Comfortable vs. Called

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I'm not sure about you, but when I imagined my professional life and home life as an adult, all I pictured was ease and comfort. Luckily for me, God cleared up that fantasy real quick, but it hasn't been nearly as horrible to live uncomfortably as you would think!

In my dreams, I was a graphic design professional bringing in a decent salary every year and wearing adorable clothes all the time. Oh and we were going to pay off our mountain of student loan debt in 2-3 years flat. We'd spend a little time here in Maryland and then journey back to Texas where our family is living, then settle down.

In my reality, I was blown off by the first company that said they had hired me, I spent the greater part of my first year here unemployed, and most of my second barely employed while volunteering my skills at Severn Run. Money wasn't great, my wardrobe did not improve, and 3 years later we are finally starting to put some money in savings while gradually chiseling down that mountain of student loan debt. Here's the stupid part: I wouldn't trade my reality for my dreams. I would pick this God-given reality over my fabricated lifestyle every time. Every. Stinking. Time. Which is really ridiculous when you start thinking about it.

The amazing part about having the privilege to learn this amazing God-truth so early in my life is now I'm prepared to be uncomfortable for the rest of my life!

Now I'm not talking about always being financially uncomfortable, I really do believe that God has always taken care of us, and now that I know I'm a better steward of my funds, I've already seen him bless in neat ways. I'm pretty sure discomfort will manifest in different ways all the time, but here are a couple experiences that have already come around in my role as Brand & Communications Director at Severn Run.

THE SPOTLIGHT:

Man, this one is the worst for an introverted lady like me. I went a full year at Severn Run without being introduced to our congregation, and I secretly loved it. For a full 52 weeks, I flew under the radar, did what needed to be done and then went home, and it was marvelous!

Not long after that great year, it got out that I'm a pretty decent public speaker. The Creative Team knew this the whole time, but I don't know how the pastoral crew found out. It was probably all of that profound wisdom I kept dropping in Sunday planning meetings. Oh well.

During one of these great meetings that last all of a Tuesday morning, my lead pastor, Drew Shofner, asked if I was ready yet to do the welcome time in our services. The idea had been tossed around before, so I had been wrestling with it for a while; this time I said yes and there it was, the spotlight, glaring in my face.

That Sunday I introduced myself from stage, welcomed our guests, and shared one key thing happening at Severn Run that week, and then as I was walking back in to our Atrium I heard it, "Hey, did you hear? That girl right there is our new communications person!" Dang.

I've been speaking from stage (and now I'm featured on our video announcements) on an almost weekly basis for a solid 6 months now and I'm still not used to feeling so relatable to complete and total strangers. Sunday afternoons are comprised of naps, chocolate, and silence in my house because Sunday Mornings are incredibly draining for me now. Aka - uncomfortable.

So why do I do it? Well it's simple. God is calling me to this, even though my introverted cells hate it so much. It's really amazing to see how God has really equipped you for his calling when you just shut up and follow it. I receive so much positive feedback on how my offering prayers touched someone, or how my goofy presence on The Rundown brightened their day. Never in 1 million years would I have guessed I would be making a difference in this way. I've always been a stagehand hanging out behind the scenes, not BEING the scene. Ew, I still hate typing it a little.

So why do I think it's my calling? Whenever I say that I'm following my calling in this way, The Voices (it's a reference to a sermon series, click it, I'm not nuts) try to tell me that I'm being really cocky. But once I shut that down, I'm confident in my calling because of the seeking I've done. At Severn Run, the millennial generation & women were severely underrepresented in the public eye. My stage presence has totally shifted that, and I'm hoping to see women and Millennials step up in big ways at Severn Run as a result.

THE CREATIVE LEADER:

This one is really new. We finally started planning for Christmas 2 weeks ago. We set aside some time to get together and talk through what our Christmas season was going to look like at Severn Run, and off the record my Executive Pastor had asked me to make a plan and lead the meeting.

Well I showed up the day of the meeting and my Exec. Pastor had double booked and wasn't there. Left in the room were my Lead Pastor, my Worship Pastor, me, and our Connections guy, and none of them knew that I was supposed to be in charge. Think about this for a second. The room was filled with men who were all older than me and had much more professional experience than I did. Their experience points had to quadruple mine on paper! In a quick second, I decided to just take a follower role out of comfort. Not going to lie, the first 20 minutes or so of that meeting was a train wreck. Why? Because I chose to be comfortable in my normal role of following. Even though I had spent hours preparing the night before, I shirked back and let our lead pastor take the reins because I felt uncomfortable leading him without John (Exec. Pastor) gently handing me the reins in front of him (which if you know our lead pastor, Drew Shofner, you know how ridiculous I was being). After we spun in useless circles for a while (not because my lead pastor is a bad leader, because he isn't. He's really the best. He was just unprepared to lead that particular meeting.), I finally stood up and took control. It was the most productive meeting ever (exaggeration), and we came up with some really innovative stuff for our church community to experience this Christmas. (Severn Runners, you can pick up your invite card packs THIS SUNDAY!)

I floored my lead pastor with how we got organized and he even kept me after we closed to let me know that he was appreciative of my leadership and impressed by my mad organizational skills (not a direct quote, but pretty close).

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

Well I hope that my scattered stories can help you see that God calls us out of our comfort-zones more often than he calls us into them. If you are feeling a tug towards something and rationalizing your way out of it because it's not something you feel comfortable with...maybe it's time to reconsider. I don't believe that God calls us to things he hasn't already gifted us to do, the thing is you may not yet realize that you have that particular gifting! I know that the church would be in a better place than it is now if we followed God's calling out of our comfort-zones more often. How are you being called? Are you ignoring it? Are you listening for it? Maybe it's time to follow the call and allow yourself to be over-awed by how God uses you!


Not sure how to hear your calling?

You're in luck, Severn Run did a great series on hearing God's voice over the noise recently. Check out "The Voices" below.

Image from Unsplash.com

Echo 13 - I am a Child of God

So this last one isn't just from my time at Echo. My senior pastor at Severn Run, Drew Shofner, recently preached a similar message which I would love to link to, but that week Satan ate our technology so there is no recording of it. When Drew preached this message, he put it in the light of a family context which isn't something I can fully relate to yet. Sure, I'm a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, grand-daugther, and wife but I'm not a mother and I'm not really planning on being one for a while so there was a whole aspect of that message lost on me in that regard because my brain is not even close to thinking in that way. However, Matt Chandler closed out Echo 13 with almost the exact same message, but geared right at me and all the other artists, geeks and storytellers in the room. Matt started out this session with Galatians 3, telling us that this should be the anchor of our identity in Christ. Basically this chapter starts off calling the Galatian people fools and as you keep reading you find out that Paul is calling them fools because they saw Jesus die and rise again for their sins and all of a sudden they are acting like they have to finish out the task with their own hands and feet. Fools.

Personally, a lot of my childhood I spent a lot of time thinking that I had to do something in ministry or I wasn't doing my salvation justice. When I was young and stupid, I thought my only chance for doing that was by either being the piano or organ lady, or by marrying a pastor (thanks early ingrained sexism in the modern church), and it turned out that I was really bad at piano. There it is, from an early age I felt like I needed to be doing something worthy to round out my salvation. Why? I can look back now and know that those silly thoughts were probably just the early whispers of God's call on my life to actually do ministry, but not because I needed to in order to round out my faith, but rather because he wanted me to and designed me to in his plan. Until recently, I've lived in this reality of thinking I need to be rounding out my salvation for some reason until this truth bomb was dropped right on my face:

"The only place you should be finding joy (and your identity) is in what God says about you not where you think you should be applauded!"

Whaaat? Blew me away. And what is it that God says about us? "You are my child," that's it. He saved us when we were dirty, grubby, dumb kids because we are already his and he loves us desperately. There's no and in what God says about us. He doesn't say, "You are my child and the number one graphic designer! Good luck with that, Bonni, because if you aren't creating stellar graphics for churches all the time, then you aren't fulfilling half of what I made you to be." No, we are solely his children saved at our worst so why do we think we should find joy and identity in doing at all? Another cool thing that Matt said to drive this home was along the lines of "When God saved you, was it when you were doing awesome and Jesus said 'Now I want you on my team!'? No! It was when you were at your worst that he picked you!"

My full identity is child of God. Your full identity is child of God. Our identities are wrapped up only in being his child and have nothing to do with doing anything at all. I think especially in American culture we wrap our our doing and our being in a sloppy package and put way too much weight on that belief. "Hi, I'm Bonni, I am a Graphic Designer." Wrong! I do graphic design, I am a child of God. When I wrap my identity around my actions, life is inconsistent and scary; when I am wrapped in being a child of God things are constant. Watch:

When I am doing awesome at my job - I am a child of God. When the Severn Run Facebook page sees a huge spike in likes because of an awesome ad campaign - I am a child of God. When my husband is full and happy because I've cooked an excellent plate of deliciousness - I am a child of God. When I am tired, and I only put half of my effort into my work for the day - I am a child of God. When I fail miserably and cost my clients hundreds of dollars - I am a child of God. When Bessie the MacPro goes kaput - I am a child of God.

When my doing or external happenings do something to me, there is always a consistency because my being rests solely in the hands of God. I am not shaken because I am a child of God, always. My Father delights in me, and has delighted in me when I was at my best and at my worst. My world is secure in that truth.

"Lean heavily into God's delight in you." - Matt Chandler

Echo 13 - Building Teams

One of the hats I wear at Severn Run is "Creative Team Leader," and it's one of the hardest and most rewarding hats to wear. Most of the time I feel ridiculous being a team leader because I'm 24 and I have some experience, but not very much. However, you know how that one verse says "in your weakness, I'm made stronger..."? Well I can tell you that promise has been true in my life. I'm not saying that leadership is a weakness for me (you can ask my parents, I was born a delegator, sorry Robyn), but the life stage I'm in right now doesn't lend itself to making leadership the easiest thing to jump into as one of your first "real world jobs." [Side note: I really can't figure out where to put quotes and punctuation right now so give me a break on that one English nerds]

Anyways...When I was headed to Echo, I was really excited for the Leadership track breakouts because I felt I needed them, and I did! Team building is essential in ministry and I've been blessed to be forced to team building by the crazy amount of job requirements I have and crazy lack of actual paid time I have in which to do those things. The Creative Team at The Church at Severn Run is an infant, and an amazing infant at that, and I was ready to come back prepared to raise them. I got some good stuff so here it goes.

Teams are nothing without a vision! What's the point of the team if you aren't fighting to win something. Think about how sad it would be to see a bunch of big ol' dudes dressed out in football pads just sort of wandering around a field because there are no goals, there's no winning, there's no purpose. We cannot expect our teams to succeed if we don't continually tell our team the vision, the win! No vision = no passion = no creativity. Every project, event, and celebration will develop around the vision, without it you're just a bunch of sweaty wandering football players that are all upset with one another.

Teams must trust one another. You must trust your team, your team must trust you. Whitney George put it this way, the more you trust your team, the bigger the pipeline between you and your team. This means ideas, projects, and jobs all flow more freely between you when you have more trust between each other. I think this is a really hard one for most leaders because we want things done right, and the right way is our way. This is where things get tricky, if you don't trust your team to do the job the right way, your team is never going to trust you to lead them to that way. Trust is a messy thing because jobs won't always be done in your way, mistakes will be made, typos will be found, money will have to be re-spent, BUT if you don't pass on the culture of trust in your team, you'll never get past those problems and you'll never have a team. The other hard component of creating trust on your team is guarding the culture of your team closely. This means that if someone comes along to volunteer on your team and they are a sour apple, a negative nelly, an all around nasty person, you have to get rid of them for the sake of trust on your team. If your team has always been an upbeat environment, filled with creativity, and suddenly when Crabby McCrabs joins your team, you find that meetings are silent and projects are stagnant, it's time to get real about Mr. McCrabs. Never will one person's talent be worth destroying the trust of your team within itself and with you. Now, I'm not saying throw out every complainer as soon as they whine, Mr. McCrabs will have had a couple of conversations with you about attitude and respect toward the other team members without any signs of change before you toss him back in the sea. This is hard, especially for small teams because you're looking for all the help you can get, but you have to make a trusting, united team a priority.

Finally, teams must have processes and check lists to survive. The Severn Run Staff is getting the check list beat down right now and I have to admit that it's something I'm seriously struggling with in light of my team, but the folks from LifeChurch.tv had a lot of helpful hints for processes in creative environments. Start with the "Why?" Get back to the purpose of the project and live there, solve for X they reminded us. Create brainstorming sessions and make them holy. Make sure they are "yes and..." environments with a stern, yet encouraging "designated driver" to keep the team on track. Always have time limits and expectations of outcomes! After brainstorming some serious work begins, once you have some ideas that are ready for second opinions create a "Thrashing" time and make it holy. I love how they used the term "Thrashing" for a critique session. These sessions should aslo have rules, time limits, a reminder of vision, and a focus on the project not the person. From there projects become better, people gain more experience and stories are told effectively through our work.

Be sure to pray for me and the entire Severn Run Staff as we learn to build teams and keep them healthy. It's a challenge and if you have anything else you would like to add to my couple of tips and tricks from Echo 13, please do!

I'll be wrapping up my Echo journey next week with my identity as a child of God.

Echo 13 - Tell Your Story

I'm sure a lot of you have heard this before about my generation (I'm 24, so whatever the name of that generation is), "You kids think you're the center of the universe because you grew up in a world with Xanga, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter and that made you think that everyone needs to know every little thing you're doing and that they care. Dumb kids!" So that might be a more harsh version than what has popped up in articles and studies, but that's how my brain took it. It shut me up, or down, I don't share about myself and my experiences because, who cares? It's not really about me anyway so what does my experience have to do with anything? Remember how one of the people Echo advertises for is "Storytellers"? Well, having this sort of mindset going in, I totally dismissed that part of the advertising and went in as solely an "Artist" and nothing else. I've come out of this experience feeling very much like a novice storyteller. The very first session I walked into (after mistakenly thinking that a Main Session was first and proving myself a fool in front of my whole team right off the bat), was called "Telling Stories on Sunday" by Scott McClellan. I walked out of this session completely converted to story. Scott posed to us starry-eyed Echo-ers "Where are you taking me?" the question every person in our audience is asking us. I thought "Hey, good question, I'll sketch that in a cool typographic way!" and then he started laying down the good stuff faster than fancy note taking could keep up. As a young twenty-something with the viewpoints I've held lately, Scott reminded me that the Bible is written as a Story, and that God himself called us to be HIS storytellers "and you will be my witnesses..." (Acts 1:8) Notice the Bible says "be" not "do," it's something that should be ingrained in the very fabric of our being, God's own storytellers. Because it is something we are, stories should leak into every aspect of our lives. For me that says a lot professionally. Every graphic, every video, every advertising campaign, every social media plan should be part of, or in itself a story that brings an individual from point A to point B. Scott really helped a silly person like me see how these possibilities were endless by sharing different types of stories: personal experience, imaginative, and vision casting. As you can imagine, my brain nearly exploded when I started thinking about the impact that stories built in these simple ways could have on my community, the one I'm responsible for communicating to, and had been doing a mediocre job of. (If my Executive Pastor reads that sentence he's going to have a cow because it ends in a preposition, but it's my blog so I do what I want).

I went on to the next session with Dawn Nicole Baldwin where the idea of storytelling as advertising and sharing was driven in a little further home. Dawn really did a fantastic job of giving guidelines of how we can push our story through the noise of our culture. She gave some really specific goals for communicators to take a bunch of information and filter it through the lens of the story we are trying to tell in that moment/quarter/year. I won't get into all of that greatness, because it's mostly stuff that will bore you and keep me up all night at this point.

The next day one of the main sessions was a fantastic blitz of really smart people throwing really good information at us. Two of those guys, Steven Brewster and Whitney George both emphasized the role of storytelling and I'm just going to write my notes as they are because they are fantastically written notes: "Let our motivation be to move people from A to B instead of creating art for self praise." - Steven Brewster; "Your ideas are great because they pass through authentic you." - Whitney George. That last quote leads me really nicely into my plane ride home...

On the way home I started reading Scott McClellan's new book "Tell Me a Story" and I almost finished the whole thing on the plane. I still have almost finished it because I haven't stopped and made time for myself to read for pleasure at all since I've been home. Anyways, this book y'all, is very good. Scott takes the time to first convince you why story is good (which he had already done at Echo for me) and then walks you through each component of a story and compares it to the life of a Christian person. Now you may think that this sounds like a book for writers, but it's not, it's for Christians, it's for former Christians, it's for burned out Christians, it's for doubting Christians, it's for strong Christians. One of the things he reminds you of in this book is that, guess what, the Bible is written as a story and as you read it, you should read it like a story. Picking it apart verse by verse looking for answers without considering the entire story handicaps the entire thing. I almost said renders it useless, but I'm pretty sure God can still work through our abuse of his book. I grew up and have spent most of my life treating the Bible this way, as a self-help reference or a spiritual guide guru hoping that if I just flip the page open and point that I will have a huge life revelation and all of my troubles will be solved. I've even used the Bible as an argument tool to prove that I'm right and you're wrong, :P, go sit on a log now. After reading this book, I realized that I've been missing the entire point, well almost. Right now I'm retraining myself to read Scripture with the entire story in mind, and with my story in mind because...

My story is God's story. What? This is such a simple concept now that I can't believe took me so long to understand. When I stifled my own story, my own experiences, my own pains and victories, I'm stifling the story of the Living God. As much as he worked through the people in the Bible, he's working through me now and the same goes for you as you seek him in your life. I'm attempting to live life understanding the story I'm in. Understanding that without pain and conflict, it wouldn't be a story, it would just be stagnant me, the same me from 10 years ago. Without hard work, I'm living pointlessly, following nothing that God has for me. I'll end this post with an amazing tidbit shared by Donald Miller in another main session: What if God has a purpose, an end goal, a Point B for your life, but he hands you the crayons of the journey and says to us "Make the journey meaningful and beautiful!" then allows you to draw?

Echo 2013 - The Recap Begins

Life is busy, y'all. An exhilarating, life-giving kind of busy, but just dang busy. Most of that busyness has been coming from my work with The Church at Severn Run lately, which means Bonni Mace Design has been sitting on the back burner as far as advertising, reaching out for new clients and updating this website, blog and all. I absolutely love working for Severn Run, my pastors have a unified vision and I'm very much on board with it. Nothing feels more important than designing for ministry and those who are aiming to glorify Christ in their work and through their businesses. It gets my adrenaline pumping.

One of the awesome opportunities that Severn Run has provided me with this summer was the privilege to attend Echo Conference 2013. Echo Conference is an amazing event specified towards church creatives, worship pastors and tech gurus, or as they would say, artists, geeks and storytellers. Back in 2010, I got to be one of the interns for RT Creative Group, the company that works really hard to put on Echo Conference each year, so I knew for a while that I wanted to get back here and get a team there when I started working in ministry. I wanted to write down some of the things I took away from Echo 13 before leaving in the morning for another conference called Willow Creek's Leadership Summit in Chicago. That being said, it's late, I'm tired, and I want to just spit this all on virtual paper before my brain loads up with new inspiration and information so this may be a crazy rambled blog post. Maybe I'll edit it later...maybe not.

Here are my three biggest takeaways from Echo 13:

  • Tell your story!
  • Build healthy teams & creative environments!
  • I am a Child of the Living God and that is where my identity lies!

I'll elaborate on each of these topics over the next couple of weeks. Please let me know what you think down there in the comments!