Friday, January 29, 2010

A good day

Yesterday I went to get my haircut at the appointment that I had rescheduled...only I wrote it down wrong. Not just wrong completely-on-the-wrong-day-wrong. What makes it even worse is that I wrote it down on the wrong day THINKING that it was the right date. First sign of needing a vacation? It was a long day.

Today was a day off. I took time this morning getting going. Made waffles and found Yo Momma's secret stash of milk chocolate chips, some of which jumped from my hand into the waffle batter. Yummy. Then headed off to the hair appointment I attempted to go to yesterday. Freshly washed and cut hair always makes me happy. My next stop was the big box store that sells car stereos. My lovely family listened to my pleas and I received gift cards for Christmas and my birthday this year. Today I spent them on a new car stereo. After years of having a CD player that eats CD's I am happy to say it is no longer in my car. Yea! I have a new one that has a USB port so that I can hook up my I-Pod easier as well. Love it. Only drawback so far, little buttons. It was bought and installed in a hour. AND the guys who installed it rescued the CD's that were stuck in my old stereo. As Mr. Ben would say, beautamous.

Heading home I remembered the receipt in my wallet for a free coffee. Oh, yeah good stuff. Add in a quick stop at the chiropractor (K) and great hugs from Nat, Lu and Meg and today has been a good day. And it all started with chocolate chip waffles.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Comparison game

In the last year, our Children's Ministry Director has done a great job at motivating us all to be proactive in training our volunteers on the issue of Child Abuse. Part of the push has come because the local Presbytery has begun to get tougher on the issue of fingerprinting and training for volunteers. For the last few months I've been after my volunteers to get their fingerprinting done but it just hasn't happened. Yesterday a couple of the volunteers and I made plans to go today and get it done.

The Sheriff's office we went to is right across the street from one of the larger churches in the area. As we were pulling out of the Sheriff's parking lot, there were two big buses, a truck pulling a trailer and a smaller church bus pulling out of the church parking lot. Driving the smaller church bus was the Youth Pastor. It took seconds for it to click in my head...they are going to the snow.

Many times in Youth Ministry, we Youth Pastor/Director people tend to play the comparison game. We toss numbers around like they are the be all, end all of how our successful our ministry is. Some will tell you that your ministry isn't successful if there aren't numbers behind it, others will tell you that it doesn't matter the numbers, it matters the quantity and so on. I've struggled with the numbers game a lot. Partly because that's the way that the "big church" measures success as well.

As I watched the buses and truck pull out of this other churches parking lot, I had a moment of envy. That's a lot of youth going to the snow. And then it hit me. That's A LOT of youth going to the snow. That's a budget that seems way too out of control, way more food that needs to be fixed, big vehicles that may possibly need chains, more bodies to get hurt or sick, more leaders needed, more of everything.

I doubt that the Youth Pastor from the other church is going to be huddled in a room, with his whole entire group, listening to each persons life story. They wouldn't be able to do anything else for a morning, at least! He won't have the opportunity to be one on one with everyone on that trip, which is why there is volunteer staff as well. While big groups tend to add more excitement and energy, I like the small moments.

Guess that's why God has me leading a little group and not a big group. I choose to be just fine with that.

Monday, January 25, 2010

We're going to be talking about this for years...

That was what Jon-boy said to me at 11:30pm on Friday night as our group sat around a rental house in the Sierra's huddled together under whatever blankets we could find, hoping the fire we had started would warm us up quickly. How right he was.

It's a long story but let's just say that the storms that hit the west last week, left a lot of trees down. One was on the power lines right outside the rental house we were at. We didn't know that until we arrived to see a tree across the road and a 4ft berm of snow preventing us from pulling onto the parking pad in front of the house. We didn't know that until the neighbor offering to call someone to come plow the driveway area for us said she would have to go into use her rotary phone. Even then, it took a moment for it to click...that would be the moment when my hand clicked on the light switch for the light that didn't come on. No power.

No power meant no heater, no stove and, as we would learn the next day, no water heater. But we are resourceful people and we made do. The wood burning stove was put to use and eventually got the house to 52 degrees (but that took over a day and half). There were plenty of blankets and just the right number of couches for the 8 of us. Many of us had brought flashlights and we found two emergency candles to light. We powered through (pun intended).

We bought a camp stove and candles, we found all the blankets in the house and pulled them into the living room, we huddled together and talked about God's story and told our stories, we laughed, we snapped at each other and we made the best of the situation we were in. All in all, it was going well.

But when the power was still out on Sunday morning and I had found out the hard way that the hot water heater was electric, enough was enough. We called it quits and came home a day early. No broken bones or broken down cars. Just 7 kind of stinky people and 1 hot water hog and another adventure in youth ministry that we will be talking about for years.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The sounds

Sometime on early Tuesday it started. The girl became aware of the sounds around her. Outside her window the pitter patter of rain falling on the deck caught her attention, gentle at first, gradually building into an harder more desperate rhythm. Water rushing down downspouts was the next sound she heard and then the wind.

The rushing wind that blew gustily, blowing the rain drops in different directions, whirling in a circle, causing the wind chimes to sound. The wind that rushed through the trees outside the window, then blew a pail over, causing it to clatter. The wind that kept the girl listening intently for a sound that never came, the cracking and crashing of trees falling.

And then the sound of three beeps from inside the window. Silence reigned. No rumble of a refrigerator motor or hum from a phone. Just silence. There were footsteps above her, coming down the stairs, into the room next door, light flashed beneath her door, hands rummaged through drawers. The footsteps retraced their path and then the silence returned inside the window.

Thunder was next, though the flashing of the lightening was a warning of the impending rumble. The sound of furniture moving in heaven? Bowling? God laughing? It rumbled so deeply the window shook as the wind carried the sound farther and longer, rushing through the trees, over the earth, through the rain. Even with the lightening warning that the thunder was on its way, the girl still paused in utter stillness as the rumble began, hoping the earth stayed still underneath her for rumbling doesn't always come from the sky.

As the sun came up the silence was outside the window. The wind had slowed, the rain had slowed. The piercing beeping of a garbage truck broke the stillness. A stillness that wasn't normally there. The steady of hum of tires on pavement didn't rush up the hill and through the window. An eerie silence marked the first clue that all was not the same down the hill. The click whoooosh of the furnace moved the girl from her intent listening. The power was on! The sound of footsteps and hurried movements were her own, the hiss of the shower began. Alas the hum of the hairdryer was not to be...three beeps sounded again and silence returned inside the house.

Later, through the car window the sound of wipers moving across the window kept time to the sound of songs on the radio. Underneath the tires water, leaves and small branches crunched and splashed. There were few sounds of cars driving around her. This was a different weekday then normal. No sounds of cars rushing kids to school, no sounds of kids in school.

Outside her window at work, the wind blew through the trees, causing creaks and cracks that had the girl looking out the window every so often, waiting for the branches to fall. But the sight never came, no sound of branches falling, just the CRACK! of a branch letting loose from it's home a little. Inside the window was the sound of the days. Voices talking, laughing. Doors opening and closing. Footsteps walking up and down hallways, overhead, inside it felt like a normal day, but every so often, the voices would express a moment of worry. Is there power? How much more will it gust and drip outside? Tomorrow is going to be worse, the voices said.

Tomorrow was about the same. That tomorrow night, the girl sat listening again. The sounds were different than the previous day. The rushing of cars on streets below drifted through the windows. The constant hum of generators in the distant reminded her that all was not the same as before. But there was a new sound, something that the wind and the rain had brought out, a sound that brought a smile to the girls face. A chorus of sound that delighted her ears and brought a smile to her face. "Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit, ribbit," the singing of frogs danced through the air. "Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit," the singing frogs lulled her to sleep.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Not the same kind of Christian

It's been almost a week since the earthquake hit Haiti and Mr. Robertson made his oh-so-lovely (she says with sarcasm dripping from her lips) statement. I don't know what direct line he has to God but I don't EVER want to pick up that phone. I'm thinking of creating a bumper sticker that says "Pat Robertson doesn't speak for me". There are bloggers that have been more eloquent on the subject, so I direct you to them...especially SarahLynn's blog (there are some sponsors listed there). Suffice it to say, my beliefs don't line up with his...and that's WAY okay with me!

Don Miller (includes links to several others)


Saturday, January 9, 2010

My new brother

God has a way of weaving together circumstances and people to create something extraordinary. The journey home from Mississippi this time was harder, in ways. Staying for two weeks seemed pretty extravagant when God first started nudging me but as the days went by and the moments counted down, it seemed like such a blip on the screen of life. Two weeks, big deal. I wanted to come home for some space (as much as I love my team members, this introvert REALLY needs some hibernation time) and because my Chiropractor is didn't come with me. Two weeks of painting overhead and trying to rip out old electrical boxes from the wall did a number on me. But it was hard to leave a place and people I have come to love dearly.

This last trip, I spent some time reminiscing about how we got our start in Pearlington to begin with. Our first trip we went with the PC(USA) Disaster Assistance Program, they are the one's that assigned us to Pearlington. We knew within days of our arrival that we would be going back. But the PDA changed the game on us. Those under the age of 18 weren't allowed anymore, for legitimate reasons, but I couldn't NOT take the youth who felt invested in Pearlington, so we joined up with the Pearlington Recovery Center for trip number 2. Oh my.

While much good came out of the Recovery Center, I knew right away that I couldn't go through another experience with them. The hours we spent waiting around for jobs to come available was maddening. There were other issues as well, but by about halfway through I was pretty convinced that we wouldn't be heading back to Pearlington again. And then we met Tom. Tom gave us jobs. Tom was nice. Tom was funny and dedicated to putting volunteers to work. So for trip number 3 I decided that our team would work with Tom.

Tom is from Colorado and had come down as a first responder to help immediately after Hurricane Katrina. He was heading up an organization called Mountains to Mississippi that was created specifically to help Pearlington. Tom introduced us to Ben, a local who was helping Tom with the different volunteer groups working with Mountains to Mississippi. While there were still down times, we worked hard. Ben was helpful, made us laugh and genuinely encouraged us to do our best. When it came time to think about the 4th trip, the decision was easy. We were sticking with Ben and Tom.

Tom hasn't been able to be around since our 4th trip, so we've been working solely with Ben, learning a lot about the South and growing closer. On our 5th trip, Ben gave us the insider's tour of Pearlington: lunch at the Turtle and a drive to Logtown. We started exchanging emails, which Ben would always sign "Your friend, Ben". A friendship was being forged.

In December of 2008 Tom called with the information that Ben was in the hospital. I assumed that Tom was calling because we had a trip planned but as we got into the conversation Tom said "Ben doesn't want a whole lot of people to know, but his friends should really know what was going on." His friends. Ben's friends. It took a moment to realize that I was in that group of friends. I admit, I got teary.

This last trip, Ben and I spent a lot more time together. He teased me and tested me on my "southern" as usual. But he also gave me responsibilities he hadn't before. We drove out to look at a work site together, where he promptly handed me his notebook to write down all that needed to be done and the supplies that were supposed to be bought. He talked about his family, sharing pictures of his grandkids. He opened up about his frustrations and worries more. He slipped up and said "you're welcome" when Debbie said "Thank You"...for which I promptly called him on the carpet. "How come Debbie can say Thank you and I can't?" (I made the mistake of saying "Thank You" the first time I met Ben. He informed me there was nothing to Thank him for, that it was us that deserved the Thanks, not him. I've learned to say Thank you without saying the words...but I slipped up this last trip and said it the first day. Ben promptly scolded me saying "I thought I taught you better than that." ) We shared in a lot of laughs and one day I couldn't stop myself, I said the words "I love you, Ben". His hug got a little tighter, his voice a little gruffer and I got a kiss on the cheek. I knew that I'd hit the soft spot in his heart.

It was the last day, though, that Ben ripped my heart open. After shaking hands with the young adults and hugging Jolynn, Ben looked at me and as he went to give me a hug said "now this one, she's like my sister". I held it together, barely, as those words washed over my soul. His hug was precious and ferocious. We both were fighting back the tears (though he won't ever tell you that) and with a "love ya" and a blown kiss he was gone.

I have a new brother. He's 60-something, he's really a brother of the soul but it doesn't matter. I love him just the same.
Me, Ben and Yo Momma March 2008

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lil Bro

My Lil Bro has a blog now. Ha! I'm corrupting the family yet! You can read his thoughts, musings and rants at Tahoe Groomer.

Speaking of brothers...I've got a post brewing about my newest "brother". Curious? Just wait.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


It's Tuesday night at 6:30pm and I'm home. I'm not sick, I'm not on vacation, just home...because...I am no longer the one running Middle School Youth Group! It's a change that has been in the works for months now and tonight, it's real. After 9 1/2 years, I am no longer the Middle School leader.

I have to say, it's weird being home on a Tuesday night but I know that the time will be filled by one thing or another. For tonight I'm rejoicing in the reality of a new focus for ministry, High School and Young Adult and enjoying being off.

There are still stories to come from Mississippi but I'm finding it hard to come up with words, so for now, I'll sit back, enjoy a little TV, a good book and the rest of the fudge Aunt C. sent for Christmas, all the while praising God for changes in life.