Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow time is happy time

I came to the conclusion last night, as Seattle felt its version of a blizzard, that snow makes the people in Seattle much nicer. All night people were coming into the hotel telling us they wished we could go outside and experience the snowfall, which we all dearly wanted. I was able to skip out of a work a few minutes early, and just barely caught the bus, which was a huge blessing given the frigid temperatures. And then, the bus reached NE 65th St and 15th Ave NE. If you're familiar with the intersection you'll know that there is 1) a bus stop there, and 2) just a VERY slight incline to get started once more. Sure enough, after letting a snow covered civilian on the bus, we were unable to pull away from the curb. The bus driver then began the process of slowly moving up the hill and by the end of his efforts (which took about 10 minutes) we had successfully conquered the one block of the low grade incline. People were happy, and grateful, for the bus driver being able to continue on. It was remarkable! There wasn't the slightest grumble of how late it was (about 11:30pm) or how much time it took or what an inconvenience the snow was. There was the understanding that this man who was driving our bus was doing the best he could, but circumstances out of his control prevented him from operating as usual. And I don't think it's just snow. I was thinking about what it was about snow that make people in Seattle happier and I've come to a few conclusions. 1) It causes people to slow down. If you listen to Seattle when it snows it is so much quieter and calmer because Seattle-ites don't know how to drive in the snow! Traffic comes to a stop, or at least to a mozy, and the city finally rests. 2) It covers dirt, and to a certain degree, unseemly industrialization. In other words, when snowfall comes you can forget you live in a big city and find peace, in addition to rest. 3) It's extraordinary. People in Seattle are grumpy when its grey, pleasant when it's sunny, and freakin' happy when it snows, and I believe that is all directly related to the proportion of the weather events.

And now the snow is melting, and I can hear the cars pass and the honking horns and I urge the snow to come again. However, if what makes people so nice about snow is the rarity of the occurrence, then perhaps it's better for us all if the snow waits a couple weeks. Although, I am still hoping for a white Christmas.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Daily Sacraments

I'm reading a book right now by Anne Lamott entitled Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. The book is a memoir, but it's also helpful to think of it like a book of sermon illustrations. In each chapter (which are very short), Anne shares from her life and then reflects on that experience in such a way as to provide insight into who God is and what He desires of her. The remarkable thing about this book is that her experiences are so diverse. She's experienced, abortion, heart break, redemption, hope, devastation, loss, single parenthood, abuse, travel, and that's only in the first half. It's also remarkable because it's written so authentically. Often, these 'connections' to God from personal experience leave me thinking, "I think you're trying just a little bit too hard." When Anne writes, I feel that she is actually in the moment experiencing an encounter with people but simultaneously experiencing an encounter with God. It's not that she has a good story to tell, and then racks her brain trying to come up with a way to have that experience say something about God. Rather, the center of her reality has shifted in such a way that every encounter is an opportunity to see God reveal who He is. And, as I was thinking about this, I was thinking I would love to experience reality in such a way.

Here is my first attempt to do so as I'm thinking about today: Thanks be to God that I had a perfect reunion with a cousin that I have had little interaction with in the past eight years. Thanks be to God that my brothers and I were able to stand side by side in a portrait studio, accidentally wearing the same color pallet, and somehow have our style and posture be a reflection of where we all currently stand in life. Thanks be to God that I am still healing from a broken relationship with a father, but that my community of faith lifts me up. Thanks be to God for laughter, and luke warm food, and reminiscing about movies, and building new friendships, and talking too much, and emails, and silliness, and discovering the need to mature, and saying good bye. I'm no Anne Lamott and I doubt that I would be able to reflect on my life with as much poetry as she is able, but these moments are sacraments. They are moments where ordinary elements are made extraordinary because of how God is working and I hope that soon I will be able to recognize these moments as sacraments, not just in retrospect, but as they occur. Each day is bursting forth with God's revelation of the sacramental nature of reality and I don't want to miss it. I want to slow down, breathe deep, and jump in so as to experience a different view of reality that in actuality is the only REAL reality that exists.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sweetness

Okay...it's true confessions time. It is very important to me that I be considered a funny person. I want my friends, family, strangers, acquaintances, boys I think are cute, co-workers, people older than me...EVERYONE to think I am funny. Most of the time I would consider myself to be pretty self-confident, but there are many moments when I feel my 'healthy self-image' meter start to malfunction. I forget all of the messages I've heard from others and told to others about their value as a human being and the way they were created in God's image. I start to fear that I am going to be forgotten. I worry that if I stop talking, stop making jokes, and just sit quietly that there will be nothing that distinguishes me from everyone else. It's a problem, I'm aware, but I'm working on it.

The point is, that my humor is what I use to become the shining star. And often it is dry, biting, and cutting. It would be too easy to label it as merely 'sarcastic' as often my sarcasm crosses a line. I was thinking today about two middle school students and a high school student I had some interaction with on Sunday. In my interaction with them I was unnecessarily silly, commenting about awkward things they said, behaviors, etc., and now that I think about it, I know they weren't completely comfortable. In fact, they might have thought I was being mean to them. And as I was thinking about this I concluded that "I need more sweetness in my life." That was who I used to be. I used to be the sweet girl, but in my quest to prove that I was worthy of being remembered, I traded in sweetness for sour.

My friend Karen and I will be moving in together shortly, and I am so thankful, because she makes me a sweeter person. We don't know each other incredibly well, but we laugh easily when we're together, and it's never at the expense of others. I'm not depending my life on her 're-sweetening' me or anything like that, but I'm thankful that on the same day I came to the conclusion about how I need to treat people that I realized my soon to be roommate will be challenging me, without even realizing it, to live a different way. One of those perfect moments of serendipity. So bring on the sweetness! I'm ready to remember who I am, and have people remember me for a reason other than my ability to throw down a quip.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Movement

Brenna and I expect that our last month in our beautiful apartment will be November. If she decides she will be able to stay in Seattle, we'd like to each have our own room, and if she decides not to, I know whoever I live with will want their own room. Thus, our one bedroom will not satisfy either one of these scenarios. I guess I've begun to outgrow the age where it's fun and cool to share a room. While the prospect of moving to a new place is exciting, movement is always scary. Just yesterday Brenna and I were walking from Whole Foods, musing over how rare our location is. We're right near grocery stores, incredible restaurants, Greenlake, my church, a number of bus lines, UW, thrift stores, green trees, schools, etc. The thought of moving from here to something less than what we currently have is sometimes paralyzing, but I'm in one of those times where movement is necessary.

Movement is also scary because moving in one direction necessarily implies you have failed to move in the other direction. If I move into a different house, for example, the movement in that direction means I'll also have a one year lease which prevents me from moving in a direction outside of Seattle. If I move to begin to look for ministry jobs, that act of movement will take me out of my comfort zone and out of the promotion I just applied for. If I move to apply for international ministry jobs, my failure to get the job or their failure to contact me makes me feel as if the movement I made was all for nothing. If I decide to stay where I am, my decision to not move prevents me from seeing possibilities that may be right 'around the corner'. And this is the dilemma with moving.

Hamlet said, "to be, or not to be, that is the question." I could ask "to move, or not to move, that is the quesiton." To stay where I am and hide from the changes around me, or MOVE and possibly be thrust into a situation entirely unexpected, that is the question.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Moments Like These

Work, not going the way I'd like it to go, is starting to weigh on me. I see my friends in full time ministry, or at least full time doing what they love, and I can't help but ask "why can't that be me?" I know that the comparisons need to stop. I know that all of the people I am comparing myself to are also struggling, but my heart is overeager. When I got the promotion at work I said (simultaneously) "OH, YEAH!" (genuinely) and "OH, YEAH!" (sarcastically). But then, I sit here, in the quietness of my apartment simply listening to the keys on my computer and I am reminded of moments. Like, standing with Maggie before a crowd of 75 people introducing a short music video that makes us laugh even though we've watched it half a dozen times. Or, getting dressed up and getting to wear ruby red slippers on a day other than Halloween. Or, seeing the pride in Brenna's and Jennie's faces at how their film turned out and getting to share it with people they love. Or, walking with Chrissie while eating World Wrapps. Or, bringing Chrissie (a dear friend) to meet Brenna for the first time (another dear friend) and have them be perfectly in synch. Or, anticipating having five high school students over to my house tomorrow for pasta and fellowship for a few short moments. Or, laughing with a friend who remembers our jokes, better than I do. Or...or...or...a million times over. I forget about the or...or...or...and in my forgetfulness I feel withdrawn from community, but the or...or...or...is so powerful. The or...or...or... is filled with beauty and I want to begin to live my life FOR the 'ors' and in doing so have an encounter with Christ.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yellow Eyed Monster

I would like to think that my friends and I can agree I strive to be a caring and compassionate person. I admit that often I give way to surface level compassion that is nothing more than a placating smile, but I want to be a person that truly embarks in the act of co-passioning, sharing the sorrows and sufferings of those I am in community with.

However, every now and then there is a Yellow Eyed Monster that rears its ugly head and I can see myself and hear myself being unkind, rude, and mean to some of the people I care most dearly for. In one moment I am loving Suzanne, and in the next I am basically kicking someone (hard!) and then walking away unconcerned. I've discovered that a weird sense of control and power comes from being able to level and manipulate the emotions of people with your words. When I am feeling weak and underappreciated, it gives me sick amounts of elation to know that I am being mean. People must, or so I think, be devastated in their wake and that makes just a small part of me glad.

In my Theology of the Trinity course in college, Catherine LaCugna stated that it is incorrect to respond to our sin by saying "well, I am only human." Humans, she explains, were created NOT to sin and were created to be in perfect community with our Creator and with one another. The act of sinning, then, is not our living into our identity of humans but actually the slow process of becoming less human. That's what it feels like when the Yellow Eyed Monster comes around. My mind is not taken over by the Yellow Eyed Monster as I can still hear the voice of compassion inside me begging me not to say those words or make those decisions. And then afterwards when the Yellow Eyed Monster leaves to hibernate, which always happens instantaneously, there is remorse. There is the slow realization that my words and actions which should be binding up and healing are actually instruments of harm. There is the realization that I am not perfect and that whoever this compassionate person is that I think I am is only a shadow of the person Christ wants me to be. Praise be to God that the Yellow Eyed Monster then returns to his slumber and that I have these moments of remorse. Praise be to God that I have today to try again and hopefully get it more right.

Praise be to God that I am human and that by the grace of God I will someday be fully human.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Living is Simple, and Breathing is Easy

I counseled at two different high school camps over the past summer. The second camp I counseled at had me working with some girls I have known for 6+ years. It was amazing to get to spend time with Megan, who I began leading at the age of 10 and then see where she is now, this dynamic young woman for Christ that wants to live her life with reckless abandon (in a good way). I see her, and would love for my girls in Seattle to know her. This pretty, young high school student, fashionable, fully functioning, but in love with Jesus. During camp, Megan and I were both fairly convicted about our need to live more simply. We committed to one another that we were not going to buy any clothes (new or secondhand) for a full year. As far as I could tell, we were both pumped. I thought, "look at me doing this good thing, and choosing to live more simply." However, I have discovered that it is not as simple as that.

For the second month in a row, I have sat down to pay my bills and have asked myself, "where did the money go?" Whereas six months ago I could sit down and pay all of my bills at once, I am discovering that my freedom with eating out, enjoying weekend trips, etc., over the past year has finally caught up with me. I can no longer pay all of my bills at the beginning of the month. Now I must wait for my second paycheck to come through to ensure that I will have enough. Simplicity seemed easier when it was my choice. A journey I was choosing to embark on. But now, simplicity is something happening to me, and that is much more humbling than I thought it would be. I have just paid half of my bills (I need to wait until August 13th to pay the rest), I have $110.00 in my bank account left, very few groceries in the house, and am trying to go to Portland this weekend for a small trip with my friends.

How do I live simply in a world where everything costs money? How do I live simply AND engage in relationship with people when the activities they would like to participate in require a huge monetary sacrifice on my part? Not to mention all of the good and pure things (like hosting breakfasts and lunches for people) that I may not be able to do any longer. I guess, at the end of the day, I still have emergency resources. I will not be starving, as I have a credit card which I am sure my mom would let me use. I have belongings I could sell. I can eat pasta. Every day. For a month. I do have options. I just didn't think they would be options. I thought they would be my choices, but now the simple choice has been made for me.

It's humbling. It makes me feel a lot out of control. And I'm not certain I like it all that much.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

30 Days


If Morgan Spurlock can do it so can I.

Morgan Spurlock (the guy from Super Size Me) had this great show (I don't know if it's still on) called 30 Days. In this show he completely immersed himself in a location, activity, event, etc. foreign to him for 30 days. I hate to say it, but there are certain things that used to be a part of my life consistently that now due to neglect have almost become foreign. I want to embark on a 30 day makeover...body, mind, heart kind of thing. My 30 day will consist of the following...

1. Eating according to my doctor approved nutritional plan.
2. Exercising regularly.
3. Being in the word to some degree, daily.
4. Reading books of my choice (finishing two by the end of the 30 days)
5. Journaling regularly.

I know this is a lot to do in one month, and it may seem ridiculous, but I don't think this is the time to take the gradual approach. Look at this blog, for example. I started off semi-faithful and then dropped off for TWO MONTHS! I can't believe people see me as reliable because when it comes to doing things that nurture my spiritual life especially I am very unreliable.

30 Days. If Morgan Spurlock can do it, so can I.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Unworthy

Today someone gave me an amazing gift that I don't feel I deserved in any way. My roommate accurately stated "It's that whole grace thing. It messes with you." I find that when someone provides me with something I don't think I deserve that there's a whole mess of feelings that come with it.

First, I feel humbled that someone would think highly enough of me to go out of their way to bless me. Why would someone do that when there are others that are significantly more worthy of that kind of attention? Second, it makes me feel unworthy of receiving anything as my first reaction is that it should be diverted to a different source. Someone else always seems to be in more need of receiving what I have been provided with than I do. Third, it's really disarming. This gift was provided anonymously and it's a vulnerable place to be in when you realize that without you saying anything someone has tried to meet a need in your life. All of a sudden my little world of autonomy where I rely only on myself and my resources is punctured and someone has forced their way in without my consent. Clearly, this is a biblical concept and my resistance to let someone in points more to my being a product of my selfsustaining culture than anything else. Fourth, I don't understand why this person, whoever this person may be, chose this point in time to give me a gift. Yesterday I was rocked pretty hard by a sermon Richard preached wherein he commented that God isn't going to reveal more of who he is and what he wants from you until you respond with obedience to the revelation he has already provided. I am in the midst of trying to sort through what the revelation is that I am failing to respond to and then...BAM...someone gives me something I don't deserve. What kind of sense does this make? Shouldn't the blessing come only after I have responded to the Lord in obedience?


As silly as this may sound, it's gotten me to revisit the grace involved in Christ's dying on the cross. The only response that seems 'enough' to Jesus' great sacrifice on the cross is a feeling of being unworthy. I remember the first time I ever felt that, although that's a different story. I still feel disarmed and unworthy by the gift I received today by I'm glad it occurred around Easter when I need to be most reminded about the magnitude of Christ's sacrifice.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Yesterday was a Funky Kind of Day

It was one of those days when I was just in a funk. My head and my heart seemed cloudy and I could not focus for the life of me on people, conversations, or the sermon at church. I'm trying to systematically work through everything that is creating the fog. I'm certain there's more but here's what I have so far:

1) I'm working on getting a new roommate temporarily. Both of the candidates live in far off states and I just realized that having them live with me temporarily is a major violation of my lease agreement.
2) Trying to apply for jobs that could take me far away from here all the way to who knows where.
3) Making sense of my calling. I'm having doubts that youth ministry is what I'm most equipped to do and I don't know if that's self doubt or if that's legitimate questioning.
4) I had great time with the Lord two days in a row and now it's been empty for a week or so and I'm feeling dry.
5) There are students I need to follow up with, people I want to hang out with, and people I should hang out with, and none of that is happening.
6) Work (the hotel) is frustrating because my schedule is getting ridiculously unpredictable. There are strategic reasons why this is happening and it's happening to everyone, but its making it hard for me to spend time with other people.
7) Always worried about my weight and eating right. Every day I'm binging or eating things that aren't healthy and yet it's a cycle I allow myself to get into. What's it going to take for me to break this cycle and get it together?

These 7 things provide the sum total for why my head feels a little funky. I'm looking for it all to clear, but I know it's a matter of time for that to happen. So, when people are asking me how I'm doing today, I'll be saying fine and that's really how I'm doing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I'm a girl on the move

Yesterday was a good day. It started off in the morning by my getting out of bed early enough to begin searching for different jobs I may be interested in applying for. In the midst of my search I found a posting for an admissions counselor at Azusa Pacific University, and before I knew it I had printed out the application and this morning I mailed it off. It is currently floating through the abyss of the United States postal service and will hopefully land on the desk of the HR representative Monday morning at the latest.

It's not that I am thrilled to be potentially be an admissions counselor (although I think it is a great opportunity) it's that I am thrilled that there is movement in my life. My reasons for considering this position are several fold: 1) I've been asking God to expand my understanding of youth ministry. I do not want to so confine God so that I say the only way I can minister to youth is in a position at a church. As an admissions counselor I would have the opportunity to work with high school students and college students on a regular basis. 2) It's a position that I'm qualified for and it pays substantially more than my job in Seattle. 3) I need to do something. Even if I don't get a second interview, or the job, or accept the job, I could have concluded this process knowing that I did something and I tried as hard as I could to move somewhere, and that's a great feeling.

At the same time, I am not shutting the door on full time ministry in a church or a para-church setting. I am also trying to apply for a variety of opportunities in that vein as well, but more than anything finding this opportunity put some excitement into my life again. I smile thinking about my application in the mail and I can't wait to hear the response from whoever receives it. For the first time in a while I am looking towards the next few months with anticipation. I see my time at the hotel coming to a close and I know the closing of that opportunity will be due to the accepting of another.

Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of a good day.




Monday, February 25, 2008

Little Reminders

Tonight I read Ephesians 4 as part of some much needed time alone with God. My thoughts have been swimming lately with what I'm doing now and what I think I should be doing four months from now. No matter how hard I think, I eventually give up concluding that now is not the time to think of such things. I realized, though, over the past couple of weeks that I must think of these things.

Two weeks ago I experienced intense amounts of frustration when a teaching time I had prepared for the 6th-7th grade students fell flat on its face. The following week I had to stop myself three times from crying at work because of ridiculous things that all compounded into one awful day. After the frustrations I experienced at the church I began to question whether or not youth ministry was what I was called to do. Imagine that! One bad night, and I was ready to throw in the towel, but I was broken. I had dedicated three summers, my degree, and now this internship to the idea that I was going to enter into youth ministry and all of a sudden there was a shadow of doubt cast on that. I felt lied to by the perople I loved most and thought that the people who had encouraged me to enter into youth ministry were wrong. Tonight I read the following in Ephesians 4:11-12,

"The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ."

This is a passage of scripture I used in my teaching on spiritual gifts three summers in a row, but thanks be to God that I've discovered it anew this evening. As always, I was asking the wrong question. Whether or not I am called to youth ministry is a moot point as it is not about what I am called to do, but who is calling me. Regardless of whether or not I am called to be a circus performer, youth pastor, or housewife, it is the same God calling me to do and be those things. My calling might change, but Jesus does not. In other words, I was reminded this evening that "my calling" has very little to do with me, and everything to do with Jesus and his plans for the world. Does this help me sort out my calling? No. Does this help me on all those job search web sites I've been going to? No. Does it help me know where I'll be in four months. No. But, it reminds me of what and who I'm entering into ministry for.

Like I said, something I've always known, probably taught, and don't really need to say but my time with God tonight provided me with a little reminder that I needed in a big way.