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07Jul '15
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Reaching Out: Difficult But Necessary

July 7, 2015

My work as a social worker and a counselor for more than seven years has helped me to understand a thing or two about relationships, especially after numerous hours of counseling dysfunctional marriages and families. Becoming a Navy spouse has also helped me learn a lot about relationships. I cannot say that I am an expert on relationships but I can share some insights from my experiences over the years.

First: relationships – whether dating, marriage, family or friendships – take work and effort in order to keep them strong and intimate. My husband David and I were apart more than together in our first year of marriage. Three months after our twins Ajay and Brad were born (now both 11 years old), my husband was deployed on back-to-back tours in the Persian Gulf on a ship. Through that, David and I learned we need to put in the effort to communicate with one another often despite our lack of energy and time. Along with deployments, another thing about military life is that we had to move often. In our 13 years of marriage, we have moved six times within the U.S. and also overseas. I had only lived in California before marriage, so moving and adjusting to a brand new place every two years was hard to say the least. I also had difficulty in making new friends and getting to know them each time we moved.

Each time however, God was gracious and placed some amazing people in my life wherever we moved. But as hard as it was to constantly make new friends and build those relationships, it was even harder to say goodbye only after a year or two. I know many military spouses would agree with me on this. Many times, I told myself that I would not get to know anyone or get close to anyone because we would have to move again. It would have been easier to not have made friends and spared myself the hurt of separation, but I am so grateful that I took the time and effort to do so. I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for these people that God had sovereignly placed in my life. I feel that this is important in the church as well. Sometimes, it’s so easy to take how we see each other every week for granted and be complacent about our relationships. But we need to continue to work hard and build relationships in the church as long as it is called today.

Second: relationships are about doing life together and investing in others. As a social worker and counselor, I used to think that building and maintaining a relationship was all about effective communication. I still believe that but now also believe it is about experiencing life together, especially in this fast-paced and transient society. We have a completely different culture and society today than what I grew up in. People do not have time for an hour-long counseling session or other long conversation. If they do, it might occur via a FaceTime or other conference call. I know for some ladies, this is hard to get used to because they enjoy the one-on-one time together. That said, I think it is great that we can still directly communicate with each other in less traditional ways through social media and technology. Doing life together is about connections with one another through the day or week in whatever way is feasible.

People are busy and on-the-move, so we need to be creative with our time. If you cannot go out for coffee due to the kids’ schedules, then invite them over to the house for coffee. Some of the younger ladies just want to hang out and do life together. Some of them also want to know what it is like to be a stay-at-home mom or what marriage is like. They don’t mind hanging out and chatting while you prep dinner, walk the dog or take care of the kids. This is what I believe organic mentoring is: sharing life experiences, helping ladies through life and coming along side of them. This is a perfect opportunity for more mature ladies to mentor and invest in younger ladies as instructed in Titus 2:3-4: to train the younger ladies to love their husbands and their children through living and sharing life together.

(Mentoring is something that Women’s Winistry is very passionate about. If you are interested, please contact the leadership team for Women’s Ministry.)

Third: relationships are about connections with one another. The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines a relationship as “the way in which two or more people or things are connected.” When I first came to ABC, I fell in love with the people but it was hard to get to know the ladies. I started to connect with some of the ladies and suggested we hang out. It started with a couple of us hanging out after church to do nails, then crochet, or just have lunch. To my surprise, the ladies loved getting together with each other but did not think to do this with other women. They just thought the women were too busy with their families and didn’t want to bother them. So I prayed to the Lord about what I could do for Him in Virginia and how He could use me here.

Then last year, Rose asked me if I would be willing to help run events for Women’s Ministry to get the women together and to connect with one another. I did not want the commitment but I decided if this is what the Lord wants me to do while I’m in Virginia, then I was willing. At first, I thought how am I glorifying God with just planning events? I first thought event planning was “frivolous” and not very “spiritual,” but I realized that it was a necessary means for women to get together, connect with one another and build relationships. It’s been great to see women enjoy themselves at these monthly events and meet other ladies that they normally would not otherwise at church. Planning these events have been really fun for me but also a way for me to give back to ABC and to the Lord.

Fourth: relationships are risky. At our women’s retreat this last February, speaker Tracie Nall spoke about how we can remove our masks and hidden identities, then put on the identity that God has given us – that we are a Child of God and that we are Loved. It is important in a relationship and also in the church to remove our masks and hidden identities that we are not willing to let down for whatever reasons. It’s too hard to get to know someone when we are not who we are or who God made us to be. We need to be open and real with each other or the relationship isn’t authentic. There are a lot of hurt and depressed people in the church that feel they cannot be real for fear of judgement. There are also misconceptions over what they are “supposed” to be like as a Christian.

However, we all know that people are not perfect and neither are Christians. That’s why we need Christ, His forgiveness and His grace. We are all in the same boat. No one is better than another person. Some people may perceive that but we need to remove those misconceptions in the church. If people can’t be real at church, where can they find help? After almost three years in Virginia, I have gotten to know some people and I had no idea some of the hurts and pains they are going through because they look happy, well-adjusted and secure on the outside. And the only reason I knew was because I had gotten to know them and started to build a relationship with them. We as a church and as individuals need to convey the message that it is okay to be yourself and it is safe to share with one another without fear of judgment.

How does building relationships affect the church? It’s like breaking down one barrier at a time. I’m not saying that we need to get to know EVERYONE or build relationships with EVERYONE at the church. I am saying we should start with one individual at a time and hopefully cause a domino effect. At our last make up retreat seminar with Tracie Nall, we talked about what the women’s ministry could do? Well, first of all, we need to start with ourselves. We need to make that first move and not wait for someone else to reach out to someone. 

Sometimes, friendships form and just happens which is so great. Other times, you really need to be intentional and seek people out. Since moving to the East Coast, it has been so easy to not go out and just stay home instead because the weather is so bad and unpredictable. In my second year here, I made more of an effort to be more intentional to meet people, ask them out or invite them over. If not, I would have just been happy to be at home, stay warm and watch my Korean dramas. But I know that is not what the Lord wants. He wants me to give of myself for the sake of the church and His people.

Will you join me and pray for God to impress people in your heart that you can minister to or reach out to in the church? Will you pray for someone you can mentor or can mentor you? And lastly will you pray for an obedient and willing heart?

“It’s about our hearts, our time, our talents, and our treasures. We are to be generous, willing to share, and rich in good deeds for the glory of God” – Proverbs 31 ministries.

This is my prayer not only for the ladies of ABC but for the body of Christ at ABC.

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19Apr '15
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Mother and Daughter

April 19, 2015

When I was a child, I remember running into my mother’s closet with my sister and rifling through all of her hanging dresses. I remember thinking that everything my mother did was the right thing and that, even when she worked hard, she still smelled so wonderful. I wanted to be just like her - right down to her happy, but sometimes extremely tired smile. She was what I believed every woman should be - strong, fun, Bible-centered, and always feeding everyone.

As a teenager, I don’t think that view changed, but things began to change. She and I didn’t always agree on everything and I began to find it difficult to communicate with her in her limited English. I discovered that we were very different people - but that I still felt my childhood desire of being exactly like her. It became a point of friction for me, because I could feel the way that God was shaping me as a person and feeling like somehow I was betraying my mom for becoming so different from her.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Hwa Young Johnson, one of the mothers from ABC who had given a seminar talk at the Women’s Retreat, for some tea and dessert. She shed some helpful light on the difficulties of being a mother and offered a more gracious perspective for me to look at both my mom and myself. When talking about recognizing the shortcomings of a parent, Hwa Young said, “You have to look at their failings through God’s eyes. They were doing their best and I think I only really understood that when I became a [mother].” She helped me to understand that even though mothers are not able to teach their children everything because of the realities of limited time and resources, they do get to share what they care deeply about. As I reflect on Hwa Young’s words, I think about the things my mother was able to share with me: a love for scripture and home-cooking, an excitement and gusto for life, and the desire to be good to and generous with other people. She may not have given me as much of her time as I wanted and though we didn’t have as many conversations as I thought we should as I’ve grown up, I realize that what she could not communicate in words, she demonstrated in her treatment of me and other people. Like every mother does, my mom was doing her best to share with me her passions and values - and it’s only now that I understand that she has really succeeded. I am thankful that she is the mother that God has blessed me to have and I thank God for the many mothers that have been a blessing to the life and culture at Ambassador Bible Church.

Something that I have been hearing repeatedly among the mature women at church is an interest and a fear of being a mentor to another woman. I have been so encouraged to hear from these women about the way God has been challenging them and the way they are praying and opening their hearts to the idea of mentorship. I believe that God was speaking through Tracie Nall at the Women’s Retreat when she said that “…not all women are called to be mothers, but all women are called to be spiritual mothers.” I hope that this is a calling that the women of ABC continue to be faithful to in ever increasing numbers!

Titus 2:3-5 “Older women…teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

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26Mar '15
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Cross-Generational Friendships

March 26, 2015

I’ve never been comfortable around adults. Now that I’m an “adult” myself, that statement sounds silly. One could say that the cause is an ingrained fear of authority, but it’s more probable that I still feel as fragile and flawed as a child.

Older women scare me. Even as a teacher, I cringe and bear it during parent-teacher conferences because I don’t feel as though I have the wisdom and authority bestowed upon by age. At church, I take a similar stance. Older women in that “married with children” stage have conversations about their children that I can’t relate to because in my mind, I am still a child myself!

Consequently, I spend most of my church time in conversation with and reach out to people in my life stage– young, unmarried professionals. It’s as though ABC is divided neatly into sections: youth, Primetime, younger married folks and older married folks. To cross the sections and befriend someone in a different life stage is to invite chaos.

My mindset changed when I attended Women’s Retreat. I carpooled with some older women and we arrived late. The three of us tried to sneak in, single file, but when the first crossed the threshold, the speaker stopped mid-sentence and said “welcome!” As the entire room of women turned around, the woman in front of me stepped back and shut the door. The two of us huddled against the outside of the door and laughed silently, like teenagers who had just pulled a prank. I thought to myself- are they really that different from me after all?

That was just the start of it. Small discussion groups were oddly led by the youngest members this year. I felt ill-equipped in a group of women who were all wiser than me, but I quickly learned that they struggled to give things up to God too. Slowly, I was no longer intimidated by their wisdom, and started to feel blessed by it instead. I began to realize that these older women weren’t a different species that would look down on me for my lack of experience.

They were eager to not just slather on the advice, but also care for and earnestly pray for me and each other. I marveled at the discovery: becoming an adult doesn’t mean you stop making mistakes and become responsible and capable overnight. Sanctification is a process that takes your entire life.

On a certain level, I felt that married people were being purified and matured in Christ at a level far beyond my experience. That can’t be true though, because not everyone is called to be married, while everyone is called to be sanctified. Not long ago, JP mentioned in a sermon that both singleness and marriage are equal gifts from God. At a McLean Bible Church study I attended recently, speaker Enoch Haven mentioned in a talk on singleness and said:

“There are the same requirements for living out a godly marriage as there are for living out a single life. We all need to learn how to sacrifice for the good of others, let go of sin and selfishness, and develop a wholehearted devotion to God.”

He said we should leverage our singleness for God’s glory, and take the initiative in seeking out relationships that would push us to grow in those same areas. Another interesting point is made in Matthew 22:30: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

I was struck by how natural marriage or family won’t last in eternity. These silly walls we put up based on life stage, singleness or not, won’t matter someday. In fact, if we use eternal perspective, as we should be, isn’t the church the only family that will last into eternity?

If our church slogan is “ABC: A place to call home” shouldn’t we build relationships now and prioritize our spiritual family?

Yes, married women lead incredibly busy lives, but as a member of my  group at the retreat said: “It’s all about intentionality and making time for someone you want to keep as a friend.“ This goes for both sides of the friendship.

There’s been a push for cross-generational mentorship recently with many younger women in search of mentors and not as many older women that are willing to be mentors. I don’t know what the solution to that problem is, but this idea has taken root in my mind. Let’s think beyond mentorship and just address friendship. It is more than possible to befriend someone who is not in your life stage.

I think the questions are not about what is possible in friendships but whether we want to have those friendships. Is it worth the time to be intentional with someone you have to take effort to befriend? Is it worth the effort to love a member of the church who hasn’t sought you out first?

I think we know the answers to those questions. It’s just a matter of whether or not we want to take action.

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