The Post About Finding A Church Like Finding Love On The Bachelor

In May 2012, God prompted me to leave a church I loved. I had been active and involved in leadership for more than 12 years, but He said, "That's enough. You're done here."

Previously, I shared how I tried to ignore God and carry on and how that didn't work.

Reluctantly, I took the leap of faith God had whispered, then chanted, then billboarded and began the task of finding a new church.

I did not take this search lightly because I know the value of the local church in my life. Some of you have possibly experienced great hurt in the sanctuaries that should be rooms of restoration. Perhaps the church is a source of pain rather than healing.

However, for me, the local church has always been a source of joy and rest and relationships that matter. Don't get me wrong, there have been CUH-RAZIES in those fellowship halls and Sunday school classrooms. But for the most part...life-giving.

Being separated from the local church for a season, even by choice, birthed an anxiety in me. Since I'm not a fan of worry or waiting, I put the pedal to the metal. Over the course of seven months, I visited 11 churches in the metro Birmingham area and narrowed it down to three and then to one. What did this process look like?

It looked just like The Bachelor. An eligible person and a pool of romantic interests. There were connections, conflicts, and dramatic twists. There were eliminations and a final rose. 

The Steps To Finding Love

1. Make A List of Qualities You're Looking For: I've always preferred to date folks who are emotionally healthy (LIKE ME) so I thought the same should be true for my church. What makes a healthy church? Charles Stanley provides a few characteristics I used in my search.
  • Bible-centered: Not events-centered, not works-centered, not pastor-centered, not casserole-centered. As much as I might fancy that last one.
  • Spiritual: This is such a wonky overused term, but in this case it means an emphasis on a personal relationship with God. No middle man.
  • Evangelistic: It's crucial when a hungry person finds bread that he tell other starving folks where he got it. A healthy church has structure for doing this. Bonus? If they have actual bread in the form of breakfast pastries.
  • Influential: A church should be impacting its community for good. That impact should be obvious and measurable.
  • Financially Sound: I left a church that loved God so profoundly but was strangled by debt. It should manage their money better than me (ex. still paying for that handbag I bought in 2009.)
  • Friendly: Let's not pretend all churches are packed to the brim with kindness. There's a reason it was easy not to visit some places on my list a second time. SMILE AT ME GREETER PERSON.
  • Growing: This isn't just about numbers. But that doesn't hurt. It's also about members growing in their faith, their heart for others, and ability to transform the big and small world around them.

2. Play The Field: I needed to go on lots of dates. I wanted to learn as much as possible about a church and one visit wasn't always enough. Plus, it's important to take time to compare and contrast so you don't get swept up by free coffee and cushy seats.

3. Ask God for a Spouse: If ABC spent more time encouraging their contestants to pray about the roses they're passing out, then I'm sure we'd have more actual happily ever afters. Every time I visited a church or its website or emailed a staff member, I prayed. God wants us in the place He wants us. He has no interest in hiding that tidbit of information from us.

4. Make a Commitment: Beyonce is right. You need to put a ring on it. The idea of living out your faith on your own is not enough. The accountability and responsibility to the people of God found in the local church is such a snazzy thing.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25
I'm about to celebrate my one year anniversary with my "final rose" church. Chris Harrison could not have narrated a better ending.

Have you ever tried finding a new church? Finding a new love? What are your tips for both?

{image: Jamie}


The Post About Instagram Commentary: Food Edition

Here are a few additional thoughts on some Instagram food photos I recently posted. 

I appreciate working with folks who plan in advance.

Most in my life have learned my love language is snack foods. This "conversation" was with a coworker who was planning ahead. But I'm actually not a sweets person. I talk the idea of being the "salt of the earth" to heart. To my disease-ridden, artery-clogged heart. Amen.

What is your love language for favors?

Cowabunga. #cakepops

My godson turned 6 years old this month. He requested the above for his classmates. I am Michelangelo. He is described as "...the comic relief. While he loves to relax and eat pizza, this Turtle also has an adventurous and creative side." I LOVE TO RELAX.

Which Ninja Turtle are you?

My love for this 67-year-old birthday boy outweighs eating dinner at 5pm. Here.
My Dad's birthday was Friday and he requested to eat here. At 5pm. I must love my father because I ate at twilight at a chain restaurant with food in the name.

Where do you eat against your will because of love?

Papyrus is to fonts as yellow is to Starburst.

Starburst are the original juicy couture. However, NO ONE HAS TIME FOR YELLOW. Yellow is the Papyrus of fonts. It's the Clara of Doctor Who companions. It's the Kevin of Jonas Brothers.

What's your least favorite of something?

Sometimes you have breakfast for dinner like the Alderaanian Princess you are.

My friend Katherine gave me a set of Star Wars pancake molds. She said she had 4 kids and no time to be this detailed in the mornings. Since I am childless, I have plenty of time and energy. I wanted to be Princess Leia when I grew up. I still sorta do...

What fictional character did you want to be when you grew up?

{images: Jamie}


The Post About What's On My Bookshelf

I'm doing my first link-up. Like it's 2009.

I'm running a little behind.

Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy asked her readers to pull back the curtain on their bookshelves. I could not be prouder of any corner of my home more than these shelves so it was easy to commit to this gang-related writing.

Dewey Decimal Rainbow

This is how my clothes and shoes are organized. Even my cupcake sprinkles are arranged by color. So it made sense in my head that the books should follow suit.

Yes, I have John Ortberg and Jimmy Carter mixed in with Nicholas Sparks, Star Wars' Timothy Zahn, and Mary Poppins' P.L. Travers.

My go-to baby gift is always library books with custom bookplate labels to match the nursery. Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends is always included. This brown section also includes my favorite Jane Austen novel Persuasion.
Yoda keeps careful watch over Beth Moore, David Sedaris, Zora Neale Hurston, and Brother Lawrence.

 Every bookshelf needs more than books. A candle poured into a recycled wine bottle and a "Guess-Jamie's Emotions" game created by my friend Caryann.

I'm confident most libraries would sandwich the Twilight series between Elmore Leonard and C.S. Lewis if given a choice.

Are you a shelf person or an e-reader or both? What's the best book you've read this year?

{images: Jamie}


The Post About God Telling Me To Quit My Job

God is good. God is great. God is aggravating.

Let me explain.

This summer I took a sabbatical to the Carolinas. Five days intended to focus on God and ponder how He designed me to impact the world.

I paint a mean landscape at Sips & Strokes but God trumps.

I forgot God designed me as an extrovert who finds restoration and solace in the presence of people. So wandering alone in the Blue Ridge mountains left me crying over complimentary waffles at a Holiday Inn on Day 3.

Sabbatical over.

But the pursuit of God was not. I went home to my cozy Birmingham and dug into the process:
1. Study the Bible.
2. Read spiritual resources.
3. Seek Godly counsel.
4. Talk to God out loud in my living room.

I started in Genesis. There is no better place to start than the beginning. Plus, Genesis is where we learn that road trips with Jesus always take longer. I camped out in 50 chapters filled with obedience, rebellion and a Creator's commitment to always do what He says He'll do.

God told me to quit my job. 

I heard it in passages like Genesis 12 when God tells Abram to leave and go. I read it when God asked Abraham to lay down the very thing that defined him in Genesis 22.

Next, I read four books with a bent for stepping out in faith. I listened closely to Jen Hatmaker as she made room in her life for obedience and generosity. I highlighted all the sentences Chris Hodges used to explain the difference between having to serve God and getting to serve God. I reread Mark Buchanan's powerful exploration of how Jonah (and Jamie) live in a wonderless borderland. Finally, I wrote Bob Goff's words on my heart:
“Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure. It's not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us. God asks what it is He's made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, "Let's go do that together.”
God told me to quit my job.

I camped out with Godly people in two different weekly small group meetings. Old and new friends shared story after story of God miraculously providing in circumstances that would challenge the greatest of cynics. Rabbit Sidebar: I'm a ROCK STAR cynic.

God told me to quit my job. 

Throughout each of these steps, I found myself back on my loveseat in my living room in my house telling God what-for.

Me: Why would you want me to quit my job? I love my job and the people at my job and the snacks at my job.
God: {patiently listening}

Me: Who's going to pay my mortgage? Bank of America does not accept side hugs as payment.
God: {patiently listening}

Me: What kind of job will I get? I haven't updated my resume since 2006.
God: {patiently listening}

Then on a Monday night at 9:20pm, I put my foot down.


And then my phone buzzed. This random text arrived from a friend at 9:22pm:
"Hey! I was reading in Deuteronomy 1 and Moses is reminding the Israelites of their disobedience due to fear and not trusting God. I don't know what God is speaking to you but thought of you when I read this and our need to be obedient when the instruction is clear."
God told me to quit my job.

On Thursday, that's just what I did.

Why does God want me to quit my job? Who's going to pay my mortgage? What kind of job will I get?

I don't know the answers to these questions. I only know that God and I will do it together.

God is aggravating, but He is also good and He is great.
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