Monday, March 31, 2014

Lazarus Heart

I thought of how every day each of us experiences a few little moments that have just a bit more resonance than other moments – we hear a word that sticks in our mind – or maybe we have a small experience that pulls us out of ourselves, if only briefly…we would realize that we have been having another life altogether; one we didn't even know was going on inside us.  –Douglas Coupland

We often say, one day at a time but I say, one moment at a time.  A day, all 24 hours is packed with so many planned and unplanned events.  So, I suggest you have the overview of the day, but take it in small steps, one moment at a time.  –Eveth Colley

Last week:  It’s Wednesday.  I’m leaving work right around 6, and the sun is peeking out after what seems like a year of hiding.  I am grateful.  It’s been a long week full of emotional triggers that have been hard to check at the door, and the week is only half over.  The sun, warm on my face and stinging my eyes through the windshield is like a tangible ray of hope, Shirley Temple style.

Unlike most days of the week, I have a passenger.  A small fourth grader occupies my backseat, his green and black coat tossed haphazardly across the seat, his backpack tucked between his feet.  I give this nervous boy a lift home once or twice a week – his mom doesn't have a car.  Despite the small inconvenience of the trip, on days like today when I have too much on my mind, I welcome the distraction.  I’m learning to find hope in my students too.

This particular boy always wants us to be first out of the parking lot, but I've never asked him why.  Rarely do I pull out of my parking spot before my boss, and he exhales an audible sigh of disappointment in the back.  “Man, she’s going to beat us.”  This day is no different; we are second.

He comments all the way down the road on how far ahead her white hatchback seems – will we ever catch up?  He wants me to drive faster.  His excitement is palpable as we pull up to the stop light and wait to turn – we are directly behind her.  I honk and she joins in the fun, playing a modified peek a boo game in her rear view mirror.  As the light turns green, I say out loud, “I’m not sure we’re going to make this light.”  The green doesn't last long and we are barely positioned within the turn lane.  I hear my student plead, “Please stay green, come on, come on, stay green.”

It’s not until later, as I reflect on my week and all it has held, that I wonder – why was he so intent for the light to stay green?  Who was he pleading to?  I remember being a kid and doing the very same, the promise of a game continued was exciting.  I wasn't concerned with how long the game would last; I only wanted to keep it going.  As we sailed through the still green light and his cheers of success leaked out the car’s cracked windows, I was struck by the simplicity of his request and the joyous result when it was granted.

The more I chew on this experience, the more I see God in it.  As I fought my way though each day last week, feeling the strain of life, I felt as if I were trudging through knee deep mud.  But I was reminded in this interaction that God desires to give us good gifts.  He hears every whispered request, no matter how big or how small, and he is overjoyed that we would come to Him and ask.  But we need to ask.  What a privilege to see a request so immediately answered, a game continued, a memory made.  I have no way of knowing how such a small interaction may have changed this small boy’s view of the world, or his relationship with us as leaders, but I am grateful for having been a part of it.

I've always been told that working with students isn’t just about you teaching them – it’s about them teaching you.  I was reminded not to be afraid to ask for what I need, no matter how big or how small.  It doesn't matter how urgently I ask, or how loudly, what matters is that I ask and then watch, in hope and expectation, for the answer.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

True Confessions of a Dreamer

Dare to dream!  If you did not have the capability to make your wildest wishes come true, your mind would not have the capacity to conjure such ideas in the first place.  There is no limitation on what you can potentially achieve, except for the limitation you choose to impose on your own imagination.  What you believe to be possible will always come to pass - to the extent that you deem it possible.  It really is as simple as that.  - Anthon St. Maarten

Most mornings, I wake up in another country.

Each morning is different, although I'll admit it was easier when I was living in my last apartment.  The high vantage point made it easy to imagine quaint Italian villages, or I could just as quickly find myself among the rolling hills of Ireland or between volcanoes in Latin America.  My current apartment has bedroom windows that open to another building.  It's not the best, but I can still envision a small, sparse apartment within a bustling city in Africa, or a sleek high rise in Australia.  It doesn't have to be a country I've visited before, and for a while, it was a treat to wake up in the morning and open the blinds.  I wasn't sure what I would find.

Yesterday morning, I woke up in Nicaragua.  It was early in the morning, somewhere around 6:30am, although it felt more like 5:30am with the recent time change.  I'm almost never up at this hour, and although my mind was alert, my body was tired.  I laid in bed, listening to the birds chirping outside my window, and I held on to the idea that, if I opened my eyes, I would suddenly find myself back in 2009 on La Finca Magdalena.

My cozy, fluffy bed became a cot, the fabric tight and covered with my orange twin extra long sheets.  It's one of 15 exactly like it, but mine is positioned in the middle of the hardwood floor of the girls room.  The room has wide wooden doors that slam shut in the wind, and not enough electrical outlets to meet the demands of the American visitors.  There's space between the walls and roof, allowing in light and air and all sorts of four legged visitors.

It was easy to imagine waking up, stretching, and opening the heavy doors as quietly as possible.  The wind is warm, rustling the hammocks that hang on the porch.  My eyes are assaulted by the vibrant colors - green, red, and yellow cover my field of vision.  My ears perk up at the sound of happy morning chatter coming from animals and people alike, languages mixing among one another.  My stomach is tempted by the smell of breakfast - gallo pinto, tortillas con crema, huevos, and fresh fruit juices.  My coral colored Crocs squeak across the white tile floor of the co-ed bathroom as I head in to wash my face in the cold spring water.  I'm careful to keep my eyes down, not wanting to unknowingly step on a wandering critter.

The day is pregnant with possibility.  We don't know our schedule beforehand and operating on "Nica time" often means things don't happen as planned anyway.  I remember to step down as I make my way to the picnic tables, covered in blue tablecloths, that will serve as our dining room table for the week.  Many travellers are already awake, and I am welcomed with a "good morning" and the offer of coffee.

Just as I begin to invest in the moment, my eyes open and I realize I was dreaming.  My chest gets a little tighter when I come to and see I'm not in Nicaragua.  Instead I'm cocooned in my cozy, plush bed, the light streaming in between the blinds and the birds singing in the day.  While it's not a bad place to be, I am starkly aware of my heart's desire to return to small cots, crowded rooms, excitement and adventure.  I know my time will come, so for now I will sleep well and wake up to something unexpected each day.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
-Psalm 27:14

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Walking Two Moons

Eating, and hospitality in general, is a communion, and any meal worth attending by yourself is improved by the multiples of those with whom it is shared.  - Jesse Browner

A life of hospitality begins in worship, with a recognition of God's grace and generosity.  Hospitality is not first a duty and responsibility; it is first a response of love and gratitude for God's love and welcome to us.  - Christine Pohl

Today, I didn't vacuum the floor.  There are still little piles of dirt hanging out throughout the apartment, tracked in as snow melted and the ground stuck to the bottom of my Chuck Taylors.

Today, I didn't play catch up on work.  Despite two snow days, I feel like there are so many moving parts, so many what ifs, that I'm in a perpetual state of catch up.

Today, I didn't go grocery shopping, or put gas in the car.  I didn't clean the bathroom or do laundry or take care of the recycling.

Instead, I hosted one of my best friends for coffee.  We talked about life, ours and the new one she's carrying inside her.  We laughed and connected, talking of the past and the future.  I realized how refreshing it is to start my day with honesty.

Today, I laughed with a friend over terrible games of bowling, each of us taking turns barely breaking 100.  My skills, or perhaps lack there of, got teased by friend and stranger alike.  I tried sushi, good sushi, for the first time and marveled over the different textures found in similar looking rolls of rice.  I fumbled with chopsticks and giggled over inadequacies.

Today, I celebrated a student's birthday with her and her family in their home.  I ate homemade tamales and looked at family pictures eagerly shared.  I made new friends and smiled until my face hurt.  I left with plates of food and a small headache from trying to keep up with the Spanish flying between family members.  My belly, and my heart, are full.

Today, I didn't check one single thing off my "to-do" list, but I did connect with important people in my life.  I played and laughed and was reminded of the simple joy of being together, as friends and as strangers.  I experienced a beautiful picture of hospitality and a caring for one another in a way that is often lost admist the hustle and bustle of daily life.

As I sit and reflect on the day, I am reminded at how important it is to spend time with one another.  Being an introvert and living alone allows me to get comfortable with myself - that in itself is not a bad thing.  But it also breeds complacency, and I sometimes find that I seek solace in myself, by myself, instead of with others.  I realize it can be easy for me to forget how much I need community in my life.

Although I'm a few days late, perhaps I will spend this Lenten season investing myself in the company of others.  During this time of renewal and preparation, I desire to draw closer to the Lord daily.  Many times, like today, it is in the company of others where His presence is most noticeable.  Even though these interactions are likely to be uncomfortable or inconvenient at times, I am hoping to see the Lord in each of them.

How are you renewing yourself during this season of Lent?

Monday, February 10, 2014

When I Don't Feel Beautiful

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.  -Confucius

I want this space to be somewhere where I can be real and honest.  I want to put my thoughts out there, as I believe there is power in making oneself heard.  Sometimes the hardest step is giving voice to a challenge.

What is it about how women are wired that we constantly find ourselves engaging in negative self talk?  I've noticed it more and more in myself recently and I don't like it.  Here's a [gracefully redemptive] example.

A few Fridays ago, we had our biggest fundraiser of the year at work.  This event brings in 1/3 of the operating budget of our organization, and there are a lot of influential people that attend.  This being my first year on staff, I had little idea of what to truly expect.  But I knew that I wanted to look the part.

We cancelled program with the kids for the day, since the event was moved to a Friday this year.  LA and I spent a few hours in the morning moving things and generally rushing around, getting set up.  My one job was the powerpoint for the event.  I was charged with creating two - one to play it in the background during the mix and mingle, and one to list the live auction items during the event.  They looked awesome [in my humble opinion] and I was proud of my work.  A few hours before go time, I'm at the computer reviewing and making final touches, only to discover the first show won't play and loop automatically.  Even now I don't know what the problem was.  I'm not especially technically minded but I can usually figure things out given enough time.  I realized I created the show on a newer version of software than what is on the computer I'm using, and I do everything I can think of to make it work.  Finally, after no positive results, I resolve to take it home and see if I can run it off my laptop.

During my two hour break between set up and the event, I find not only can I not fix the show, but the IT guy can't offer any help either.  I had spent about 45 minutes troubleshooting only to see I was going to have to recreate the 50 slide show in the older version of software.  Game, set, match.  Technology 1, me 0.

All the "excitement" set me back quite a bit in terms of time and I jump in the shower 15 minutes before I'm due back at work.  I wash my hair quickly and, rather than dry it like I planned, I desperately try and get it to stay in a bun.  At one point, as I'm twisting wet hair into a knot on my head, my arms aching from being above my head for a little two long, the clip I'm trying to use slipping from my damp fingers, I almost cry out in sheer frustration.  I drop my hands and plead aloud that this comes together quickly.  I'm supposed to be at work right now.

I finally get the majority of my hair pulled back and I'm pinning some loose pieces in place as I catch myself thinking:

"This isn't turning out at all like you planned."

"People are going to know you don't belong here."

"Everyone will know you don't know what you're doing and you're trying too hard."

"Your hair is wet and your makeup is rushed and you don't look pretty."

Whoa, stop right there.

I was lucky this time.  Finally, I am able to recognize these negative comments and know that they are not true.  I'm not exactly sure where the change and recognition actually happened.  It used to be that I would hear the negative and know that it wasn't ok, but I couldn't give voice to anything else.  The negative would just sit there, acknowledged as wrong but not truly defied.  It wasn't challenged; it wasn't corrected.  It was at some point during my trip to Nicaragua, and shortly after I returned, that I began to see myself as the Lord sees me.

When I look in the mirror, I see an average girl, with hair that needs a trim and bangs that are too long.  She doesn't have the best skin, but overall she's alright.  Maybe her clothes don't fit exactly right, a little big in places, and there's a slight fold throughout her middle when she bends at the waist.  I see a girl who has big dreams but isn't always sure how to achieve them.  And it doesn't matter how hard I try not to put any stock in physical appearance, I care.  Although I appreciate my body and celebrate what it does for me every day, I can be honest in saying that sometimes I want to look a certain way.  Usually this ideal image does not match up to reality [does it ever?].

I find more and more than I am quick to remind myself and take comfort in knowing that when my Father looks at me, He is delighted.  He is overjoyed at what he has created and he sees that it is good.  The complexities of our physical bodies is awe-inspiring, and the intricacy with which everything works together blows my mind.  I remind myself that He knows me so well that "without the will of my Father in Heaven, not a hair can fall from my head."  [Heidelberg Catechism].  He sees into my heart and knows my dreams.  He knows the places in my life where I struggle or lack discipline.  He knows my insecurities.  And He loves me anyway.

And in that moment, staring into the mirror, I work hard at trying not to find my worth in the frustration of hair that won't stay up and makeup that I use to cover up insecurities.  As I watch myself try and step into this role I think I need to fill, He stops me.  And He speaks to me in a way that I never expected, audibly, through my own voice.  I look at myself in the mirror and I say, "Thank you that I don't have to be beautiful to anyone but You, and to You I am always beautiful."

And I know it's true.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Desire to Serve

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.  We will be judged by 'I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me.  I was homeless, and you took me in.'  -Mother Teresa

Let's suppose you were sitting in church one Sunday, any Sunday, listening to the sermon.  Perhaps you have to catch your mind from wandering every so often.  You're making a note in the back of your notebook as the service comes to a close, but you overhear the pastor as he shouts out one last announcement almost as an afterthought.  He says there is a bus outside, waiting to take whoever wants to go on a mission trip.

He does not tell you where you are going or when you will return.  You will need no money, no tickets.  All travel has been arranged for you.  You do not have time to go home and pack a bag.  You can not tie up loose ends at work, or say goodbye to your family.  To say yes, you simply have to board the bus.

Would you get on board?

This was a situation presented to me in a sermon this past Sunday and I haven't been able to get the scenario out of my head.

"Yes" can be a scary word.  It can open a lot of doors and take you a lot of places, but it can cause discomfort as well.  There's a level of trust involved and oftentimes we are slow to trust.

I think here I would have said YES.

It's well known to most of you that I have a huge desire to travel, to touch the world and make a difference.  More often than not I feel stifled in my hometown, pigeonholed by many of the comforts held so close by so many.  The desire to serve overwhelms me sometimes, a constant weight on my chest that reminds me that my heart craves something more.

Pascuala, Somotillo, Nicaragua
I long to be challenged, to go on an adventure and to learn to fully rely on the Lord for my needs.  No doubt, it would be the hardest thing I've ever done, getting on that bus.  But nothing about the idea turns my stomach.  While many of the people in my life might not understand why I said yes, I would hope they'd know how much I love and care for each of them.  I strive to live my life in such a way that if I was whisked off one day, there would be no doubt from anyone how I felt about their presence in my life.

I am currently searching for opportunities to serve overseas this summer.  My heart longs for the chance to hold and love on children who have no mothers.  I have seen the power a simple touch can have on another and I want to be the one to touch heads and hold hands.  I want to serve the least and the lost, and to me that doesn't just mean sending money somewhere once a month.  Presence is key, a willingness to share life. I want to alleviate suffering, to meet basic needs.  I want to be the hands and feet.

People often ask me why I don't invest my time in an organization here in the US; there is so much need here at home.  My answer - not everyone is called to go.  I have that desire, and I am capable.  What happens if no one goes?  What would have happened if Jesus stayed in his own hometown?

Pascuala, Somotillo, Nicaragua
It will not be easy.  An experience like the one I'm seeking, be it for a summer or for a lifetime, will challenge me every day.  Some days I think about how things could go and I don't feel strong enough, but I recognize that I am not the one who needs to be strong.  The Lord uses the weak and the small.

I am nervous, anxious, about how things could play out, but I'm also excited.  Currently I haven't found an NGO to serve with but I'm exploring some options.  I hope you will join me on this wonderful, life changing adventure.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Come visit!

I'm writing today over at 

Head over to read a bit about my recent trip to Nicaragua with Because We Care Ministries
and I'll be back here next week!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Exciting news

So...I've got some pretty exciting news to share.

Starting last week, I began blogging for a local family magazine called Growing up in the Valley.  This young company is family owned and highlights activities in the area devoted to families.  Make sure to check out the magazine here.

I've titled my blog...


While the gig is unpaid, I'm excited to get some exposure but most importantly, to keep writing!  I've been looking for a creative outlet for some time, something that doesn't take a lot of stuff.  I enjoy crafting and creating art, but my small living space (and budget) don't really allow me to collect much.  

Here's an excerpt from my first posting - 
I’ve lived in this town my whole life.  That’s 26 years of familiar streets and faces.  Being purposeful about the way I spend my time, and reflecting on the little things that present themselves each day, gives this city a magic I long thought was lost.  When I travel, it’s easy to marvel at the simplest of tasks, to see the new and exciting.  But to seek out the small within the familiar can often be a challenge. 
I want to notice and document the tiny gifts I’m given amidst the frenzied life I all too often find myself in.  Hours and days are lost in the quick pace our culture encourages, and it all can become mundane quickly if we don’t open our eyes to the small things that make up the bigger picture. 
I responded to Growing Up In The Valley when I heard they were looking for bloggers because I believe I have a unique view on the world.  Usually, it isn’t hard for me to notice the little gifts I am presented with each day.  But as life picks up increasing speed sometimes I forget to look.  I want to foster a habit of being aware and open to the tiny treasures that are too often overlooked.  Regardless of the haphazard construction of our “nests”, they are beautiful and each twig is carefully placed exactly where it needs to be.  Sometimes appreciation just means taking a step back, seeing how the small pieces fit together and create the big picture.

So there ya go.  Check it out every Saturday (and maybe more).  I will continue to write here and hope you will join me on this new adventure!