Monday, August 13, 2012

Middle School Memories

Sorry for the short hiatus... we are back and ready to roll.

On Thursday, Lydia and I headed to Garden City Chapel, just outside of Myrtle Beach. I had the privilege of speaking at a middle school retreat. 50 middle schoolers, 16 adults, oh, and the ever popular 11 month old. Lydia was passed around like a loaf of bread, kept up until 11:30 each night, flirted with Connor (the 17 year old worship leader) and busted her face. Praying this is my last student retreat with a baby...

What an hilarious weekend. I watched girls manipulate boys to get their hats, then brag to their girlfriends that they were wearing “that boy's” hat. I watched boys load up on Monster (the equivalent of Surge or Jolt in my day) and then run circles... For hours. I watched one girl get ostracized from her group, only to cling to another group, causing an ostracism in that group, etc... I saw boys take down girls in the mud, but NOT because they like them! NO WAY! And then there were the chaperones! The profanity slip on the volleyball court. Hijacked iPhones. Multiple trips to “Kroger,” because “I need a little break.” Crazies! Made me miss student ministry... and grateful to be out of it!
the CUMC middleschoolers!
On my quiet ride home, because Lydia was in a coma, I began my walk down my own church youth group memory lane. I don't know if you had a church youth group experience, but it was my life from 7th-12th grade. Please come along with me on my summer reflection on the FBC youth ministry...

  • The Chi-Chi's birthday dinner with Chris Spruill's Sunday School class. Something funny happened, but I don't remember what... this was 7th grade people! 
  • Amanda and I being late to the bus at Wet-n-Wild (was that what is was called?). We had to run laps around two trees. One lap for each minute late. Mortifying as an eighth grader to step onto a bus of high schoolers after that! (I remember Cherilyn Carruth sitting next to the window that day. Weird what sticks in your mind!) 
  • Speaking of buses: it was not summer without the brown, FBC church van. No a/c, ceiling falling down, vinyl seats... nice. That's when 15 people could ride in a 15 passenger van. 
  • There was a trip to Ocean City, MD. Multiple jelly fish stings that day. And a picture, peep hole keychain. Still have it, Mikey! The boys play with them. 
  • A bazillion trips to Kings Dominion for Youth Evangelism Conferences, day trips or concerts. And a bazillion check-ins at the tower at 1:00. And more picture, peep hole keychains. (Still have those, too.) 
  • The Youth After Church Fellowships (a.k.a. The YACF. Btw, it was previously known as an “afterglow.” Hope I don't offend anyone, but that was a TERRBILE name!) 
  • Countless volleyball games. 
  • Volunteering to help with VBS 
  • Aahhh, centrifuge. Where we met boys Jesus. Remember all those pictures Roger took of “us,” but was really taking a picture of the boy of the week in the background! (I bet if we put our heads together we could remember all their names.) 
  • Then the year we changed camps! Horror! (We made it through and loved it. Master's Inn.) 
  • Eagle Eyrie. Music Camp. (Pure and lovely, girls. I still remember, Mrs. Kang.) 
  • The Mall, the National Zoo, the metro
I really could go on for days. The amazing memories will go with me forever. But this is what else: I met Jesus in youth group. “I tasted and saw that the Lord is good.” I was introduced to a Forever,  Faithful God that has not left me yet. Yes, Jesus was always in my home, but there is something about what I learned from all of these experiences and sooo many more, that has forevers shaped my view and love for Jesus. 

Let's get this out of the way: I know we weren't easy. I know it now and I knew it then. (In fact, I am still sometimes reminded of that.  We got it.  We were mean and ugly and dramatic and people quit because of us.  You don't have to say it again.) That is why I am so grateful. Chris, Rhonda, Sheila, Mrs. Applegarth, Mr. Carruth- just a few of the Sunday School Teachers that “stuck it out.” GA's and Acteens- thank you Mrs. Hayes and Mrs. Carruth and Mrs. Chenoweth. Choir, chaperones, parents... I get it now. I've been on this side. I'm not sure a crown in Heaven is enough. 

And Roger. (The tears are starting.) I do what I do today, because of what you did back then. You were at everything. You planned, prepared, studied, prayed, fought on our behalf. It wasn't about volleyball. It was about Jesus. And a legacy that is now being carried to another generation. Every time I speak at a conference, teach a lesson, lead a mission trip meeting, I think of you. It is memory verses in the car, teachable moments after tears, and the walk to my kids' worship on Sunday mornings. You sewed into that in a way that nobody else did or has. At the risk of getting all Ray Boltz on you, thank you for all you did, sacrificed and prayed for us. It has not been in vain and it has not gone unnoticed.

And to the adults I ministered with this weekend, this may be your story one day. You invested in a life, that invested in a life, that invested in a life. Don't give up on the hard ones! Please! They did not give up on me. (Shut up. No comments.) Tim, you are their Roger. You are not laboring in vain, you are not unnoticed.

To all of you student ministers, winding down your summers... you made it through another one. Lives were changed. Generations formed.

It's not about volleyball.

"With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort." 1 Corinthians 15:58

Centrifuge.  Carson Newman.  Circa 1994.  For Girls Only.
Graduation Sunday.  1995.

My 18th birthday.  Key West, Fl.  Senior Trip.

One of the very few pics of Roger.  He was ALWAYS behind the camera.  I think he was trying to get out of trust falls.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Blue Pigs

When my nephew Joel was four, he was conversing with some dear family friends about a stuffed pig that his mother owned (as in stuffed animal, not taxidermy). Joel was pretty excited about this pig and told all about where it sat in their home, how big it was, where his mom got it etc, etc, etc.

As any adult, wanting to enter into a child’s world in conversation, one of my friends asked a question that he thought was pretty straightforward, “What color is the pig”? Joel stopped dead in his tracks and looked at them both incredulously, as if to say, “Really, you are adults and you don’t know what color a pig is??!! Shouldn’t you know this by now???!!!!” Nevertheless, he condescended to answer them with the obvious. “It’s a pig. It’s blue”.

Needless to say, none of the adults in the room did a good job covering their shock, or laughter, at his reply. Mostly because it was delivered with such disdain for having to say what, to his mind, should have been apparent to any thinking person. I am happy to report that, not long after that episode, Joel came to discover that unless something is horribly wrong, pigs are not, in fact, blue. That has not, however, stopped those friends from gifting him, now in his twenties, a small, yet diverse, collection of blue pigs.

Whereas I love the fact that they give Joel those little reminders, and hope they never stop, I recently felt the Lord start speaking to me about relational “blue pigs” that I sometimes give to people. Let me explain by unfolding some of the thoughts that have been stirring in me.

Being in close relationship with people over an extended period of time can cause an insensitivity and lack of recognition for all the ways that they have changed and grown. Familiarity can promote an environment that makes it easy for us to keep them “in a box” that doesn’t acknowledge that they are being “changed from glory to glory”.

For instance, a situation arises and we anticipate that because we “know someone so well" we can predict exactly how they are going to respond. We present the situation to them and before they utter a word in reply, our thoughts or worse yet our words, have jumped to disappointment, frustration, or anger because we “know” how they are going react. We have just given them a “blue pig”--a reminder of a time (or many times) when they acted out of a place that lacked understanding, knowledge, or maturity in a certain area.

What I am currently thinking is that forecasting hurt or disappointment because we “know someone so well” is potentially a masquerade for lack of forgiveness for previous wrongs suffered. Maybe it is a red flag that there are unresolved issues that need to be worked through in humility, honesty and grace. Or it may be just plain, old, garden variety judgment because we think they should be past believing that pigs are blue. And here is where we really need discernment: sometimes our disappointment has nothing to do with the immaturity of others, but instead with their lack of compliance with our preferences.

Maybe those closest to us would blossom into maturity more rapidly if instead of reminders of past immaturity, our love for them was more often marked by the characteristics outlined in I Cor 13:7. “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances and it endures everything”.

I am not suggesting being naïve about areas of immaturity that still exist. Pain caused by immaturity is pain nevertheless. (Ever had a small child jump on you?) And perhaps it is time (or past time) to have a loving, yet pointed conversation that pigs are not blue. What I am saying, however, is if we leave room to for God to do His transforming work in the lives of those we love, and live in expectation of His faithfulness in that regard, we may find ourselves exchanging the blue pigs that we used to give, for thoughts and words filled with life and hope.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Thoughts on Aurora

I totally missed Aurora. I'm not sure what happened. Every disaster like this I have been glued to the television. Columbine. September 11th. The Tsunami. Katrina. Va Tech. Watching. Reading. Praying. Hoping. I missed this one. Not literally, but emotionally. I never connected with the tragedy. Maybe it's because I have three little ones this time. Maybe because I can't see the tv from the kitchen table in our new house. Maybe it's because I didn't even know this movie was coming out. (so sad.) Or maybe because the death of 12 people no longer affects me...



How can that be? How can I, a person that claims to love Jesus and all those whom He loves, not even stop to know who they are or hear their story, or at the very least, catch the gossip? I mean, even Eva Longoria has a minute to stop by Good Afternoon America, talk about naming a potato chip and pay tribute.... I took a nap.

Even as I write this tears sting my eyes, because this is where I am... where we are as a culture. A facebook post of prayer is great, but do we really feel it? Can we feel it? Do you get it unless you were there or it was your kid or husband or friend?

How could your God let this happen? Where was your God when this was happening? How can one person be so evil? What is next? What will my kids see in their lifetime? I don't have any answers. To these questions or any others. I mean, I know what I think the answers are and I know what is true about God...

But this is what I know about me. My prayers will start now. For all of the families, for the 58 people injured, for those who have to reconcile what they experienced that night. And for me. For us. That this crap will never be “no big deal.” That I will always make time to “connect” with victims and their stories. That I will never be desensitized to the things the break the heart of God.

I got to meet those that lost their lives. I read the story of one injured and the story of one who was there. Is that good enough? I don't know, but I hope it honors them and their families.

I pray I don't miss another one- another anything- again.

- jill

Monday, July 23, 2012


Can you see it? Thousands of fans screaming your name as you run out of the tunnel for the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship, can you hear it? Time is winding down, your team is down by one. Three.....Two.....One! You shoot the ball only to hear the crowd erupt again and your teammates tackle you, falling not so gracefully to the ground, and together you celebrate your national championship win. Can you feel it?
This was my dream. When I closed my eyes and dreamt of what I wanted to be when I grew up, this was it: a College Basketball National Champion. Years were spent chasing that dream. Millions of shots, thousands of drills, hundreds of suicides (if you do not know what that is, consider yourself blessed and spared from death). But by the tenth grade, my four foot, eleven inch frame was not cooperating. Hitting my growth spurt when I should have been hitting my peak performance, I awkwardly struggled through the next two years as I sprung up to five foot, seven inches and finally developed triceps! My senior year was amazing, by far my best year, but when I started having back problems, colleges started looking in the other direction. My shot at my dream was over. 

Cross country had always been a part of my life as well, not because I liked to run, but because it helped my cardio in basketball. So when the call came through in July of 2003, asking if I wanted a full paid cross country scholarship to a Division I college, saying yes while picking myself up off the floor was pretty easy. There was only a slight hesitation when I realized this meant I would be running for the next four years, but the Division I glamour got the best of me.

My work ethic never changed, I just changed my scenery. Instead of a gym, I now had the open road. Instead of a basketball, I had some pretty spiffy running shoes. Running quickly became a passion of mine and the view from the top of the podium was my new goal. There was really only one hold up when it came to running. I hated running hills. Running five miles out of the way was by far the preferred path over a hill any day. Not having many hills to choose from in my small hometown, the ones that were available, I could literally put my hands down in front of me and crawl up the hill. Terrible! Straight up, steep hills!! Failure was immanent when it came to hills, and quite frankly, I was okay with that.

Have you ever had an argument with yourself, in your own head? (Not like those car commercials were they actually grow another head and have a conversation, that's just creepy) Let me explain. On one particular run, feeling pretty good, I approached the hill with defeat already in mind. Then, something said “get to the top!” Yeah, no! About half way up, breathing heavy, chest burning, I heard the voice again, “keep going!” NO! The funny thing was as I am having this conversation, my feet kept running. Before I knew it, I was at the top. Of course I was near death and could barely stand but when I turned and looked at what I had accomplished, it almost felt like the podium was already under my feet.

This was a major turning point in my training schedule. Even now, I actually have days on my running calendar that just say “hill workout,” which have become the highlight of my week. Why? Because there is no other option than to get better when you are running up hill. It doesn't matter if you are almost walking, as long as those feet are moving you are getting better. Your cardio is improving exponentially, your legs are getting stronger, your posture will start to improve and all you are doing is running up hill.

There are those days that the hills still want to get the best of me. When I first started having my love affair with hills, it was very easy to walk for a second or two, or even walk when I got to the top. I approached the hills with an optimistic mindset but somewhere in the middle, I mentally could not pull through. There were times when I would go through stretches of making deals with myself half way up the hill; “If you walk now, you have to do an extra two miles.” Or, “If you make it up the hill, you can take the short cut home.” Yes, sometimes the incentives worked, but I found myself disappointed when I would get home, short of my goal mileage.

If there was one thing evident here, it was I had to get stronger mentally. Therefore, I stopped making deals with myself on the hill itself. Whatever my plan was when I reached the hill, that was the plan after the hill. I had realized that I was making decisions that really impacted my training, and eventually my overall performance, during the hardest part of my run. By allowing my circumstances to dictate and change my plan of action, I was making decisions that were ill-advised and were not in the direction of my goal.

How many times in life do we allow this to happen? We have a plan of action but when our circumstances become difficult, we lessen our goal or our standards to gain access to the path of least resistance. It's easy to maintain our goals when we are on the downhill or even on level ground. We methodically go through our day, doing the same thing over and over again, content with our lives. But were we called to lives of contentment? So what do you do when you see the hill on the horizon? Do you run five miles out of the way to avoid any difficult circumstance? Or, do you smirk and say “bring it on!”

One of my favorite verses comes from 2 Corinthians:

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed....Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting way, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 4:7-9,16-17

God wants us to the see what is at the top of the hill but we have to work to get to the top. Working our way to the top is how we grow, how God molds us into the people we were meant to be. If we change our minds half way up, we will most certainly miss the view.

I met Sam Andrews just over a year ago.  Not long after she and Tim returned from their "Major League Baseball tour" honeymoon... yup, girl likes sports.  They joined our life group and then decided to move... to Hawaii.  Sam is pursuing her Phd in something sports medicine-y, while Tim spends time in a large ship under the water.  She blogs about being a navy wife and taking pictures... miss you, friend!

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Mission. HIS Church.

My husband led a team of 20 people on a mission trip to Haiti a few weeks ago. We caught up over the next couple of days.  We talked about the trip, the ins-and-outs, the people of Haiti; the weather, the food, the team dynamics. And I started thinking about our history with missions... and the Church.

We have both felt a love for and calling to do missions since we were married. Tim served in a local church as a youth pastor where we could regularly challenge the youth and teach missions. During that time we became frustrated and disenchanted with the Church as an institution. There were so many experiences, of so much hurt, and very little reconciliation.

It was in the middle of this frustration with the Church as a whole, that we actually began the application process for long term international mission work. We were just a couple years into our marriage. Our plans abruptly came to a halt, however, when Tim was diagnosed with a rare medical issue just a few short months after we started.

Tim is still a youth pastor. (A really great one, if I do say so myself). Every year he gets the opportunity to go on a couple of short term missions trips, mostly leading youth, but often challenging adults as well. Every time he comes back we lay awake at night dreaming of what it would be like to have our family in this place, or that place, and what GOD is calling our family to. And every year the LORD teaches us more and more about HIS Church and what HE is calling HIS Church to. And it is beautiful!
This time, as we processed Tim's trip to Haiti, the LORD whispered on my heart, "reconciliation of the Church." HE has actually been shouting this same message at me for the past couple of years. I have seen the Church for what it is and what it's supposed to be... faulty, unworthy humans living out the overflowing love and grace of GOD. Forgiving because we've been forgiven. Loving because we have been loved. (Some of us need a little more forgiving and loving than others.) I have seen the Church be the Church described in Acts 4:32-35 over and over again and seen GOD's faithfulness and blessing poured out on HIS people over and over.

And I hear The SPIRIT whispering to me that I could not do missions until I loved the Church and was reconciled to the Church instead of tolerating it as an institution.

Before, you would almost get the sense that we were trying to head to the mission field as a way to run away from the Church... and in many ways we were. We acknowledged that the Church had a role to play in missions but did not fully recognize the complete dependency one has on the other. If we had gone on the field when we originally wanted, we would have ended up using the Church instead of loving it.

Tim and I still feel the call of missions on our lives as strongly as ever. (In fact, as I write this Tim is in Costa Rica preaching on Grace.)  For now we will do our best to live this out daily here in the States. But maybe... just maybe... the LORD will release us to "go to the ends of the earth" sooner, rather than later. We have hope in a GOD that is big enough to heal the physical ailment that HE so graciously used to bring us here.  Here to a place where HE could heal our hearts and reconcile us not only to HIMSELF, but to HIS Bride.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sweet Interruption

Good morning everyone! it's Sweet Interruption Wednesday!


Selah Diane Leinberger

born 7.11.12
7lbs 3oz.

Selah means to "pause or reflect."  Diane means "divine."
May she always live up to her name.

(and share with her mother the love of glass top dining tables.)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Finding God in the Impossible

Life is full of impossible situations. 
They creep in out of nowhere and blow me away. Of course, sometimes things are a consequence of our sin, but when I'm truly following hard after Christ, I have a hard time understanding why things aren't easier. I've learned, however, that if I wasn't faced with the difficult situations, I wouldn't be nearly as dependent on Christ. And if He wasn't there to rescue me from those rough patches in life, then I would most definitely keep trying to promote myself instead of giving God all the glory He is due.  

What follows is a post I wrote about one of my favorite "impossible situations" found in the Bible. I'm challenged and convicted by the obedience these believers showed, in spite of their circumstance, and in awe of the faithfulness God showed to them.

It's funny how many times you can hear a Bible story or an encouraging word or verse from someone, and not really let its application sink in. There are tons of Bible stories I've heard over and over during the course of my life, but never really taken anything from them or seen what truth I can take away and apply in my life.

A couple of weeks ago, my mom was talking to me about the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. You can find it here, if you want to read it! It's a story I've heard a million times and thought about how "cool" it is, but nothing more. I've honestly never put much more thought into it than that. Multiple times, over the past 2 weeks, though, God has brought that story to mind and given me insight into how I can apply it to my life right now.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were totally being obedient to God. They definitely didn't make a mistake by choosing not to bow down to the gold statue that Nebuchadnezzar set up. Yet somehow, they still ended up in the middle of chaos - in the middle of a blazing fire, to be exact! But, God was totally there with them. And, in the end, it says they came out not even smelling like smoke. I mean, how could they give credit and glory to anyone other than God after that?
I've struggled- big time- the past couple of months with understanding why when I feel like I'm being obedient to God, things turn out completely differently than I thought. If I'm trying to listen and obey and I have a peace about my decisions, that I feel sure come from God, why would I end up in the middle of heartache and chaos?

I feel like I'm standing in some fires of life right now - even after making decisions I thought were being obedient. But, I know that God is right there with me - even when I feel all alone or discouraged. And, at the end of all this - I know God is going to deliver me. I want to come out of this like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - not even smelling like smoke! It's exciting when I think that at the end of all this I can look back and give glory to God alone for the way I know He will deliver me. Even now, the way my heart and thoughts and attitudes have been growing and changing, can't be attributed to anyone other than Him!

I am a camp counselor and I was sharing this with the girls in my cabin. We spent a lot of time talking about God's plan for our lives and His direction and leading. One of the questions I asked the girls in my cabin during devotions was to raise their hand if they thought always knowing exactly what God's will was, and what He had planned next, would make it easier to follow Him. I'm pretty sure just about every hand was raised. And honestly, before really studying and processing the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I have to say, I would have totally agreed with them. But I was struck by another sort of reality or truth that I can take away from this bible story.

My new perspective? If I was Shadrach, Meshach or Abednego I'm not sure it would have been any easier for me to follow God's plan for my life if He told me it included, literally, being thrown into a fire. Especially once I was informed of the fact that it was because I was choosing to serve only Him and no other gods. I mean, my reward for obedience is something that is sure to lead to my death? I feel like that's a question I would be asking - but, I definitely don't think knowing that was God's plan for my life would make following it any more enticing. In the end, God still received all the glory and praise due to Him, but I know for certain I would not have been all happy- go- lucky to jump on board with that plan! So really, knowing the plan, probably wouldn't have made things any easier.

The reality is, I don't know God's specific, step-by-step plan for my life. And, I'm never going to know exactly what He has next. What I do know is that in good times and bad, He is with me every step of the way and I want to always be living in obedience to Him, in spite of what it costs me. Regardless of my circumstance, I want to live my life so that when people look at me, they see Jesus working in me. I want my life to always point to Christ - whether I'm standing in the fire or not.

Ashley McGarvey is a 20-something, fantastic, Jesus-loving, kind, compassionate, full-time, year- round camp counselor at New Life camp. Oh to be one of the girls in her cabin! She is a daughter, twin, aunt and friend. I met Ashley about 13 years ago and have loved being reunited with and stalking her on facebook.  She has always made me happy.