Doing More?

god, identity

“I feel stuck.”

These are the words one of my precious student leaders pulled me aside a little over a month ago, as she continued to tell me of her eagerness to grow in her faith.  I listened to her, encouraged her, and gave her a few tangible things to “do.”  But I struggled to explain to her the fuzzy line between “faith without works are dead” and the hard truth that doing anything more won’t mean anything more to you without faith.

I talked to my sister today, who explains to me that she doesn’t want to “eat spiritual steak,” because she’s still a “spiritual infant.” Certainly, I’d love to see growth in my sister.  But I find myself again explaining to her that doing more won’t magically grow you more.

The crazy thing is–I think I operate my own life with the belief that I’m never a good-enough Christian, that there is always more to do.  I think of a conversation with a good friend a few weeks ago, who told me that there was “always more ministry to do” as she justified adding more to her plate.

I’m 7 years older than my sister, who is 7 years older than my student leader. Between the three of us, we have the same notion that we must do more in order to grow more in our faith. I asked my sister what she thinks the “goal is” for faith, and she told me to live a life where everything glorifies God. I asked her if she though I was strong in my faith then. She stuttered (jerk).  Point proven.  If the three of us over the course of 14 years all have this same notion, my guess is that this is a feeling that will never go away.

It’s a sucky feeling, to not feel good enough. We get enough of that in our day-to-day life, that when you add not being “good enough” in faith, it all just feels so hard. Faith shouldn’t be this hard, right?  Faith shouldn’t be something that you’re “good” at.

This last month on three separate occasions over the course of one month I’ve heard lessons taught on the comparison between the Pharisees and “sinners”: a tax collector, an adulterous woman, and the woman who fell at Jesus’ feet. In all three occasions, it’s proven that there is no distinction between them in terms of sin: They’ve all messed up, no one is without sin.

And in all three stories, Jesus proves that the ones who are “good enough” are the ones who know they’re not.  None of them are saying “Hey Jesus, what more can I do?”  In fact, the ones who do end up hearing answers that turn them away from Jesus (sell all my possessions? who is my neighbor, really?).

At the end of the day, all I want is God.

In every other aspect of life, I have to do something in order to gain something. It’s just the way it is. But what makes Christianity unique is that it’s the only way that doesn’t require more.

I’m not denying the value from spiritual disciplines. But I am denying the belief that doing them or anything else will somehow bring me certain results.

I just want to touch Jesus’ cloak for healing, wipe his feet with my tears, and admit I don’t have it all together. This is far more difficult that doing more, because it’s vulnerable. But that’s where God is–we’re too busy covering ourselves with fig leaves and to-do lists to understand that.

Who am I?


I love the song “Friend of God.” Maybe it’s because I grew up in a church that made it really popping. Kirk Franklin’s version frequents my car rides in the morning to work (well, all of his works do, let’s be honest).

I always get choked up when I hear, “Who am I, that you are mindful of me?”

I tear because I think, “Yeah, Lord, who AM I? I’m a hot mess.”

But as I read Psalm 8 today, I realized that I have been reading this verse wrong my entire life.  This question isn’t a rhetorical one meant to convict, but a legitimate question meant to encourage you:

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.

Who is humanity, that God would pay attention to us?  We are his prized creation, made in his image, in control and entrusted with the entire earth.

We are more than just his friends. We are just a little lower than God and crowned with glory.

This isn’t rhetorical. This is telling you EXACTLY who you are to God.

(and it convicts me even more–because rarely do I honor this God-given image)

Is Your Identity “Youth Ministry?”

identity, youth ministry

When I get together with my friends, I talk about youth ministry the same way they would talk about their spouses, children, or pets.

Let’s be honest: I’m obsessed. When I first drafted this article, the following was true: I get paid to work with at-risk teens for 240 hours a month. I put in at least 40 hours a month as a youth ministry volunteer. Let’s not even get started on the amount of time that I do stuff for YouthMin.Org, ha! Then let’s look at my hobbies: Reading youth ministry blogs. Reading nonfiction books on Theology and Jesus. Listening to Jesus Jams.


(sometimes caps are necessary)

I know that I’m not alone.  And let’s be honest, not everyone is endeared by this. First-off, it takes a special person to want to work with teenagers…who wants to listen to stories about working with teenagers?

As I’m beginning in a new position as a full-time youth director and ditching my previous schedule (gone are my part-time youth pastor, full time hero days!), I decided I needed to reevaluate the way that I do ministry. Here are some resolutions I have decided to take among myself in order to regain a personality:

Make some boundaries.

Sabbath. DO IT! Start making time for yourself, for your family, and for rest. Turn your phone off once in a while.  Say “no” to people when you feel overwhelmed. As I begin my new position in a new church, I am making sure I clearly define my “work life” from my “home life” so that I can have A life. That means sometimes I work late on a Thursday night so that I can take full advantage of my Friday and Saturday off.  This way, when I hang out with people, I’m not in the “ministry mode.”

Drop some responsibilities.

I don’t have to be in Super-Heather mode all of the time, saving the world from teenagers.  It is needed to drop some things in order to make some time for other things. Pay attention to the responsibilities that should take precedence–self-care, family, relationships. You may be called to ministry, but you are called to first take care of your health and your family.

Pick up a non-ministry-or-Jesus-or-teenagers-related hobby.

Find something that can in no way be tied back to ministry. Take an art class, dance class, photography class, cooking class, or take up a sport.  Do something with people your own age who aren’t teenagers and who you don’t work with.   If you’re married, hang out with your family; if you’re single, date!  Fun is a must, and I’m not talking about Chubby-Bunny-fun, but being-with-friends-fun.

What are some things that you do to separate your identity from youth ministry? Also…is it really that bad to have youth ministry as your identity?

You remind me of God.

christianity, church, discipleship, friendship, god, identity, love, Relationships

When is the last time you looked at someone you despise (because, let’s admit it: you don’t like everyoneand was able to pick out characteristics in them that remind you of God?

I was asked this about some people in my life who hurt me, and I really struggled: It’s easy to find things about a person we don’t like, but what about things we like about them?  Better yet, what are some things in them that remind me of God?

Being able to say, “I see God in you” has impacted my relationships with those I struggle with.  I’m now able to say to them: “You are very creative. It reminds me of God.” “You are outgoing. It reminds me of God’s boldness.” “The way you love people reminds me of God.” It has radically impacted relationships…and even if they don’t appreciate the comment, it helps my heart to focus on these things.

Let’s expand here and think outside our “enemies.”  When is the last time you encouraged a friend, telling them you see the Lord in them?  For me, almost never. When a friend told me how I remind her of God, it only confirmed what I was learning: It changes people when they hear how they relate to the Creator of the universe.

So here is your homework for this week: Focus on a few people in your life–at least one friend and one not-so-much–and tell them what you see in them that reminds you of God. What message is more powerful than that?

Advice for Insecure Youth Workers @smarterYM

Contributions, depression, identity, leadership, smarterym, youth ministry


My latest article is on what I would redo in my first year of ministry if given the chance….. and truthfully, what I struggle with each and every day of my life.  I see a lot of youth workers within the YouthMin.Org Facebook Community struggling with this, and it has caused me to get vocal about calling out youth workers and getting them to be more secure with their selves and their ministries.

So here is my post over at SmarterYM.Com!  Read, share, and comment on it! And show Aaron some love…he’s a Cubs fan :(

God is Able

christ, faith, faithfulness, god, identity, jesus, prayer, theology

Saturday I had the blessing of spending a few hours with my teenager sister while she copped my WiFi.  We watched a Mythbusters episode together, where they proved it is scientifically impossible to be buried alive and escape.

This was comforting.

Why? Because that means no Zombie apocalypse. Unless it’s Walking Dead style.

Why else? Because it exemplifies what Christ did.

Now, I know that his grave is way different from our graves…I get that.  But for a while (and don’t cry “heretic” out to me) I forgot how magnificent it is that Christ rose from the dead.

Not only that he rose from the dead, but that he rose others from the dead.  He healed the sick, the  handicapped, and the diseased. He gave hope to the hopeless and changed ridiculously lost people into the examples by which we lead our Christian walks by.


For a while…and I hate to admit it…I forgot two central truths:

God can do anything.

God can save anyone.

For a while, I wasn’t sure of this; at least, I wouldn’t have admitted it out loud. In fact, I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t sure of this.  It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized that I wasn’t operating my life based off of these truths.  And when you’re not walking, you stop talking.

You see, these truths radically change the way that you live.  It means that nobody is too far of a reach to pray for.  It means that you don’t just complain about people, but pray for a change of heart in them.  And speaking of prayer, it radically changes your prayer life.  Prayer isn’t just a time of asking, but a time of believing that it can actually be done.


At one time, these truths provided me hope and comfort…..and I want to cling to them again.  Because, if God can move mountains, then God can save my family from drug addiction.  And if Christ can raise from the grave (which I watched on Mythbusters yesterday is scientifically impossible) then Christ can raise up my teenagers from their sin. If God can lead adulterers and bigots and prostitutes and cheaters and hypocrites to him and use them as leaders, why could God not lead certain people in my life to salvation?

God can do it.

I know he can.

And as soon as I realized this in the least bit, I saw it happen in a huge way. I really did.  God is working in the lives of the people I didn’t think he can save, and he is slowly moving them away from their addictions to sin.  Can I get a stinking Hallelujah?

God is able.

I never again want to get in that dark place of not believing that.

Feeling Boujie

Blogs about Heather, christ, faithfulness, fun video, identity, media, music, testimony

Holy cow, I can’t even describe how I’m feeling right now.  5 years ago, I was dirt poor both physically and emotionally.  I surrendered my life to ministry and went off to college, and my life drastically changed.  When I had my first hot shower in three years, I knew things were going to be different.  And while I’ve recently had some bits of financial blessing, it’s the love that I have discovered from my friends and Christ that make me feel boujie.

I’m sure all of my white friends are like, “What’s boujie?” Boujie is when a person acts as if they are rich (they may or may not be, in my particular culture it means they aren’t). So, usually this has a negative connotation. Yet I feel like I’m living life as if it has value, as if I have value. I feel like I have it all (even when my bank account says otherwise). I am boujie.

For fun, I included this video to describe the word “boujie”…and an insight to my life living in St. Louis ;) (excuse the one curse word)

My Identity Crisis

Blogs about Heather, faithfulness, identity, spiritual gifts

I’m a fresh graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Christian Ministry with an emphasis in Youth and a minor in Theology.

While that feels good to SAY, it’s not doing me much good right now.  In a leap of faith, or stupidity, or something like that, I moved back to St. Louis in order to help out with my family.  And while the last month has been fruitful in my relationship with my sister, moving her into my grandparents and giving her somebody constant for once in her life, I am still unemployed. I’m not one to not have anything to do; last year I was a full-time student, worked a draining job for 32+ hours a week, and also worked at a church.  So I was pretty stinking busy!  This month has been great, but I’m out of money, out of patience, and out of sanity.

It’s not all my fault that I’m unemployed, let’s be honest.  I’ve been offered three jobs, but I rejected them, knowing that there is SOMETHING out there that is hand-picked, God-ordained for me.  In my confusion, I applied for a Children’s Minister position in a very rich West County suburb of St. Louis.  Does any part of that sentence make sense to anyone?  I got very far in the process, and basically had it when I woke up one morning and said, “NO.”  What was I thinking?  I’ve been called to ministry with TEENAGERS.  My spiritual gifts of exhortation and teaching would be extremely overlooked in children’s ministry.  Could I have done a “good” job?  Of course.  But I wouldn’t be serving the body of Christ properly had I taken that job.  

All this to say, this summer has been CRAZY. I thought the identity crises would end when I exited college, but they seem to be even worse among me and my fellow college graduates!  It’s weird having a degree, and feeling like you have to beg someone to hire you.  It’s harder having a degree in ministry, knowing that God has called you to something and trying to be faithful to that; yet still not having a way to pay bills. But have I mentioned how faithful GOD has been?  He has been so faithful in providing all of my needs, and I am reminded of how He IS my identity, and all I really need is in Him.  I also humbly remind myself and my colleagues that ministry isn’t a position, but a calling.  I don’t need to be in a church to do ministry.  Ministry is my LIFE.

I have an interview on Tuesday with an organization that helps at-risk youth around STL.  I’m excited about the opportunity, yet sad because I have to start with an overnight position and try to work my way up.  But hey, it’s full-time, pretty good pay, plus I get benefits.  Not gonna complain if I get it!  And it’s better than the other jobs I’ve been offered, because I am confident that my gifts can be used to edify the Church, even if it’s not in a church.

Me, Calm? Pshhh

Blogs about Heather, identity, spiritual gifts, testimony

Over the past few months, I have seen myself involuntarily becoming more and more like Christ.  Not that I don’t want to become like Christ; that is my biggest desire while I’m here on earth.  It’s just I’ll look back at the “Old Heather” and go, “Wow, I sure don’t like the same things I used to; the things in life that brought me pleasure are not the same things that bring me pleasure now.”

For example, I used to shake my booty to all kinds of music…and now I can’t stand to listen to the Top 40 radio station. I don’t think music has gotten “worse”, because I’ll look back at the things I used to kick it to, and go, “Why did this ever bring me joy?”

Of course I’m writing about something greater than my booty-shaking.  If you know me, you know that (minimally) I have a loud personality.  I speak out of turn, I laugh L O U D, I say what’s on my mind, and I am not the definition of “calm”.  I’m emotional, and that drives all the things I listed.  So I think about a few things that have happened to me in the last month–totaling my car on a horse on the highway at midnight, losing an eighth grade girl who means the world to me, and one of the residents at the girls’ shelter trying to kick down my door to kill me.  The Old Heather would have freaked out in each of those situations.  She would have cried hysterically.  She might have harmed herself, emotionally or physically.  She would have blamed God; she would have failed to see His mercy in any of this; she wouldn’t have looked at the positive; she wouldn’t have been able to testify of God’s grace through these situations.  Who I am today is not the same person I was when God chose my heart.  He has conformed me to the likeness of His Son in ways that are inexplicable.  I am still loud; I am still driven by emotions.  But I understand God’s purposes a bit better, and have been blessed by the Spirit’s gifts of discernment, wisdom, patience.  Even in a time right now, where I’m having a dry patch with the Lord, does He call on me, choose me, and change my heart.  I don’t deserve any of it.  And this blind-sided me; that I would ever go through situations like these and BE CALM IN THE LORD.

“since I got that call, no more Saul, now I’m Paul.” –Kirk Franklin, “Lose My Soul” with Toby Mac.

I Will Wait For You

fun video, identity, love

When you speak, I will be reminded of Solomon’s wisdom.
Your ability to lead will remind me of Moses.
Your faith will remind me of Abraham.
Your confidence in God’s word will remind me of Daniel.
Your inspriation will remind me of Paul.
Your heart for God will remind me of David.
Your attention to detail will remind me of Noah.
Your integrity will remind me of Joseph.
And your ability to abandon your own will will remind me of the disciples.
But your abilitiy to love selflessly and unconditionally will remind me of Christ.
But I won’t need to identify you by any special “Matthews” or any special “Marks” ’cause His word will be tatted all over your heart.
And you will know me, and you will find me
with the boldness of Esther
meets the warm closeness of Ruth
with the hospitality of Lydia
as aligned with the submission of Mary which is engulfed in the tears of a praying Hannah.
I will be the one drenched in Proverbs 31
Waiting for you.
But to my Father,
my Father who has known me before I was birthed into this earth
Only if you should see fit.

Watch the whole thing. This is my favorite excerpt. The ending stinks, to be honest. But stinks in a way that every woman needs to remember. You are waiting on that man, but first you are waiting on the Lord. Even if I never marry, I’m already engulfed in the biggest love story I will ever experience. God has been showing me lately how crazy his grace is, how he sought me and bought me with his redeeming grace. It stinks to think of the possibility of never having an “earthly love”, but I remind myself that no man could love me like the Lord does anyway ;)