What 2017 Taught Me About Relationships

A friend took this and tagged me and her husband. Hi Kee!

At the start of 2017, I had friends, a few fairly close. But I wanted more and deeper relationships. A key to friendships, and how I gained most of mine, is it requires two people side-by-side facing an experience or challenge. Romantic relationships, you look at each other, friendships face forward at what’s ahead.

Intimacy, and by that I mean a deeper knowledge of each other, comes from time together in idle conversations. We can learn a lot when we get out of our own heads and listen. With the Homeless Ministry, those friendships are forged while feeding the hungry, and political conversations arise among cool heads. Or me and Jayla geek out over comics, which is preferential to politics these days. GriefShare alumni, friendships grow from the challenge of grief. We see people at their rawest.

In life, developing relationships and memories is what matters. The right relationships make life worth living, otherwise, it feels sterile and empty. They are the color of an otherwise black and white life. It’s good to stay in touch and involved with those you care for, even after they’ve moved away.

I cherish my friends, capturing experiences on paper like my wife Casey does with her thousands of pictures so that I won’t forget. I’ve read that you’re the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most and looking around, I can live with that. Those I have, they’re quickly becoming adopted family, if they aren’t already.

Go, be a friend, and you’ll make friends.

The Year of Preparation

It’s that time of year again. To look back over the previous year to see what prevailing theme springs up. 2017 ended with a shocker that caught me flat-footed. Not God though, He was preparing for it. Let’s look and see what He was up to.

Early to Mid 2017

I did a thought experiment on going back to my old ways. Just the thought of it felt like I was moving upstream against a heavy current. Instead, everything has been moving toward loving others more, opening up to them, and caring for them.

My heart was breaking more for the grieving, more so than before. However, over the course of the year, a new burden was added. To see a large, active Deaf church. I’ll return to this later.

Relationships

My few friendships grew closer and deeper. I gained a deeper appreciation for relationships. One of the important things in life is developing relationships and creating memories. They add color and joy to life.

I also watched people drift away. The ones that remained grew closer together, becoming like family. I love the time with my friends, making sure to capture the memories on paper. They have my heart.

Internal Changes

At the start of the year, I noticed people were opening up to me. I asked my mentor, Jaime, why. Her answer was people noticed the consistent and steady transformation in mine and Casey’s lives.

Then I began to mourn and grieve over people and the world. For a long time, I couldn’t describe it until I read Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. He summed it up well with this quote:

Such men mourn for the world, for it’s guilt, its fate, its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings, “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,” they mourn. They see that for all the jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink. The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgment, and the coming of the kingdom.

I’m saddened because I can see the negative consequences that’ll happen if people don’t stop. The world and its pain make me sad. I asked Jaime about it, and she said to get it into my core.

So I do, becoming more empathic, and learning to see with an eternal perspective. While facing an onslaught of personal and spiritual attacks, others were noticing my growing heart. That led to burnout.

Every year I go through a season of burnout and fatigue. I was emotionally drained this time. To combat it, I added Wednesday as another day of Sabbath rest. The idea comes from the True Vine passage, operating alone leads to failure. The more you do, the more time you need with God.

Trustworthy With A Little Leads To Being Trusted With More

Our roles grew in Deaf Church. While the Pastor was away she put me, Casey, and John in charge of a Family Bowling Night. On another weekend, she had to be out of town, she entrusted Casey to host a women’s event and me to be the substitute teacher for the class.

Through it all, we were noticed, tested, and given an opportunity to join the Deaf church’s leadership team. It was before all this that the burden to see a thriving Deaf church was already in place. We even turned down an opportunity to lead a 1st Grader class because we didn’t feel led there, but to the Deaf Church.

I still wasn’t completely sure what it would entail at that point.

We proved faithful with little and were given more. It’s an important promotion principle, especially if you’re not even trying to get ahead. That takes the ego out of it.

Our training began, and assignments were given, such as connecting with everyone in the room at events, how to teach a class, etc. These pushed me outside my comfort zone and I definitely needed God’s help. I felt vibrantly alive while doing it.

My strength lies in supporting and coordinating in the background. Thanks to Daisy’s leadership in GriefShare, I learned how to be more comfortable in the foreground. It’s becoming easier to blend what she and Jaime taught me in both ministries.

The church is becoming like a second home and I’m loving it.

2017’s Lessons

As far as my faith this year, I learned about God’s sovereignty, compassion, and discipleship. In areas of leadership, I learned how to see people, create culture, and unfortunately disciplining people along with dealing with critics. I may expand on these in posts this month.

The Shocker of 2017

Then we learned Jaime was stepping down as pastor to focus on her son. Gary stepped into the role officially the day this posts. I didn’t see this coming at all. Proverbs 20:24 was at work, “A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How can anyone understand their own way?” I don’t think any of us saw this coming last January.

Now What?

Alongside Pastor Gary, John, and Casey, I’m investing in Deaf Church’s future. I do feel the weight of it, people’s eternity is at stake. That thing I’ve felt I’m being prepared for the last couple of years, I believe this is it.

2017 has been the year of finding my purpose. It’s been a year of preparation. The greater appreciation of relationships, an enlarging heart for people, grieving the brokenness, my spiritual and personal struggles have been God at work molding me for the work He has for me. The leadership lessons from work experiences, church, Jaime, and Daisy (not to mention more than a few books); has been training.

2018 is going to take it all to another level. I can feel it.

Legacy and How To Make An Impact

What comes to your mind when you hear the word mentor? To me, three things come to mind: advisor, teacher, example. I think mentorship is the most common form of leadership. We all look up to someone.

Sometimes, a mentor can become like family.

To get to that level takes years, a few big moments, and lots of little ones. One of the most influential people in my life is Pastor Jaime. She got there by investing in my wife and me over the years. John Maxwell teaches five levels of leadership (influence), and this is an example of it.

In The Beginning

My wife was somewhat connected to FirstNLR’s Deaf Church. When we wanted to get married, we started going there. To get married we had to go through premarital counseling with her. The Position level, she’s a Pastor who can marry us after she advises and teaches us.

By the time we were married and had had a few counseling sessions during the hard times, her level of influence was at Permission level. Because she cared, her influence expanded beyond her role as a pastor.

A quick aside about pastors, they’re shepherds, top-level mentors who are best exemplified by the 23rd Psalm. An average mentor will give advice and suggestions. The extraordinary ones invest their life into you.

Taking It To The Next Level

Then my godson died. Within hours she was at the scene where we were with the EMTs and police. I cannot imagine the impact it had on her. What she did after left a lasting impact on us.

We were in the emergency room at least three times within a year, she came every time. She tried to help us find a lawyer, fought for Casey to have an interpreter in therapy. When they wouldn’t pay for one, she did it for free at a personal cost to herself. That’s her full-time job.

Later she took on the role of counselor for us both when we could no longer afford therapy. When GriefShare came to our church for the first time, she and/or Daisy, arranged for an interpreter for my wife.

She was at the upper limits of the Production level. That’s where you follow because of what they’ve done for you or the team.

Pushing Us Outside Our Comfort Zones

Her horizons changed for us. With the help of her persuasive mother-in-law, she got us to lead a ministry team. That was three and a half years ago. I was encouraged to make friends and given a book on how to do just that. Books. At this point, she knew me well. I count at least seven of her recommendations I’ve read. (After writing this, she gave me 8 more books.)

From there she continued to teach and mentor, recruiting us (among others) into Deaf Church ministries. Deaf GriefShare, the Media Team for me, Greeter and Outreach for Casey (perfect for her kind heart and friendliness). We took on set-up for the class when people dropped out.

That’s the beginning of the fourth level, People Development. Reproducing leaders. It took four years to get to that level with us. See the pattern?

The Peak of Leadership

Then we had a miscarriage. The Saga of Squiggles details those days, and the importance of being in a church family. Pastor Jaime hit the fifth level, Respect. You only arrive there if someone places you there. It’s what happens when people respect you for who you are because you led well from all the levels over the course of years.

Something else began to happen as well. A mentor became a close friend.

We continued on as she developed us into leaders. Since becoming a supervisor at work, she’s fielded many of my questions. Her answers are printed off for quick reference on my clipboard.

She empowered us to do more. For example, a bowling night that she organized, she had John, Casey and myself lead. Another occasion was an impossible weekend for her, she was pulled away, so Casey was empowered to lead a Woman’s Day that had been planned. Casey wasn’t a take-charge type of person before. Now she is.

Deaf Den ran without a hitch later that night, though we had to pick on her a little. We joined John on her leadership team at Deaf Church. The next day I taught Sunday School for the first time.

That was possible because of another friend and mentor, Daisy, who encouraged and empowered me to lead sessions of GriefShare. So I was used to looking at a room full of people ready to listen to me, just not standing there and teaching for a length of time. But I did.

Legacy

Now she’s officially stepping down from the position. She’ll always be our pastor though. Now she’s entrusting us to help her successor. We’re the legacy she is leaving, and it’s humbling to be trusted with that much.

We wouldn’t be where we are without her loving, investing, and sharing life with us. Do you want to make an impact?

  • First, find someone ahead of you in the journey. Learn from them. I can say many of my decisions are filtered through what she’s taught me.
  • Next, pour into another like she did us. Create a legacy and form a relationship that continues forever.

Jaime won’t be our pastor after this year is up, that will be Pastor Gary, and we will help and learn from him. She will always be our friend, a part of our family that is closer than some of our blood relatives. We can never repay her for all she’s done. When you mutually go through life’s ups and downs together, especially like our lives, an unbreakable bond is forged.

That’s how you make an impact as a mentor and leave a legacy. You care, help, build up, and empower them to move forward. Now it’s our turn.