Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Yesterday I decided that I was going to go back to Tahoe for the weekend.  Tony Campolo is speaking at a church in Tahoe this weekend and I wanted to hear what he has to say.  First, though, I knew that I needed to get the oil changed in my car.  So I tried last night at the big box store auto place.  I stood in the lobby with about 5 other people as one employee walked in, looked at all of us and walked back out.  I left.

This morning I took my car to a local place.  Got right in, sat down and started working on the order for my cousin's wedding ceremony in a couple of weeks.  Pretty soon there was the mechanic sitting next to me with a bolt in his hand, or what I came to know as the oil plug.  Long story short, I own a Ford, everything is expensive and I won't be going to Tahoe this weekend.  G.G. came to my rescue.

Over lunch with G.G. I started thinking about the amount of trust I have in God and how incredible that comes across to believers and non-believers alike.  There are people out there really worried about me and the future.  They keep asking very good questions about whether or not I'm looking for jobs or what I might be thinking about for the future or what I want to do with my life.  My answer isn't calming any nerves.  I don't know and I'm not worried.  I'm not trying to deliberately be naive or vague or flippant about it all, I really just trust that God is going to make things happen when God wants them to happen and I just need to trust.

This process makes me aware that most followers of Jesus trust in God's plan only to a certain extent and then take control and let things happen their way.  We want to believe that God has a plan and will take care of us, but when push comes to shove it's so much easier to trust in us then to trust a God that is pretty invisible at times.  We may say that we trust God, but the truth is we usually trust God when things are going right, not when they seem out of control.  I'm totally guilty of that usually!  Truthfully, I would probably more concerned right now if I didn't have some reserves to fall back on...reserves that I know God provided, which makes it even more apparent that God is in control!

My knowledge of my situation, though, is not what other people see and even when I explain it there is a look of disbelief in the eyes of those around me.  How could I walk away from a perfectly good job and not have a plan or be worried?!  I'll say it again, it's all God.  I know that things will be okay, that I will be okay.  I just need to trust.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

6 years later

It's been six years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall.  This morning I was reflecting on the time I've spent in Mississippi, wondering when I will be back there again, marveling at all that God has done in the Gulf Coast and through the people of the Gulf Coast when I suddenly remembered a conversation Yo Momma and I had with a resident of Pearlington on our first trip 6 months after the storm.

I think it was Ms. Virginia, I'm not positive, who looked at us after worship at the First Missionary Baptist Church and said "I am so grateful for the storm.  It if hadn't have happened I would never have met you!".  I couldn't believe that she was saying that, as we stood in a building next to the 100 year old sanctuary that had been completely destroyed by Katrina.  I couldn't believe that as we listened to her share her story of losing all that she had.  I couldn't understand how Ms. Virginia could be grateful for that storm. 

I get it today.  I am grateful, not for the horror of the storm, but for the experience of giving, serving, being served and witnessing the way that God has worked through the devastation Hurricane Katrina left behind and changed the lives of those who lived there, those who volunteered there and those who have come to love the Gulf Coast.

No, I don't think that God caused Hurricane Katrina nor any natural disaster to happen purposefully for the sin of the world.  I do think that God will use each and every circumstance to bring about change for the good...and I have seen it happen firsthand.  Six years later, I am grateful for the storm.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

These days

This not having a job thing isn't a hardship.  At least not right now.

All last week was spent in Tahoe, pretty much doing nothing.  It took about 5 days for my mind to settle down, my soul to rejuvenate and my body to recoup.  Yo Momma had volunteered to babysit Miss P during the day, so around 7:30am she would arrive and the fun would begin.  Did I mention that she turned two?  Yeah.  The terrible two's are upon us.  The meltdowns were impressive.  They didn't work, but they were impressive.  She is kinda cute though.

Friday afternoon and unto the late night hours were spent slaving over the cake on your left.  Miss P's birthday party was Saturday and there had to be cake!  It went pretty quickly, despite having to mix color after color after color.  I'm contemplating taking a cake decorating class sometime soon.  It could be fun.

The weekend was filled with family, party, bike riding and friends.  Not to mention the book reading and quiet time.  Tough times.

The part I'm not enjoying, as much, is the time to think, ponder and wonder.  After 12 years of being constantly busy, this time to let down is reminding me of things I've left undone, unfinished, regrets and so much more.  It was much easier to ignore all of that when I was constantly planning for the next thing.  God and I are doing a lot of talking about days gone by.  Guess that's a good thing, right?

The part that I'm relieved about is the lack of worry about what's next.  Others are doing enough worrying for me!  :)  I'm enjoying the time to relax, be free of job stress and take in views like these every so often.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Something to remember

The people pleasing, perfectionist part of me would love to make every one in the world happy.  If life ran the way I prefer, I would do or say the right thing, in other people's eyes, all the time.  I've faced the reality that I can't.  I do not like that reality but there it is, in black and white.  In reality, I am a mistake filled person who can't always please people.  Not perfect, not pleasing, just me.

The reality of my life is that I live in the grace of a God who loves me and forgives me.  I live in the presence of a God who knows my insecurities, my weaknesses, my temptations, my faults and my strengths.  I follow a God who knows where the deepest hurts are in my life, a God who brings those hurts to the surface little by little to deal with, to expose to the air and help them to heal.

I walk with a God who doesn't withhold love even when I'm at my lowest, ugliest, most fragile, tender, broken points.  I am a Christ follower who messes up regularly and is forgiven and loved anyway.  Trying to remember that today.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Five: Road Trip Edition

Jan at RevGals writes:

My husband and I just returned (on Wednesday night) from a long road trip up the middle USA to Canada, going through various national parks, and on to the Puget Sound of Washington State. This brought back memories of family road trips with my children and when I was a child, so the idea of today's Friday Five arose.

Tell us about five road trips--in your childhood, in your family, in your recent past, with friends, and/or hoped-for-places-to-drive-to. Don't forget the one that stands out as the BEST or as the worst time.

Road trips are my favorite!  Some melt into each other, so here's what I came up with.

1.  Traveling to Iowa could probably take all five but I'll make it one. The most memorable of those trips were when we drove the Chevy Truck. Kid's in the back (before the days when people traveling in the bed of a truck was frowned upon), parents up front...mostly.  My parents, being the ones who love back roads, always love to tell the story of us driving across California and Nevada with nothing but tumbleweeds in site.  We finally arrived in a large town and I spotted McDonald's or Burger King or something and piped up from the back of the truck "Civilization!"  That may have also been the trip where Jesus and I first really connected, thanks to the lack of civilization, an Amy Grant tape, devotional book and God's touch.  

My first road trip to Iowa was at the age of 3, last road trip at the age of 17, when I got to drive Grandpa O's car. That was memorable!  If the speedometer crept up to 65 while I was driving, Grandpa would freak out!  But it was OK for him to drive 85.  Loved that guy.

2.  Traveling with Boompa and G.G.  We never went really far, just a few hours away, but it was with the 5th wheel!  Boompa always drove and G.G. was the co-pilot.  Us kids got to sit in the back seat as we drove to whatever campground awaited us.  I'm not sure the driving part of the trip was the most exciting but it was staying in the 5th wheel, making s'mores at night and being with Boompa, G.G., their friends and whatever family might have made the trek as well.  The best time was when they got a new 5th wheel that we could ride in while driving.  THAT was a fun trip!

3.  Over the last 12 years of Youth Ministry there have been MANY a road trip.  From the 11 hour car ride home from Tahoe (we had avalanche control, snow, sun, sleet, rain, hail and lots and lots of traffic) to the one where we saw the zebra's at Hearst Castle and started picture taking opportunity (we were the first car to stop.  By the time we left there were 30 others!) to the time we were going to Lake Shasta and were passed by the Goldfish Mobile.  There are many, many stories...if you are a former youth member and have a favorite story please share it in the comments!  In fact my horror story of a road trip came from youth ministry.  It involves whiny girls, boys up to no good, leaders who were anything but helpful, snow that would not stop, a emergency call to Yo Momma to come bail us out (after one of our leaders had to go home suddenly), a tire blowout on the way home in the WORST part of a city and my finally just exploding into tears.  It's amazing that we ever took another trip again.

4.  One of my favorite road trip memories involved a plane ride.  Lil Bro and I took the trip we had always been dreaming of, courtesy of the National Youth Workers Convention...or at least that gave us the excuse!  We headed out to Nashville the first year the NYWC was held there.  We went a week early and drove around Tennessee.  We went south to Chattanooga (who knew they were in a different time zone!) and over to Memphis to go to Graceland, where we passed our exit and had to turn around...but not before I saw the Mississippi state sign!  I had to drive across the border just to say that I had been Mississippi once, I was sure I wasn't going to be back there again.  Ha!  God knew better.  That trip was one that won't be easily forgotten.  That NYWC was probably my all-time favorite.

5.  This last one is one that hasn't been taken yet.  It's a trip around the country.  I have an urge, many days, to just get in my car and drive.  To find the little out of the way places that can only be found by taking your time and driving through small towns.  My goal is to visit every state and what better way to do that than by driving?!  Money and the right traveling companion is the only thing stopping me from doing it right now!  One day, it will happen!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The days after

Sunday was the day.  The day where tears were shed, farewells were said, loving kind words poured over my head and laughter abounded.  There were presents, cake, salad's and Mike's rice...yum-o!  It was a mostly good stuff kind of day.  There was, though, the conversation, that I innocently walked in on while trying to collect all my stuff and hustle it out of the church.  The conversation between two people who could be vying for a job I had less than 10 minutes previously, finished.  I tried really hard not to listen as person A told person B his views on how to do the job I had just finished, better.  I tried, as I gathered up my song folder, guitar chord book and pink duct tape, to ignore that fact that I hadn't even left the building and already was being, well, dissed.  It didn't work so well, as I found out on Monday morning at 5:30am when I awoke with the perfect remark that I could have said to person A, "the body isn't even cold yet!".  After which I would have flounced out of the room in grandeur. Alas, I did not say such words and I did not flounce but ooooh I wish I had a do-over!

This morning I woke up early again.  This time it was the things that I inadvertently left behind.  Like the little guitar ornament that Nat gave me a few weeks ago that has been hanging on the microphone stand or the angel magnet that Meg gave me that kept my music from flying off the music stand.  Or even my copies of the last two songs that we sang on Sunday.  It's small stuff that was left behind, but big stuff to me!  (Meg, search and rescue mission? please?)

I wonder what I'm going to wake up early thinking about tomorrow.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

One more day...and a link

In 24 hours I will have officially ended my time as employee at church.  It won't be the last time I will be at the church but for right now, I will be worshiping God elsewhere.  It's a big step.  A big journey.  I'm excited about the new adventure.  Excited about where God may take me.  It's good. 

Tomorrow, however, will not pass without a bazillion tears shed.  As I told Yo Momma recently, this is a good-bye of sorts.  Sure, in a couple of weeks I'll be at the VBS re-cap meeting and a couple of weeks after that at the church campout (cuz I just need to) but tomorrow I turn in my church key and this chapter of life as Youth Director will be closed.  It's a good-bye.  The journey has been full of adventures and joys as well as heartaches and despair.  I wouldn't trade it for anything...anything.

I've learned a lot along the way.  I've learned about who I am, who I want to be and what kind of person I was created to be.  I've learned about where my passions are and where they are not.  I've experienced great success and great failure.  I've also come away with a picture of who God is for me.  Not every Christians picture of God is the same, much to my utter dismay.  But occasionally I find someone who sees God like I see God.  Today, I came across an article I'd read a couple of years ago but was reprinted on a blog for today.  The God that is talked about in this article...that's my kind of God.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to have learned that over the last 12 years.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Faith ramblings

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV): Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark 16:15 (NIV):  "He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.' "

True confession time.  These are not my favorite passages in the Bible.  They have been used many, many times to tell me that I am supposed to go to other countries and try to "convert" people, "win" them to Jesus.  Up until a few years ago, I read these passages and got very cynical.   And then I read them again.  This time the word "go" jumped off the page and the passages took on a whole new meaning.

When I read the passages as "go" that means that I need to do something.  I don't get to just sit inside my little Christian bubble and expect people to come to me to find Jesus.  I have to go somewhere.  This version puts the words "far and near" in there, which is an important distinction to me as well.  Not everyone hears the call of God to go to other countries to share the love of Jesus, some people are called by God to, well, go next door to the neighbors for coffee, to stop by their co-workers cubicle to chat for a few minutes, to sit down in a Barber's chair and talk to the person cutting their hair.  To me, "go" means that I have to leave my comfort zone and enter into the world.   I have to go somewhere.

The other day I was having a conversation with someone who basically said that they were struggling with leaving their current job to pursue something else because their current job was "Christian" and the other job was not.  If they left their job, where people came to find Jesus, for another job then they wouldn't be able to help people walk with God.  It took a lot of work to keep myself calm.  I know I paused and counted to 10 before saying anything.  To me, there is something inherently wrong with that logic.  Just like the logic that says we can't be friends with anyone who isn't Christian.  It seems like we're missing the point of the so-called Great Commission(s).  We have to be willing to actually go into the world to make a difference in the world.  We have to relate to people, those who know Christ and those who don't, to be able to have an impact.  If all I have are Christian friends, I'm not getting the job done.  If I only work in the Christian bubble of churches, camps, non-profits, para-church organizations, etc, then what difference am I truly making in the world?  We can't just sit in our comfortable Christian bubble and expect to make a difference in the world.  We have to go.

Typing all of this out, I know that I don't even live up to my own words.  I am completely comfortable in the Christian bubble of my creation.  It's hard to go into the world and face opposition to my beliefs and morals.  Yet, then again, I am also called to be me in the world, not someone else.  So I go and I live out my faith.  I say yes to things that I am comfortable with and no to things that I'm not.  I am true to who God has called me to be and not always to what the world says I am supposed to be.

I'm still not a fan of the way these passages are used in many Christian circles, but I am beginning to get order to share Jesus we've got to go to the world...not expect them to come to us. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Looking back

When I first started in Youth Ministry, a verse kept popping up for me.  It was 2 Corinthians 5:7 "We live by faith, not by sight."  It wound up with a necklace with that verse on it.  It became a theme verse for my life at the time.  I was doing a lot of faith walking at that time, doing a job that I knew God had called me into but I felt ill-prepared for at times.  I was up for the challenge though.

A few years in a young man and his dad started coming to church.  The young man was very quiet.  Really, really quiet.  He had a way of kind of bobbing his head as if agreeing or understanding people just to get them to stop asking him questions.  He had a hard time making eye contact and guarded his emotions carefully.  I heard from his dad, that the young man had a temper, that it was just the two of them and his dad was very insistent on his son coming to youth group.  I knew that this young man had two paths that he could go down.  One that might be tough but lead to success eventually.  The other was a path I didn't even want to think that would bring him a lot of heartache and most likely jail time.

The young man came to youth group, at first because his dad insisted, but more and more because he found a safe place to land.  He began to make friends, he went on big trips with us, he began to change, become less angry and distant and began to open up.  I broke a "rule" and drove him home many times, just because I knew he would open up more and more as we drove in the car.  It was on a summer trip that a huge breakthrough happened.  It was our annual houseboat trip.  One night he approached and asked if the two of us could talk.  We headed to the top of the houseboat and sat out under the stars for at least an hour without interruptions.  He talked about his life, his family, his feelings about his mom and more.  It was an hour that every Youth Minister hopes for but rarely gets to see.  An hour where God was talking to the soul of this young man and the walls of his heart were beginning to soften.  I will never forget that hour.

Life did indeed deal the young man some hard blows in the next few years.  He graduated high school and moved away and for the last few years I didn't know what had happened to him.  I heard rumors, I saw his myspace page, I prayed hard for this young man.  There was a picture in my office that I looked at daily of some of my favorite youth kids and his face was one of them smiling back at me.  I thought of him often with fondness and yet that feeling of regret that I didn't do enough, try enough to help him find his way in life, to help him find his way to God.

A few months ago I opened my Facebook account and there was a friend request from this young man.  I couldn't hit the "confirm" button fast enough!  We've left comments on each other's page.  I've seen that life has been a challenge and he's dealing with the consequences but yet there is something there.  His path is taking an upswing, things are going well.  Today I received a message from him that made me cry.  He just found out I'm quitting and wanted to check in.  Amongst the couple of lines was this, "You've made a big difference in a lot of people's lives.  If you need a recommendation, you know who to call."  I didn't know.  I really didn't know...but I'm so grateful to know now.

I've spent a long time living by faith and not by sight.  Faith that God will work through me, in spite of me.  While I don't know this where this young man's faith lies, I do know that good has been done, that I've been faithful to God's call and that in the process I've been blessed to be a part the lives of some amazing young people.  Live by faith, not by sight.  Every so often I appreciate the sight.  Kind of helps me to keep blindly walking.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What am I ready for?

VBS ended today.  It was a good week.  Nothing overly dramatic happened.  The kids had fun, the songs went well.  Jesus was proclaimed.  It was a good week.

This week to come is one of wrapping things up.  There are still a few things on the wall in my office, but most of the things that came with me or that have been added over the years have been taken down, packed away and are ready to be brought home.  Which leaves me a lot of time to contemplate and clean.

People, as should be expected, have been asking about my future.  What I'm going to do.  I've tried to envision the future and I can't.  I can't seem to think of anything but taking a vacation, taking time off and just relaxing for awhile.  I am ready for a break.  That's all I know.  Which makes the Friday Five over at RevGals very appropriate for me today.  One of the things that I would like to accomplish in my time off is to take all the boxes in the garage that have all of my stuff in them, off the shelves and go through them.  Then I would love to tackle the closet in my room and empty out all the things in there.  And somewhere, in this between job time I want to take my car in and get the brakes checked, the windows fixed and detail it really, really well.  Poor car has been neglected lately.

Which leads to the next thing.  There's a part of me that really wants to get in my car and drive.  I had thoughts of driving north, up into other states and exploring but there's circumstances keeping me from that.  I would love to jump in my car and drive across the country and explore.  Or drive to Mississippi and show up on Ben's doorstep ready to finish the sheet rock on the Yellow House.  The call of the open road is echoing loudly in my ears right now.  I just want to drive away.

One week to go...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I think I found the cure for bloggers block/tired writer syndrome.  Just write a post that says "I'm going silent" and BAM! the ideas start flowing and won't be contained.

For instance, I've been pondering for days the plethora of bad driving happening around me these days.  I realize that I can be, too, a bad driver.  I work at not being a bad driver but it does happen.  However I have yet to pass someone in a turnout...literally the car being passed was still driving on the road and the car doing the passing was in the turnout.  I have yet to get into a right turn only lane, only to deliberately go straight, through a red light, to beat the traffic up the hill, then down the hill to the (wait for it) red light.  It is a miracle that there aren't more car accidents in a day.  We really should have more of a fear of driving than a fear of flying.  Just sayin'.

There are also the little gems of youth ministry that I'm tucking away in the memory bank.  Like yesterday's pool party where Joe Suavo pushed multiple youth into the pool.  One tried to retaliate and attempted 3 times to dump a bucket of water over Joe Suavo's head.  It didn't completely work.  Joe Suavo managed to dump the bucket on said youth member each time, to which this 8th grade boy finally spluttered out from amongst the waterfall gushing off his head "You're just a big meanie!".  The howls of laughter felt good.

Maybe the blog post should be about the Mom who approached me after VBS yesterday with kids in tow and said "Every morning in our car there is a debate about whether the song says 'peace like a river' or 'geese like a river' ".   We decided peace made much more sense.

Another potential topic could be the impending date of my departure as Youth Director and impending entrance into the world of the unemployed.  People keep asking what I am planning on doing and all I can think about is taking a break, going on vacation, doing nothing.  I'm actually beginning to feel a little stressed because I'm not stressed about finding a job.  I did get a start on my resume and even got some resume counseling tonight from one of the young adults.  Just can't get too worked up about not having a job...yet.  Not having health insurance, yeah that one is beginning to become a little bit of a worry.

Yep, the bloggers block/tired writer syndrome seems to have abated for today.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Temporary blog silence?

I've started and stopped a bunch of posts over the last few days.  I get a few sentences in and my brain starts screaming "overload, overload!" or just simply shuts down.  Me-thinks there is too much roaming around in this head of mine and not enough time to contemplate.  Which all boils down to this...there is much I would like to write here and many thoughts I would like to share but they just won't come from my brain out through the tips of my fingers to this page.  This blog may be silent for awhile...but I will be back.