The Go-To Move

Most people need a go-to move on the dance floor, that safety move in your wheelhouse that will be acceptable no matter what song is playing.  My dad’s go-to moves are the Q-tip and the “makin-the-pizza.”  JR’s go-to move involves moving his hips and making this really cute face that he only makes while proudly showing off his hip swing.  My go-to move normally involves a lot of shoulder moving, it’s hard to describe, but when you see it you know it.

I have a go-to move when it comes to ministry with girls – the school night sleepover.  It’s hard to get girls to clear their schedule on a weekend for time with their bible study leader, but on a Wednesday night, when they have no other offers?  Perfection.  I’ve learned that I have a divine ability for getting parental approval for these week night parties too.

These nights have been the sweetest times the last 7 years.  It all started with Margaret when I was a senior at UT and she was a senior at McCallum high school.  We spent nights sleeping on my roof (a little risky) and dreaming about what her life at UT would be like.  When we added Sara to the mix, we went to UT campus and swam in the LBJ fountain.  Our times together were full of big dreams and big fun.

After a jump in the LBJ fountain

When I moved to Sugar Land in Telicia’s house, the tradition continued with Lexi, Sarah, and Caitlin.  We dreamed together about what God could do in their lives and at their school.  We invited boys in the morning, ate pancakes, and spent time praying for the grades behind them at Clements.  These girls were faithful to pray and God answered their prayers by transforming the class of 2011 behind them.

The next year the sleepovers grew in size, sometimes up to 30 girls.  We packed them in every bedroom and couch of Telicia’s house, rolling up to 3 deep in queen beds.  Avery, Kelsey, and Rachel staked claim to the cloud room.  Carli, Laura, and Kenzie often stayed close to my side.  We spent hours sitting on couches sharing our lives – these girls really shared.  They let me into their lives in this deep way and they let God in too.  We had a lot of fun too – we convinced Molly to slide down the laundry chute, baked often and made videos for club.  We tasted community and a lot of these girls grew like weeds in their relationship with Christ.

In 2012-2013, we kept staying up late and talking.  I feel like I stole secret hours that most people don’t have with Taylor, Cathryn, Jacqui, Ashten, and Taylor. God put people in a room together that never hung out anymore at school.  We learned about each other and lightened in our judgment of others.  In the mornings, we ate chocolate chip pancakes and I sent them out the door with hugs and blessings.

My last senior class at Clements rode through transition with me.  Our last sleepovers at Telicia’s included being pranked by the boys while CC served as “the mole.”  Our group was a combination of soccer girls and our physics tutorial group from their junior year.  After club one night in the spring, I sat for an hour with Ansley and Gabby in the parking lot as we talked about transition and how I already felt far away.  We called an audible – they called parents and hopped in my car.  We drove to House of Pies and they spent the night with me in Houston.  That night, the school night sleepover met a need – a longing to feel connected and cared for, not left behind.

And now the tradition continues, in Dallas, with girls attending SMU, in my home that is normally full of high school boys.  We shared life stories and these girls began to really know each other.  We stayed up way too late and I woke up way too early to be at my “normal” job.  But these sleepovers are worth it because they’re quality time, they’re life on life, they’re adventurous and they’re just plain fun.

SMU school night sleepover

To my girls through the ages, I hope you keep having adventures and loving Jesus.  I hope you find deep community wherever you are and that you are never afraid to let others in.  You are loved even if we are far apart now.  Thank you for sharing your lives with me.

Every day is worth celebrating so why not throw a sleepover party on a Wednesday?  What’s your go-to move?


Broken chairs – loving people through their messes

Shelly started volunteering with my youth group right around the time when my friend Hannah was diagnosed with cancer.  With a desire to get to know us better and support us during this hard time, Shelly invited a small group of us over to her house for dinner.  We barely knew her or her husband, Tim, but we were excited to be invited somewhere.

Shelly made spaghetti and set places for us at her dining room table. As I sat down in my chair, I tried to pull it in closer to the table.  Somehow, one of the legs stuck to the carpet and as I tugged in the opposite direction, the leg snapped right as I sat down.  The chair and I went tumbling to the floor.  I laid on the ground pretty embarrassed with my feet sticking straight up in the air.  While my friends laughed, Shelly immediately told me that the chairs were old and that she wanted to get to new ones anyways.  In my first night at the Linderman’s, I learned that Shelly was going to love me through my mess.

It started out with physical mess of a broken chair, but the mess later became emotional and spiritual.  Shelly kept inviting me over.  She provided a safe house for me when talking about my feelings with my parents felt too difficult.  I spent time crying there after Hannah died.  It was my safe place to explain what I was feeling and what I was processing.  Their house was always open, even with two young kids running around.  She gave me more pep talks about dating and taking risks with my heart than anyone else alive.  She was always patient with me.  Shelly and Tim have told us numerous times that their faith grew as they walked with us.

When my parents moved across the country, the Linderman’s house became my “home” in Texas.  In my first semester at UT, I misplaced my bible, discovered partying and lost my identity.   I came home to their house the weekend after Thanksgiving a mess, desperate to change the way I was living in college.  During that weekend with Shelly, I confessed how I’d been living and committed to making a change.Shelly and me

Shelly saw me through embarrassing and hard times.  She helped me pick up the pieces of my life and heart time and time again.  In her home, I realized that I didn’t have to be perfect for someone to love me.  I needed an older woman to tell me that it was okay to be sad and mad sometimes.  She helped me to see that God forgave my sin and welcomed me back.  She didn’t kick me out for disappointing her, she loved me and pointed me back in the right direction.

Shelly, her daughter Lauren and the rest of our high school group of friends.

Shelly, her daughter Lauren and the rest of our high school group of friends. 

Sometimes, to be a good mentor or leader of others, all it takes is loving people through their messes.  To keep calling, keep inviting and keep pursuing even when the people we are leading disappoint us.  Leaders like this model the love of God to others.  He always loves, always sacrifices and always pursues.  No mess is too big; no sin is unforgivable.  As Shelly loved me through my messes, I learned God loved me that way too.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

Broken Chairphoto credit: hypercatalecta via photopin cc

A Harvest of Blessing

Sitting Shot-Gun

I started babysitting for the Allen family my sophomore year in college.  Zac was a pastor of a church and Jennie was a stay at home mom.  They had a busy schedule and three young kids.  When Zac and Jennie would get home from a meeting or date, we would spend a few minutes talking.  At first it was just about how the kids were that day, but it quickly progressed to questions about my life, my heart and my passions.  The 10-minute conversations quickly turned into 2-hour long conversations where I would end up cancelling my evening plans with friends and Jennie would stay up past bed time.

Jennie took interest in me.  We started hanging out besides just when I babysat.  Now these hang outs weren’t long coffee dates, fro yo dates or walks around Town Lake.  (I think Jennie and I have sat down and had coffee at Starbucks three times in 8 years).  These hang outs were far less glamorous than that.  They were running through the grocery store to buy things for dinner, carpool lines and errands.  While we ran around town, Jennie asked me deep soul questions.  She learned how to challenge me and how to encourage me.  In a lot of ways, she whipped me into shape and sometimes it stung for a while.  Jennie didn’t carve out special time in her life to be my mentor, she just grabbed me and took me by her side as she did her normal every day errands.  I’ll choose to believe that I made the errands more entertaining too.

Jennie Allen

I will forever be thankful that Jennie invited me into her car and her life.  It was crazy at times and sometimes we struggled to have serious conversation for more than 10-minute increments.  But, those little chunks of time changed my life.  Jennie released me.  She dreamed with me about my future.  She told me when it was just flat out time to get over my ex-boyfriend.  She and Zac pointed out my gifts and helped me figure out how to use them.  They helped me realize I had indeed fallen in love with JR in 5 weeks (and that it wasn’t totally crazy).  They affirmed our decision to get engaged and married.  Zac married JR and I, and two of their children were in our wedding.

A lot of people believe that they don’t have time to fit another person into their life.  They don’t have time to mentor someone younger.  I think you probably have time.  You may not have time for coffee dates, and fro yo dates, and long walks.  But, you have errands to run and an empty shot-gun seat.  Some younger person out there needs you, and you probably need to learn how to enjoy your errands a little bit more.

Allens and Smiths