Today I am brimming over with excitement, ideas and energy around the work that I do and the people I get to do it with. My sweet friend Amy is such an inspiration to me because of her passion for children, families, spiritual formation and also because she lives in Chicago (and has me almost convinced I need to live there too). Anyway, Amy and a group of 9 other children's ministry leaders in the Chicagoland area hosted an amazing conference yesterday, and I got to join them. It was for Chicago, by Chicago ... and thankfully I'm drafted into that group because our film studio is in the suburbs.
Anyway, I've had the privilege of attending many children's ministry conferences over the past 4 years (since I started my job), but this was BY FAR the best. From the first song (Ten Thousand Reasons), I felt my eyes misting. I met a long-time spiritual formation hero of mine, tried not to be too much of a fan-girl, and got to hang out with some of the most dedicated, inspirational, and hard-working children's pastors I've ever met. What I loved the most about this conference was the community-building intentionality Amy and her crew built into it. We would break into small groups and share challenges, stories, ideas, dreams ... the Spirit was moving and working and breathing into this group of pastors in a way that leaves me with no doubt that they will transform a generation of Christians in Chicago, who will go on to change the world. For me, it was an opportunity to listen and learn, to hear the hearts and passions of the leaders who my team tries to equip on a daily basis.
The last session of the day featured the incomparable Phil Vischer speaking on raising kids to do culture-shaping work, specifically in the city. I usually pinch myself about 3 times a day that I get to work with Phil, and every time I hear him speak I am inevitably moved to tears and inspired to work faster, harder and smarter.
I spend a lot of time talking to Price and thinking through how we want to raise our kids. I have, for a very long time, lived a life of fear and anxiety. It's a struggle, and I've been in and out of counseling for it, and every day I pray that I can somehow escape the crushing fear that seems to direct my steps far more than the freedom of the Lord. I told Price not long ago, after a particularly difficult stretch of anxiety, that all I want to do is raise children who fear the Lord, but not the world.
Phil spoke right into the heart of this fear for me - and I could feel the challenge ripple across the room at the conference. He said, "Don't shy away from culture - run into it." He was speaking of the city, of art museums and theaters and soup kitchens and people from every different corner of the world and walk of life. I am inspired to think through those ideas for my own future family, for myself today, and for my work on Monday morning. What would it look like to create space outside of the evangelical bubble for us to meet God? He is present everywhere and in everything, all the time. I don't want my children to grow up thinking that God is just at church, or just at grace before dinner. I want them to see and feel Him in the cool breeze on top of a mountain, in the faces of the penguins and tigers at the zoo, in the blooming roses in our one-day backyard garden, in the smiles of strangers on the street, in the music at the symphony and the hodge-podge of people and flavors that will gather around our kitchen table.
So today is a day of sweet dreams of good work, new projects, and personal goals - all from a 24-hour trip to Chicago. Sweet indeed :)