My Mother, Sharon Rose Peterson.

Today is Mother’s day. Though I’ve written quite a bit about my mom in the past, and though this isn’t the first time that I have been away during Mother’s Day, I still want to brag a bit on a Mom that has shown me so many unconditional lessons of love and kindness. Sharon Peterson.

What can I tell you that hasn’t already been said on Mother’s Day mom? I will say that when I was living at home, it wasn’t always easy for you to tell that I enjoyed being around you and Dad. That kind of comes with the territory being nearly thirty years old and living back home for a year. Please know that I felt more love and respect for you in these past years than I ever have. That sounds wrong when you read that, but I think a person’s life is more richly understood when it’s told. In the years leading up to my leaving overseas, in the years away, and in the year I came back home, I feel like you and Dad have become more than parents to me. When I did that interview with you and Dad about your life before having kids, your personalities and your histories were given fresh life in my eyes. The reason I did that interview was to know who you both were as people. You had a life before us. You had friends and passions and hobbies. I loved seeing you talk about those things and understanding more about you.

Also, understanding more about you gave way to understanding more about me. You made me after all. I understand my emotions more clearly than I ever did. I understand my gullibility to sarcastic humor. More importantly, I understand my loud laughter and joy towards life. I understand my kindness to others and often overwhelming empathy for their situations. I understand the pangs of guilt when I have wronged someone and the desperate desire to reconcile. Mostly though I understand the nature of my heart and the lessons you’ve instilled in me after years of never giving up on me and never letting discouragement overtake you. I can only hope that Nicole, Robyn and I have honored your and Dad’s work in us.

I love you Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Volunteering Took Church Away From Me

Haha, I’m guessing a lot of church volunteers clicked on this post and were like, “AWW yeah, I know what’s up! Time to read the TRUTH!” haha. I tried to think of the most click-bait title I could come up with. Isn’t it annoying when people do that?! The title is only half true. Sort of. Not really. But kinda.

I haven’t been a church-goer in years.

Before I was 17 years old, socially I was shy, I keep to myself, and I was a follower. One day in youth group, a very good friend of mine and mentor told me that I was stronger than I thought. He said he saw a leader in me and that I would lead someday. I laughed him off. ME? A leader?? I’m a nervous wreck whenever I talk in front of people. Not to mention I’m awkward as hell. How could I possibly lead anyone?? But this truth that Mike spoke into me began to make a home. Years following that word I was transformed and I began to walk in this new part of my identity.

When I was 18, I found out that I loved youth ministry. It was where I thrived. Being a youth leader came as naturally to me as loving food. Very naturally. Relating with the kids, not being fake, being there for them when they needed help, listening to their problems, talking about God, bringing Truth into their circumstance. I loved it all. It was clear that I had a gift in this.

Naturally, whatever church I was a part of, Fountain of Life, Mars Hill, St. Pauls Auckland, etc. I joined the youth ministry team. It was normal for me. When I was a part of Fountain of Life, I had two jobs. Youth Leader/Pastor and AV team. Sometimes the youth group would go on a long event out of town. I would film a promo during the event, get back home, stay up all night, edit the footage, clean it up, export it, and then present it the next morning to church-goers. Tiring stuff. When I joined The Edge church, I also helped run slides in the morning because I had found another thing I was good at.

You can see the pattern. Pretty soon, volunteering took place of regularly attending church. If I was doing AV, I wasn’t really participating. This was true when I attended Fountain of Life Church and when I attended The Edge. Going to church as a kid and teenager was the last time that I can remember regularly going to church and participating as a congregant.

I realized something. I was missing out on a lot! I could catch up on sermons online sometimes, but I’d lose the community. I could attend a small group, but sometimes I’d be pretty tired from working all day. I’d have a team so that I wouldn’t be doing AV or youth ministry all the time, but when I would attend a service, it felt like I was a guest at times.

Volunteers are the heart AND the blood pumping the infant/kid’s ministries, tear-down/setup, sound desk, lights, creative team, printing sermon notes, and countless other ministries. Often, they can feel overworked, and removed from the weekly church experience.

When I said at the beginning that I haven’t been a church-goer in years, I meant that I haven’t stopped and just attended a church in a while. The first time I did this was actually at St. Pauls. They had an evening service, which meant I would help lead the morning youth service and then attend the evening service. It felt good. Getting direction from the pulpit and worshiping with friends in a church I attended. GROUNDBREAKING! haha.

I’m attending a church now in Colorado…actually attending. Will I start volunteering in the youth ministry? Possibly. Will I first take this as a time to just be. Absolutely.

Bottom Line is this: Keep an eye on your volunteers. They work tirelessly to keep things running. They do so because they want to feel belonging, because they want to help, because they’re good at it, or because they see a need and fill the void. Whatever their reasons, take care of them, and appreciate what they do.

To be clear, volunteering didn’t take church from me, haha. If anything, youth ministry taught me to be selfless, humble, and that instilling values into the next generation could be one of the greatest calls of a church. AV taught me that pastors will get you sermon notes at 7am Sunday morning, haha. LAWLZ. But seriously, it’s the worst.

A Big Enough Lie

“Tell a big enough lie, and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” A. Hitler.

A chilling reminder from a man who convinced most of a country to participate in easily one of the world’s greatest tragedies.

A lie…is one of the more dangerous and destructive things that can intersect your life. The lie often starts small, almost insignificant, but given enough belief, the lie ends up foundational in our lives.

It begs the question: What lies are we feeding belief? What lies are we allowing real estate in our own minds? Who are speaking these lies to us? Co-workers? People who dislike us? Ourselves? Continue reading “A Big Enough Lie”

New Normal

Sometimes taking time away from a busy, hectic life can bring things into perspective in a way you wouldn’t have known unless you had left. Recently I moved to Colorado Springs from Chicago, IL. With that move comes a lot of packing, saying goodbye, and trying to figure out what your new life means in this new mountainous place. I think for me, there was equal parts excitement of the new adventure and then apprehension for choosing something so new.

My normal was flat terrain, massive cities, blues music, brutal winters, unforgiving summers, traffic like most wouldn’t believe, friends, family, and familiar haunts. My normal was comfortable, safe, fun, and supportive. My normal had late nights, good talks, lunch dates with nephews, and play dates with nieces. My normal knew every street, every shortcut, every bypass, and every detour. My normal knew most tasty stops, delicious dives, and places to avoid. I knew my normal and my normal knew me. There is great power in being known.

A friend of mine, after a change in her life, told me that she was getting back to the “new normal.” I said ‘good for her’ and never really landed on what that meant to her, or even what that could have meant for me.

Recently I traveled to New Zealand to be a part of my best friend’s wedding. The wedding was for Corbin Elliott. I’ve known Corbin since I was 15. We went to High School together, and senior year he moved back home to New Zealand. If you know my story, you know that I lived in New Zealand from 2013-2016. I told myself that after I moved back home to the U.S. in 2016, the next time I would be in NZ would be for Corbin’s wedding. A year and four months later, he was married. I have to say, sitting at the head table, listening to all the people bear witness to Rebecca and Corbin’s lives was a beautiful and hilarious thing. Also, if you knew Corbin, seeing him emote in this specific way on his wedding was quite unique and touching. I’ll never forget it.

This wedding was a gathering of most of my favorite people. We talked, laughed, and danced the night into morning. Many of these people hadn’t seen me in the time I was away and some pleaded with me to stay and never leave them. Coming back to NZ, which really is a second home to me, came with questions. Would I arrive and never want to leave? Would I start hanging out with my friends, remember the good times we had, and find it difficult to remove myself? Would this country seduce me all over again? I have to admit, at first, it looked like this might have been the case. Being back felt REALLY good. The scenery, the people, the food, hell…even the air smelled different. Yet, in the last days leading up to the wedding, I began to feel a change. The change was less bad and more of a peace.

When I moved to New Zealand, I had a moment in my first year on the top of a hill looking out at the countryside. The moment washed over me and gave me a feeling of peace. It was the moment I knew NZ was home. I’ll always have a home in Chicago and I’ll always have a home in NZ. Home is where you make a family, and as cliché as it sounds, home is where you decide to put your heart. While I was in NZ this past week, I told friends that I didn’t have that feeling in Colorado yet. I wasn’t complaining. I had only been in CO for a month and my friends said the same. Yet, in those days leading up to the wedding, the feeling of peace that I felt was clear. New Zealand was my home, but I have a new home now. I have a new normal now.

My new normal has new streets to find, new detours to learn, new restaurants to try, and new failures to experience. My new normal has brand new churches, jobs, friends, and relationships. My new normal has new traditions, new adventures, and new terrain. But, new normal also has family and I’m grateful for that. I think I’m starting to understand what my friend was talking about; Getting back to a new normal isn’t forgetting the past and moving on with yourself. New normal is about understanding the past, understanding that life changes, and accepting where you’re living, working, and making a life. It’s about embracing your current situation and saying, “This is me now, let’s move forward.”

I’ll always love New Zealand and I’ll always love Chicago, but Colorado is my new normal. The feeling of peace I had in NZ this week about Colorado was a step. I realized that I can’t be present here, and keep thinking/living in the past there. If I do, I defeat any progress I want to make. I found closure on my trip in a way I didn’t know that I needed. My trip was great, but it made me understand that I DO feel a sense of home in Colorado, and frankly, I was ready to go home.

Promises in the Dark

I haven’t done this in years. Before this blog flooded with people reading my posts on film and TV, almost no one read it. Leaves in the Pages was a personal journal of sorts. I didn’t have a following or hundreds of regular readers every day. I kind of said whatever I wanted, cause…I could, haha. Over the years, my writing style has changed, but something that I don’t do as much anymore is talk about my personal life. I’m not talking about the people I brag on like my super sisters Nicole and Robyn, or my incredible parents Sharon and Russ. I talk about them plenty. I mean MY personal life. I just felt like I had moved past that on this blog. Today, I’m indulging that younger, beginner blogger’s style and dipping into something that I feel lead to share. A rare internal vulnerability if you will. Continue reading “Promises in the Dark”