Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A vessel of love

In High School my favorite teacher was Mrs. C. She was my Senior English teacher but we went way back. Her daughter was in daycare with my brother (I'm not positive that I was still there when she was there but that's logistics) and Papa Bear was a teacher at the same school. Anyway, Mrs. C. was the most wonderful teacher. I wasn't the best student my senior year of high school. I had "senioritis" so bad and sometimes was doing my homework as it was supposed to be turned in. Mrs. C. would never get on my case overtly, just subtly and with love. I always knew I was loved by her, especially because I had a nickname..."B". Just "B".

Mrs. C. got sick soon after I graduated high school. She was brave, fought valiantly for life and was successful for years. During that time her daughter, now grown up and with daughters of her own, started working for our church and then attending the church. I would see Mrs. C. at special events and church dinners and she always, always had a smile, a hug, a kiss and a beautiful "Hi B". Even years after High School that "Hi B" spoke volumes and volumes of love.

Mrs. C. died a couple of years ago, way too young. Since that time my friendship with her daughter has grown and grown. A while ago I noticed that she had started calling me "B". It made me stop in my tracks...that one letter of my name was filled with so much love coming from her mom and that same respect and love was shining through her daughter. Every time she says it, it's like Mrs. C. is saying it too and my heart explodes with joy.

Mrs. C's daughter is with me this week in Pearlington. She's very amazing in her own right and has been a joy to be around. Yesterday was her birthday and we went to the beach after working for a little break. I knew that Mrs. C's daughter was missing her mom on her birthday, not to mention her hubby and 3 kids at home and had plans for later that evening to just celebrate her. As the majority of people spilled out onto the beach I noticed that Mrs. C's daughter was holding back. I turned around and yelled out "Come on M, you have to put your toes in the water!". Turns out those words didn't actually come from me. Mrs. C chose that moment to speak words of love to her daughter...and I was humbled to be the vessel.

The toes of Yo Momma, me and M in the Gulf of Mexico

Greetings from Pearlington...

well actually Bay St. Louis. That's where the house that half our Mississippi Team has been staying in is located. It's been a whirlwind of activity the last few days, some of which y'all may be reading on the Mississippi Blog. But things have also been going on in my personal life which have brought stress and disappointment as well as the ego beating talked about previously. Having a credit card number stolen is not something I recommend happening while on a Mission Trip. It's not fun at anytime, but especially in the midst of trip in which one had hoped to use the credit card!

Then there are those things that have brought me great joy...like meeting St. Casserole and Songbird from RevGalBlogPals! I was so honored that they would drive out to Pearlington today to meet-up with me (and send hugs from PG and mom! Hugs right back!). Both are just as lovely as I had figured they would be. Thank you both for coming to Pearlington! I heard they were traveling on to NOLA for another blogger meet up and a maybe a little yarn shop exploration...Yo Momma was especially excited to talk yarn shops.

Being on a trip with 19 people who get along well is also a huge bonus. We've had so much less stress and a LOT more laughter on this trip. I don't think I've laughed this hard on a trip in a long time. The work is has been sporadic but the laughter has been abundant.

I've learned a few things on the journey as well. I was driving around Pearlington today and realized that I was pretty confident about getting places. I knew the roads to take, which way to go, which streets not to stop on the corner on and so on. It really felt like home. And it also dawned on me halfway through the day that Ben is more confident with our group as well. He wasn't around for most of the day, he had things to do, places to go and didn't mind leaving us to do the work. That speaks REALLY highly of the group and how they work.

Most importantly, I realized that I don't have to do everything. It's been freeing to step back and just let whatever is going to happen with things, happen. I'm not worrying about meals, I'm not answering questions that others can answer. I'm just doing what I can do and not worrying about doing more. That whole "walk humbly with your God" thing in Micah (our team verse is Micah 6:8) is working it's way a little deeper into my heart. I am who God made me to be, I can do what God asks and nothing more. There's great freedom in that...praise God!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lessons from life

It's midnight. I need to be sleeping. Things have happened in the last 72 hours that have been fantastic and things have happened that have been stressful. I'm consistently amazed at how God starts working things together, putting things in place so that the next event doesn't completely backfire or so that, in the end, I have to stop and say "Thanks".

Tonight I'm saying Thanks. Thanks for the opportunity to grow, the opportunity to be humble, the opportunity to be transparent and for the opportunity to be supported by others in small and big ways. My heart just about melted tonight when a youth group member came up and hugged me, not once but twice. He doesn't even know how much that meant and probably never really will but I will remember it forever.

My ego took a little bit of a beating tonight but it turns out I didn't need that ego anyway. It just gets in the way of God and God's amazing way of working.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve. In a few hours I'll be leading in worship at our Christmas Eve Service. We'll be singing some of my favorite songs, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Rejoice, Away in the Manger. We'll turn off the overhead lights, light candles and sing together Silent Night, cherishing the gift of Jesus...if we are lucky it won't be raining and all of that can be done outside in the chill of the night air with the stars twinkling in the sky.

It doesn't really matter though, whether we sing inside or out, the real joy of Christmas Eve comes when those lights go out and the candles begin to be lit. That's when Christmas starts for me, in that moment with the symbolic light of Christ is passed from one person to another, when barriers are dropped for just a moment to celebrate the birth of Christ into a world in need of saving. In that moment there is hope, peace and joy. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday's Tips part 4

It's hard to believe that Christmas is just two sleeps away. I've got almost all my shopping done, yea! I'll be picking up a couple of extra things tonight before dinner with some friends, yea! I have the last of the pictures I need that need to be picked up at Costco and then I think I have it all together.

Today's tips are the last ones for this Christmas season. Thanks for reading along! It's been fun and challenging for me.

Looking to start a new Christmas family tradition? How about a Christmas movie viewing night. Aunt C and Lisa like to watch White Christmas together. Yo Momma and I (and Lil Bro when he was around) make time to watch The Muppets Christmas Carol. There's plenty of movies that can be viewed by the whole family. What's a Christmas without A Charlie Brown Christmas?

Have one person that you're struggling to buy a present for? Personalize a calendar. K takes pictures of Train Guy and Adventure Boy, cuts them out and puts them "into" the pictures on a pre-printed calendar. It's fun to turn the page each month to see where the boys will be. Or write notes on specific dates on the calendar, birthdays, quotes, special holidays, lunch dates, etc.

If a calendar doesn't work for you, how about an ornament? These are some of my favorite ornaments to give because they come in a nice box.

Looking for a gag gift? Singing animals are always a hit. People either love them or hate them and that's the whole point. I am on the loving them side and have several. I also found that there are some fun animals out there that don't sing but do other things that make me laugh, laugh, laugh. A couple of lucky people will be the recipients of these gifts this year.

My final tip this Christmas season can't be found on the Internet. I found it last night at R.A.W. in the quiet with the rain pouring down on the roof and candles lighting up the room. It was the reminder to stop and breathe. There is much that I will miss in the next few days as I rush not only to get things done for Christmas but for the Mississippi trip, but last night for an hour I was able to just breathe and enjoy the moment.

In the hustle of friends and family the next few days, my prayer for you is that you have the opportunity to breathe and enjoy the moment.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Short post

I love Christmas...I don't love cleaning up after wrapping Christmas presents, especially there are still presents to wrap but I ran out of tape. If my housemates weren't returning home before me tonight I would just leave the mess but if I did I'd never hear the end of it. Good thing there's a spare room!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Five: Countdown to Christmas Edition

Songbird over at RevGalBlogPals says:

It's true. There are only five full days before Christmas Day, and whether you use them for shopping, wrapping, preaching, worshiping, singing or traveling or even wishing the whole darn thing were over last Tuesday, there's a good chance they will be busy ones.

So let's make this easy, if we can: tell us five things you need to accomplish before Christmas Eve.
  1. Finish buying Christmas gifts & stocking stuffers. This year is particularly hard for stocking stuffers but it's my favorite part of Christmas morning! Good thing I have a shopping day planned with Aunt C tomorrow!
  2. Wrap, wrap, wrap presents...though I tend to wait until that beautiful time between the 7pm Christmas Eve service and the 10pm service when I need to stay awake and all the family stuff is done for the night.
  3. Put together all the media stuff and music for the Christmas Eve services, the 28th and January 4th because I also need to...
  4. Pack for Mississippi! Not my own bags, silly people, but the bag that contains all the stuff the team may need while we are in Pearlington...like songbooks, extra t-shirts, dust masks, construction pencils and so on and so on. Who's idea was it to leave at 8am the day after Christmas?
  5. Dot the "i's" and cross the "t's" on all the Mississippi paperwork which includes making sure I have all the confirmation numbers for the flights and rentals cars, keys and lockbox numbers for the homes we are renting, permission slips for the students, putting the last few checks into the account to pay for all the food, gas, etc on the trip and so on and so on. Yep, the next few days are going to be a little busy!

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The stress is building

It is 2pm. So far today I have sat in an 1 1/2 long staff meeting, helped Fabulous Office Manager put a new program on her computer, walked around the high school campus visiting students, started my computer, eventually answered emails, put lunch in the microwave and made a list of things that I need for tonight.

In the next 3 1/2 hours I need to print out the insert for Sunday's bulletin, write and print out the brochure for the High School Snow Trip, buy supplies for tonight, wrap the white elephant gifts for tonight, compile songs for tonight's "carol-a-thon", write a letter to an unhappy person, put finishing touches on the media stuff for Sunday's worship service, send in the deposit and contract for a rental house for the Snow Trip, put together an estimate for the Snow Trip expenses, set up for tonight's games, post a blog on the Pearlington site about where we stand financially, put together a song list for R.A.W. and make sure I have the overheads, check out the memory information on Church computer and send that information to a friend who's helping figure out the memory problems...and the list goes on. Wait, pastor just called me, add to that list put together a lyric sheet so we can sing Silent Night out underneath the stars on Christmas Eve (if it doesn't rain).

Tomorrow is my silent retreat day, Christmas is a week away in 9 days I leave for Mississippi and I can feel the stress building, building, building.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday's Tips part 3

This week was the our Christmas Celebration at church. We had little drummer people, a whole pageant, lots of music, laughter and audience participation moments that were a lot of fun. Nothing like singing Jingle Bells with a group of people ringing bells. It was a great night. Music always is a huge part of these evenings and I realized that we have an amazing group of musicians, young and older, in the church. I love to see how God uses our unique, distinctive gifts to combine into one amazing celebration!

Which brings me to tip number one. There have been over 9 million viewings of this video and if you haven't heard it before, well, it's time to join the fun. Ready to smile? Watch this video.

Looking for Christmas music that is mostly original? Mary Chapin Carpenter just put out a CD called Come Darkness, Come Light that is fantastic with lots of original songs. My favorite song is the title track and any pastor doing a Blue Christmas service should take time to listen. It's good.

Need a little time out to just play? Try Elf Bowling! I stumbled upon this gem a few years ago, even had it on a floppy disc but lost it somewhere along the way. You can play for about 60 minutes for free at this site. And then you can try Polar Bowling for even more fun! Make sure the sound is on, they are pretty silly to listen too as well...but if you are at work, keep the sound low!

Looking for silly gifts for someone? Try the Container Store. They have great stocking stuffers, though they are a little pricey. Yo Momma and G.G. got luggage tags last year...which reminds me, one got lost off of Yo Momma's luggage this year. Hmmmm...

Now, just because I liked it, I share with you the following video which my friend Kimi shared with me last week. The object was to share the the Christmas Story in under 30 seconds at Churches Advertising Network and this is the winning video. I'm not sold on the whole church advertising thing but I like the creativity! Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 15, 2008


Unbloggable. I've read that term on my favorite blogs over the past couple of years but haven't really given it a lot of thought...until the last couple of weeks when issues or topics have come to mind and I really, really want to blog about them but yet there are complications. #1--Non-anonymity and #2--blogging about them could cause more issues than were originally there, thus rendering certain subjects unbloggable.

It makes me sad, really, to not be able to blog about some things going on in life because this place has become an outlet for me. I've found freedom here to put words on "paper" that sometimes would normally stay in my head...and there's the added bonus that friends and family whom I love dearly but tend to neglect get caught up on whatever is running through my mind at the moment. I'm also sad because I've found that whenever I start writing things down here, I begin to process them on a deeper level. I read the words that I write and then have to think about them, very carefully, before hitting that publish button. I could do as Meg suggested and write them all out and then erase, erase, erase. And maybe I will, though there is some kind of strange satisfaction with having my words read by someone else somewhere...and now I'm rambling.

There are things in life that are bloggable and there are things in life that are unbloggable. Unfortunately, today, is a pretty much unbloggable day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


A few years ago a young man came to youth group. He was not my favorite teenager. In fact I really dreaded when he came to youth group. There was a chip on his shoulder a mile wide that ran head long into any adult who dare, oh I don't know, discipline him! But I'm a youth director, and God has called me to be a vessel of love, hope and understanding to the young people whom I meet in life and so I grudgingly accepted this young man in our program and "put up with him".

Fast forward a couple of years and that young man has changed. The chip on his shoulder isn't quite as wide. I don't run head long into it anymore, in fact I realized recently that I haven't run across that chip in a long time. I will see him on the school campus at lunch and he will approach me to say Hi. He smiles more than he frowns and a while back when the rest of the group was getting kind of loud and I was trying to get the attention of the group, he was the first one tell everyone to quiet down. Yep, things have changed.

I was sitting by another young man a few weeks ago. Another one whom God had placed in youth group that I really, really struggled with. He came to group for awhile, disappeared and has reappeared again. You know, the same thing has happened. He's changed, though the chip on his shoulder is pretty prominent still. I enjoyed spending time talking with him, listening to the unspoken words as well as those spoken.

There are days when I wonder what God is doing, what the future holds and how much longer I will be in Youth Ministry. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do there is just always this voice in the back of my head saying "You can't do this forever.". I'm not sure whose voice it is, God's, Satan's or mine, and until I figure it out I will continue to do what God has called me to do...be a vessel of love, hope and understanding to the young people whom I meet in life. It's not an easy road but it's the road that God has me walking.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesday Tips Week 2

This week has been jammed packed with all kinds of things happening. Mostly good, some frustrating and a few unexpected twists but overall good. Though the fact that the guy at the local Taqueria knows that I don't like salsa on my items probably isn't good nor the fact that upon walking into Starbuck$ on Sunday morning both people behind the counter knew exactly what I order. I am there too much!

I am a creature of habit, which is why doing these Tuesday Tip things are so fun. It's my chance to explore new things and pass those tidbits along to you, my internet friends! Are you ready?

Looking for music? I love Christmas Music. A lot. It's hard to just listen to Christmas Music for a month, I want to listen all year long. Loading my I-pod with Christmas music is on my list of things to do this week. In the meantime several people mentioned http://www.pandora.com/ this week. It's a free music site that is just too hard to explain but is pretty cool. Check it out for yourself. Oh, and it's got a lot more than Christmas music on there.

Time for a Christmas Tree? Yo Momma and I went Christmas Tree hunting with Train Guy and Adventure Boy on Friday. Last year we got a tree that we thought was the perfect height, until we cut it down...it was way too short. This year Yo Momma had the fabulous idea to bring a tape measure. It was great. We measured our tree before cutting it and wound up with a tree that is just about the right height. So, if you are going out to cut your own tree, bring a tape measure and figure about a foot and a half difference in the height...if you cut like we do!
Got pictures? I am horrible at printing out pictures. I have billions of pictures from all the adventures of the youth group, not to mention my own life. I've got a program that helps me fix pictures but my printer isn't the best and it tends to jam a lot, so I don't print out the pictures that often. But the other week I got a coupon for free photos from Costco. I uploaded my pictures to Costco.com, chose the size and number of photos and chose to pick them up at my local Costco, which I did the next day. It was so easy and the pictures looked good too. There will be several family members getting pictures for Christmas!

Planning on going on vacation and don't want to stay in a hotel? Try Vacation Rentals By Owner. People with Vacation properties in the US can list their homes on there with pretty reasonable prices...especially if you are going with a big group of people. I found a house in Mississippi for our March trip and have rented it again for the trip this December...as well as another one just down the street. I am scouring that site for a rental house in Tahoe for the High School Snow Trip. There are several great possibilities.

Enough said! Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

No room

"And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David's ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancee, who was obviously pregnant by this time.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn." ~John 2:4-7 (NLT)

A couple of years ago some of the youth group members and I reenacted the Nativity story for our all Church Christmas Celebration. There were 5 people and a couple of the people had to play multiple parts, which always makes for a fun time. Train Guy was just a year old then so he got to be Baby Jesus...very cool. One of the youth, Doug, played the Inn Keeper in the story...not just one inn keeper but multiple inn keepers, for added effect. He's a man of few words anyway but we found that we never knew quite what Doug was going to do. One time he looked at Mary and Joseph and just said "No", another he just shook his head and pointed in the opposite direction. I think the last one went something like "I've got this barn out back." I haven't laughed so hard at a Christmas Pageant since then.

It's always been fascinating to me how much gets added to the Nativity story when we begin to retell it. Mary riding on a donkey into Bethlehem...find that one in the Bible. The Magi kneeling by baby Jesus' manger with the shepherds by their side...yeah probably not. And then there's the inn keeper. While I don't doubt the existence of the inn keeper, no mention is made about who this inn keeper actually was or if the inn keeper even offered Mary and Joseph a stable out back. For all we know, they could have just stumbled upon the stable and that's where they camped out for the night. The story is a little vague.

The point, though, is pretty clear. There wasn't any room for them in the inn. The place where it would be natural for an obviously pregnant woman (I love that translation!) to rest for the night had no rooms available. So Mary and Joseph wound up in a stable and the Savior of the world's first bed was a manger because there was no room for him.

I was struck the other day by this thought...there still isn't room for Jesus. We still find ways to block Jesus out of the most natural resting place for him, our hearts. I can spend much of my day doing a lot of busy work for Jesus and I can spend my nights talking to teenagers about Jesus but how much of my day is actually spent with Jesus. How much room do I make in my heart for Jesus every day? The sad truth is that there are far too many days that go by where I don't think about Jesus at all.

No room. That's the easiest line in a Christmas Pageant and really an easy line in my life. I have no room, no room for stuff, no room for people, no room for more...yet when I tell Jesus I have no room what am I missing out on? That's quite the question to ponder

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tuesday's Tips

So, this being the Christmas season and it seems fitting to share my most recent fun finds with y'all every Tuesday from now until Christmas. Hope you enjoy!

Looking for silly gifts? Fredflare.com is the place for you. There aren't words to explain, just look for yourself. I've found a gift for Cousin T (and if any of you family members are tempted to buy something for her from this site, please check with me first!), the perfect gift for Opinionated Friend and just all kinds of fun items.

Like coffee? Like chocolate? Like Yo Momma's Chocolate Torte Cake? Why not try it in beverage form? Starbuck$ new Espresso Truffle tastes just like that cake!

For the last few years I've enjoyed an online Advent Calendar at Banjobunny.com. There's a new door to open everyday with something fun on the other side. If you have sound on your computer turn it up!

And the final Tuesday Tip is this...if you are tired of getting Christmas presents that you don't use, that aren't practical to your life or that you just wind up returning, why not make a wish list! I've got two so far online so friends and family can find them and get me things off that list. The best part is it really works! So go to your favorite store online and start wishing! Oh, but it only works if you tell the rest of us where to find your list!