Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Let It Stand

“Mine?!” Blakely points at my juice box I’m drinking.

While I don’t remember teaching her the word “mine,” it seems like something that becomes bizarrely engrained in children very early – to claim things in your name. And I’m sure you’ve noticed that as we grow into adults the obsession with my, me, and mine don’t fade.

“That’s mine… let me do it… that’s my job.”

That's MY church, MY family, MY career, MY process, MY job, MY idea. We box in all the things we feel responsibility or love for and declare “MINE.” The m-words – my, me, mine – are not always entirely bad. They empower and give accountability to the person claiming them. I’d be much more inclined to volunteer at MY church than your church, and I’d certainly want to see MY idea or MY process carried through to completion.

The problem with the my, me, mine mentality is in our refusal to build (family, jobs, churches, processes) agnostic of the ME. If an architect designed and built a building where the architect was required to stand as the center weight-bearing beam, everyone would call him an idiot. An architect should design his building, and then let it stand. Yet too often, that’s the role we want to play. We think “irreplaceable” is a compliment when it comes to our role in our family, our church, or our job, when actually it is a dangerous reality if you genuinely care about those things.

I had already started this blog when I found out that Dale Schaeffer, lead pastor of the church Nate and I first started attending, and his family had taken an opportunity at a church in Medford, Oregon. Selfishly… I’m going to say that again… SELFISHLY (because that’s what it is when we stomp our feet at what God’s call is), I’m bummed the Schaeffers are leaving. Other than my parents, Dale was the first spiritual leader of my life. He baptized, counseled, and married Nate and me and was a part of our lives since the beginning of our relationship 8 years ago. Maybe most impactful, he affirmed Nate’s calling to ministry (even when I just kind of still had my fingers crossed) and helped me reconsider my doubts that a person “like me” could ever have an impact in the church. Dale is a gifted pastor, leader, and coach. Some might throw out the word “irreplaceable,” but that would be a disservice to Dale and the work that he’s put it in the following areas, that are key to building healthy families, churches, and organizations, that are me-agnostic:

I know everyone hates documenting processes and procedures (okay, don’t judge me, I kind of like it…), but this is a very easy way to not end up as the architect/center-beam in my example. In all of my jobs, I’ve been a huge proponent of documenting processes and procedures. Probably once a week, I throw out the cliché “if I/you get hit by a bus…” (because apparently the only way to get across the need for clear documentation is to have everyone imagine your guts strewn across the front of CityLink transportation). But really… God might call me somewhere else – another job, another city, or He really might allow me to get hit by a bus, which would be both horribly and hilariously ironic. But the point is, documentation of how to do critical processes within your role will allow your family/church/organization to thrive, even if you can’t be there. 

This is kind of convicting me as I write this, because while I’m really good at doing this in my job, I’m TERRIBLE at doing this at home, and not great at doing this for church. I’m one of those people, like many, who throws out, “I’ll just do it” when it’s easier to do it myself than document or instruct on my processes and procedures. Note to self – document church marketing procedures and all financial passwords and information for the Morrison household.

Equipping Others
When I think about equipping others, the idea of parenting is definitely at the forefront of my mind. While I know that my parents, like many, were really sad when I moved out, they equipped me well to deal with the “real world.” I can only imagine that as sad as they were for me to “fly the coop,” they’d have been significantly more sad if I flew right back when I was faced with things like paying bills, keeping a job, and waking myself up in the morning (confession - my mom woke me up in song almost every day I lived in that house and initially I had some pretty PTSD-type crazy reactions to alarm clocks, at least those with more offensive ringer styles than my mother’s singing voice). But, other than the whole singing to wake me up thing, my parents did a fantastic job in equipping me to be an adult.

One of my personal inspirations is actually a girl I grew up next door to, who is a few years younger than me. Rachael (and her two younger sisters) tragically lost both her mom and dad within a five year span. Rachael has not crumbled, but instead, thanks to (and as a credit to) her parents, she has taken guardianship of her two younger sisters, at the age of 20. She’s had to handle estate matters that are a struggle for many adults, all in the midst of a personal tragedy. And, all in the midst of a time when her peers’ primary concerns are about going out, boyfriends, and clothes. While Rachael’s parents were irreplaceable in the love and guidance that is now missed, they’ve equipped Rachael to kick this world’s butt, even in the face of adversity.

Empowering Others 
While I think some people throw around “equipping” and “empowering” interchangeably, to me these are two distinct processes. Equipping is helping someone gain the ABILITY, and empowering is giving someone the OPPORTUNITY. I am exhilarated (and I don’t think I’m alone), when someone says “take this and run with it” or “figure it out” or “how can we do this?” I love solving problems. And I love when people empower me to solve them. I also love when I delegate something to someone else and they blow me away with what they come up with. Micromanagement is closely linked to underperformance, disengagement, and lower morale on the job. Why? Because a micromanager says, directly or indirectly, that they are capable and you are not. My goal is that I equip and empower my child, and she rocks out life at levels I’ll never achieve. If you can mentor, empower, or coach someone who either is or becomes smarter and more successful than you – WIN!

Another thing I’ve learned – on both sides of the coin – is to empower under-qualified people to take on challenges or jobs that they really want to do. Use your discernment, and not just someone’s resume, to determine their ability to be empowered and take on challenges. I outperformed PhDs on my organizational change management certification. On the other hand, Caiden Smith (a 3rd grader) dominated me at checkers the other day. Take a chance on someone. Passion and motivation can frequently outweigh education, intelligence, and training. And when you empower and believe in someone, maybe even more than they believe in themselves, they will rise to the occasion.

My dad will frequently place bets on his team’s performance at work. And while my dad is not a gambler, he does this often and with a great deal of public flare and fanfare. Because when as a leader you say “I believe in you THIS much,” you might just be more inclined to believe in your ability as well.

So in a world, where we cling to the idea of the irreplaceability of the ME… in a world where we crave to be the martyr architects, supporting the entire structure… be irreplaceable enough to be willing to be replaced. In fact, be proactive in your documentation, equipping, and empowering. Because a leader, parent, employee, or volunteer that is irreplaceable because of a failure to plan, is really the first person who should be replaced. So build your legacy. And then let it stand.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Leave that Mom Alone!

When Britney Spears was in the middle of her apocalyptic 2007 meltdown/mental collapse, she found a strange supporter in internet video blogger Chris Crocker. Chris made this bizarre, but passionate plea as a fan for everyone to “Leave Britney Alone.” It was borderline hilarious and quickly went viral and had many parodies over the next few months. Watch Chris Crocker's Britney rant... because you've missed it (contains bad language). As weird as it, I have to make this Chris Crocker-esque plea – “Leave that mom alone!”

Yes, THAT Mom. The one who is formula feeding her newborn or whose car seat strap got tangled because she’s short on sleep and now wouldn’t pass inspection, or the one whose kid’s butt is touching 4,000 carcinogens right now because she picked disposables instead of cloth diapers. The mom whose kid is melting down in the store, who is trying to decide what the best course of action is… because it feels like it might be to just leave the kid there and head to the liquor aisle. The mom who’s wearing her baby in a front-facing carrier, and it will probably be wheelchair ridden for most of its life now because she didn’t read all the articles on the dangers of crotch-dangling. Leave. Those.  Moms.  Alone.

As a culture, Mommy Guilt is a really, really real thing. The first time I experienced Mommy Guilt, I wasn’t a Mommy. I was actually the kid. The poor, abused child, being saved by someone who knew better. My mom and I were at 7th grade registration, and after begging her since I was basically born, I was allowed to wear make-up! Make-up is generous. I was allowed to wear clear mascara, lip gloss, and a little bit of eyeshadow. Seventh grade was what my mom agreed to, and I was looking good! We went into the gym to register and as we stepped up to the table, a mom with kids my age was volunteering. Before any kind of greeting, she hissed questioningly, “Are you wearing make-up?”
“I am!” I said proudly.
“Oh, gosh. Isn’t 7th grade kind of young?” She said, now addressing my mom instead of me. Before waiting for a response she continued, “I mean, it looks fine, but I just wouldn’t want my daughter wearing make-up in 7th grade.”

I don’t really remember the rest of what happened, but I do know that if you ask my saint of a mother about that woman, she still shudders a bit. Shockingly I didn’t end up a street walker after being introduced to make-up at such a young age.

I really feel like as parents, we realize that we’re pretty much all failing in some way, right? We're guilty because our kids don't eat organic, or they watch too much TV, or they spend time with a baby-sitter regularly. And that’s because we’re all imperfect people doing the best we can. But to compensate for the areas that we feel our Mommy Guilt, we all say, “At least I haven’t done THAT.” You may have one “that” or one hundred “thats” that you consider woefully poor parenting, but at the end, it’s all a game to make us feel better that our own failures “aren’t as bad” as what others are doing. And that’s sad.

It’s sad because

  • We are cheating ourselves. We are essentially lowering the bar for ourselves when we fixate on what other moms are doing “wrong.”
  • We are perpetuating a practice that loads on the Mommy Guilt, and tears people down, rather than building them up. No one is a better Mom because someone said, “You should be a better mom!”
  • We are putting a façade of “being helpful” around something that is anything but. If you are genuinely concerned about how someone you know is parenting, privately offer them help one on one. Don’t blow up their Facebook with 400 articles citing how they’re screwing up their kid for years to come. (I've legitimately seen this)

Maybe I’m fired up about this because being a mom (other than being a Christian) is one of the first things that I constantly feel woefully inadequate at. Maybe I’m fired up about it because I’ve seen so many Moms totally torn down by what others moms have said to them. I’m pledging today to stop perpetuating Mommy Guilt – for others and for myself. Will you join me?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fighting the Good Fight - Guerrilla Warfare

1 Timothy 6:12 begins, “Fight the good fight of the faith.” Fighting the good fight of faith is probably one of the hardest things we are called to do as Christians. And from what I’ve noticed, a lot of us are kind of doing a terrible job in our battle strategy. There two main camps of Christians (who I truly believe are fighting the good fight in the way they think is best), that I personally feel are kind of jacking up the overall battle plan: the Redcoats and the post-apocalyptic hermits.

The Redcoats: We all know Christian Redcoats. Even non-Christians know Christian Redcoats. BECAUSE, these are the people who make it totally clear that they disapprove of 90% of what the world is doing – and Jesus surely would to. They’re posting how they will chain themselves to Hobby Lobby and eat Chick-Fil-A every day for the rest of their Jesus-loving lives. They are the people who are picking the least significant fights and marching into battle with their bright red coats, playing drums and fifes ala Britain in 1776. And, much like their counterparts 200+ years ago, their getting shot down. They’re not taking time to love the world… or even learn the world… before they take up their war banner. And I know that Jesus says that He and his followers are not of this world – but what if we kept that as a dear reminder in our hearts to get us through hard times, rather than a basis for a smear campaign against other people that… wait for it… GOD LOVES JUST AS MUCH AS YOU.

The Post-Apocalyptic Hermits: While Redcoats march proudly into battle waving bias news articles and judgment, the post-apocalyptic hermit Christians retreat into the safety of other Christians. Their kids go to private schools or are homeschooled, they listen only to Christian radio, their athletic leagues, social groups, and work affinity memberships are all focused around being with other Christians, in the safety of the Christian environment. They don’t have cable or listen to popular music, and the last movie they went to in theaters was Toy Story 3. To an extent, this is beneficial. God calls us to guard our hearts from impure thoughts, and we should all have fellow Christians to help hold us accountable and support us. BUT, He also calls us to be a light in the world. To tell others about His love and mercy. And the “you guys come over here” mentality is what is killing churches.

How often have people come over to your house without being invited, at least once? Probably rarely. Yet as churches, we buy big buildings, open the doors, and wonder why no one comes in.

So what is the answer?

Honestly, I’m totally unqualified to tell you, because I have both days of being a Redcoat and a Hermit in my attempts to fight the good fight. But a few years ago I read a book called “Guerilla Love.” The “Good Fight” should be fought using primarily guerilla warfare. We should go into the world, not so it can transform us, but so that we can transform it. We SHOULD be different, not because of how opinionated and prideful we are because we’re Team Jesus, but because we want people to feel like they know Jesus when we interact with them. The “there’s something about him/her…” kind of different that makes people feel good, not judged or annoyed. So if you’re a Christian, called to fight the good fight, use means of warfare that will empower and encourage others.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Importance of Being Important

My parents did many great things for me as I was growing up. They gave me gifts of love, compassion, courage, accountability, and responsibility. I was thinking today about all of the amazing things that they’ve done for me and trying to decide what the greatest gift (other than my faith) was. Was it love? That’s incredibly important. Or consistency? That’s important too. Then it came to me.

The greatest gift my parents gave me was that they taught me I was important. Not just important to them… but that I was an important person.

This may sound like a prideful or vain quality, but I believe teaching children their TRUE importance is absolutely critical. Being important has two very different sides. One part of being important is feeling valued. Important people know that they are worthwhile and worthy of attention and love. My parents put my activities, interests, and ideas as a priority. I was never dismissed out of a conversation because I was a child. They encouraged my ideas and ambitions, and listened eagerly to my plans for the future. Even my extended family reinforced this importance.

One gift that I never fully appreciated until I was older is that my grandfather (who was a businessman in the Mad Man Era) LOVED to hear me talk about my future in grade school. He’d ask me what exactly I’d be doing with my International Business degree from Stanford, with a huge proud grin on his face. “Will you be a diplomat? Or a CEO of a multi-national company?”

My parents came to my cheerleading meets, dance recitals, softball games, one year of painful Bitty Basketball games, Geography Bees, Spelling Bees, school plays… I was important. They taught me that I was worth someone who was willing to spend their investing in me and supporting me. They showered me with love, showing me that I was worthy of affection and meaningful relationships.

But importance has another side. Important people are often under high levels of scrutiny. Accountability is the other side of the coin that is importance. I don’t think I could count the number of times I heard, “If you want to be treated like an adult, you need to act like an adult” as a child. Important people are held to a higher standard, and I knew and lived that. Taking responsibility for our actions, good or bad, was never an option.

On my 8th birthday, we went to Disney World… It was the best birthday ever! Our family had bought a guide to all of the restaurants and attractions, and I had picked the VERY highest rated restaurant for my birthday. It was on the top of one of the hotels, and we could see the fireworks from there. I was so, so excited. When we got there, it was… well, a little fancy for my palate. Really, it was a little fancy for all of our palates. I still remember my downcast eyes when a tiny burger with no cheese or toppings on a potato bun was set in front of me. I also remember my mom gently whisking me from the table and taking me over near the elevators. “I know this isn’t what you expected… but your grandpa is paying a lot for this special meal.” I was important. I was held to a higher standard because of it.

I know sometimes my mom beats herself up for this, or thinks it was crippling how high their expectations were… But honestly, I believe that dysfunctional behavior at any age comes from people forgetting how important they are. People thinking they are worthy and worthwhile without owning their responsibilities. People who forget that they are worth attention and affection.

You are important to God and to society – both in the sense that you are worthy of love and appreciation, and in the sense that you’re accountable for your behavior and decisions. And that’s the importance of being important!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Wild Faith for the Painfully Practical

In this life, I have been blessed and cursed with the severe and chronic pragmatism. For anyone who doesn’t know, that means that I am extremely, extremely practical.

For most people, being practical is a blessing. As some say, “Common sense isn’t that common anymore.” But I won’t lie, being painfully practical has been one of the biggest struggles of my faith journey.

I’ve been painfully practical since a very young age – at two, I knew that I had a strawberry allergy and needed to ask if strawberry items were “arfillyfiffaly” flavored. At just under three, I encouraged my Dad to pack sunscreen for his business trip to Australia due to the ozone depletion. I think I was confusing Australia and Antarctica, but still extremely practical advice from someone who won’t tie their shoes for a few more years. When I was five and learning to ride my bike, I stopped about a tenth of a mile from a manhole cover and asked my dad what I was supposed to do once I got there.

While being pragmatic has helped me a lot in life… finding and keeping a job, making decent life choices… it’s been a pain in the butt when it comes to my faith. Still today, I’m the only heretic who gasps for air when the Church District Treasurer says something about, “The budget doesn’t always come out on paper, but God always provides.”

The best “joke” was when God called us to be a part of a church plant because, c’mon, church plants are not very practical. It’s always fun to answer people’s wondering questions like, “So why are you doing this?”… “Where are you going to work?”… “Why are you in a hurry to move?” with vague generalities about how God called you to do this work, with subtle undertones of “please try to understand that I’m not a total idiot… I hope.”

While I know that God has gifted me with that pragmatism for a reason – I can provide sound reason in emotional moments… I’m a good “Devil’s Advocate” (no pun intended), but I also don’t want to be held back by that. God does A LOT of stuff that doesn’t make sense – you know, like miracles and stuff. Like people living lives separated from God and then one day God helping it all “click” for that person, and them laying down everything. That doesn’t make sense. And it sure as heck isn’t practical.

But if I served a God of human reason and human practicality, I wouldn’t need faith. I would know the answers. I wouldn’t live in wonder of what my God would do that day.

When life doesn’t make sense… when it’s not practical… when you’re following the “rules” and losing… You have to make a choice. You can become angry about all the things that happen that don’t make practical sense, OR you can thank God every day that he made the rules of pragmatism, but is constantly breaking those rules to reach broken people. It wasn’t practical for Jesus to live a blameless life and then suffer at the hands of people he’d ultimately die for… but he did it. And that’s a much better story for all of us.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Zesty Sauce: A Lesson in Compassion

So whenever I take a spiritual gifts assessment, I score horrifyingly low in compassion. Like, based on my scores, you would most likely think that I spend my free time kicking puppies and laughing at those commercials to support third world children for just pennies a day. That is not at all the case, but I have struggled most of my life with being a compassionate person.

A lot of it is my personality. If you need someone to help motivate you or provide assistance to help you work to get your life on track, I'm your girl. No matter how bad you've screwed up, if you're ready to turn it around, by all means, give me a call. We'll make a plan. We'll work through it. If you want someone to listen to you complain, while you do nothing... don't call me. Ever. I find that totally infuriating. And for a long time I just. didn't. get. it. Why would people just want to talk about how bad something sucks when they can't or won't do anything about it?

Cue a trip to BK the other day. It was probably last Sunday because by the middle of Sundays Nate and I are both always way sleep deprived and ready for some nasty fast food. When I go to Burger King, I usually get a Whopper Jr. with fries and Zesty sauce. Now, if you're not a BK pro, you may not know the magic of the Zesty sauce. It's often offered if you sub onion rings for your fries, but it's actually most magical on fries. It's the most wondrous of fast food sauces - dare I say, better than Chick-Fil-A sauce. Nate and I went through the drive-thru and as we pulled back onto the road I said, "Oh no... I forgot to ask for Zesty sauce!"

Nate mumbled, "Oh no! I'm sorry! I think we have ketchup at home..."

And as much as it pains me to say this, something fantastic happened in that moment. It was like the heavens opened and angels sang - and I had flashbacks of fat people whining about their weight while eating cheeseburgers and poor people whining about their finances while on their smartphones and so on and so forth. I was like MY HUSBAND CARES ABOUT MY ZESTY SAUCE.

Now if he would have said, "Okay, let's go back." I would have been like, "No, are you stupid?"
Or if he was like, "You'll be fine." I would have felt neglected in my Zesty sauceless mourning.

Just because he acknowledge my saucelessness, I immediately felt better.

"Wow," I said. "That was really sweet."
"What was really sweet?" Nate asked me confusedly.
"Your concern over my Zesty sauce."
"What are you talking about?" He responded. Then he looked at me for another few seconds and said, "Sorry, I'm really tired and don't know what's going on."

So it wasn't the most sincere concern, but here's what I learned: right, wrong, or otherwise, sometimes people just need you to acknowledge their pain, concern, frustration, or anger. Not fix it. Not minimize it. Just acknowledge it. It might seem like just a superfluous issue to you... Zesty sauce or the like... but when we are willing to acknowledge how people are feeling without inserting our own thoughts or judgement about their situation, we provide them with comfort just in that.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What's Holding You Back?

Occasionally, I get in ruts. I think we all do. I used to bury myself up to my neck in my rut and just mope around in it. Now, I dangerously asking myself - what's holding you back?

A rut is just that. You get stuck in one way of doing something. A habit. A belief. An acceptance of "the way it is, is the way it always will be."

So this weekend, after an awesome message on being Fully Alive at Innovate Church, I asked myself what was holding me back from being Fully Alive. I won't lie, lately I've been tired, stressed out, battling chronic headaches, and fighting what seems like my own personal dark cloud. Here are the things I immediately identified as holding me back:

Caffeine - If you're addicted to caffeine, you can probably sympathize with me on this one. I was to the point where if I didn't have the equivalent of an IV drip of coffee in my veins at all times, I would get terribly painful headaches. Also, my caffeine always came in the form of a super sugary soda or coffee- with loads of cream and sugar. Not exactly healthy.

Going out to eat - Again, not healthy. But also, TERRIBLY expensive! We had gotten in a really bad habit in March and April from how busy we were to just go grab something to eat for dinner. At work, I was buying my lunch almost every day because it was convenient and it was a way to "splurge" when I was having a stressful day.

Facebook - Yup, I love Facebook. I love the way it keeps me connected with acquaintances new and old, I love to document Blakely's firsts and post pictures... but I didn't love how much time it was consuming. I didn't love that sometimes I was picking it over spending time doing things with the people I love. And while it seemed like a great option for "vegging" I actually realized that some of the things I read on there were actually causing me more stress!

So what did I do?

I went cold turkey. ON ALL THREE OF THEM. In a weird way it helped because the nauseating and distracting headache from cutting caffeine made me considerably less inclined to miss getting on Facebook or going out to eat. I guess you could call it fasting. For me, I needed to reset, and the easiest way for me to do that was to totally cut myself off. The caffeine withdrawals are pretty much done. I haven't bought food outside our house for a couple weeks. And because I didn't even think about signing onto Facebook tonight during Nate's worship practice, Blakely and I read books, played with toys, watched some cartoons, and took a bath tonight, without any interruptions.

What's holding you back, and what are you going to do about it?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Business of Being Jesus

Some people have really awesome, really clear ministry gifts. My best friend Holly has a huge heart for kids. She does an amazing job teaching and nurturing them. My husband's gift, among others, is that he is awesome at leading worship - both singing/playing guitar and being able to connect with people. I've never really felt like I've had that kind of gift. The closest I've felt to that is my ability to make things happen. Get things paid, get people where they need to be, get things on track... so when we started the process of planting this church, I gave myself the honorary title of Associate Pastor of Getting Sh...tuff Done. Ali Morrison, APGSD.

At first, that "job" was really fun. I got to proofread, format, and assemble Shawn's proposal that was presented to the district board to approve our church plant. Boom, accepted. Yes! There were several other really cool things that I got to do to help get Innovate off the ground.

But after a while, the fun of the job... and why I was doing it... really started to fade for me. And that was my fault.

Writing checks, scanning receipts, designing postcards and flyers, ordering things... They didn't feel like ministry. They felt like a hassle. I felt like I was helping run a business... not a church.

Oh, and you know what's really fun? When the postcards you expedited for a hefty fee don't actually end up arriving in an expedited fashion. OR when you want to strangle your bank because their computers were down when your insurance company tried to run the church's liability policy premium and your calling back and forth between the two to figure out how to resolve the payment before your policy is canceled. Oh AND everything they are looking at says Innovate Church all over it, so if you tell them to go... fly a kite... like you want to, you're really delivering that message on behalf of the whole congregation and Jesus too. *Just as a note, I managed to get thanked for my patience from all parties involved, due to the abundant grace of Jesus and how he helped me take deep breaths and count to 47,000*

But today, I got to sit in service for the first time to enjoy the worship experience, instead of serving. It was the first time since we've started the church that I've got to watch my husband lead worship. It actually brought tears to my eyes to see him fulfilling that part of his calling. Shawn delivered an amazing message. I told him it was the best sermon I've ever heard, and I'll stick with that. And as I sat in worship, I was so humbled and honored to have been able to support the amazing things that are happening there in some way.

I saw people that Nate and I invited. But I didn't just see them sitting in the congregation. I saw them do the video announcements, play in the band, and run the sound board. I saw equipment that was purchased from the account I set-up, items I had written reimbursement checks for, and items I had saved my own receipts to be reimbursed for. I knew everyone was protected with the liability policy that I painstakingly worked to maintain when the bank couldn't figure out how to run the premium through our account. And I watched people walk out with postcards and invite cards that I had worked hours on designing, making, and ordering, so they could invite their friends to know about Jesus.

Don't mistake, today wasn't a day that I patted myself on the back like look what I did. On the contrary, I had to take a hard look at the attitude I had about many of the things I had done as part of my ministry, that I had forgotten was a ministry.

The "business" of being Jesus doesn't always have the cool immediate pay-offs of other gifts, like seeing others sing along in worship, or listening to the kids recite their Bible verses. But I will work tirelessly at the business of being Jesus, if that is how I can help connect people with Jesus. Every check I write. Every time I call CEFCU and say, "Oh hey buds, it's Ali from Innovate Church again." Everything I can do to help the church and help people find Jesus, I will do it, thanking God every day that he has gifted me in some small way to do his work.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Pastor's Wife

If you would have asked me even three years ago if I thought I'd ever be a pastor's wife, I would have said no. Actually, "pastor's wife" was in the top ten things I never thought I'd be, scattered somewhere between drug dealer and Olympic pole vaulter.

And I guess in a small way, it's kind of my own fault. Not long after Nate and I got married, over two years ago, as we were attending a couples' small group, I began to feel like he was going to be a pastor. Or should be a pastor. Or something. At the time, he was working at Affina (a call center). He had reluctantly agreed to go to the small group with me because it was out in South Pekin and then we had to leave early for him to make it work (third shift). One night in the car, I finally said, "Nate, I feel like... maybe God wants you to be a pastor." And then I sat silently, hoping he'd disagree. And he did.

I know that probably seems weird. Like usually if I tell Nate something, I want him to agree. But if you've ever been close enough to God that you can feel your calling, but far enough away that you hope it backfires in your favor... well that's where I was at.

I didn't bring it up again until the early part of 2012. Between those two events Nate had started volunteering more, strengthening his relationship with God, and becoming more involved in church. Every time I prayed for Nate, I feel God saying, "Support him." I had no idea what that even meant. In January 2012, we committed to be a part of Innovate and when we met with Shawn and Holly one-on-one, I just started babbling. That's not typical at all for me, but when they asked us about joining the church, I just started talking about how I thought Nate was being called to ministry. I don't know if he even talked because I just started rambling.

I'll be honest, I don't know if Nate fully agreed that he was called to ministry at that point, but he went along. The first time he tried to explain his calling to ministry, I listened in mild horror to a slightly jumbled stream of consciousness that sounded like a book review of a book he never read. Praise Jesus for Connie Borth who could see Nate's heart and calling through it all. She (along with others) confirmed his calling to ministry.

As the prospect of Nate becoming a pastor became more and more real, I'll be honest, I started to panic. I was all about him becoming a pastor! I knew that was what God had for him... but that made me... a pastor's wife.

Here's three things about me (in a vast array of others) that I feel should probably have precluded me from that role:
1. I have road rage. Bad road rage. I'm considering buying mittens to wear while driving, so I'm not able to flip people off when they drive like idiots. I will wear them inside McLean county, as Nate has told me that area is off-limits for road rage, in case I'm road raging against someone who goes to our church, or might go to our church if the worship pastor's wife doesn't run them off the road first.
2. I'm not domestic. I hate cooking, cleaning, anything related to crafting... I even hate Pinterest. Actually, I especially hate Pinterest. Reading from left to right, it's like "Exercises for achieving the best booty," "BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER," and "How to make flower headbands." It's confusing and it seems to expect a lot more out of me than Facebook does.
3. I recently told someone that my husband was studying ministry and becoming a pastor and they said, "Oh! What kind of church?" Except it wasn't like they were asking what denomination. It was more like they were confused by what kind of church would let me be the pastor's wife...

But God has some crazy plans. If you've had God in your life very long, you already know that. And yesterday at District Assembly as I sat there wearing pantyhose (that could be a whole other blog entry), I wasn't sitting there as a pastor's wife. I was sitting there as NATE's wife. The person who will (and has) run errands at crazy hours to find worship stuff, the person who always has his back in life, the person who talks through struggles with him, the person who first asked him about his call to ministry, and the person that God created uniquely to be with him and support his calling.

I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that Nate is going to do amazing things for God. He already has! And I am excited to be there, every mile of the journey, holding his hand... and flipping off anyone who gets in the way.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Letter to a Father Who Wrote to Victoria's Secret, from a Mother

I will go ahead and throw out there right away that I am not a proponent for 13-year old girls to wear lace thongs that say, "Call Me" on them.

However, I had mixed feelings when I read the "Letter to Victoria's Secret from a Father" that has been getting a lot of publicity lately. Don't get me wrong, I agree with so much of what he is saying.

YES, it is sad that our society continues to sexualize younger and younger girls.
YES, our daughters should be focused on more important issues and thinking about careers and philanthropy and whatnot.
YES, I hope girls like Blakely don't find their self-worth in their underwear choices.

But as a parent, albeit a new one, I refuse to place the blame for how this next generation turns out on Victoria's Secret. It is NOT Victoria's Secret's job to raise my child. It is NOT their job to influence her clothing choices, her morals, or certainly not her life choices.

I've noticed more and more that this generation of parents have become "facilitators" of their children's upbringings. They've become "supervisors," who dictate how everyone else needs to make sure their kid turns out right.

We want to tell teachers how to teach, what to teach, what NOT to teach...
We want schools to teach sex ed... to not teach sex ed... to teach abstinence only sex ed...
We want sports leagues to give our kids participation trophies, so we don't have to tell them that they PROBABLY won't grow up to be an NBA superstar...
And we want stores, like Victoria's Secret, to base their offering around shaping our kid's morals, behavior, and taste in clothing, so we don't have to.

Does it suck that now as parents we're going to have to navigate another struggle in raising good, moral, Godly kids? Yup. Will I do my best to tackle this issue with honesty and openness, with or without Victoria's Secret's help? Yup.

Because I worked for Bath & Body Works (owned by the same company as Victoria's Secret), I KNOW that they have done huge amounts of research, and if they are making this line, they absolutely have reason to believe that it will sell, resulting in big profits. I'm not going to hold a for-profit company  at fault for making business decisions that will result in profit.

So what will I do if Blakely asks me to go to Victoria's Secret this side of high school? *Gulp*... I will talk to her. I will be open and honest with her about my thoughts, and I hope that I've raised her to do the same. If she can give me a compelling reason that she wants Victoria's Secret underwear, and she wants to use her own money to buy them... I will consider it. I will talk through it with her. I will choose my battles, and I will instill morals through my behavior and a relationship with God, not by trying to rip every possible bad choice out of her grasp.

If we're not going to give Victoria's Secret credit for our kids turning out well, we can't give them credit for them turning out poorly either.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

When the Dryer is Broken in the Promised Land

So many of you know that this past weekend was a HUGE milestone for the Morrisons in their church planting journey - we FINALLY moved to Normal!

We had about 10 people (more including kids!) come out and help us move, which was a HUGE blessing. A lot of those people truly made personal sacrifices to be there... we have such, such cool family and friends. :-) The first night in the house, Nate and I sat at the kitchen table and he prayed, thanking God for the blessing of our house and the calling on our lives. It was honestly one of the best little moments of my whole life. We were HERE!

But then... the promised land began to fall apart. Sunday morning, we noticed some water on the floor downstairs. Sunday evening I realized that the load of laundry I had washed (causing water to get on the floor), wouldn't dry no matter how long/how many times I ran it in the dryer. By Monday night, we realized that every time the water was run, the drains downstairs were backing up. EVERY TIME. Luckily, as part of our purchase agreement, we negotiated that the seller would pay for a home warranty, so we called our home warranty company to get a plumber to come out. They agreed to make it an "emergency" status, but lo and behold, 24 hours later we still didn't have a plumber for the service call. They gave us the option to call plumbers on our own, but we'd have to pay the full amount up front and be reimbursed in a few weeks. Oh, and then Sears lost my dishwasher. LOST my dishwasher. Which I guess didn't REALLY matter because I couldn't run the water for it anyway.

Wednesday I texted my husband and said, "If Gary Busey and Lindsay Lohan had a baby... that is me today mentally and emotionally." (Luckily for both us, our sense of humor is the last faculty to leave us)

And ya, those things stink... and Normal didn't feel like "home" yet... but why the violent/emotional reaction on my part? I think it's because Normal was our promised land.
  • The days when my alarm would go off at 4:50
  • The days when I would see Blakely for 15 minutes the whole day
  • The days when I worked all day and then came home and worked all day on church stuff
  • The days when I couldn't find my work shoes because my dear mother cleans obsessively and had "put them away"
  • The days of house showings trying to find renters - packing our crap up in our car so our 720 square foot house looked more "open" if that's even possible...

It was a beast and there were many, "We were better of in Egypt" land between moments... but that's what they were - moments in the land between. In transition. In flux. In between. Those days I would say, "It won't be forever! Some day we will be right where God has for us." That thought woke me up, put me to bed, and kept the grain of sanity that I had.

So while the issues we were having probably didn't warrant the full Busey-Lohan meltdown that I had... It was in the promised land! THINGS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE BETTER IN THE PROMISED LAND. MY DRYER WAS SUPPOSED TO WORK IN IN THE PROMISED LAND! This is what I waited for... this is what I worked for...

But the more I grow in faith... the more I realize that everything we experience until Heaven is the land between. It's dangerous to look at any place, any calling, even if it's from God as "the promised land"... God's called us to be movers and shakers for his will, and I think the Busey-Lohan Promised Land meltdown of 2013 was just God's way of reminding me that my personal comfort never was and never is His will. His hope and His call isn't in a house or a city or even a church, and He won't let me sit back and say, "I made it"... Ever!

So the flooded water is cleaned up, the plumbing is fixed, the dryer is fixed, and Sears knows exactly where they can put the dishwasher when they find it (hint: it's not in my house...), so it's quiet again in the Promised Land... or should I say... the land between.