Monday, March 29, 2010


I'm not pschyzophrenic, I swear. I'm just a little overwhelmed. And fighting some sweet insomnia. And by sweet I mean, not really that sweet. I'm reading Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Graham Smith (sp?). Maybe I shouldn't read it before bed, lest I continue to wake up in a panic attack about work and the Civil War. In any case, today, as I try to sort things out in my life, what I want to do, what I'm qualified to do, I'm just overwhelmed again. Thankful, but overwhelmed. Moving this week should only add to that misery, I'm sure. Well back to resume writing. Oh fun. Not.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

All The Smiles I Know*

Wherever we're coming from today, there are millions of reasons to be excited, to be joyful, and to smile. Here are all the smiles I know today (aka things to be thankful for/reasons to be joyful):

It's Palm Sunday people - let's shout Hosanna! Over 2000 years ago, my great and mighty King entered His city triumphantly, and the people turned and worshipped. A week later they brutally killed Him. (Not to worry, three days later He socked it to 'em and rose from the dead, conquering the grave.) Today, I smile knowing that He still reigns, in my heart and from His throne. I smile knowing that one day He will enter that city again, and all knees will bow before Him. He is so mighty, my beautiful King.

I know the best kids. Seriously I do. They fight invisible lions, search for buried treasure, are bunnies, and puppies and crimefighters and superheroes and princesses and fairy unicorns. And each one of them is just amazingly wonderfully unique and fantastic in their own way. They sing to the Lord, and talk of His great love with wide, awestruck eyes. They go out of their way fearlessly, to be open, and welcoming and loving. They live without the social hindrances that us adults impose on ourselves, to be cool, to hide our enthusiasm, to reign in our love. They'll shout their hellos from across a crowded room, and run up an aisle because they're excited about church. I can't express in words how my heart brims up and spills over with love for them, and pride at seeing who they are, and joy when I'm in their presence. All I can do is just smile, really really big and authentically and goofily. I have them to thank for that.

And if the little kids I know are great (and they are) how much more so the young adults I know? I'm continually amazed at how their godly character continues to reveal itself amidst hilarious senses of humor, slightly humbling intelligence and culture defying politeness. I have nothing but a giant "Pshaw" to those people out there who will say that they aren't extraordinary, much less good kids, because they make fart jokes or tease too sarcastically. Do we really fail to see that they truly are great, just the way they are? Or are we so dead set on believing they're not, because we don't expect them to be, based on our own staunch biases against their generation? People, let's not be so caught up in expecting them to be mediocre and undeserving of our respect or praise, that we actually fail to see that they defy those stereotypes completely! They deserve so much more from us, both in admiration and in continuing to challenge and push them to grow. To all their critics, whether parents or just other adults, I say back off! Because personally, I am crazy proud of them, honored to work alongside them, and excited to watch and see how God will continue to shape them into the adult servants of Himself that He has them poised to be. Life at the cusp, with their limitless potential, is exciting! Let's help them learn to greet it with a smile.

Sometimes the little things make me smile too. Listening to a friend crack himself up at his own jokes, getting a new book (Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. YEESSSS!!!), bright sunshiney days, the fast approach of sundress weather, Holy Week, knowing Easter's right around the corner, singing my favorite hymns, sitting around just chatting with friends, laughing when they put their foot in their mouth and try to backpedal only to dig deeper, driving with the windows down, Sunday naps.....speaking of which, it's about time.

When I was a kid, we were pretty poor, and after my parent's divorced, my mom and I had to share a bedroom in a little one bedroom place. I remember laying in bed, the moon shining in through our curtainless windows, reflecting off my mom's bright, gleaming white teeth, and getting really annoyed. Who sleeps with a smile? I'd lean over to wake her up and tell her "Close your mouth. I can't sleep because your smile is too bright and it's keeping me up!" I'm sure that today, as I rush home to crawl in bed and get my Sunday nap in, lulled by the sound of birds chirping outside, I'll be a chip off the old block, smiling as I fall asleep. Even in a world that's overwhelming, with decisions and choices and responsibilities and fears, life is good. God is good. His blessings in my life are just another smile I know.

*P.S. Props to my awesome friend Micah for the blog post title inspiration.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Drowing In A Sea Of Noise

I'm overwhelmed. Really, really overwhelmed right now. And that totally scares me. What scares me more than the feeling is my own reaction. My natural instinct in situations like these is to shut down. True story.

I'm the kind of person that when the picture gets too big to look at and gain full scope of, I curl up into a ball and become completely paralyzed. When there's too many choices, too much advice, too many things that need to be done, I don't know where to start and so I assume the fetal position and do nothing at all. I pray that I can just wait it out with as little damage as possible, like a turtle retreating into her shell.

Recently, I was praying over a course of action in a friendship that I really value. Do I say something to this friend about where I'm coming from, or just shut my mouth and hope for the best? From left and right, above and below, really from every direction, advice was being thrown at me as to what to do. Even if the number of people that were inputting their thoughs and recommendations for my situation was limited, the repetition and persistance of their advice was like an out of tune band, warming up, each instrument seperately, echoing in a vast auditorium. Just a cacophany of indiscernable noise drowning out my own thoughts as it overwhelmed my ears & brain. It finally got to the point that I just had to say "Stop. Be quiet. Let me think, and decide how to do this on my own." The fact that I said anything at all was truly indicative of how much the noise was overwhelming me, because that kind of confrontation is so contrary to my passive nature.

Eventually I was able to let the noise around me fade away, and hear from the Lord. His still, small voice was reminding me to do all things in humility, honoring my friend before myself, and to seek Him first because He's truly the lover of my soul. It wasn't till I got everyone else to shut up that I could hear what He was telling my heart all along. And as I heard from Him, I realized that His advice was nowhere near the advice anyone else was giving me. In His advice, I, for the first time in the situation, had peace which gave me courage to move forward.

The noise was gone. His voice whispered to my heart, and I could breathe once again - breath that gave me life, and the ability to do what I needed to do.

Right now, that's all I want! As I'm feeling that onslaught of noise once again, this time about my career, and job search, my heart is retreating to fear and confusion as it's natural reaction and armour. But neither fear or confusion are bound up in perfect love - the love that my God has poured into me. But sadly, overwhelmed beyond measure by decisions and advice, is how I'm feeling again, as I contemplate the next few months/weeks/days ahead of me as a newly jobless/homeless person.

Really, how the hell did I end up here?

I know things will work out ok, I really do. I'm not failing to trust in God to meet all my needs, and provide for me out of His goodness and mercy. What I am scared of is how broken, vulnerable and humbled He might have to make me in the process. As well as the fact that I am just overwhelmed with all the steps I need to take to get something going in my life - a job, a home, a plan, a ministry, etc.

I'm a pretty open, authentic person. So as I blog today, because I know have the newly acquired time, I'm just laying this out there. I'm totally overwhelmed and feel like I am just bobbing in a sea of choices and actions that need to be taken. I really could use a Life Jacket, God. Can you just throw me a line? Thanks, that would be great. Oh yeah, and if You could just attach Your plan at the end of it, that would be great too. Thanks, your slightly overwhelmed, moderately fearful, pretty much an open book daughter. T.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Things To Be Thankful For

So, I lost my job today. I'd be lying if I said I didn't see it coming, though the time that I was allowed to view it as a pending possibility was very brief. Less than a week. There's a lot I could say about it, but frankly, it's still pretty fresh in my mind so I think discretion and a mouth as tight lipped as a bad clam is the best bet. All I know is this, I have a lot to be thankful for, and I'd be denying the truth if I tried to act surprised.

Sometimes, when God moves, we can see the dust cloud looming on the horizon, moving towards us like the Tazmanian Devil in some Bugs Bunny cartoon, zigzagging all over the place. Kicking up dirt, it gets closer, and closer, and all the while it's still undiscernable till boom it's right on us and SURPRISE! But whatever. Hey, He did lead with a cloud and a pillar of fire, it's not inconceivable, right?

I think this situation was like that, just a lot more subtle. Things have been churning in my heart after a conversation with a friend over a month ago about my passion for youth ministry. He got me thinking and praying about whether or not I should pursue it more, even if I pshawed it at the time. Then this past weekend, I was allowed the amazing privilege of a weekend at the beach, to hear from and be in prayer with other youth ministry workers. During that time I was able to sit on some rocks, jeans rolled up and feet in the water, bible and journal in hand. As I stared out at the rhythym of crashing waves, I lifted up thanks to my Lord for all He's done in my life, including allowing me a great, well paying job that gives me the freedom to spend my free time in youth ministry. Was I jumping the gun? Or was He seeing me as too comfortable? Or is it just a coincidence? Or the natural consequence of a crappy economy and faulty empires? One of the things I'm questioning today is deeper than "will I have to work at McDonalds?" - it's my previous blind adherence to strict Calvinism (because well, I'm a Baptist, I thought it's what we do). But more on that later.

So, after an amazing weekend spent on the beach, surrounded by passionate, fun, dedicated lovers of God, I came home questioning (in a big way) where my life is going, but more importantly, where I wanted it to go. What am I doing with my life? That was the question I asked on my Facebook status yesterday. Someone commented, more to the point, "What is God doing with your life?" and then reminded me that He's doing all the work. "Make sure you're bendable. it helps with the pain. trust me ♥", she wrote. Ahh, B, my little prophetess friend, your words are so timely right now!

So, now recently thrust into the swarming masses of the recently unemployed, I can really sit back and say "God, You can do anything with my life right now." I'm soon to be out of a place to live, now out of a job, but completely wide open to whatever He wants to do. It's freaking humbling people! Humiliating versing humbling is gonna have to be another post for another time, but trust me, it feels a whole lotta both right now. Yet, I really do have a lot to be thankful for. I can actually go to the gym without waking up at 5:20 to do it. For a while at least. I can enjoy the springtime from something other than a windowless cubicle under flourescent lighting. I can go to playgroup and spend time with all my favorite kids. I can see God grow my faith, my trust and my dependance upon Him as I look for a job. I can come back to the rememberance that my life isn't 40 hours a week at a corporation, it's how open I can be to letting God use me in the lives of others around me, to show off His glory, goodness and love. It's being open to His great big, or great little, plan for my life, and revelling in the unexpectedness of it.

This afternoon, as I head to lunch with Josh (something else to be thankful for!) I feel like I'm standing on a cracked, parched desert floor. The Lord has just swept by me, in a cloud of dust, but I think I see Him turning around and coming back this way. He's never too far away. I hope that when He passes by again, I can just grab ahold and hang on tight. I have a feeling it's gonna be a wild ride.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Home Sick.

No, not homesick, as in I miss California, though sometimes when the weather gets all grey and dreary like this I do. I'm talking I'm home - sick. Ick. Stick. Snick. With a cold. Bold. Sold. Rolled. I'm into rhyming these days, can you tell? Anybody want a peanut? (Bright shiny dime for the first person to call that reference!)

And as I'm home, sick, I'm thinking about California. Not because I'm homesick, like I said, but because in about a week I'll be there. Basking in the glorious sun and warmth of California in March. Breathing deeply one of my favorite scents in all the beautiful earth (besides "Flaming June" the new perfume from Anthropologie that I'm obsessed with) - the salty, briney air of the ocean. Hearing the rhythmic crashing of waves and the "gawwing" of gulls in the background. Oh how I really do love the beach.

Now let's make some clarifications here though - would it be me if I ever did anything normal??? When I say I love the beach, I'm not talking the neon colored, people infested, 100 degree plus, show off your tan & muscles in something skimpy, kind of beach where everyone is checking everyone out. I'm talking cold, grey, rainy, isolated, craggy, rocky beaches, where you have to wear an Irish fisherman's sweater to keep the damp cold at bay, and the waves threaten to overtake the land, spraying salty air up into a mist that covers you from head to toe. Oregon beaches, Brittish beaches. You know? The kind of beaches where a lone, unidentified traveler can wash upon the shore and lay there half dead before someone rescues them, only to find true love amongst the shrouded mystery of their identity. Not the kind of beach where Jaws attacks some blonde in a yellow bikini while overstuffed mom's holding ice coolers shriek in terror. Grrrr.

Actually I had a conversation with a good friend a while back about how I love the beach. This person does not share my affinity for the beach. He just said it was pointless, to just sit there and do nothing. Afterwards I thought to myself, but he's probably thinking the kind of beaches I abhore. Of course it would be awful to sit on that kind of beach and do nothing. Egads! On the kind of beach I love, that's exactly what you're supposed to do. Just sit there, stare at the endless, bottomless sea and do nothing. Ahhhh, sweet joy!

And since where I'm going next week is Monterey CA, therefore Northern California, instead of say Venice Beach, which is decidedly SoCal in every way, shape and form, I think I should be pretty safe in finding what I'm looking for on the beach there. Which is precisely nothing. Quiet. Solitude. Tranquility amongst rocky sand and salty air. The chance to just sit, listen, breathe, and watch the tide come sweeping in and out, in and out, in an out. Just a chance to spend some time alone with my God, Him and me, on the beach. The best vacation ever.

Granted, I'm not just going there for this reason, to be alone. I'm actually going there with a group of people for a Youth Leadership Summitt. And in all honesty, though I say I will find what I'm looking for out on the beaches alone, I have a feeling that my time there will look nothing like what I picture, or what I want. Let's face it - I'll be at a resort, with a boatload of other people, and I doubt that even in March the weather will be cold or bracing, even in Northern California. So, buh-bye Fisherman's Sweater, windwhipped hair and lonely walks on the beach with my Jesus. Buh-bye romantic notions of sitting, knees pressed to my chest, and just listening to the natural sounds all around me, without a soul for miles.


But.... Hello to being surrounded by tons of other people who are there to learn more about the one area I am most passionate about right now - Youth ministry. This could be good. Though I may miss out on my pseudo-Wuthering Heights walks on the beach, I am excited that I will get to meet people who have far more experience and knowledge in this area than myself. And I want to pick their brains. I am actually really excited about going to this conference and learning more about working with youth, and hope to soak as much as I can in, both from the sessions and the people I will meet.

Especially because in the last few months I have become positively off my rocker crazy about our band of youth group kids. As well as the ones who will eventually grow up and join those ranks. But mostly for the tiny little group that I get to see and spend time with every Wednesday night. I know they think I'm a dork, and frankly, I don't care. I won't deny I'm a dork. But I will fight to prove that I am just crazy about each and every one of them. They make me laugh, they make me smile, they make me sad when I think of the things in their life that they might be facing or dealing with. I have this overflowing heart of love for them, and if I am a dork around them, it's only becaues I really don't know how to reign all that in.

They are so wonderfully special, and beautiful, and crazy cool in so many different ways. Each one of them is like this amazing bud, that hasn't quite opened up yet, and so though through the delicate, transparent petals, you can see what they might be like inside, the full potential of who they are is still being formed. And I am wicked excited to see who that will be.

I'm not just limiting this passion to the high schoolers and the junior high schoolers either. The little kids, the ones in my Sunday School class, the kindergarden and first graders, they too fill my heart with joy unbounding and bring a huge grin to my face every time I see them. I just want to spend time with them, listen to them, hear what they're thinking, what's important in their life, what makes them tick, makes them laugh, makes them sad, what worries them, what are their concerns, what are the things that make them happy. And I wonder, do they even know how much they bring me joy? I wonder. I flat out miss all these kids when I'm not at church. The weekends I go down to camp, like this weekend, I think of them, and am sad to not see them and to not spend time with them. I feel so strongly this way, I'm almost tempted to just not go, but then again, there needs to be balance, and I know that missing them like this drives me to spend more time with them outside of those four church walls, and that is important too.

So, even though my traipsing about the stormy beach alone fantasies may never see the dull grey light of day, I am sure I will be more than content in what God does bring to the table next week. I pray that it will better prepare me to build relationships and be there for the amazing kids in my life. I pray that I will learn new ways to help them grow and reach their full potential. I hope that God will move in my heart, to challenge me in what I'm doing with my life, including my own views on youth ministry. I can definitely think of one recent conversation where my viewpoints on the differences between being a youth leader and a youth pastor were more than challenged. And I am thankful that they were, because through that conversation wheels began to turn, and questions began to form regarding what I really believe verses what I really want. I only wish I could reconcile what I sense in my own mind to be right, against all that I have believed till now, patriarchal and conservative as it is. Instead I'm being challenged by my Lord to see things anew, in the glowing far off light of what He may want to do with this ever growing passion for youth ministry that lives inside me. Grrrrr, for challenges! Yaaay for challenges!!!

Even so, I am more than excited about this Summitt, and the opportunity it will afford to delve deeper into this area of ministry. Granted it's not going to be a a deserted Oregon beach, but I am confident that I will meet my Jesus there anyways, and can only hope He'll deliver on the salty air and sea monster settings. Heck, He created them, so I'm pretty sure He will.