Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Look At 2011

Here are some highlights of 2011, idea taken from SortaCrunchy:

Favorite reads: This year I enjoyed reading all of John Greens books (I'm in love!) including "Looking for Alaska", "Paper Towns", "An Abundance of Katherine's" and "Will Grayson, Will Grayson"

Favorite album: This year has been all about Mumford and Sons and Ingrid Michaelson! Love their albums as a whole!

Favorite music discoveries: Beach House and Fleet Foxes :)

Netflix fun: LOST and Dexter. I CANNOT GET ENOUGH! We finished LOST this year and we loved it! Amazing! And Dexter (We're up to season 5 now) AHH I can't get over the writing and characters of that show! (But be fair warned it is a bit (ok A LOT) graphic in all areas).

Most fun with currently running TV: I enjoy Jersey Shore and I do not even care that you are judging me right now. Snookie is just hilarious!!!! I also love "big bang theory" and "how I met your mother"

Biggest TV disappointment: Man of Interest. I really wanted it to be good. I really did. I mean IT'S BENJAMIN LINUS!! :(

Technology love: The iphone 4s my husband got me for Christmas takes the cake!

Best use of our home: Looking at this question makes me realize we haven't used our home very well! (Even tough it is only 400 sq ft so not that many can fit) but I'd say dinner and a bonfire with our dear friends Wes and Marla was a highlight :)

Most enjoyable travel: We went to Hawaii this past year and it was incredible!!! We got to spend a week with my in laws and my adorable nephews! It was great bonding time. I also parasailed for the first time!

Most rewarding project: My quest to buy only fair trade for Christmas. It really opened my eyes to not only how easy it is to start changing my shopping habits, but also how shopping fair trade with the prices being a tiny bit higher, made me really think about the person and if they would appreciate it, and made the gift giving much more precious.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: How much I love my niece Emma. I remember visiting her in the hospital when she was born and it was a "ok she's cute" moment but no real emotional bond...but now that I get to spend every weekday with her, I am smitten! She's so sweet and smart and funny! Which brings me to the next surprise, which is how much I love my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. They have proved to be the most generous and loving people I know, and getting to spend time with them is something I will cherish forever. They are truly family. And no, I'm not just sucking up cause they pay my bills. I really mean it. :)

Favorite snapshots taken by me:

My Husband on our whale watching date. I love him.

We're really cool

My sweet niece Emma. This picture kills me!

The youngest of 4 nephews, Kai. He is so caring and funny!

My cat Moshe scrounging for food!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Facts About Fair trade

As we come to the second week of advent and prepare for Christmas I want to talk about the facts of fair trade. This year I have made a commitment to buy only fair trade items for friends and family and sometimes it can be hard to know where to start and how to identify what products are fair trade. If you are new to fair trade there are probably even more questions floating through your head, so here are a few general facts about fair trade. If anyone has other information to add or correct please leave a comment! I want to make sure I am accurate and up to date. So here we go...

So what is fair trade?

I took this straight off of the world fair trade organizations website, because I think they sum it up so nicely.

"Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers"

A company then, that is committed to fair trade practices, will either buy ingredients from workers in other countries (or the U.S.) and make their own products (ensuring adequate pay and working conditions) , or they will sell handmade products from organizations already established. (ie: buy coconut oil in bulk to make their own shampoo and conditioner, or take handmade jewelry and sell it to consumers on behalf of the developing community, ensuring that the money goes directly back to that community.)

Why is it important to buy fair trade?

For me, it all comes down to this: we are seeing worse working conditions, outrageously low pay, unsafe environments, child labor, and slavery. And this is all because foreign companies and large U.S. corrperations need the cheapest labor, so they can sell it to the consumer at the cheapest price. (Walmarts "low price guarantee", anyone?)

Fair trade towns USA says this about fair trades importance:

"When you choose to purchase Fair Trade products, you are endorsing an economic system that provides opportunities for producers to lift themselves out of poverty. Fair Trade provides assurances to consumers that producers are paid fair prices for their products and labor. It gives them more direct market access which removes many of the “middle-men” who traditionally have absorbed the majority of the profits. In addition, Fair Trade provides a set of requirements that assure consumers that strict standards have been met to protect the environment, build economic sustainability, empower women, and allow opportunities for education, poverty alleviation, and health care."

So why is it so important? Because when you realize how drastically your purchases impact the lives of others, you can't help but want that impact to be a positive one. And all you have to do is shop! And we can start by shopping for things we all need, like bath and beauty products, recycled paper towels, etc. :)

Terms you should know:

Fair trade: A system of exchange that honors producers, communities, consumers, and the environment. It is a model for the global economy rooted in people-to-people connections, justice, and sustainability.

Cruelty-free: This sounds like a fair trade term, but it's not. Cruelty free is a term used when a product has not been tested on an animal.

Co-op: A co-op is when Fair trade organizations work primarily with small businesses and democratically run cooperatives that agree to reinvest a portion of profits in community projects like health care clinics and childcare programs. These cooperatives are trying to cut out any middle men, and buy only and directly through the producers to ensure fair wadges and to see community and social change. Sometimes you will see pictures and stories of the particular producer on a fair trade website.

Sustainable: This ties into the cooperatives and means that the company selling the fair trade items create opportunities for social and sustainable economic development to the producer.

USDA Organic: A product claiming to be organic using the USDA organic label means that the product is 90-95 percent organic. And although many fair trade products are organic, a product carrying this label may not be fair trade. This doesn't mean not to shop organic though! I'm a big fan of organic.

How can you tell if it's really fair trade?

This one can be tricky, as many companies are noting the recent trend in conscious shopping and can slap the fair trade name on a product, but one of the best ways to identify a fair trade item is by its label. There are two very important symbols to watch out for, So you know it is certified fair trade. Remember, just because it says it is fair trade, doesn't mean it is. Do some research first.

I am still learning about fair trade everyday and am so honored to be a part of this movement to care so deeply for the hands that make the products I use. For more information on fair trade certification and fair trade in general, visit the fair trade USA website here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Fight To Be Fair

Just about a year ago I wrote a blog post reflecting on how my obsession with my image had caused me to neglect my heart for fair trade. I became more interested in a shampoo that was "curl inhancing" to go along with my new haircut than with how my products were made and who they were made by. I quickly re-evaluated myself and felt like I was back on track....

Well....things have gotten bad again. This time though, it isn't about the's about the money - coupons to be exact. You see, I've become a bit crazy about saving myself some money. I'm not a crazy coupon lady by any means but I have become more interested in cutting out coupons...and to be honest, buying things I don't really need just because they are on sale.

I knew it was really bad when a few weeks ago I was buying 4 different 2-in-1 shampoos because I had $1 off coupons. Which is just exsessive, but that's not the worst part of it. The really bad part is when my husband walked down the isle to see me carrying all these shampoos and very casually and politely said "what happened to trying to buy fair trade bath products?". I instantly got defensive and chewed him out right there in the grocery store. "I'm trying to save this family some money!!!" (funny...I almost wrote save this money some family!) and "Why don't I see YOU buying anything fair trade? Why is it always on me? " which isn't even true at husband tries to be conscious as well.

This incident really hit me. Money makes me cranky. When I shop fair trade, it may cost me a bit more...but I'm happier. And so are many other people whose lives are changed because I spent a few extra dollars. Now, advent started today, and I think advent and fair trade go quite nicely together. Advent is the period of preparation leading up to Christmas. And what better time than Christmas to talk about money and consumerism. So this advent season, all my posts will be about the coming Christ and the continual fight for fair trade. May we, this advent season, find hope in Christ, and may we find ways to share that hope with others.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Being A Youth Pastor's Wife (On Burn Out)

Being a youth pastor's wife is the most rewarding job I have. But it is also the most heart-breaking, most frustrating, most draining thing I do. It is not easy to do this "job". And for me, it is a full time unpaid job. I work 3 jobs right now to make up the income from quitting my last job, and at the end of the day I go on to chaperon youth events and lead worship for Jr. high and Sr. high youth group.

My real problem is that I desperately want to be involved with my husbands ministry. If I could quit all my jobs and just work with him, I would do it in a heart beat. I LOVE student ministries. I have worked with youth as a volunteer for 6 years (2 years on my own out of high school and 4 years have been spent volunteering along side my now husband). I'm not like one of those people who never thought they'd be a pastor's spouse. No, I knew I would be. I KNEW that the ministry of the church (particularly youth) was so important to me that God had to bring me someone who loved youth too. And God did.

But I am suffering from some burnout these days.

And to be honest with you...I'm the only youth pastor's spouse I know that hasn't identified their boundaries (If you're out there too, let me know!). One of my best friends and college roommate is also a youth pastor's wife, but she barely goes to any events. My husband and I realized we've never ever SEEN the wife of a youth pastor here in town that we frequently do events with. I feel so alone in my battle. I desperately want to be a part of this ministry, but I am wearing myself too thin.

A lot of the times I do so much because I see so many hurting kids. I think "Oh, I should really take her out for coffee...she looks like she needs to talk to someone. That's what I'm suppose to do right? I AM the youth pastors wife after all..." For whatever reason, this is the ideal of what a youth pastors spouse should be, and though taking a teenager out for coffee is something I can and have done, it's not my instinctual way of showing these kids that I care about them and love them. To be honest, I'm just more likely to give them a hug and tell them it's going to be okay.  Let me reiterate: I LOVE THESE KIDS. But if I think I'm SUPPOSE to take all the students out for coffee, it probably won't happen. Because it isn't my gift, I will probably fail at remembering to take them out. Then I feel like a I'm not able to help these teenagers I care so much for. I'm trying to make my ideals of my role as a youth pastor's wife fit into something I am not. The real problem isn't that I can't touch the lives of these hurting kids. Oh, I can. It's that I'm not letting myself be exactly who I am. They don't need or want the me I think I should be...they want the me that God made me to be.

I tried to think back on the youth pastor's wife when I was in high school. Her name is Jayme and I LOVED HER. I remember special times when she would help me learn chords on the keyboard while I was on the worship team. And I STILL HAVE postcards she wrote me about how special she thought I was. Little moments, even though she wasn't there for every event, meant the world to me. And by sometimes distancing herself from the ministry of her husband, and having boundaries, she was able to be exactly who she was exactly when I needed it.

Last week I attended a youth worker training day (that my wonderful husband helped create and run) called "Equip" and they had a phenomenal speaker named Katie Quesada there. In her message to us she said something so powerful. So wonderfully refreshing. She said:

"You are unique. The truest you, the you God created, what you are, is exactly what people need. No more, no less. What you have to offer, the way it feels most natural, is what people need."

We are unique. Do not try to be something you aren't just because you think that's what your role is. I need to be a wife, a nanny, a youth worker, a preschool teacher, a sister, a daughter, a Sunday school director. And I need to know where I am in all of those roles. I need to see me. I need to see that my work does not define me. That I am perfect just how I am in the small ways I do all those things.

I cannot be the best version of myself for these kids when I have no boundaries. I am worn thin. I am frustrated with them. I am frustrated with myself. I am frustrated with God. I do too much. When I say yes to too many things, I can do none of them well. If I want to be effective, I have to choose my boundaries. You have to say no to most things (even good worthwhile things) in order to do those few things as best as you can. You have to say "no" to say "yes".

When do I say no? What do I say yes to? I think we should say yes to the things that bring us joy. Say yes to the things that feel most naturally "you".

I absolutely love the way the message translation talks about "spiritual gifts" or as I like to call them "glimpses of God". You can read a whole excerpt here, but I wanted to point out a few parts with my own twist from my own life. Instead of listing the spiritual gifts as they traditionally appear, I can't help but see it this way:

You have God's smile

You have God's eyes

You have God's heart

You have God's creativity

You have God's words

You have God's touch

We are all unique. We are all exactly who God has made us to be. Sometimes we get a little dusty, but our heart...God's right there.

I love this part in verse 13 "Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. (***Like "pastor's wife"***) We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less."

We are not labels. We are precious children of God who are given special parts of God to give to each other. The first thing we need to do is remember who we are. If you need to go away and spend an extended amount of time discovering this, DO IT. When you know who you are and who God made you to be, you will naturally show God's love.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

You Have to Know Their Name

After writing in my last post about words becoming flesh, and talking about Social Justice over at Sorta Crunchy for 40 Days of Community, I couldn't help but be reminded of how important our actions are when talking about social justice.

Wes and I are taking a group of 6 high school kids on a mission trip to Los Angeles this summer, and we have been meeting weekly with them to help prepare them for the trip. They have readings, reflections and bible memorization's due, all to help point them towards a better understanding of homelessness and our call to continue to work with God to bring His Kingdom to earth. We want to teach them that the Gospel is more than words, it is action (and even more than just action, it is hearing the stories of others). I thought I would research a little bit to see the demographics of the homeless in our town to share with the kids.

I decided to look up "homeless in (our town)" on google. And although I could not find any homeless shelters in my town, I did find a "Help for the Homeless Pets" here. "Wow" was all I could say. We have people sleeping in the riverbed every night and yet we have shelters for pets and not for PEOPLE.

Our town does not have a homeless shelter...and the closest one is at least a 30 minute drive. And yet we have so many homeless people living here, camped out under tarps in the riverbed.

To be honest, I'm not one to talk. I've never even been down in the riverbed. We have one place where the hungry can receive a meal, and it's only once a week and I've never served food there.

I have served the homeless before, though. I have talked with them, eaten with them, ridden the bus with them. I have. But it has been so long. In the 2 years I've lived in this town, I have only had conversations with one homeless man...and that's only because we knew him before he was homeless. I's just...that I've forgotten them. I've stopped seeing their faces, so it doesn't hurt as much anymore. I don't KNOW them I don't think about them.

Needless to say, I'm not good at this yet. I'm really very good at articulating what needs to be done. And I know quite a bit about Social Justice..but it's the doing it that is the hardest. I'm not there yet...but I'm trying (And knowing the needs is the first step). I want to really help people, but it's hard to know where to start sometimes.

I love organizations like Compassion International, Toms Shoes and Operation Christmas Child...but where are we challenging people to be face to face with those in need? Am I challenged? These organizations are doing wonderful things...but...It is EASY to sponsor a child for 38 dollars a month. It is EASY to buy a pair of Toms. It is EASY to fill a shoebox once a year. It is not as easy to walk the riverbed where the homeless sleep on the ground. It is not as easy to eat a meal with the homeless at the soup kitchen. It is not as easy to give a sandwich to a child who has sores on her body because her family can't even afford to go to the clinic.

It is easy to give money. It is easy to separate us from the homeless. It's when you know their name that things get sticky. It's when you know that Bonnie has 3 children and lives on the street. It's when you know that Jessie can't get out of prostitution. It's when you know that Chuck can't get a's then when your heart truly breaks...and its then that you see Jesus.

Here are some things to get us headed in the right direction...

May we know the stories of the weak. May we know the names of poor. And may we always see Jesus in their faces.

James 2: 15- 16 "If you know someone who doesn't have any clothes or food, you shouldn't just say, "I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat." What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help?"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Word Becoming Flesh

My birthday was last week. I love birthdays...I mean, I LOVE THEM. Needless to say when I realized that my birthday fell during lent and I had already resolved to delete my facebook, I was devastated. NO ONE WILL REMEMBER MY BIRTHDAY!

For my birthday I ended up getting 3 cards, 1 email, 2 phone calls (This does not include immediate family which added a few more) and 10 text messages.

This is not to say that I had a bad birthday, it was very nice and those who contacted me made it very special, but I wanted to break that down because my last birthday I got 40+ birthday message on my facebook wall (with minimal phone calls no cards and no texts). This year, without facebook, there were 15 people who wished me a happy birthday and 75% of them still resorted to a text based communication. I find this so fascinating! And I also relate to it so well.

I used facebook as my primary means of communication. And now that I have given it up, I have to actually WORK in my relationships now. I have to make time to cultivate my friendships. Before lent I was completely satisfied with reading others facebook posts and commenting on them, almost as my sole means of communicating with them. See, I am a very busy person. I work 3 jobs and my husband is a youth pastor and I am highly involved with his ministry as well. It was easier and more efficient to send a text and a comment. But at what cost? I have lost the value of sitting together, sharing our hearts and lives with one another.

It really makes me think about how we choose to communicate and how that can impact the message of what we are saying (and how that communication deepens or widens our personal relationships).

The other night I was watching a video series at a Bible study and we heard the story about a man who had a hard time expressing his feelings of love to his son, so he wrote them in a letter. The commentator called this act "word becoming flesh" they did not just stay inside someone's head or heart, they were spoken. And the farther we get from internet/text based "words" the more precious those words are. The closer we get to real face to face communication, the more vulnerable we are, and the more vulnerable we are, the better we can be God's love to those around us, and receive that love back.

Note on my wall at facebook - Text message - Phone call - Letter in the mail - Going out for coffee.......I'd much rather give/receive the last 3 means of communication...but it seems like they have become an obsolete means of communication.

Shane Hipps, author of "Flickering Pixels" and teaching Pastor at Mars Hill Church says this about relationships and facebook:

"The narcissism created by these technologies [facebook] is unique. It encourages not just self-absorption, but, more accurately, self-consumption. We become creators and consumers of our own brand. We become enamored by a particular kind of self, a pseudo-self.....This heavily edited and carefully controlled self easily hides certain parts of ourselves we don’t want others to see. This is hardly new, of course. In any social situation, we seek to control the impression we give. The problem is that in real social settings, there are limits to what we can hide. At a certain point, people intuitively see through us. Eventually they get a sense of who we really are. And in this way, real friendships can function as a healthy mirror. They become an honest mirror that loves but doesn’t flatter us."

This kind of real face to face communication is so vital for us to grow and feel and live. So vitally important for us to become deeper followers of Jesus Christ.

Let us remember: God did not shout from the heavens "I love you my children, you are free from the curse." No, God sent Jesus. A real live man who loved his enemies, ate with the poor, physically died for us, and then miraculously rose from the dead. It's as real flesh and blood as you can get. God did not just speak it. He loved us too much for that. This is what we are celebrating on Easter: God became flesh and blood and died a flesh and blood kind of death and then defeated that death so that we could be face to face with God and His kingdom.

So as we continue through lent, may we act out our relationships in the fleshiest kind of ways.

John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reflections on Community (2)

Focusing on community through the 40 days of community challenge has been a real blessing to me and a compliment to what I gave up for lent: facebook. It's funny really...the first few days without facebook were HORRIBLE. I felt disconnected from everyone, I felt left out of certain information (because no one remembers to tell you in person if they already put it on facebook!) was hard. But I decided to continue on.

I started calling people (most of my family and close friends don't live near me anymore so this is the communication I have right now) to see how things were going...and one conversation in particular stands out to me. I called my youngest brother Chris (I'm the oldest of 4 kids) who turned 18 not too long ago. We ended up talking for about an hour and a half. We talked about transitions, jobs, money, housing, music and relationships. I got to really open up about my hopes surrounding future employment and moving soon (oddly enough we are in the same boat with these two topics!)

By the end of our conversation, it felt so good to SHARE LIFE with him. To support each other and know that we would be there in the good and the bad. Before we hung up I said to him "Yeah I just called you to see what's going on now that I can't read it on facebook anymore" and he said "You know...all the things we talked about I haven't really shared with anyone, especially on facebook." I'm not missing anything on facebook, really. Sure I'm missing status' like "Out to dinner" or "Watching Tommy boy!" but I'd have to actually talk to people to share in the stories of their heart anyway. You know...I just might never go back to might have sufficed before lent to just read my brothers mundane status' and never call him...but boy...

...There's nothing better than the love of a brother.

Circa 1992 My sister Thea, My brother Jon, and myself holding my brother Chris

Friday, March 18, 2011

Community Feels

For the past few days I was hit hard with a personal issue. It wasn't one I wanted to share with fact only 3 people knew (besides my husband). When it happened, I just couldn't keep it inside of me. It scared me, it made me nervous...I couldn't do it alone. I told my 3 closest friends and their words flooded me with support. No matter what happened, no matter how it went, they were there for me. They FELT what I felt. They lavished me with good words. When I found that the outcome wasn't what I had expected, I was crushed. When I told them the results, they were sad too.

Community feels. In a true community, when one hurts, we all cry. When one feels joy, we all dance. Thank God for the love of friends.

When have you felt for others? When have others felt for you?

“A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons." - Bishop Desmond Tutu

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Words and Birds

My neighbors in the apartment next to me have this big beautiful parrot. I usually don't hear it very often but today the bird is out of the balcony while they are doing some cleaning inside.

I've always enjoyed birds. I've had love birds, cockatiels, and the last bird I had was a nanday conure named Jazz. He looked just like this:

I loved that bird but had to give him away when I went off to college. Jazz used to sing and whistle all the time, but he never talked. My neighbors parrot on the other hand...can't stop talking. It laughs, and says a new phrase every couple of minutes...I actually thought my neighbor was on the porch it imitates so well!

I could hear the bird say "Quit it!" "What is it now?!" "Get to bed!" several times...mostly "quit it" (Which I've heard the mom actually say to her kids quite frequently). It seemed very telling to me. What if you had something repeating the most common, most used phrases in your house? What would they be? What are the words you choose to say?

I'm sure if I had a talking bird in my house it would probably say at least these two common phrases (I'll let you guess which is the one my husband says and which one I say)

"Clean up the house!"
"Could you please get off the xbox?!"

What words are resonating in our home? What is our focus? How do our words reflect us?

I realized last night that my husband and I both have one of the same mechanisms in conflict: we say mean things. We both do it. And we both can say heart breaking things to one another. Not prime "building others up" kind of material here. At the end of a fight we say we don't mean what we said...but that damage has been done.

Last night I felt guilty about those words I had been saying. If you say things long enough, people believe they are true about themselves. I went up to my husband and grabbed his face (btw I have no concept of personal space so this happens a lot haha!) and said "I know I've said some hurtful things to you. I want you to know that I'm moving forward and I don't want to say those things to you anymore."I can't guarantee that I will suddenly stop this pattern we've gotten ourselves into, but at least I can try. And at least we can focus on other words.

I'd hope that if I had a bird in my home, it's most common phrase would be "I love you."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Meal With Theologians (and their wives)

This weekend my husband and I went to a potluck. For the past 6 months Wes has been meeting monthly with a group of youth pastors who all work at churches (from all kinds of denominations) about half an hour from our town. They decided last month that it would be fun to get their families all together to meet each other and share a meal.

To be honest I was kind of dreading it at first. I LOVE being with people but lately I've been so busy with church, work, youth group, marriage etc that all I want to do at the end of the day is be alone. This was a very important time for Wes so I bucked up and went along.

We arrived to meet with about 5 different youth pastors and their families and I couldn't have had a better night. We may all come from different theological backgrounds, different family types, but we were all youth pastors and youth pastors' wives, and there's no one who can understand you more than someone going through the same thing.

Wes and I live in a small town where there aren't many young couples or families and there are even less people who have a similar perspectives and passions. Most of the time we feel very alone. We have a small group at our church that we love, but there is a little something missing.

At first I just stayed next to Wes listening to the guys talk about ministry and theology and life. Then one of the kids came outside and wanted me to play with her (comfort zone!) so we walked upstairs and I found all the kids and their mom's. Now, I'm not a mom (been married just under a year) but with my background working with children and my love for people, it's pretty easy for me to join the group. We started by introducing ourselves but it quickly went to some real issues that resonated with all of us as wives of those in ministry. We talked about, time management, painful ministry hierarchy, marriage, about opening up our home for someone to live in, or humbling yourself to live with someone was just so good to be around a whole group of people that feel the same feelings and think the same things. We clicked.

It's funny...earlier that night one Youth Pastor was talking about how parents in his church were upset that there were "clicks" in the youth group....but you can't force people to be friends. Those "clicks" are a solid group of friends dedicated to each other. You can teach people to love each other and be kind to your enemies...but that doesn't mean they will always connect.

An important part of community is CONNECTION. Common interest. Similar personalities. You can't force people to connect. You can't force community. (But you can have meals together to discover those connections!)

I picked my best friends - the ones I share my heart with. I don't share that with everyone...and that's okay! At the end of the night our group had asked if we wanted to do this more regularly, hosting at differnet homes (and the possibility of starting a small group bible study). YES. YES PLEASE! We need a community of people dedicated to each other. Feeling along side us.

Let's just say...

I can't wait for our next meal together.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Reflections on Community (1)

I am joining in on a journey through lent over at Sorta Crunchy. Each day we are reading a devotion from "Common Prayer" (a book available online at ). I can't remember the last time I was doing consistent daily this has been such a good thing for me! Each week during the "4o Days of Community" I'm going to reflect on my readings from "Common Prayer". This first week was...convicting to say the least! Especially my reading on Wednesday. There was a quote from Basil of Caesarea that said this:

Are you not a robber, you who consider your own that which as been given you solely to distribute to others? This bread which you have set aside is the bread of the hungry; this garment you have locked away is the clothing of the naked; those shoes which you let rot are the shoes of him who is barefoot; those riches you have hoarded are the riches of the poor.

Wow. So straight forward. If you have excess, that excess is for the hoarding it, you have let the poor continue to be naked and hungry.

Now...a little back story on why this has hit me so hard. My husband and I are hoping to move into a place on our family's land in the next 6 months. This is a better choice all around for us...except for one thing: it's smaller than our 2 bedroom's 400 sq ft. And to be honest, we're a little freaked out sometimes when we talk about it...and it's not even for a good reason! We're freaked out because "How will we fit all our stuff in it?" I've talked about this before, but I come from a long line of family hoarders! We love to save any thing that has even a little meaning or that could maybe be used later. THIS IS GOING TO BE HARD.

I found a mom who lives in a small place too that has simplified her life. I LOVE THE WEBSITE! It has tips on how to do exactly what I desperately want to do....I have a lot of things to go through...but how can I not be compelled. It is only is only "stuff". What really matters in this life is how we love God and others.

Matthew 25:41-45 "I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat, and I was thirsty, but you did not give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, but you did not welcome me, and I was naked, but you did not give me any clothes to wear. I was sick and in jail, but you did not take care of me." Then the people will ask, "Lord, when did we fail to help you when you were hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in jail?"

The king will say to them, "Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lent - Making Room for God

I realized today that this will be my first real participation in the season of lent. Growing up in an evangelical church, we were more interested in Good Friday and Easter than Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. And I'd never practiced the discipline of lent - never given or taken something up for those 40 days before Easter.

Now that Wes and I have been involved with a more traditional church for the past few years, I am learning more about this wonderful season. And with us being more theologically minded, I really wanted to take lent seriously. There's no giving up "candy" or "soda" for me. This needed to mean something. It needed to be something that makes room for God.

I was trying to explain lent to some 1st and 2nd grade kids in our church. Eventually I ended up saying "Lent is giving up (or taking up) something that you like to do, but if done too much, could be bad for you, and by giving it up it will bring you closer to God." And our kids actually came up with some cute ideas like, "I will stop shopping at "Justice"" , "I will stop riding in the car and walk more", "I will give up my video games" and "I will stop fighting with my sister" etc.

So I have been thinking long and hard about what to do for lent. Wes and I are following this guideline to help us:

1. What kind of person do you want to be?
2. What keeps you from being who you want to be?
3. How does giving this up, strengthen your relationship with God and others?

After thinking about it for some time, I finally realized this:

I want to be present in the lives of those around me. Instead, I feel myself very disconnected from those around me, even though I am connected to hundreds of people through social networks like facebook and twitter. In fact, those social network sites are hindering my ability to focus on those around me. I can know everything my cousin is doing everyday because of status updates...but when was the last time I actually talked to my cousin? Ate with my cousin? Laughed with my cousin? Facebook gives me (us?) a false sense of closeness - not to mention I spend an average of 4 hours a day on it. Giving up facebook will give me space to make room for God and others. It will force me to watch a movie with my husband, instead of sit on the computer while he plays video games. It will force me to call up a friend for coffee (because I've suddenly opened up a couple hours of my evening!). It will give me time to read, write and pray.

I recently discovered a blog that I totally dig called Sorta Crunchy written by a mom who's passions seem to be very similar to mine. She is starting a Lenten practice called "40 days of community". This community of bloggers and readers will be participating in a few "challenges" but one of my favorites is this: Once a week, share a meal with someone you've never shared a meal with before.


What a vulnerable but life-nourishing challenge! It is hard to eat with those you don't know well. It can be awkward! But what a great compliment to what I am desperately trying to do: spend quality time with those around me. We are also reading a book together called "Common Prayer" by Shane Claiborn (who I love tremendously) and we will be writing reflections on what we are reading. Please check out that post specially here.

Social Justice and The Church

Wes and I are taking a small group of high school students on a mission trip this summer. We are being very intentional about equipping them to really understand the poverty in our world, by having them meet once a week as a group, read assigned readings and write reflections and participate in team building activities (I'm in charge of that part). It has been a surprising journey...these kids are really exceeding my expectations!

We recently read a chapter called "Social Action" from the book "Adventures in Missing the Point" by Brian Mclaren and Tony Campolo, and since adult chaperons are required to do all the work the kids are, I've decided to blog my answers to the discussion questions at the end of the chapter.

1. How have you been involved in social action?

Wes and I recently took our young adult bible study group to Forest Home for their conference. The guest speaker was Tony's son, Bart (And boy did we enjoy him!). He spoke often of the difference between "social action/justice" and "compassion. He gave a great analogy to help us understand.

You are standing by a river and you start to see babies floating down the river. You rush to them, pulling as many as you can out of the water and tend to them. THIS IS COMPASSION. Social justice then is the act of waking up the river and finding out who is throwing babies in the river and stopping them.

And we need both. We need compassionate people, and we need people committed to social action. The closest I've come to social justice, in my mind, is through supporting a company I've blog about here before: Anti-Body. They realized that the system of trading in the world was messed up. So they fixed it. They stopped the cycle by only supporting and buying from small local co-ops in third world counties. But even further justice might be to go even higher in political situations to fight for the rights on those people as a whole. I'm good at compassion...I like that action is hard. And scary.

2. what do you think about partnership between government and religion?

I think it's tricky! I think money can be used for good...but when a religious organization relies heavily on government funding, the thought of losing it can be more important that the work you set out to do. I found this to be true for heavily funded government organization I worked for a couple years ago. It seemed like keeping up with government standards was more important than children and families. They were so paranoid about losing the money that they sacrificed quality care. I think religious organizations have the potential to fall into that money trap and lose the real meaning of why the were there in the first place. (This of course isn't to say that ALL religious organizations with government funding are bad/money driven...but there is only one King in the Kingdom of Heaven that has manifested itself on this earth, and it is not the government).

3. What place should questions about why the poor are poor have in the conversation within Christian communities?

I think it should take place everywhere until it doesn't need to be said anymore because people are actually talking to the poor.....what I mean is...talking about it is the first step, and I think it should really be talked about seriously in the Church. We are the body of Christ, we are the Kingdom come, and we need to KNOW THE POOR. I always tell the kids that you'll call them hobos until you actually know them...then you'll call them Chuck or Annie, or Bill. You'll know why the poor are poor when you start asking them. And I'm not all that great at this yet! I'm still working on knowing their names...

4. To what forms of social action, if any, might God be calling you?

Ahhhh good question. This is hard, since I feel like more of a compassion kinda girl...(cop out? I dunno, maybe...) I think the things I get most "angry" about are a good place to start. Like child rights/labor issues, and paying fair wages to workers around the world.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gadanke - Celebrate Your Story

I recently stumbled upon the blog of a wonderfully creative mom who has made it her passion to celebrate the stories we have inside of us through thoughtful handmade eco-friendly journals. These aren't just your average journal though...they contain little quotes, questions and prompts to help you tell your story. The journals range form little thankful books, to love letter books, to books about the place you call home. The are so cute and could really be treasured items for family members in decades to come. These are a few that are on my wish list and please visit her website here.