As usual, the things that shape me most fall into only two categories:
People & Books
Here are the people...
As I flip through the memories of this year, I have to say that it's the people of our community who have shaped me most. This year I've sat with women in our church through some of the hardest things life throws at us: cancer, death, homelessness, mental illness, fear, courage, heartache over relationships, motherhood and more. The privilege of being present in your stories, loving you, and holding faith for you as you wrestle and find your own path challenges me and makes my heart full. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for teaching me by your example.
On a quiet Saturday last April I attended a small conference on Roosevelt Island titled WITH DIGNITY where I heard from leaders in our city who offered training on how to both serve and empower those with disabilities in local congregations. At the conference I met Andrew Oliver, a long-time friend of Forefront, who founded the organization Do For One. Andrew's mission is to help develop and support relationships for people with developmental disabilities. Since that day we met, we've had several great conversations about how to serve not only the disabled neighbors in our city but also the homeless and struggling members of our community. The partnership and relationship that came out of that conference have been incredibly helpful to me as I learn to understand, empower, and serve our friends on the margins and lead our community in doing the same.
At this time last year I was praying for some female mentors who could help me navigate what it looks like to lead and pastor. The guys I work with are great, but they just don't experience the world the same way sometimes. I found what I needed in a group of women who invited me into their monthly meet-up of friends who are all lead pastors and associate pastors in NYC. There are six of us, and we call ourselves the "Kick-Ass Lady Pastors." These women gave me such support and a regular boost of confidence over the past year. The simple act of sitting down with fellow women leaders and sharing stories of how we balance life, love, and faith helps me to find my own voice and style of leading in subtle ways I never would've expected. I'm grateful for their vulnerability, friendship, and bravery.
Now here are the books...
The books below have taught me a lot. Some taught me to look at our world and people differently, developing empathy and awareness for my own story and for the stories and struggles of others who are so different from me. Some books helped me grow as a leader and gave me new words to express my faith. Others simply let me escape and find rest. Actually, I think all the books below did all three of those things. This is why I love books. I highly recommend the titles below and anything written by the same authors.