How Things Change

Doing a New ThingNot long ago, I wanted to give up. Or I felt like I wanted to give up. I’m really not much of a quitter. I’m too damn stubborn. But, I was frustrated and my energy for this project was waning.

How things change.

Almost immediately after I published that post, my little internet home for this military ministry started to get some attention. Just when I thought that I might be going about this all wrong, this showed up on Twitter. Just a few hours later, in one of the Facebook groups I’ve joined of blogging military spouses, there was another post wondering who was behind Beyond Acronyms. There was some enthusiasm. We’re not talking thousands of people. Or even hundreds. More like five. Five people were excited about this thing but five people can make all of the difference in the world. Five people can make you think like anything is possible because five people are suddenly like… hey, yeah, I’d be into that. I love these five people.

So now, with the encouragement of these five people, I’m starting to see myself as an entrepreneur. I even created a board for such a possibility on Pinterest which clearly means I must be serious. (That was sarcasm.)

Even with that new identity, I’m still struggling because what I’ve created so far is an online community. That’s not exactly what I wanted. I knew there would be some element of this when I started but it’s not what I want this to be. It’s not my hope. And yet, as much as I want to shift this internet-based ministry into something that manifests with real live actual people meeting together, I’ve been trying really hard to remind myself that that day will come. For now, this can be an online thing which means that I’m spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to make connections with real live actual people on the internet. I’m reading things like how Connie Schultz built a unique online community on Facebook and relying on my own network.

The RevGalBlogPals have been one of the tremendous resources of my ministry over the years which might have something to do with one of its many leaders is a dear friend of mine. So, I’ve been leaning into this online ministry to figure out how it has grown from a few haphazard blogs to what it is today. Here’s what I learned: the internet has changed a lot. It’s changed since I helped to create this thing called The Young Clergy Women Project. What worked then will not work now. But, this very dear friend of mine offered to do a little promotion for me. You can see that here. That’s really what started the stir of those five people talking about this — and how I got the little burst of energy a few weeks ago. I’m ever grateful. God bless RevGals!

It was about that time that I realized that I needed some more support. So I started to gather a startup community. Not a board or a set of officers but a startup community. I don’t actually remember which book I read about this in — and really should locate it because I have to do a better job of explaining this as I bring members of my startup community on board. But the idea is simply this: there is a constellation of people with different skills who seek to support you in this entrepreneurial thing by offering you bits of wisdom or advice or simply letting you vent all of your frustrations — but in the language of the United Church of Christ, it’s covenantal thing. You sign on to this. It’s an intentional commitment to be in this relationship. It’s something you’re actively doing which may mean that any one of these people calls me out whey they haven’t heard a word from me. So far this little community includes three women — two of whom are pastors and one is a graphic designer/tech genius. And in truth, I haven’t utilized their skills much yet.

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a friend who is a military chaplain that has given me pause. She spoke a truth that I’ve been struggling to admit myself. I have been creating this blog with this media content — but my heart is not in it. It’s not really what I want to do. I don’t want to be writing about such possibilities but want to be engaged in the real ministry. The stuff that’s not so much about what’s on the internet but what is before you in the place that you are. Last week, I gave myself that out. I posted this on the blog so that I wouldn’t have to worry about posting anymore. I could focus on the other stuff that I hope to do but am still not sure how to do. (It also happens that this post speaks to the kind of community I hope for — the kind that wants to end racism and is actively taking a part in this struggle.) My military chaplain friend said it this way: the way that I approach this has to build up and support the good work of progressive chaplains. It has to be a complement. It has to work together rather than over and against. What she didn’t know is that I feel like I’ve been putting up content to put up content. I’m posting about things I don’t really know but imagine to be. So, I need to do some more work. I need to get into the trenches. (No pun intended.) I need to make some connections.

It is this that I hoped to do this summer. I thought I would start with some local churches near the base we’re at now but then I remembered that it’s summer. It’s summer in church world and things slow to an incredibly slow pace in most congregations. It’s a time of rest and planning that I loved as a local church pastor. It wasn’t a time of meetings but a time to chart out the year in preaching and teaching by the pool. (This does not meet that pastors are lazy. They are anything but lazy as they sit and read theology on the beach. They are trying to make 1000 things happen at once all year long and summer often provides a little more leisure to do some big picture thinking.) I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of that precious time. So, I’m thinking that I might do a little more networking in the military world. I don’t really know how or where — but that summer can be a time to build some relationships rather than blogging. It can be a time to ask big questions within the new community I find myself.

So, that’s what I’ll be trying this summer but I’d hate to leave you without something to do. Here’s what I’d like to ask you to do as new experiments arise in ministry. Go on over to Instagram and follow along on the adventure. Follow Beyond Acronyms here and please don’t ever forget to pray for this community. Pray for every spouse and every service member that finds themselves in a changing culture especially after the Supreme Court decision on marriage. They need your prayers and your hopes more than I do.

Wanting to Give Up

Doing a New ThingIt’s true. Over the past few weeks, when I haven’t been posting about my latest escapades of entrepreneurial ministry, I have wanted to give up. I have wanted to throw in the towel. I have seriously contemplated why I ever thought this might be possible.

There was the first blow a couple weeks ago where the person who is supposed to be the connection to everything was less than supportive. I still haven’t fully recovered from that. I haven’t written back. I haven’t informed him of my grand plan because I don’t really have one. I wish that were not true. But, I’m afraid it is. I don’t have a grand plan. I’m not really sure what I’m doing.

The problem isn’t this one person — as easy as it might be to blame anyone but myself. But, the truth of the matter is: the problem is me. I have found myself in this new place and in this new life. I have a whole new identity that I don’t quite understand. I want to understand it but I don’t really know anything about being a military spouse. And I’m trying to create community for people like me. Except that they are not like me. They are actual military spouses. They’ve been through more than one deployment. They’ve moved with their spouse every two or three years. They know things about military life that I just don’t know yet. Maybe I thought I would. Or that somehow it would be as it was on Lifetime’s Army Wives. But, it’s not like that. My life is nothing like it is on TV.

Woe is me, right?

In the first retreat of this program I’m participating in (and have considered quitting), Stanford professor Dave Evans introduced us to design thinking. He suggested that there are such a things as wicked problems. This fascinated me so that I preached a sermon about it before I left my last call. In wicked problems, using the tools of design thinking, you’re supposed to ideate. You throw as many different solutions at that wicked problem as you can imagine. It’s not a reflective process but one that demands action. You don’t give up. You just try out a new idea. And so, it was suggested that it’s time for me to ideate. I have hit a wall. I’ve lost hope — but I can’t get stalled there. I can’t give up. I have to try something. Ideate! Ideate! That’s what they say. It’s how you’ll push through this feeling.

It was about that time — when I was told to ideate — that I read this article entitled Stop Doing Intergenerational Ministry. I panicked a bit because I love intergenerational ministry. I think it’s what we should be about in the church. So I clicked over to the article and was relieved to discover that the author hooked me. It’s really a reminder to the church not to do multigenerational ministry where the youth and the little kids and the parents and the seniors are all separate programs for each age group. Stop doing that, the author demands. Yes, I thought. We should stop doing that. We should stop doing ministry that separates and divides. We should be building communities without divisions — divisions like that divides civilians from the military. It’s a divide I’d like to bridge. Such a hope appeared on my blog only a few weeks ago. But, it requires doing a different kind of ministry where there isn’t a program called military ministry. But there is a military culture.

Most of the programs I’ve found have been in more conservative churches. There are few progressive churches that send care packages to the troops but none seem to be centered on military families. The soldiers are out there — like the people that are served on mission trips. They aren’t part of the community. They aren’t part of the culture. Even in the more conservative churches, there is a program that cares of the needs of the military family. But, it seems that most of them fail to welcome the family as part of the community. Or so I found out when I asked around on Twitter. So maybe that’s where my energy should head. Not to building community within and among military families — but to create meaningful connections to worshipping bodies. Or, honestly, helping those worshipping bodies figure out how to create such a culture of welcome.

At the same time, I read this beautiful post by a colleague and friend in the United Church of Christ. This began a conversation about — between the two of us — how mental health impacts soldiers and their families. This interests me but there are a ton of more qualified people already doing this good work. So I’m not so excited about this idea.

There’s still part of me that wants to give up. There’s still part of me that wonders if any of this is possible — but I gotta believe that there is some wild and crazy reason that I signed up for this thing. There is something that I’m supposed to learn. There is something I’m supposed to try. And maybe that will just keep me going.

Doing A New Thing: What Am I Doing?

Doing a New ThingIf you have been following along, you’ll remember that I first posted this laundry list of activity with 5,000 accomplishments toward realizing this ministry. (Ok, not really 5,000.) I omitted that this took me a few weeks.

Then, the following week, there were not quite so many accomplishments.

I’m not exactly sure how to explain what happened next. There were moving trucks and strange men packing up all of my possessions. Nice men, mind you. But, it’s strange having other people pack up your stuff especially when you hope to do some work on your soon-to-be realized internet ministry when one of these strange men knocks over the modem and…. No internet. I worked a bunch those few days after all of my stuff started its trek across country but then the road trip began with one of my dearest friends. We went hiking. We saw some National Parks. (Side note: I must write a post about how much I love National Parks.) We ate burgers and drank beer. It was awesome.

But, let’s be clear: I did three hours of work in that time. Three hours. I’m pretty sure that Chris Guillebeau had something else in mind when he talked about creating your own life so that you could travel the world. Because this trip was poorly funded by any sort of entrepreneurial feats. And then, when I finally settled down to get to work after this amazing road trip, there in my inbox was a message from the person that was supposed to help me within my denomination. During that three hours, I had tried to do a bunch of networking as it had been suggested by Chris Guillebeau or someone else. I sent a bunch of emails to begin conversations with people that might be excited about this nebulous thing I’m trying to start. Every single one of those emails referred me to this one person who would make every connection there ever could be. His email was less than enthusiastic. His email articulated all of my fears. I’m so new to this world. I have no idea what I’m doing — and harder still: there is no way to create spiritual community around the military that is collaborative and engaged with the various branches of the armed services. I should give up. That’s how the email read.

So, of course, I found myself asking: What am I doing? There may have been some profanity in this statement. Ok, there was a lot of profanity. In the past week, I have tried to tell myself that being an entrepreneur requires seeing something that others don’t see. It means that sometimes others aren’t supportive. They are anything but supportive as they insist upon the way things have always been. I began this post 17 days ago — and I haven’t truly convinced myself that If my hopes aren’t welcomed or listened to, I really can shake off the dust from my feet. It doesn’t mean it’s the worst idea. It doesn’t mean I’m wrong. But, I haven’t still unconvinced. I’m still asking myself: What am I doing?

But, I’m stubborn so I haven’t given up yet. I still managed to do make some things happen. Here’s an account of the past few weeks of trying to do a new thing.

    • I finished Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future. (I actually finished this in the car somewhere in Utah. I am insanely proud of this even if it was my only road trip accomplishment.)
    • I added more content.
    • I missed an entire week of adding content.
    • I berated myself.
    • I tried to do some networking. As I’ve already mentioned, only one of those connections seems to be panning out at the present moment in time. I’m trying to do the whole brave affirmation: I got one connection!!! Woo hoo! How awesome is that. But, I am much better at berating myself. So, I did that some more.
    • I received an email from this one person and consequently decided to redesign the entire site instead of adding more content. You can see the pretty new design here. (Not that you saw the old version because I haven’t really shared that with you yet.) I’m much happier with the look of the site. So that’s good. It did not however truly help me escape the doubt and self loathing that obviously came from this email.
    • I dabbled on social media and worked on building my blogger network. This requires lots of time on Facebook and Twitter and blogs — which feels like it doesn’t result in anything. I’m reflecting on this a bit because what I love about ministry is the relationships. You get to slowly immerse yourself into a community. You get to hear stories and tell a few. This all feels so different on social media than it does sitting in a coffee shop or someone’s living room. I would never call that wasted time — but this feels like it might be. It probably isn’t but I’m fascinated by my own reaction to it. Here is where I will ask for some morale support. Please follow this project on Twitter and Facebook. It would so warm my heart to see you cheering for me.
    • Recently, I’m spending more and more time trying to figure out how to earn some money blogging. I have to be honest about this: it feels icky. I don’t do ministry for a pay check — except that now, I have no job and I am trying to believe that there are ways to fund ministry that push beyond the passing of the plate. But, holy moly, I feel like I might be shoving an offering plate in people’s faces and I hate this feeling. I want to build community. I want to make connections. I want to change lives. I do not want this to be boiled down to a bunch of numbers.
    • I am not sure how the hell to launch this blog officially and am wondering if I wasted a bunch of time trying to imagine such an announcement. For the moment, I’ve given up on that thought.
    • I’m starting to brainstorm the next step. As my mentor in Beyond the Call suggested, this crappy email is an opportunity to ideate. This is what I hope to spend some time on next week.

Doing A New Thing: Still Doing It

Doing a New ThingRemember how last week, when I concluded my first post in this new series, I stupidly said: Check back and see if that actually happens or if the moving vans change all of my plans. Yes, well, #mistakesweremade.

What I didn’t realize about moving in the military is that moving would suck up three days of my life. I watched them pack for two days. Two long days of watching these three guys pack up all of my stuff. Somehow, in the middle of that, they disabled my internet before I intended. I’m going to state the obvious here, but it is very hard to launch a website without internet. Hence, this week feels like a complete and total bust. But, I did manage to do a few things when I finally found internet in a coffee shop.

Here goes.

  • I read a few more chapters in Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Start Up.
  • I prepared for the official website launch. And then, I read more of Chris Guillebeau’s book and came to the conclusion that I’m not yet ready for any sort of website launch. Because that’s the worst idea ever. What was I ever thinking? There needs to be more content. It needs to be more of a thing. So I might be ready. Or I might not. I agonized about this a lot.
  • Then, I added more content. (Because, well, see above.) I blogged some more on the live website and even started a new column. I linked these things to Twitter and Facebook and decided to take a risk and throw into my personal network and see what would happen. Is that buzz?
  • I researched how to build an email subscribers list, felt dumb for not really understanding how to install a plug-in on WordPress, gave up and went to a party.
  • I tried to build some community. I found some new blogs. I commented on theirs and even joined a military spouse blog network.

Next week, I begin my cross-country adventure with one of my dearest friends. This means I may be spending more time driving and hiking National Parks than I will launching this ministry. I’m told by these entrepreneurial types that this is a perk of this lifestyle. I get to travel. So, we will see what happens when an entrepreneurial pastor and her dissertation writing sidekick try to have a cross-country adventure while both being stressed out about our work. I’m not going to set a goal. Because that seems cruel. So, we’ll just see what happens on its own.

Welcome to My New Series: Doing a New Thing

Doing a New Thing

Two weeks ago, I concluded my ministry at The United Churches of Olympia. It is over. It’s hard to believe but it’s over. On Tuesday, the moving van will arrive to pack up all my things before they move them away on Wednesday. It is my first experience of what the military calls a permanent change of station. Or because they abbreviate everything: PCS. We are really doing this. The man and I love and I are really moving to New Jersey. It’s happening. He will have a new job in the US Army and I — well — I’m not really sure.

Except that I do. I will be trying something new.

I applied to this program seeking to do something called entrepreneurial ministry. I went to a retreat a month ago. And on Monday, I have my first call with my cohort group to explore our progress on how it’s going in which I have to have something to say. Because I got lost this week reading archives of another blogger named Debbie Reber, which was shared with me by a wonderful former church member who knows about such things, I’m inspired to do something similar. Debbie writes about her progress in writing in her series Writer Unplugged. She actually seeks to offer wisdom. I can’t promise that. I’m going to dare to write about my failed and botched attempts at trying to become an entrepreneur. I’m just going to be honest.

So here it goes. Here is what I have done so far.

  • I picked a name. I know what this thing would be called — and as with most things in my ministry, the idea came from someone else proving that all good ideas are stolen.
  • I tinkered with a website. In truth, this has been an obsessive daily routine for the past two weeks. It’s bordering on ridiculous as my perfectionism is a bit too over the top.
  • I created a logo. It’s lame and boring but it’s a logo.
  • I dreamed up a tagline while at the gym. Yes, I have been to the gym.
  • I have begged other military wives for decent photos for said website because all of mine suck. Seriously. Why can’t I take a decent picture? I went to art school for crying out loud! I blame my iPhone.
  • I’ve wondered how to officially launch a website. How do you create buzz around a website? It’s live. I’m just trying to figure out how to make a splash where people — and by that I mean the particular people that I hope to connect with — can find it and use it — and hopefully think it’s awesome.
  • I have wallowed in self doubt because I really have no idea what it means to be an army wife. I don’t really understand that military and I fear all of progressive ideals are impossible to hide.
  • I tried to do some networking by email. I reached out to the various endorsers in the denominations close to me — and actually received a reply today! It was a really good email too.
  • I created a Facebook page and a Twitter account for this particular ministry. I’ve even posted to both of these social media outlets.
  • I searched for followers on Twitter. This is a thankless, hopeless, awful task where it seems everyone is quick to say in their little bio thing that following doesn’t equal an endorsement. I don’t need endorsements. I just want to engage in conversation!!!! So, I tried to spark some conversation. Nada.
  • I went back to Facebook. I learned that a beloved church member from my former church has died. I cried a little. I wondered what the hell I was supposed to do. Should I send a card? Can I Facebook message? I reread what is expected of me by the Pacific Northwest Conference after my ministry has ended. And then, I went to the gym.
  • I read another few chapters in Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Start Up.
  • I went to breakfast with a friend and joked that I’m trying to figure out how to sell Jesus because people like Chris Guillebeau seem to think that I have to have something to sell to be an entrepreneur. I don’t. I have Jesus. And I’m not a huge fan of the people that try to sell him so there must be another way. I just don’t know what it is… yet.
  • I reviewed my notes from the retreat last month, made some additional notes and watched David Kelley’s How to Build Your Creative Confidence. I watched another TEDTalk that was referenced in my retreat notes but I can’t figure out why it relates to anything.
  • I blogged on the live website — as that’s the first stage of my imagining of how this is all going to work.
  • I lamented that internet community is total crap and wondered why I’m bothering to start this way.

Just making this list is helpful to remember that I’m making small strides toward realizing this possibility. I hope to launch the website with a big ol’ splash next week. Check back and see if that actually happens or if the moving vans change all of my plans.