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practices

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One of my friends is currently doing his yearly campaign leading up to Thanksgiving – #warongrumbling.  For forty days he (and others who choose to join him & his family) posts something specific he is thankful for that day.

I am trying to join this year – but don’t always get onto social media – or remember some days.  But there is something about this practice. Verbalizing our thankfulness or writing our gratitude down can solidify it – making more of a practice of finding the good in each day, in each moment.

This is a practice that was suggested to me during Mission Year by my city director.  And I would do it for awhile, notice my attitude shift, and slowly stop doing it. As I lost my perspective, eventually I would find myself frustrated, more likely to grumble, until I remembered (or somebody reminded me) the practice of daily thankfulness.

[Just last week my roommate noted that during the year he could tell if I had been writing my thankfulness list or not]

How easy it is to lose focus.  To get so distracted by some person or situation that is drawing energy that we miss out on the good.  There are moments of growth and beauty happening every day.  I know that when I slow down and focus and listen, it isn’t that difficult to see God. But taking the step to stop, to slow down, to be mindful is not always easy.

What would my life look like if I consistently practiced gratitude? How would it impact my attitude?  How might it impact the people around me?

 

[photo credit – Kelly Hudgins]

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April newsletter

Near the beginning of the month, my school went through the first week of state testing (the STAAR).  There was plenty of stress leading up to it – for both the staff and students, but we made it.  The students I work with had writing (7th), reading & math (8th) assessments this go around. Going through the process allowed me time and shared experience to get to know some teachers better, which was good.  And I think (hope) that there is more drive for the students and tests that are still to come in early May.

We’ve been reading The New Jim Crow by Dr. Michelle Alexander for curriculum recently, looking at our prison system, criminal justice and how our societal colorblindness impacts these issues.  My eyes are being opened to the range of discretion police officers have in stopping someone, why people may return to jail, how money impacts decisions by police and those convicted, and how flawed our laws may be. In connection to this book, we also attended a Black Lives Matter art viewing and panel discussion on Citizenship at Rice University.  It was great to hear local professors and students talk about how some of these issues impact their friends, our community and bring the book even more to life.  I highly encourage you to read the book, or even check out one of these articles to get a broader perspective.

In lighter news, we have also started a potted garden in our side/back yard area! More to come as we begin to enjoy the fruits (vegetables and herbs) of this venture!

Prayer requests!
  • Our neighbor, Miss Helen passed away – prayers for her family and our community, because she was a joy to all of us
  • We are planning our Justice Project – something to counter an injustice within our community
  • Our most frequent question these days is “What’s next?” – pray for wisdom as we trust and look to what God has in store for each of us in August (plus the ability to stay present)

Upcoming….

Last post I said I would write about MLK and what he stood for, what he did for the country, how it’s still influencing us today.  I also wanted to write about what I feel like is in store for me (and my community?) this year.

I may not get to that….

Partly, I feel like I’ve waited too long on the MLK idea.  And I trust that what I would have written about will come up in future posts.  As for what’s in store for my life (and, by proximity, my housemates) – that also will just come out in my writing…

Because I plan to write more often!!  (For real this time).

Several conversations over the last week or so have spurred this on.  I do feel like there is so much happening around me and processing through because of community, the neighborhood, work, our curriculum and just living life.  Honestly, I may not have written as much earlier because there was TOO much to think about.

So I got an idea earlier this week. One “easy” place to start is if I just share about the Mission Year values.  There are eight, so that’s eight blog themes to start with.  And I know there is plenty to share about each of them.  And, in theory, the people who care about me, and what I’m doing, want to hear about them??  Hopefully I can write about one of the values each week.  The values of diversity, church partnership, solidarity, faith, community, justice, neighborhood and service – which are becoming MY values as I learn and lean into them for this year.

Be looking for those to come out soon (hopefully one or more?? each week). As always, feel free to send me suggestions for posts, or email/mail letters so I know what YOU are up to as well!

Taking the Next Step

My last post before starting Mission Year. I’ve had three weeks to think about what to say, how I feel heading into this year, but apparently that hasn’t been enough time to formulate something well put together for a blog post.

It’s strange to be back at a place where my future is fairly uncertain. Yes, I’ll be in Houston and living with seven other young adults. But I’ve never been to Houston. I don’t know these people (though experience with Youth Encounter tells me that they’re probably great people). My service site is still ambiguous. The church I’ll attend? No clue.

And yet, in reading the Bible and talking with friends, there is peace about this next step in my journey. One friend told me of a friend who has a similar “wanderer’s spirit” and the joy, struggles and encouragement she is. Another reminded me not to worry – about how my past will influence this year, about the present (packing, travel) about the future interactions with my house, neighbors, etc. Just let the worry go and be present. Be willing to be the person God made me.

One of my teammates challenged me to have a focus word/phrase/verse for either the semester or year. After some thinking I came up with one for this semester:
“be transformed by the renewing of your mind”
It comes from Romans 12:2. I want this fall to be a time of understanding. I know that the weight of this world, the lies being fed to me require a daily renewing of my mind – that I could start each day fresh in Christ. And I want this time as I begin to learn about Houston, my neighbors, my teammates to be a time where I can see Jesus in them. My perceptions may need to change. There will be struggles and confusion. But there will also be joy, laughter, victory as God reveals Himself in all these areas.

Today’s Thought – Not Surprising

The other day I was talking to my coworker about how I wish that I blogged or even wrote in my journal more often.  I admit that part of me feels like there’s just too much going on to get it on to paper or a computer screen.  But that may be thinking too highly of how much brain activity is actually happening.  Honestly, most of it comes down to not know where to start.  This isn’t a surprise to me – I have plenty of things I would like to discuss, sometime it’s hard to just stick with one thing at a time.

So this is a brief entry, just to remind myself that I have a blog and should probably be using it.  Goodness, even if I didn’t have all the ideas, some friends have offered really good suggestions as well.  So hopefully this will become a more regular thing.

Today’s thought is that something that I regular am surprised by, really shouldn’t be all that surprising.  I would say that at least once a week I think to myself “Wow, it’s so surprising or cool or interesting that the Bible verse from the sermon/devotion/email from a friend is very relevant to what is going on in my life currently.”  Maybe some of you have had this thought before, too.  But really, should it be that much of a shock??

We are known by the God who calls us His children.  He has adopted and redeemed us.  He created us and knows us intimately.  He desires to spend time with us.  So wouldn’t he know, and want to communicate truth that is relevant to our life?  Yes.  Yes he would.  So the next time this happens, after you have the moment of surprise, try to turn it back to praise for a God who is awesome.

Current Thoughts

The other day the new (ish) president of the organization that I work for did a Q&A session via Google+. I could talk for awhile about what all was discussed, but 1) the video will be available to watch soon and 2) that’s not what I want to talk about right now.  The video chat made realize something… well a couple things.

  • Youth Encounter is still an awesome organization.  Yes, this is a transitional period, but that doesn’t change that we have done and are doing is good stuff.  Seriously, check us out if you don’t already know – http://www.youthencounter.org
  • Tom, our president, is great.  He’s only been with us for 3 months or so.  And before becoming our president, he didn’t have much connection with Youth Encounter.  Yet, he still referred to “us” and “we” during the chat.  He has already become part of the team, and wants to bring people – staff, alumni, volunteers and donors – along with us.
  •  I think for awhile, especially the last couple weeks, it has been easy for me to get frustrated with my work.  But as I listened and had time to think, I realized that I was frustrated because things weren’t going how I thought they should be going.  There has been so much focus on what I did or didn’t want to do.  Not always knowing what a day is going to look like may be inconvenient for somebody who likes to plan like me – but I’m part of this team, and in a time of transition need to be flexible.
  • The reason behind everything is the Gospel.  This gets joked about some at trainings, but as a staff it is still true.  The reason I’m going to work everyday is to help people hear the Gospel.  And to share the love of the Gospel through my work and interactions throughout the day.

Maybe these haven’t been full thoughts, but that’s what I have for now.

Things Unspoken (from camp 2011)

Our last evening of camp we were invited to share with the rest of staff.  A memory.  An encouragement.  A verse.  A lesson learned.   I sat there, taking in what people were saying, trying to decide if I had anything to say.  Themes of love, hope and great community kept coming up.  I agreed with what was being said, and was encouraged by people’s love and good verses that were shared.

After some thought, this is what I would have liked to share.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” – 1 John 4:10-12

At the beginning of the summer, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to learn.  Surely God would be teaching me in preparation for my year with Cross Fire, but I wasn’t sure what those lessons would be.  As we got into the first few weeks, my quiet times and some of the songs really started speaking to me…

-June 26 – “…this has brought me back to a topic that came up earlier this summer, at least in my thoughts if not in my journaling.  God’s love and my fear of love in general.  So many of the songs this summer point to or blatantly talk about this amazing love.  The one in my head today is “Two things you’ve told me is that you are stong and you love me, yeah you love me.  Your love is strong.”  Especially on days like today when i am painfully aware of my past and utter brokenness, th love of God is too much for me to understand, and maybe even accept.  It really doesn’t make sense for God to love somebody as broken as me….yet God’s word and so many songs and our faith is built on acceptance of this love. (Matt 22:37-39)….”

-July 11 – “…love seems like an elusive concept to me rather than something I could experience.  Which just reminds me of how stand-offish I am about love in general – from god, my family, even staff.  I just don’t get love.”

-July 17- “… I read an article this weekend… that referenced 1 John 4:10-12, which I think I want to memorize.  The  focus of the passage is on others.  The sacrificial love of our Father drives our lives to love Him and love the people around us….”

Several other conversations were had after that weekend.  Lindsey Bokach and I talked about pretty much the whole chapt of 1 John 4 and how awesome it is in talking about love.  Logan and I later talked about the summer, how things were going for each of us, and challenged me to engage with the people and world around me every moment.

So, first I want to apologize for being stand offish to your love this summer.  Even though I recognized it, there were probably times when I didn’t accept it, which is unfair to you, the community and our growth.  Secondly, I have to say thank you to every staff member.  In one way or another you have helped me grow.  Whether it was showing me what love looked like amongst the cabin leaders, inviting/including me to play murder in the dark, taking time to walk and talk around the lake, forcing me to go on some random outing, or worshiping and serving with your whole heart… you guys have been an awesome community, and I will miss you.

Be strong this next season, wherever it takes you.

“if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”Circle-C pool

The New Beginning

Well, after thinking for awhile, I am still unclear as to where, when or how exactly I should start my blogging experience.  I have ideas for the future – new house, book reviews, devotions, travels – but where do I start.

After two years of traveling around the States and the world, being stationary is a strange concept.  But that’s what I’ve been doing.  And this will continue as I move to Minnesota and start working a “real” job.  Could get exciting…. Exciting in the sense that it’s new to me, and I think will allow me to reflect on life issues, my beliefs and give room to continue to enjoy the little moments that make life fun, exciting, meaningful.

So, this may not be too exciting, but more is in store.  I’m sure there will be updates about the move, couch surfing while I have a job but am waiting for the house, music with my housemates, outings as I explore the city and more.