Archive for 2014

Somewhere Between Hope and Peace

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     It almost feels appropriate that so much unrest and outcry about injustice is happening during advent.  The dark reality is that injustice,  racism,  hatred,  and violence has been going on all along,  it's just that suddenly it's more visible... at least to some people.  


     If you are non-white,  or live in a diverse urban area,  the head lines only serve to confirm something we've already been witness too. A dark reality we've already been a part of. 
     Regularly I get asked if I am afraid for my life to live where I do.  I get told often how afraid they would be if they substitute taught at Hammond High or Eggers middle school,  the 2 secondary schools downtown. 
     This rhetoric continues to shock me. Why should I be afraid? 
      My follow up question is almost always met with an awkward gaze and uncomfortable silence.  They don't want to say what they mean,  because they think as an educated white middle class woman the same fear resides within me.  A fear of the unknown,  a fear of seeing things that make us uncomfortable,  a fear of being the only person in the room who looks like us,  a fear of kids who have been raised with little guidance or hope,  and let's just address the elephant in the room,  a fear of black and hispanic people. 
      Fear. It's often under the surface of our conversations about race. It's in our comments about "that part of town". It's even ever present in our movies and television shows,  where the young white teacher goes to teach at the urban predominantly black school and is met with violent and drug addicted stereotype black students.
     Fear.  It's consumed my Facebook newsfeed. Two distinct groups of people,  both afraid. One afraid to raise children in a world they could be killed just because of their skin color,  or afraid for humanity as it seems we can't move forward with grace and love.  The other,  afraid to listen,  afraid they might be wrong,  afraid of a world where the police they have always trusted might be wrong. 
     I straddle both of those worlds. I'm afraid at times to raise half black children in this world,  afraid for my students and neighbors,  yet I've always trusted police,  never experienced issues with my race (though when I'm with my husband,  it's a different experience), afraid at times that maybe I'm not as honest about my own biases as I could be,  and afraid I might be wrong. 
     Fear.  We live in fear. 

      Yet,  we long for something else. Something more.  Something greater. 
     In the midst of our fear,  we long for a world without fear,  a world of understanding,  of grace,  of love,  of hope. 
     That's what advent is.  Longing for more,  looking for more,  hoping for more,  and ultimately seeing that come in Christ.
     We didn't invent fear,  racism,  corruption.  That all existed 2 thousand years ago too. In a small town of Bethlehem.  Where the military state controlled all aspects of life. Where to be a Jew,  meant oppression. In the midst of this world of violence,  of pain,  of suffering,  of fear,  an angel shows up to a group of smelly outcasts. 

               "Fear not" the angel says.  Was that spoken just for that moment?  Maybe,  but their entire world was fear. It is no accident they are being told not to fear. 
        But why should the fear stop,  "because I bring glad tidings of great joy,  which shall be for ALL people.  For today,  in the city of David,  a savior has been born to you,  he is Christ the LORD".
          God had broken into the midst of fear,  of loneliness, of pain,  of confusion,  to bring joy,  hope,  love,  heading,  and peace.
         The good news of advent is,  that Christ still comes.  He comes in our compassion,  in our love,  in our service,  in our grace.  He came, he comes,  and is coming again to fulfill what was started in a world of fear,  doubt,  and pain.  He is coming to make all things right. 


       So today,  we sit between the first and second week of advent, between hope and peace.  We don't just sit their metaphorically,  but we sit their as individuals,  as communities,  and as a nation.  We sit with a decision like the shepherds of old,  to go and see this thing the angel said, to embrace the news,  to share the news,  to abandon our fear for love and grace,  or to stay,  to be stunted by our fear,  and miss out on the greatest miracle of all.  

    I don't know about you,  but I am tired of being afraid,  tired of doubt,  of loneliness,  and hatred,  so I'm running as fast as i can, doing all within my power to bring hope,  peace,  joy,  and love to this world that so desperately needs it.
    I am sharing with all this advent "fear not,  for I bring glad tidings of great joy for ALL people,  no matter who you are,  what you look like,  your economic status,  your gender,  your race,  there is a savior, he is Christ the LORD"

They're just kids

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    I substitute teach in an urban community on the south east side of the Chicago area. My encounters with black youth occur on a daily basis. 
    There is a lot of turmoil right now concerning black youth.  I am not here to debate jury decisions (i wasn't there), but I do want to voice a concern. 
     My Facebook is riddled with comments like "thug", "gangsta", and "hooligan". It saddens me how much of this comes from my Christian brothers and sisters.
     Because I know and love a whole lot of "thugs", and in reality,  they are just real live teenage kids needing love and guidance as they figure out life. 
     Just today a student was telling me about his court date for a bad decision. My heart broke for a boy,  a real boy,  who needs love and mentorship not a derogatory label.  He is a child.  He might look like a man,  but he isn't yet.  He's just a kid with too many hormones and not enough guidance.
    My thoughts are this,  communities are hurting,  people are hurting,  and while you may think they are wrong, calling names is the opposite of Christ like.
    Christ would be there.  Not with hurtful words or Facebook statuses,  but with embraces and listening ears.  We must learn to listen if we are ever going to come together. We must get out of our space and look at things through different eyes. We must embrace the ones we fear,  the ones who are different than us,  and our enemies.  Not just because it's a nice sentiment,  but because it is our calling.
     The kids I work with aren't always easy to love for everyone,  but they are just kids.  With hopes,  with dreams,  with people who love them,  and they already have a whole bunch stacked against them.  So while you may think you are referencing a specific person or event with your words,  they feel like you are addressing them,  labeling them,  and giving up on them.  Hear that in their voices.  They don't know how to tell you without screaming sometimes (remember they're teenagers), so listen humbly and closely enough,  so they don't have to. Ultimately though,  remember they are kids, real people,  beloved of God,  and worthy of respect.

Token (part 1): on being labeled the voice on gender and race issues in the church

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     Today was the first day of a church planting class I'm attending.  It's going pretty well,  besides the fact I'm super cynical at times and struggle to not allow that to jade all I am learning. 
     While at dinner,  I was asked about our church plant and city.  I was also asked an important question about race and the church of the Nazarene.  More specifically, where do I see mac and I in the role of racial reconciliation in the larger church since we are in a unique position (white female pastor with a black husband).      It was an interesting question and one I was more than happy to answer.  In fact,  I've been contemplating a blog post on race for a while (which will still be written, as it relates to our context in Hammond) but I haven't written one for several reasons. The main one being,  we'd like to be known for who we are, the skills we have,  our love for Jesus and his church,  and not be the token representatives of diversity. (We often are the token female pastor and black person at events,  thus it seems those are the questions I am always fielding).
    We love diversity. We love speaking about the church's need to be more a representation of the kingdom of God where there is no Jew or greek, slave or free, male or female.  We find it important to speak up for the oppressed, to advocate for the hurting,  and to be a catalyst for forgiveness,  reconciliation,  and change. 
     The issue is, all too often while talking about race someone makes a comment like the one that was made tonight "what an asset to your ministry to have a black husband! "
     While possibly well meaning,  it was implied my marriage is based on what my ministry can gain from my husband's race. That isn't fair to either of us,  it's insensitive,  and offensive.  If they meant God can use our marriage to impact the kingdom,  absolutely,  he can use everyone's marriage, because God uses everything. However,  I married my  husband because of who he is, not for some odd ministry benefit (which let's be honest... do you really think being a white woman pastor with a black husband is the ticket to a great ministry job?  Really?).
     The most interesting part of that comment isn't what was said though,  it is the conversation being had around it. I was speaking to the fact that while most churches (in our case they are predominantly white) would be welcoming and kind to a black family,  there is a reason churches are still widely separated racially and that is a complete lack of racial sensitivity,  understanding,  education, and experience.
     Case in point,  I was just told what an asset my husband's race is to my ministry. It lacked thought,  sensitivity,  and understanding. 
      When I confronted it, I was told that I need to be more wise and accommodating to those who still need to change,  because I was getting defensive.  
    There is no doubt I was a bit defensive. However,  for you (white pastor with a white church),  it makes sense that you want time,  you have that great luxury.  Your churches don't seem to be hurting for lack of diversity.  Tomorrow isn't impacted for you if you do the hard work of reconciliation or not.  For me though,  that's my family, my future children, the kids I work with,  and my neighbors and friends.  It doesn't feel like I can move slow. And while I try to be wise always, it's easy for me to get frustrated and defensive at the pace the church of the Nazarene moves because for me this isn't a philosophy to be flushed out at a workshop, it's my life. 
      But the reality is,  your churches do hurt for the lack of diversity.  You're missing out on beautiful lives,  stories,  love,  and grace.  The Church hurts when we in our self centeredness forget how those around us may be hurt by our careless words or deeds,  and for them, the people we've lost, offended, and hurt  there isn't time either.
    Mac reminded me how everyone says the church is always one generation away from extinction, thus there isn't time.  We must be grace filled, loving,  and wise, but if we don't act with some sense of urgency,  we're going to miss reaching a whole lot of people who needed us to truly be the kingdom of God to them. A kingdom where there is no Jew or greek, slave or free,  male or female.
     I pray tonight we speak the hard words,  we listen even more deeply than we speak,  and that we can be a glimpse of that kingdom that only comes when we truly work together.
This is a picture of mac being an asset to my ministry.  He's fixing the church lock, which was incredibly helpful to me, since I'm not great at that stuff. 

Moments of Doubt

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     The hard reality of life is that money is tight. That being said, we didn't have internet for a while. We opted to pay for electricity and gas, and the internet became less of a necessity. In the meantime, my computer completely quit (it's been on its way out for a while), so we are now a 1 computer family. That's just some of the realities of life, but we're back. We're getting in a routine of life, and now that I'm making some income, we're starting to find our selves in a better place. It's just a long way out of the mountain of school debt, but we're making progress.
      That's just a small glimpse, one aspect of the in's and outs of the day. I try not to complain and have a positive attitude, but things are really hard sometimes. Not just with money, but staying encouraged.
    Starting a church is hard work. Some weeks no one shows up to bible study, and I always take it personally. It doesn't matter what else is going on, it usually brings me to tears and feeling like a failure. When all you have is a small number to start with, missing people from that number hurts, a lot.
     We are hitting 6 months of being here, and a lot of people thought we'd have a booming church by now. We don't. I think that's haunting me a bit, despite my desire to have things move slow and organically, it gets exhausting to explain for the thousandth time that we don't have services yet, we just have a small bible study. That only 2-4 people come, but we're working on impacting the community by being here, by showing up, by getting to know people. It's easy to doubt.
     This week was one of those cloud of doubt weeks. We wanted to do a big Halloween event, but the weather did not cooperate. Money was tight so we weren't able to do all we would have liked this past weekend. We also didn't have anyone show up for our small group bible study. The combination of those things seriously broke me.
     There are lots of great things going on, don't get me wrong. I've been subbing nearly every day, and have met some great kids. I have so many great stories of things I've confronted and ways I've grown. We had our neighbors over on Halloween last minute and learned a lot about the neighborhood and about them. Things are moving and happening.
     Despite that, it seems that the things that don't work out are the things I fixate on. I get frustrated that things aren't moving faster. I get depressed and think this was the wrong decision to make. I look at my to do list, which is so much bigger than I could ever accomplish (this whole having a job, trying to start a church, and take care of a home. It's a bit insane), and I get overwhelmed to the point that I want to do nothing.
   The discouragement is palpable. I'm not saying this because I want pity, but because I think this is a very real place when starting a new ministry. I think missionaries tend to speak of the great things God is doing, because that's what people love hearing. They love hearing the stories of how awesome things are, and it makes people want to be a part of that. I get that. I like the happy stories too, but the reality of ministry, and the reality of life, is that it isn't all happy.
    Maybe that's part of why I haven't posted much the past few weeks. It's hard to be honest about the tough side when you're in it.
     I don't have a lot of wise words to offer, just that I know this is a road many have walked before me, and many are walking now. That I knew this would not be easy, and to remember to take everything a step at a time.
     There's growth here, in the midst of this, and I know that it will be worth it in the end. Just trying not to miss the forest for the trees.

Where in the World Have I been?

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   The last few weeks have been crazy, which is why I've been silent on here. It's been a roller coaster of ups and downs, but I'm finally settling into a routine.
    After serving Mac's grandmother for a week, she passed away surrounded by family. Our time for several days was spent mostly with family, trying to help in whatever ways we could, and remembering grandma together. Despite our grief, it was truly a blessing to spend time with family.

    In the midst of that, I got a job at our neighborhood Walgreens. My hours were a bit erratic at first, which made it difficult to plan anything. Working at Walgreens enabled me to get to know the neighborhood in a different way, and I met a lot of people.

    We also celebrated our 2nd anniversary! I am so blessed to be married to Mac, who has supported me in so many ways in this new adventure. Our anniversary was spent resting and recovering mostly, but we are still grateful for our time together. We celebrated at Olive Garden, because we got a generous gift in the mail. Our gifts were small, but what mattered is that we made it 2 years, and plan on many more. 

     We finished out the week with one last trip to Dairy Belle before it closed for the season. We even brought Sable along for a little treat. 
she was very excited

      Because of the added income of a new job, I was able to get my hair done, which was very needed. I found a great salon and spa outside of town. The hairdresser grew up in the area, and she gave me some recommendations of things to do and places to visit. This is a great escape from the crazy for me, and one small way I try to refresh. There will probably be a blog post on caring for ones self, as you care for others, in the future. This is a lesson that I'm still learning, and that is a hard one for me.

      Part of the reason I got my hair done, was because I officiated a wedding a week ago for two awesome people. Their wedding was simple, elegant, and beautiful. I also got the added bonus of seeing some former students from my days as an intern. It was a great time, and I was so honored to be a part of it all.  I don't have any pictures, because I was so in the moment, soaking it all in.
      If this wasn't enough, I was contacted by the school district here in Hammond to substitute teach. This would mean more pay, consistent hours, with weekends, holidays, and summer off which is the ideal situation for pastoring at the same time. I filled out all the paper work, got my sub license, and have already been subbing for a week now. This also meant, that despite just starting a job at Walgreens, I had to turn around and put in my resignation. I was so grateful for that job, but am grateful I can work for less time with more pay. I also LOVE substitute teaching. Every day is different, and I love getting to know the students. I am sure there will be tons of blog posts about what I've learned and encountered while subbing. It's such a great way to connect with the community, and to really impact kids in our city.
     Finally, we had a housewarming party, and decided to paint a large percentage of our house to get ready for it. We worked for hours painting. We have a lot left to do, but our house looks so much more like a home than it did when we first moved in. It also makes us feel much more at home. There were some issues we ran into, but for now, we are really proud of our accomplishments. There will be pictures at a later date.
    So that's a run down of the last 3 weeks, a new job started, a funeral, a wedding, a different new job, leaving a job, having a party, and painting a house. Life is full. It is always an adventure, but we are truly enjoying the ride.

Beauty in Service

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   There is a beauty in caring for the elderly. It's a frustrating and difficult task, and I am amazed at people who do it on a daily basis, but there is somehow a beauty to it as well. My lack of posts these past several days, have been because I have been busy learning that.
   I cared for Mac's grandmother for a few days in order to give my mother in law a bit of a respite. I felt somewhat powerless to help in the ways I wanted to. There were small things I could help with, but it's hard to help with grief, feelings of helplessness, and overwhelming stress.
   What I did do, was look after someone I love deeply, and who spent many hours looking after people who I now call family. In the large scheme of things, it was the very least I could do.
    The days were trying though, and I found myself coming home exhausted. Arguing over eating something, or taking a drink of water, or sitting up for a little exercise, became a common occurrence. I imagine it was frustrating for grandma as well, needing help to do simple things like sitting up in bed. Things that she was fully capable of doing on her own for so many years.
     There was this frailty in those moments; moments that reflected in many ways a new baby, needing care and help. This frailty of humanity, that life is fragile and precious.

    Though we are months away from Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season, I found myself reflecting on the words we say then "From dust you came, to dust you shall return". The idea that we are mortal is so profound when staring at it.
     As I helped grandma she kept saying "Lord have mercy". Maybe it was just a complaint, or reflex, but I kept thinking "He does have mercy. He is extending mercy, even now." That's where I saw the beauty.
     Where the concept of death, dust, mortality met with the beauty of life, hope, and resurrection. This reality that while their is death, Christ has conquered the grave.
      There was another place I saw beauty to, in the mundane tasks of caring for someone. It wasn't glamorous. I doubt I'll make the front page of papers, or be invited on to day time talk shows for helping my husband's grandmother use the bathroom, but there's a humbling to the whole thing. No doubt for both grandma and I. She has to allow herself to be helped, and I have to be humble enough to do so.
    I remember my mom telling me that after my own grandmother had passed away, she went and bathed her body to prepare for the funeral. She told me, with tears in her eyes, that it was the last act of service she could do for her mother.

     Service gets overlooked in our society a lot, but being a servant is no small task. It's humbling, and it's hard, but there is such a beauty in it that can't be explained. It's not because you feel good about it, sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. I really believe it's because serving others is the closest thing on this earth to being with the ultimate servant of all, Jesus. In those moments his presence is palpable, because he served in the most profound ways possible, and continues to do so out of his great love for us.
    If Jesus has served me so well, how could I do any less for those around me?

Being Invited Into the Life of Others

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      This Saturday we had a large garage sale. When we inherited the building, we inherited rooms of stuff, and decided the best thing to do would be to sell it. We had a great set of helpers from the district, and some delicious refreshments.
    We made some money, which is always good, but the most exciting part of our time was seeing the church filled with so many people, and getting to meet so many of our neighbors we hadn't met yet. 
    Lot's of questions were asked about our church, we passed out stickers to the children, we handed out free cookies and lemonade. Our district helpers walked blocks and met people, passing out flyers about our sale, and answering questions about our church. 
    It was such an uplifting day. With all the road blocks that we've faced, things like broken windows, broken a/c, and flooding basements, this day was so worth it. Things really do seem to be moving in a great direction.
     We still have a lot of stuff left, and will be having another sale soon, and putting some stuff on Craigslist, but that's just another opportunity to meet and engage with people. 
this is how much stuff we have left... after the sale
     To keep up with the momentum, we had our first bible study on Sunday evening. There were 3 people their. Our friends and their baby, who is also our god daughter. It may be a slow start, but we're ok with that. We knew things wouldn't happen over night, and we know that we want things to grow organically. Plus hanging out with our god daughter is always a good time. 

     A neighbor also approached us this week about holding Al-Anon meetings in the church, as well as asked to use the building for a birthday party. This is tremendously exciting, because as we've been saying, a building is just a building unless it's being used. 
      In my experience, the Church tends to think those uses must be by "members only" or for a worship service. A lot of times, even when there is a weekly worship service, a building sits empty the rest of the time. I've always questioned this. How is an empty building serving the kingdom? How is paying utilities for a whole month, only to be used a few hours a week, good stewardship?
    Church buildings used to serve multiple purposes. They were the school house during the week, and held community meetings at other times. They were a meeting place for neighborhoods. I'm not advocating that we make our calendar more busy, that we come up with more programing that is costly, or that we guilt people in to coming to everything we offer, but I am asking if we need to be more available. It we need to be open to birthday celebrations, weddings, and funerals of people who aren't church members, but who are looking to the church with these life events. 
     That seems to be part of what the Church is supposed to be. A light in the darkness. A place for all people to come. A people who embrace others, who rejoice when they rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. 
    Being invited into our neighbors lives is so much greater to us, than inviting them to a church service. It shows us that the prevenient grace of the Holy Spirit is calling to them, is moving in them, and we get the honor of being asked to be a part of that. 

Mustard Seed project Update: Days 2, 3, 4, and 5

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Birthday good deeds day 2, 3, 4, and 5 (and some day 1 stuff I missed):
    After I published my last post, a few more fun things happened. We had my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and her boyfriend over for dinner. Having people over is a great joy for us, and we had a great evening full of laughter and food. I also got a little treat for my bro-in-law.

     It's just a silly marketing gimmick, but I thought of him. It's nice to be thought of so act number 3 was getting this little treat for him. Act 4 was having them all over for dinner.
      Day 2 I wasn't as successful in my acts of kindness. Our friend was still here, and we had a laid back day. We got pedicures, walked around the mall, and watched a movie here at home. It was fun, and we hope she had a great time of rejuvenation
     Day 3 we spent the whole day with family out on the boat, in extremely cold weather (for August). We just sat in the harbor eating food and talking. I also got to meet some family I hadn't yet met, so act number 5 is spending time with family. I think sometimes we take for granted how much spending time with our extended family means to others. It's good for their hearts, and it's in turn shining light on the world. Especially if those family members are elderly, or can't get out much, spending time with them is a great small thing to do with a big impact. 
     Day 4 and 5. Monday and Tuesday I prepped a whole bunch of acts to do today and tomorrow. I'm very excited about these. I also surprised Mac with a coke with his name (act 6), and some of my upcoming acts have to do with these coke names as well. I think it's really awesome to be thought of, and know someone thought of you, even if it's in such a silly way. 
     I mailed 4 cards to people who I really need to say thanks to. I have a lot more that need to go out, but I hope these 4 small gestures help these people know how much I love them. (acts 7, 8, 9, and 10). I also got a package ready for a new teacher we know. 
     This might ruin the surprise for her, but it's really just a sneak peak. It's so expensive to stock a classroom, when most of those expenses have to come out of pocket. There are also lots of students who come to school without the supplies they need. I stocked some good stuff for her, and am mailing it out tomorrow! I hope this helps her in a small way to start well and share her love and light in these young lives (act 11).
      The last act I did was make a whole lot of cookies for my neighbors. We have yet to deliver them, but they are all ready to go out this evening. We are giving them to all the neighbors on our block, which means 10 acts of kindness in our corner of the world! 

    A couple more cards and packages are getting prepped to go out, and I have a few ideas left to carry out. I wanted to buy someones Starbucks the other day at the drive thru, only no one was in the drive thru behind me, so that didn't work out as planned. 
    I hope beyond these small acts that I'm trying to do, that I've been a source of joy, a smile, or a laugh for someone this week. 
    Today is my last day in my 20's, I'm hoping to make it a good one! 

Mustard Seed Kingdom Day 1: Hospitality

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     My goal was to do around 4 acts of kindness today. I think I achieved 2 notable ones. There were a few other random acts, but not very notable. There was a debate going on in my mind on whether or not to count throwing the empty Starbucks cup that I found in an aisle at target away; the answer was no. I don't want to get in the habit of counting every piece of trash I pick up as an intentional act, or I'm going to end up copping out on so much more.
     The first act that actually does count is having a friend over tonight and to spend the day with us tomorrow. Most of my day was spent cleaning the house in anticipation for her. I don't like to do things small either, I love for people to feel welcomed and pampered when they stay here. That does not always happen, but I try. I read that "the heart of hospitality is when people leave your home they should feel better about themselves, not better about you." I try to do that. Another great quote on hospitality is "Hospitality is not about inviting people into our perfect homes; it is all about inviting people into our imperfect lives." Our home is far from perfect. Only one room has been painted, things are still somewhat dirty (as much as we've strived for them not to be, there's only so much we can do in a summer), and we still have unpacked boxes, but we still want people to come be a part of this chaos we call life. We want them to see us as real people, with a dog that barks too much, and dust in the corners. We want for them to see that, but to ultimately come out of the other side feeling loved, valued, rested, and with memories. Our beds are soft and clean, and they are meant to be slept in. Our home is meant to be lived in, so we have strived to open it up as much as possible to anyone.

     Here's our imperfect guest room all ready for tonight's guest!

The small ways we try to pamper our guests

Striving to make our guest feel GREAT about herself after staying here

      These are just some small things we do to make guests feel welcome, and a small mustard seed way we try to change the world. 
       My second act today was to finally write a postcard to friends who are planting a church in Hawaii. They sent out these awesome postcards to send them a note several weeks ago. It's been stuck to the fridge since then, being procrastinated. I think I was trying to think of something profound to say, but I'm not super profound, I'm just me. I decided that this is a week all about celebrating my 30 years as me, so I needed to just write something from the heart. That's what I did. 

If you are interested in their work in Hawaii, they blog at You should check them out! They are also fundraising for their ministry there, so consider making a donation to their work. We have a hard task here in Hammond, but we are blessed to have family so close. They can't just drive home for a weekend, so I know they love words of encouragement and lots of prayers.
Day 1 was a lot of fun, and I look forward to the rest of this week, and discovering ways to be the kingdom here in our community and with the people I interact with.  

Overcoming Evil with Good

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     Given the news the past several days, it's evident that evil exists. It exists in suicide and death, it exists in persecution and genocide, it exists in hatred between religious groups, and exists in the rampant racism of our country and beyond. It's hard to know what to focus on. It's overwhelming to know what to do. 
     Do we send money to doctors battling ebola? Do we drive to St. Louis in some sort of solidarity with the black community against an unjust system? Do we post the suicide hotline number on our Facebook statuses, again? There are so many things to do, there are so many issues, the world seems to be falling apart. It is easy to be overcome by evil. 
      There's this voice, this verse in Romans that says, however, to not be overcome, but to overcome that evil with good. Not with money, or Facebook statuses, or violence, but with good. 
     The context of these verses are astounding. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
      Love, do good, bless others, mourn with those who mourn, live in harmony with others, don't repay evil for evil.
     So you know what I've done in light of things going on? I've gone out and met some neighbors, I threw a baby shower for a friend, I went for a tour at the local YMCA, I prayed hard, I've intentionally talked about these issues, and I love the people around me. 
    That might seem silly, small, ridiculous in light of all that has happened. I guess it is in a lot of ways, but I don't think the solution is throwing money at a problem, I definitely don't think the solution is throwing Molotov cocktails or bombing cities, I don't think the solution is changing the channel on the news and burying your head either. I think the solution is doing what you can by what means you can; loving your neighbors. Being a force in your community.
     I know this of the kingdom of God, it's like a mustard seed. Small, but grows into a weed with potential to tear down entire buildings and walls. The walls of racism, hatred, death, and greed. I can't go to St. Louis, or fly to Gaza or Iraq, but I can plant that mustard seed of the kingdom here. I can know my neighbors names, share cupcakes with them. Pour out love on my friends, be a home that's open to all who need it, be hospitable, be a person who lives outside of myself. I truly think those small kingdom things aren't small at all. I think they open us up to so much, I think God takes those small acts of love and compassion and they grow. They grow into a force to be reckoned with. They grow into something that changes the world. 

    It takes intention, it takes stepping outside of your comfort zone, it takes leaving your house, it takes everything we have, but it's so worth it. 

     So, this week I want to encourage everyone to get out of their homes and plant mustard seeds of the Kingdom. My birthday is a week from today, and I turn 30!! Something I've always wanted to do for my birthday is 30 random acts of kindness. This is more fitting this year than ever before, so join the Mustard Seed project, plant a seed of hope, of love, of compassion in your community, then come tell me about it! I want to hear at least 30 stories of ways you've loved others, blessed others, loved your enemy, fought racism, cared for the oppressed, anything that extends the kingdom of God. Or better yet, do 30 acts this week in honor of me. That would ultimately be the greatest gift ever, and from today forward to next week my birthday, I'm also going to do 30 things and come back here and blog about them each day. That means about 4 things a day. They don't need to be big, they just need to be done in great love. 

So who's up for the challenge? Let's overcome evil with good, together!


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     The delay in posting about our Mundelein students visiting, is not without reason. The main reason was to sigh a heavy sigh that we survived the summer. The other reason is, I have a disappointingly low number of photos. I was so busy living in the moment, and soaking up every second I could with these teens I love more than words could ever express.
    There aren't nearly as many shocking before and after photos, because so much of what was done, was to clean up and make the church workable for now. Plus,we needed some time to breathe. It's been such a whirlwind of a summer, that we had to play catch up on boring things like organizing receipts, and calling insurance companies. We also just needed some time to put our feet up for a couple days, before the next whirlwind started.
      Spending time with our teens from Mundelein was invaluable to us. It was a week of mixed emotions, as we watched them enjoy our new home, and got to admire how tall everyone has gotten in the 2 months since we left, we also knew we'd have to say goodbye again. We also had our first real issue of the week with one of our girls breaking her leg while adventuring at the beach. It broke our hearts to sit with her in the ER and watch her go through so much pain. It really is an emotional thing to want to help someone so much, and be very limited in what you can do. We are so grateful that she had an awesome Dr. and nurse, who took great care of her, and she is on the mend.
     There were lots of laughs, lots of stories, and lots of work done. Here are a few pictures that I managed to snap in the midst of basking in the moments I shared with people so precious to my heart.

Remember our hideous office room? It's completed now! Our first completed room in the house!
 Mac found his beloved friend, Classic, in the boxes we unpacked during the week
 This room looks much less dungeon like with paint on the walls! Once the ceiling is replaced, this room will also be completed. The last classroom at the church that needs to be finished.
 While organizing the books, a super nerd bookcase was created, this is a glimpse of that.

I have yet to take a picture of the entire garage sale pile organized, but I did manage to take a picture of this awesome find of the week.
 Every mission trip team's favorite place to go, Dairy Belle!
 Sable wanted her new friends to stay forever

      I'm sorry for the lack of pictures, but I do think it's important to live in the moment sometimes instead of behind a camera (or phone). I tried to do that. I'm so blessed to call these students mine, and I'm so grateful that we got to end our summer trips on such a high note! Now it's time to hit the ground running as school starts this week here in Hammond. Goodbye summer of 2014! You were awesome! Now on to fall 2014, I foresee the outflow of blessings to continue.

New Life Week 2

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   The second wave of New Life students left this morning. They did some of the hardest work of the summer. It wasn't particularly difficult, it was just insanely hot, and the projects were incredibly dirty. There was a lot of demolition this week, and some we hadn't even planned on.
    As things seem to go, the church building and house have layers of issues. When one thing is uncovered, several others come to the surface. Thus, one of the projects we thought was complete last week, ended up being part of a project this week.
    We really thought at this point all our projects would be done, but that is not the case. There is still a lot more to do, and the reality is setting in, that it all won't happen this summer (and that's OK). Our goal was to have a place that looks nice, that was safe, and that could be used as a tool to reach the community. Those things are almost completely achieved. While we may not have a completely working a/c, new sanctuary lights, or a new front door, we have torn down (and will continue to tear down) an unsafe ceiling, had an electrician bring a bunch of things up to code, gotten rid of tons of mold and mildew issues (and prevented them from coming back), and made much more practical space to hold events, work out of, and host people.
     Here are the before and after pictures of this week.

The Last Classroom Before 

This needs another before... because last week's after connects with this week's before
This room used to be the nursery. It is really small, and we weren't sure how to use this space. We have a whole lot of storage space, so we really weren't sure what this room would be. Now we know...
The during and after pictures

We opted to take the wood paneling off, like we did in the other room

 Oh look! They put wood paneling over a window, so this room actually has two windows not one. In a basement where light is extra important, we were excited (and perplexed) to find this. 

The burnt out light bulbs in the drywall we were not so excited to find. (We also found bricks in the drop ceiling, and in the plaster ceiling. We are so lucky no one got hurt).

 This is what we discovered about our "finished room". It was originally part of our unfinished room. We opted to take out the dry wall, and turn it into one large room. That way the room has more flexibility. We can use it as cafe overflow. We can use it for large classes. We can also get a temporary partition and split it into 2 classes (which makes more sense than drywall)


The current end product of those rooms. The ceiling needs to come down (it's sagging, and only a matter of time until it falls, and the electrician needs to do some serious rewiring in here) and the walls had to be patched, so they still need to be painted. Even with all of that, it still looks so much better! We're hoping that our group this week can finish this room up! 

The cafe ceilings before. Part had a drop ceiling over plaster, and the plaster had already begun to fall down in the back. The safe option was that it all needed to come down. A very messy project.

The cafe ceilings now. The electrician was able to move our light switches to a spot that makes more sense, and install light boxes for 3 ceiling fans and some fluorescent lights. We need to put up some mold resistant drywall, and then the ceilings will be done. In the mean time, we have this industrial look. 

Our new light switches up to fire code. He also installed them so we can run the fans without the lights, which will help if the basement gets wet this winter/spring. 

During demolition

The students also worked on our office room at the house (as well as some other small projects)
The Before of the office room
 during painting 


    This was a great week! I was so excited to meet these students, and about what God is doing in their lives. The other night, as they were over at the house for showers, the kids would just stop and carry on conversations with us. We talked about all sorts of topics, and it was great to see their minds working as they continue to work out their faith. We're continuing to work out our faith too, and we are grateful we got to share a part of this journey with these new friends.