Friday, August 12, 2011

Friendly Friday: Leigh Kramer

Today's Friendly Friday post is from someone who has a special place in my heart: Leigh Kramer from HopefulLeigh. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Leigh at She Speaks last month, and she (along with Heatherly over at A Pink Daisy Life) accompanied me on a late-night Sonic run after Ann Voskamp's emotionally-charged talk.

Because after something like that, sometimes a girl just needs some ice cream. Can I get a witness?

Leigh is a sweet gal, a wonderful writer, and a snazzy dresser. I'm not kidding. She'll act like she's not, but she's the type of person who can go to a thrift store and put a trendy outfit together without even trying. I want to be that person!

Leigh, I want to be you!

So read her here, go over to her blog and read her there. Follow her on Twitter. But definitely get to know this woman—and, for Pete's sake, sit next to her in church!

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Leigh Kramer

I've had an uneasy relationship with church the last decade or so. I was raised to go to church each week and definitely benefited from this upbringing. Once in college, however, church did not fit into my “find myself” equation. Without my parents around, I didn't have to go. And so I didn't.

By senior year, I'd wrestled with the intersection of faith and politics. I was comfortable referring to myself as a Christian again but didn't believe church attendance was necessary. It took another year before I risked entering the hallowed doors, certain I would not fit in, then pleasantly surprised that it didn't matter.

It should have been smooth sailing after that. Unfortunately, I've had a hard time settling in, at times because of my own issues but sometimes because of the churches' issues. While fellowship and worship are an important part of faith, every few Sundays come and go without me setting foot in a proper church.

In fact, it happens more often than I'd like to admit.

In a day and age of ready access to sermons online, we can easily rationalize our lack of attendance. God and I are cool, I say. I don't need to go to church. Except I know that I do.

There are plenty of reasons and excuses. I'm still single and it's not fun to sit by myself week after week. If I go to the early service, I can sit with my best friend and her family. Otherwise, I'm on my own in a big church. I prefer big churches but I've had a hard time finding community at the one I've chosen.

When a friend of mine moved to Nashville, I took the opportunity to go church shopping with her since I'd settled in at my church right away after moving here a little over a year ago. Yet nothing else has approached the level of teaching and worship at my church.

I recognize churches aren't perfect and maybe community will come in time. I realize church is not about me; it's about honoring God and refocusing our priorities.

But come Sunday morning, it's hard to motivate myself.

I never regret going to church. Perhaps this Sunday I'll find myself back in a pew.

If you happen to notice me sitting by myself, might you join me? A little company is always welcome in a house of worship.

15 comments:

  1. Rachel, you crack me up! I promise to take you resale shopping someday and teach you my ways. Here's hoping the fellowship improves at my church soon!

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  2. @HopefulLeigh I feel you. We go to a pretty big church (4,000-6,000 on a Sunday), and you have to really want to get connected and actively seek it out in order to find community. It's great that they offer a lot of ministries and small groups and opportunities, and they've become very passionate about plugging people in, but it's still easy for people to get lost.

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  3. Church shopping - like that expression.
    We have not attended in some time ourselves ... for me, finding a church home that doesn't judge ... yes, still searching.

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  4. More than anything else the purpose of church is to connect with people. That is the importance. Unfortunately, it is often easier to "connect" with people on Facebook or Twitter. But that is not the type of people we want to be, right? But you are right, it is hard, especially if you are single. And dealing with all those people! Ugh. But if you find a church where you can really plug in, it will revolutionize your life. All that said, I am "shopping" for a church right now too. :) Great post. Thanks

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  5. If we lived in the same town still, I would sit next to you. Love your breath of fresh air honesty.

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  6. @Rachel, you're right that there are more opportunities at a bigger church. That's definitely a positive. The trouble has been finding the right one. I enjoyed the Bible study I participated in but most of our group went to other churches. And the small group I tried was not a good fit at all (still shuddering about that one). But I hope to give it another whirl this fall.

    @By Word of Mouth Musings, it's so important to find a place that you feel comfortable in. I wish more churches had an open minded stance. No one's perfect after all and there should be room for differences of opinion. At least in my ideal world:)

    @Tim, good luck to you as you seek a new church home!

    @Donna, thanks for the offer, friend. Of course, my issue with consistent church attendance is bigger than finding a seatmate but it taps into one of my excuses/rationalizations quite well.

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  7. I can totally relate to this, Leigh! I go to a small-ish church in my smaller-ish hometown, and there was a time when I almost left for a bigger, 'younger' church in Austin. I felt like I wasn't connecting, like it was impossible to engage in community when I was so much younger than the majority of the congregation. Eventually, God spoke a very clear truth to my heart; the church wasn't the problem. I was. Instead of leaving, I started a small group for twentysomething women--all 3 of us. Then we became 6. Then 10. and so on. It has been such a blessing to see the young women in our community come together, and I would've missed the entire experience and blessing of knowing those beautiful women had I not trusted God's direction. The church has flaws and faults, of course, but I know that if we turn our struggles over to Him, if we even say so much as, 'Lord, engage me,' He will revolutionize our lives.

    Thank you for your honesty on this post. I've been there & I know there are so many others who can relate, too.

    And ps... I'd love to sit by you in church. Actually, I'd love to sit by you anywhere because that would mean we were in the same place! :)

    LOVE.

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  8. Leigh

    Just so you know connecting while married is difficult too. My experience is similar to Brittany's. Except I was married and a stat at home mom in a new town. I knew no one except through church and at times can allow insecurities to make me painfully shy. Yes weird because I am really not shy. What I did?

    I asked our Adult Sunday School leader (she and her husband co-led and had been at the church for 10 years) if the church had a women's prayer group or something. I needed someone to pray with and connect to. It took me a year to ask this and she told me that she had been praying for the same thing!

    We all assume that longevity at a church equals connection but not necessarily. If I hadn't reached out I would have missed out on one of my closest and best friendships ever! We still get together often. Even after seven years!

    I encourage us all to come to church looking to bless others. Then is when we can really connect.

    Thanks for sharing your heart! You are precious!

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  9. nice post, Leigh. as a cradle Christian, I understand and feel with you. I found for myself that the worst times I've found myself not wanting to go to church were the the years I was in Bible College and the times I had a hard time connecting to community. I haven't completely sorted out my feelings toward the attitude of always being at church when the doors are open. That was my mother's philosophy.

    One thing that helped me in recent years is the realization that church is not about what I get from it, but is about God and his wanting us to fellowship together. I'm not saying this to make anyone feel bad about not attending church. I think each person needs to have their own aha moment. and if that never comes, I think that's ok too. We are all journeying in faith, and we all come to different aspects of our faith journey at different times.

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  10. Leigh...I can *so* relate to this. I'm going to a really big church right now and I am much like you, once I go I'm happy I went, but making myself go is often hard. I long for connection so much.

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  11. It is so important and helpful to have a church family where we can learn and celebrate and cry occasionally, together. My church has continual programs to help folks here in our town and round the world. Your church sounds like a good one for you.

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  12. @Brittany, I love how you started the program that you needed! That's so cool. I was hugely involved in the young adult program at my hometown church until a few years ago. I hope we can be in the same place again sometime soon!

    @Angela, thank you for that reminder. We all seek community no matter what stage of life we're in. I'm so glad that you were able to find such connection with your friend. I am praying through some service opportunities at my church- think that could help me feel more tied in. We'll see about the rest!

    @Het, ditto:)

    @Doug, yes, that realization has helped me in recent years but not always. This past year I've been really frustrated by my "deal" with church and this post was about just a fraction of it. I'm hoping to get to the bottom of it soon!

    @Carmen, I hope we will both find the community we're looking for at our respective churches soon.

    @Terra, your church sounds awesome! I'm hoping if I keep plugging away, eventually my church will rock the community element, as much as it rocks in teaching and worship.

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  13. Leigh, I can understand this, too. We attend a small home fellowship, and it is the perfect environment for us in our time right now. And I think one of the biggest reasons is that connection. We feel closer to many of the people in our fellowship than much of our family. As others mentioned here, large churches can often offer that small group connection, too, but I understand how it can take a while to find a place within to connect. We were made for connection - through encouragement, loving rebuke, and teaching. It's amazing how much fellowship can strengthen us, isn't it?

    Thanks for this honest post!

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  14. Oh Leigh, I struggle with this too. It is too easy to come by a hundred different reasons why not to go. I remember sitting alone for years in my church, determined not to give up. I am married, but my husband would not go. So I would sit alone and listen to the sermon, but feel so alone. My church was a big church too and I would listen to the pastor say over and over "Get involved in a small group" but I thought that if they won't reach out to me why should I reach out to them. Eventually I took the plunge and got involved in a ministry and got blessed out my ears with people to sit next to. I have since moved on to other churches but I know the key to getting involved now. It involves a leap of faith, just like your blogging was and your writing endeavors now. But look at how well those are going!

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