Life is a Movie Starring You

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I read this book when I was 16. It introduced me to the idea that your life can be whatever you want it to be. The author used illustrations from classic films and the lives of 1950s-1970s actresses and classic crooners like Frank Sinatra. This was right up my alley. I loved this exciting approach to life–to walk out the door in the morning with a soundtrack in my head. Each morning, I popped open my Discman (yeah I call it a Discman. My youth group girls told me that’s OLD and I should say CD player…but I rock my Gen X/Millennial line-straddling with pride. So deal.) and chose a song to kick off my day. I imagined my life as a movie and it gave me more confidence to say YES to things that scared me, to get excited about things and to not squelch that feeling out of fear of being let down. When my life was a movie, I could steer the storyline however I wanted and create a life I loved.

Something I didn’t think about immediately was that in a movie, there are scenes. And they exist for a reason. To move the story forward, to help characters evolve, to provide resolution where possible. Can I be honest, here? I hate that scenes exist. At the same time…I understand why they need to be there. I sometimes skip ahead to the scene in When Harry Met Sally where Billy Crystal says, “When you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to begin as quickly as possible.” If you know that movie well, you know that this means I skip the ENTIRE movie to get to the final scene. I just love it that much. If I could camp out in that scene forever, I would. But I have to believe that the reason I love it so much is because I know what led up to it…because I’ve watched the scenes before it play out.

There’s a long scene that’s coming to an end in my life next week. I started working at Eagle Brook Church 3.5 years ago. I drove into the office blasting “Fader” by The Temper Trap because I love how it builds up at the front of the song. It’s how I wanted to imagine this scene starting. The beginning of the movie. Cast credits playing.

I was greeted warmly by my coworkers. Mainly because it wasn’t technically my first day. I had attended a conference in Dallas, TX with them a week earlier and met them all for the first time at the airport. We got to know each other quickly. Specifically, Melissa and I. We shared a hotel room where Melissa had to take pump breaks because she’d recently come back to work after having her first baby. We were essentially starting fresh together. Melissa and I went to college together but only knew each other because we’d had a couple Communication classes together; so to be working on the same Communication team at Eagle Brook seemed funny and fortuitous. On my first day at the office, I sat down at my desk to this note:

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We’re still buddies.

We’ve been through A LOT in the past few years. Mel had another baby and I helped cover her maternity leave. While she was on leave, I came across an interesting profile on Instagram…interesting meaning it belonged to a boy that I found attractive. 🙂 Instagram told me that a mutual friend of ours was Melissa, so I sent her a text asking, “Who is Justin Bonhiver?” Her reply? “OH MY GOODNESS. I can’t believe I didn’t already think of this. This is PERFECT!” They knew each other from a high school bible study they both belonged to years ago. So she sent Justin a text message and gave him my phone number. And well, the rest is history.

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I sat down over lunch with Shannon, Krista Rose, Eva, Jackie, and Kellie and often sent text messages to Melissa while she was on maternity leave about HOW NERVOUS I was every time I had a date with Justin. Early on, before every date I required a pep talk from these girls. I was rusty when it came to dating, and I’d been hurt before. But they are the ones who helped me push through all that nonsense and say YES to something that had the potential to be incredible. (And for the record–is.) I am so grateful for those chats with those girls!

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They listened to me whine about little things and big things. We supported each other through sudden tragedies in each other’s lives, medical concerns, family tension, relationship changes and organizational challenges at the office. These are my people. I heart them.

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Within the first few months of working at EBC, my close friend Christie passed away from a two-year battle with brain cancer. It is to this day the most difficult loss I’ve experienced. It was drawn-out, tragic, painful and unexpected. I grieved pretty publicly about that and have written about it many times, so I won’t go into it again here. However, I can’t help but reflect on the role Eagle Brook played in my life at that time.:

  • It was on the floor of the closed-door filming studio at EBC that I learned of Christie’s passing.
  • It was Jamie Colbert, a former EBC graphic designer (and still a cherished friend!), who knew that I wasn’t a hug person and forced a love-filled hug on me that morning.
  • It was Johanna, the former Comm Director who allowed me to flit in and out of the office when Christie was in hospice care to visit her whenever possible. (She also made a point to touch my shoulder when she passed my desk when she knew things were getting worse with Christie.)
  • It was in worship led by my coworker, Kate Freer (graphic designer) that I felt a significant healing moment on one of the darkest days of my life in the auditorium at the Lino Lakes campus, six months after Christie passed away. It was powerful. And Kate is forever a part of that in my memory.

Speaking of that filming studio, I never thought I’d have any reason to be in a studio. But one day, Mike Hadley and Michael Pearce Donley decided that I was worth taking a chance on and gave me the opportunity to host the weekly announcement videos that aired in weekend services. My big face was seen on massive sidescreens at six campuses by 22,000+ people every weekend for two years. I’m sorry, what? It humbles me to think about it. It’s really just a whole lot of this feeling:

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The words that came out of my mouth in those little videos helped point people to ministries that may have helped them know Jesus in a new way that led them into a totally transformed life. I can’t believe God used me in this way. I’m really just in disbelief looking back on it.

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For funsies, here’s one of my favorite shoots from last year. Mainly because Tim Johnson did an INCREDIBLE job filming and editing it, and Michael Pearce Donley directed me and as always, made me look and sound like I had been doing this kind of thing for my entire life. 🙂

What’s almost just as humbling, is to think that I played a role in helping launch two campuses while I was on staff. Being on a campus launch team is like adding another full-time job on top of your actual full-time job. It’s draining and takes over your life for a few months. But seeing signage around the Coon Rapids and Woodbury campuses that I had input into warms my heart and again–just humbles me down to the ground.

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Really? Me? So many people come to Eagle Brook and find new life, hope, and healing through Jesus. As cranky as I was about being on those launch teams sometimes, I can’t believe God picked me to be there. ME. Sorry, what?

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Another crazy thing God asked me to do while I’ve been working at Eagle Brook was to speak at a Juvenile Detention Center. Yet another incredibly humbling experience. I was asked to speak about my career path (which has been anything but clear-cut) and how I managed to turn out OK despite having a low GPA when I graduated from high school, being rejected from every college I applied to except for one (and I was only admitted based on my essay and entered school automatically on academic probation). I didn’t feel like I had anything impressive to say. But I spoke to six groups of inmates about my life and career so far. I don’t know if it made a real impact. But I have to believe God had a reason for arranging that crazy day.

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And then there was Canvas Magazine.

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I was asked to act as Managing Editor of Canvas in 2014/15. We didn’t know at the time that it would be the last edition of Canvas for awhile. But it was the best. And the most fun. And to see the picture above on Instagram, posted by an attender who was reading MY article (and Kate Freer’s gorgeous design) just blew me away. Humbled. Honored. What? More of this:

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There are a few specific people who really made an impact on my life in my time at Eagle Brook. As friends and mentors, they led me through difficulties over and over again. They didn’t get awkward when I ugly-cried in their office. They listened when I was so frustrated that I couldn’t see straight. They celebrated my victories with enthusiasm both in work in life. They reminded me of my worth over and over again. And I will always love them for it. Johanna Price has her own blog post. 🙂  But then there’s Mike Hadley.

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First, it should be noted that I copied Mike and took an improv class where he used to be a SUPERSTAR (Comedy Sportz MPLS) and name dropped for him like, every class. He helped me build credibility and respect there because so many people who work there count him as one of the greats. 🙂 Mike not only helped direct me and worked beside me in On the Fly, last year he became an interim manager for our little Communication Team (which had dwindled down to Melissa, Shannon and me). This was the most challenging time I endured in my time at EBC. It was marked by a lot of loss- in my personal life and at work. A lot of people I cared about and looked up to on staff at EBC were leaving for other opportunities. Senior leadership was struggling (and talked openly about it, so I feel free to say that here). Mike rallied his troops and helped us stay as positive as possible. And he let us be honest when things sucked. He’s a better counselor than he realizes. 🙂 He helped me learn from mistakes and do better the next time. And he cheered me on and continually reminds me of who I am and what my abilities are when I feel down or discouraged. Mike has been a rock at work and a great friend in life. I am so grateful for him.

Then there’s Joelle.

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At a time when a lot of high-level female leadership was disappearing at Eagle Brook, Joelle was hired as the Middle School Teaching Pastor. I remember when I was introduced to her, I knew instantly we’d get along. We both love fashion and beauty products and have had the most fun shopping around Sephora and visiting each other at the office to talk about new products we’ve found and loved. 🙂 We went to the Mpls St. Paul Magazine Fashionopolis show together last year and it was A BLAST. There’s no one else I would’ve rather experienced that with. Aside from the fashion times and lunch dates and late-night texting, Joelle has been an incredible role model for me. She invited me to her birthday parties and out to the movies and dinner. She’s the kind of Jesus girl I want to be. She encouraged me by leaving devotionals and verses on my desk. She was always ready and willing to listen to me in tough times and to give perspective on work and life difficulties. She PRAYED for me. When things have been really, really dark–Joelle somehow brightened it up. There’s a kindredness with Joelle that can’t be denied. I am so grateful to her for her guidance and her laughter and her prayers. 🙂

I really can’t believe I’m moving on. But it’s what’s happening. Next Wednesday, I’ll walk out of the office for the last time. Which is why I’m posting this, today. I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it next week. Let’s spread this scene out as long as possible! Can we pause it? Indefinitely?

To everyone I’ve loved and worked with at Eagle Brook:

You are my people. You have been my saving grace more times than I can even recall. I don’t know what I’ll do without seeing you every day. Let’s do the hard work of remaining in each other’s lives as much as possible. God placed me among you at a crucial point in my personal life and in my career. He used you to do amazing things in my life that will stay with me forever. Thanks for loving me and caring for me as-is and never asking me to change (actually, encouraging me to be more ME many times. :)) You are all called and God’s working through you. As He’s calling me out, I’m eternally grateful for this scene in my movie.

I plan to replay it often.

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