh husband, Pete

Four photos. Why I do what I do.

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Rappelling is exciting, scary, and challenging. It involves little more than courage, trust, and faith… plus a reckless abandonment of fear, doubt and worry. //Helping students understand what it means to recklessly trust God in ALL things.

“How am I going to scale this wall… by myself?” he asks. The only way: with help. //Helping students catch the true value of the church, the body of Christ.

Bonding through challenge course… never fails. //Helping students overcome obstacles of love.

Spending time with peers in a healthy atmosphere of trust and fellowship. //Helping students grow in their relationship with Christ, by loving God and others