Monthly Archives: February 2015

Less Competition, More Celebration by Christine Stone

Christine Stone is the longest member of the Collide team! She has been apart of this journey since she was a college student meeting in my living room studying scripture seeing Jesus collide with people and forever transform them! She now has the amazing and big job of coordinating the food and drink hospitality for all of our day of gatherings. I am so thankful for who she is and what she means to our team! She has a beautiful heart and great wisdom, as you will enjoy here. – Willow
christine in boat

Living in competition with others is one of the most exhausting, unproductive, and anxiety-filled ways to live. Even though I know this is true, I still find myself in the midst of a competitive struggle from time to time. It makes me feel small, immature, and unworthy, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

Whether it’s your job, your spiritual gifts, your Instagram feed, your relationships, your house, your lawn, your wedding, your parenting, or your waist size–it is so easy to fall into competition with those around us. We fill our heads with endless lies about how much worse she is and how much better he is and what I should be doing in comparison–over and over again, robbing ourselves and our relationships of the joy we could be experiencing.  I’ve even gone so far as to revel in others’ failures as a way to elevate myself. What a terribly wounded way to live.

It’s all. so. exhausting.

After a recent lapse into comparison, I started wondering what exactly made me feel like I had to be in competition. Why was it so important for me to be the best? To be better than her, more unique? I noticed this competitive tendency only occurred with things I value greatly–the things I find my identity in.

I’ve always found great pride in creativity–making new things, coming up with new ideas, doing something unique that hasn’t been done before. I’ve misplaced my identity in it – I feel more valuable when people tell me I’m creative, and then it becomes important to be better than the next person. Because if I’m the best, I’m worth more, right?

But I have it backwards. Really, I should find my purpose, my identity, my joy in the One who created me, the One who made me genuinely unique. It is not really my own creativity at all. It all comes from Him. And if I’m grounded in that truth, then it’s all of sudden not important to be better than the next person, because God made that person too: not better, not worse, just different. Beautiful. One of a kind. Just the way He intended.

If we find our identity in Christ, from whom flows our value and worth, then the need to compare disappears. Competition can be replaced with celebration. Celebration of differences. Celebration of ourselves, our own personalities, and creativity. Celebration of others’ successes, as well as our own. Living in this truth creates freedom to just be who we were meant to be.

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I love the way The Message puts it in Galatians 5:19-23, 25-26 (emphasis added): “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.……But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”

Here’s to working out these implications in our lives, here’s to celebrating more and competing less and here’s to finding our worth in Christ! After all, we really do have far more interesting things to do. -Christine

As I Walk

the walk

I don’t walk much. Or run. Or crossfit or whatever it is people do. It’s not that I don’t like to move. I just don’t take the time. My lists are too long. My goals are often too lofty, My dreams are too big. My boundaries are not big enough. My capabilities are limited.  My excuses are convincing. And I let everything else get me first.  All this makes for too much doing and not enough being.

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But I have this one walk. And it’s this place I go and when I go there it is like I enter into that other realm. It’s that place where what matters really carries weight and what doesn’t seems to float away into thin air. Peace I find there and God speaks to me. I think it’s because those lists can’t be accomplished when I go there. Those dreams become prayers. Those goals are surrendered to the only One who can do the impossible. I walk and I pray and I find beauty. I often feel overwhelmed by nature’s seasons and how they speak to me of mine. I sometimes stop and stare at shadows and light piercing the water just so. I am struck by the long grasses and the way the wind blows them and they dance for me. I watch the fishermen as they clean up after a long day and the lovers as they stroll hand in hand like they have been doing it for decades. I smirk at the wiener dogs and what an odd sense of humor our Creator must have and I wince when I have to walk by pitbulls because I am sure I will lose my apricot doodle to a nasty dog fight in the midst of all this beauty.

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As I walk…

I stare at the bright colors of the crab pots. Their colors draw me in and I realize I look like a crazy woman staring into the eye of a stenchy dead creature trap as if there is something more there to be seen.

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I watch my son so enthusiastically find the biggest rock he can and throw it in the water in the hopes of making wave upon wave upon wave. And I remember him doing this same thing when he was two. And he’s still doing it. And my gut begs for more moments like these.

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I am pulled by my dog on her leash. She is such a pesty bugger and masters me more than I master her. As I walk, I wonder why I bring her and then I let her pull on me teach me something about being mastered.

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I watch my daughter scoot and I am moved by love from a place I know I never created. It goes so deep that the well never runs dry. As her hair blows in the wind ahead of me and my dog tries to keep up, I feel grateful, just so very grateful.

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As I walk, we stop and stare, we smell, we point and gawk, we take note, we learn, we engage. I find their very being so striking, as if there is no other place I would rather be than right there in that very moment. It strikes me, this love of a parent. Could that same kind of Parent love desire to be no other place than right there with me?

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When I press pause, when I stop what I have going, when I take the time to be, it is there that I most feel, I am. It is on this walk that I hear God press in on me and remind me of who He has made me to be. It is there that He fills me with strength where my feeble knees are about to buckle. It is then that I feel love where I have had to bite my lip because of bitterness. It is how I get courage to push onward through all that is hard and hurtful and messy because Jesus calls me forward.

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As I walk, I reminded who walks with me. I am also reminded that He runs with me. He chases me. He sleeps with me. He cries with me. He prays with me. He laughs with me. He dreams with me. All He ever seems to want is to be with me. Maybe that’s why He has been called God with us. God with me. God with you.

walk with kids

Go for a walk. Stop. Listen. Be. It will be there that all the noise, all the stress, all the expectations, all the pressure, all the voices, they will be drowned out by He who made her green eyes, He who tells the tides what to do, Him who put the Earth’s motion into place. God has been running with you to keep up and I think…I just have this sense… that He might want to slow down and go for a walk with you.

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What you can endure when joy waits for you

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Joy, oh joy.… There is so much to say about such a word. I was asked to write on this topic recently. As I keep pondering, I keep meditating on these ancient words that come out of Hebrews 12: For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus endured mockery, being spat upon, flogging, torture, shame and death because of the joy set before him. That is fascinating. Think about that for a second. He endured what no one would ever choose for the JOY set before him. He knew the joy that awaited him. He knew there was light on the other side of a dark tunnel. He knew theer was healing on the other side of suffering. He knew there was victory on the other side of loss. He knew there was a throne waiting for him on the other side of a cross. It was the joy that awaited him that gave Him the endurance He needed to get there.

Some of you are facing life stories and circumstances that are begging for endurance but you are running out of breath, out of hope and out of faith. It is the joy set before you, the joy that awaits you on the other side, that you must set your eyes upon in order to endure.

I have a friend who walked into surgery for a mastectomy recently. I imagine that and for me it’s nearly imagination, but for her it’s a reality. The very thing that has identified her as a woman will be taken away. The very breasts that were used to feed and grow her babies are being taken away. And the fear of what they might find is like a nightmare that you hope never becomes yours. But it has become hers. From the sidelines, I got to watch her face the news and be presented with so many decisions on how to deal with the cancer that has taken up residence in her body. It seems like this kind of news hits you like a ton of bricks and you can vacillate between utter denial and absolute fear. As time sinks in and the reality hits you, denial can no longer live with the cancer and you are faced with how to endure. How to endure telling your kids mom has cancer, how to endure losing your breasts, how to endure nasty chemo, how to endure the idea of not living long.

What can she do? Does she say no to treatment? Does she do all that modern medicine asks of her and also sees every naturopath, promised healer, preacher, prayer warrior, and prophet? Does she succumb to defeat? Does she live in naive optimism? Does she stay in denial? Does she let fear kill her rather than cancer?

She walks into mastectomy surgery.

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I have another friend who has caught her husband in several affairs. I talked with her last week and this long road has been one of holding on and trying to do everything to make things better and praying for miracles and blaming herself for all that needs to be changed about herself. Last week was different. My conversation with her reminded me of the serenity prayer, the line that prays:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

This woman has come to a place where she recognizes her need to surrender her husband to the Lord. She cannot change him. She cannot make him want her or their family. She cannot change herself more than all the efforts she has already leaned into; counseling, reading books, praying, responding with love, patience, kindness rather than anger.

What else can she do after the discovery of another woman? Does she keep controlling circumstances and moving the chess pieces so? Does she diet and try to look better than the others? Does she allow to him to get away with it in the hopes he will return? Does she cut off his man parts and tell him what a loser he is?

She surrenders him.

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I watched this older woman I know. She lost her drivers license because of the strokes. She sleeps in later. She sits in a chair most of the day. Her hobbies, her freedom, her love of walking and swimming and cooking, they sit in that chair too. She is now incontinent. Her control of her bladder has lost her. Her control of much is gone. A woman who raised children, who had a career and traveled and volunteered and had friends and played with her grandchildren, now cannot walk. She has to be wheeled to the bathroom, to dinner and to her chair.

I watch her and it is agonizing. It is the way of life, moving from young to old. What can she do? Can she hop out of that wheelchair and start dancing? Can she return to the days of old when she could do what she wanted to do ? Can she change the gravity that pulls her?

She sits in her chair.

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As I think about these women and what they have to endure, I keep hearing the words “for the joy set before him, he endured…” 

Yes, we are called to pray. Yes we are called to fight. Yes we are called to hope for miracles. Yes we are called to believe God can rescue us from what we face. But sometimes the rescue is not where the joy set before us lies. Sometimes the great joy is on the other side of great suffering. Sometimes the great joy is on the throne after the cross, it is in the Heavenly place where there is no cancer, no strokes, no old age, and no unfaithfulness.

Jesus prayed “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” He prayed that He would not have to face what was before Him. He asked that God would come up with another story. He begged that God would rescue this pain He was about to experience. And when He realized that God wrote the cross into the story that would ultimately promise life, hope and redemption to humanity, Jesus surrendered to the joy on the other side. His suffering became well with his soul because there was a great joy on the other side. Sometimes the great joy is found on the other side of what is now your shame and your torture. And the only way we will endure is reminding ourselves that God has joy awaiting for us on the other side.

There is an old hymn called “It is well with my soul.” I can’t tell you how many times I have sang that song with tears streaming down my eyes. It is the song we sing when we are kicking and screaming and throwing fits and then we realize those things won’t change where we find ourselves. It is the song we sing when we realize that the story that is being written is penned by One so much bigger than us, whose ways are not our ways and we give into His story. It is the song we sing with tears when surrendering is all we can control.

There is beautiful version of this song that I absolutely love. I have been singing it for these women I care about. The lyrics sing:

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

Through it all, through it all

It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him

(Bethel Music)

Walking into a masectomy trusting in God’s handwriting upon so, surrendering your unfaithful husband to Him who is faithful, sitting in the chair you cannot step out of are all places God promises joy on the other side. Joy now, joy forever, joy with, joy without, joy in new chapters, joy in a redemption story that we hold onto in the midst of a shaming, torturous chapter. Hebrews continues to speak courage into us in the sentence that follows: Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

When there is nothing you can do to change the story. When there is little you can control. When you cannot edit or rewrite the words that play out, may you join with the ages and Jesus Himself,  singing, “It is well with my soul”, holding onto the great promise that joy, real, lasting, forever, joy awaits you.

Hebrews 12

 

More Than Good Enough by Nia Sayers

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This woman surprises me. She surprises me by the way she thinks, the way she lives and the things she creates. Her story and how she puts words to this striving and settling we do really struck a chord in me. I think it will in you too! -Willow

It was 1982 and I was the new kid at a tiny school in Illinois. Things were actually going pretty well for me and I was having the best year of my life. The annual science fair was coming up and for this little community, it was a big deal. We spent weeks choosing a subject, researching our reports and planning our models. I chose the ever-popular solar system. I had grand visions of colorfully swirled styrofoam balls in varying sizes firmly planted by little wooden dowels into appropriately spaced out bases. It was going to be impressive.

It wasn’t.

What I ended up with was a thin sheet of cardboard creased into a semblance of a tri-fold backdrop with a single strand of fishing line strung between the outer flaps. The sun and planets were represented by wads of cotton balls that had been dipped into food coloring and hung in a row from the single strand of fishing line. It was the saddest representation of the solar system that I had ever seen or have seen since. But it was “good enough”.

What I hadn’t factored into my vision of what I wanted my solar system to look like was the fact that money was REALLY tight and my mom couldn’t justify spending any money whatsoever on styrofoam balls and dowels. So we made do with what we had. It was good enough.

I have been fighting this battle between my grand vision and settling for good enough my entire life. Over time, I think that it became standard procedure to preemptively water down my dreams, aspirations, goals, etc because inevitably, it seemed, I would be forced to live with the version that was merely good enough.

I only began to recognize this pattern about the time my second son was born, eleven years ago. And, of course, I wanted to change it. I had just discovered a new-found passion, upholstery, and was determined to change the course of my future. The years to follow were marked by officially starting a business, selling my wares at one of the biggest antiques shows in the U.S., offering interior design services, styling window displays, running an online shop and even making it to the final casting round of HGTV’s Design Star competition! I thought I was heading off the “good enough” mentality by dreaming big – going for it. But in fact, I had swung the other direction and it just became heavy. It felt like aimless striving.

As a life-long Christian, I believe that the way I am wired is unique to me and that God truly delights in seeing his children live authentically. But I was struggling with how to live big while being aligned with God’s plan for my life. Through a lot of prayer and reflection, I realized that what I wanted more than success and achievement was purpose and balance. I also realized that I needed to be able to recognize His voice when He spoke to me. Not surprising at all, God has been faithful in teaching me to know His voice. He has provided opportunities for me to connect the dots between unique promptings in my spirit with real life experiences. It’s like a secret language between me and God. And it’s affirming to know that He is intimately interested in my deepest desires. The Creator of the swirling, brilliant, perfect solar system knows me.

I will probably always walk the tightrope between dreaming too big and convincing myself that less than is good enough. But I am encouraged that God values me enough to patiently teach me to know His voice. Time and time again He does and will continue to remind me that His will for me is big. And it is perfect. And it is balanced. However that plan plays out, I am thankful that He has instilled in me the desire to hear Him above anything else.