Friendship Quilt

As a young adult, a dear friend introduced me to Anne of Green Gables. Anne pines for a bosom friend, a kindred spirit, whom she finds in Diana Barry. Maybe you have one Best Friend. Maybe you have a Friendship Quilt. Either way, we can be grateful for the friends in our lives.

Guest post: Kristi Grover

Many years ago I endured a hard season. I’d been quite ill and, even as I was recovering, doctors couldn’t give me any assurances that life would go back to the ‘normal’ to which I had become accustomed.

Additionally, my trusted inner circle of friends—small in number but strong in their support for me—had disappeared. Every single one. Each had moved away due to changes in work, family needs, or a sense that they needed to go now to pursue their life’s dream lest their window of opportunity forever closed. I could support each in their individual decisions and celebrate what they had contributed to the lives of those impacted by their unique gifting while here…but deep inside I felt (irrationally, I know) betrayed by their departure when I especially needed them.

On a long drive together, I finally shared this feeling with my husband—even though I was embarrassed by it and acknowledged how narrowly focused it was. And then I segued on to how I had always longed for a “best friend.”

In the books I read as a girl, the protagonist always had a best friend, someone who understood everything and was always loyal and stayed in their life for keeps. In childhood and early adulthood I heard others speak of their “best friend”—someone who was, even if they now lived miles apart, worth the effort to keep close and share life. Was it me? Was I somehow unworthy of having a “best friend”?

This was long before Facebook and cell phones and frequent flyer miles and email—all ways to keep in touch now (or keep others at a distance, but that is another story). My heart ached with lifelong accumulated losses. Perhaps it wasn’t a big deal when viewed from a distance: I kept abreast of national and international news and knew this was not a cosmic problem and was quite aware of how much I had for which to be grateful. And I was grateful. But it still touched a hurt place in my heart.

My husband, a very good listener who thinks before he speaks, heard and considered my outpouring. He responded: “Perhaps another way to look at it is as a friendship quilt. You treasure your grandma’s old quilts and value the stories behind each scrap of fabric. Maybe friendship is like that. Think over your life and all the friends you’ve been blessed with and the ones currently in your life, too, even though those pieces in your quilt won’t be as large as you’d like. In the end, don’t you have enough pieces now, and in the years to come, to piece together a friendship quilt? Maybe you won’t have one single blanket, a forever ‘best friend,’ but still, it will be enough to wrap around you and keep the winds of loneliness from chilling you.”

I was stunned—not for the first time and certainly not the last—by his wisdom and perspective. A friendship quilt. Instantly, my mind filled with new thoughts: from what I was losing as dear friends moved away to profound gratitude that they had been in my life, in rich and deep ways, in the first place. Thoughts of other friends through the years crowded my mind. Focusing on what I had, rather than what I had lost, changed my perspective.

A friendship quilt. Even then I could imagine the loving warmth as I pulled it close around me. And it gave me a sense of adventure about friendships to come, people I hadn’t met yet who would delight me and challenge me and deepen me in ways I couldn’t even imagine. A lifelong friendship quilt that would continue to grow throughout the years.

*****

Friendship Quilt: First occurring midcentury 1800’s, constructed with blocks (or stars or triangles or other shapes) made up of bits of fabric salvaged from worn out clothing. Individual blocks were created and often signed by each quilter as a way to express the love they felt for the person who would be given the finished quilt. Frequently given at times of change such as weddings or births or when someone was about to move away, they were a way to (literally) stay in touch with the circle of women who made such quilts. Until recent times, such a quilt given away at the time of a move was a way of recognizing that they might never again see one another. Sometimes fabrics from family members no longer living would be incorporated to remind the recipient that such precious bonds always remain close. A gathering to stitch together the individual pieces and quilt the top through the filling to the reverse side would be a time of joy and storytelling and often include hints of grief as participants realized that an era of life had ended. But the quilt would remain as silent, ongoing testimony to love and shared history.

some things that are true about me

My work in life is as a teacher and storyteller.  I take joy in many things – time spent with children and my family and friends, working in various ways for justice, hiking along high mountain ridge lines and walking in the woods and sitting quietly to stare at the ocean, hearing people share their life stories and affirming them, writing and reading, rainy afternoons by the fire with my small grey cat, listening to music and singing and dancing, intelligent conversation and laughter, making a home. These and other things are true about me but the truest thing is that I am a child of God.

 

Kids’ Connections

Long ago I had the privilege to lead this sweet young lady in following Jesus. Truly, it was a joy to walk together and I’m sure I learned as much from her as she did from me. Now she has the privilege of leading others… I love how that works!

Guest Post: Sara Pantazes

The opportunity to run our church’s mid-week children’s program was a perfect fit for me–resume-worthy job experience I could easily fit into my already full life of grad school, homemaking, and kid-raising.

The directive, however, wasn’t as easy: “Like youth group, for kids.” As a Christian educator in training, I felt up to the challenge. By Wednesday night kids have been in school and shuttled between activities for three days. Our program was part of that hamster wheel. Kids didn’t need another classroom lesson. But I didn’t want to spend that precious hour only on games. How could I balance the kids’ need to move and play with my desire to use that time for faith formation?

Providentially, inspiration came in a book I read over Christmas break. One chapter told the story of a children’s minister who focused her Wednesday night children’s program on contemplative practices. Quotes like these lit my imagination:

Rather than mirroring the media-driven culture, might churches instead provide space for children to step out of the fast-paced world and enter into meaningful community?

…these children will be called to something that means they will have to know how to find stillness and quiet in the midst of chaos and confusion.  If we do not provide them with this, we will have failed this generation.

Reading about this program helped me narrow in on a concrete goal that felt right for my program–connection with God. That children hunger for the ability to be still caught my attention, and teaching children how to quiet themselves in order to hear and connect with God sounded like challenge worth exploring. So I created my own format loosely based on the structure described in the book. It looked like this:

Welcoming: 15-20 minutes of games, usually Legos and tag

Sharing: The kids help me lay out a blanket for us to sit around and we turn on lamps and turn off overhead lights. We share what has been good and bad about our days, giving us a chance to calm ourselves and relax together.

Worshiping: We sing a simple song, the same one each week, with words and/or signs, to remind us that we are stepping out of our everyday lives and into a special time with God.

Listening: I narrate a Bible story using Godly Play materials (simple wooden carvings of the characters and setting of a story) and the narratives from Sonja Stewart and Jerome Berryman’s Young Children and Worship. Once the story has been told, we discuss “I wonder…” questions to help us think about the story, what the characters might have felt or thought, and where we might find ourselves in the story.

“She describes the approach as respectful of children and trusts that God will speak to and through the children as they enter the story together. She does not feel compelled to control the process but trusts that God is at work, drawing the children into relationship with him…”

Reflecting: We end with individual reflection. I give them a question to consider on their own through writing or drawing. After a few weeks I also let some children stay on the blanket to retell the story as they move the figures around themselves.

One child’s reflection on the Last Supper

Our program year is done now and, while I appreciate summer break, I’m already excited for next year. Our time wasn’t always perfectly reverent–kids will be kids after all. But it was truly amazing to witness how quickly they settled into the rhythm, how much they wanted to help with set-up, how attentive they were to the stories, and the insights they shared.

I’m hopeful that seeds have been planted, that–in one hour in the midst of their busy week–they were able to rest in God’s presence, and that it left them hungry for more.

We can connect to lots of things in our lives to fill us, sustain us, or maybe even help us thrive. Asking children to connect with God might sound like a tall order, but I had faith it could be done. It takes some work, but the results are truly beautiful.

 

Sara is wife of Tom and mom of Ben and Matt. Their family life started in Williamsburg, VA but they now live in a beautiful rural-suburban corner of southeast Pennsylvania. A recent graduate of Union Presbyterian Seminary, Sara is beginning to transition from full-time stay at home mom to part-time Director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church of West Chester, a transition which will fully challenge (and hopefully enrich) her own ability to stay connected with and rooted in God.

The Person Right Here

[Since I don’t post when I’m away from home, this week I’m going to post some of the content I wrote while on vacation…]

True confession: because we work at a church, we don’t always hit a church on vacation Sundays. Because, in too many ways, church = work. We love Jesus, but we can’t help evaluating church (What would we do differently? What could we do differently?) in the midst of worship.

Seventeen years of vacationing in this one town, and this year the Spirit took us to church. A church plant/launch that began one month after our last vacation here: we noticed, we felt intrigued, we went to church.

We loved it! Inviting music, insightful sermon, everything felt familiar in the best ways, comfortable and unforced and, oh yeah baby, This Is Church!

It’s truly something when church ‘professionals’ are able to so fully enter a worship experience… So of course we wanted to greet the pastor, to thank him and connect and jive on this great God-led morning.

In retrospect, I wish we hadn’t.

He was all smiles at the handshake. Less so when he learned we were clergy on vacation. He said, “Hey, do you mind if I make the rounds?”

Of course, it is the pastor’s job to greet his own flock.

We made our way to their generous coffee hour, coffee and cookies and homemade apple pie–lions and tigers and bears, Oh My–the hospitality! People were warm, smiling, edging us deeper in.

When I joined Guy next to the always-welcome morning coffee, he was thanking the worship leader for her leadership. She couldn’t contain her God-and-church enthusiasm. She gushed her love for this church and what it has meant to their family, how they have experienced God in this place. We couldn’t help but smile and be grateful to God who makes all things new.

Still, I left feeling uneasy. The service had been an amazing whole, but…?

It hit me later: I saw a dimming in the pastor’s eyes, after we had shaken hands, when he realized we were not going to be new converts or new congregants. We were not going to be his. And so, we didn’t matter, at least in ways that matter. To him. I felt like, because we wouldn’t count, we didn’t count.

As Guy and I walked the coast, I told him my impression, my dis-ease even after an incredible worship experience. I encouraged him: the person in front of you is the person that matters. Not for what they can give you or how they might count on a tally sheet. They matter: to God, and to you.

The pastor should have been stoked to have another pastor totally digging the service he’d crafted. We went to the same grad school, had the same professors—that alone should have been reason to connect. We’re in sister denominations—another reason.

Instead, he seemed eager to be on to the next person. And if that person is someone in his congregation or community with whom he wholeheartedly engages, fine. Appropriate.

Except, we went to coffee hour. And never saw him again.

The worship leader got it. She was happy to share her experience of God in this place, happy to connect with people who want to connect.

A year from now, I imagine we will again plop ourselves in their pews. The experience warrants another go. And every other Sunday between now and then—every day between now and then—I hope we both remember that whoever stands in front of us is the gift God has given us in that moment.

Creatively Connecting People to Great People

You know what I mean: some people just light up the world. Not just the room, but the hearts and faces and lives of everyone she encounters. Tori is one of those people. The last time I saw her, she arrived on my doorstep with a delightful squeal, an armful of flowers, and a story about the new friend she made in line while waiting to purchase them. People flit to Tori like hummingbirds to sugar-water, displaying in bright bursts their truest beauty.

Which is why I am so excited for you to read the story of her dream come true. As a gifted People Person, Tori was already successful, professionally and personally, at helping people into their best version of themselves. And yet she had a bigger, God-given vision. I first heard about what would become WIT years ago as we traveled to and from an evening event. Earlier that day she’d had an important business meeting to flesh out some of the hard and necessary details to turn this vision into reality. I was so impressed at how BIG she was dreaming and how HARD she was willing to work to make it happen.

Your story isn’t hers, but I wonder… What are your unique gifts? What path have you uniquely walked? And what bigger creative vision might God call you to?

Create Challenge #17: Tori Dabasinskas
A glimpse into the story of creating WIT Professionals

happens

Have you had ‘life happen’ and wondered, “Who in the world do I call?”

As someone who gets A LOT of these calls, I created WIT Professionals (Wellness Integrated Team) to honor my passion for connecting people with the right people.

WIT is my way of being creative! I am excited about WIT. I am excited to see how WIT is developing and growing. I am excited it is creatively doing the job it was set in motion to do: connecting people with great people when life happens and seeing individuals, families and businesses achieve positive change as a result of creative connection!

But first, let’s glance at the relationship story that under girds the business story.

A Glimpse of My Story
As a therapist/pastor’s wife, my experiences in social settings are funny. People either run and hide from me while holding their glass of wine behind their back or engage me in some incredible story while offering to buy me a drink! People either freak out or cannot wait to talk! Trust me, no event is ever the same.

I have walked intimately with relationship dynamics throughout my life. I am a daughter of a mayor and a teacher; a sister to a commercial developer and a politician; a mother of two beautiful teenagers; and a wife of a pastor deeply involved in local and international communities. In my professional world, I am a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice, and founder of WIT Professionals.

Personally and professionally I am deeply aware of the significance of relationships. My heart is full of stories of the rich value of people being connected to the right people when ‘life happens.’ When I say intimate dynamics, I mean it. My conversations over the years have rarely focused on surface issues.Paper Family

As a daughter: My parents were entrenched in community development. I had a front row seat to the value of connected relationships as well as to the destructive nature of painful ones.

As a mom: I was rooted in a community of school children and families. Moms were all in it together: scheduling, parenting, doing marriage, listening and participating in adult community gossip and story telling. At times it’s junior high all over, the issues just ‘more adult.’

As a wife: Marriage is as beautiful as it is challenging. Thanks to our faith in Jesus, the love of an amazing husband, our education and intentionality, we work hard to make something full of weakness as strong as we can. We deeply value our covenant to one another, trust God’s strength, and know what struggles and successes in connection feel like.

As a pastor’s family: When do people call a pastor? I will promise you, those calls aren’t about the weather or the stock market…well, sometimes the market, depending on their anxiety level. We are often invited into the messy and the magnificent. Whether I am invited into the specifics or not, I feel ‘the weather’ of my husband’s daily journey with people and organizations.

As a therapist: The ethically-bound and confidential office setting offers the safety for truths in personal dynamics and relationships that are at times precious and at other times almost unfathomable… The ground is sacred, a privilege, a place I consider it an honor to be present.

People’s stories all have a common thread: “Life is happening.” Leader or follower. Rich or poor. Life happens to all of us. I have counseled CEO’s and orphaned teenagers in Third World countries. All of us need connection. Personal or professional. I live in both camps, personal and professional, and almost always hear the same questions:

Who do I call?
How much does this cost?
Where do I go?
What in the heck do I do next?
Will you pray for me?

At the core of my being, I believe in the value and significance of connection. I feel a sense of richest joy and calling when I am at work connecting people with one another.

Wellness-Integrated-Team-logo1

How does a Wellness Integrated Team of Professionals, contracted by a family or company, support connection? Like a pit crew gets a race car driver back on track, a medical crew cares for a mother giving birth, a legal team toils in tandem to support a signed contract, a city council partners to support a proposition, WIT’s network supports a caller, appropriately connecting them with the best person for them when ‘life happens.’

Yet, how do people connect to WIT? Several ways, yet we’ll focus on one: The Employee Effectiveness Program Model. This is where a Business Owner knocks it out of the park on employee care.

  1. Invite WIT
  2. Connect WIT Professionals & Staff Face-to-Face
  3. Give a Gift Card

INVITE: A benevolent owner who wants their employees to feel well cared for and honored contracts with WIT.

CONNECT: The WIT Network of Professionals (1-3 of them) come to the business setting in person for a company coffee and a face-to-face introduction. Everyone connects. The professional is no longer a name on a website, but a safe new contact in person. WIT provides a tailor-made training/workshop as requested by the company (i.e.: managing stress for the holidays, conflict resolution, etc). This gives staff a feel for the professional’s heart and knowledge.

GIVE: In support of the employees, the company gives ‘WIT cards’ (like a gift card) loaded with a company-selected amount of professional consultations with WIT professionals: a licensed counselor, an executive coach, a nutritionist, a mediator, a financial planner, and others. Through a short-term contract, every staff person and owner who faces a ‘life happens’ moment now has a confidential professional consultant in their pocket to contact ‘as needed.’

FROM ANXIOUS QUESTIONS TO CONFIDENT ANSWERS
I know who to call.
The cost to me is $0. (Thank you, caring owner!)
I can do this on the phone or in person.
I can call right now.

After a WIT connection, you will know exactly what to do next. Phew! Anxiety and distraction decrease; focus and productivity increase.

And that’s just the business side of WIT. Can you imagine what we can offer a family?

Connecting people with the right people takes creativity. It is as complicated as it is fun. In my professional, pro-bono, and personal arenas of life, I am deeply intertwined in personal dynamics with people. I live a deeply connected life. Connecting people with the right people when our ‘Lives are happening’ is simply awesome, complicated, and a place I feel called to serve others. It is my passion. I cannot help myself but, by God’s grace and through lots of prayer, be as creative as possible in hope to make those connections happen!

TDaboTori lives in the Seattle area with her husband and two teenagers. She finds pleasure in anything outdoorsy—including hiking in the beauty of the Northwest, along the waterside or in the mountains—and especially, as life permits, horseback riding and playing tennis. One of her happy places is coffee and conversation with good friends; another is hot tubbing with her family and eating really great authentic taco truck-style Mexican food. She likes yummy wine, and also spinach in her smoothies. Connect with Tori through her website: www.witprofessionals.com

 

 

 

 

Thankful Thursday – Life is More than Worry

As Church Communication Director, this week before Thanksgiving is always one of the busiest work weeks of the year as we rush to get Christmas PR printed, in the mail, up around town, in the newspaper, you name it. The creative work, writing and designing, is mostly done, so this week is all about details – proofing and making sure each design in all its necessary formats gets to the right place and people at the right time. The devil is in the details and I am no devil.

I can’t get stressed, though. The irony? This year’s theme is PEACE. No sense at all worrying about peace.

Today I got a kick in the tail in the best way. One of my favorite weekly activities, I have the privilege of leading a small group of delightful women in our moms’ group at church. I love these women. They are light and bright and smart and deep. Our speakers today talked about change and taking intentional steps toward positive change in our lives. Several of my gals are engaged in total life upheaval, not entirely by choice. And yet even in difficult situations, our response is our responsibility. We can still choose to make changes that make us better.moms 15

The gal seated next to me almost died from a fluke illness this fall. I kept rubbing her back, teary eyed, so grateful for her life. And to hear her talk about the peace that sustained her during her illness, the overwhelming sense of angels watching over her, the comfort that whatever happened God held her in His hands… Me, choking back tears because she couldn’t have said those words when we met a couple years ago. I am grateful for her life and for the joy of watching her grow in faith.

Listening to my gals encourage one another in situations I haven’t had to endure encouraged my heart. As I looked on, the words of Matthew 6 rolled around in my head:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

A few of the staff studied this passage earlier this week. We noticed that most people we see daily aren’t worried about food; even when kids complain that “There is NO FOOD in this house!” there truly is, and no one will starve this week, or month, even if we stopped grocery shopping altogether. So I replaced “food” with “worry” in v. 25:

Is not life more than worry…?

Life is so much more than worry!

I am thankful for my friendships with these precious women who encourage one another and me. They add so much joy and love to my life.

I am thankful for a day off with my love after a season of working too hard and missing one another along the way. We walked the beach with our happy dog on a perfect San Francisco day, followed by a spontaneous splurge lunch at a marina-view restaurant.SF dog

I am thankful for an opportunity to serve with one of our church’s mission partners, Harbor House Ministries. All three of my guys have been there more than once, but today was my first time. Our middle school group plus a few parent chaperones served a Thanksgiving meal prepared by church folks; we also built relationships, did a craft, packed up leftovers for people to take home, and cleaned up. I talked with a mom of two darling girls; I don’t easily talk with people I don’t know, but we so easily connected over kids and this blessed place where her older daughter is safely cared for. Tween enthused about the “amazing” place called Harbor House and can’t wait to go back. I got to tag along while my kid’s heart changed. So good!

HH Thanksgiving

Life is so much more than worry. Life is love, encouragement, connection, work and rest in balance, service, and community. Life is our creative response to life’s own twists. Life is our responsibility to create, and life is our creative God’s good gift. He already said, “It is good.” Now it’s our turn.