Could soul care save your September?

September is looming. 

There is much to look forward to as autumn approaches. Many would join me in declaring it a favorite season. The hope of the leaves, temperatures, football games, smells, and tastes headed my way makes my heart do a little dance.

soul care questions

However, holding hands with that hope is angst. The free-flowing schedule of summer is about to be taken over by responsibilities, kick-offs, homework, and sports. I am overwhelmed in anticipation of all there will be to do and manage. Maybe for you, that day has already come. I have a few days left before it hits me.

The start of the new school year can feel like a Mack truck: it carries wonderful things in its trailer, but also threatens to run us over with its speed and weight. We too often stumble into November battered and bruised, wondering how we will make it to Christmas.

I've been thinking about what we can and should do now in order to be prepared for this onslaught. Parts of me want to cut anything and everything that is not essential so I have room to add in what is coming. But I think there is a better way.

This is the time to ask soul care questions.
What fills my soul? Could I do more of that?

What drains my soul? Could I do less of that?

Maybe its time to say no to an activity, even if it's been done before, because your soul will not be able to hold it and stay healthy. Maybe its time to say yes to an activity, even if you don't know where it will fit, because it will give you the strength you need to keep going.

This is the time to be discerning and courageous. This is the time to give yourself grace upon grace as you figure out how to move to this next season.

For my part, I'd like to offer you two gifts that I hope might help.

First, a video. Yup, like a crazy person, I made a YouTube video even though I don't know how to edit or follow any of the other rules of that genre. I just felt like something I experienced would translate better to talking than writing.

Last week, in part because of these coming changes, I was caught in some swirls of anxiety. What helped me make it through was a beautiful conversation we had at a Socratic Scripture Study. I wanted to tell the story of how God kept bringing the words back to me. I hope it might be a short thing you could add that could be a little soul care for today.

Second, an offer. (If you made it through the video, you already know about this.) I have encountered God in unique and powerful ways through Socratic Scripture study. When people gather with questions, authenticity, and love around these ancient texts, I believe the Spiritspeaks to us. So, I want to make it easy for people to experience it for themselves as they enter a season when soul care might be especially needed.

So, all my studies are free in the month of September. This is offer is probably only helpful for those of you who are local to Minneapolis, but anyone is welcome. See my Socratic Scripture Studies page for more information and to register.

Whatever you choose, I pray you can find hope and strength for your soul to thrive in the coming season. I love the encouragement of Jeremiah 6:16,

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls."


Creating Space for Encouragement

cafe tableI sat across the table from her, wondering how to subtly wipe my nose. I knew I didn’t have any Kleenex along. I didn’t expect to cry this much.  

It was a holy conversation. The kind that digs deep and hits at what is underneath the layer that is underneath the other layer that is way underneath what is showing on top.


I walked away feeling more encouraged than I had in a long time.


The encouragement didn’t come from the words that were spoken, but the space that was made.


She asked me the kind of questions that demonstrated how much she was listening. Not just to the words I said, but to what was behind the words I said.


She saw me. And she created space for me to see God.


Being the kind of person that brings encouragement to others runs so much deeper than saying nice words. It means being a person who sees others, listens to others, communicates with others, and walks beside others towards God’s loving embrace.


Five Minute FridayThis post is linking up with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday. A weekly prompt with strict instructions: write for 5 minutes and post. No over-editing. No do-overs. An practice of freedom. A way to let go of perfectionism. An exercise for some not often used writing muscles. Read more posts or link up over there. Today’s prompt was: ENCOURAGEMENT. (Note: I spend only 5 minutes on the writing, but I do take a little extra time to put together the image. I can't help myself.)

I was her boss, but she was my leader

These days, I think we spend far too much time criticizing and analyzing each other, and far too little time cheering one another on.

Then, the other day, I read this little piece by Sarah Bessey, one of the writers I respect most dearly in this world, announcing a synchroblog. A joining together of voices to honor International Women’s Day by celebrating the women who have been part of our story.


I considered writing about the chorus of women that have shaped me in one way or another. Because there have been many: both women I know personally and women I admire from afar.


But the more I reflected on my journey, the more I thought about Carol. And I decided to focus my writing today exclusively on her.


I thought about asking Carol’s permission before I wrote this, but I’m pretty sure she would have said no. So, I decided to ask forgiveness instead of permission.


I’m sure she would feel uncomfortable with something written only about her, because she would want you to know about all the people that are a part of her story. Because that’s who Carol is: humble and encouraging to the core.


Carol and I doing our best Audrey Hepburn impression at a Father-Daughter Sock Hop

I was Carol’s boss, but in many ways, she was my leader.


Carol began working for me when I was a young and inexperienced church leader. I made so many mistakes along the way, but yet Carol kept serving faithfully and cheering me on.


I’ll never forget the first time I saw Carol teach a group of children. Being new to children’s ministry myself, I was in awe. She was enthusiastic and warm, engaging and personal. And she had this miraculous ability to tie the random questions and statements of kindergartners back into the lesson, simultaneously making them feel valuable and the story feel seamless.


She made the most of every opportunity she had to teach, whether to a large group or small, to kids or adults. She felt honored that God would use her in any capacity, and sought to steward each opportunity she was given.


That is how she approached everything about her job. She had a deep desire to honor God in what she did and how she did it. Things were never about her. Her life displayed humility in its truest sense.


I watched Carol navigate life as a working mom before I had kids of my own. And I admired her.


She always worked hard, but her kids were continually the priority. She navigated difficult schedules with grace and without complaint. And in the midst of commitments pulling her in different directions, she still made time for the special moments with kids that make up a lifetime of memories: heart-shaped pancakes in February, Leprechaun mischief in March, and eggs filled with reminders of the real Easter story when Spring came around.


One running theme through my coaching times with Carol was helping her with her time management. And though I might have been able to help her with strategy, in those conversations, she helped me learn about what is really most important.


Because Carol had an amazing response to being interrupted.


If you anyone needed her for anything, as much as it was possible, she would drop what she was doing to be there. She turned around in her chair to look me in the eyes when I came to her desk, even if what she was working on was “more important” than my question.


When I talked to Carol, encouraging and helping me became the most important item on her to-do list.


Carol taught me that there need not be a thick line between supervisor and supervisee. That friendship and vulnerability can and should co-exist with power differentials.


I began working with Carol at a time my walls were thick, and my inexperience gave me the desire to prove myself. By her example, she helped me see the value of authenticity and the power of admitting, “I don’t know.”


To this day, when people ask me about my experience working at my old church, I say that my favorite thing about it was the opportunity to work with Carol. It was a joy to watch her grow in confidence over the years, without losing the humility that is core to her personhood. She is a treasure and a gift to anyone who knows her.


Thank you, Carol, for being an encourager, a teacher, a leader, a servant, and a friend. You birthed in me an authenticity, humility, and confidence that I would not have had without your influence. “Eshet Chayil!” You are a woman of valor.


What women have shaped your story? Please join this celebration by writing about them, or even just telling them about their influence. Also, head to Sarah Bessey's place to read other stories of Spiritual Midwives and Patron Saints.