Who Can You Call A Friend?

myfriends

Throughout my life, friends have brought both the greatest joys and some of the deepest hurts. What happens when we let someone in on our dreams, insecurities, or opinions believing they “get us” only to find we were worlds apart in our understanding? They can betray us or leave us feeling rejected if they exit our “inner circle” unexpectedly.

“There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). How do we define a “real friend?” I heard a great teaching a few years ago from TD Jakes that helps put our relationships in context. Lamenting over a “bestie” who was really just a companion for a season is a waste of time. I’m sure I’ve adjusted the Bishop’s original thought but here’s my take on it:

I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.

I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.

CONFIDANTS are friends that are “FOR YOU” no matter what you are for! They love you unconditionally. They stick by your side no matter where you live, what direction your life takes or what mood you’re in. You can confide in them; they don’t judge you. You can screw up and hurt them; they forgive you. Your best moments will find them cheering. Your worst? Alongside you crying. Time nor distance can keep you apart in your hearts. If you have a couple of these in a lifetime, consider yourself blessed.

CONSTITUENTS are “FOR WHAT YOU’RE FOR” and nothing more. (This doesn’t negate their importance or value.) I would venture to say most people in your circles could be considered constituents. They come along when your kids are in the same class and you have chats over coffee after drop-off. Or, you connect because of a common cause. Maybe it’s political. Or, a project at work puts you in the same place at the same time everyday. You mesh because you’re connected to a vision or the same leader.

It’s easy to feel like “BFFs” but if your commonality changes, you might feel the relationship fade. Understanding constituents properly can help you avoid being hurt when this normal cycle occurs. I’ve often met someone new at church who’s offended because “no one reached out” to her after she left her last place of worship. (You may have experienced this in a job transfer too.)

Maybe you mis-took those friends as confidants when all along, they were constituents? 
Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don't buy one too soon!

Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don’t buy one too soon!

You were connected because you both “FOR” the same thing. If YOU chose to leave, you can’t expect the ones who are still there to follow you. You’ve detached yourself from what joined you together. You may remain connected for a season but don’t be surprised if your relationship vaporizes over time.

Constituents are great. You need them in your life! But if they go, remember they were merely “for” what you were “for.” They were never “FOR YOU.”

COMRADES are actually “AGAINST WHAT YOU’RE AGAINST!” They might be the people on the committee at school who help you fight the administration’s decision to get rid of recess. Or, you’re connected on FaceBook because you all hate Ps Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. Caution: As quickly as you hooked up, you will be dropped because the next bandwagon is available for hire. I see these groups play out in kids sports; everyone is on the same page because they dislike a certain coach or rule. You’re allies as you rant over how YOU think things should be run. Then, when the team disseminates or you get a new coach, nothing remains to keep you connected.

Pastors, be careful of the comrades who join your church because they are against the way the last church operated. They will leave you too once you offend or refuse to bend to their demands.

Comrades aren’t always negative. They can come along like scaffolding to help you fight a fight. Once the job is done, they are gone but their impact and importance aren’t soon forgotten.

Knowing the difference between confidants, constituents, and comrades brings perspective and keeps your expectations in check. Feel free to post comments if this post helped you or you have another perspective on the matter!

 

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How Big is Your World?

world

If you have ever been around pre-school kids, you know they are full of questions.  Their minds are always turning and thinking and they are SO LITERAL! I get the most joy out of chatting with my four year old daughter lately.  She is very clever and NOTHING gets past her.  A few days ago, we were driving and she said, “Mum, is Australia bigger than the world or is the world bigger than Australia?”  I laughed as I tried to give her a geography lesson and I was hit with some deep revelation.

In her mind, Australia is everything.  It’s home.  It’s school.  It’s church.  It’s family and friends.  Shopping and eating, sleeping and traveling.  Her whole universe is what’s right in front of her.  It’s hard for her to imagine anything bigger than her “WORLD!”

The sphere we live in is much smaller than the actual Earth, isn’t it?  I realized as I explained how big the rest of the world is to my sweet girl that nothing outside of her reality really mattered much.  She sort of looked at me with glazed over eyes and moved on to the next topic.

As adults, we are very similar.  Oh, we might understand geography and topography.  We might know demographics and populations.  But our worlds don’t go much beyond what we experience each day either.

Think about it… if you’re like me, your prayers mostly revolve around your own issues and needs.  Your schedule revolves around your priorities.  Your conversations are always about your life.  It takes a conscious effort to actually think about something other than yourself.  To remember

THE world is so much bigger than  OUR PERSONAL world.

I’m encouraging myself today to think about something other than myself!  Let’s all do it and make THE WORLD a better place!

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. (Psalm 117:1,2)

My Christmas Letter

This year, my usual Christmas schedule was “off” since we moved to Australia! Here are some highlights from our year that you might have received in a Christmas letter if I had sent one:

disney

Disney World trip: It was amazing to go to Disney for a week before we moved! I still miss Mickey and dream about another trip to Florida with all three kids.  We left Sammy in TX so he wouldn’t slow us down this time.  It’s only fair to him that we go again ASAP! #wheredreamscometrue

beach

Moving to Australia: We love where God has called us! #newcastle

furniture arrival

Furniture arriving: Our furniture left TX on April 10. We moved into our rental house on June 1.  Our furniture arrived around July 20.  Camping out in our house was old news by the time our shipment arrived.  We were so happy to have our own beds and more than 6 suitcases worth of clothing for the five of us. #stuff

hillsong conf

Hillsong Conference: There’s nothing like worshiping God in an arena with 25,000 people from all over the world. #spectacular

bcc

Getting Brett into Belmont Christian College: God provided a way for Brett to attend the great private school at the end of our street.  This has helped us all in our transition. #education

rob and ang

 

Meeting Robyn and Angie: My two neighbourhood friends who make me feel at home everyday.  From early morning runs, to “happy hour,” baking, and special celebrations for birthdays and holidays, these two girls are already like family to me. #friendship

lift first

 

First Lift Service: Having our first service in our rented church building was indescribable.  We never thought we would be as far along as we are in building a team in 2012. #blessed

spelde

 

Our First Aussie Members: We were surprised the day this beautiful couple came to us (after meeting at Hillsong Conference) to say they felt called to join Lift Church.  They lead worship too! #answertoprayer

blackmores

 

Running Blackmore Half Marathon: I trained throughout winter to run this race so I could experience the beauty of Sydney in a different way.  I ran across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and ended at the Opera House. #lovetorun

anniversary

 

Celebrating 13 year anniversary:  I love this man more than words can say.  I am so proud of the Godly leader he has become and cannot believe the journey we are on with our three amazing kids. #truelove

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Ephesians 3:20 MSG)

Learning to Drive

Yesterday was my first time driving our Nissan X Trail that we just purchased in Australia.  We found a really great deal and bought it off the internet!  I never did a test drive, leaving that to Greg.  See, I have a confession: I’m scared to drive in Australia.  First of all, the traffic drives on the opposite side of the road to America.  The actual steering wheel is on the right side of the car as well.

Everything about driving here is counterintuitive to me.  I’m looking over my right shoulder when turning right only there are no cars coming from that direction.  They are coming towards me in the lane to my right!  There are traffic circles everywhere and I have to pay attention to stay in my lane and give way to traffic on the right as I use them.  Then, there’s the blinker.  It’s located where I’m normally turning on windscreen wipers in a rainstorm.  So, instead of cleaning the glass each time I need to turn, I find myself concentrating very hard just to flick them with the proper hand when I need to signal.

As we are living in a small country town with Greg’s family until our furniture arrives and we settle in Newcastle, I decided it’s a good place to practice my driving.  We went into town to the Medicare office and to the beach, only about a 15 minute drive. Luckily, I didn’t have to parallel park and pulled straight into a spot.  I had Greg at my side, the left, no doubt, as I was driving and he was a great help to me.  He kept reminding me where to look and encouraging me that I was doing great.  My oldest son, Brett, said when we arrived back home, “Mom, I know a sign that you did well: we are all still alive!”  Thanks for the encouragement, son.

I found myself dreading every turn and traffic signal and wondering how long it would take me to get used to this.  There will be a day that driving will be second nature just like it was in America.  After practice in different cities, day and night, heavy traffic and light, I know I’ll wake up one day and know that I can do it and won’t second guess myself anymore.

It’s much the same with God when we have just given him the steering wheel of our lives.  If we have always been a worry wart, it feels odd to suddenly surrender control and trust a God we can’t even see with our present and future decisions.  Going to God in prayer feels unnatural when we have been seeking our own common sense our whole lives.

To step out in faith feels scary at first.  We can find ourselves looking over our shoulder for impending threats.  Even using new “Christian lingo” feels odd like putting on a pair of shoes that haven’t quite molded to our feet.  At every turn we wonder if God is really there.  Before we truly know the voice of God in our lives, we have to rely on mentors to help guide us.  We must make a concerted effort to trust and believe what we are being taught.  Like using a GPS to help us drive, we must form new habits that will guide our Christian walk like going to church and reading our Bibles. We may even have to research things a little further and use our concordances more often.  Scripture isn’t yet memorized and our road map might seem confusing at times.

With time, however, as God shows himself faithful to us, we begin to know the still small voice that belongs to our Savior and we can quickly respond when he calls.  Even when we have doubts, our confidence comes from a proven track record and familiarity with his ways.

As I look back at the last decade of my walk with God, I have trusted him with more and more of myself.  I have begun to trust God wholeheartedly with my finances and my future.  Things that once felt so hard like giving a tithe, are now second nature to me. Based on experience traveling with God, I now know scripture like I knew my way around Cedar Park. Hearing God’s voice is as reassuring as the nice Australian lady on the GPS; I now know I can trust him.

As I get more familiar driving in Australia, I will be praying for those who are just getting familiar with our Savior.  I will be conscientious of the roads while at the same time never forgetting what it feels like to be a new believer.

Pressing On

This morning, I changed my mind about Australia.  I decided I no longer want to move.  My 10 yr old went to bed last night telling me he is stressed and scared suddenly.  My to do list is growing, not shrinking.  The movers come in a week.  I am saying good-bye to everyone I love.  I’ve been walking around for two days with a knot in my stomach.  It’s just too hard.  Too many unknowns.  Too much risk.

It’s actually too late for all that.  There’s no turning back.  But how do I overcome this unbearable emotion?  I have to be strong for my kids.  I have too much to do to lay in bed and cry.  Besides, I’m supposed to be a “full-of-faith Pastor’s Wife” who has the right answers for other people when they struggle.  I pray with people at the altar who are stressed and tell them to take their thoughts captive.  I know the big picture is good and that God called us.  I know all that.  But I still don’t want to do it.

Maybe tomorrow.

So, I did the only thing I know how to do in these times.  I read God’s word and turned on praise music.  See, what’s awesome about being a Christian is that we serve a LIVING GOD.  We serve a God who actually knows exactly what we are feeling and if we call upon Him, he hears us.  He actually comforts us in our time of need.  He is faithful to draw near to us and bring us peace when we draw near to Him.

The loneliness I feel right now and pity party I can be in on one hand since “nobody understands” is contrasted with Paul in Philippians which I read this morning.

He says, “All the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power…” (Phil 3, The Message)

As we embark upon Easter weekend, we are reminded of the most remarkable act of God in the history of mankind.  That he allowed his ONLY son to be slain on our behalf.  That He allowed Christ to suffer a brutal death on the cross.  And then, three days later, a miracle of miracles: that Jesus rose from the dead and is seated ALIVE today at the right hand of God, loving us and desiring us as his precious children.

That will put anything into perspective.

Paul goes on to say, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

It’s not that we want to suffer.  But there’s more suffering actually in staying behind.  To live knowing God has called me to do something great and that I didn’t do it is much worse than what I’m experiencing now.  I know I heard from God.  I know He has called us. There will be more hard times than this.  But what about those who are going to suffer eternally for not accepting Christ?  What about those who need the hope I have in Christ?  Is my comfort more important?
I have the hope of eternity to overcome the stress of it all.
In times of great stress and even fear, press into the one who conquered death for you.  Press in through praying, seeking, reading his word, and worshipping him.  Here’s the song that ministered to me this morning:

“Unending Love” by Hillsong

There’s no silver or gold
And no treasure untold
That could draw me away from Your heart
Neither love of myself
Or of anyone else will do

Jesus nothing compares
To this grace that rescues me
Savior now and forever
Your face is all I seek

Now all I am

I lay at Your feet

I’m humbled by the wonder of Your majesty
One thing I know
I find all I need
In Your unending love
In Your unending love
Your love, Jesus

Letting go of my pride
I lay down my desires
Just to worship in Spirit and truth
More than all of my dreams
More than fame I will seek You Lord

Jesus nothing compares
To this grace that rescued me
Savior now and forever
Your face is all I seek

Now all I am
I lay at Your feet
I’m humbled by the wonder of Your majesty
One thing I know
I find all I need
In Your unending love
In Your unending love

Our American-Aussie Team

If you know me, you know I’m an extrovert; I like having people around for everything!  When Greg and I committed  to plant a church in Australia, one of our first prayers was that God would send people with us so that we wouldn’t have to journey alone.  I envisioned these people would be from Australia, not America.

Well, lo and behold, THREE families and one single young adult are moving to Australia to help plant Lift Church.  I can’t believe it!  Why is it that when I pray for something and it happens, I am often surprised that God really heard me?  I think about Peter when he saw Jesus walking on water toward his boat in the middle of the night.  Peter specifically asked God to allow him to walk on water too.  Jesus answered his prayer and even in the midst of the miracle, Peter began to doubt.  As he started sinking, Jesus asked him, “Why did you doubt me?”

From the beginning, when these families told us God had been speaking to them about Australia, we would smile and encourage them (answer to our prayers).  However, Greg and I would secretly feel like it couldn’t possibly be.  I mean, how would they get visas?  One family has a toddler and a baby on the way.  Two of the families have FOUR kids each.  How would they get jobs?  The questions were endless.  Walking on water seemed more likely to happen than this!  I truly thought their excitement would wear off and they wouldn’t actually follow through.  Call me doubting Thomas.

A major breakthrough built my faith while we were in Australia in November.  One family who was visiting with us sent the husband into a recruiting agency while we were walking down the street.  After 45 minutes, he came out grinning ear to ear.  Industry is booming (check out this blog) in Newcastle.  There’s no doubt that he and the other guys can get jobs.  The recruiter will help them get visas and the company who hires them might even pay for the move!  The guys have since had a Skype interview to talk about their qualifications and hiring potential.

After all of this walking on water, my excitement is sometimes like a roller coaster.  I take a step of faith and get excited about how much quicker things will move with a team by our side.  Then, a storm comes and I start to sink.  Hurdles show up out of nowhere like when one of our couples had a close family member receive a cancer diagnosis.  This seemed like it would halt their plans to come.  All of this made me feel like the grandiose visions were just fantasy.  I mean really.  Are we all having an early mid-life crisis? No sooner than I put my eyes on Jesus taking a step out into that water, I doubt again, thinking when the rubber hits the road, they may not actually come.

Our little team has been meeting as a group and every time, someone brings news about how God is confirming the decision to go.  We started the year praying and fasting for 21 days.  After the fast, we gathered for a night of prayer and worship and God moved powerfully continuing to shore up our faith.  These families are making daily choices to move themselves in the direction of Australia.  One family of SIX whose lease on a 3500 square foot home ended in December downsized to a two bedroom apartment (with FOUR KIDS) saving money and beginning the purging process this move will require.

Needless to say, I believe they are all coming!

As we are in the very midst of a miracle in our own lives, Greg and I are humbled that these wonderful people are picking up their lives and moving to the other side of the world to help us fulfill the vision God has given us for Lift Church.  It comes with great responsibility and we take it very seriously.  We will go even if they do not.  But we are thankful God heard our prayers!  We are doing our best to keep our eyes on Jesus as we step out of the boat.

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas. Psalm 65:5

Visa Approval

Last week was a huge milestone in our journey to start a new life and church in Australia.  One of the big hurdles for anyone wanting to move overseas is obtaining permission from the foreign government to do so (a visa).  Many people inaccurately think you can automatically go if you are married to someone from that country (like I am).

I applied for a partner migration visa back in October.  After a month-long process of gathering documents including a notarized stack of birth certificates, marriage certificate, copies of passports along with obtaining about 4 new passport sized photos for each family member, my application and the $2200 was mailed off to the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C.  I still had to wait on the state of Texas and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to reply with a piece of paper saying I had no criminal history on record.  The process also included a trip to Dallas with the kids to obtain medical checks, chest x-rays, and blood and urinalysis to declare us all healthy.  I accomplished each of these final application pieces mid-December.  And the waiting began.

Everything I had researched said the provisional visa takes anywhere from 5-12 months to be approved.  I would be able to stay in Australia and work legally as well as acquire health insurance.  After two years, I could then apply for a permanent visa to live there as long as I want.  Then, I could even apply for citizenship (I would be a dual US/Australian citizen).

After checking on the status of my application in January, I was told the same 5-12 month timeframe from when my application was received (October).  Our entire future plans rest on this visa being approved.

Well, (drumroll please)… I am thrilled to announce that my visa was approved last week!  Yes, only FOUR months after I applied!  What a relief!  Not only is my visa approved, but I have a deadline for entry which is October 10.  Meaning, I MUST move by October or my visa is void.

Secondly, an unexpected blessing is that the type of visa I was approved for is a PERMANENT migration visa.  This means the two-year waiting period has been waived.  I can apply for citizenship, work legally as soon as I arrive, obtain medical benefits from the Government health plan, and even receive free English language tuition (which I might need!).

God is so good.  He is faithful.  He is never late and never early.  He is always on time.  The fact that my visa took less time than expected means we have work to do and he is paving the way for us to get there and get started.