My 2016 Resolution: Vacation

Millennial in Ministry, new years resolutions

I don’t usually set New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I’m cracking down on a major flaw of mine:

This year, I will use all of my vacation days.

It sounds silly, but it’s extremely serious: In fact, every person I tell my resolution to tells me “It’s about time.” I even got smacked upside the head today by one of our clergy. I love my church.

But in all seriousness: She told me that every time I don’t take a day off, I’m setting a standard that is unfair to everyone else that I work with, whether I mean to or not.

So this year, I’m using all of my vacation days. All of them.

This weekend when I work Friday and Saturday, I will then take an extra day off next week.

I will no longer answer emails and texts on a Saturday night when I’m chilling with friends and vino. That’s my time.

When I’m allowed time to take a personal retreat day, or some time working in the coffee shop, or building community with my volunteers instead of in a stuffy office, I’m going to go for it.

In fact, I’m writing it into my goals for this year (my supervisor has been working with me on this for a while. If you’re reading this, I’m trying but it’s so hard because my list is so long and there’s always so much to do and please have grace with me because this perfectionism thing is tough…).

This year, I’m taking Sabbath seriously.

…or, at least, I’ll do better than I did in 2015…


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)

Lessons from my one-eyed cat

god, love

I have a cat.

A one-eyed cat.

Most of my friends know this–my Facebook and Instagram were covered with pictures of her for a while, and while I’ve slowed down on snapping every cute thing she does, I post about her regularly.

Iris is very affectionate. She is always begging for love, and it can be pretty annoying. She always wants to be petted and cuddled. She’s also very vocal,, so she mews and mews and does a weird cry so you’ll pet her. And in the middle of the night, when she’s all alone, her cries as she roams my home sound like, “Hewwo, hello???”

I promise it is cute–most of the time.

This morning, Iris interrupted my prayer time meowing, so I held her as I prayed.   I just asked God to use this time to speak to me, when she jumped out of my arms and began crying out. I said, “Iris, I had you in my arms. Why did you jump out? It’s your own fault that you’re upset.”

And that’s when it dawned on me:  God always has room for us, room for affection and love and grace.

We are the ones who reject it, run away from it. And yet, we are the ones complaining loudly., treating God as if he is the one who abandoned us.

We are like my annoying, affectionate, vocal cat.  And just like I love Iris and think she’s the best animal on the planet, God has the feels for us even more.

(PS: When I named Iris, I named her part because of the eye situation, part because I love old lady names, and part because of the Goo Goo Dolls song. The entire song is about a person who feels Isolated, but wants so badly to be loved. I didn’t know Iris the cat well enough to understand how fitting this would be. Ha.)

About this whole “blogging thing” . . .

Blogs about Heather, updates

Blogging is scary.

Blogging means you’re vulnerable.

Blogging means potentially offending people.

Blogging means that people know your thoughts.

Blogging is a tension of journalism VS personality.

Blogging means that you’re the center of attention.

Blogging means you’re being forced into community.

Blogging means that your identity now relies on the affirmation of others.

Blogging means that people will disagree with you, and that’s scary but also really beautiful.

Blogging means that you have to sort through what in is true and what is a lie.

Blogging means that you may get caught up in lies at times.

Blogging means that, eventually, you have to “grow up a little bit more” as a former coworker of mine used to say about the teens we worked with.

But for me: Blogging is a way of sharing information. Of sharing what I’m learning. Of learning from others.

I’ve never been gone completely.

But I’m back.


(but now is not the time to freak out about that)

Why Being a Christian Young Adult is Lonely

church, millennials, updates

I think I’ve hit the loneliest point of my life. I don’t mean this in a “woe is me, take pity on me” kind of way…I just mean that bring a young a adult and trying to live your life for Jesus is hard.

First of all, this is the first time in our lives that we we aren’t surrounded by people our own age. We’re no longer in an academic setting of peers, but in a job of intergenerational people. That means that we have to figure out new ways to make friends. That’s weird.

Add in singleness for those of us who didn’t get our MRS or MR degrees, and now we’re doing this alone.

Add in the whole “Bible College” factor, and you’ve got a bigger dilemma: culture shock. What’s funny is, I didn’t think that would happen to me.  I grew up in an urban environment and didn’t think that would apply to me. But alas, I came to the real world and was shocked at how much I didn’t relate to it.

Let’s add moving to a new city or state for our first “big girl” job. Not only am I alone, not only do I not know how to make friends, not only have I lived in a bubble, but now I don’t know anybody. And I can’t find a Target.

So let’s throw in Church. Churches ignore young adults. I have some speculation as to why. Perhaps because they can’t tithe to make an impact, they aren’t given programming. The Church sees no return from it (monetarily at least. We forget spiritual returns in the Church a lot). And since many of us don’t have children, people aren’t forced to give us programming… but this is just speculation. ;)

And how about those of us who take it a step further and work in the Church? That can be a lonely job in itself. Add in all those other factors, and you have a mess.

Let’s not even talk about moving to a new denomination, or how we’re all wrestling with our faith to begin with, or the mass amounts of media advertisement tempting and swaying us to abandon our moral compass.

All I’m saying is, this is a huge struggle.

And I’m not alone. As I confide in peers, I know that we all are experiencing this to a degree.

And Church, we need you. We need community and if you don’t give it to us, we’ll make it for ourselves.

Being Myself in Ministry

Blogs about Heather, junior high ministry

People who are unashamedly and unapologetically themselves have always drawn me in.

My little sister is a great example of this: She is an over-active, over-hyper, extra-stimulated version of myself. I appreciate that, because she doesn’t change that part of herself for anybody.

I did.

Most of my childhood and teenage years, the parts of me that were outgoing and extroverted were quenched by people who labeled me as “obnoxious.”

That part of me never left, but it definitely matured. And thankfully so–I knew that my desire to be the center of attention had a great heart behind it (a heart to please people and affirm them), yet it left a taste in peoples’ mouths because of my lack of maturity to properly channel my energy.

Working primarily in junior high for the past three months has brought out this “true self” of mine–someone who is outgoing, loves people, and outrageous at times.

Here’s the difference, though:
Young me wasn’t comfortable with my personality.
New me is unapologetic for the way that I’m wired.

Last week a coworker pinpointed me as an “ENFJ” from the Meyer-Briggs. An ENFJ is an extrovert with an introverted intuition that molds to situations and desires to meet people where they are.

This means that I can be obnoxious during a game or announcements, but when I teach my priorities shift. My deepest desire isn’t to entertain students, but to provide them a comfortable place to grow in God and in community with others.

“Old Heather” was an entertainer from her own self-loathing. “New Heather” uses her awkwardness and ability to make fun of herself to show Junior Highers that they can be their true self.  “Old Heather” wasn’t comfortable with the quiet. “New and Improving Heather” requires down-time and doesn’t see it as “nobody loves me and I have no friends and that’s why no one asked me to hang out on a Friday night and I’m eating an entire pizza.” There’s a balance now :)

Ministry is bringing the “real me” out. When processing this with a coworker, he said that is the entire point of this whole thing–so many of us put on a different voice and personality when we step behind a pulpit. We try to be something we’re not in ministry–and as we all know, it is tiring trying to be someone you’re not.

If I believe that it important to provide a place for students to be themselves, than I need to be myself. Sure, that self is kind of obnoxious at times. Sure, that self is in a process of maturity and learning how to better filter thoughts. Yet, at the same time, my obnoxiousness is a reflection of God’s zeal and passion for us.

What about you? Are you your true personality with students? What does that honestly look like?

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?

Update on life :)


Hey friends,

Well… it has finally happened: I am moving on to the next stage of life! I’ve been praying for over a year and a half that this could be done in a perfect way at a perfect time, and I feel like God has really outdone himself. I am now serving at a fantastic church in Indianapolis as their Associate Director of Youth Ministry (Junior High will be my baby). I’m so excited for like 20487 different reasons. Can’t explain them all here. #rickwarrentweets (remember when that was a trending topic on Twitter? no? okay…)

I think it goes without saying that I’m probably going to be a little spotty in the blogging world for a while. I mean, who can blame me? I just moved my life 300 miles away in a very short period of time. What others felt was overwhelming and quick, felt a long-time-coming and perfect to me. 

I’m excited to share this news with people. I’m more excited to begin loving on parents, volunteers, and teenagers. Not only is this my first full-time churched gig, BUT it’s on a completely larger scale than what I’m used to. As I dig in, I feel a peace. As I meet people, I become more convinced that this church represents the Kingdom of God. I’m so excited to be a part of this.


Undercover Boss

Blogs about Heather, jesus

One of my teens said the most BRILLIANT thing the other day, that I feel like I MUST share.

Jesus was an “Undercover Boss.”

You’ve seen that show, right?  The CEO of a company goes “undercover” and starts from the bottom of their company, learning about their company’s strengths and weaknesses.  Then the CEO redeems the company by gifting its hard-working members and bettering the company as a whole.

Jesus did that!  Jesus sunk down as the lowest of the low: “Hey ya’ll, I’m just a carpenter!”

Jesus learned about how the leaders were corrupt, how those who His Kingdom was to serve weren’t being served properly.  When He redeemed everything in the end, He didn’t just give a few raises; but He gave eternal life to whomever. That’s pretty legit.

Then in the end, He’s all like, “By the way, I’m the CEO of the WORLD.”

So, I maybe translated it a little differently. But this HAS to bring a smile to your face :)