Thursday, April 6, 2017


 The other day I accidentally used a South African word for something and it sort of caught me off guard. For some reason, I momentarily forgot where I was. And I had to chuckle. It's been a while since that happened. Because I love being home. As much as I complain about school I'm thankful to be getting a great education. I don't take lightly the community around me that I miss so dearly when I'm traveling. And who can complain about living in a state where I can go to Disneyland, hike Yosemite, or sit by the waves on any given day off? Who wouldn't want to know that in a few years they will have a dynamic career with a variety of choices? Sure I love it. Sure I want it. It's that dearly loved American Dream. But something just hasn't been sitting right lately. Do you ever glance around you and feel the most out of place in your own environment? Because I do. I often feel like I am in the wrong place. I want school. I want to enjoy being here. But do you know what I want more?! I want the chaos of traveling without perfect plans, with last minute changes and things happening beyond my control. I want a life where I'm always on a trip that is unpredictable. Meetings that require a drive without GPS-just a paper map and the adventure of figuring out how to find my destination. I want to be living on support in a way that forces me to draw near to Jesus because it's all on Him. To be filthy dirty because I've been loving on and playing with kids during the day. To listen to 4 languages every time I go to the store. To be exhausted from a long drive on a dirt road to get to a family I need to check on. To spend days with a worn out missionary or leader who's been working too long and hard, talking and hashing out the junk and pain of life and ministry with Jesus by our side while we hike in a reserve with Zebra and little naughty monkeys in the trees until they experience breakthrough and healing. To live simply without all the wifi and people with phones in their faces everywhere you go. To have unrushed conversations. To get up to birds chirping, taking a walk in the dead quiet, never knowing what kind of large lizards or other creatures you'll run across. To be frustrated by "Africa time" when you have a meeting and to hunker down during load shedding in the hot sticky evenings, no electricity. Only a candle, some art supplies and a book to entertain you. To drive into town in the morning and then to pass up Zebra and Giraffe on your way to the townships in the afternoon, going from one world to a complete different one in half and hour. To wonder each morning exactly what he Lord has planned for that day and to be open to it and excited about it rather than to drive to the office to a desk and a daytimer filled with appointments. To live in a culture where people call or show up unexpectedly. To be at the ready for your plan being changed in one quick moment. Is it easier here? In a lot of ways. Do I want it here? In a lot of ways. But I want the messy, dirty, frustrating, beautiful stuff more. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

We're All Mad Here Part 2: Twilight Zone Moments.

Yesterday on my way to work, a man jumped out in front of my car. On Highway 99. There was a lot of traffic and I was going at least 70 MPH, and he jumped right into the fast lane! By the grace of God, he didn't get hit, and in all of the swerving to miss him, none of us collided, which was truly improbable. I was a bit shaken for the rest of the day, feeling thankful nobody was hurt and being reminded of how precious life truly is. Then in the evening, a realization suddenly hit me. This marks the 4th year in a row in which I have had a close call event in traffic during this very week of November. The last 3 were pretty serious car accidents that I shouldn't have survived-totaling the car I was in and leaving me miraculously okay.
It struck me pretty hard that it keeps happening on the same week every year. And as I thought about it, I can see that I was in the middle of doing something important each time. Important relational things, moves, decisions, and projects. Here, in Houston, in Southern I think it's a coincidence? No.
I think so much more goes on in the Spiritual realm that we can comprehend. And I think that God uses these things to wake us up a bit. You see, the incident yesterday made me really step back and think about life. My priorities. What I'm doing and investing in.....if I ended up in an accident yesterday and was suddenly in the presence of my King, would I be content to say I truly poured myself out with everything I had while on this Earth? What an opportunity to evaluate the areas of my life and take this chance to adjust accordingly. I continue to see that pouring into people is so important! Relationships done well and deep rather than halfway and through social media are so pivotal. Being diligent and making the most of my time is also important. Our existence is so brief. We truly don't know if we're here tomorrow. So I don't want to waste any of it. I want to be a fireball of power and hope and world-change. I want to be active and healthy, a vibrant ball of energy that just makes things happen everywhere I step foot. I want to bring sunshine and hope and solutions and answers and relief. I want to not shy away from ugly, dark, deep, and awkward. I want to be strong. An example to others. And I want to be all of that and hilarious at the same time, never losing that special corner of myself that is untouchable to anyone but Peter Pan. Always a sense of Peter's spirit ready to take off to Neverland and bring everyone with me. I want to be able to offer that magic too. I want so many things with myself in this brief life that it's exhausting. But exciting and full of possibility and fun and amazement and hope. How about you? What thoughts fly through your head when you think about life being brief and what you want out of it? I'd love to hear! But, first, after writing all of that, I'd love a nap!

We're all mad here part 1: Mexico dirt living

This last semester, I had a classmate who lived in her car. She was dedicated to school, worked hard, had a job, and was cute and put together every day that I saw her. But she lived in her car. She didn't have a place to make a home. A family to support her. She was doing this whole thing on her own. I was quite impressed with her bravery.

The other day, my coworkers teased me as usual about all the typical things they like to tease me about. Among them was the fact that I seem to just know everybody. It's rare for me to see someone at work I don't know or go to a store or restaurant without running into people I'm connected to. This is a running joke at work. They also tease me about the consistently changing array of keys on my key ring and the fact that they can never keep up with where I am staying. I've been house-sitting for about a year solid. It began with a few friends who have always had me watch the house when they're gone, and it grew. Now I am booked for months in advance and I have no idea how it happened. I hold 5 keys to the homes I'm most often at. And some of those homes are so wonderful. There are a few places I stay that have become more "community" houses over the years. These families truly use their places to bless others. My favorite thing is that the keys are hidden in the yard and when I'm there, sometimes a mutual friend will come over for the pool or to borrow some clothes and just walk on in shouting "Hi honey!!!!" It delights me. And it's something so normal to me. It's how our community of people do life. Lovingly invasive. Sharing and living alongside each other. And something is just so right about it. I don't often remember that this isn't always considered "normal" for people until I see my classmate and it hits me that the only difference between us is the fact that whether I deserve it or not, I would never have to worry about sleeping in my car. That just isn't something that would happen to me. Because of Jesus. And my coworkers voice how strange it seems that I know so many people, always have somewhere to sleep, and always seem to be doing life with others. They comment on how unusual this looks from the rest of what they know in life. And I think about that.

Over the next few days, I saw what they meant. 
Case in point; a text conversation with a friend I haven't seen in months:
Me: Hey! I miss you. We need to catch up!
Her: Yes! On the Patio? Saturday? 
Me: Perf.

Do you see what I mean? That was the whole conversation. And we both totally understood it. 
(Again, so do a lot of you! Which has a lot to do with my point.)

Another example. I ran into someone while shopping who I haven't talked with in several years. In 90 seconds, we talked about having children, school, church involvement, health. By 5 minutes into the conversation, we had discussed doctors, insurance, depression, psychologists, and friendships. How does this happen so quickly? 

Example #3: Many times I'll be house-sitting for someone & receive a call from a mutual friend: "Hey. Are you house-sitting for Sue? Can I go over and use the pool? I know where the key is hidden."
This makes me so happy. As I consider all of this, the only way I can explain it is Mexico Dirt Living.

A lot of you know exactly what I mean. Mexico. The infamous Easter break mission trips in high school. The army tents, dirt, lack of sleep, service projects, sunburns, cloth bracelets, ministry sights, gross shower stalls, close proximity, and messy way of doing life together. That is a picture of what it looks like to be in the body and community of Christ. And we so often forget that this is a rare beauty and blessing that not everybody gets to experience. I don't have a particular or deep philosophical point to make here, just the thought that this is a beautiful and amazing thing. Beautiful and amazing enough to be the joy of my life. The reason I don't move back to Texas or live in a "nicer" city. I adore doing life with each person I'm in community with here. We ought not overlook this or take it for granted. This week, make time to be in intentional community. Be lovingly invasive in another's life. Look someone in the eye at church and ask a meaty, deep question. The kind of talk you'd have with them if you were on a Mexico trip & in the middle of a gritty, dirty week, with no phone pulling you away from a conversation in which you really talk about things. Show up and drop off something unexpected at someone's home. Cookies. Flowers. A card. Just because of the fact that we are in a community where we can.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Doing the ugly well.

I'm very used to dealing with high functioning anxiety. Which just means that I have a relatively consistent flow of anxiety that stays internalized, that I do life quite fully with, and that rarely shows itself to others. I'm pretty accustomed to that, so trust me when I use the word big in the next sentence: Today I had a big panic attack. Now, I haven't had an extremely large number of panic attacks. And It's been a good while since I've had one at all. But today was definitely an experience. It happened at work. And composure proved challenging to gain. Which made me uncomfortable because I'm typically the chill one, the very professional one, the one calming others down. So the morning took an interesting turn. The details aren't important and won't really be helpful to anyone, so I'll spare you that saga. Instead, I'd like to share what I learned from today. Because I think it could be a very good thing to walk away with. Little important healthy reminders that honestly, we all need sometimes....

1. It's totally okay to fall apart. It doesn't mean you're weak. It's just your body/mind saying "Hey! guess what? I'm just human!" Bonus: Psychology says that when you let others see you in a vulnerable state or moment, it may actually make them like you more, trust you deeper, and feel closer to you. 

2. Being real with others is healthy and helpful to all involved. First of all, it can bring healing to simply tell those around you what's been going on with you. They may surprise you with some incredible comebacks and support that will help you heal. And sometimes by being open, we allow others to see and learn what it may be like to hurt or walk through something they haven't. Super valuable. 

3. Pain can be positive. Whether it's physical, emotional, or mental pain, it's a signal that alerts you to something going on and it's actually a GOOD thing. It's pointing a flashing arrow to something. Cool! Dead giveaway to a root or a problem. It can only go up from here!

4. Celebrate your strength. Whatever challenging or consistent struggle you may be dealing with, embrace the strength it creates. It's almost like body-building but with internal muscles. God allows me to deal with these things to make me strong. We don't get ripped if we avoid the gym. In the same way, hard issues in life create the opportunity to work out through sweat, tears, learning, and growing. This makes us wiser, stronger, more powerful, and more capable of handling tough things and helping others find healing. Now THAT is a beautiful thing, my friends! 

What are your consistent thorns? How ya doing? We can't always control the what. But we can choose how to walk through it. Let's do this thing well. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The smallest biggest words.

Yes and No. They are the smallest words. But, sometimes, they can be the biggest thing you say.

"Yes, please!"
We go through the phases of wanting to say that to everything. Do we want to help? Yes, please. Do we want to be involved with the new project? Yes, please! Do we want to commit to that new class at the gym or even get certified to teach it? Yes, please! Do we want to go to the party this Friday and the weddings all next month? Yes, please! Do we want to apply for that promotion? Yes, please! Do we need to stop and take a vacation? Yes, please! I recently read Amy Poehler's book by this title and it had me nodding in agreement with her excitement over life and all it's possibilities. She's a geniusly talented woman who goes deep and works her butt off. And I'm writing Leslie Knope into this year's ballot.

"No, but thank you." 
Most of us either have a struggle with saying this, becoming very uncomfortable when we need to, or we are in a stage where we just want to say this to everyone and everything in the world. It's extremely challenging to learn the balance. I read a book recently called "The Best Yes" and surprisingly, it is about learning to say no well and choosing the best option and the best investment with your "yes".

The more I've been pondering these concepts, the more I've come to believe in the importance of them. Of balance. Of saying "Yes, please!" to the things and the opportunities that are right-even when they're scary and not the first or comfortable choice. It's so much easier sometimes not to try to weigh and think through these types of issues. But when we come to a place or realizing and learning how beautiful a balance can be, it is freeing and healing and life-giving. Not just for you. For others. Because what we often forget is that when we carefully choose our "yes" and our "no", we take better care of our lives and ourselves. And when our lives and ourselves are better managed, we can have better investment in others. I believe all over scripture, it's talked about. It's pointed to. It's shown as the healthiest way to do life. Balancing your "Yes" and your "No." And I absolutely suck at it. I've been to counseling for it over and over and over. And I STILL suck at it. I want to please everyone all the time and I want to hide from them when I know I can't. 

The last year has been a lot. Working all the time at 4am at a minimum wage job and going to school has not been good for my body. The doctor called me out recently with test results showing thyroid levels being wonky again, PCOS, high cholesterol, and a bad liver. Apparently I contracted a temporary form of hepatitis in Africa that hasn't left my body and I'm bordering Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. I've seen disease in Africa. I have friends with cancer at the moment, I'm not sitting in a pity party. The point is, I have a choice now. I'm presented with the facts. And I need to choose what direction and option to take. So I think about my "Yes please" and my "No, but thank you" and what is wise despite it being scary. And I make a few large decisions:

After a decade with them, next week will be my last day at Giacomos Espresso. I'm not 18, and my body has some serious issues. I just can't be getting up at 4am anymore. And there's no shame in that. 
Between Starbucks, Borders, and Giacomos, I've been a barista for 15 years. You can bet change is scary. But it's good. I have had 4 job offers. Saying "No, but thank you" is so dang awkward. But it's good. Saying "Yes, please" to the right one for your life is the best thing you can do for you and those watching you. Your choices speak to everyone in your life. 

My body is not great. I have PCOS. My thyroid is broken. My liver isn't looking too pretty right now, I have serious problems having any energy, I have the acne of a Jr. High girl going through puberty, and I need to lose weight for my health. What do I do? What is the best way to face and deal with all the issues in one big swoop? I think. I pray. I research. I ponder. I ask questions. And I make a decision. A decision to say "Yes" to one big thing and "No, but thank you" to almost everything else offered to me. Is it easy? No. It's terribly inconvenient. But I believe it will be worth it. I chose to transition into being a (mostly) raw vegan. For many reasons I believe this will be best for me. It's huge, but it's something I think I need to do. I'm in my first week, and I've had 2 meals out that probably had animal fat in the beans, but by next week, I plan on full-on saying "No, thank you" a whole lot. I will get backlash. People will tell me it's not right or not healthy. But I've been in this health world for a long time now. I've taken classes on this lifestyle. My decision isn't naive. I know what I'm getting into and how to get the nutrients I need. Let's hope this helps clear out, reset, and nourishes my body. I've had fun so far this week creating things.

I am wired in the arts and haven't said "Yes, please" to anything in music or theatre for years. The other day I sat down and played the piano for the first time in forever. And I sang musicals. Something I forgot I can do. I serenaded my professor with "Popular" and she loved it. I even remembered every word to "Trouble" from The Music Man. Because playing that role (Even though it's always been for a man) is a life-long dream and I refuse to let it die. (You want to know where rap began? Just watch the clip below!) So I'm saying "Yes, please!" to getting back into singing, playing music, and being around the theatre. Not just because I want to and love it, but because by being fully me and by fully using my gifts, I will better pour into and influence others. 

What kinds of things do we all need to stop and consider our "Yes" and our "No" to today? What areas in life are we just going through the motions in that should be evaluated? What decisions are before us that require us to consider a best yes? Not a yes that pleases someone, but a best yes? Because the freedom that comes with being able to choose just one best thing to say "Yes" to is astounding and changes life. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Why 1:16 matters today more than ever.

Last week at BVG we began a series called Not Ashamed. 

Today, as I woke up to the country in turmoil yet again, I thought and prayed about what I would want to say to my friends who seemed to be genuinely panicked and upset-this shooting leaving them feeling as if all hope and safety is gone. 

As I drove to work in the dark before the sun even rose, I saw the usual people in downtown area. Stumbling about. Shouting and hollering at nobody and nothing except whoever in their minds they assumed was there and listening. And I thought to myself "Yeah. If I didn't know hope, I'd be there. Without hope, I couldn't face this world & life & remain sane." 

Then a friend texted to tell me about some dangerous & corrupt things going on in ZA & as I pictured how it's changed in the year since I lived there, I thought "Yeah. If I was living under some of that stuff with no light at the end of the tunnel, I'd probably turn completely angry & go a bit nuts, too!" 

A customer pulled through early & shared that she's just been diagnosed with cancer & doesn't see an ounce of meaning in her life. I thought to myself "If I didn't know this life was a moment in something so much grander, I'd feel the exact same way. I'd be done for." 

Then I thought about the series we started last week: Not Ashamed. And I saw just how perfect and how needed this series is RIGHT NOW. There are many reasons for us to be unashamed of the gospel. Of the truth that God did so love us that He gave Himself to save us and give us an entire Kingdom-just to be with us. But with so many things going on right now, it's more important that EVER before to fully grasp Romans 1:16: for it truly is the power to save. To save your friends, coworkers, neighbors, and family. Not just save them from an eternity separated from God. But to save them NOW. In this life. In this moment. This week. This fear. This danger. This disease. We have the truth and the hope that heals, redeems, restores, and makes ALL THINGS NEW. All things beautiful. If there was ever a time in your life to brave up and speak up about the Jesus who's radically changed your world, now is the time to do that! Now is when it matters. Let's be that hope this world so desperately needs today.

Monday, May 16, 2016

We're all mad here (An introduction)

I don't necessarily adore being a barista at 5 am every day. But every day, I see my regular customers. I know their lives. I sense their pain. And I understand that (especially) the difficult ones are difficult because of the pain they live in. Emotional. Physical. Mental. And something in me knows that I may be the only person who looks them in the eye and listens to them today. I may the only one who notices them for something other than what they can offer at their places of employment. Several of my customers get hot chocolate or decaf coffee every day, and I speculate as to whether it's just a daily thing because they know I'll ask and listen about their lives. And so often, I witness someone being shy or embarrassed to share with us. Wanting to talk about what's on their mind but afraid that they're weird and the only one going through whatever mud they're tromping through. My most commonly said phrase with everyone all day is "Oh, you mean you're suffering from that being human thing, too?" And then we all laugh. I watch them feel accepted by that one phrase. I see their shoulders drop an inch or two. And I know there must be so much truth in that simple sentence for so many people to drive away feeling peace, bravery, and a sparkle after hearing it. We are all human. We are all messes. As the Mad Hatter said in Alice in Wonderland, "You're mad, bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret......all the best ones are."

Guess what? I am in school to be a Psychologist. And I suffer from depression and anxiety. Strange. A little mad. But truth. I dealt with it for years in the past. I thought I had been completely healed from it-the last season has been good and any tough times were largely due to the circumstances around me and not so much my mental and emotional state of things. I'm told that I'm known as the continually positive bee buzzing around work and school. But this year, I was hit very hard with depression. In a way I haven't experienced for a LONG time. I've been hiding in silence and in my schoolwork. Cutting myself off from a lot of my world. Having insomnia. Always anxious about my future. Broken over my present. Worn. Driving in the country late at night with my sunroof open and Hillsong blaring until I feel the bass rattle in my bones while I sob. Because who wants to admit that while they're in school to be a therapist, they're sometimes feeling bonkers themselves? Who wants to admit that there's some serious pain and struggling happening? Who wants to be the one not doing well, needing to get their spark back? Who wants to fall off the pedestal of being so solid and strong and put together spiritually as a missionary or leader in ministry? Not me! It makes me squirm to admit it or talk about it to others, even though when it's their struggles, I'm happy to listen and talk all day without feeling awkward. (Yeah. I chose the right field to go into.) I don't want to talk about mine. I don't want to admit to it.....Except when I look into the eyes of my customers, classmates, and fellow believers. And I see that they, too, all struggle with something. Because it's so true.....we're all mad here. 

That theme seems so silly and Disney. But I have been thinking, pondering, talking, and journaling about it. And I believe I have a lot of things to say. A lot of things I've learned and experienced. And if done right, I think I can say things in a way that will have us all laughing and learning at the same time. Finding similar ground and similar joys in the journey. Feeling more connected. Feeling less like the only one. So let's give it a shot. Consider this the Preface. Let's see what the chapters that follow hold......