Collaboration

Some of my favorite things begin with the letter, “C”. Community, church, Cru, college, coffee, cooking, creating, celebrating, compassion, the color coral, chocolate, and my new favorite – collaboration.

Just for fun, my name is Caitlin, my favorite girls name is Charlotte, I drive a charcoal CR-V, my college’s colors were cream and crimson, my sorority’s flower was the carnation, I love champagne and I am a recovering Coca-Cola Classic addict. I’m also a high “J” on the Myers Briggs personality test, meaning that I like closure. (I challenge you to pick a letter and see if you can come up with as many favorites as I can with the letter C!)

Anyways, I work in an office full of women. While this may not be the ideal environment for a man (we’re welcoming, I promise), it has been so life-giving to me over the past year and a half. I love my work environment because we celebrate birthdays with cakes and cards, my co-workers are intelligent and compassionate, and also because it encourages collaboration.

Late last week, I spent a couple days working on updating some of our marketing materials. I was updating a document that has had some revisions over the past couple years, but they have been minor, not major changes. When I start a project with updating in mind, I’m not always asking the big picture questions – Is there a better way to present this information? Why have we used this picture in the past? As I made some cosmetic changes to this document, there was still something off, but I could not figure it out. Thankfully, I work with people who happily give feedback and know that sometimes it just takes another set of eyes. The end result of this document is far better than anything I could have come up with on my own. It is organized better and instead of just being updated fonts and consistent sizing, it is easier to follow and pleasing to the eye. Because of collaboration.

My boss and I have been talking a lot about this concept because of how we have seen it transform our work place.

Collaboration says, “What we can accomplish together is far better than what I can accomplish on my own.”

Collaboration says, “I care more about the end goal than about my name being the only one on it.”

Collaboration says, “I’m willing to combine our ideas together to create something new.”

Unfortunately collaboration is not what comes naturally. Collaboration contrasts with 17 years of my public education where my grade was what I earned. Yes, class projects factor into an overall grade, but it is primarily what one is able to accomplish as an individual. Collaboration has taken me unlearning selfish habits and keeping my eyes focused on the greater vision. Thankfully, in my workplace, the greater vision is easy to get on board with – families for children in need, but even with that cause, I can make it about me. I worry about my own career or how I can achieve my goals. My aspirations and selfish desires can start to taint the community-oriented work place that we have created.

I am beginning to understand that collaboration is the way of the kingdom. Collaboration lays down personal rights for a higher cause, is that not what Jesus Himself did on the cross?

Collaboration is worth the fight and the surrender. When we each bring our best to the table and combine it all together, creating something new, everyone wins. The kingdom of God needs us to get over ourselves and our differences, remember that the vision we are united in is not ours, but Gods, and come together for His glory.

The kingdom needs us to collaborate.

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Collaboration occurs in community and calls us to celebrate with champagne, or Coca-Cola Classic 🙂 How many “C’s” can you use in one sentence?

“Come and See”

I love to plan. I’m not necessarily a planner, but when it comes to events, trips and parties, I put my planning hat on and dive right in. Being highly relational, I thrive on connection with others and watching others connect with one another. Our apartment has seen many gatherings over the last 18 months. Each step is fun for me – creating the Facebook event (sometimes I get out of control and come up with marketing plans), selecting food to cook, making drinks, decorating the apartment, and even cleaning up. It is a privilege to host and plan, and it brings me joy.

I’m spending the Lenten season reading through the Gospel of John. Relationship and gathering people is central in this Gospel. Four chapters in, and I’m starting to wonder if it can be summed up with the following statement – “Come and see.” The disciples started to realize early on that they could not change people hearts, only Jesus could do that, therefore, they needed to connect Jesus with the people. “Come and see,” was the invitation.

More than an invitation, it was a promise. Come, see and be changed. You wouldn’t leave the same as you came. One encounter with Jesus is all that it would take to see their lives radically changed.

The woman at the well is one of the Bible stories. I come back to time and time again, reminded that Jesus refused to let cultural boundaries and norms define the people who He would interact with. Here’s a woman outcast by society – unmarried, promiscuous, Samaritan – and yet once she meets Jesus, she tells the very people she was avoiding, “Come and see Him; meet Him for yourselves.” And lives are saved because the people meet Jesus and place their faith in Him.

I am the woman at the well. Afraid of what others think of me, the life I’ve chosen for myself, the mistakes of my past, and my current sin, I avoid those who need Jesus. I do not extend the invitation. Or instead, I am like those who avoided the woman at the well, watching from a distance and casting judgment upon someone who is different from me.

I get caught up in the details, in making it about me, but when it’s an invitation and not an agenda item, God gets the glory and lives are changed. Isn’t that evangelism? Being the connecting piece between Jesus and people who do not know Him? “Come and see Jesus” is the invitation to the eternal party, the one that will last forever in Heaven.

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A Day of Grace

Today was my first full day off in 13 days. Today is my last day off for 13 days. In the month of October, I will only have 2 days of not working. This schedule I keep is taking a toll on my heart, mind and soul. But today I paused. Today, I created space, and God showed up. God showed up in extraordinary friendships amidst an ordinary life.

I started the morning off with a new friend. New friendships are hard because you never know quite how much to share and what they will think. It was special this morning to hear, “Me too,” more than once. It was wonderful to be able to understand where this friend is at and know that there are other 20 somethings fighting for community just like I am. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s now what we thought it would be.

Naps on fall days are one of my favorite things. I had multiple hours of nothing to do, so I curled up in my bed, watched Netflix (Gilmore Girls of course) and took a nap. Solid alone time was much needed since I spend a majority of my day surrounded by people.

Afternoon coffee with one of my oldest and best friends was refreshing. This friend has seen tears in Wright Food Court, tears in the IMU, tears on our baptism day in Chicago, and joys every step of the way as well. A friend who has seen it all and still chooses to be my friend is the best kind of friend. There’s no false pretence, just grace.

Since I’ve left college, so much has changed, I feel like I different person some days, but then I sit down with old friends and I realize that I’m still here, fighting for the same things I’ve always wanted, still the same person I’ve always been. I’ve grown and changed, but I’m still me. I love hearing my friends dream about what they want to do with their lives, it reminds me just how great and mighty God is and what He is capable of doing.

A post-coffee workout on the treadmill and dinner with friends – old and new – rounded off the evening. And then, I got to talk with another best friend. You know they’re a good friend when they call you at 10:15 and let you talk and talk and they listen without judgment. I love that this friend will ask really honest questions and I trust her enough to give her the honest answers.

From start to finish today was a day of grace. There was nothing extra special, but in the midst of my ordinary life, God continues to remind me of His goodness. It’s not what I do, but who I am that matters. I’m thankful for a day to slow down and reflect on who He is and the grace He extends.

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Monday Lovin’

After a jam-packed month of August, I forced myself to breathe this weekend. With clean sheets, freshly shaved legs and a rested soul, I feel ready to face the week with gratitude and enthusiasm. Instead of wanting to flip Monday morning off, I’m ready to greet her like a best friend because this Monday I’m lovin’…

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1) Mexican food: Bakersfield lived up to all the hype. Margaritas, tacos and great time with friends was a perfect start to the weekend. A group of us met in downtown Indianapolis after work and re-connected. We’ve decided to make it at least a monthly tradition! What a great way to end a work week – wonderful food, tasty cocktails and beautiful friends.

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2) Two of my best friends celebrated birthdays this weekend. Oh how thankful I am for each one of them! Waking up in the morning and saying a sweet prayer to Jesus for putting them in my life put a smile on my face all weekend long. These two women have reminded me of who Jesus is, even during the darkness, hardest seasons of my life. Even when life is tough, and not meeting my expectations, I’m reminded that God sees, knows and loves me because of friends like these two. I wish I could have celebrated with each of them on their special days.

3) The Needtobreathe Pandora radio station has been my soundtrack for the past couple weeks. It’s full of fun, upbeat songs and some great Christian artists. I’ve loved listening to it in the background as I’ve worked and on long runs. It’s always fun to hear new songs and new artists that I wouldn’t ordinarily stumble upon myself. I highly encourage taking a listen!

4) I’m a summer girl, so as everyone gets excited about fall – fall clothes, pumpkin spice lattes and cooler temperatures – I roll my eyes a little bit. But, the color chartreuse (read: mustard) is a dominant color in the J.Crew fall color palate and I could not be more excited. I cannot wait to purchase an Expedition Vest in this super fall color! While the thought of party tanks, chino shorts, sundresses and flip flops going back in the back of my closet makes me want to cry, I am excited for some new colors to add into my closet.

5) I celebrated one year at MLJ Adoptions last week! I’ve loved working for this company that believes that children belong in families and is passionate about finding families for children in need. Over the past year, I have learned so many valuable lessons about advocacy, poverty, international relations, families, parenting and God’s love. I am thankful for the special stories that God has invited be to witness – stories of strong, resilient children being given a chance to thrive in a loving family environment.

Monday Lovin’

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It is a Happy Monday! With a full heart and refreshed spirit, I head back into work this morning feeling encouraged by deep friendships and beautiful backdrops. When you have a friend whose parents have a lake house within driving distance, invite a fun group of people and GO! I promise you wouldn’t regret it. Oh, and wait until the second night, after a full day in the sun, to ask a deep questions. Sit back, listen, share, and encourage as people talk. It’s a sacred thing to watch. 

Community

I’ve watched a lot of West Wing this spring and summer. One of my favorite moments in the series occurs between two of the key characters – Josh and Leo. Josh is the deputy chief of staff to the President and Leo is the chief of staff. Leo is a recovering alcoholic and in this episode, Josh is starting to deal with some post-traumatic stress disorder. Josh approaches Leo to thank him for insisting he needed help. Leo uses a metaphor for Josh, including a ditch on the side of the road. Leo speaks of a man being stuck in this ditch, a doctor passes this man in the ditch and offers a man a stethoscope, a priest passes the man in the ditch and says he’ll pray for him, but the man’s friend jumps into the ditch with him. The man says to the friend, what are you doing in here, now we’re both stuck, and the friend replies, “I’ve been here before, I know the way out.”

At one of my last bible studies this past year, all the seniors received the chance to share one piece of advice for the rest of the group. Four days earlier I gave a well-prepared and thought out talk during a Cru meeting on freedom. However, this night, 24 hours after a break-up, I hadn’t really even thought about what I wanted to share with the group. Others had bullet points, I sat in front, and through tears, I vulnerably shared something about making good friends and trying to love people well, in all areas of your life, and especially in your sorority or fraternity.

I’ve struggled with friendships all my life. I place high expectations on myself, and then apply them to others. I look to people for my worth and happiness, which leaves me very unsatisfied. Throughout college, I knew I had a lot of people in my life, but until the end of my senior year and this summer, I never realized just how many were great friends.

Great friends lend you hammers to break things when necessary. Great friends drive you home after you drink an entire bottle of wine. Great friends let you eat their leftovers. Great friends let you cry even when they don’t quite understand why you’re crying. Great friends jump in the ditch with you, to remind you that you’re not alone, and to show you the way out.

Immediately after I did not receive the job I had anticipated receiving, my sister called me and said, “I just want you to know that you’re not alone.” Suffering can be so isolating. I felt like I had nothing to offer others, and was so tempted to withdraw so that I wouldn’t feel guilty taking from them. How easy we believe the lie that healing must be done alone. Yes, some of the wrestling through things with God must be done alone, but a lot of the time, community fosters healing. Friends can listen. Friends can speak truth. Friends can pray.

During a season of transition, I resisted the urge to keep people at an arms length, and instead invited them into the yuckiness that was (and still kinda is) my life. I wondered out loud about God’s goodness. I confessed feelings of inadequacy, uncertainty and depression. It was as if God gave me people to help carry my burden.

I’m learning that friends that stick around during suffering seasons get very excited for you in seasons of abundance. I think some of my closest friends are more excited about my job offer and my move to Indianapolis than I am. They mourned with me when I was mourning and here they are rejoicing with me while I rejoice. These friends jumped right into the ditch with me, and have helped me navigate my way out. That’s what community does. It doesn’t shy away from the painful stuff; it dives right into it, and reminds us of Jesus in the midst of it.

Disappointments

Today, my younger brother, Jake received disappointing news. He’s 12, so the disappointing news was things not working out the way he thought they would with soccer tryouts. Tears were cried and he was disappointed. He came down the stairs after showering with a scowl on his face repeating over and over and over again, “I don’t want to talk about it.” My dad said, “I know you don’t want sympathy, but I also know Cate is the probably the best one to talk to right now.” The beautiful thing about this place I am right now is that I understand, maybe better than ever before, other people’s disappointments. Because I feel so raw, I also feel very ready to jump into other people’s sadness. I just kept saying to Jake, “We’re so proud of you. We’re so proud of who you are and what you stand for. We’re just so proud of you.” When you’re unsure how you feel, discouraged or even disappointed, hearing that the people that love you still love you no matter what, and more than that, are proud of you, is all you need to hear. I cried like a baby on graduation day when my mom looked in my eyes and told me she was proud of me, because I needed to hear the truth from someone close to me, since I was struggling to believe it for myself.

I have seen community come alive to me in the past couple of weeks. I was sharing with my sister just how cared for I feel by people. My parents’ friends have offered to send my resume to their employers, friends have introduced me to opportunities, co-workers at J.Crew have asked me how the job search is coming; I’m incredibly blessed. In different words, my community has rally around me and reminded me that they’re here for me, that they love me, and that it’s all going to be okay.

We live in such a broken world. And Jesus entered into it. He entered into the pain, suffering and uncertainty of our world. Because He loves us. I try to walk with Jesus and follow His example, sometimes entering into other people’s pain, suffering and uncertainty.  As Jake headed up to bed tonight, I said to him, “I wish I could tell you the feeling of hurt, rejection and inadequacy wouldn’t ever happen again, but it will.” I’m oh so encouraging, right? “But, remember who you are and just how loved you are, it will be okay.” It’s all we can say when others are hurting. It wouldn’t be okay because it will go away, which it will, but because of Jesus. He left heaven to enter into the crap we experience. His willingness and triumph remind us that we’re not alone, that we’re loved no matter what, and that if we are followers of Christ, we’re to remind each other of those two truths, even when the recipient is having difficulty believing the truth.

I Am Not Alone

The end of college has been a difficult season for me. The end of a relationship, the end of college and entering the big unknown without much direction has put me on my butt. I feel like a beat-up version of myself who is just trying to get through each day. Which I’m told is completely normal. The past few weeks, I’ve been suck in “my life sucks” mode with moments that remind me of God’s promises, but the moments are few and far between. Yesterday I received messages from two friends who I haven’t been in close contact with, and I was reminded of some very important truth. I am not alone. Countless others have been through this same transition before, and so many are in it right now. I am not alone.

I was so humbled. I felt like my eyes were suddenly open to God’s goodness in a season where I’ve felt beat up by the world. It was almost as if God himself removed blindness from my eyes and let me see all the good that He has blessed me with in the past couple weeks. Instead of having few moments of seeing God’s goodness, I’ve only had moments the past 2 days of “my life sucks.” I’ve seen restoration in some friendships. I’ve had my parents wrap their arms around me and tell me it’s going to be okay – something I’ve needed since I was 16 year old. In the midst of feeling like a failure for graduating without a job, I’ve had acquaintances, close friends and family remind me just how proud they are of me… something so healing; if only I could get it to sink into my heart. I’ve been forced to start to think about what I want out of life through dreaming and communing with God. Older, wiser women have shared stories of their past break-ups and broken hearts as encouragement that it does, in fact, get better. Psalms have come alive to me – talk about saying Amen at the end of Psalm 27 when David says, “Yet I am confident of this, I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord!” So many close friends and even those I’m not super close to have sat in my suffering with me to make sure I know I’m not alone. I am not alone.

I’ve been reminded that I’m oh so lost and broken, but that’s not the end of the story. I am deeply loved by a God who refuses to let me be in suffering alone, that’s why He sent Jesus, and why Christian community reflects God’s love. Even when I have nothing to offer, and I am a hot mess around friends, they love me in it. Because I am not alone.

Saying Goodbye

When I was getting ready to leave college after my freshman year, all it took to make me cry was someone saying, “I can’t believe it’s over.” This year it takes even less to make my eyes start tearing and for me to get weepy. I’m only a junior, so I probably don’t have the excuse to be upset, I still get to come back to Bloomington in the fall and have another great year of college. I don’t have to say good-bye to my discipleship girls, or my pledge class, but I do have to say good-bye to a majority of the first Christian community I’ve ever had.

I came to IU very lost. I didn’t know who I was, or what I wanted out of life. By God’s grace and after a couple wrong turns, I ended up involved with CRU and starting a personal relationship with Jesus. Somehow, God landed me into an already established community of people who loved each other and opened their arms to me… well, I may have had to sneak my way in there a little bit, but they were welcoming. It has been in this community, over the past three years of college that I’ve learned about grace. We’ve fought, we’ve cried, we’ve pulled pranks, we’ve stayed up way too late, we’ve eaten a lot of ice cream, but we’ve done it together. It is through these people that God has shown me Himself and truly loved me. I’ve had men who have been the big brothers I never had and taught me that I’m worth being pursued and that I’m worthy. I’ve had women who have shown me that being a woman of God doesn’t mean I have knit or be boring – I’m simply called to be the best me I can be. These friends have believed in me when I haven’t even been able to believe in myself and never let me settle for less than what they knew God desired for me. Over the past three years I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but because of the way that God has used this community, I’ve been able to ask for forgiveness, receive prayer and move on a stronger person.

I’m incredibly excited to watch my friends move on to the next stage of their lives, I’m sad I can’t come with them, but this is how it was supposed to be; this is how God planned it. We may never live in the same city all together ever again, but I’m so thankful for the past three years with all of them… I can’t imagine my college experience without them. Everything I believed about Christians when I came to college has been radically altered because of the community I’ve been able to experience. God knew I wouldn’t have survived losing a grandparent, changing my major 5 times, being a leader, emotional dependence and an eating disorder without best friends to pray for me, pick me up off my feet and point me back to Him every step of the way.

Friends

Life is hard. Even when life is beautiful, it’s still hard. There are days where crying seems like the only option, even knowing that all of God’s promises are still true. This year has been difficult and pulled me in a million directions. God has been faithful, and one of the million ways He has been faithful has been in giving me amazing friends.

I had good friends in high school, several that I still consider to be my friends, but I did not have a solid friend group – in fact, there are only a couple of girls I still keep in contact with. But, since coming to college, I hit the friend jackpot. And the beautiful thing is, it has had nothing to do with me. I didn’t make the friends that are in Phi Mu, God gave me a pledge class that is wonderful – He hand selected each of us to be part of a special bond in a sorority. I have beautiful friends that I’ve met through Cru, but we some how found our ways into each other’s lives; a lot of us have little in common.

Through the trials that this year has brought, I’ve had amazing encouragement from the men and women in my life. Humor, tears and prayers have made the dark days brighter and even the best days a little bit better. I often get asked the question why I came to IU from Ohio. The truth is, God brought me here. While it did make a little bit of sense, I could have ended up anywhere. As could of each of my friends. But we ended up at Indiana University and in each other’s lives. My faith in God is strengthened by seeing my community and knowing that God weaved a perfect story together so we could be in each other’s lives. I don’t deserve to be loved by such awesome people – I am not a good friend, I’m critical, sarcastic and self-centered, but I experience the gospel on everyday when I’m loved by my friends because of God. Because God reached out to all of us first, we have the opportunity to love beyond our capacity, whether we know it or not.

I’ve experienced God’s love this year through my friends. I’m so thankful in knowing that this season of my life and future seasons will be filled of people God has hand picked to love me and to be loved by me. Even when life gets rough, which it inevitably will, I have friends willing to hold my hand and remind me that I’m being refined, and even when it’s hard, life is still beautiful.