Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cheers 2014!

In 2013...
I graduated with my Master's in Teaching.
Philip graduated with his Bachelor's in Elementary Education.
We worked at the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle.
We celebrated two years of marriage.
I got my first teaching job.
Philip started his Master's in Special Education Program.
His grace is big.  Cheers 2014!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Teenagers Are Underrated

The Teenager I currently live with-- my little bro.

I'm a high school teacher (for the first time).  Which means I willingly spend the better part of each day hanging out with a bunch of rowdy teens.  I know they have their quirks, but sometimes I feel like I'm one of the few people on the planet that actually finds teenagers to be delightful.  Sure they can be stinkers at times, but they hold a special place in my heart for several reasons.

They're still becoming who they are.  I want to partner with these people during this crucial part of their journey.  Whether they realize it or not, the things they do now will have a huge impact on their future.  In looking for answers about who they are, I hope to be one voice answering, "You are valuable!  You are unique!  You can succeed!"

They're angsty.  How great is it that they care?  They are passionate little buggers!  Every little thing gets them worked up.  I tell them often that many of the revolutions in history have been  lead by people their age or a few years older.  And yes, sometimes I am on the receiving end of their rebellion.  That part isn't as fun, but it is helping me learn to overcome my people-pleasing tendencies, so in a way I am thankful for it.

They care about fashion, media, pop-culture.  I do, too!  I love that they are up-to-date on everything that's going on in the world.  I try to keep up with these things partly because I find the social implications fascinating--nerd alert, and partly because I want to be able to relate with people and keep in touch with our ever-changing society.  I also have a mild clothes addiction.  So there's that.

They are f-u-n-n-y.  I can't even tell you how many times a day they make me laugh.  I love exchanging silly banter back-and-forth with them.  It is a blast.

They  are (mostly) not children.  With my students, I do not experience the constant anxiety that I feel while supervising their younger counterparts.  I am not constantly worried that someone might die.  I can talk about important things with them, and they get it.  Plus nobody poops their pants.  I think having to intervene with bodily functions is one of the main reasons why I could not be an elementary school teacher.

They are needy.  It might not always seem like it, but they are constantly searching for positive connections with strong adults.  Teens want need someone to look up to.  I hope that for at least a few of them, I can be one of those people.  

I need to remember these things next time I'm ready to pull my hair out because they are throwing erasers, chatting during silent reading, blurting out "sweg," (which apparently is the new "swag") or just plain giving me sass.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Building a Foundation

What am I doing with my life?  I live with my parents.  I hangout with teenagers all day (trying to teach them to read, write, and stop whining).  I go to bed at 9.  It seems like all I do is teach, prepare to teach, fill out teaching-related paperwork, hangout with my husband/family, with the occasional quiet time thrown in the mix.  My life is soooo glamorous.  

I am married to a very wise man.  He loves the story in the bible where Solomon could have asked God for anything--riches, hot girls, popularity, fame, a sweet house, power, status you name it--and he asks for wisdom.  I think it's because Philip shares this heart.  He actively seeks out wisdom and I believe the Lord pours it out on him.  (Bonus:  Solomon ends up getting all of the above swag because he sought wisdom and God decided to bless him).

So when I asked Philip the nagging question on my mind, "What am I doing with my life?"  he started talking to me about building a house.  He said the process starts with building a foundation.  Phil said that the thing about the foundation is that while you're building it, you can't see many results.  If you looked at a construction site at this point in the process you might not be able to tell that progress was being made.  He also said that building the foundation takes a long time.  Once you start building the rest of the house, the process speeds up.  Things start to fall into place, and before you know it voila your home is complete.  But while you're building the foundation, it can take awhile.  

Oh boy.  This sounds like my worst nightmare.  A.  You can't see any results.  And B. it takes forever!  These are two concepts that I am just not comfortable with.  When I'm putting in hard work, I want to see the results--preferably instantly!  Mostly, I want others to be able to see them.  If I am building a house I want the neighbors to stop and stare.  I want "oooohs," and "aaaahs," from bystanders that can't help but notice how awesome I am.  And waiting...not.  my.  thing.  I know I'm supposed to learn to persevere but my prayers tend to sound more like, "Lord gimme patience, and gimme it now!"  

Without building a strong foundation, though, the house is doomed to fall.  Jesus once talked about something similar (Matthew 7:24-27):

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

So what am I doing with my life?  I am building a foundation.  I am orienting my life around the teachings of Jesus--or rather I am allowing him to reorient my life.  I am spending time intentionally getting to know Jesus and surrendering more of myself to him.  I am taking small faith steps and trusting God. I am allowing his gospel to invade my life.  It is slow.  At times, you can hardly tell that anything is happening.   It is less than glamorous.  But it is crucial.  One day I'll be thriving amidst a storm, and I'll be glad for this season.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

I Saw Something Beautiful

At a gay pride event this summer.

What was a Conservative Christian girl from rural Eastern Washington doing at a Pride event???  True, my personal convictions don't necessarily agree with the homosexual lifestyle.  However, I want to better understand people who are different than myself.  I want to be a part of reconciliation.  There are walls between the homosexual community and the Christian community that I'd like to take an ax to.

I must say that though I saw some things I'd never before been exposed to before (and some things I would probably have preferred not to be exposed to).  That aside, I got to legitimately enjoy, celebrate and connect with people who identify as homosexual.  And it was awesome! Sometimes around people in the gay community I feel nervous.  Not because I'm homophobic, but because I'm afraid of coming off as homophobic.  In my head I'm like, "Don't seem like you're judging them.  Act natural."  I know that internal banter gives me nervous ticks.  I didn't feel this way that day.  Somehow, being at a Pride event seemed to give me instant immunity.  It was like since I was there, they knew I was for them and I didn't have to feel awkward.

That's where it all went down.  A young teenage girl was standing nearby.  A man walked past her on the street and yelled profanity at her as if she didn't matter.  "F*** you b***."

She sat on curbside next to me and began weeping.  I didn't know what to do.  I asked, "Are you okay?"  To which she replied, "No."  Through sobs she was saying things like, "My friends ditched me,"  "What did I do to deserve this,"  "I'm a nice person," "Why is this happening to me?"  I patted her back trying to comfort her and managed to muster a few encouraging phrases such as, "You don't deserve to be treated this way," "You're not a b*****," and "You'll be okay."  I'm glad I did something, but I wish I would have done more.  I felt a little like Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory.

Then somebody who knew what they were doing showed up.  A lesbian couple came and asked her if everything was okay and if there was anything they could do to help.  One of them was Latina.  I like to think that this cultural background is where some of her strength came from.    Then she started pouring out encouragement.  She knew all the right words to say.  Through her words, the broken, soft-hearted young lady was able to find the strength to get up and walk away, her head held high.  But not before she had hugged her encourager, and myself and thanked us for our support.  

Next time, I hope I can react more like the second woman--to be strong, brave and uplifting.  She taught me about reaching out to others. I hope to be like her one day.  I like the idea that two people as different as I gather she and I were, can learn from each other, can celebrate life together, can work towards a greater good together.  This was a beautiful moment for me, and one that I will long carry with me.  


Monday, October 7, 2013

Taking a Maxi from Summer to Fall

A maxi dress is a great piece to wear on outings because you just throw it on and look instantly fabulous.  I wore mine this summer to the zoo, and just added a statement necklace.  It was breezy and comfortable in the humid Seattle weather.  Then I wore it again on a cool evening at the beach.   This time I added a light scarf that my sister brought me back from India, and an unbuttoned chambray.  As the weather begins to cool, I'm not quite ready to lay it to rest.  In order to stay warm in the crisp fall air at a pumpkin patch this weekend, I layered a white long-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of leggings underneath, added a cozy cowl that my friend Brittany made, and threw my army jacket on.  

This dress sure has seen some good times.  Wonder if I can find a way to stretch its use out through the long cold winter, too.  How do you wear maxis?  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

City vs. Country

While I'm eternally grateful for my new job in rural eastern Washington, I think I'm a city girl at heart.  I was just getting used to life there when I had to leave it.  There are definitely things I can appreciate about the smaller town life.  Many days, I miss Seattle.  But then I have to remind myself about the things that I am definitely not missing.

Things I miss about the city

public transit
businesses staying open late
Madison Pub
the shopping
black people
awesome ethnic cuisine #vietnamesesandwiches
so many things to do
Downtown Cornerstone Church
the skyline

Things I don't miss about the city

those gloomy days
the lack of cheap grocery stores #walmart #winco
having to pay for bags at the grocery store
paper bags instead of plastic bags
getting lost
expensive rent
paying for parking everywhere

Which do you prefer: city life or country life?  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: The Great Gatsby

This movie is my latest obsession.  As a nerdy-English major, I thought that it was my duty to watch the movie.  Though, confession, I've never read the book.  We just bought it, and I get it as soon as my husband is done with it (he called dibs).

The fashion.  Twenties fashion is everywhere right now.  I oogled and oggled the flappers, the pearls, the glitz and glam.  Almost equally as eye-pleasing was what the men were wearing.  Gotta love that slicked back hair, those dapper bowties and straw hats.  Plus, I am now obsessed with this haircut.  Wonder if I could pull it off, or if it just looks beautiful because it's on Carey Mulligan's face.

The twists and turns.  This movie satisfies my appetite for drama and adventure without the gut-wrenching horror brought on by, say, Batman.  There is mystery, suspense, and a twist-ending.  I love/hate the ending--it's a doozy!  The movie wouldn't be the same without the  shocking closer, but I still found myself inwardly chanting things like, "No!"  and "Look out!" and "Don't do it!"

It wasn't fantasy, but it had a fantastic feel to it.  The character of Gatsby seems unreal.  He throws larger than life parties every weekend.  Everyone has heard of him, but no one has met him.  All of the characters, Nick, Daisy, Tom, and Gatsby, live in a world where everything goes.  Perhaps it is the world of New York in the 1920s that makes me feel like I've been transported to another dimension.  It feels both wonderful like the Utopia in Avatar and awful like the Dystopia in the Hunger Games.

Have you seen it yet?  What did you think?  If you haven't, go red-box it, pronto!

Monday, September 2, 2013

It All Happened So Fast

I was living in Seattle for the summer.  I had tried to get a job in Warden (where I grew up) but my app. had arrived a day too late, and so I hadn't even gotten an interview.  I assumed I'd be staying in the city.  And I was happy about it.

Then, I got a job interview for a Language Arts Special Education position at--get this--the Arts and Academics Academy!  A progressive high school that was up-to-date on the latest educational trends.  This was in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Seattle:  White Center.  Over 50 languages are spoken there.  I would have a chance to work with students in poverty, students of color, and students who were struggling.  I was stoked.  The principal called me and said she was going to recommend me for hire.  Mom said those rarely get turned down.  I considered it a done deal.  Husband and I were about to put down a deposit on a beautiful apartment--with a pool.  From that neighborhood, I could walk to work.  I had plans to get a dog. It was perfect.

Until I got that phone call.  The principal said that everyone she'd talk to said they probably wouldn't be able to hire me since I wasn't certified in Sped.  My heart sank.  The next day she confirmed that human resources was unwilling to hire me.  I was broken.  This late in the game it looked like our only option was to live with my parents and sub in Warden, which seemed meager compared to my glamorous city life complete with chic apartment and cute dog.

As if that wasn't tough enough, on the way to a Ross Point Young Adult (Christian) Retreat, our van broke down--in a fatal way.  Where was God?  That weekend we felt so loved. My parents took care of the car.  A friend came and picked us up so we could make it to the retreat.  Friends encouraged us about our marriage, our faith, our future.  I felt like I had nothing, but I was able to move into deeper worship of Jesus and that was somehow better than having a great place to live, and my dream job.  It was a worthy trade:  everything for more intimacy with God.

Then something crazy happened.  I got a call from a principal of a school in Moses Lake--a slightly bigger town near Warden.  I got an interview for a job I hadn't even applied for!  You see, my mom is an educator and knows a lot of principals.  When my last potential job fell through, like any supportive parent would do she advertised me on Facebook.  The high school had an English teacher leave last-minute and wanted to hire someone fast!  After the interview I took a tour around the school, and was hired on the spot.

Meanwhile, Philip had about given up hope for his future.  After a bad experience student teaching he wasn't even sure if he wanted to stick with the field of education.  Then things changed.  He got a job as an Educational Assistant in the field of Special Education.  In the same building as me!  Talk about convenient.  Phil is also going to be working on his Master's in Special Education online.

So now I am a real, live teacher.  I get do actually do the thing I've been talking, learning, and dreaming about for the past five years.  Philip has hope for his future again.  He will get to do a job that he enjoys and that is meaningful.  God's plan was far different than my own, but far better.  Even though I'm still grieving the loss of the life I thought I would have this year, I am excited for the journey that God decided to place me on instead.  He provided in a way that was totally unexpected.  By faith, I can say that he chose the absolute best for me.  We will faithfully follow him down this path.  He is good.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lessons from Thirty 13-Year-Olds

Today marks my first day of being done with my summer job.  I immediately feel a little sad, and, if I'm honest, a little relieved.  The learning curve has been high.  I have never worked with students that were so poorly behaved.  But, I mean, what was I expecting?  Sunshine and daisies?

These are middle schoolers--in my opinion one of the toughest age-groups to work with.  These are kids from the inner-city.  They bring tough backgrounds and a set of behaviors that they've learned for survival.  This is summer time.  Even the brightest, most zealous student most likely doesn't want to do school during their summer vacation.

I made mistakes.  They tested my patience.  In the end though, I think we both learned a lot this summer.  Here are a few lessons that I learned from the thirty thirteen-year-olds I spent the summer with:

Don't sweat the small stuff.
Kids need to get up and move.
Kids' attention span doesn't last much longer than 30 minutes.
Don't take things personally.
No matter what I do, all of my students are never going to be completely happy.  I'm always going to be met with some complaints and hesitation.
Be more intentional with setting up rules and procedures from the get-go.
Be.  More.  Patient.  (help please, Holy Spirit!)
Teens struggle with identity, and finding personal value in Christ can be huge for this age-group.
Give them choices in order to get buy-in.
Anytime you can incorporate food, do it.
Teenagers are hilarious!

It was rough, but I truly love each one of my students and am grateful that, for better or for worse, we got to spend the summer learning together.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Nice Rack!

Of elk antlers, that is.  I'm really bad at this taking "before" photos thing.  But here is the "after" of my latest project.  Last winter I went hunting with Philip and his dad and uncle.  I know, what was I thinking?  Well I try to support Phil's interests and they tend to somehow always involve peeing outside.  Phil and I were walking around the woods in the snow wearing camo and hunter orange, when I saw it.  Was it a stick?  A tree? An oddly shaped serpent?  Nope.  It was this giant elk horn shed.  I ended up being the only one on the trip to bring something home for our troubles.

Inspired by Pinterest, of course, I decided to give this guy a fresh coat of paint.  I just used leftover paint from other projects and a little masking tape.  Since I found the shed, that makes this an almost FREE project!  Free is my favorite number.  Admittedly, I did spend about 8 bucks on some Miniwax Polyvore Protective Coating. This was mostly because the antler still smelled a little funky.  I sealed whatever weird dead animal smells were coming from it under three layers of finish.  Right now she holds necklaces in our bedroom.  I think hats, or coats could also be happily stored here. Ain't she a beaut!

Monday, July 22, 2013

When Your Plans Get Ruined

I love to make plans.  Planning is for real one of my favorite parts of teaching.  I love the creative process.  In fact, I could be happy just sitting around dreaming up ideas all day long.  So naturally, with a summer of teaching (Math, Science, and English to Middle Schoolers at the Union Gospel Mission) ahead of me I began to plan.  In fact, I had an entire week where I got paid planning time.  I planned, and replanned until my plans were perfect—I was certain of it. 

Then I met my students.  That first day they were so rowdy I had to scream to be heard over them at times.  The second day was better.  The first day had been all business; you know rules, and get-to-know-yous.  But still.  I dreaded coming to work every day because my students wouldn’t listen to me, and they complained about every activity I gave them.  That was tough because I had spent so much time pouring myself into every lesson.  I worked hard to make sure they could have fun and grow.

Finally, on the last day of Week One we had a heart-to-heart.  I was straight up with them about how I’d been feeling.  Some tears were shed (mostly mine).  Some of my students apologized for their behavior in the classroom.  My site supervisor explained to them why we even have school as a part of this summer camp.  She shared how as people of color, and people whose parents hadn’t gone to college my students were already at a disadvantage in our education system.  Silence struck the room.  They were listening.  Then I opened up the floor for suggestions.

“More science.”
“More hands-on stuff.”
“Can we go outside?”
“More art.”
“It’s hard to focus on Fridays.”

Due to their feedback, I dropped almost every single plan that I had made.  Goodbye pretty wrapped-up-nice-with-a-ribbon-on-top-plans.  Instead of weeklong projects, I did one Math day a week, one Science day, one Language Arts day, and on Fridays we spent most of class outside.  I shortened the silent reading time.  I gave the kids a break half-way through our time together.  And you know what?  The second week went drastically better than the first! 

I think that in order to be our best, we must be stretched.  The bible says that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. So I leaped outside of my comfort zone for thirty searching, teenage faces.  God stepped into my inability to be flexible, loosened my grip on my plans, and helped me to better love and serve a group of his kids.  Maybe I'll let him spoil the rest of my plans, too.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What Do I Really Treasure?

Streit Ladies at my Bridal Shower (Eleanor on the far right).

Just over two years ago, one of my besties, Erin, made me feel so loved by throwing me a princess-themed bridal shower.  There were lots of friends, lots of presents, lots of pink.  But I was thinking about the thing I got that day that meant the most to me.

My good friend Eleanor came.  In lieu of a gift, she presented me with a hand-written letter.  I think she said, "It's the thought that counts," or something as if she needed to apologize for it not being enough.

The letter thanked me for our friendship.  It highlighted some of the moments we'd shared that year.  It said that I was one of the reasons that Eleanor now walks in relationship with Jesus.

You see, I'd spent that year living in the college dorm Streit-Perham.  A couple of dear friends of mine moved in alongside me.  We watched movies with girls, giggled, played dinosaurs with them, and got to know and love them.  We sought to find out their life stories and where they were at with God.  Some, like Eleanor, had never met Him, and maybe didn't even know that was a possibility.  Despite this, Eleanor began coming to Cru's weekly meetings, our bible study, and even attended a full-weekend retreat with us.  She was seeking God and He met her there.  I just sort of came along for the ride.

I loved all the gifts I got at my shower.  Many of them I use on a daily basis.  But that letter is by far the thing I've treasured the most.  I keep it in the glove box of my car, to this day, and pull it out when things seem dark.  I can hardly read it without tearing up.  I am in the middle of battling my materialistic tendencies, and this reminded me that there are things far more valuable than, well, "things."

I thought that was such a sweet picture of this verse:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:19-21

Because, as much as I love things, and believe me I REALLY love things, knowing that I had been a part of someone coming to know God in a real and personal way, was far better than all the material gifts I'd received.  As I decide where to invest my time and resources I pray I remember this:  all the pretty Earthly treasures I could ever acquire are nothing next to knowing that I've stored up even one little treasure in heaven.  So I'm asking myself lately, "What do I really treasure?"  

How about you?  What do you really treasure?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Accumulating Possessions

"Accumulating possessions can make it hard to move around a lot,"
the sweet southern preacher lady  said to me.

I was at my sister's church and had just told her pastor about our upcoming jobs in Seattle.  Pastor Nan asked, "You guys haven't accumulated a lot of possessions, yet have you?"

This summer, Philip and I will be moving into the city.  We will be working as Summer Academy Teachers for the Union Gospel Mission.  Working in the inner city is something we've been dreaming of for years.  It's all a little nuts.  Phil's graduating class had a whopping twelve people in it.  I grew up in a town with more cows than people.  But we believe it's where God is calling us.  My heart is to bring justice to those who are oppressed.  I want to be a part of God scooping up those who have been told, "You are worthless,"  and redeeming in them the eternal value that we all have as priceless creations.  Philip and I are excited to love in bold ways--across culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status.  All of these people who are different than us fill the city in abundance.

We don't anticipate this being our last move either.  Owning a home is a very low priority for us right now.  Philip has pre-dedicated one year of his life--and mine by marriage--to ethnic ministry.  We hope to spend at least one year in New York.  We want to be open to God leading us wherever he sees fit.  We want to go on adventures.

There is, however, something else that my heart wants.  Stuff.  Furniture, art, clothes, and all things cute.  I often feel tempted to spend money we don't have, on things we don't need.  To think that my love for things could be an obstacle that keeps me from living God's better story for my life.  That sickens me.

This summer we will be living in UGM provided housing.  That means we will only have one room to ourselves. The rest we will be sharing with Mission interns.  Sure I will still get to decorate and bring along some of our precious possessions.  But many of our things will have to be stored in our parents' basements.  I hope to one day have a healthier relationship with things.  I want to enjoy them in light of knowing that they can never fulfill me.  For now though, I think it's good of God to separate me from these things that moth and rust destroy for awhile.  I need to release my grip on them before I wind up looking like this.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Non-Tacky Vacation Souvenirs

Problem:  you don't want to end up with a bunch of cheap, plastic crap that will just sit in storage, but you want something to commemorate your adventures.  Solution:  come up with your own creative ways to incorporate mementos that you'll actually want to display in your home.  

When we took a mini-vacay to Leavenworth during spring break, we picked up a vintage bottle.  The great thing was that it had a lid that easily came on and off.  That gave me idears...  We were headed to Ocean Shores with my fam bam towards the end of the week, and I thought it would be fun to fill the bottle up with sand.

 I don't know if I'll ever forget the process of filling that little bottle up.  The siblings and I decided to make a trek out to the ocean even though there was practically a monsoon going on out there.  My husband basically risked life and limb.   He and my brother valiantly stayed out on the beach with wind blowing rain into their eyes and causing them to stumble across the sand.  The opening in the bottle was small so it took much perseverance to get sand all the way to the top.  I didn't have the heart to tell them I would've been satisfied with the bottle even half full.

The other day, Mom gave me some maps that a teacher friend was getting rid of, since she knows I like to use them for projects.  I cut a heart out of a section of the map where our trip to the Ocean was.  I punched a hole in it and tied it to the bottle with a bit of twine.  Voila!  I think it's cuter than just a little tag that says "Ocean Shores," and yet it still serves the purpose of labeling where the sand came from.  This is a great memory from our trip, and I can display it without shame.

I got these colones, Costa Rican currency, on my mission trip.  Yep, a trip to Costa Rica will cost you an arm and a colon harhar.  For some reason, I've been carrying them around in my wallet ever since.  It was time to give these guys a proper home.  I grabbed a little picture frame from our wedding and put a small piece of craft paper behind them.  I think it'd be pretty in a bigger frame, especially with lots of coins from other places.  We have a lot of travel-themed decor (suitcases, maps, photos) so this fits in nicely.  

We also buy mugs everywhere we go.  We think it's fun and quirky to drink out of our hodge podge of mismatched mugs.  Admittedly, they might be on the tacky-side, but we use them all the time.  My main goal is not to spend money on something that just sits and collects dust.  Plus, when you're apartment dwellers, you just don't have the space for extra junk.  I'm trying to live by this motto with the things we own:

"Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful"  --William Morris

Aaaaaand just for fun here's the whole set-up plus what I wore today.

How do you preserve your memories without becoming a hoarder?

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Living, Breathing, Church.

I spent the night at my folks house as it is half way between here and a wedding hubs and I attended over the weekend.  My brother, our foreign exchange student, and Phil always have so much fun together.  They decided to walk to the park for some basketball.  As a wrestler, I objected, but it was better than staying home watching survival shows with my dad, so I joined.  We played some two-on-two for awhile, but I quickly grew tired.  As it turns out I am WAY out of shape.  It doesn't help that I don't really like basketball--I could play soccer for hours, and not notice the fatigue.  I sat in the grass watching as they spent the remainder of the time playing a game of 21.

Across the park I spotted someone I knew.  Not uncommon in a tiny town like the one I grew up in.  It was one of those moments when you see someone you haven't talked to in awhile and kind of avoid them because you're not sure if they remember you.  Maybe I'm the only awkward one that does things like that.  I flashed back to the last time I really remembered us spending together:  I had invited her to have  a picnic lunch with me at this very park.  I was  involved with Cru and freshly gung ho about discipleship and evangelism.  The usual drill was to ask someone out to coffee, but this was as good as it was going to get in li'l ol' Warden.  She was a few grades behind me.  I knew she was a Christian and I wanted to ask her about her experience with God.  A small part of me hoped to ignite in her the enthusiasm I had just found myself.  Looking back on it, I regretted that meeting with her.  "That was probably a little over-zealous," I told myself.

"Hi Chelsea!" she approached me cheerily.  She began asking me questions about my life, my relationship with God, my marriage.  She shared her journey with me and asked my advice.  But then she said, "You know, I was just telling my mom the other night that talking with you about how relationship with God is more about what we do outside of church and youth group was a pivotal moment for me.  That was a real turning point in my life."  It encouraged my heart to hear that I'd played a small part in helping someone who now walks with the Lord.  As we chatted more I took a risk and became vulnerable with her.  It was tempting to hide my current condition and remain that mentor hero in her eyes.  But I shared that I had been struggling this year--during my intense Master's Program--to spend time with God like I used to.

She boldly told me that God doesn't see me as a failure.  That I am not far from him because he lives inside me.  And that she believes that a new season is coming for me.  I felt the same way.  Then, she prayed for me in English while her mom prayed for me in Spanish.  It was beautiful.  Tears streamed down my face as I basked in the spirit of the Lord.  Truly, where two or more are gathered he is present.  It felt like the Lord orchestrated this meeting to give me the encouragement that I needed, as I transition into this new season of my life.  Those tender moments gave me much hope.  And, like me after the picnic we had years earlier, she probably has no idea how much it meant to me.  It's a beautiful thing when God's people take care of one another.  I believe that this is what the church was designed to be like.
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