Monday, December 27, 2010

Giving Thanks

Christmas decorations are officially coming down today. I honestly can't believe how quickly the time went. Christmas was a whirl-wind of traveling, celebrating, best friends, family, laughing... it was simply perfect. Probably the best Christmas I've ever had. My hear is full of thanks when I look back and realize just how beautiful my Christmas was. I'm thankful for a family (both biological and "adopted") who loves me without limits. I'm thankful for God's ever-present hand in my life. I'm thankful for the way my heart felt full for the first time in years. I'm thankful for the diversity that is my life. I'm thankful for what's next. Ringing in the New Year is something I absolutely love. Not only is it a time to look forward to the new possibilities and potential ahead of me, but it is also a time to stop. To look back. To reflect. To give thanks. To CELEBRATE the trials I've come through in the past year. To acknowledge that it was a hard year, but I survived it. Not only did I survive it, but I lived through it. I kept taking steps. Even if they were itty, bitty, tiny baby steps, they were steps that I continued to take. It would have been so easy to hide it, to bury it, to deny the reality of the things I needed to face and to push it back under the rug. And walk away. But instead, I faced it head on. It was hard. There was nothing easy about it, but I'm thankful to look back and see the progress. See the growth. See the joy. See that God doesn't give up on his children. See that he will always redeems his promises. I love what Paul says in Philippians 1 ...."And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." This is a verse that, in this past year, I took with me. I would post it on my mirror, in my bathroom, on my desk, in my car. I'd take it with me. In my pocket. A constant reminder that God's work is NOT done, and he will continue his good work in me.
So today, I am excited. I am thankful. I am full of hope. A new year is just around the corner. I couldn't be happier. Not happy in a "I'm-so-stinking-glad-this-darn-year-is-over" kind of way, but in a "Look-at-what-God's-done-in-a-year" kind of way.
I can't wait to share some of my goals for 2011... but that's another Blog.

Here's a picture of me celebrating my 26th birthday. I'm 26. That's wild.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Living from the present

My days have a certain familiarity to them.
Tuesdays and Thursdays I wake up before the sun, hit the trails (usually 2-4 miles)
Home by 7
Eat breakfast
Head to "my spot" (AKA Eureka Way Starbucks) for an hour or so of journaling and reading.
Then head to work!
After that, the routine just consists of work-type stuff... meetings, e-mails, copies, phone calls, more meetings... you get the gist.

The rest of the week is pretty similar... there are things that I do every week at the same time in the same order. I like order. I like structure. I like routine.

That's why trips home are hard for me.
Not sleeping in my own bed, not sticking to my schedule, no structure, no routine, no familiarity. It can make me turn into a bit of a grouch.
SO, today among the chaos that ensues during this season, I found some familiarity. I hit the trail bright and early (letting myself sleep in a whole half an hour!!) then headed to Starbucks... it felt good. It felt familiar. I needed that.

You see, home doesn't really feel so much like home anymore. I was born and raised in Arcata, CA. I went to elementary through high school with the same people. When I moved away, I began to form new friendships, new families, a new "home". So, when I come back, the old memories rush back to me. The places of my youth almost seem to haunt me. I drive by places and remember the time spent there, the times associated with the places, the pain associated with those times. You can see how it would become a bit overwhelming.
But this year, this trip home, I vowed it would be different. I vowed to take the work God's been doing in me and let it stand as a new foundation in my life. I wouldn't be knocked down this time. I would bring my new routines and my new, healthy life along with me and let it meet the "ghost of Christmas' past" if you will.
And today, that's exactly what I did.
I'm no longer that scared little girl.
I'm no longer that wounded high schooler.
I'm no longer that confused 18 year-old.
My life is a new life. And that's where I'm living from today. Not from the past that always tries to haunt me, but from the present, and from the place that God has brought me.
What a beautiful day it was.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Home for the Holidays

This morning I headed West to the city of my youth: Arcata, CA. Every year, I dread the drive but am pleasantly surprised by how quickly it goes!! I found myself racking up a list of things I was thankful for as I braved the snow-covered mountains and the crazy semi-truck drivers. Here it is:
Today, I am thankful for
-The 2 Highway Patrol officers who didn't ticket me, although they caught me going WELL over the speed limit. (They didn't pull me over, but I know that they knew that I knew that I was speeding!)
-The kind truck driver who pulled over FINALLY, after me impatiently following him for MILES.
-Brandon Flowers, who sang to me the entire car ride.
-Dutch Bros for supplying me with caffeine to brave the trip.
-Small pockets of cell reception right where I'm stuck for the 4 different one-way controlled traffic stops.
-My insane ability to "hold-it" even though I desperately needed to pee 45 minutes into my 3 hour drive. (I didn't want to get stuck behind that dang truck AGAIN!!)
-HUGE rock slides (aka 300 giant boulders in the middle of the highway... crazy!)

All in all it was a delightful drive. I made it safely (although, NOT in record time... thanks one-way controlled traffic!!) and am excited for a few days of rest and relaxation over here behind the "Redwood Curtain" with my beloved familia. Merry Christmas y'all.

Here's a picture of the rock slide the FIRST time it slid... it must have slid a few more times because when I drove by it was much bigger! Crazy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chaning of Seasons

Today was perfect.
I woke up late, spilled my coffee, got to church late, forgot a bunch of stuff, misplaced my keys, misplaced my half-spilled coffee (about a dozen times), forgot to give multiple people multiple things, left my breakfast on the kitchen counter, didn't remember that ONE really important thing for that ONE really important person... but amidst all this chaos,
Today was perfect.
Why, you ask?
Because I'm full of joy.
It's been a while.
This past season of my life has been a difficult one. For many reasons.
During the hardest parts, I remember asking the people walking the closest with me "Will I ever just have JOY again?" because, during those agonizing times, the joy wasn't there. I was full of hurt. And sorrow. And grief. And anger. And unforgiveness. And pain. Lots of pain. I never thought the joy would return. It was like, one day it was just gone. And in it's place were all of those other, difficult feelings. I couldn't figure it out... WHY pain? WHY so much of it? WHY me? WHY now?
I found myself on my face before God asking these questions everyday. So angry with him. So confused. So frustrated. Will I ever just have joy again? I began to think the answer was no.
I was wrong.
Because today, there I was, sitting in a blue pew, looking out at a group of kids, singing songs about Jesus, and my heart was overflowing with joy. Not just the "I-fee-so-happy-right-now" kind of joy. No, it was much bigger than that. That's just an emotion. This, my friends, was more like a change of season.
From a season of pain to a season of joy.
The great part about this is that, although hard times will come, they won't seem so hard now. When your posture is that of joy, even the most impossible things have a way of working themselves out.
That is why today was perfect.
It marks the beginning of a new season for me; a season of joy.
That, AND my kids (not really MY kids, but I feel that way sometimes... that's another blog I've yet to write...) got up and kicked some major booty singing this morning. There were some major bloopers, but that's what makes it so much fun.
I love what I do.
Here's a great picture captured by the lovely Georgia.
It was a good time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Starting Over

I overheard a conversation between a one of my Sunday School teachers and a 2nd grader this past Sunday. The issue was that free play was over, and all of the toys needed to be put away. This particular student was in tears. She was devastated. She did not want to put her puzzle away. She had been working ALL morning on that puzzle. She skipped out on the fun group activity and a handful of other things to diligently work on her puzzle. When her teacher announced that free play was over, she was told to put the puzzle away. The rest of the day would be spent doing guided activities and lesson time; no more time for the puzzle. This was the point in which this well-behaved, sweet tempered little girl lost it. She started crying, sobbing, protesting this sudden change in activities. When her teacher caught sight of what seemed to be an unprovoked melt-down, she pulled this little one aside, and this is the conversation I heard:
teacher - "What's up? Why are you so upset??"
little one - "I'm not ready to put it away!!"
teacher - "Put your puzzle away? But it's time to move on, we have a lot to get done today sweetie."
little one - "But I don't want to start over... I CAN'T start over. It's too hard, I worked really, really, really hard on it. I don't want to start over. Please don't make me start over..."
To which her teacher simply replied "I know sweetie. I know..."
I'm not sure how the teacher resolved this problem because at this point my eyes were brimming with tears, and I had to walk away.
There was so much truth in this 7 year-old's declaration.
Some days it seems too hard.
We don't want to start over.
We simply think we CANNOT start over.
It's too confusing.
We've put too much work into our lives, into our past, our puzzle.
We beg and plead with God to let us continue living our lives.
But he always calls us to start over, doesn't he?
At some point, he tells us it's time to start over.
I've been spending a lot of time in the book of Romans lately.
Today I was reading in Romans 6, and all I could think about was the conversation I'd heard on Sunday between the 2nd grader and her teacher.
Isn't Romans 6 all about starting over? Isn't it telling us of the amazing, new opportunity we have right in front of us? Sin's power is broken! We are slaves to it NO MORE! We are given the chance to start over. To leave that old, broken, messed up life behind and start new.
Sure, we've probably put a lot of work and devotion into that old life. But it's a broken life. It has no promise. It holds no good thing for us.
Sure it's hard to walk away.
It's scary
It's confusing
It's painful
It gives us doubts
But the reward.... oh it's so beautiful.
If you know me, you know I have a pretty large tattoo on my arm. It took hours to complete. It's something I thought about for over a year before pursuing. To me, it depicts the freedom I found in Christ. The way he set me free from my past, from my old life. It basically captures the essence of Romans 6 in a picture through my eyes.
People look at it, and they see a million things... they try to guess what each thing symbolizes. When they ask me what it means, or what it represents, I simply say "God gave me a new life."

Isn't that what starting over is really about? A new chance. A new life.
And do you know what the greatest news of all is? It's never too late to start over. It's never to late to say YES to God and start over with this new, beautiful, wonderful, free life he promises us.
I know, for me it seemed impossible. My past seemed TOO ugly, TOO messed up, TOO hard to be forgiven. For a long time, I felt like I needed to live in the pain of my mistakes and the wreckage of my old life... until finally, one day, a friend of mine helped me realize that no matter how bad I felt, I could never feel bad enough. Christ paid the price for ALL of it. Everything. Even the stuff I thought was too ugly and hard and awful to be forgiven. It was all forgiven, and it was time for me to start over. Because, you see, I'd been rescued.
I'd been given a new life.
And it was from THAT life that I should be living.

I know it all seems a little all over the place... the Sunday School conversation, the tattoo, the puzzle, new life, forgiveness, starting over... but in my opinion, they are all related. Wouldn't you agree?

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Monday again

The good news is I don't have jury duty tomorrow... I've got to check in again at 5 tomorrow to see if I have it Wednesday.
The bad news is I'm still sick. And it's getting worse. Still a mouth breather. Gross. In the last few days, I've found myself thinking "Ahh, I can't wait to blog about this!!!" but due to my sickness, I'm uber-exhausted and my brain is still functioning at about a 65%. I listened to an amazing pod cast from Rob Bell. It was insane. I took about 15 pages of notes. I can't wait to share. Maybe tomorrow. For now, it's more NyQuil and Puffs Plus. And some sleep.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's official

I have a cold. Not like a little, baby cold. This is the real deal. I've become a mouth breather. Gross. My lips are chapped beyond repair due to the inability to breath out of my nose. My nose hurts from excessive blowing. I walked around church this morning in a bit of a haze. The NyQuil hadn't quite worn off, and the DayQuil hadn't kicked in yet. So I wandered about, not making much sense when talking to people. If you saw me today, and I appeared to be in a different universe, I apologize. I blame the cold meds :) I'll tell you what though, having a cold makes you thankful for a few things. Such as:
-Puffs plus aloe and lotion. Those tissues are luxurious to my poor nose
-Travel-sized puffs plus. Yep, they make them. And I have them. It's a good day
-NyQuil and DayQuil (but mostly NyQuil)

I'm hoping this sickness passes. It's turned my brain to mush! I couldn't hold a conversation with ANYONE. And I sure couldn't remember anything I needed to ask anyone. Bummer. Here's to hoping I don't get Jury Duty on top of my nasty cold...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Feeling thankful today

Since my "Gratitude Challenge" has ended, I've found myself overwhelmed with thanks, and anxious to share it! Today, I'm very thankful. Thankful for friends who have shared in this journey with me, all of the journey (even the unbelievably hard parts) and who are MORE overjoyed than I am to celebrate what God's brought me through. Thankful for the people God brought alongside me during the times that seem unbearable, who cheered me on when I was just SURE I couldn't go through another day. Today, I was able to sit with a dear friend and celebrate the progress and the way God's used the past season of my life. At one point, we both fought back the tears, talking about how faithful and GOOD God has been to me... talking about how, only months ago, I was in such a different, much more painful place. We were able to rejoice together, and I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for who this woman has been to me through all of this pain and all of the struggles. She's held my hand, prayed countless prayers for me, cried with me, laughed with me, cried some MORE with me, told me "it won't be this bad forever"countless times. Today I am thankful for tears of excitement, joy and thanks instead of tears of pain, grief and heartache. Thankful for moments where all is right in life. Thankful for the aligning of my mind and my heart. Thankful for my friend Alyssa and the way the Lord has used her in my life. Today is a good day. I'm full of hope. And thanks. And pumpkin scones :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


In my last post, I talked about how God chose me. A girl without all of the credentials. A girl who didn't have a clue, but a girl who said yes to God. And meant it.

When I said yes, it changed everything. In one moment at a Life Group in a stranger's living room, God changed everything. I said yes, and my yes meant so many things for me.
It meant walking away from a group of people who I thought were my family.
It meant leaving the only place of work I'd known for 6 years.
It meant entering into a position where I felt clueless and unqualified 99.9% of the time.
It meant facing some big challenges and obstacles with boldness, faith and confidence.

Now, please hear me right, no one in my life was asking me to quit my job at Red Robin, walk away from friendships and start over. That wasn't the case at all. Through a series of events (well, one event actually; back surgery) I had to leave my job. After leaving my job, it became clear to me that the people I left behind weren't exactly the family I had once thought them to be. I mean no disrespect. I love many of them still, but by saying yes to God, I began to realize that He had so much more for me. He wanted more for me. Which made me begin to want more for myself.

My yes to God was a difficult yes. One that I questioned time and time again.
"Am I REALLY cut out for this?"
I found myself asking that question out loud on a daily basis... waiting for someone to finally say "NO, YOU'RE NOT!!" so that I could pack up and head back to my old life, where things were easy and comfortable and familiar. Instead, I had people telling me everyday "There's no doubt in our minds that you're the one for this position. We wouldn't want anybody else doing what you're doing." I began to realize that, although I didn't fit the typical mold for what a "Children's Ministry Director" was supposed to look like, God chose me. And he made that clear to those around me. You see, it didn't matter that I'd never attended a day of Sunday School in my life. God wanted to use me, and because I said yes, he would continue to lead me.

I've been told on more than one occasion that I have an "Esther" calling. I'd have to say, I agree! Not because Esther was bold or had the Lord's favor, but because Esther was different, but she was different on PURPOSE! I've been placed on a team of people who have grown up in church their entire lives. They've gone to Christian colleges and attended countless retreats and Bible studies and Worship nights and Sunday School classes. They come from Christian families, with fathers who are pastors. Not me. I'd never stepped foot in a church until I was 22. I had no idea who Moses was, or what the Lord's Prayer was, or why people were raising their hands while they were singing, or why a bucket was being passed around and people were putting money into it. I was clueless. But God chose me. He made me different on my team, but different on purpose. My life is different and my story is different, but God chooses that life and that story too. He wants it all, and here I am, still saying yes to him.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sunday: Part II

My last post talked about Nate's message from Sunday. I talked about how, sometimes, we need to be reminded that God sees something in us that we don't see. That he knows we can get through all of the turmoil and pain and discouragement and healing and struggling because he's the one that chose us.
Another part of Nate's message focused on WHO God chooses. Nate said it best: "He chooses nobodies from nowhere."
He chose a girl from a Non-Christian home
Who didn't know him at all
Who made way too many mistakes
Who struggled and stumbled and fell
Many times
Too many times
Who had a very messy past
Who had never been to church or Sunday School or Bible Study
Who didn't (and doesn't) know all of the fancy "Church Lingo"
Who had been hurt
Who had a passion and a calling but didn't realize it
Who said "yes" in a moment, and everything changed.

God chose me. I'm not sure why. I didn't fit the bill. I was all wrong. From the wrong family, the wrong town, the wrong past. But He chose me. He saw something in me. And I said yes to him. My yes meant so many things for me. Hard things. Painful things. Sad things. Amazing things. Powerful things... but I'll leave that for tomorrow's post.

I have to share a "blooper" from today's Christmas Card photo shoot with y'all.

Yep, that's Rocky attacking me. Sweet thing.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Today was a whirl-wind of business!
Up at 5:30
At the church at 7:15
Set up
Team shows up (well, the part of the team that wasn't ill!)
Kids Meeting
Prep classrooms
Kids show up
Christmas song practice
Christmas craft picture-taking
Parents up up kids
Repeat the last 7 steps for the 11:00 service
Tear down
Lock up
Lunch at Chipotle
Bake scones (yum!)
Talk w/ Roomies
And here I am. Sitting in bed. Blogging away.
PHEW, Sunday's are a BUSY day!

Tonight, Nate spoke out of Luke 1. The part of the story where the angle shows up to Mary and tells her that she's going to give birth to the son of God. And Mary says yes. Nate really landed on the fact that Mary was a young, YOUNG lady from a no-where town. But God chose her. And she said yes. The part of Nate's message that really struck me was that when God chooses us, He knows what he's doing. He knows that we can get through the extremely hard, discouraging times, because WE didn't choose us, HE chose us. And when he chooses us, he sees something in us that we can't see. He knows the men and women we're becoming, so we have to trust him. Trust that when he chooses us, and we say yes, that he really knows what he's doing. Am I making any sense? This was such a profound and pertinent realization for me tonight.

I want to elaborate, but I'm exhausted, and my brain seems to be shutting down. I'll leave you with this, because it's something I've been meditating on all week:

"For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right." Psalm 84:11

Friday, December 3, 2010

Car wreaths and lint rollers

I'm noticing a trend at the beginning of my last few posts: Confessions. It's true, there are a lot of quirks that make me, me. I am a passionate person, and an opinionated one as well so chances are I either LOVE something or despise it. And I'm all too willing to share my feelings on the subject.

Today's confession: I hate wreathes on cars. I may of may not have blogged on this topic before. Here's the fact of the matter: Cars do NOT need to be decorated. Decorate your house, your pets, your children, your shrubs, your offices, your bodies, but do not, under any circumstance, decorate your car. Now please, don't get me wrong, I'm no Scrooge. I love Christmas and everything about it. I just firmly believe that NO car needs a wreath, reindeer antlers, Rudolph nose or anything of the sort. It's just unnecessary and excessive.

Okay, enough of that.

If you know me, you know I own a multitude of black clothing. I also own many bright, colorful outfits, but let's be honest, black dominates the color spectrum of my closet. (I enjoy accessorizing with color, okay?!) I also have a cat who just so happens to have EXTREMELY long fur. That gets everywhere. And all over me. All the time. No matter what. Needless to say, the two (black clothing and LONG cat fur) do not mix well. A few years back a friend introduced me to this. It's pretty much saved my life AND left me smelling downy-fresh! It's quite amazing. I do recommend it. Especially if you're like me and find yourself and your lovely black shirts/pants/jackets/sweatshirts/tshirts/leggings covered in Rocky's darn fur. So today, I am oh-so-thankful for this handy, dandy master-fur-removal tool :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 32: Encouragement

Confession: Escalators freak me out. When I was young (maybe 8?) I tripped and fell on the escalator in the airport with my Grandma. She yelled at me. I scraped up my shin something fierce. I've never forgotten that moment. Every time I'm exiting an escalator, I freeze up until the LAST second and I jump, no wait, I LEAP off the escalator to my safety. PHEW. I feel much better now that that's off my chest :)

Something really cool happened to me yesterday; a friend of mine (whom I greatly respect) called me a writer. Not only did he call me a writer, he said I'm a great writer! I was totally shocked by this comment. I felt like a stuttering fool. I was stumbling over myself, trying to explain that this is just something I do for fun, and that I'm in NO way taking myself seriously (obviously!!) and that I'm not really that great, he must have just misread one of my posts. I couldn't get the excuses out there fast enough.
I'm not a writer
I'm for SURE not a GOOD writer
This is a blog
It was someone else's idea to begin with
I don't even think people read it
I usually just ramble about unimportant things like kids and my various pet peeves

Once all of these things had run through my mind, I didn't feel any less shocked. I think I was expecting to feel a bit relieved when I got all the excuses out there. Like they would change his mind. Why was I trying to change his mind? Did I think he was saying it just to make me feel good? Very doubtful, not his style. I think what it comes down to is that I never expected anyone to actually read my blogs. Don't get me wrong, they're here for JUST that purpose! I announce them on Facebook and Tweet about them so that others will read them, and hopefully take something away from my various non-insightful postings. But when, later that day, TWO OTHER PEOPLE told me the exact same thing, I began to wonder.... What is it about my thankfulness that has people hooked? I'm not sure the answer to that, but today, when that same friend again told me how much he enjoyed my writing, I simply said "Thank you".

Today I am thankful for simple words of encouragement. I'm thankful for the way encouragement brings people to life. Don't believe me? Encourage a child. Compliment them on their new shoes or their pretty skirt or their sweet new hat. They will light up right in front of you. They come to life. There's something about encouragement that is just so life-giving! It washes away all of the self-doubt, and all of the lies that we begin to believe about ourselves and replaces it with truth. With courage. In Romans 12:8 it says "If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging."
So simple!
I think we are ALL gifted in encouragement.
It's one of the simplest gifts you can give.
And it goes a lot farther than you think.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December: Birthdays and Staff meetings

Confession: I hate the smell of ketchup. It makes me gag. I don't mind the taste of it (as long as it's accompanied by something... french fries, tater tots, grilled cheese, whatev) but the smell gets me every time.

Once a month, our entire staff comes together to talk through the month's happenings, and to celebrate any birthdays that happen to fall on that month. Today was our day together. It was amazing for 2 reasons. The first reason is because we got to celebrate my birthday :) I'll be turning 26 on Christmas Eve (yeah, yeah, yeah, bummer deal, I know... it's not all that bad though). I selfishly enjoy my birthday. I enjoy being sung to, I enjoy eating cake (Amy hooked us up with some great cup cakes), I enjoy having people snap pictures of me :) Say what you will, but I know that every one of you, deep down inside, LOVES to celebrate your birthday. It's your day.

The second reason our staff meeting was amazing was because our team is incredible. I was sitting there today, looking around the room, and found myself overcome with appreciation.
Appreciation for having a job where I get to live out my passion EVERY DAY. Appreciation for the individuals who sit next to me and laugh with me, cry with me, tell me I'm being a brat (it happens sometimes... don't judge me).
Appreciation for the leaders who sit with me and ask me the hard questions, who walk with me through some of the hardest struggles I've faced yet, who celebrate on the amazing days and encourage on the hard ones.
I'm just so thankful to be part of a team where we are all rooting for each other. Where I know I'm loved and supported and accepted. I love the moments when we get to come together and laugh as a team. Where we get to put all of the details and demands on the back burner and just enjoy each other. I love the way Aaron and Nate bust out in song about Jenna and Kendall, and the way Sean always has something SUPER sarcastic, yet amazingly funny to say, and the way Meg never misses a single detail, yet she always has the most witty and clever come-backs, and the way we always get off on tangents, and Dan (being the one deemed most responsible) has to reel us back in and get us back on track. I'm thankful to be part of this crazy team of dreamers. And I'm thankful that in 23 short days it will be my day of celebration.

Here's a pic of the three December babies. We're pretty great, aren't we?
Images by Freepik