Category Archives: Stephen Ministry

Unprepared for Goodbye

There were only two visits I was able to make before the holidays. Mondays in Bridgewater afforded me time to stop by after a weekly meeting with friends. I planned to return this week. Back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.

I was not prepared for the news.

It is easy to check mail on my phone, so when a ministry team message came through with only his name in the heading, I opened it instantly. Sometimes things can be too instant, leaving a person raw in the wake of the suddenness.

I thought I knew what it would say.

There would be a health update, maybe a way to serve the family. There might be specifics of how the disease was progressing or a general update to keep us informed as to how to pray for the man who continued to pray for us from the confines of his automated recliner.

My breath caught in my chest as I read that my dear friend’s breath had left him in the night as he slept.

Gone was the man who sat across from me for so many Stephen Ministry meetings, his faithfulness and genuine care and concern for people radiating from his face. He held many of my prayer requests close and would ask how God was working in my life, right up until our last visit together.

A fun fact is that he had attended the church my husband grew up in when they both lived in Northern Virginia. He remembered my husband as a boy and would laugh and tell stories of him. We had a connection.

He loved.

Above all he loved the Lord and wanted to serve him in all that he did. Our last visit together was full of stories of days gone by, such as being roped in invited to help with the Awana program at his church when he was a younger man and how he cared for the kids who were difficult, understanding that they were the ones who needed love the most.

He cared.

There were many times that he went out of his way to be present or show up for people. He sought out the hurting and humbly reached out with a kind word or thought.

He encouraged.

He encouraged me with his words and his steadfast faith in God. He encouraged me by attending worship whenever he could, right up until his final weeks when it became difficult. I remember the last Sunday that I saw him from stage, sitting in his chair in the back. My heart caught in my chest and my eyes welled up, much as they did when I read that he died.

Bob is in heaven now. I don’t know how it works, but I am confident that he is present with the Lord. This song comes to mind as I sit with my tears remembering my friend. I think it captures his heart.

Goodbye, Bob.

Friendship Friday ~ Meatballs and Rice

Sometimes an email comes through your box that brightens everything and lightens the load just a little. One of these came through for me last week, as a sweet sister in Christ, a fellow Stephen Leader, followed a prompting on her heart.

She encouraged me with kind words, reminding me that I am not alone on the path, and that my labor is not in vain. A reminder of her prayers for me and her desire for me to see God’s grace in many small ways throughout the week was followed by a statement and a question or two.

Some food is coming to your porch one afternoon that you could simply reheat in the oven. What would work for you? How many family members shall I prepare for?

We worked out a plan that involved the food being left in the church refrigerator for me to take after service that Sunday. I worked on that place inside of me that struggles to receive from others.

What a blessing it was to have a ready-made meal in the refrigerator to heat up this week! The meatballs and rice were perfect on a day that involved Steve and I dividing and conquering events with various children in various locations. Not having to worry about cooking that night was a blessing.

meatballs and rice

Thank you, kind friend, for your gift. Thank you for the work you do for others and the way that you love so well. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do in the secret and quiet places. May our Father who sees in secret, bless you many times over for your thoughtfulness and generosity.

In the Drowning

It is a rare afternoon that I am home by 3:30 with no agenda stretching into the evening.

This is one of those afternoons, and yet, it has come with a cost. It cost me much pride, as I admitted to a group of people who were counting on me that I needed space tonight. Space to care for my family. Space to care for my heart. Space to breathe and reflect on where I am in the overwhelmingness of life right now.

I am grateful that this group is safe enough for me to share honestly. They heard me with much grace. It feels shameful and embarrassing to admit my struggle. I am trying to be kind to myself in acknowledging this need.

My heart has been in a difficult place these past few weeks months, and I have kept on. I haven’t spent much time reflecting, figuring out, processing or caring for myself and those closest to me. I have done the next thing and the next and the one after that.

This is all well and good. We need to do the next thing. We need to keep commitments and obligations and feed our family and provide clean clothes for everyone to wear. We need to be able to be counted on.

Somewhere in there, though, I started to drown. Rather than reach out and speak up, I tried to manage. In all honesty, I don’t even know if I recognize well when I am drowning.

There is an article that surfaces in the summer about what it looks like when a child is drowning. I can relate to not being able to call out for help and not being able to move towards help. I know how it feels to focus all available energy on just trying to survive while quietly slipping away.

Emotional drowning and physical drowning feel eerily similar to me.

In this moment I am home from work. Three of the five at home kids are here doing after school stuff together. They are playing and romping and experiencing and resolving conflict. I can hear them through my closed bedroom door.

I sit on my bed in comfy clothes, laptop and blinds open, alternately tapping out words and thoughts and gazing up at the blue sky through the window. I try to be mindful in this space and not feel panic that it will end too soon.

Tonight I will be here for my husband and children. I will receive an evening of grace extended by those who had to make alternate plans because of me.

I can’t take it back and say never mind. Just kidding. I’m really fine.

I let them see.

We will meet together next week to process and discuss and figure out what’s next. I will have to face them in person in all of my broken vulnerability, not just through a group email.

I will choose to take this risk to reach out and be known.

To receive grace.

In the Overlap

Bear ye one another’s burdens. Galatians 6:2

I marveled at the overlap in my life yesterday, while participating in Stephen Ministry supervision night. Twice a month we meet together as leadership and then as a ministry team for worship, supervision, and continuing education.

It was the first meeting of the new ministry year, and one of the leaders was presenting our vision statement. In his unique style, the presenter started on the back of the page, working his way to the front. Reverse order.

Each of us took a turn reading the Scripture passages that had been selected to encapsulate what we do as Stephen Ministers and why we do it. Always a good reminder.

My turn came up on Galatians 6:2, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I smiled inside.

Earlier in the day, two of my first graders had carefully filled in the word Bear in the blanks on their math test. Three more will do so today.

B e a r ye one another’s burdens. Galatians 6:2 

It looks like the animal word bear. It means to help carry. I explained to each one, in turn, as we wrote the verse down in their notebooks.

It’s one thing I love about what I do. I love the daily reminders from God’s Word in the midst of the frustrations that come with living in a fallen world. And I need to focus on those parts, because there are a lot of parts that are hard and not my favorite. This doesn’t mean bad. Just hard. Like any work that we do anywhere.

As I drove home from meeting last night, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude in the midst of the overwhelming. Because yesterday was more overwhelming to me than usual. More edgy, more frustrating, more annoying.

Do you ever have those days?

But God faithfully, and kindly, reminded me of his presence in the midst of the mundane. The routine. He filled my heart with gratefulness for the work he has given me to do and for his provision within it.

So as I prepare for another day, I look ahead with hopefulness and confidence that even in the midst of the struggle, he will continue to surround with support and help to bear what is heavy and burdensome.

Last night the same leader who presented our vision prayed for me specifically. His choice of words was from Proverbs 3:5,6. He prayed that I would do the following:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

I am grateful for life in the overlap.

Friendship Friday ~ Prayer Partner

It’s Friday and the last full day of the LTC. Tomorrow there will be a morning session, and then I head home to re-enter life and begin processing and applying all that I learned this week.

The best part of the training had nothing to do with content and everything to do with connection. It was being paired with a prayer partner for the week after doing a relationship exercise together during Sunday night’s first training session.

S and I each were here alone and were sitting at the same table when the exercise was introduced. We partnered together. At the end of the activity, it was announced that the person we were with would be our prayer partner for the week.

It was S’s suggestion that we walk through the park and by the water each day after lunch to talk together and then pray. It’s a good thing that we exchanged phone numbers, because the first day I was waiting on the wrong floor by the wrong door. The second day I was talking too much at lunch.

Hey I am waiting for you by the front door the text message read.

By Wednesday I had figured out how to get to lunch right away, eat, connect with tablemates, and then assertively excuse myself to meet S in the correct location. We got into a good groove.

She listened to my heart and all of the concerns and fears I was having and patiently prayed. I did the same for her, and we saw God answer us. I felt so cared for by S this week. So loved. So heard.

We are both Stephen Ministers, and as such do a lot of listening to others. I think we were both encouraged by having someone listen to us. Our after lunch walk and prayer time became my favorite part of the day.

Today is our last walk. It is our last chance to connect like this in person and reflect over what God did for us this week.

I feel grateful and blessed that God brought S and I together to walk alongside of each other through training.

I will miss you, S! Many blessings as you return home to serve. Thank you for serving me this week and for being love with skin on to me!

Halfway There!

This marks the middle of the Leadership Training Course that I am attending for Stephen Ministry leadership at my church.

It has been a full half of a week.

I have learned a lot and grown in appreciation for those who set up and started Stephen Ministry at Covenant Presbyterian those many years ago.

Here are a few glimpses of what I have been doing, as my words and thoughts need some space to just rest.

Coffee in the truck. I left directly from church, hence the VBS shirt.

Coffee in the truck. I left directly from church, hence the VBS shirt.

Yes, this is a 35lb box filled with training materials. Thankfully, I just pull out the files that I need for each session.

Yes, this is a 35lb box filled with training materials. Thankfully, I just pull out the files that I need for each session.

Let's see. . . what do I need for today's sessions?

Let’s see. . . what do I need for today’s sessions?

This liquid (and Jesus) carries me through each day. Yay for coffee breaks!

This liquid (and Jesus) carries me through each day. Yay for coffee breaks!

Because we all could use a little Amy A. in our life.

Because we all could use a little Amy A. in our life.

Getting down to business. Lots and lots of business.

Getting down to business. Lots and lots of business.

MIR symbol. A collaborative effort with some pretty amazing ladies.

MIR symbol. A collaborative effort with some pretty amazing ladies.

Why, MIR means Most Important Relationships, of course.

Why, MIR means Most Important Relationships, of course.

Each day after lunch, my prayer partner for the week and I walk through the park across the street from the hotel to catch up, process, and pray.

Each day after lunch, my prayer partner for the week and I walk through the park across the street from the hotel to catch up, process, and pray.

Best part of the day.

Best part of the day.

There is a mail slot in the lobby that has become my friend.

There is a mail slot in the lobby that has become my friend.

The view from my window is lovely by day and lulls me to sleep by night.

The view from my window is lovely by day and lulls me to sleep by night.

I grab moments of solitude as I can, like this delicious meal at an Indian restaurant.

I grab moments of solitude as I can, like this delicious meal at an Indian restaurant.

I try to stop to observe chippoish things for my children, like this squirrel foraging in the bushes.

I try to stop to observe chippoish things for my children, like this squirrel foraging in the bushes.

Then I work some more.

Then I work some more.

Thanks for stopping in to see what I have been up to. If you don’t know what Stephen Ministry is, there is a tab to click at the top of the page, or just click this link for more information than you ever cared to know!

If you are one who has enabled me to take this training, either as part of the leadership team or my home front support. THANK YOU!

 

Trusting the (truck) Process

Today was the first full day of training and the day I had to return the truck.

Let’s talk about that truck, shall we?

When I first registered for this leadership training in Pittsburg, the issue of how to get there was one that was far off and would certainly be resolved by August. And it was. Just not the way I thought.

The vehicle situation in our family is large van and small manual car. I don’t drive stick. My family fits in and needs the van.

After exploring several travel options, renting a car one way and being picked up from the conference seemed the best choice. My husband made the reservation, and we went to claim the car Saturday morning.

Have I got a deal for you, if you are willing to drive a truck, that is.

Seeing as how I drive an older model van, driving a truck didn’t scare me off. I was game. It needed to be moved off of the lot. I could do that. It also became another thing for the kids to fight over as I drove them around Saturday and Sunday morning.

I wanted to sit in the front middle!

For just the cost of the rental, no drop fee, I was on my way to Pittsburg.

It was a great theory.

I am not a relaxed driver. Driving on road trips isn’t life-giving to me. Driving a rental truck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike with its 55mph work zones and concrete barriers along the shoulder, narrowing the passage even further, was life-sucking and tension-inducing.

The tunnel that I used to beg my parents to wake me for on those overnight road trips to Michigan was daunting, as semis surrounded me, and I white knuckled the steering wheel. I tried not to be swayed by the power of suggestion, remembering my mom’s stories of tunnel-driving terror (and lug nuts coming loose!).

I can DO this.

I don’t like driving in unfamiliar territory, so driving an unfamiliar truck into an unfamiliar city was a growing experience.

I was grateful for small graces like pull-through parking spaces and valet parking at the hotel.

Phase one complete (arrival), it was only a matter of waiting until morning to get to phase two (rental return). I was worried about how the process would go. The fact that I was driving to a city with car rental returns on the 5th floor of parking garages had not been on my radar when I snatched up my steal of a deal.

I called to confirm the location of the rental agency, a mere twelve blocks away, and arranged to return the truck. Following the signs, I took my ticket and entered the garage, heading to the fifth floor.

Onward and upward. Slow and steady. It looks like this won’t work, but I have been given full assurance that it will. Keep going.

As I journeyed upward, I saw other trucks and vans of similar size to mine safely tucked into their parking spaces. I knew in my head this would work, but my heart wasn’t feeling it. My nerves were shot. I was at the end of my rope, and kept reminding myself to trust the process.

Those who knew better than I and who had gone before assured me it would be okay. That is what kept me going when I wanted to quit, get out of the truck, and scream ENOUGH!

And then I was there. I reached the 5th floor where there was plenty of space to pull in and ride the elevator down to the checkout desk. After getting the all clear from the agent, I stepped out of the building and took a deep breath.

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It worked!

Where do YOU need to trust the process today? Bet ya didn’t see that one coming.

Blessings, Friends!

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Goodbye, Late-model Truck! Thank you for getting me to Pittsburg. You will be missed.