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...... 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Factory Defects

Sometimes in life, you can find yourself in a weird pit. Living in a haze or a fog and not realizing it. 
I have had several challenging circumstances happen all at once and they culminated to become a fog over my head for a few months. But I didn't notice. Until last weekend. 
Last weekend, something kind of cool happened. 
I was driving to work at 4:30 in the morning. Yeah. That happens almost daily. 
It was a still, quiet morning. Because it had been raining all night it was clear and the moon and stars danced quite vividly before my half-opened eyes. And suddenly, something seemed different. I thought to myself, "Why is everything so clear all of a sudden? What's going on? It all looks strange!" After a minute I realized with a chuckle that everything appeared very different today because of the car. You see, I received an upgraded car recently. It is in beautiful condition. And I love it dearly. The windows are all completely perfect. This is a big deal because the 1998 Nissan I've driven for YEARS has a factory defect in the glass. The entire front windshield is filled with little bubbles in the glass itself. Not really any big deal. That car and I have spent years together and I couldn't tell you the last time I even noticed those bubbles. Until I was driving something so much better. Until I was in the middle of looking through different glass and seeing the world through a new lens. As I chuckled about this that early morning, my brain woke up and almost instantly I knew there was more to this. I felt in my spirit that this was deeper than this moment. And as I stopped at a red light, I simply said, "Lord, what is all this really about?" I sat there, waiting for an answer. And it came. All at once. I instinctively knew that this was about where I was in life. And a picture of how we get so used to the things we're in and doing without even noticing when they aren't as they should be. Just like I would view the entire world around me through a windshield that was filled with defects, I have been living, sitting, hiding, and remaining in multiple situations and attitudes that are not healthy. Because I was used to it. Because it had been going on consistently and so I ceased to notice it was even present. And because realizing it and making changes means work and not fun things sometimes. But that's not a reason to stay put. Wouldn't anybody rather be viewing the world through a windshield that is functioning as it's supposed to? Isn't that what God wants for our lives, too? Yes, yes it is. 

My windshield is my mind and my body. And it's been viewing the world for a while through glass that is filled with defects. I'm a bit broken. I have been walking around in depression and total bunk about myself and my life in my head. I didn't realize that after I returned from Africa, this started and continued to grow. I didn't stop to clearly see that I've been living in the middle of a few unhealthy and abusive situations and that caused my mind be in quite a messy state. And I didn't notice as it became the normal thing for me. I ceased believing truth. And I ceased to even try. I was just dry. Until the windshield woke me up. And the world began getting beautiful again. It began having more color. More alive-ness. The last few weeks have been a process. Recognizing all the areas in which I've viewed things through the defected window. Wanting to see everything through the new "perfect" window. And having to face and take action to stand up against the things that try to force me into that old car again. Being bold. Being open about it. Seeking and asking for the assistance to make it happen. Saying "no" when it gets you backlash. And putting up all the boundaries. But it's worth it. Let me tell you, the view is so beautiful out there. Don't allow yourself to get swallowed up. Don't allow an old defect to hinder the view. Because those stars are beautiful when you see them clearly. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Most people are simply impressed that she had given up whatever career and big money she could have chosen to agree with her husband that they would move the entire family overseas. Away from anyone they knew or were related to. Away from friends, familiarity, security. No material items and no guarantee or promise of anything specific for the future. Just a deeply planted knowledge that Jesus saves and others needed to hear that. And to this day, that's what most people know and see of her.

I knew who she was for years but didn't really ever speak with her. One day, as I was considering a future in missions, I found her on Facebook. We became friends and I introduced myself. Over time, we chatted across the continents. And I began to see what a beautiful person she is. I saw all the things others did. But I also slowly learned so much more. I began to see what many others don't know. 

What they don't know is all the details of what and how she does life. What they aren't aware of is how much she went through these last years. How hurt she was by people she should be able to trust. How uncertain the terrain looked for a while. How little she had and has at times.  How many times she's been robbed. And the way in which despite all of that, she doesn't let the attention and knowledge of this fall on her. Instead, she cares deeply about people. All people. The day came when I traveled overseas on a short-term trip and I finally got to hang out with her in her town. And I saw so much that she wouldn't ever let onto. She is so much smarter than she lets on. She is a linguist. She's learned multiple languages and continues to learn more. She often speaks her husband's childhood language when talking with him because it's what he grew up with. She flips back and forth between several languages with ease when out in public. She sees-I mean-REALLY sees- everyone she comes into contact with. The first time I hung out with her, I was struck by the way she really looked at every waiter, every person working in a toll-booth on the road. She stopped and thanked them. Showed them compassion. Every time. It taught me something I wanted to learn and do in my own life. I was astonished by the way in which she really listens to you. Hears not only what you're saying, but what your heart is feeling underneath your words. And she focuses fully on the conversation and asks meaty, deep questions. Then, when you're done venting, she always cleverly thinks of a way to make you laugh hysterically until you've found some healing. How she manages to do this is beyond me. And even though it isn't her main focus, she easily creates art, writes and sings music beautifully, and should she have time to sit and write anything out, she creates vividly beautiful stories. Yet all of these things are kept quiet and unseen by most. Her daily life is spent quietly and busily serving. She serves her family. She serves her church and the community around her. Her heart weeps over the tough lives of the teens she works with. And she goes through each day simply loving on and really seeing every person. Again. And again. And again. Seeing. Loving. Inviting them into Jesus. Seeing. Loving. Inviting them into Jesus. The passion with which she does this is convicting to any person who sees it and my life has been deeply influenced by her example, her life, her days, her love. And the way she sees, loves, and invites me into Jesus. Again. And again. And Again. The quiet and unassuming way in which she does this is to me a picture of a real "missionary." A picture of what it looks like to set aside all the "coulds" for the simplicity of seeing, loving, and inviting into Jesus. That, to me, is Grace. And that is what I call her. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

What it's doing to me.

I’m angry. No. Not just angry. Furious. And I don’t even know how to express it all except to bang on this keyboard until I’ve gotten most of it out into solid words. Even then, I’m not sure what to make of it.

About 2 months ago, I deleted the Facebook app off my phone. I didn’t announce it to anyone. I didn’t write a post or have a sarcastic speech in which I explained why I am now so much better than facebook and everyone who chooses to continue “wasting time” on it. I didn’t even delete my whole account because I have friends all over the globe and I DO believe it’s a wonderful way to keep in touch. I simply took away the temptation to be on it every day. Not because I think it’s stupid. Not because I’m bitter of fed up with people. But because I realized how broken I’ve become. I realized what the entire concept of social media can do. And I realized that if a mature, level-headed, healthy, aware adult can struggle with some of these issues, we need to be much more concerned for our teenagers. I wanted and needed to think long and hard about some of these things. So I did.

I already knew that I spent too much time on it. Not as much as some people, but too much. I knew I was missing out on a lot of things because my nose was in my newsfeed. That wasn’t anything surprising. I knew I looked too much at what everyone else posted. And I knew that meant I compared myself and my life to others. But what I DIDN’T realized yet was just how much all of that was affecting me emotionally and mentally. I hadn’t stopped to analyze the degree of impact this actually had on me. I knew I was an adult. Intelligent. Capable. Able. I’m going into Psychology for heaven’s sake, I should be able to handle things as much (dare I say even better?) than many others out there. But when I took all the time I had been spending on social media and used it be quiet, un-distracted, unseen, and to really consider how I was doing, I was surprised at what I found. So surprised, in fact, that it took a few days to fully comprehend. I had grown insecure. I had come to view my life as not only less than others, but embarrassing. I was ashamed of what I and my life looked like. I felt ugly, messy, fat, incapable, not good enough, not interesting enough, and less than everyone I knew. I had even begun to hide because I felt so much less than so many of my friends. I stopped going out so much. I began streaming church online because I was embarrassed to be on campus and have others think about how fat or messy I looked. I just felt like I couldn’t keep up, be enough, do enough. And I had fallen apart. All of this had happened because I was looking at everyone else's lives and comparing myself to something I can never obtain. Only when I deleted all the distraction did I fully see the extent to which it had affected me. And I got scared. It terrified me to think that this could happen to me. That I could end up in a pit like this. A pit like that is very hard to get out of. It takes a lot of time, work, intention, attention, strides, and help. Because of who I am and what I’ve lived, I know I will be fine. But I became so concerned for others. My friends. And teenagers. And the generations to come. What about them?!?! What about people who start this earlier? Younger? More often? And never see it and never get out of it? If I can crumble and get to the point of feeling this horrible about my life, what is society doing to us? I almost can’t even think to ask these questions because it disturbs me so deeply.

Fashion. Thigh gaps. Plump Lips. Make-up. Pastel hair. Tattoos. Stretch marks. Short shorts. Botox. Libo. Fitness obsessions. Eating disorders. Laser surgeries. Hollywood. Magazines. Pinterest. Photoshop. Only in the last 10 years have we grown into a society of seeing this every time we pick up our smartphones, log into Google, or turn on the television. When my mom was young, she would have to hunt for and purchase a copy of Vogue to see any of this. And young girls today are viewing ALL of this before they’re even developed or able to think rationally. Call me extreme. Call me a feminist. Call me ridiculous. Say I’m starting to sound like an old lady. I don’t care how you want to label it. Roll your eyes. But think about it. We have a HUGE problem. I can't log into my social media and have any way to be as good as everything that flashes before my eyes. In what world is this healthy?!?! And unless we intentionally speak out about it and take some major action to fix it, society is going to ruin young women. We WILL be destroyed. I don’t have all the answers. I’m still working it all out. I still feel insecure. I’m still falling flat on my face. But I'm determined to walk the road of becoming healthy in an increasingly sick society. I'm stubborn enough to stand up and be irate at what we're doing to women today. And I refuse to stop saying that it's wrong and I need to see some real men stand up and say so too! But I’m doing it at the feet of the one who accepts and loves me unconditionally. I’m doing it in the safety of the one who lovingly hand-created me with intention and asking Him to show me exactly what that even means. And I’m trusting that He is using all of this for something beautiful and glorious, because He never fails to. He weaves it all into the most beautiful piece of art we could ever hope for and then some.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

From brothels and bunk beds to the bush and the books.

First of all, I would have never imagined being in urban ministry and working to end human trafficking in Houston, Texas. Guys, I was living in an old church filled with bunk beds and showers that sometimes didn’t work for days. My clothing in a suitcase under my bunk and a bus pass in my pocket. So let’s just consider how crazy the last season of life had been for me when I discovered that I would be starting 2015 in South Africa-literally landing on January 1st. The adventures with PLAY were incredible and I consider it a blessing when I can be a part of all that Lisa is doing. While I was in South Africa, I prayed about and considered deeply the next steps for my future. I love ministry. I love traveling. I love missions. I adore people. So I thought hard about what should be next. I knew that I once was an unhealthy mess in a pit of bondage and Jesus radically redeemed and rescued me. I knew I had to use that. I knew I loved serving others. I knew that I see the world through specific and unique lenses, but that was where it ended. After great prayer and deliberation, I realized my heart and passion for people has always been one of healing, wholeness, and peace. I see and understand the difficult things people deal with. I pick up on and sense the hurts. I intuitively know about the hard things that aren’t usually seen and the hesitation to talk about it. Particularly when one is in a position of ministry and put on a pedistal. So I swallowed hard, made a very difficult and concrete decision to go to school for a degree in Psychology, and returned home.
Here’s the part where I stop painting some exciting and glorious picture and talk about truth. Coming back was tough. IS tough. Reintegrating is different for everyone but is always a very hard thing. For me, it’s much harder to stay put in Modesto than to be in ministry and missions. With the decision to return, I lost my support system overnight. One day I was in South Africa at camp in the bush with the kids, and several days later I was in Modesto enrolling at MJC. The interactions I had with people changed. I was suddenly less interesting to many. I went from being a missionary to being stripped of all titles and support overnight. Finding my way into community has not proven to be as smooth as I hoped and I’ve been learning how to be in solitude and okay with it. Being single at my age and switching from missionary to student is rough and isolating. I am desperately trying to pay of debt, afford school, keep a very old car going, and get up at 4am daily to work without being unhealthy. I often run into people I know and get very interesting reactions when they hear I am making coffee at minimum wage. Your skills in ministry and missions don’t always transfer to much in this environment, and there isn’t always too much to choose from. But here’s where the hope comes out to shine like a summer day: 
In the midst of some depression and exhaustion, there have been moments and days of incredible and intense beauty, an irreplaceable joy, and the knowledge that even when things get ugly, I can see the purpose in it all. Without these experiences-all of them-I would never be able to relate to and share in the knowledge of what it’s like. Whether it’s being on staff at a mega-church and experiencing relational hurt and high expectations or living in poverty to serve others right in your community who are unseen. Sometimes it’s working for a corporation that’s not turning out to be as glamorous as others see it or dealing with difficult customers each day. What about being in a society that is pushing a certain amount of materialism and you’re struggling with decisions over your future path? Maybe it’s navigating the ins and outs of living overseas and having given up all of your wealth and close relationships in the name of giving others the hope of Christ. Perhaps you’re returning home from one of these things and are worn and hurting and feeling so lost but afraid to talk about it because everybody seems to think you are someone who’s especially spiritually wise and put together. Maybe you’re single in a church world that caters to young marrieds having families and all you want is to not feel ashamed and to figure out how to flourish right where you are. Whatever the case, our King in His infinite wisdom has chosen to allow me the very incredible pleasure of knowing on a deeply personal level what each of these things is like. It’s been exhausting, but yes, it’s a pleasure. Because down the road, for years to come, I will have the unspeakable joy of relating to others and helping others and connecting to others who need hope and an ear. I will be able to say “I understand. Truly, I have literally been there” in a moment when someone desperately needs to know they are not alone. And that is gorgeous. That is worth all the tears and hurt and uncomfortable moments. To consider it brings me to my knees in awe and I am rendered speechless. Speechless at His perfection. At the way He is constantly weaving things together when we can’t see for the life of us what is going on. For the way it’s always so specific and with purpose and never overlooked or flippantly allowed or unseen. For the way every little detail is cared about deeper than we can imagine and for the way He loves us and has a plan that is extravagantly more than we deserve. He is mighty. He is beauty. He is purpose. He is healing. He is rescue. He is the answer. He is everything and so much more. The more we throw ourselves at His feet, the better it’s going to get. I hope that as you look back on your 2015, you see these things as well. He’s been there every moment. Can you find it? Do you see it? It’s woven into the fabric of your year. Blessings on you and yours as we journey into the next chapter of our stories.