Fall typically brings with it the anticipation of new beginnings. Whether you like pumpkin spice or not, most of us look forward to putting away our tank tops and pulling out some of those sweaters and jeans. But more than that, September typically means back to school and, at PCC, the beginning of a new ministry year.
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Do not give up meeting together in the Lord” and while, there are certain safety precautions we take to honor the more vulnerable among us and to obey the authorities God has put in place over us, in another sense, we need each other now more than ever. Loneliness, isolation, depression, economic hardship, and fear are just a few of the emotions that can too easily cause people, and yes, even Christians, to despair.
With that in mind, I want to give you an overview of some of the ways that you can connect this fall:
Always the crux of Women’s Ministry, this year more than ever we need to encourage each other to stay grounded in the Word of God. You will be able to choose from two studies on Tuesday mornings and one on Thursday morning, as well as one on Tuesday evening. Additionally, limited childcare will be available during the daytime studies.
These are small groups where women can sign up to gather at a host’s back patio or back porch. Our prayer is that women will get to know each other over coffee and conversation, maybe over a light craft or even get to know a visiting global ministry partner.
This is something new! You’ll read a book ahead of time and then spend an evening discussing in a small group. We’ll read and discuss a new book every 3-4 months.
Global Partner Get-Togethers
In addition to getting to know a visiting or local global partner at a Porch Picnic, we’ll also have a couple of other opportunities to highlight their stories while showcasing their cultures and artistic talents.
Caring for One-Another (working title!)
We want to love and care for members of the Body at all ages and stages, but one area we need to grow in is in elder care – especially those who have served at PCC for many years, but now, because of health issues, have to step back from serving everyone else. Take the opportunities we will offer to bless those who have been such blessings.
And what about Dinner and a Movie? We thought about it. We wrestled with it. We prayed over it. We wanted to continue the Dinner and a Movie tradition! Alas, due to space restrictions, we had to make the hard call to cancel this long-running standard. But never fear! Dinner and a Movie will be back better than ever in 2021.
Some of what’s listed above will be in person, some will be online and some will be hybrid. Our goal is to encourage you as members of Christ’s Body to grow in love and knowledge of Him while growing in relationship with each other.
It was September 8, 2003. “Alex and I started kindergarten today…” As I now read over the journal entries from the day I started to homeschool in 2003, I am taken back 17 years in time. Seventeen years of experience, growth, marriage, teaching, and parenting. There are many families in my well-worn shoes this month, this Covid-19 season. Moms who are trying to figure out this new phase with children “schooling at home” instead of in a building.
I am struck by the words of my younger self on day two of my homeschool career: “Well, this has to work somehow, since God ordains it and knows the other things to which I am called. God, you know the plans you have for us. We will trust you to guide, direct, and help me live out each hour of every day. Never before have I needed so much help in staying structured – I probably think I need it so much that I have no peace in going with the flow, for fear of not measuring up to standards. Well, God will help me.”
If you are struggling with this season of life looking different, whether you are single with a calling, a wife with a man you love, or a mother with children facing change: hang on to Jesus. Remember this, “…We preach Christ crucified…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 9:23-24, NIV). There is sustenance in Him for how you should conduct your day, how you can hang on to His presence in the midst of change and upheaval. Cleave to the wisdom and power that life in Christ can offer you.
I have vivid recollections of begging to be a fly on someone else’s wall, to know what this thing called homeschool looked like. I also have clear memories of being tired, strung out, and overburdened with home needs and childcare, but I was also so very hungry for God to show up and teach me how WE were supposed to tackle this new lifestyle.
You might be hungering for others to show you how to pick up your pieces today. Community is so valuable. The experience of others and the paths that have been paved make the journey of life so much easier. Take the time to depend upon the value others offer. Spend time building the tribe around you that has veterans of your journey and also other newcomers with whom you can journey. Ensure you are also surrounded by women of faith and those to emulate. Spend time with people you want to be like.
Deep down, though, one principle undergirds everything a community can offer. We can learn from others, we can glean loads of advice and ideas, but in the end, we must go to our knees in front of the Creator to seek His wisdom for what He envisions for our unique life. Seeking Him only requires that we ask Him for His leadership, for His direction, for His creativity in living in this season.
I would encourage new “schooling at home” moms to be reaching for Christ first and then teaching the little ones entrusted to our care with insight only God can give. They are so unique and so special that what works for others may not be what your children need. Praise God that He can enable me to do the impossible. He can be the Guide, the Counselor, the Teacher of me as I yearn to do right by him in this season of life.
Three months after my starting day, I wrote this update in November of 2003. “Boy, what a thrill! Alex can read now, tell time with hours…what a wonder – I love this!” God showed up for me, like He will for you. He gave me excitement, energy, and delight in my new calling that year. Press into Him and you, too, will find Him faithful.
On Tuesday I had my moment. It had been a stressful few days, Isaias hit bringing down trees perilously close to our house and knocking out power and after five months of dealing pretty well with the whole Covid-19 situation (if I do say so myself), I was tired of it. Oh, and did I mention that Tuesday was my husband’s and my 30th anniversary? We had planned an overnight in Virginia Beach to celebrate but, of course, those plans had to be cancelled due to the storm.
First World Problems.
And that’s what I told myself as I tackled cleaning up the branches and significant lawn debris from the storm. But by 1, I needed a break and decided that it was time for my bi-annual Big Mac. Nothing like some fat and carbs to calm the pouty soul. But as my husband and I approached those golden arches, we noticed that the cars were wrapped around the building twice! On to Dairy Queen for a much-needed Blizzard. There were cars in the parking lot and it appeared to be open, but after waiting at the drive-through speaker for five minutes, we finally realized that Dairy Queen was out of power. Neither Big Mac nor Blizzard were to be had.
My pout took on permanence.
By 5:30 I had finished clearing the lawn, but due to the lack of air-conditioning, the house had heated up quite a bit. As my son ventured out to bring some pizza home for our anniversary dinner, I wrestled with my mood, bringing it before the Lord. I considered asking Him to have the power turned back on, but, as I mentioned before, I knew that my un-air-conditioned house and my cancelled anniversary plans were nothing compared to what most of the world deals with. I added feelings of guilt to my poutiness.
I talked to the Lord of all power for half an hour, refusing to ask him to turn on the electricity because asking for such a triviality would, in my mind, only be selfish. But at 6pm, I gave in and asked Him to turn it on. “Lord, I know this is really a very minor need, but would You??” Fifteen minutes later, just as my son pulled into the driveway with the pizza and ice cream, the lights came on, not only in our home, but in my soul as well.
The Lord does not answer all of my prayers in such a prompt fashion. I have asked Him for things to which He’s replied, “no” and there are other much more significant requests to which He’s said, “wait”. But He’s also my Father and He loves me. He hears my prayers and delights to give good gifts not only to me, but to all His children!
Next time I’m headed toward poutiness, may the Lord remind me that, whether He answers my prayer in the moment or not, all surpassing power belongs to God (2 Cor 4:7) and He delights when we ask and turn all of our needs, wants and desires over to the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. (James 1:17)
If you would have asked me a few years ago if I was allowing myself to be vulnerable in community, my answer would have been, “yes!” I’ve always been quick to share my day to day frustrations and joys with others, and I’m honest when people ask me questions. However, it wasn’t too long ago that I noticed that I always left social events feeling unknown. One reason I felt this way may have been from some of my own conversation tactics. I have a habit of hiding behind the surface questions by answering as fast as I can, and then promptly turning the conversation on to the other person. I was happy to create a space that allowed other people to be vulnerable with me, but when the tides turned, I was quick to run and hide.
I didn’t notice this pattern in my life until a friend kindly sat me down and shared that she felt like I acted more like her counselor than her friend. I wanted to dive deep with her but not let her dive deep with me. At first, I responded defensively, but as I gave myself time to process, I realized that my friend might be on to something. The feeling of not being known wasn’t because people hadn’t tried to be intentional; it was because I wouldn’t allow myself to be vulnerable.
Over the years I have learned a lot about friendship and community through the people that the Father has so graciously given to me. One of the most recent things the Father has been teaching me comes from the wise words of my sweet sisters Kate Bart and Adelyn Noble - “You can’t fight the enemy in the dark.”
The enemy does some of his best work in the dark. He takes the parts of our hearts that we keep hidden and speaks lies that create shame. This shame makes us silent, and, just like Adam and Eve, we hide. We hide from our Father, thinking we can’t approach his throne until we fix the dark parts of our hearts. And, we hide from our friends, thinking that the embarrassment of sharing our sin is worse than keeping it hidden.
Sisters, both of those thoughts are complete lies and opposed to the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We don’t have to live in shame because Jesus took our shame on the cross, and in return, he gave us honor. The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us to cast our burdens on him and he will sustain us (Psalm 55:22). It doesn’t say he might sustain us, it says he WILL sustain us!
But, the gospel message does not stop there. Not only does God give us the gift of his Son that allows us to approach his throne free of guilt and shame, but he has also given us the gift of Christian community to push each other towards him. When we are sharing our sin with others we aren’t just telling a story. We are openly allowing others to speak truth into our lives and hold us accountable. When we decide to stop trying to fight the enemy in the dark, the Lord begins to shine his light into the parts of our hearts we never wanted anyone to see. In doing so, he breaks down our shame and unites his Church. While we begin to recognize the depths of our sin together we also become amazed by the depths of his grace.
If our goal is to be made more and more into the image of God, then we must confess our sin to one another, and boldly approach the throne of grace.
This is still a challenge for me. The Father has to continually remind me of my need for confession and community. But I challenge all of us, in a season where it is even easier to remain isolated and hidden, to come out of the darkness, approach the throne of Jesus, and allow your friends to be a part of the journey with you!