dream BIG! week three.

You know those times when a theme repeats its’ self in your life? The past few weeks have been one of those times. Julia Cameron calls them synchronicities in the Artists Way but I know they are the Holy Spirit asking me to pause.
Taking Flight pg 13: “We don’t give ourselves permission to change, to evolve, to outgrow our past decisions.
“Sometimes we think we feel stuck…because of an old role we’ve historically filled that we can’t seem to escape.”
The theme: reflecting on my past. I will admit my first instinct was “UG!”.
In a few weeks I celebrate the start of 8 years at my current work place, Radiant Church in Surprise, Arizona. Which means 7 years ago I was in the midst of hell on earth.
At the age of 25 I was working at another church in the valley. It was THE PERFECT church for me and I had my dream job as a Youth Director. Seriously, who has everything they have ever dreamed for in a vocation at the age of 25? I DID! All was wonderful. I can honestly say I couldn’t dream of anything more. 
A few years went by and I was doing my ALL to be innovative, creative, and grow a youth group and then WHAM we hit a snag. I can recall it like the mac and cheese I made for lunch today… during a youth workers planning retreat we were reading the Great Commission and The Spirit overwhelmed me to the point of tears that I couldn’t control. I was blown away by how simple our mission from God is. We began at that moment to design a youth program with a focus on reaching out to those who didn’t know Jesus. It was different. Very different from anything we had ever done before. But there was excitement from leaders and student leaders for the launch. Once introduced at the yearly parent kick-off event it was met by certain parents with unhappiness. That should have only been a mild deal but instead it became a huge deal. I was put under a very serious review process for the changes I had made, probation, every action or move I made was scrutinized. For someone who had barely ever been criticized in life this was wildly painful. I physically felt as if I was drowning and couldn’t reach the top for air. Eventually, I was placed on a three month leave. Yes, all for attempting to instill a bit of evangelism into a youth program. The church leadership had decided that I needed to seek help for an eating disorder (something I had struggled with years earlier but I can 100% say I was not struggling with at the time) and they declared that the only way I could come back to my  job there was if I put myself into treatment. SHOCKING! What was I to do? Luckily, this state has some of the best treatments centers available. But, they wouldn’t take me. Why would they? I wasn’t sick. But, I was desperate to cling to this job that had been everything I knew to dream of. I found a local PH.D. level psychotherapist who was willing to see me. The church accepted her as my treatment. As she heard my story and what I was going through she looked at me and said “You don’t have an eating disorder you have an anorexic life.” It was statement I will never forget. It took a lot for me to take in and evaluate but she was right. I had worked so hard to live such a perfect life that it was beginning to eat me. The LIFE inside me was beginning to wither away because of how hard I worked to fill other peoples’ expectations of who I should be rather than just me myself.  I spent three months growing, learning, pushing myself to be different …to be real. But all with the goal of going back to my “dream job.”  I still couldn’t imagine NOT being there.
Pg 15 “Challenge your spirit to listen even if it means doing something you never thought you could do.”
“We learn the most about ourselves when we do the thing we never thoughts we could do.”
“When we challenge ourselves to push our boundaries, we are perhaps without intending to do so, shed layers of much, jealousy, perfection, worry, fear and self doubt.”
Half way through this process something inside of me decided to just glimpse at what job possibilities MIGHT be out there. I typed “church” into a local newspaper search. A one line ad came up. “Large west valley church is in need of help.” There was no more information than that. Who answers that kinda of ad? Who places that kind of ad? For some reason I faxed them my resume. They called soon after and wanted to interview me. I decided to go. In some ways my confidence was stripped and in other ways I was a new person full of a fresh outlook. I discovered the church had multiple openings one of which was in the youth department. It was an assistant position to the youth pastor.  Really? Was I going to go from the top of my game to being someone else’s assistant? There was something safe feeling about the idea. How could I screw that up? I interviewed two more times one time with the Senior Pastor. When I asked him to share with me the mission of the church and he recited the Great Commission my mouth almost hit the ground. The scripture that set this whole mess in motion was bringing it all back around. Hmmmm…what could this mean? I decided I would visit an actual church service before I made my decision.  The best way to describe it is I have never been so uncomfortable and so at home all the in same moment. All I could do was smile. In that moment I got it. I understood the hell I was going through. I knew this is where God was asking me and wanting me to be. So I did something I never thought I would or could do. I resigned from my old church and accepted a new job. I truly believe that God knew I had become so comfortable and felt so safe in my old church that in order to get my attention something insane had to go down. And boy did it!
Pg 15 “Anything is possible in our lives when we stop denying ourselves the chance to see our own potential”
The church I work for now is not FOR me. While I grow in my walk daily because of it it was not designed to serve me. It is meant for people who have never heard of Jesus or have perhaps forgotten that they once believed as a child. In that youth worker retreat moment years ago when He brought me to tears God was calling me to let go of my preferences for church and make it about reaching others. This is my way to answer that call.
Little did I know it would be so much more than that for me. True, I went from director status to making Sonic runs but I was serving and learning a new style of church. In a few months of being on staff I was asked to jump to director status. It was terrifying. God and I had to have some long talks. But, in my heart I knew that that was the role He had called me to at the age of 15.  I couldn’t spend my life running from it just because of one nightmare.
Life at Radiant is very different for me from my former church. At Radiant I have always been allowed to be me. Say crazy things, dream up crazy ideas, lead in ways that I am gifted. I am not saying every idea is accepted but it is permissible and appreciated.  
The hell of seven years ago seems so far away but here I am...reminded of it. There was so much hurt, anger, sadness involved in the ordeal that it is only natural. But I can say that I am mostly thankful.  Thankful for how God shoved me to a new place. Reflecting on that time always causes me to gut check where I am at. What am I doing? Am I putting myself in a box or am I still living in the purpose I am called to?
It is important for me to never go back to that place where I can’t see dreams beyond the present.
Pg 15 “Do the thing that scares you the most”
I have a list of these. Do you? The reminder of seven years ago pushes me to tackle one of these so that I never get in that stuck place again.
This is the verse that closed out our weekend services. It couldn’t have been more fitting.
“No, dear brothers and sister, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead where God is beckoning us onward to Jesus. I am off and running, and I not turning back.” Philippians 3:13-14

*pg 14 was about journaling. This will need to be a separate post since I consider it a specialty. J

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