#3 – anxiety.

I have the privilege of serving at a youth pastors convention this week. It’s long days, spent standing the majority of the time. I get to be the source of most knowledge for the convention delegates. They come with questions and I deliver answers. It’s not a swammy type of situation where I would be wearing a shiny turban on my head, but when they are looking for a seminar location or have come in the wrong entrance and are looking for check-in, I give them directions to get there.

The convention is in my home town, in fact I live 18 blocks away from the convention center, but I am staying in a hotel across the street. It’s much easier to walk across the street to crawl into bed after standing for 12+ hours, then walk the 18 blocks to crawl into bed. Because the convention is here, I have a great opportunity to brag all over the city that I love!

But with all the bragging that I am doing, and sending business to all my favorite restaurants (most of which are locally owned), there are those folks who walk by my in the convention center lobby with looks anxiousness on their faces. Looks of being lost, and not just because they can’t find the entrance to the main event or the bathroom. (Although the looks for those who can’t seem to find the closest bathroom is a somewhat serious situation!)

There is an anxiety in some looks. Because some folks have come with great expectation of change. Change of attitude or change of heart… they still have arrived with the expectation of change. Some have come with broken hearts. No matter if it’s because of sin on their part or the part of others, there they come here broken. And even others have arrived empty. They have poured every last ounce of who they are and what they had into the kids they minister to.

No matter what we have arrived here with, lack of something or an abundance of other things, we are all looking for the best possible experience. We are all expecting to experience God in big ways. The hardest part in that expectation, is realizing that our own anxiety can be the very things that prevents us for truly experiencing what God has in store over the next couple of days. Setting aside all that we need to in order to fully experience God in real and tangible ways this week requires us to give all our anxiety to him and to fully expect him to do great things in our live.

#2 – going.

It’s only day two and I’m going to keep going. I know, you are probably asking yourself why I need encouragement to keep going on day two. Well, I jumped at this challenge at the same time I am volunteering with the National Youth Workers Convention, which means this will be a challenge that will require me to have some pretty heavy dedication and discipline. Yesterday alone we worked a solid 11 hours. We stuffed books, put chairs together, moved boxes, unpacked boxes, put signage together, folded t-shirts, and so much more.

I woke up super early in order to have have the time to come and do this. Which really translates that as this week goes on it will be more and more difficult to wake up early before I have to be somewhere to get this done, because the reality is that I don’t have the brainpower to do this at night.

Every night when I return back to my room I am struck with a couple of things. First the team of people who work on this event throughout the entire year. To some degree it’s a job I would love, but at the same time, I think I might be over it the moment I set feet to the ground of the city that convention is in. There are so many details, so much planning, so much energy and time, and so much heart poured into and over this event, I am in constant amazement of it.

Setting aside the detail and beauty of this event there is also the spiritual side. For months and months, people have been praying over and for this event in ways I can’t even imagine. Folks who know the folks who put this together and who will walk in the door, know that we all come with some type of hurt and need. A need that can only be met by God. A holistic need that we often don’t even recognize that we even have this need, much doing something to meet that need.

So, what do we do? We keep going. To some degree we have been conditioned to just keep going. We are under the impression that we need to meet our needs… jobs, paychecks, pleasure, joy, peace, etc. But the reality is that, for those of us who call ourselves Christians, we all too often set aside the deep desire for God to be out great provider, and that he will and does take care of all those needs. We can often step out of practice of living into that truth even though we spend our time telling others sharing that truth. In other words, we do a really good job and not practicing what we preach.

In the end we keep going. One foot in front of the other, walking forward. Some folks do stop and crash at the overwhelming nature of life, but for the most part we just keep going. Bitterness can set in and fester into something fierce. But the hope that we all need to remember comes from God and all that he has done for us.

I find myself constantly reminding myself that He has this. In my time of just going, God has it all.

#1 – Commitment

I committed to this at just the wrong time, but what’s a girl to do? Here is what I’ve committed to do. Blog… for 31 days. 500 words a day. It’s so nice that October has the required 31 days and it was only a few days away from when I made this initial commitment.

While I am starting this commitment, I am also committed to volunteering for the National Youth Workers Convention here in Sacramento. Imagine 1500 + youth pastor types ascending on this fair city. They will laugh. They will eat. They will worship. They will pray. They will bring all their baggage, their brokenness, their joy, their struggles… they will bring it all with them. And hopefully while they are here, they will be able to lay it all at the foot of the cross.

While there everyone has the opportunity to make a new commitment. Some will make a new commitment to themselves. Some will make a new commitment to their ministry. Some will renew their commitment to Christ. (Yes, it does happen) Some will renew or make a new commitment to their spouse and possibly their family. Some will make a new commitment to their kids. All in all, being a youth pastor, director, or minister is similar to almost any other profession. You have the opportunity to get so engrossed in what you do, that you can forget about those around you. The folks that need to be your first priorities, the ones whose faith and journey with God need to be of more importance that any kids any a youth group. You know, you family… your spouse, your kids.

That commitment to your family is the second most important commitment that you will ever make as an adult. The first one being the commitment you made to God. But what about the folks who haven’t made that commitment. The folks who are vocational ministry folks who haven’t married yet and don’t have kids. This is my boat.

At times I feel less validated in my call to vocational ministry from people because of my lack of a husband and kids. Because I don’t know the struggle of balancing family life and professional life all wrapped up in the church/Christian context. I don’t what it’s like to miss a milestone in my kids life, because I was leading a mission trip or at camp with 20 of my best high school friends. I don’t know what it’s like to live into the expectation of having my spouse and kids be a part of the church and act accordingly. I don’t know what it’s like to have my marriage and parenting under a microscope disguised as the congregation of the church I work for. I do know that everyone, at least mostly everyone, means well and comes from a place of love. But, I don’t envy that one bit. And I will also say that this does not deter me from wanting all that.

a post a day… for thirty days.

Hi world, it’s been a while. Almost two years to be exact. You see, I’ve been a bit busy… life has somewhat gotten in my path and stumped my creative endeavors. Well, to be more accurate, I’ve actually been funneling my creative energies into life. But that is all about to change.
I’m jumping in with both feet! Just like ripping a band-aid off a hairy man’s arm, I’m just going to do it. Starting August 1, I will be posting one blog post a day. Now, here is the fun little twist… I now have two blogs! Yep, you read that one right! So here is how this will work: I will be posting one post a day one each blog! I know, crazy!
This space will remain more centered around my personal thoughts and events, while the other space will be more concentrated on food and happenings of life livin’ on the grid. I’m making the distinction of the two different spaces for a couple of reasons. First, I have a lot to say… it’s been two years! Second, I have been encouraged by many folks to take my passion for all things food to the interwebs. Sharing my joy of all things food will only be a good thing for the world!
Finally, I want two unique spaces that will represent two pretty distinct spaces in my life. But as distinct as those spaces are, they also do intersect with each other a lot. I can’t talk about food without at some point mentioning the Creator, yet because food has such a significant place in my world, I can’t talk about the Creator without mentioning food. So, there will be intersection and cross referencing and jumps to the other blog, all things that will most likely make my head spin, but it is what it will be.
And I’m excited about that. I’m excited about the new discoveries that will bubble up in this new phase of this great adventure I’m living. I’m excited for the new experiences that I’ll share with all of you. God’s got a great plan… join me for the ride!

thanks.

for the past month on facebook, i have been reading friends declarations of what they are thankful for each day. from family to friends to jobs to houses to no interest loans to buy new kitchen appliances with character building blemishes, the thanks giving has been steady throughout the month. in the beginning i did think about jumping on the bandwagon and post each and every day in the month of november what i was thankful for. (i do suspect that by this time during the month, that there are a few who are struggling to post one more thing they are thankful for.)

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but, i decided not to jump on that bandwagon and to do my best to maintain the positive, yet snarky, facebook updates that i love sharing with the world. i did, however, really start to think about what i am thankful for and why there is only one day, and only one month, we are challenged to express it to the world. 

one of the most eternally awkward moments at the thanksgiving table is going around and everyone sharing about what they are thankful for, all the while the food gets cold. (you know, the food that your grandmother and mother slaved in the hot kitchen all day.) nobody really wants to be the first one, because you really want to hear what everyone else has to say so that you can come up with something really creative. also, being the first out the gate means that everyone can pile on all the stuff that they are thankful for, yet you completely forgot to mention while in the midst of your deer-in-the-head-lights-have-to-tell-everyone-what-your-thankful-for-and-can’t-remember-a-darn-thing moment. yep, we have all had those… and i am assuming that we can all say that those moments really suck!

thank you, Lord, my family have never done it. when i was a kid and we sat down to eat, we were all business. passing the turkey, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce (yes, the kind with the ridges from the can… is there any other?), stuffing and the all important white bread shaped into a somewhat fancy dinner roll. it was all there and we were happily piling our plated full of the stuff. it was all there, ready to go from serving dish to plate to our stomaches. bottom line is we were not a touchy-feely family, and didn’t share things like what we are thankful for with each other. 

i wonder why we only take one day, one month to really give thanks for everything we have. i for one was taught to always say “thank you” in response to someone, but i do know that this particular lesson has escaped some parenting strategies. i honestly believe that hearing “thank you” will never go out of style. 

so, what am i thankful for? I am thankful for many, many things, but the biggest thing is where God has brought me in my journey thus far. i have cried many tears of sorrow, sadness, loneliness, pain, and grief… I’m thankful for each and every tear. i have many friends, past and present, who care for me deeper than i deserve, and i am thankful for each and every one of them. i have many of material needs met and a little more, and i am thankful for all of it. i laughed many, many times (a lot of it is at myself) and i am thankful for each and every instance and fit of laughter that i have had. i am a citizen of a country where i have a choice in who i worship, i get to gather with fellow believers and worship my God is a safe place and space… and i am thankful for those freedoms. 

most of all, i am thankful for my God… who saw fit to create me in his image. who has given me gifts, skills, abilities, and passions that can and will change the world. who loves me beyond measure and made the most significant sacrifice, of which i will never know the full cost of Christ being on the cross, for me. who liberally applies grace towards me, even when i least deserve it. who, above all else, simply and significantly loves me… just as He created me to be.

celebration

many years ago, well seventeen to be exact, i had planned a party for celebration on this very day. there were pots of spaghetti sauce being made, a cake with a with a humorous them being put together across town, bottles of soda chilling and the expectation of surprise hung in the air like a thick cloud of steam being release from a pot of boiling pasta. as far as i was concerned i was ready for the big reveal. but, the real surprise wouldn’t be for the birthday guy. nope… it would be for all his guests.

this was my dad’s fiftieth birthday… and it was a surprise party. friends from Oregon and Reno were coming into town for the party. even my mom (at this point my parents had been divorced for about two years) took the day of work and did a massive house cleaning. (ok, so maybe there was a bit of motivation from knowing her former mother-in-law would be in the house and wanted to give her best impression… but i digress.) all in all, it was shaping up to one great little party.

but in the weeks before, the birthday boy himself made one little decision that not only sent me into tears, but also was set to derail my months of planning and scheming in order to get everything into place. he revealed to me that he decided to move to southern California for his new job a week early. Meaning he was high-tailing it out of town the week before his surprise birthday party! the moment i heard those words, i dissolved into a teary mush of goo and he went from being Dad to Daddy.

through my sobs he heard about all the well made plans of Grandma making the largest post of spaghetti sauce she had ever made (Grandma exaggerated at times), how is best friend from Reno and family were heading down the hill for this special celebration (they hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years), and how our close family friends from Oregon were coming down to surprise him too and they were bringing the cake! He was impressed at the magnitude of planning i took on in order to see this happen, and not wanting to derail the plans, decided to stick with his original scheduled move date of the following weekend. But, instead of me calling everyone and informing them that the gig was up and he foiled the plans, he threw a bit of a twist in it all. instead of him being surprised, why doesn’t he show up first and surprise everyone else. (now do see where i got my devious, but always used for good ways?!?)

and that’s just what he did. he arrived early and we had the best time watching everyone through the kitchen window arrive. some who parked down the street and attempted to sneak up to the house and not be noticed, or others who parked across the street. no matter where they parked, when the door was opened for them to come in, they were greeted by the birthday guy himself. that started the night off right, with laughter being shared by all.

i have great memories of that night. it seemed as though all the hurt that had been passed from person to person in the previous three years with the divorce and all the drama that came with that, was set aside for that one night to celebrate someone who was significant in all our lives. these are the memories that cling to. the ones filled with laughter and celebration. the ones that we experience friendship and love in some of it’s purest forms. if just for one night, that’s what happened at this little surprise party for my dad.

it’s been almost fifteen years since my dad went to be with Jesus, and today would have been his sixty-seventh birthday. there wouldn’t have been a party, but there would have been a great dinner with a great cake to follow.

love is friendship caught fire

Love is friendship caught fire; it is quiet, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection, and makes allowances for human weaknesses. Love is content with the present, hopes for the future, and does not brood over the past. It is the day-in and day-out chronicles of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories, and working toward common goals. If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you do not have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough.

~ by Laura Hendricks

failing

these are the things i am currently failing at: finding a job, keeping up with my laundry, emailing the people who i need to email, posting to my blog at least once a week… yada yada yada. the list can go on and on and on… but, i’ll keep some of my pride and stop while i am ahead.

i used to think i was really good at failing. i’ve earned my fair share of “f’s” on my report cards (ok, so i have dyslexia and didn’t find out until i was 23), burned the occasional pot of rice (rice is tricky to cook ya’ know), been in a car accident… or two… or three, gotten a speeding ticket (only one of those… promise!), and the list can really go on and on, but i will spare you the drudgery of it all.

tonight a friend of mine and i were talking about our lives… we were kind of comparing them, who’s life was more difficult and the such. (it was a draw… were both unemployed) i made the comment to her that i know that God has great things ahead for me, and she immediately affirmed that for me. the thing about that statement is… up until a month and a half ago, i didn’t really believe that statement. i didn’t believe it because i knew of all the things that i had failed at, and it didn’t make sense to me that God would take such a failure and use to do great things.

at this point in my life, i can truly say that i feel God’s love like i have never before. i have the confidence to go out into the world and make a great imprint on it for the Kingdom. i feel comforted by God’s love every morning i wake up, throughout the day and every night when i fall asleep.

i am fully aware of the things i have failed at, as well as the potential things i could possibly fail at. but, when God uses all things for His glory… i can step forward with the confidence that He will do great things… in spite of me!

gambling

yep, i’m a sinner.

now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about gambling. this past weekend i took a friend to one of the indian casinos in the area. i had never been to this one, so it was a nice little adventure.

once we arrived on the casino floor, we did our first lap to check out the space. by no means are we high rollers (and by “we” i really mean her… because i am broke… and that ain’t no joke…), so we scoped out the penny slots. as we were making our obligatory lap, we came across the non-smoking section. this was the asthmatics gambling paradise. the ability to breath fully without inhaling gross cigarette smoke, and choking up a lung, lets one think more clearly, thus making more wise gambling decisions.

i was playing it all… all $4 that is. (a donation by my friend… she felt guilty that i wasn’t sitting next to her having the same adrenaline rush as she did while pushing the pretty buttons) here’s my play-by-play: $2 into the machine… $1 lost, insert another $1… won $2… total now $4… cash out…. move to another machine, this one had a surf theme… realized that i’d upped the ante, it’s a two cent machine (i know… i live life to the fullest)… i could now win bigger, or loose faster… which is what i did. you know, $4 in a two cent slot machine goes kinda fast… just sayin’. well, as a fellow native american, i did my duty and supported a local tribe.

in the end we both lost… me $4… her $25. but that’s the chance you take. i am often amazed at how many people are there, and this being a holiday weekend, the place was packed. the slot machines, tables, the high roller rooms… they were all packed with people, not to mention the line for the buffet. (we already ate, so just did a walk by… but, isn’t that what people really want at the casino… a good buffet? i digress…) there were just a ton of people there.

at one point i began to imagine what it would be like if all these people went to church like this, or even what it would take to get people to church in masses like this. sure there are some of us who have the hankering to worship, but there are a ton of people who warm a pew on sunday morning because it’s the right thing to do… or it’s just what you do.

i recently began a small group study about spiritual disciplines. the author of the book we are reading talks about worship as an act of gratitude for what God has done for us, as opposed to an act of obligation. i know that i can’t honestly say that every sunday i am in church with a heart full of gratitude. and i will even go as far to say that i had more excitement walking into the casino, than i do on some sundays when i walk into church.

i want my heart to be full of gratitude and have the anticipation of excitement every time i walk into church. i want to be aware of the sacrifice that God made for me, that he sees the worth in me and choose to do what he did. i want to be excited to see and experience the spirit move during worship. i want to be excited for the words that God will revel to me during the act of corporate worship.

i want a lot. but is it really too much to ask of myself to raise my level of excitement to the place i was at when i walked into the casino? no… no it’s not.