I’ve read three books recently that I think you should read.
I live in a very digital world. Texting, email, Twitter and Facebook – along with Flipboard and OmniFocus online and Evernote and Hulu. I read more TIME magazine content online now than I do with the hard copy that comes in my mailbox every Saturday.
I get my news online, I communicate online.
I think I manage it well.
Or at least I thought I did.
To be honest, I think there was a time – not too long ago – when I did manage all these communication tools fairly easily. I multi-tasked, often all day long, and it worked.
But lately, not so much.
Okay, honestly? Not at all.
I forget more things than I remember. I have so many lists and plans and ideas and services and appointments in my head and on my various organizational tools that I live in some sort of vague, chaotic swirl. I get by just fine; I function, I show up, things get done…but I’m forgetting way too much content.
So all of you who said it’s not possible to multi-task effectively? Well, I think you were wrong about me a few years ago.
But now? I think you’re right.
|What did they call this?|
Tonight, dinner was a delicious pot of beef stew – cooked from scratch yesterday. No seasoning packets, no recipe; just browned meat and onions and garlic in a splash of olive oil, bits and pieces of seasonings – salt, pepper, red pepper, maybe something else (I DON’T REMEMBER!), then potatoes in generous hunks, skin still on. Carrots – the old-fashioned kind that come long and pointed and need peeling – chunked with my old Pampered Chef Crinkle Cutter thing (which used to have some other name, didn’t it? Anybody remember what they called it in the 90’s?) and celery, trimmed in tiny U-shaped bits of crunch. I created this meal, putting together ingredients that I know from experience will work together, trying a few new bits and pieces, judging the timing by eye and smell.
David came in to help make biscuits; not the delicious, frozen ones that Pillsbury has perfected, but the sticky mess you get mixing Bisquick and milk. Biscuits that come out ragged, with jagged edges and uneven browning, created with quirky personalities, big and small and every size in between, rolled between my thirteen-year-old’s freshly washed hands that seem ten years bigger than they ought to be.
And brownies – this recipe, new to me, courtesy of my friend Brandee – no mix, no easy add-eggs-oil-and-water package, but assemble-all-the-ingredients-yourself work, digging out the butter and sugar and flour and baking powder and eggs and cocoa from the cupboards and whipping it all together to create chocolate.
And over it all, the voice of Garrison Keillor and his troupe of Prairie Home Companion actors and musicians. I think there is something so unique and beautiful about these stories and songs that have shaped my Saturday nights for years; the Lutheran love for Jesus mixed with a sly liberal leaning, stories that have history and private jokes and the rich, sonorous tone of this voice that strikes my ear and reminds me of something about my life that I too often forget.
The confidence I carry in my kitchen, focused on preparing food for the ones I love, is matched only by the comfort I feel sitting in front of my piano. These acts of creation are vibrant and wholly, completely tangible; they exist. I listen to stories and songs and move, timing my turns in the triangle between counter, oven and sink, and I make things.
The simplicity of this thing that brings me such joy, leaving me so content – it is speaking to me.
This is you.
Not Twitter or Facebook or email; not even blogging, not planning and uploading this and downloading that. That is not me.
This, here, now. Home. Simple acts of creation and love. A meal shared across a table with others who slog through the same hours. Hands held. Stories told.
Funny, the things you learn when you take a minute to listen.
I woke up at 6AM to drag myself out into the kitchen. David wanted French toast. Sometimes he gets what he wants; other times, I doze off on the couch while he gets ready, before waving him out the door with a kiss and another “Bad Mother of the Year” badge.
Today, I won another badge. My head was killing me. My nose was stuffy, my body ached, and my boy got nothing but a weak, “Have a good day…”
I had a day full of important meetings with important people. It kills me to call in sick, but for reasons a little less than honorable. See, I still think that the world will stop spinning without me. Sick days are an indictment of my mere humanity.
What a wretched soul I am.
Regardless, not much of a battle ensued. I felt terrible. I sent a quick email and a few texts, took a handful of aspirin and crawled back into bed.
As I type, the day is long over. I am still in my pajamas; my teeth have yet to be brushed, much less my hair. It was that kind of day – purely nothing.
But so much happened while I did nothing.
I slept and rested through the morning and awoke with a brighter demeanor and less of a headache. I recalled the words that lingered from last night, as my husband prayed over me. He asked for guidance, for help. The opportunity for an answer to that prayer was in front of me, so I read.
I sat in stillness.
I finished the first section of Anne Lamott’s Help Thanks Wow and accepted the simple theology therein. I need so much help.
And then I picked up Rob Bell’s Drops Like Stars and took in the delicious, abstract, beautiful truth that came with a lot of empty space and ridiculously opulent colors. A gift from friends, I’d treasured the card but set the thing aside; it’s the size of a coffee table book and the heft discouraged me.
But it’s what a sick day seems made for; “Oh, look, here’s a book that’s probably too long and wordy to read on a normal day let’s just take a look.”
And there was this page, here, with this photograph. And on the facing page, these words:
When I’m meeting with my counselor and I use words like “mistake” or “failure” or “waste”, he stops me.
He then reaches into his desk drawer and pulls out a sign and holds it up so I can read it – again.
And it is this, these words in the photo – Hebrew letters, first, and then the translation, which looks oddly sterile and somehow stripped of their power – but still ring true.
The God Who Wastes Nothing
And I burst into tears. Right then, right there, completely unbidden. Overtaken by surprise and sobs, holding my face in my hands. Sorrow.
What is this season I am in? For the past decade, I have been The Girl Who Wasted Everything – and yet found redemption and restoration. I was enveloped in grace and it moved me forward and into ministry and fueled my passion. Like some superwoman, “Grace Girl” – it was my calling card and my truth.
A few days ago, I watched a bit of a message I delivered about 18 months ago; I was talking and preaching and singing and telling and the passion was real, the Biblical truth buttressing the experiential truth of my grace-filled life.
These days, I live in that grace, still. But.
Less drama, maybe. I am happily married, glad for the quiet moments in the company of my husband. Happy to be home in the evenings with my sons, content cooking soup and washing the dishes.
I have arrived someplace.
I’m not sure where I am.
And regardless of the fact that I feel I have “arrived”, I still wrestle with my humanity, with my weaknesses and my failures and the million times each day I think I’m getting it wrong. I worry I’m getting it wrong. I don’t know who I am trying to please, but daily, I feel as if I am coming up short.
And maybe that’s it.
Maybe I’ve gotten it in my head that since I’ve arrived someplace, that I’ve now worn that SuperGraceGirl cloak long enough; that it’s high time I ought to Have It All Together and be still and know he’s God a good bit easier than I seem to.
Maybe I think I ought to be a little less broken by now.
Maybe I’ve forgotten that forward motion, new joy, security and real love don’t really ever negate the need to ask for help. Anne Lamott says,
“There’s freedom in hitting bottom…relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It’s exhausting, crazy-making.
Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through.
It is the first great prayer.”
I have forgotten this one thing, that the pivotal point in my life ten years ago secured me to a tether that held me upright while my help came. And the trajectory since then has been filled with other pivot points, thumbtacks in the map tacked to the wall of my life, stringing a path of ups and downs and all over the place moments of mistakes and disease and death and tears and joys and loss and gain.
That place of great unknowing can be my soul, every day. And God knows there is so much around me that needs fixing…starting with me.
Help. I need that tiny miracle.
Today, I got my hands on it, and it felt good. Soft and warm and taut with potential.
And my headache went away.
Inspired by my worship leading friend Chris Vacher, here’s a look at the top worship songs sung at PCC in 2012. These stats reflect the total number of times a song was programmed for PCC services, which includes Worship Nights, special services and FOCUS. And because we’re a multi-site campus, when a song was played at both campuses it moved up in the rankings.
#1 Your Love Never Fails – Jesus Culture
Great song, incredible message that suits our culture so beautifully. We’ve been singing this for a few years, and it shows. We played this song 21 times in 2012!
#2 I Am Set Free – All Sons & Daughters
Leslie Jordan and David Leonard are writing some excellent songs that resonate with our worship leaders and our church. Several of their tunes are in rotation, and we’re introducing a new one this week. The lyrical theme of this song reflects so much truth for the people at PCC.
We heard David Bashta and All Sons & Daughters at STORY in 2011, and both artists’ work have had an impact on our church. We’re partial to the original version, not the one that ended up getting a lot of airplay…
#4 Hosanna – Brooke Fraser
This feels like an “old” song at PCC. Most of our female singers have wrapped themselves around this song. The bridge remains one of the most powerful lyrics we sing in worship; God speaks to me in different ways through different words each time we sing it.
#5 Cornerstone – Reuben Morgan, et al
A mission team brought this song from NYC after visting Hillsong New York for an Easter service. We’ve done ever since – fourteen times since April!
#6 God Is Able – Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan
This was a theme song for a series earlier in the year, and it stuck. It’s a powerful promise, very singable and easy to manage in a male or female key.
#7 Mighty To Save – Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan
The influence of two of the most prolific songwriters out of Australia’s Hillsong church is obvious; this is an “old” song, but one that remains fresh, singable and true. Just last week Matthew introduced a new, reggae-tinged version!
#8 Our God – Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, et al
Another song with a powerful, Biblical bridge that I love to hear our church sing. We loved the mashup that Stephen Brewster’s team did with this song for Christmas – mixed with “O Come All Ye Faithful” – and used it during December.
#9 You Are Good Israel Houghton
This song rocks. It’s part of our DNA; integral to every celebration, and guaranteed to raise the roof. I can’t imagine NOT doing this song at PCC!
We love this new “hymn”. Matt Redman never fails to bring singable, relevant, melodic songs that are solid and sustainable. We’re grateful for his influence.
What was YOUR favorite?
My eyesight is terrible. I’m a -8.0 in both eyes; corrective lenses are essential for me to function.
- Dr. Tonya Sylvia, the quintessential home-town optometrist, who dropped everything to see me and then followed up with text messages and phone calls to make sure I was okay. I’m impressed and I’m thankful.
- Dr. Juan Astruc, who gave me incredibly professional, kind and courteous care. He’ll get an A+ once we find out how well he aimed the laser.
- Technology in general. As my mom pointed out, 10 years ago this might not have even been a possibility, and I could be sitting here right now dealing with a much different reality.
To quote David Bowie.
I’ve been on staff at PCC as the primary worship leader ever since I’ve started here, seven years ago. The church has grown, our team of musicians has grown.
And I’ve grown. Sideways, sometimes. But that counts, too. I’ve probably learned as much from my failures and mistakes as I have from things we’d say were successful.
When I came to PCC I was very broken, very unsure of myself in many ways. The one thing I knew was that worship was my lifeblood. I’ve been a musician all of my life. I am most myself when I am making music. The invitation to make music at PCC – and to carefully tend a leadership role – was a pivotal point in my life, not only professionally, but also spiritually and emotionally.
So I started singing and playing and leading. And growing.
And the church grew, too.
Growing things change.
It’s been obvious that God has directed some incredibly talented people towards the creative arts team, and in order for them to grow and learn, we’re shifting a few responsibilities around in our leadership structure. These changes won’t make a huge difference in your Sunday morning experience, as you’re accustomed to seeing these folks on stage already; but I thought I’d make an official introduction to you.
Matthew O’Donnell has been at PCC for about 18 months. He came with his family, started making music with us and basically never stopped. Matthew is talented, passionate and loves God. He has a unique mix of intelligence, musical ability and leadership gifting that presented us with an obvious responsibility: To help him grow and learn to use those gifts here at his home church. That’s what we’re doing. I’m glad to share the news that Matthew is the new Worship Coordinator at the Powhatan Campus.
Matt O’Rear came to PCC in the spring of 2012. Matt and his family worshiped at the Westchester Campus for several months; we had a chance meeting at a local restaurant. Sammy introduced Matt to Lindsay and I and mentioned that he played music. We invited him to come play for us right then and there; he got directions, grabbed a guitar and came to the Powhatan Campus and played for us. Matt’s background includes music business studies at NYU, music production and engineering studies at Berklee College of Music and church music at Southeastern University. He loves God and is passionate about musical worship. Matt will be the Worship Coordinator at the Westchester Campus.
And although she’s not named “Matthew”, Laura Krzyston has joined the PCC staff as well. You might recall a blog post introducing Laura as our Artist In Residence – it’s been wonderful to have her on board as part of our creative team. She’s written some amazing songs and continued to grow as a part of our community, working with our musicians as well as student ministry. Laura feels strongly that God has called her to travel, but for this current season she is responding to a strong tug towards Fork Union. She will partner with Chauncey Starkey to build a team of musicians at Fork Union, and plans to be part of that community as a resident. Laura holds a degree in music from VCU, has a passionate love for God and is committed to the work of the local church.
I am thrilled to see these three talented individuals step out to invest their time, talent and resources in the work that God is doing in and through PCC. We are better for their presence among us, and as they continue to grow as leaders we will benefit from their imprint on our church. Nothing makes me prouder than to stand in the back of the room and worship under their leadership!
And that’s what I’ll be doing…on some days. Matt, Matthew and Laura will carry a large part of the scheduling and rehearsing for weekend services, and they’ll be on the platform leading consistently. I’m still part of the worship team, and I’ll still play and sing – but, a lot of my energy will now be focused on equipping and encouraging these new leaders and helping them to be successful. I’ll continue to lead our programming team as the Creative Director and serve on our senior leadership team as we develop strategy and systems for growth.
My friend Walter pointed out that I have a strong maternal streak; I want to protect people in our ministry. I want to see them soar, too. As I grow older, I am beginning to understand that this maternal instinct is a part of my leadership style. It might not be a good fit for a Fortune 500 company, but it’s part of the unique wiring that God gave me. I think it’s a good fit for His people, too.
I’m glad for it.
I hope you’ll welcome Matthew, Matt and Laura – and I hope you’ll prayerfully support and encourage all the leaders of PCC as we move into a new, exciting year of change!
We were gone for a week, seven days of resting and relaxing. We were comfortable, hosted by a master of hospitality whose gentle combination of care and companionship left just enough time to be ourselves.
It snowed, and the world was washed in white, and I found part of myself that had been missing for many weeks.
I rested in grace, in the bonds of family and friendship that continue to grow and evolve into something beautiful. I sank into the love of a good man who continues to embrace every layer of self that I reveal, surprising me all the while.
When it came time to turn back toward the reality of life and work and all the responsibilities that come daily, I was reluctant. So much so, in fact, that I kept begging for one more day. Our four-day trip turned to five…and then six..and then seven. I tentatively suggested we stay until the very last minute, but wisdom prevailed and we came home in time to allow for a day of readjustment.
And this is the point, then, of all that: I walked into my house last night and was overwhelmed with a joy surprisingly deeper than I had experienced in the comfort of that other home for the past week. On the windowsill in the kitchen, three small poinsettias, still blushing red, splashing color into the space, singing “NOEL” with four wooden letters that have spoken into my Christmas for fifteen years now. Draped on the couch, the felt throw that Daniel tied together last year; through the hallway door, our bedroom and the deep blue paint of the walls that hold our affections. The cat, more like a dog, who comes running to meet Tony and nuzzle him affectionately. The long table, once a place to brainstorm creative ideas for work, now a place to do that and more, to hold our family together over a warm meal. The Christmas trees – not one, but two, because I wanted one for the kitchen and Tony wanted one for the living room, and the best part of compromise is not figuring out whose idea is better but finding a way for everybody to win.
Soft, warm light filled the house. I looked around and it was home.
I just needed a little perspective. Seven days was enough.
I am home.