Monthly Archives: March 2014

Blessed Is She by Emily Matson

I have known Emily for several years now. We met when I was on staff at a college ministry and she was a student. We have gone on mission trips together, cried in the church nursery, had coffee and planned lots of events. She has faithfully served on the Collide team. As she ends her time in college , she chose to spend her Business Management internship with Collide. She has taken ideas and vision and given them legs that actually walk. She has streamlined things and created better structure. She has worked hard and learned lots! If the future is in hands like these, we can all breathe a sigh of relief! I am excited to see where God takes this young woman and sad if I ever have to see her go:) Read her story…- Willow

Looking back on this quarter, I am relieved. This has no doubt been one of the busiest and most difficult quarters of my college career. I constantly felt like I was forgetting something and one of these things was my internship with Collide.

This is Emily's story

In the fall I knew I needed to find an internship for winter so I could build up my resume and earn some more credits. Willow referred me to a friend who could hook me up with an internship that would look amazing on a resume. Instead, I decided I wanted to intern for Collide. I could tell that she thought I was crazy – giving up that snazzy internship for one with Collide and her but I knew it was right.

As the weeks went on, I loved what I was doing for Collide and I loved learning from Willow. I felt like my faith was being set free. Despite the challenges and the lack of sleep, I felt freed by what I was learning and the opportunities that were being opened. Collide is going places and this was a crucial quarter for that. I believe in what Collide is and what it stands for and I am so excited to see where it goes. God is changing lives through it and it is so amazing to watch. I know that God planned for me to do this internship, at this time. There were times when it felt like too much, like I’d forget everything and nothing would get done and I would be at fault. But God followed through, He carried me through.

As part of the planning team for Collide, it is easy to focus on all the people that are being reached by Collide and forget about our own. This has been a long, aching winter for many people around me, especially on our team; from death to illness to disappointment, it has been a long winter. The women on our team have been beautiful examples for me to look up to and learn from. I see their faith through the hard times and the way they continue on. They have faith that the Lord will follow through. Being a part of Collide has given me courage and strength; Courage to stand up for the God that I know to be true and strength to rely on Him when I can’t see how it could all work. I am reminded yet again of the fact that God follows through.

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I think most of the time I was sitting just barely at the surface, ready to sink several times, even now that it is over. I am exhausted. Exhausted from a quarter of going, going, going and exhausted when I think about the weeks to come: I am preparing to leave for a workweek up at Young Life’s Malibu Club. I am honored to go be a part of preparing this camp for thousands of kids to hear the Good News. But I am exhausted. Thinking ahead to the hours of work when I return, and the busyness that will come with the start of spring quarter is exhausting. But if there is anything I have learned over the past few years, it is that God follows through…He will follow through in the days to come just like He has so many times before.

Going into the future I have hope. I know that God will be with me through the long days and that He will come out on the other side with me. I will look back on this and see the growth and learning and I will be overjoyed. Luke 1:45 says, “Blessed is she who has believed the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” And I do believe because He has yet to leave me stranded.

once upon a time

once upon a time

Once upon a time, I got a call from a redheaded beauty who asked me to meet for coffee and a walk. It was in that meeting that this college aged girl, named Brittany, who was seeking to grow spiritually asked if I would be her mentor. Now, when people ask me this question, they could be asking a myriad of things. To some people having a mentor means having a friend who is older than you. To others, it means having someone you call when you are in need of advice. To some it means accountability and others it means just having a person to pray for you. And still some see a mentor as their personal guru that they hang out with all the time and wait for wisdom to just rain down from their presence. (This option is not available with me).

Brittany said she wanted to grow in her understanding of Jesus and the Bible. This came at just the right time. The stars and the moon could have been colliding. God had been rising up in me an idea, two words. Wounded Collision. He had invited me to do something with those words and had given me a perspective of Him and who He is when He collides with broken humanity. This perspective greatly tied in with my own story of finding God and how I see Him working in our world.

I looked at Brittany and said “Great! Would you like to get together and look at scripture where Jesus collides with wounded people and see what He does?” (By the way, when I say wounded people, I mean all of us. I use this word interchangeably with broken people, sinful people, messed up people, hurting people, crazy people, “perfect” people. We are all wounded, hurt, marred, swimming in the dark, often lost, confused, angry, envious selfish beings, wounding each other and ourselves .) Brittany said yes. It turns out she had some friends who also wanted to come.

So I made a pound cake and some lemonade and anticipated a couple college aged girls to walk into my living room and we would watch Jesus run into someone in the New Testament and learn from that collision. Twenty some girls walked into my living room. I started frantically making more lemonade and pulling stale snacks out of my pantry.

That was the first night of many. For a few years, young women would pile into a living room and collide with Jesus. It was life changing for all of us. There were women who received healing for sexual abuse, feeling voiceless, and a deep struggle with inadequacy. Jesus met each and every one of us. He not only met us, but He called us to live like Him- to collide with other broken people and love them as He did.  We started seeing the likes He ran into: religious bullies, people with gross nasty skin rashes, sluts who would sleep with your boyfriend, people who have no loyalty and would betray you on the fly. We were called to love these kinds of people, not in a “I say I love them, but I fake it” kind of way, but in a real, organic,nitty gritty, in the flesh, in my own backyard kind of way.

After a few years, most of the young women had graduated and moved off to “real jobs” and adventures all over the world. The four girls who were still in school wanted to keep meeting. I prayed and the Spirit told me He wasn’t interested in an “us 4 and no more bible study.” He said He didn’t want to drive this thing into the ground but He had other plans. When I asked God what those other plans were He said, “Its time they teach this message.”

I went back to the four girls left and told them what God said. I then suggested we try an experiment. I learned from a friend a long time ago…if you call something an experiment and it fails, it’s totally ok to have tried. This releases you with more freedom to risk failing and do BIG things. So I challenged these 20-somethings. You have studied Jesus colliding with people. Now it’s your turn to teach the message! Will you take on this experiment with me? We will get together, look at a collision and then we will teach it. These girls, who had seen Jesus call the least likely people to do amazing things, beyond what is possible, they knew they had to trust that Jesus could use them too. They said yes.

That experiment was our first Collide. We invited other college girls to come and collide with Jesus and 50 some came, then 80 and so on and so forth.  We invited real live women with real live stories of brokenness and real live faith to come and share. As we did, some of the older women came to teach and loved it and wished they could come participate too. So we decided to try another experiment and have an intergenerational day with women from First Presbyterian Church. We did and they loved it. We started to see that God was moving, shaping, building something out of nothing.

We now have women who are 17 and women who are 87 sitting on the same pews. We now have women who believe in child baptism worshipping right next to women who have never been baptized. We have meth addicts walking in the doors to collide with Jesus right along with professors, doctors, lawyers and pastors. We have hundreds of women coming to collide with Jesus on the day of, but also online as they read stories about who He is and Your stories from sojourners who have run into Him. We have people getting help for self harm, suicidal thoughts right along women using discovering their gifts and using them to help others. We have people who have known God their whole lives seeing Him in new ways right alongside people who are meeting Him for the very first time. They are blown away together. We now have an amazing ministry team of women who put on the Day of events, an Advisory board, a team of counselors that partner with us, speakers and teachers from all over sharing their wisdom and stories. It is awesome! This Jesus is continuing to collide with lives and change them in amazing ways. Big things are happening and Big Collide news is on the way. Be on the lookout, for His love is fierce and He can do anything. Once upon a time can often feel like “now”. But “now” is what God often uses to shape something beyond what you can even see or imagine. I am more than excited for where He is going and how He has gotten there! More to come soon….

 

Evicting my anxiety by Andie Daisley

I met Andie when she was a student in college. She brightens every room she walks into and hands joy out like candy. It is so surprising to hear her struggles with anxiety when you see the peace she brings to those around her. I encourage you to read her brave story of facing her Mood Monster head on as God helped her to see she truly can overcome what seemed surmounting. This is her story of getting unstuck.  Her honesty is inspiring and so is her grasp to see how uniquely personal God truly is.Willow
Andie My story
It was 2pm on Friday, July 22nd, 2011.  It had been a long, hard week of basking in the sun with friends without any homework and getting paid to babysit the sweetest, most adorable and hilarious children.  Life was tough.  And just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get worse (I hope you’ve picked up on the sarcasm at this point), I was getting ready to leave for a camping trip with some of my favorite people on the planet.  And we were headed to Larrabee State Park, one of my favorite places on the planet.
So imagine my disgust (this time the disgust is real) when I remembered the Craigslist job posting I’d seen earlier that week… applications due that very day at 4pm.  In two hours!  But I had to pack for my staycation!  It’s my favorite place!  It’s my favorite people!  UGH.  “I don’t even want this job,” I argued with myself.  “Yes Andie, but remember what your professors told you.  It will take forever to get a bite on an application.  At least 6 months.  You have to apply to anything and everything,” said Andrea (That’s me too… in this case my responsible conscience… AKA a no-fun, goody-two-shoes SQUARE).  And I had to admit, she was right.
When you’re 22 years old and freshly graduated, about to be thrown into the big, bad, working world on your own for the first time, you listen to your college professors and their wise counsel.  “Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine!”  I agreed.  So I did it.  Luckily my résumé was in tip-top shape with all the job-finding focus in our last few months of classes.  So I cranked out a cover letter and submitted that bad boy.  Not ideal, but it’s just true.  And off I went, oh-so-pleased with myself and pretty sure I would never have to think about that job ever again.
Andie graduation_n
Long story short, I was wrong.  One phone interview, one on-site interview, and one month later I was employed.  In Tacoma.  Nearly three hours away from where I had spent the last 4 years of my life.  WHAT??  “Apply for any job you can find,” they said.  “It will take a long time to get any bites,” they said.  Nobody saw this coming – least of all me.  I should have been happy and proud.  Instead, I freaked my freak and had a few meltdowns and cried my eyes out a number of times.  And then packed my life into a tiny Toyota and said goodbye to many of my closest friends and the only adult life I’d known and drove two and a half hours into unfamiliar territory.
And I mean, I was proud.  I was.  It’s really cool and flattering and stress-relieving (or so I thought) to be employed.  The worst of it will be missing my friends, right?  And I can just pop on up to see them any time I want to, right?  So it’s all gonna be gravy, RIGHT??  Wrong.

See, I was always a stress case when it came to academics.  Never satisfied with what most people considered “enough” studying, always picking apart my research papers with the finest of fine-toothed combs, stressing stressing, stressing.  While at the same time exhibiting EXTRAORDINARY skills in procrastination.  Go figure.  So I thought that was my problem.  I just don’t give myself enough time to complete projects and then insist on perfectionism, and that would make anyone stressed out of her mind!  So now that school is over, anxiety and constant worry are a thing of the past!  … Are you laughing?  Me too.
Moving 3ish hours from most everything and everyone you know and love is a good way to test your mental health, let me tell you that.  The first (of MANY) lesson(s) I learned about myself after I moved to Tacoma was that my anxiety wasn’t going anywhere.  It was part of me.  Ever-present and relentless.  Making me sad, anxious, at times depressed, and clouding nearly every thought with fear, uncertainty, and overall yuckiness.  It had taken up residence in my brain and heart and was a lousy, no good tenant.  And extra hard to evict.  We’re talking multiple notices on the front door, complaints from the neighbors, warning after warning… until the situation required professional action and rehabilitation.  Stepping away from my housing metaphor, if I may, “professional action and rehabilitation” in this case refers to reaching a boiling point and realizing I just couldn’t continue to let these Mood Monsters in my brain walk all over me.  They were the nastiest of bullies and needed to be stopped.  But how in the WORLD would I go about that??
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It started with a call to my former doctor at WWU, where I had sought help for similar circumstances in college.  This wasn’t my first rodeo, folks.  So I called good ol’ Lorna.  Lorna is a goddess among us.  And I love her.  Is that weird?  I don’t think so.  Anyway, against all odds, Dr. Lorna the Goddess received my obscure message left with an office assistant and returned my call the very next day.  With a kind, “Oh hello Andie, it’s so nice to hear from you!  How have you been?” A wave of relief came over me.  And kind of like when you call your parents and don’t even realize you’re that upset until they answer in their kind and loving tones and suddenly you’ve dissolved into a puddle of unforeseen tears, so I dissolved on the phone with my Lorna.  And, in claaaaaaassic Lorna form, she oh-so-sweetly encouraged me to visit a counselor and consult my new doctor, and consider another prescription for antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication.  And because Lorna is an angel sent straight from above, I did.  And because I did, things began to change.
Now here’s the thing.  The reason I offer you so much detail about the story that led to my healing and growth, is because it was an UGLY journey along the way.   And since this is a blog about faith and collisions and finding God in the mess, here’s where that part comes in:  I was so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so fed up with God in the midst of my struggle.  Big fat OVER IT and big fat OVER HIM.  Sick of hearing “Give it up to God,” and “It’s all part of the plan,” and “It will happen when it’s supposed to happen.”
Mind you, these messages were not coming to me in direct response to my anxiety issues.  The closest people to me were not feeding me those lines.  But these messages are flung around all the time in faith communities.  And there’s nothing inherently wrong with them necessarily.  I mean, it’s a nice thought, isn’t it?  Give it up to God and he will take it away and all that crap.  But here’s what’s wrong with that picture:  Mental health struggles are not the absence of God.  Mental health struggles do not mean you are not faithful enough or prayerful enough or worthy enough for a peaceful mind.  And I know most people wouldn’t tell you otherwise.  I know most people mean well with their Christian buzzword advice.  Yeah, sure, “Give it up to God.”  But sometimes he will give it back.  And that doesn’t mean He has abandoned you.  ALL THE TIME I used to think, “Ok God. Here I am, giving this up to you!  It’s yours!  People tell me I can do that, so is that cool?  I don’t want this anymore so you can go ahead and have it.  I do declare.”  I would sit in my prayerful silence and try to make every thought that popped through my head into the Voice of God.  But it really sounded a lot like me.  And I was more and more annoyed and defeated with every deafening silence.
So I stopped trying.  I stopped trying to hear God.  I just stuck to my path of counseling and medication and healthy eating and exercise and vitamins and SELF CARE and things got better.  Slowly but surely they got better.  And all of that kind of makes it sound easy, but it wasn’t.  There were lots of bad days.  But I spent time with those I loved, listen to music that soothed me, took a day off here and there as needed, visited my family, and gradually began to make some really amazing realizations.
my fam
I asked God – begged and pleaded with God – plenty of times to rescue me from my situation.  I told him he could have my worries.  “Take them away any time you want, Big Guy.”  And I so desperately wanted to be one of those people who talks about the great conversations they have with God.  You know the ones.  You’re pretty sure they must be on his iPhone “Favorites” list and they chat and FaceTime and text nonstop, because these people are verrrry familiar with God’s voice.  Well you know what?  I think I was too.  I just didn’t know it.  Because God knows me.  He knows that I need to be reminded to stop and smell the roses.  He knows that if I said, “Hey, let me know what my life will be like in 5 years and what I need to do to get there.  Thaaaanks!” and he actually did it – gave me a glimpse into my future and what it would look like – that I would become a woman obsessed!  I would change my course of action to try to fit into the perfect little picture God had painted!  It would be game over for any form of contented, here-and-now existence.  And that would be awful.
So no, He didn’t rescue me from my struggles by taking them away right then and there.  He let me keep them.  He let me get ANGRY with them and Him.  He let me fight.  He allowed me to feel.  He didn’t proclaim great revelations with a big, booming, movie-narrator-voice.  Because it wouldn’t have worked for me.  It would have freaked me out.  And He knew that.  Duh, He knew that.  But why do you think I applied for my job?  Why do you think I TOOK the job, against all my worried thoughts?  Why do you think I recognized my Mood Monsters?  Why do you think I called Lorna the Goddess?  Oh He rescued me, alright.  By allowing me to rescue myself.  With His omnipresent peace and guidance on my side.  And I have never felt so whole.  I have never felt so proud.  I have never felt so ME. – Andie
To keep in touch with Andie, check out her blog.

3 things i got stripped down to at a naked spa

For my fortieth birthday, my mom so kindly offered to take me to a spa she loves. I said yes. Then I found out it was a naked spa.

This news was coming from my mom who once took my cousin and I to a nudist colony on accident one spring break in middle school. I said to my mom on the phone that I would bring a suit. I mean clearly, this had to have been a clothing optional women’s spa. But nooooooo. My mom told me they would probably tell my that I can’t wear a suit. I had never heard of such a place! You have got to be kidding me?

But she loved it and assured me I would to. So I packed my bag with very little and started passing hugs out as I walked out the door. My kids were getting ready for school and down the stairs, ran my daughter. I thought she was running  towards me for hugs, but this eight year old, in her fear that I might have to be publicly naked with her grandma, handed me my bathing suit. She actually went into my closet and found my unfrequented spandex get up and brought it to me. I don’t know if that speaks to her care taking nature or how she feels about my naked body. Maybe both.

I said thank you and headed for this all too famous spa called the Olympus. I checked in at the door and first took off my shoes placing them in a cubby. They handed me what looked like a hospital robe and hat and my locker key. The further I moved into this facility, the more I was supposed to take off. My mom explained the culture of the place and all the amenities (the soaking pools, the sauna, the different rooms with mud, sand and salt- all to choose from throughout the day, the massages, the scrubs and much more). So I made the leap!

The leap looked like walking into a room full of soaking pools, fake plants, waterfalls and naked women with hospital hats on showering and soaking all around you.  So I stripped down to my hat and made the plunge and when I did, these are the things that I was struck by in this place.

1. Naked you come, naked you leave

naked you come and depart

Stripping down to nothing is vulnerable because you have nowhere to hide. Nothing covers you. There is no security to fall back on. You are out there for all to see. I was reminded of what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes, “Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands.”

This nakedness is how I came into the world forty years ago and it is how I will leave. Much has taken place in the last few decades that have told me I should cover up. Adventures have bruised me. Words have scarred me. Pleasure has used me. Culture has lied to me.  And I have lied to myself. My clothes have at times given me confidence, not in who I am, but what I wear. Other people’s expectations of me have told me that somehow, in and of myself, I am not enough. My hopes have never been satisfied at home in this body. And maybe you can relate.

Yet the Bible reminds us, this is how you came. Stripped down to nothing. No materials hold you. No fabric hides you. No jewels adorn you. Naked. And this is how you leave. No materials hold you. No fabric hides you. No jewels adorn you. Stripped down to you. Only you. Are you going to be gripping onto everything around you that covers you and brings you security or will you be ready when that day comes to depart in nakedness? This is a good question for me to answer…

2. Bodies are stories

our bodies are stories that one else can judge

As I was trying not to be the creeper in a naked spa, I started noticing bodies. There were what our society would label obese bodies and there were skinny bodies. There were shades of skin in spectrums of brown. I noticed no one actually looked white. On a demographic form they might mark white, but they were a hue of tan, of yellow, of cream. And the the hue got as vibrant as dark chocolate brown and hazelnut brown and….well there were a lot of colors.

I started to see that our bodies tell stories. Each and every one of them. That limp tells a story. That tattoo has to be a good one and might include too much tequila. The silver that comes in on her left side has years of stories. The scar on her stomach tells of something difficult and trying. The red birthmarks all over her arms and legs tell stories of shame and insecurity. That bruise the size of Texas spells out a hurtful tale. Her one breast tells a story you hope yours never does.

I was in a hot pool waiting for my service to begin. An older african woman walked in with glasses on, a book in hand that was titled “Grace” and of course her hat on. I wasn’t sure at first if it was weird to talk to another woman while we were naked. But she smiled at me and we started making small talk. But then she began to share her story. She was 76 and her husband now had Alzheimer’s. The love of her life was at a daycare for adults that day so she could get some rest. The father of her children was forgetting their names. The groom who romanced her was no longer able. She was so exhausted from all the work, the care taking, the forgetfulness, the loss. She soaked in rest, hoping, just for a few hours it would be a dream or at least pause and she could breathe in that longed for grace.

A woman came out to the soaking pools with a little card labeled number 7. That was me. I was number 7. I raised my hand as my body raised out of the water. It was my time for a scrub. She was Korean with the  most beautiful smile that when shone upon you, actually made you feel beautiful. She held my hand and walked me into a room lined with many, many white tables. And there lay bodies. They came for respite, for refreshment, for self-care. Those bodies were stories.

Nana was her name and she patted the white table and invited me up to lay down and experience a scrub. Oh how uncomfortable at first! As she scrubbed my dead skin cells off, I asked her how often she herself gets scrubs. She said in broken English, “Oh! One time month.” I said “Wow, I am forty and I have never had this done. So we might be here a long time if you have to scrub a lifetime of dead skin cells off.” I laughed. So did she, as she kept scrubbing.

After everything dead about me, except those parts inside me that I still need God to make new, but after all my dead skin was lying on some white table in the back, my mom and I went into the “chill” room. It was a room with 4 chairs at a colder temperature than some of the other rooms to just sit and I suppose, “chill”.

We walked in and there were already two ladies sitting across from each other, leaving two other chairs. So I sat next to my new friend and my mom sat next to hers.  We were all in our hospital gowns in this room and just chatting. Suddenly, and I say suddenly because it felt that shocking, my mom looks at the woman to her right and said “Hey, weren’t you the one who had that outrageous tattoo on your lower back that I saw out at the pools?”  This lady was a full bodied, voluptuous lady with a hoarse voice. She was very funny and warm and seemingly open, outgoing and the life of the party and the life of the chill room. She said “Yes!” And as if that wasn’t enough information gathering, my mom said, “Can you show my daughter how cool it is?”

I was like a 15 year old again, “Moooooooom!!!” My mom looked at me like “What?” This actually was a cool moment where I realized where I had gotten my fun, crazy, spontaneity and wasn’t afraid to just live in the moment and connect with people in real ways. That is my mom… and where she rubbed off on me in this way, I like. It makes life spicy and the chill room not so chill!

The lady stood up without hesitation and begin turning around and disrobing! She was pulling her robe down to her very lowest back. Young people call this location for a tattoo a tramp stamp. But I will not call this lady a tramp! This woman revealed a huge tattoo that spanned from the left side of her lower hips all the way to the right. It was a fairy with an energy ball that said “troubled girl”.  This tattoo had so much story and this woman began to share it. She talked about her “energy” work, her Native roots and then began showing us other tattoos and told more story. She shifted her robe down off one shoulder and showed us a tattoo that she believe warded off bad things. She said it has faded because she got 3rd degree burns last summer and she can’t get the color fixed for another year. You could see the burn that fanned over her entire shoulder and arms. A troubled girl beginning to tell of her trouble… I realized next time I look at another’s body, perhaps I should look for story rather than judgement.

3. man looks on the outside, God looks at the heart

God looks at the heart not as man looks

Bodies are stories. How can we dare judge them? What do I know about how that burn was caused and what led up to that moment and how painful that experience now effects this woman? How can I look at the woman in the waiting room eating 3 candy bars while she waited for a massage and judge her body that our culture says is disgusting? I have no idea what she hungers for and why she uses food to satisfy her. How can I judge the woman with a scar that goes from her chest though her rolls down to her pubic line? I have no idea her tragedy.

It began to be clear to me that I was so uncomfortable with the idea of being naked in a room full of people not because I don’t like being naked in itself, but because my body, my story, and the judgement of other  people. I assumed my body will tell you “I am lazy. I am uncontrolled. I don’t deserve respect. I am not who I should be. I am ugly. I should hide.” We all have a long list of who we feel we are if someone were to judge our bodies. But what I love about God is that He isn’t playing this game. God is not weighing us on His Divine scale. He is not measuring our inches. He is not getting out the botox and the cellulite creams. The Bible says that is man. Man looks at the body. Man judges, Man sizes up. Man demands. Man expects. Man competes. Man envies. Man puts expectations on man that actually weigh us down instead lift us up. But God? God looks at our hearts.

1 Samuel 16:7 For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

God knows what happened that night like no one else. God knows what your motives were. God knows what you want to hide. He also knows what He wants to reveal. God knows what you are insecure about and God knows where He wants your security. We spend so much time worrying about our bodies, our appearance, our image and God says spend some time on your heart. It’s your heart that matters. And it’s your heart you will depart with, not your reputation, your beauty pageant wins, your marathon times, your titles, your bank account, nor your black suit. Naked you came, Naked you depart. When that day a comes, leave with a good story and a beautiful heart.

 

Life is like a game of chess but Jesus tells you to play with a different strategy

The past few weeks, my son, Aidan and I have been having chess wars. We play best out of 3 and consistently he wins. And I swear I am trying to win and just not cutting it. This is a weird place to find yourself as a parent. There was a day when I was soooo bored pretending to lose at tic tac toe in order for Aidan to feel the taste of victory. I would act clueless like I had no idea how he got 3 X’s in a row. That day has ended. This kid has been schooling me in chess.

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The other night, I told him, “This time I am going to bring it!” I was talking all this trash, but I actually wanted to win, just one game.

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So I was trying my hardest with the small brain power that I have been given. An hour and a half later we were down to our kings and one nook. I said to Aidan “The only way one of us is going to lose is when the other person makes a mistake.” So I waited. I ruthlessly waited for my 11 year old to get distracted watching Hey Jessie on TV or wrestle with our puppy or do something will make him mess up. That was my strategy: His failure would be my success.

This went on for hours.

I was the one who lost interest, got distracted and I kept looking at my watch thinking how long can we play this game. We have got to end this. But it wasn’t ending. And then, I looked at Aidan and said “What did Jesus say? He said, ‘If you want to be first’ you have to what?” Aidan said, “you have to be last.”

IMG_5266

“You are right” I said, as I moved intentionally right next to his king so he could kill me. Aidan looked at me with that charming smile that the babes are going to start seeing soon and cleverly laughed.

wanna be first

It was a good game and it’s up to debate as to who really won. Aidan thinks he knows and so do I. And it is true, indeed that Jesus calls us to play by different rules than the world plays. He calls us to be last when everyone is trying to be first. He calls us to turn our cheek when everyone is swinging their right. He calls us to lose our lives instead of hold onto them. His strategy for life looks a lot different than ours. His strategy might look as foolish to the world as my strategy does in chess.

Take the win” we can say. “You win the debate. You win the popularity contest. You win the control. You win.” “The victory is yours at my expense” is a way we can live our lives in relationship with others.  That’s how Jesus lived. Are we being a doormat when we do this? No. It takes the greatest of strength, control, love and faith to be able to do such.

I will lay down my life for yours. Who does that?

Do you?

life, death, wins and losses

Last week, some of the moms who have spent countless hours on the sidelines together cheering on their kiddos over the past several years, spent the morning of another mom, Julia’s, memorial service lining the street with pink. A friend of Julia’s had come up with the idea to line the street from her family’s house all the way to to the cemetery with signs, balloons and bows.

Julia's balloons

It had snowed that morning and we all met on the corner of the block we had been delegated. These other “sports moms” are all different from each other. Some are athletes themselves, some are not. Some would eat a donut at the drop of a hat and some would never dare. Some are loud and some are quiet. Some work and some stay at home. Some are outgoing and some are shy. Some believe in God and some don’t. Some love the church and some want nothing to do with the church.  And what had drawn us together initially was our kids, sports, school and being moms.

And here we were gathering because one of our own, a mom, had passed away. It struck me as we wrapped bows around telephone poles and hung lanterns on people’s trees (we hoped wouldn’t get angry)…it struck me that this woman’s life that we now mourned and celebrated, had impacted us all. Julia, who I wrote about a few weeks ago, truly made her life count, so much so that in her loss, a group of ragtag women who had once been drawn together by the commonality of being moms were now drawn together by who Julia was and how she lived and died.

Team Julia

There is something about death. There is something about mortality and the finiteness of life and facing goodbye that makes people come together. I think we all felt it could have been us. I think we all hurt for their family. I think we all wanted to do something. Anything. Even if just to pinkify a street to say to her husband and kids, “She mattered”.  And she did.

Later that afternoon, our family drove to the funeral. A lot of the boys on the football team, the team who had taken 1st place as county champs, showed up wearing their green and white jerseys just to say to their friend who lost his mother, “We are on your team in victory and in loss.” 

I experienced a few things that day.

I sat in that pew and kept seeing these kids file in, squishing together like sardines.  Every time another boy sat down, I saw the teammates welcome and make room where there was no more room. But yet, another boy would come to sit down. I felt sorry for the older people on the end of the pew. And yet, every time another boy came, they made room because no one would be left out of this. In fact, there was no more room and one boy sat further back with his mom. And I heard the chatter amongst these kids who decided that wasn’t right for him to not be with the team. So here these boys who are very different themselves. Some love video games and twinkies, while others hate sitting dormant and eat sprouts. Some love school and play with calculators while others dread school and are adrenaline junkies. Some get the idea of death and heaven and some have never pondered such. Some are starters on the team and others play much less. And yet, when one was alone, they went and brought him back to this overfilled pew and practically sat on each other’s laps to include their team member.

the only thing

I saw the power of telling someone “We are with you in victory and loss.” When the son who lost his mother looked up to the balcony of this church and saw his friends, I couldn’t help but almost lose it. He scanned the aisles and saw the football jerseys, the baseball jerseys and even some basketball jerseys, all from the teams he plays on. These kids were with him, not just on the field, but off. That young man might need to hang on to that community that surrounds him for years to come and he had a visual that day that they are indeed with him. We will all take our turn facing something where we need our team to show up. And for that boy, that day, they did.

I also saw the beauty in the invitation our kids received. I looked at these boys backs. As i sat behind them, I realized, they too, will face loss, pain and hardship throughout their lives. And we just invited them to experience what it looks like to stand with people in pain. Not run from it. Not act like its not happening. Not make it small. But instead, to allow pain, suffering and death draw community together and stand for those who might need help standing. This was a beautiful and powerful invitation that those boys will most likely relive in their future and now they know how to.

Sitting in the waft of “It is well with my soul” and hearing countless stories of this woman who lived her entire life for Jesus, I started to see how all of these different people from different places in her life had come together. They had come together and now were being invited to, together, come to Jesus. And then I was reminded of what a friend always says: “At the foot of the cross, all ground is level.”

sitting in the pews

There are no starters or bench warmers at the foot of the cross. There are no quarterbacks, nor water boys. There are no coaches, nor psycho sports parents. There are no winners and losers  There are no cool kids or cool moms or uncool kids or uncool moms. There are no overachievers or slackers at the foot of the cross.  The foot of the cross is level ground. There are no hierarchies. There are no castes. There are no ladders. There is no score. Jesus says “Come” to all and all can come. The invitation is for everybody. A call for people as diverse and colorful as they are; strong and weak, faithful and faithless, stubborn and shy, awkward and charming, cool and callused, for all to come. A team, if you will, where in the world we would play on different fields, but with Jesus, all ground is level. At the foot of the cross, sitting before Him and His ultimate show of love, we see and understand in our guts that everyone there matters. Everyone there is important. Everyone there is loved.

Sitting in those pews singing “When we’ve been there ten thousand years” alongside people from different places in their faith, who had originally been drawn together by being moms, were now being drawn together by something more. Something deeper. It felt like a powerful invitation for all of us to know, we all come as we are. And when we do, all the barriers, all the differences, all the diversity, all the wins and losses, they are all wiped away and all there is, is a God who says “Come” because He loves us so. And even God says, “Come, i am with you in all your wins and all your losses. Just come.”

Julias bow

Life and death continue to be my teacher as I am a student of Him who says “Come.” May you be HIs student too.