Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Willow Pilgrimage

Nearly six years ago, in mid-October 2008, I visited Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. I had been sent by my employer to Willow's Reveal Conference to learn about their study and how it affected churches. I had never been their before (ask me about my fun story getting there), but was excited to experience a church I had heard a lot about (good and bad).

The conference was good - the best worship I had experienced to-date, Bill Hybles was an AMAZING communicator, and the facts of the study were fascinating. But something deeper was going on in my heart that I couldn't explain. God was starting to move in a heart that was giving up hope in her marriage, her calling, and especially giving up hope that the local church could actually help. I couldn't put words to it, but something was going on. 

During the conference they explained four groups of people at Willow: Seekers, New Believers, Growing in Christ, and Christ-Centered. In their description of the last group, I heard God say to me, 'Abbie, you love me, you just aren't wholehearted.' I knew it was true, but I didn't know how to change it. 

The next spring, I decided to go to Seminary and that summer we moved to KY. The whole time, I knew I was seeking to become wholehearted!

On a Wednesday night in late July as Garrett and I were church shopping, we visited Quest Community Church in Lexington. As I walked into the auditorium, I saw their mission statement along the far wall:

'Transforming unconvinced people into WHOLEHEARTED followers of Jesus.'

It took my breath away and I remember thinking, 'If they can deliver on that, I am ALL IN.'

Five years later I am both WHOLEHEARTED and ALL IN. I recognized Jesus for who he really is and received his forgiveness and new life on August 26, 2009 and am now a leader at Quest, giving the best hours of my day to help build a community where lost, hopeless people can encounter God like I did!

And tomorrow I get the unbelievable privilege of going back to Willow Creek with my church's leadership team to attend the Willow Creek Association's Global Leadership Summit. It feels like a pilgrimage home for me! I am honored to be able to go and can't help but get my hopes up for the next thing Jesus might say to me this week. My last trip changed everything for me. Why would this one be any different!?!

Friday, November 8, 2013

My Great Adventure

So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.  (Romans 8:12-17 MSG)

As I learn more about God's character, I'm drawn to him more and more. Before I surrendered my plan for his plan I worked hard to be a good person. I schemed more than one 'big important plan' that would show God how much I loved him. I knew he had given me talents and dreams and I wanted to use them for him. But he had bigger and crazier dreams that couldn't come about in my own planning.

I had to surrender my best ideas and join HIS adventure!! I still regularly ask God what plans he has for me. And he keeps reminding me that as I am faithful to his plans for me now he will reveal the next phase of the plan as it's ready. I'm a planner, so it's hard to wait, but there is such joy in just knowing my daddy's got me and is delighted in me just where I am!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Axioms

Several years ago I read Bill Hybel's book axioms and wondered what my axioms of life would be - or short, memorable phrases that guided my life. Over the last several years, I have fell into three that I have adopted. 

1. Don't Judge the Nudge - that gutt feeling you get regarding small and/or big things. I've discovered it's often a nudge from God and when I submit to it rather than argue with it my life is better
2. It's Only Wierd if it Doesn't Work - I stole this from Pastor Steven Furtick. I struggle with the desire to fit in and be accepted, which keeps me from obeying God's nudges in my life. This one reminds me that following the nudges only looks Wierd if I'm wrong. 
3. Grief is the Cost of Loving People (and they are Worth it) - this is my newest axiom stolen from my friend Naitore. Many broken hearts have led me to protect my heart from pain by loving people at a surface level. Jesus showed me this weekend that genuine love will always hurt, but is worth it. Surface level love only brings surface level joy as well. Besides, he promises to care for my broken heart. And I trust him to do that. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

#ReflectingOnTheRidiculous

I had the gift of sharing a part of my story this morning at church. It was such a gift to look back over the last season to really put into words what God had planted in my heart in our struggle to find a new house. Too often I fail to stop and really reflect on His goodness. Here's what I shared:


My husband, Garrett, received an unexpected phone call from our landlord earlier this year. He was getting married and wanted to move back into his old house – our house – this summerGarrett and I both lead teams here at Quest and are a big part of the weekend servicesWith Easter, Baptism, and the Uprising just around the corner, we knew we couldn’t think about moving until late spring.

 

Besides, I dreaded the house hunting process. When we had just moved to Frankfort 18 months earlier I had been the one to tirelessly search for a house big enough for all six of us and inexpensive enough for our tight budget. I knew it also probably meant another school change for my kids, which would be their 4thshift since moving to Kentucky just four years ago.

 

On top of that, when we had moved from Illinois we couldn’t sell our house there, so we rented it out. When our renter couldn’t make her payments, we ended up giving the house back to the bank in a deed in lieu of foreclosure. It was a red mark on our credit for three years – we were six months shy of being able to even consider a home loan. And I was so tired of renting. I had been a homeowner since I was 19 years old and I missed a place I could really settle into and call my own.

 

And yet we knew the timing and circumstances of this move didn’t surprise God. So we chose to trust. Although I knew we didn’t deserve it, we began sensing God had something ridiculous for us in this season. We even tagged our Tweets with the hashtag#Waitin4theRIDICULOUS in that season, especially when things looked impossible. We kept asking Jesus to show us the answer – but nothing happened – until late May.

 

We had a friend offer to buy a house and rent it to us on a rent-to-own contract. He also mentioned we could live in his basement while we found a house and waited for the closing. But the end of the month was only 2 weeks away. We had an entire house to pack and knew we couldn’t manage that kind of transition will all four kids living in a basement.

 

Wtalked with our extended family and planned to send the kids to visit them from Memorial Day until June 22, when we’d go back for Garrett’s cousin’s wedding. And that only gave us four weeks tofind a houseclose on it, do any repairs, and move in! It seemed ridiculous – and exactly God’s plan.

 

We put all of our worldly possessions into 2 storage units on May 31st and became homeless for the first time ever. It was a hard season not having a place of my own, being away from my kids, and not knowing what the future might hold. It was risky, and scary, and ridiculous how at peace Garrett and I felt. We kept having friends ask how we could be okay in such a difficult season. Onebenefit of having moved 10 times in 11 years is I knew God had never dropped us and I didn’t believe he was going to start now.

 

Shortly after moving out of our old house I found an empty house on West Third Street downtown that I fell in love with. It was ginormous – 4 bedrooms, 4 baths, and nearly 4,000 square feetWe put in an offer for 40% lower than asking price – and they took it! We closed a week later, took a week to make some urgent repairs, and move with just days to spare before heading back to Iowa to pick up the kids – truly Ridiculous!

 

After all we’ve been through in the last months, it only seemed fitting that we paint Psalm 40:3b in the entryway of our ridiculous house: “Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.”

 

Through this season, and even now as we continue to repair our big old house and I have lots of unpacked boxes still sitting around my house, I’ve been learning how to rest in God’s timing. There were many times I’ve closed my eyes and cried out, “Jesus, you know this chaos is making me crazy. I need your peace!” And he’s alwaysfaithful, not to fix my circumstances but to give my heart rest.


Our house is pretty amazing, it's true, but I really believe when God promised us something ridiculous earlier this year he was talking about aiming more than a house. Moving a family of six on a shoestring budget is easy for God; helping us rest in his faithfulness through the chaos was actually the ridiculousness he had in store for us all along.

Monday, July 1, 2013

No, Really. I Write About More Than Printers

Last fall, I joined Photizo Group, a company that does research and analysis in the Printing and Imaging industry as the publications editor. I manage an online, subscription-based industry magazine called the Imaging Observer 360. And I write about printers - a lot! In nine months at Photizo I have learned more about MFPs, MPS, CPP, and A3 vs A4 than any human should ever know. It's not a bad gig. I've remembered how much I love writing and am proud of some of the work I've done. And sometimes, I run across gems like the following.

I was literally just trying to gain a better understanding of a company we often partner with when I stumbled into my favorite article to date. Below is the blog post I created out of the article I wrote (the article is behind our firewall). It's not about printers, I promise. It was a little diamond in the rough.



WOW: The Cultural Design of GreatAmerica Financial Services
By Abbie Mantor

Shortly after joining Photizo Group last fall, I initiated contact with Josie Heskje, director of strategic marketing for the Office Equipment Group at GreatAmerica Financial Services, to add my name to her press release distribution list. I knew nothing of the company, but was instantly drawn to her friendliness and use of smiley faces with noses in her e-mails. A few months later, I learned that GreatAmerica’s headquarters is located in Cedar Rapids, IA, near my hometown, and my interest in the company rose. I realized it was the company with the giant glass building downtown that I had always assumed was a bank or credit card company.

We were unable to connect until we sat down at Transform 2013 Global in Scottsdale, AZ, in May. Jennie Fisher, senior vice president and general manager for the Office Equipment Group, joined us. Jennie and Josie were both friendly and professional and gave me great details about GreatAmerica and its growth over the last 20 years. But it wasn’t until I asked a question about the culture of GreatAmerica that they came alive. It was clear they loved the organization they worked for, and as a journalist I knew I had hit the jackpot for an article.

A full-length article is available on the io360, but I want to highlight a few things that stood out to me about GreatAmerica’s culture.

First, every member of the organization unites around a seven-word mission statement: We help our customers achieve greater success. Josie and Jennie both attested that the mission statement is often referenced in every kind of company gathering and meeting. The clear, consistent statement helps employees make decisions and prioritize tasks. It also provides a common language to the organization, which builds camaraderie within a highly team-focused environment.

Second, the GreatAmerica team structure fascinated me. Rather than creating departments based on function, the company is structured around clients and their needs. Employees are cross-trained in various roles for effectiveness and work together in an open-air office where even the executives sit out among the “commoners.” Why? Because even CEO Tony Golobic centers his day on the mission of his organization—helping customers. He has found that this is the best way he can help them.

Finally, GreatAmerica takes time for fun. Hard work is rewarded with lots of fun. The company website is full of pictures and videos of company events and charity work that employees perform together. It is clear that GreatAmerica expects excellence from its employees, but not at the expense of their well-being. Speaking with Jennie and Josie, I understood that they felt cared for, not just as employees, but also as individuals. And because they felt valued, they were also fiercely loyal.

Josie forwarded me an internal company e-mail a few weeks ago with the subject line “POW! POW! WOW!!” that expressed appreciation for employees that went beyond expectation with customers. It was fun to read comments from clients about the amazing service they received from the GreatAmerica team. It was also amazing to get a glimpse into the heartbeat of an organization that leads the way in dedication to its mission and employees. WOW!