Comings and Goings: Why Endings and beginnings in the church world can be difficult, and how I have learned to navigate changes with dignity and strength.

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When you leave a church and have been in that church’s active ministry, it’s hard.  It’s hard, because so many people misunderstand.  It’s hard because people tell people what they heard, leaving a long and confused string of thoughts and ideas about why the leavers left.   It’s hard because it is a loss-both to the leaver and to the stay-er.  The sense of loss on either end no doubt can be measured by the investment of time in the place, and the people of the church.

In my experience, we have only served at really large churches, and I am guessing the “large” mega-ness of these mega churches only amplify feelings, raw emotion, words, insinuation, etc., although I have also learned that People are People Wherever You Go.  I am sure small churches have issues that are just as difficult to navigate.  For myself and our family, we’ve lived large, and that can come with a lot of interesting factors when raw emotion and sincere beliefs are mixed without much direction for how to handle t hem in a healthy and productive way.

Rob was a pastor at Granger Community Church for 21 – 22 ish years. We moved to Kansas in 2014 so he could serve on the pastoral team at Westside family church.  We’ve lived in Kansas almost five years now.  It is difficult for me to believe Belle was in third grade when we moved here.  Whitney was finishing up eighth grade, and Maddie finishing up her freshman year in high school.   The girls are now 20, 18 and 15.  Belle has her drivers permit.  I still cannot wrap my head around that, considering such a short time ago we packed up her Polly Pockets, Barbies and Littlest Pet Shop toys.

Leaving Granger was by far the most difficult decision Rob and I have ever made, because it broke our hearts to leave a place, we poured so much life and love into.  Nearing the end of our time there,  I was feeling bewildered, un-needed, unnecessary.  Rob was working harder and harder to fix everything that was wrong in that moment, I had my hands utterly full with three delightfully spirited girls, so much so that I forgot that my feelings lay somewhere below the surface of my busyness. I forgot Rob had feelings too.

When I allowed myself to slow down, I realized I was sad that Rob was never home on the weekends.  I was sad that my friendships frequently went wonky because of his position in the church and community.  My friends would disagree with something church related, which they absolutely had a right to do, and it was often too difficult to navigate issues too complex for me to figure, in order to save the relationship.  There seemed to be more that was complicated in our lives than what made sense.  It was hard.

Rob was given a sabbatical as a gift for a “Job well done” after serving 20 years at Granger.  That summer we sat with friends and Soul Care professionals Steve and Gwen Smith at the Potter’s Inn.  They peeled back those painful layers so we could see the raw emotion we were both stifling under the surface of our lives.  It was incredibly painful to come to terms with the fact that the way we were living was not good or healthy for ourselves, our family, or for anyone.  We decided together that it was time to change the scenery and save our marriage and family.  We needed to make some drastic changes.

And so we did.  As I have mentioned, there were ripples and waves of discussion and speculation.  I wrote a post the day Rob resigned, published it two hours before the announcement came.  I was instantly and permanently shamed from the inside circles, people I loved and adored, raised babies with, prayed with, vacationed with, etc. in one moment turned against me. I was devastated and confused.  It knocked me down for a long, long time.  I loved the people of Granger with all my heart.  My post simply stated that we were tired, we needed to focus on our marriage and family, “mega” was not working for us any longer, and we needed to move on.  I was hoping my post would help explain that.  To many it did.  To several it did not.

Along with the negative, there were hundreds of positive words and kind thoughts sent our way.  Why is it that the few less than kind comments hurt the most?  I’m not sure.  I wish I were mature enough to dismiss them with grace, shielding my heart in the most appropriate way, while navigating the pain in a perfect way that never stepped on the toes of anyone ever.  But I have found I am not that person.  Not at all. I say what is.  I cannot say more or less.  I have lived a long forty five years, and have found that the most comfortable in my own skin I’ve ever been are the times I’ve shared my truth without the commentary of a hundred voices in my head.  I listened to and tried to please everyone, and that was part of my demise.  I can’t please everyone.  I cant make everyone happy, or even like me.
Here we find ourselves, at the crossroads of another ending and a new beginning.  Rob left Westside Family Church in November, and now…we are planting our own church, The KC Underground.  We are loving it, serving together and living it together, as we love to do.

There are many differences in why we left both Granger and Westside, but I have changed, quite a lot.  What did I learn from what really hurt?

A few things.  I learned that:

1: My heart is worth guarding.   I do whatever I need to do to keep my heart safe.

2: To trust the few, rather than the many.  My close friends and confidants are  the ones I lean and depend on.  The public-ness of our lives does not mean that the public can have full access to my words, thoughts and feelings.

3: To make my closest allies people who are not affiliated with my husband’s workplace.  These friends can offer fair perspective because the only skin they have in the game is their relationship with me, not with me, my husband, and whole church.

4: Not to take criticism too much to heart. I can let criticism crush me. I’m learning to take in what I need to and let the rest go.  Words can hurt, but only if I let them.

5: Jesus is my best, best friend. Walking with Jesus down lonely roads has made me stronger than I have ever been. His love and grace and poured over me and in me, capturing my heart and imagination, setting my soul on fire.

If you are in full time ministry or church work, prepare yourself for the comings and goings before they happen.  Keep your soul healthy as you know how.  Trust Jesus and let your friends love you.  Stay strong and remember your true north.  Your soul is worth it.

Introducing…

Us!  The Wegner’s.

Wegner JeepWe moved from Indiana to Kansas on May 2.  Every single day since then, I have had a lesson in the form of humility from one source or another.  Every place I go, I have to rely on Siri or my instincts to figure out where I am and where I am going, and how to get there.  The days I rely on my instincts, I get lost.

Other than daily getting lost or finding myself driving down the wrong way on a one way street, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Kansas.  Our new church family, Westside Family Church, has welcomed us with grace and peace and so, so much kindness.

Every day is a new introduction.  A new something somewhere.  I am a deeply settled person.  I enjoy roots, predictability, and the peace that comes from knowing what happens next.  Learning the in’s and outs and shortcuts will take time, I’m sure.  

As I am being humbled by learning all things new, I thought I’d take a minute to blog about what I DO know. These are the people I know best in the world–their in’s and out’s, their shortcuts, what makes them who they are.  I’d like to introduce my family.  Understand these are bird’s-eye-view introductions. Each one of us is incredibly complex.  Our girls are very spirited–The dynamics of raising three girls in one family are intense, insanely fun, and keep Rob and I on an incredibly high learning curve .

Rob and got married 21 years ago when he was 21 and I was 19.  We were close friends from the time I was 12 and he was 14.  I still remember clear as day the first time I saw him.  He radiated joy and warmth and he was the funniest person I knew (besides myself, of course)

Rob at Jenny LakeRob is a phenomenally gifted communicator and teacher of Jesus and His ways.  He is a wonderful husband and amazing father to our three girls.  He is patient and kind with them, leading them by his example and courage to follow Jesus wherever He leads.  Rob is a guitarist and musician. Music oozes out of him wherever he goes.  It’s in his soul and spirit.  He’s a dreamer of really big dreams, and a huge believer in helping others implement their own.  I’m proud to be his wife.

Maddie-CameraMadeline (Nick names:Maddie, Madalina, Madeliney, Mads, Matt, Mattie Mick…etc)

Maddie is 15. She is an old soul in a young body. She’s an introvert, a Noticer, and deeply compassionate.  Maddie is wise beyond her years and can spot a faker in a second (someone who says they are one thing but really are not who they say they are).  She’s deeply intuitive and an amazing photographer.  She’s hilarious and fun, practical and precise.  She is a wonderful role model to her younger sisters.  I am so proud to be her mom.

Whitney-Headband

Whitney (Nick names Whit, Whitster, Whitaker, Wick)

Whitney is 14.  She is the tallest of our girls, and is made of solid muscle.  She’s a strawberry blonde beauty.  She’s intense, incredibly fun, an extremely strong leader, bold, loud, confident, and courageous.  Whit is the kind of kid who is a friend to literally everyone she knows and an underdog for the outcast kind of kids.  She has a gift for making those around her feel loved, included and important.  Whitney makes me laugh every day.  I’m so proud to be her Mamma.

BelleIsabelle  Joy(Belle, Isabob, Corndog, LIttle Mac, Is., Peanut)

Belle is 10.  She exudes joy and life like no one I’ve ever known.  From the minute she wakes up until her head hits the pillow at night, she oozes life and radiates joy.  She is so much fun, non-stop.  She is a Rainbow Loom genius, making bracelets and crafts several hours a day.  She is deeply sensitive, is easily hurt, but comes alongside those who hurt because she knows how it feels.  Belle is a best friend and buddy to whomever she is with.  She is the definition of joy.  Her smile and laugh light up a room like magic.  I’m so proud to be Belle’s Mamma.

Michelle-HeadbandMe – I’m 41.  I’ve written for several magazine publications over the past 10 or so years about family life and spiritual matters.  I am a mega introvert.  I need lots and lots of time alone, and people often misunderstand this part of me as snobbishness or aloofness.  I promise I am neither of those.  I love people.  I love Jesus.

I love my family with all of my heart.  I love anything artsy or creative or fun.  Driving my Jeep with the top down, taking photos along the way with the sun on my face (or even in the pouring rain) fills me up.  I’m often in nature alone, photographing stuff that point me to my Creator.  I see Him through my camera lens, and hear His voice in the wind.

That’s enough introducing for now. Your eyeballs are probably tired from this very, very long post.  Go take a nap and give your eyes a break.  It’s been so lovely getting to know you all.  Thanks for being gracious and kind as we humbly get to know you back.

~Grace and Peace.

Over The Rainbow

So, suddenly here we are, over the rainbow…in Kansas! Who would have ever thought that we would end up in Kansas? I wouldn’t have! For all the people that live here in Kansas, I am ashamed to say the only perception I had of Kansas was a black and white one from my childhood-Dorothy’s Kansas with farms and cyclones and crazy wizards living in trailers in the middle of nowhere.

I have been overwhelmed by the beauty of this place, the blue’s are more blue, the green’s are more green. We live a few miles from several parks that are breathtaking in their beauty.  There are bluebirds everywhere, coyotes, and SNAKES!  We’ve had so many adventures in the month that we’ve lived here.  It’s been wild and wonderful.

Before Rob and I came to Westside to interview for his position, a friend texted me and said, “What do you think about moving to Kansas?” I replied sarcastically “I am NOT moving to Kansas”.

Famous last words.  Ha.

The girls enjoyed getting to know their new schools for the last few weeks of the school year. It was a bit hectic exiting their old schools and entering the new, all at the end of the school year and during a cross country move, but on the other side of it all, we are glad we made the decision.  They were each able to make some friends, as well as learn their way around their new schools and our neighborhood.

We love our new house.  Belle’s school is just outside of our back gate, which means she can get to school in under a minute in the mornings, but it also means we have a gigantic playground in our back yard, and a beautiful path to walk in the evenings.  We are beyond grateful.

We have also been getting to know our new church, Westside Family Church.  It is one amazing place, with a wonderful staff and tons of extremely friendly people.  Learning everyone’s names has been a challenge, especially in my now old age of 41, but people have been very gracious and patient.  🙂

We are still waiting for our house in Granger to sell, so if you know anyone who is interested in a fabulous house in Granger in an amazing school district, let us know!  Also, if you are a person who prays, ask God to send the right family to love that house and neighborhood as much as we did.

We are grateful for all the love and support of our friends and family in this time of transition.  It’s been an amazing ride to the other side of the rainbow, but we are happy, settling in, and finding our footing here as we march forward together as a family on this new adventure.

Shawnee Mission Tower