Cheering for the Home Team

The last time I cheered for the home team I was 18 years old, wearing a rhinestoned costume and wine red lipstick as a member of Liberty High School’s Sapphires dance team.  Although high school was certainly not the “golden years,” I do have fond memories of football games: the chill of the fall air, the hype of the marching band, and the general buzz created by the host of families and community members who came out to support the local team.  In fact, I remember often bemoaning the fact that even more people didn’t come.  It would seem that somewhere over the course of my adolescent years I created a new kind of Norman Rockwell image, that of an entire community sharing in a common experience with a unified will: a win for the home team.

 

Coach Bolhuis and his ladies, (his son plays at Wheaton College).

Coach Bolhuis and his ladies, (his son plays at Wheaton College).

As the ladies of the Bolhuis family led Daniel and I into Korhonen Stadium, the home turf of the Richards’ High School Bulldogs, I was admittedly excited.  We could hear the distinct, punctuated rhythms of the marching band as we walked underneath the flag pole bearing the wind-tossed American flag and Richards’ colors.  Immediately I was captivated by the pulsating throng of people shifting in and out of the stands: students, parents, families, community members, and long-time fans.  We were soon sitting in and around a colorful gathering of people from our community, people with whom we now share a connection, however remote. 

 

In between cheering at a stunning interception, holding my breath on a fourth down, and bracing for vicarious impact, I observed the students who passed beneath our row.  Many things seem to have changed in the 10 years since my time in high school: the fashions, the technology, the political climate.  And yet, many things are perhaps still the same: the classic lunchroom dilemmas, the popularity pyramid, the looming pressure of college or career choices.  In any event, I became keenly aware of these students, curious about their experience at Richards, wondering if they truly trusted their friends, if they aspired to any certain profession, if they had a guiding sense of hope for the future.  Even now I can see their faces pass before my mind’s eye like the framed images on a spool of old-fashioned film.  These faces, these young people, unlocked a quiet part of my heart, a dormant longing for an entire community sharing in a common experience with a unified will: a “win” for these members of the home team.

 

It is true that Daniel and I have a very limited sphere of influence in Oak Lawn.We are new; we are too young to have much experience, etc.And yet, everywhere we are believing and around us, and perhaps at times in spite of us, God is continuing to do what He has been doing for a long time: raising up a community to share the experience of caring for others, like the students of Richards’ High School, with a unified will: demonstrating and declaring the love of Jesus Christ.

-Megan Stidham

Lawn Mower

I finally got out of bed this slow labor day morning to a ring at the doorbell. It was Jim, a member of our church and master of all things history and moving. While mingling on Sunday he asked if I needed a lawn mower. Little did he know that Megan and I had spoken earlier in the week of needing to buy one. He offered to swing by on Monday morning to drop it off and see if it worked. 

We stepped outside to his (from what I remember) Chrysler Pacifica. The van housed his beautiful dog Duchess (shitzu mix) who eagerly (and obediently) ran into my backyard. He opened the side door to reveal an old lawn mower. It was perfect. It reminded me of our dear old neighbor Danny K. He made most of his living by mowing a handful of lawns a week. 

Jim told me that this was his mother’s lawnmower and he hadn’t used it in about a year. After a little priming, gasoline, and a few hard pulls on the motor, she started right up. Yesterday I planned on using today as a study day. But after a generous gift and a long look at our lawn which was desperately needing a trim, I changed my Monday morning plans. When Megan heard that I was going to mow the lawn, she laughed and told her family. She asked me if I had ever mowed a lawn before – as if I had never been a child in middle class America – and I responded defensively, “Of course!” She snickered, told me I was her hero, and went to do a workout in the basement. As I was finishing up the lawn, I saw another congregation member doing his daily stroll around the neighborhood. Within two hours of being outside, I ran into two members of the congregation I serve, receiving warm encouragement and a reminder that  Megan and I are not alone. 

I think I'll name him Walter. 

I think I'll name him Walter. 

This community continues to humble me with its generosity. I never expected to be gifted an old lawn mower, let alone have it delivered to my home. I never expected Roger, a faithful congregant, to find us our home. I never expected to be so warmly welcomed and so extensively thought of. This a good kind of new and I am so grateful.

Warmly, 

Daniel

PS - I did not wear my fifth pocket when I mowed the lawn. I regret this. I have added a new item to my daily carry. 

This little tool will come in handy as we begin to make our house a home. 

This little tool will come in handy as we begin to make our house a home. 

Landing in Chicagoland

After six weeks as house guests enjoying the generosity and hospitality of Bonnie and Bill Miller in Houston, Megan’s family in Kansas City, and Howell and LoisAnn Risinger in Illinois, we finally crossed the threshold of 10100 Maple Ave. in Oak Lawn on Tuesday, August 14 as first-time homeowners.  We had signed our name on the dotted line (about fifty times each) and handed over a check for a rather large sum of money, and the house at the corner of 101st St. and Maple Ave. is now home to the Stidham family.  It is here, in a small 1960’s home with its little front porch and three rectangular skylights gracing the main living area, that our little girl will take her first steps and say her first words.  She may even have a sibling (or two), pack her backpack for kindergarten, and walk down the street to middle school while living under this roof.  For the first time in our four years of marriage, we have settled into a place it feels truly natural to call “home.”  

On moving day at our new home :)

On moving day at our new home :)

 

Our home also has a story to tell.  Many years ago the house was owned by members of Calvin Church (soon to be Calvary Oak Lawn), where Daniel now serves as a campus pastor.  To this day many church members still live in our neighborhood.  The little house on Maple Ave. has also been well cared for by its latest owner, Pat, a pipe fitter by trade who spent the last three years replacing floors, upgrading the main living space, putting new tile in the bathroom, you name it.  As Pat told Daniel, “I put my heart and soul into this house,” and I, for one, believe it.  Several years ago he hired the next door neighbor to install the gorgeous skylights in the living room and dining area, with the result that even on a cloudy day the living room is flushed with natural light.

Bob, the carpenter who made the skylights, recently celebrated 50 years of marriage with his wife.  They have lived on Maple Ave. for most of that time and are known for their two enormous St. Bernards (think Beethoven the movie).  Bob and Pat were good neighbors and friends to each other over the years, so, when Pat realized we had some plumbing trouble (yes…already) and were having a hard time finding a second opinion, he called Bob who then called his plumber for me.  The plumber was here within the hour.  

 

Calvin Christian Reformed Church on Central Ave, Oak Lawn, IL

Calvin Christian Reformed Church on Central Ave, Oak Lawn, IL

Across Central Avenue the proud columns of Calvin Christian Reformed Church support a tall steeple that holds a cross against the open sky.  Just four months ago we shared Chicago’s famous Lou Malnati’s pizza with a group of Calvin members.  It was at this meeting that we first began to understand the many sacrifices and hard choices these beloved people made in order to make it possible for us to live and minister among them.  At a time when many churches would have chosen the easy way out, allowing themselves to slowly slip away or giving their buildings to the denomination as an asset, the members of Calvin chose to dig in and find a new way to bless their neighborhood.  And, when they realized they couldn’t do it on their own, they asked for help.  They have walked a long road of sorrow, joy, uncertainty, and hope together, and we feel privileged to join them.

The people of Calvin have received us with breath-taking warmth and generosity.  It was Roger, a long-time Calvin member and devoted church leader, who found the house on Maple Ave. which Pat was selling himself without the help of a realtor.  After visiting the house no less than three times on our behalf, Roger negotiated a price.  Even though we no longer needed the formal services of our realtor, Tom gave us referrals to an excellent lawyer and inspector.  

Fast forward to Sunday, August 12, Daniel’s first Sunday to preach at Calvin as the church’s new pastor.  He is understandably nervous, and I was trying my best to be the calm, supportive one.  As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one determined to support Daniel that morning.  The first person to greet me as I entered Calvin’s doors was Joyce, Roger’s wife, a incredibly resourceful and hospitable woman.  Joyce looked lovely, per her usual, but she was wearing a rather conspicuous accessory.  I blinked once, twice…and had to ask.  “Joyce…are you wearing a fanny pack?” Indeed.  And not only Joyce, but practically the entire congregation was bedecked in royal blue fanny packs bearing the inscription, “Calvary Church of Oak Lawn.”  I kid you not.  I call that love.

To show their support, they all sported a fifth pocket :)

To show their support, they all sported a fifth pocket :)

 

Daniel speaking – please pardon the dramatic decline in writing quality – but I figured I’d do more than look over Megan’s shoulder by giving a short update on the ministry side of things. Having Ron Citlau (Senior Pastor of Calvary Church of Orland Park) as a mentor has been invaluable. He does everything between texting to check-in and setting up meetings with important members of the church. He gives me sound wisdom and reminds me to take things slow. I am so grateful to navigate these unchartered waters alongside him.

Right now I am a pastor between two churches (Calvary Orland and Calvin), who is simultaneously casting vision for a new church (Calvary Oak Lawn).  This new church will be an expression of both church traditions with a Holy Spirit infused fervor for intimacy with God and His missional movement into the world.  We are continually praying that the Lord of Harvest would raise up laborers for the harvest here in Oak Lawn.

We have met some incredible people here in Oak Lawn. My biggest challenge is mining the treasure trove of people from both churches while also maintaining a pulse on the community at large. But I have enjoyed every moment of it. I am looking forward to see how the Lord will shape and guide the Vision Team (leaders from Calvin and Calvary combining forces to do the work of ministry at the new campus) and to see how the Lord leads us through our first 90 days. /end of Daniel speaking

We are incredibly grateful for God’s extravagance to us in our first weeks in Oak Lawn.  Thank you for each of the ways you have supported us through your prayers, your gifts, and your encouragement in this season of change.  We are anticipating the work God will do among all of us in the days to come!

Pray with Us: 

  • Leaders: We are asking the Lord to raise up people from Calvary Church (Orland Park) and from our community in Oak Lawn who are passionate about seeking God’s heart for Oak Lawn. We are praying for four more families or individuals who are committed to prayer, willing to engage the community, and eager to learn how to share the gospel.  
  • Opportunities to minster to local High School students: Calvin is down the street from one of Oak Lawn’s High Schools, Richards, where one of our members is a teacher and football coach.  Historically, the district has been closed to churches and other Christian ministries.  Please pray for Daniel to be able to connect with the administration and for the members of Calvin to have opportunities to minister to teachers and students.   
  • Opportunities to befriend our Muslim neighbors: Oak Lawn is home to a surprising number of Arab immigrants, most of whom are Muslim.  Many of these Muslim families live in the apartment complexes across from our neighborhood park and are therefore within walking distance of the church.  Please pray for God to open miraculous doors to connect with the Muslim community. Pray for us to have wisdom and gentleness in forming friendships and shaping a ministry that is respectful, sustainable, and beneficial to our neighbors.  

The Weekly Funny

Daniel: “I enjoy being your husband more than you enjoy being my wife.” (Characteristically outrageous comment designed to get a particularly shrill response which, admittedly, I instinctively give him.)

Megan: “That’s not true!”

Daniel: “It is true, because I know how good I’ve got it, and you’re still figuring that out.”    

 

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen.  

Plus One

On a customary walk, Megan asked me why I want to be a father. After taking a moment to collect my thoughts, I responded with something to the effect of, “I want to experience a new expression of God’s love.” God has chosen the analogy as Father as a way of communicating just how much he loves us. Every analogy walks with a limp, so I will be the first to acknowledge that not all parents love the way God loves (nor am I under any illusion that I will be a sufficient source of God's love for anyone). With that said, I think there are fewer experiences in life that are as close to divine love as the love of a parent.

I am so excited to announce that Megan holds a life within her and we get to meet her/him in December! 

My fifth pocket will transform into a most epic daddy pocket. I wonder if it can fit diapers and wipes. Either way, I am sure some extra pocket space will go a long way as I expect to surprise our new child at every turn. 

 

Baby.jpg

Forgiveness

What’s in my fifth pocket? Front pocket – 500 Rupees, car keys, lens wipes, moist towelettes, insurance cards, wireless headphones, wired headphones, a half used packet of crystal light (raspberry lemonade), a few receipts for work, 26 cents, a floss pick, and three business cards from people I met in India; Main pocket – cellphone (galaxy s7edge), my mini journal (moleskin), 2 non-violent communication (NVC) process cards with emotions and needs/values detailed on the back, a blue permanent marker, 2 paper mate pens, a Plant with Purpose flyer, and a Plant with Purpose, sticker, rear pocket – a balloon pump, and 7 twisting balloons (60inches).

When I taught Vacation Bible School this week, there was some drama. There was an impromptu game of zombies that went a little too far. A girl, who we will call Lucy, pushed another girl, who we will call Jennifer, pretty hard because she got freaked out by their zombie impressions. Lucy insisted that she told Jennifer and the others to stop, and they wouldn’t, so she felt the need to protect herself, and so she lashed out, hard. Lucy initially tried to plead her case, that she told them to stop but they kept coming. She knew pushing was wrong so after she finished crying she tried to go to Jennifer to apologize. But Jennifer wasn't interested. She said, “I do not accept your apology.” Feeling completely shut out, Lucy started bawling and wondering why Jennifer is holding this against her. I told Lucy that sometimes it takes people time to forgive. Well, time went on. After one of the activities, Jennifer walks by Lucy and says, “I still don’t forgive you” (in a very self-righteous tone). Lucy begins weeping once again. Jennifer got what she wanted.

It’s sad how humans do this to each other. We use our righteousness as a tool for pain. I’ve done this before, and seeing it on Jennifer revealed just how I look when I insist on my rightness over seeking to understand the other. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, sinners.

As the day progressed Jennifer continues holding this against Lucy. Her tone and attitude indicates that she is enjoying the power she holds over her. When everyone in the group starts comforting Lucy, even apologizing for provoking her in the zombie game, Jennifer feels the tide turning against her. So Jennifer accuses Lucy of “popping her balloon,” something that happened hours before, and when it happened Jennifer showed no indication that she was upset, she may have even laughed. At this point I stepped in and told Jennifer that what she’s doing isn’t right. When I came to Lucy’s defense, Jennifer felt defeat so she ran to a corner and refused to speak. Eventually she agreed to sit on the edge of our group, but she wasn’t talking.

After a couple of minutes I sit down with her. She doesn’t respond. I then asked her, “How do you feel?” She said nothing. Then I pulled out my Non-violent Communication process cards from my fifth pocket. On the back of these cards are over 50 core feelings. The core negative feelings are fear/anxiety, anger/frustration, and sadness/grief. I read these out to her and asked her which one. She whispers, “Anger.” It’s then I realize that I scolded her in front of everyone, which must have been very embarrassing. So I apologized for scolding her, but I explained to her that I knew she didn’t care about that balloon, and that I didn’t like that she was trying to make Lucy cry again. I told her that I wanted to come to the defense of someone who felt powerless. She doesn’t respond. I asked her if she felt alone because people were pushing her away. I asked her if she wants reconnection and that “connection” is a core need/value. Then I told her that the longer she refuses to forgive, she’s going to keep pushing everyone away from her. I then told her that I love her regardless, but if she wants connection, forgiveness is important. When I put it this way, I asked her if she was ready to forgive Lucy. She nodded in agreement. Lucy then came to Jennifer and whispered, “I accept your apology,” and Jennifer apologized again and they were reconciled, laughing and playing once again.

We often don’t know how we feel until we hear some feelings read out to us. That’s why I find carrying my non-violent / core family of feelings card in my fifth pocket very helpful. I also carry extra copies and use them as conversation starters with friends or strangers.  

What are you feeling? Adventurous? Satisfied? Bored? Disappointed? Hurt? Inspired? If it’s a negative feeling, it’s probably because you have a need or value that isn’t being met. Could that need be protection? Security? Recreation? Peace? Appreciation? Affection?

To know how we feel is the beginning of knowing what we need or value.

In my next post I’ll describe the non-violent communication process. For now, a story of forgiveness, aided by the fifth pocket, will suffice. Visit http://www.cnvc.org/ to learn more about non-violent communication.

Confessions of a Fifth Pocket Wife

Prologue

It all started after we got engaged.  At first, the comments were cute attempts at subtlety, “So...how long have you had those shoes?,” “You must love that dress,” and “When was the last time you went shopping?”  It didn’t take long, however, before new brand-name clothes showed up at my house, and I was all but escorted to the trash can to entomb my favorite pair of shoes.  Once he popped the question, the truth came out with it: He thought it best that I didn’t dress myself anymore.  In this Daniel gave me a beautiful foretaste of martial love, for despite my wearing shabby cardigans in 80 degree weather and baggy, decade-old jeans, he still wanted me.  Even more, he chose to pledge his life to me knowing that I will always be at least five years behind any fashion trend, if, that is, I catch up at all. He would take me in fancy’s finest or fashion faux pas until death do us part.  

How we got here

Three years and at least five fanny packs later, the fashion situation in the Stidham household has taken a decidedly ironic plunge.  The man I married, endlessly gregarious, affectionate, and fun-loving, is like a walking sunburst fueled by equal parts spontaneity and self-propelled enthusiasm.  And yet, when we met he was also suave and debonnaire, the young JP Morgan banker who strolled into 600 Travis St. each morning in a perfectly trimmed suit and a freshly steamed shirt, a walking Brooks Brothers magazine cover...almost.

In hindsight, his ties were the overlooked harbinger.  While many of his ties were classically professional, others were quietly quirky, my favorite of which is mustard yellow with partridges and pear trees.  Then there were his growing stockpile of overly vibrant and patterned socks.  This, however, was mistaken as a millennial craving for individual expression, the negotiation of a quasi-hipster identity in the workplace.  And then...the neon undershirts, obnoxious hues of yellow and pink only barely obscured by his button-down.  In hindsight, each of these clues strain out from underneath the professional exterior like tendrils of a starved plant gasping for air.  If only I had known.           

People often ask me if Daniel started wearing the fanny pack before or after marriage.  The answer is most definitely after, specifically in that first tender year when a new wife doesn’t quite have a grasp for the extent of her proper influence.  In my defense, I thought it was a fad, a week at most.  Famous last assumption.  

What's a wife to do?

It wasn’t until a few weeks went by that I began to fight an irresistible desire to melt into the floor in almost any social situation.  I was asked countless times what I “thought” of Daniel’s fanny pack, and I found it most irritating that people insisted on asking a question the answer to which they already knew.  Out of necessity, I started to strategize.  My first attempt is a small-talk maneuver I call “Introduce the Elephant.”  By calling attention to the fanny pack first, as I reasoned, I could save myself the anticipation of the subject and the other person the mental gymnastics involved in deciding whether or not to comment on such a glaring oddity.  I mean, Daniel’s  handsome, alright, but there are many things a charming face can’t fix, and a fanny pack is one of them.  No matter which way you tilt your head or how hard you squint your eyes, it is nearly impossible to conjure any image other than a strange apparition of a fashion nightmare from the ‘80’s.    

And then I learned: all forms of resistance are futile.  Truth be told, the fanny pack makes sense.  It is just enough out-of-sync with the watching world to be at home on Daniel Stidham.  It’s just audacious enough, just strange enough, to achieve his goal of breaking through the veil of shallow niceties that often shroud social settings.  He’s simply not interested in collecting two-dimensional clippings of people’s lives; he wants to know people, to understand them, and, in so doing, to befriend the true person.  While I will be the first to agree that the fanny pack is, at best, a ridiculous back-door approach to friendship, I will also be the first to testify to the great joy of being known by someone who is without pretense.

Author’s Note: I was just informed throughout this post I used the incorrect designation for my husband’s fashion appendage.  Where I have written “fanny pack,” please read “fifth pocket.”  :)

Is it Useful?

Usefulness

I recently had a co-worker challenge me on the "usefulness" of the Fifth Pocket. The discussion quickly degenerated into a definition of usefulness and I got frustrated that he seemed committed to make my 2.5-year Fifth Pocket companion seem foolish. 

He isn't wrong. He claimed that his four other pockets, his brief case, and his other miscellaneous pockets on jackets serve him just fine. 

I was challenged with defining why I think the fifth pocket is so valuable. I knew it was, but I didn't know how to articulate it in the moment. A few days later it dawned on me - I don't care about the Fifth Pocket. I care about people. The Fifth Pocket pushes me to consider what random things I can carry so that I can make people's day a little better - or more fun. 

The Fifth Pocket opens up a world of creativity that the other, more normal pockets, do not inspire. If you are able to bless other people with random things with your four other pockets, then do it! But I bet you seldom get the chance to bless someone with some Chick-Fil-A sauce while they eat their Raisin' Canes chicken tenders. The Fifth Pocket is about surprising people with really useful things. Who will you surprise, and with what?  

The Value of a Library

My Father-in-law and I were once perusing the Rice University Library. He (a lawyer) saw an obscure book on a very specific practice of law and he made a comment to the effect of, "Good libraries have the most specific, obscure books."  99.9% of people will never need that book, but the power of the Rice Library is that it has a catalog of very specific books that very specific researchers might need. The more particular the books, the more valuable the library. 

I believe this is somewhat true of the Fifth Pocket. The more particular your item, the more valuable it is. 

My current contents

Wireless headphones, wallet, mini-journal, 2 pens, 1 sharpie, balloons for balloon animals, a balloon animal pump, a pair of one-day contacts, napkins, insurance cards, gift cards, cell phone, mints, micro-fiber eye glass wipe, alcohol hand wipes, floss picks, and business cards.

What will be in yours? #thefifthpocketchallenge

shout out to the ambry, a non-profit helping men recover from addiction. 

I came home and saw some workers renovating a house across the street. I went over to see if I could meet the new owners and welcome them to the neighborhood. Turns out plumbers were busy at work, and one of them brought his family to the job-site. I thought I'd make their day a little brighter. #thefifthpocketchallenge

I came home and saw some workers renovating a house across the street. I went over to see if I could meet the new owners and welcome them to the neighborhood. Turns out plumbers were busy at work, and one of them brought his family to the job-site. I thought I'd make their day a little brighter. #thefifthpocketchallenge