Monday, December 5, 2011

Dear Teenage Girl,

Dear Teenage Girl,

I wish you understood how much I care for you.

I have cried tears over you, sent you flowers anonymously, bought you lunch, taken you out for coffee, invited you into my home, curled your hair for prom, spent every Wednesday night with you, baked you cookies, picked you up for youth group, led Bible studies, taught you how to crochet, made breakfast for you, did dishes for you, gave up a week of my time to be your camp counselor and countless weekends to be in your cabin at retreats, cheered for you at soccer games and watched football games just so I could see you cheer.

And, I have prayed for you.

Prayed that you'd get a date to a dance.
Prayed for courage to have that hard conversation with your dad.
Prayed that your non-Christian friend would accept your invitation to youth group.
Prayed for strength to confront your friend's bad choices.
Prayed that you'd be freed from shame from what you did last summer.
Prayed that you'd be pure.
Prayed that you'd find enjoyment in reading your Bible.
Prayed that your broken heart would be mended.
Prayed that you'd find contentment in your singleness.
Prayed that Jesus Christ would be your first love.

To be honest, I don't even really like going to high school football games because I don't know any of the players. Not to mention, I hate being cold.  I definitely don't like washing dishes, and I'm usually starving by the time you finish eating breakfast because I'm so busy cooking that I don't eat until you leave.  When I'm your camp counselor, I miss kissing Paul goodnight before my head hits the pillow, like I've done almost every night since we got married.  I stress over leading Bible studies because I don't consider myself a teacher and I'm never really sure what you need to hear.  You are one of the main reasons I gave up looking for full time work because I wanted to be available to you.

I do these things because I care about you.
I'm honored when you let me into your life and you trust my ears with your words.  Thank you for letting me speak into your life.  I love being part of your "ah- ha" moments.

When you are hesitant to tell me something, it hurts.  I can't help but think it's because you don't think I'll approve.  And honestly, based on what you've told me leading up to it, I may not.  But I still want to know because what is important to you is important to me.  (And no one likes to find out via Facebook.)

I want to celebrate with you.

But more than that,
I want God's best for you.
And even more than that, I want you to want God's best for you.

It devastates me to see you make bad decisions.
To settle in relationships.
To lower your standards.
To say one thing and do the opposite.
To hide something from me.

I'm trying not to take offense when you don't take my advice or blatantly ignore Truth.  Because, as my wise husband reminds me, it's not really about me at all.  It boils down to trusting God or not.

I've told you a million times that what God has for you is so much better than anything you could come up with on your own.  But just because I tell you that doesn't mean you believe it for yourself.  Or that you'll wait for it.

But it's worth it.  Oh, it's so worth it.

Oh, how I long for you to trust God.
To make Him Lord over your love life.
To run toward Jesus with everything you've got and never give up.

I'll keep praying, but the moving is up to you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A basket full of thanks

As a child, November was always kicked off by cutting out shapes from colored construction paper.  Mom assumed her role as pattern maker - tracing cookie cutters or free-handing palm trees, stars, hearts, leaves, etc. Every night after dinner, we'd pass the basket around, take out our preferred shape, and write down our thanks.  By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, our basket was full of thanks.  And, before we slipped into our Tryptophan turkey comas, we took turns reading each other's shapes.  Dad always wrote one about his beautiful wife (insert collective groans and "ahhhhs" from three young kids), sister and I usually wrote a silly one about brother, and our favorite foods always made the list.  Mashed potatoes, anyone?  Some were duplicates and some stood alone.

As I have grown older, my appreciation for things has deepened beyond that which is smothered in gravy.  Living among the "have-nots" in Africa, Asia, South America & even North America has often left me feeling angry, guilty, helpless and sad.  Even with my own discouraging, looming home loan, college debt and part-time job, I am considered one of the elite who "has."  However, if blessings are gifts bestowed by God which produce happiness, then despite my financial situation, I still have much to be thankful for.

As an adult, I still reflect on this season of Thanks with an eagerness that stems from a long-ago family tradition.  Several months ago, my mom gave me a book.  A book with a "dare to live fully wherever you are."  Ann Voskamp keeps an ongoing list of everyday gifts.  While Ann's initial goal was to make it to 1,000 she didn't stop there and hasn't stopped since.

My sweet mom emailed me at the first of the month, encouraging us kids to reflect on the gifts from the hands of our Loving God.

Hello my Dear Ones,  (<---I love her terms of endearment)

I was just contemplating the season: the leaves are all turning and the wind blowing them around, and temperatures at night causing the heat to blow warm on our feet in the mornings. It's fall!

And as the calendar page turns over to November next week and we look ahead to Parker's birthday and Thanksgiving and then Christmas, I was remembering how we tried to savor this special time of year. Do you remember us cutting out "shapes" from colored paper and each of us writing out things we were thankful for each evening? And then come Thanksgiving, we would read from our collection and treasure the variety of thoughts we'd all put down. I've save a few from over the years (you know how I hate to throw things away) and they are special memories.

I am so thankful for each of you and all that God has given your dad and me as your parents. We are truly blessed!

May I challenge you (as I do myself) to be thankful every day for what you have from the Hand of God? We have so much yet can easily take the everyday things for granted. I don't know that I will cut out "shapes" to record my thanks, but I will start a list. Join me?

Much love,

Thanks for the challenge, mom.
Here begins my gift list.   Not for santa, but for my yearning to glorify God.  May this process replace the bitter weeds in my heart with life-giving, bountiful produce that spills over to every avenue of my daily life.
  1. emails from my mother
  2. our new, patch-free roof which has eliminated further worry of ceiling leaks, dry rot, etc.
  3. blue blanket we received from our wedding; it has probably been used 365 days a year for the past 2+ years
  4. the ability to receive a 100k Christian education
  5. 4-year old Maggie who teaches me to be thankful for life's simplest things
  6. a God who loves me (in the words of 4-year old Maggie)
  7. free haircuts from the best hairdresser in town "because it's the only way she can repay me and Paul for investing in her kids' lives at youth group"
  8. a God who is bigger than my mistakes
  9. a "best friend" relationship with my sister who is much too far away
  10. babies growing in my friends' bellies (6 and counting...)
  11. butterflies in my belly as I dream of being a mom someday
  12. butterflies in my belly as I dream of Paul being a dad someday
  13. my father's phone calls on his way home from work
  14. high school girls who share life's hardships with me
  15. a voice to sing harmonies
  16. the fiery reds, oranges & yellows of autumn leaves on sunny days
  17. the fiery reds, oranges & yellows of autumn leaves against a gray, stormy sky
  18. leftovers (something I've never appreciated this much ever before)
  19. when all socks exit the dryer with their corresponding mates
  20. all 100 pounds and bad breath of our dog who warms my feet from the drafty laundry room

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

90 Days

Paul and I are reading through the Bible in 90 days as part of a whole church challenge.  Since September 19th, we've read Genesis - Esther.  I'm half-excited and half-not to read Job next.

I'm excited because it's a familiar story.  I'm not excited because it's a story of pain and despair.

Reading the Bible like this is revolutionizing my devotion life.  I went from reading almost nothing to reading for almost an hour at a time and completing 12-16 chapters a day.

I'm noticing a change in my worship; I'm able to appreciate God so much more.  I'm putting more into it.  Sunday morning songs mean something more to me in this season, than ever before.

More to come, with some questions that have come up along the way.

I have to finish Job tonight to catch up with the reading plan... (The middle school retreat put me a couple days behind.)

Time to knock out 40 chapters!

Monday, September 26, 2011

MAICCD... now that's a mouthful

The mail I received this afternoon makes my heart leap.  I recently requested information about a graduate program in the Seattle area.

"Dear Elizabeth,
It was great to hear of your interest in the Master of Arts in International Care and Community Development (MAICCD) program...."

Northwest University in Kirkland offers a Master's Degree in International Care and Community Development, which is committed to social justice for the poor, powerless and oppressed.  Fuller Seminary (Pasadena, CA) offers a similar program.

Can I/we even afford a program like this? 
Is this the right time?
What do I do with this degree once I've got it?
Could I balance school, work and family?
Would I even want to drive to Seattle weekly?

Yes...No...Maybe so.
I don't know. 

But this girl can't help but dream about that which makes her heart sing, eyes water, and stomach flutter.

I've become a Mac girl

This is the first post from my brand spankin' new MacBook Pro.
I can finally access my email, Facebook, etc. again, and use this wherever I want to, without being attached to an electrical outlet.

I've entered the Mac world.... and I won't go back.

Now, to update my pink razor phone...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Confessions of a Youth Pastor's Wife

Sometimes, I'm fine.
Other times, it hurts.

It feels as though there is a stigma associated with being in ministry.  "I'm a youth pastor's wife, and therefore our life is so full I couldn't possibly have time for anything else."

From the checkout aisle at Fred Meyer: "Paul... now he's a busy man."  And a number of other comments wrapped up in this one: "Gosh, we've hardly seen you, you guys are so busy."

Yes, there are moments of insanity when we we crash on the couch after a long day/evening/week/weekend and are thankful for nothing to do because home  Our summer was full.  Admittedly, we were gone a lot.

June 5: We opened a coffee shop at cafe that I've been managing
June 16-18: Trip to Grants Pass for my dad's 60th surprise party
June 27-July 1: Vacation Bible School
June 27-July 5: Fireworks booths (two stands)
July 6-July 10: Wedding in Santa Barbara
July 17-23: Mayfield Lake Youth Camp
July 28-30: Our escape to Ilwaco
August 1-5: Kids' Camp
August 6: Wedding
August 8: Youth Group trip to Wild Waves
August 10: Youth Group Bonfire
August 13: Wedding
August 18: Youth Group homeless outreach in Portland with Night Strike
August 20: Wedding
August 24: Senior Girls/Freshmen Girls bonfire
August 26-28: Family Camp
September 2-5: Labor Day camping trip with our college group

Summer happened!  ...and you know what?  We live to tell about it!  And the truth is, I had time in between all those things... to BE, to meet up with college girlfriends in Vancouver (you know who you are), to meet halfway to be with family, etc.  I also had lonely moments - sounds rather strange after reviewing our calendar.  There were honestly times where I wished a friend would call and invite me to do something outside of anything church-related.  Times where I wished I had girlfriends here who really know me.  To whisk me away...

The week of the fireworks booth, I spent a lot of time to myself.  Paul was working a lot, and I think the assumption was that I was working, too.  In reality, I walked to the lake twice by myself just to get out of the house because I had nothing to do.  Sometimes, on an evening when Paul is gone, my first thought is to call a high school girl, since they are the ones inviting me to hang out - wanting to go out for coffee and want to come over for breakfast in the morning. 

I spend my days with a 4 year old, Sunday evenings with college students, Wednesday nights with high school students, etc.  I love them.  And what I really crave are friends my own age, and my attempts at getting together have often failed.

I, too, am also guilty of wrongfully assuming things about people's time and have recently been convicted about just that.  I often assume that when my friends have children, they can't do things spontaneously, or come over for dinner for fear of interrupting the night-time routine.  

This entry isn't meant to guilt-trip anyone.  

It's simply the confession of a Youth Pastor's wife doing her best to create a social life while balancing married life, youth group, college group, church, cooking and work.  
And someday, children. :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mayfield Lake Youth Camp 2011

The third week in July continues to be one of the greatest weeks of the summer.  This year especially, I found myself anticipating BIG ways in which God was going to move at camp.  I kept telling my small group girls "I feel like God is going to do some great things with us at camp."  And so, with my camp clothes packed, cabin decorations, camera and ready heart, I settled into a powerful week as a counselor for Junior girls.

About 250 kids attended (middle school through high school) and there were 3 cabins of Junior girls, which are the ladies I get to spend Wednesday nights with at youth group.  5 kids even came up from my home church in Merlin, OR.  (Just another way in which God affirmed our Spring Break mission trip relocation to southern Oregon.)  Two of the Merlin girls got to be in my cabin, one of whom hosted two of our students during our home stay down south.

I knew about a particular strained relationship between 3 of my girls, and had a tearful conversation with one of them about how it was time to make things right.  With "I'm sorry's" exchanged, God answered our prayer with a worship night that turned into a night of reconciliation for not only those 3, but for another girl as well, who described her moment of forgiveness as a burden lifted.  A smile lit up her face as she struggled to find words to describe her moment of peace and joy.  A smile that represented deep healing from bitterness, hurt and anger.

One of the girls from Merlin was particularly difficult to connect with in my cabin - she pretended to be asleep during our cabin discussions and didn't open up at all.  Finally, during our one on one, we had a breakthrough.  She related a lot to our camp speaker's story (Mike Miller).  As one of 18 kids from a mom who has been with a multitude of different men, she called herself a bastard child - born out of wedlock into a dysfunctional home.  She'd been recently kicked out and was living with her ex-boyfriend/almost fiance (which meant sharing a bed) because she had nowhere else to go.  Grasping for words of comfort and failing miserably, all I could do was agree with how sucky things were for her at "home" and encouraged her to share her story with Mike.  Hesitantly, she agreed.

That night, after the message, I introduced her to Mike.  She didn't feel like sharing, so, with her permission, I gave him a snapshot of her background.  I told him how our mission trip was re-directed to Grants Pass, how we had stayed with her friend who was also in my cabin, made connections with her youth pastor, and how awesome it was that she ended up in my cabin after all of that.  I'm still playing the conversation out in my mind.

Mike looked at her and said:
"Do you know why God would change a mission trip for 30 people so you could be here at camp this week?"
"Why?" she asked
"Because you're worth it."

She rolled her eyes and sighed.
Mike asked her to look at him, and repeated "You're worth it..

"Oh honey, you've never heard that before, have you?"

She began to sob, and he said " Listen, if an old, fat guy can tell you that he loves you after he just met you, how much more does your Heavenly Father love you because he sent his son to die for you?!"

Shaking with tears, we embraced.  He challenged her to look forward and to choose who she wants to be.  Her past doesn't define her- she has decisions to make about who she wants to become.

We walked back into the chapel and continued our worship set, and I was broken inside.  I fell into Paul's arms after the service and sobbed about her bleak situation.  Thinking about how impossible it seemed to "just look forward" when all she had ahead of her was yucky.

After spending a year-ish of job-searching and feeling restless in my current situation, God even moved in me.  He sprinkled water on my dry heart, bringing life to a place I felt was barren.  Missing friends, longing for a career job, desiring to know people outside of church, etc.  And here, among a group of young ladies 10 years younger than I, I found such peace in my current situation and felt God affirm: "I have you here for this."  Sure enough, that same night, 2 other young ladies sought me out to talk.

When the Merlin crowd returned home and attended the church service the next day, the one whom had the "breakthrough" introduced herself to my parents, saying how much she enjoyed being in my cabin.  My mom, knowing nothing about her story yet, said "welcome to the family!" and gave her a hug.  Only later, when I told her what happened at camp, did we recognize the power of her words.  Not to mention, this young lady spent the next week helping my dad with games at VBS.

Because she's worth it.

Photos from camp:

My team: "Calvary Crusaders"

My childhood best friend, Hallie, got to be our camp nurse!

 The infamous game of "antiquing" - with cans of shaving cream and bags full of flour.  The point?  
Get as messy as possible!

 Belly-flop competitions, etc.

 Baptisms in the lake after "antiquing"

...and then a weekend away to recover from it all.  A free trip to Ilwaco/Long Beach at a bed and breakfast, and a moped ride around town. 

Haystack rock in the distance - the view from Crescent Beach

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Catching Up: May

Highlights from May:

Hosting/decorating a table at the annual women's tea.  I made flowers by hand out of tissue paper and fabric (except for the baby's breath - now that would really be something!)

My "Momma B" was my guest of honor at my table.

I made Angry Bird cupcakes for Paul's birthday!  They turned out amazingly and he loved them.  I also bought him some river sandals, a zip up hoodie sweatshirt, and framed a bunch of photos for his office of youth group events.

Each one had it's own expression!

I'm still finding much enjoyment by doing an occasional updo - one of the perks of working with high school girls is doing their hair!  Just one of the many ways in which I love to create.

My 27th birthday (May 25) was probably one of the busiest birthdays I've ever had.  I spoke and sang at a women's brunch that morning, nannied a 2 year old all day, and then attended a fancy dinner for our graduating seniors at youth group.  It's become a tradition and Paul has done a wonderful job of creating a special event for seniors and their families.  30 highly involved graduates attended, along with their families, making it a celebratory evening with about 100 people.  This is the only picture I have on my birthday, and while the day itself was a success, I hope never to have a birthday as busy as this one... ever again!

Paul and I didn't get home until close to 11pm, had to finish packing for our road trip, went to bed at 2, and took a nap so we could wake up and start driving at 4am.  800 miles later...

We arrived at Yosemite National Park!  We met up with Paul's good friend and groomsman, Mike, and his wife, Jen who live in San Luis Obispo.  It was an adventure from the beginning... even before we pulled into the park, we started smelling gasoline.  Sure enough, the camp stove fuel in Paul's bag had leaked, saturating his sleeping bag... so we aired it out the window the rest of the way!

We arrived, Mike and Jen were still struggling to put up their tent because their tent pole broke...

And then, after hiking 7 miles UP, we encountered SNOW!  We found a perfect place to camp on a bluff (snow free) and built a fire to warm up and dry out.  Unfortunately, Mike's hiking shoes were a little close to the fire and they melted.  They melted so badly that he was unable to wear them for the rest of the trip.  We decided to hike back down because we wouldn't let Mike hike through snow in sandals.    Here we are at our campsite, post the shoe-burning episode:

On our way down, it started to rain pretty heavily as we were finishing up our lunch.  Mike kept saying it wouldn't keep raining, which became our joke the rest of the trip, because it actually did keep raining and didn't let up much!  I felt like an oompa-loompa with my poncho on.  Just another reason why it's clear that backpacking is not for the fashion-conscious.

Due to record snow-fall at Yosemite this winter, the waterfalls were absolutely SPECTACULAR!  It was a rush to stand so close to them and we were drenched by the overspray.

My favorite group shot of the whole trip:

When we got to our base camp (day 2), it began raining so hard that we decided to sleep in our cars that evening.  We had recently purchased a used tent from an REI return sale and didn't want to risk getting drenched.  So, after a horrible night's sleep, we woke up to 30-something degrees and a considerable amount of snow right where we had camped the night before!  Check out the snow line:

So we drove into the valley for some day hikes and marveled at more awe-inspiring waterfalls.  Look how small the cars are compared to the waterfall:

We climbed to the top of this thing!

During which, I dropped my camera in the mud so my lens doesn't close anymore.  (hence the frowny face)

But then I was happy to be at the top - and my camera still worked!

Looking over the edge:

I had to capture my lovely camping/hat hair.  Reminds me of Walkabout!

The handsome hubs overlooking the falls in the distance.

On our way home, we stayed at a Bed & Breakfast in Ashland, OR, and visited the House of Mystery, Oregon Vortex to observe the "strange magnetic forcefield."

Here, Paul appears to be much taller than I am...

But when we switched places, I appeared to have grown....

And here is the only bear I saw after camping/backpacking... at a gift shop in Grants Pass.

Next up: highlights from June and July!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thirteen Point One

It took a few days to sink in, but yesterday it hit me: I ran a freaking half marathon!

Paul and I spent almost 6 days in St. Louis with Chrislyn and I'm so happy to say it really felt like vacation, even running 13.1 miles.  

The mid-west weather made me feel like I was in the tropics.
Shorts and tank tops - NO jackets!
Birds chirping. Tulips in full bloom. Tan lines. Sunglasses. Windows down.  Evening rainstorms.

We even used the AC one night because the apartment never cooled down.

We arrived in St Louis on Thursday and went for a 3 mile jog on Friday.  My lungs hated the heat and mugginess and I was really nervous for the half because of how I felt after running 3.  My asthma hasn't kicked in since high school and was making a reappearance.  

Thankfully, the humidity had lowered by race day, even though it was even warmer.  We hung around outside at 6:30am waiting for the race to begin (spending most of the time in line for the porta-potty - didn't want any accidents during our run) and it must have already been 70 degrees.  It was 80 degrees by 10am, hence the pounding head and dry throat around mile 7.

The most I had ever run prior to Sunday was 9.3 miles, so approaching mile markers 10, 11, 12 and 13 were each monumental.  I also ran past several people who were receiving medical attention - ivs and oxygen.  No bueno!  I took advantage of each water station and starting drinking 2 cups during each stop.  I was going to finish this thing!

Paul, Chrislyn and I ran together for the first 6 miles and we maintained a 10-minute mile, which was my goal pace.  I dropped a few steps behind, and then Paul was nowhere in sight.  He finished the run about 15 minutes ahead of me, maintaining his goal pace - way go go, babe!  

Chrislyn pulled ahead of me at mile 11 and I came in 3 minutes behind her, still finishing within the top 50% of the runners in my age group at 2 hours, twenty-something minutes (at almost exactly 50%).  Slower than I had hoped, but considering the heat and humidity, and some lengthy uphill portions, I'm ok with that.

There were a few points during the run that I remember thinking "this is the hardest thing I've ever done."  Looking back, I could do it again.  I'd love to improve my time.

Running alongside 15,000 people was an awesome feeling, as was running past thousands of spectators.  The signs were awesome: 
"Good job!  You're ahead of everyone behind you!" 
"Chuck Norris never ran a marathon." 
"Runners have balls - other athletes just play with them."
"Hurry! I'm in labor!"

And a pick-me-up at mile 10:
"If it was easy, everyone would be doing this!"  So true.

My bottom half has never hurt so much in my life.  My hips, knees and ankles.  And then day two, add sore calves and lower back.  My knees are still making a gross 'crinkly' sound which is new, so I'm not really sure what to think about that.

I really surprised myself with how I kept up with it - I put in 200 miles on my running shoes in preparation for the big day, starting from ZERO in November.  I can remember the first time I ran 4 miles back in December, which was hugely monumental for me.  I had conquered the lake which had been taunting me each time I drove past.  And now I've conquered a half-marathon and I feel GREAT!  I'm emotional just thinking about it.  It was running that gave me a goal, something that kept me going during a season of dryness and discouragement.  At times, it was the only thing that got me out of the house when I was feeling sorry for myself.

So, am I addicted to running?  I don't know that I'd say that, but I have grown to appreciate the sport and the discipline of training.  I am thankful God has given me a healthy body, and I'd love to stay fit.  For now, I'll take it easy and rest my joints.  

Maybe I'll actually run for fun when it's sunny...wait a minute, is this really me talking?! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cocooning or Connecting?

Dare I say the sparkle in my eye and the skip in my step is back?  I have vision again and my heart is busting with passion.

I came home from last week's Bible Study with a renewed sense of purpose for right now.  Not for some day, for what could be, or for some other place.  For Elizabeth Caitlin Bricknell in Longview, Washington, for the year 2011.

I was challenged Monday night about how many of my neighbors I know by name, how many are in their household, what they do for a living, and the last time I had a 20 minute conversation with any of them in my own home.  I failed.  Miserably.  This is the best I could do for my block:
  • the renters that live across the street with a high school daughter who walks to school every day
  • "Big Red" - the monstrous vehicle parked in front of the above-mentioned house which is only there during the day, but rarely at night.
  • "11:45" the neighbor who revs his engine each night at 11:45pm to go to work.  Sometimes the truck doesn't start on the first try and I'm convinced the whole neighborhood is woken up.
  • N - our neighbor-lady in her mid 60s who shares our love for gardening
  • ? - the elderly lady who apparently lives next door but I have never actually seen her
  • I + L - the most generous couple on our block who always volunteer their tools or services for anything we might need.  They love Jesus.
  • T + C - another great couple that lives a few houses down.  He's on disability due to a knee injury and has been out of work for about a year.  They are involved with Young Life and also love Jesus.
  • R + S - they live on the corner and have two little girls.  One is 3 and the other was just born in August. They have expressed an interest in making friends with people who will be better influences. They've been associated with the party crowd for some time and want out.  They even came to our church one time.
After all of us admittedly failed at this challenge, we watched session two of "A Walk Across the Room" by Bill Hybels.  "Are you cocooning or connecting?" he asked.  Holed up in the comfort of your home, cubicle, or church and surrounded only by what's familiar and safe like a caterpillar wrapped in its silk blanket?  Or are you stepping out, breaking through conversation barriers, standing in your 'stretch zone' to make a spiritual connection with people?

I initially thought of myself as a connector.  I mean, look at what I do on a weekly basis!  Lead a Bible study, go to a Bible study, lead a small group at youth group, go to church, and host our college group.  I probably make spiritual connections with at least 50 people a week.

Conviction immediately kicked in.  Every single one of these people already knows Jesus and they are all church connections.  So what am I doing outside of church?

*insert excuses here*

  • ...But Paul is a better connector - he has "come to Jesus" talks with kids way more than I do.  I am more comfortable with follow up conversations and I think that's how I'm wired.  This does not excuse me from having them, though!  
  • But I don't know anyone outside of church!  That's your own fault, Elizabeth!  If I had a job outside of the church, then I'd be able to connect.  So what does that mean for my neighbors?  It has nothing to do with where I work.
  • It's easier to have an excuse to connect, like a holiday.  Then I could bring something over to my neighbors with a reason for it.  I'll have to wait until Easter or Christmas to invite my neighbors to a church program.  Connecting is not seasonal.  I was even in the Christmas program this year and didn't even invite anyone to come see it.  Plus, Valentine's day is a holiday and it's just around the corner...
Two days after this particular Bible study, a few of my neighbors were outside.  I walked across the street and chatted.  And laughed. And I loved it.  We "hung out" for only about 15 minutes or so and I was so excited - I couldn't wait for Paul to come home from work so I could tell him I made a connection.

Bill Hybels makes sharing Christ so simple.  As it should be, right?  It can be natural, the outcome isn't up to us, and it doesn't have to be weird.

And thus, a burden for my neighbors has been birthed.
For the teenage girl I see walking home from my position on the couch.
For R + S, our neighbors in the corner house who want to be making different choices.
Even for the mailman who I see almost every day and is a pretty cool dude.

With my excuses exposed and the reality of Valentine's day just a few days away, I don't need any more reasons to knock on some doors and introduce myself to "Big Red", "11:45", the "invisible lady" next door, etc.

The fudge is made and cut into neat squares.  Cookie dough is made.
Next step: homemade Valentine's for the residents of Maple Street.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monday Nights

Monday night Bible study is what I look forward to every week.  I don't have to lead it nor do I have to prepare for it.  I just get to come.  Do you know how refreshing it is to not be the leader?

There are 15 of us - some weeks there are 8, some weeks there are more.  I love that we don't have outside reading to do and we are so flexible that it's easy to miss one week and join the next.  We call it our "no guilt Bible study."  We understand each other's hectic schedules and will take each other when we can.

I am one of two women who are currently childless - everyone else is either with child or already a mom.  I am thankful these women are pioneering before me and for the wisdom I'll glean from them when it's my turn!

I really believe that Monday nights have been watering holes in the midst of my desert.  My soul has been nourished by their honesty, encouragement and prayers.  Each week we draw someone else's name from the hat with specific things to pray for until we meet again.  Many of these women have been meeting together for 10+ years and it is overwhelming to recount all the answers to our prayers.  For marriages, for jobs, for healthy babies, for healing, etc.

Can't wait for next Monday.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Desert Song

I desire this song to be my heart's prayer
and I know it hasn't been.  
It is downright hard to praise You in the desert
when I feel dry and discouraged.  

It's easy to praise You on the mountaintops, 
but in every season?  I long to, I do.

For the joy of my salvation to be restored. (Psalm 51:12)
Just to be filled to be emptied again?  It's exhausting, God.  And it hurts.

I keep meeting with my small group girls because they ask to come over or meet for coffee, but how can this go on while I feel like I have nothing to give? 

How can the weak lead the strong?

We sang The Desert Song by Hillsong United Sunday morning for the first time and it grabs me.

Verse 1:
This is my prayer in the desert
And all that's within me feels dry
This is my prayer in the hunger in me
My God is a God who provides

Verse 2:
And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames

And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon forged against me shall remain

I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

Verse 3:
And this is my prayer in the battle
And triumph is still on it's way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I'll stand

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

Verse 4:
This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I'm filled to be emptied again
The seed I've received I will sow

Much of what I am studying to share at our college group or with my after school Bible Study has been speaking to me in my own predicaments.

If God already knows my heart and my words before they're on my tongue, what difference does prayer make? (our college group is going through Yancey's book on prayer.)

And this verse stuck out to me in the book (Girl Talk with God) I'm starting this afternoon with some high school girls.  1 Peter 1:7-8 These trials have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

And this verse at the top of a friend's blog:
1 Corinthians 7:17 And don't be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there.

You are still God, just like the song says.

Run, Forest, Run!

Never before have I considered myself a runner.

Chrislyn and Kayla both ran a half-marathon last Spring.  Never have I even considered the idea of running by choice on a regular basis.  Actually, I've quickly considered the idea and then just as quickly dismissed it because I tried running and hated it.  The first time I went, I tried to keep up with Paul and my asthma kicked in.  The second time, I had to stop by the public restroom, if you know what I mean.  The third time my ankles hurt, and there was no forth, fifth or sixth time.  I quit.

And then an opportunity presented itself to join Chrislyn in the St. Louis Go! Half Marathon in April 2011.  I signed up even before I started running again just to make myself to commit to it.

And thus, the training has begun.  Right now I"m not on a training regime, I'm just jogging to get in shape so that by the time January rolls around, I should be putting in 15 miles a week and ready for a training schedule.

I still think it's crazy that I'm actually spending money to run 13.1 miles, $80 to be exact.  Not only does it cost money, but it takes a while to get suited up.
  1. Convince myself to put my workout clothes and shoes on.
  2. Put on workout pants ($19), dri-fit socks ($6), tank top and nike dri-fit top (for some reason I already had a workout tank and the Nike top I got from Goodwill before I went to Bolivia), headband to keep my ears warm ($5), and new shoes that are supposed to help my ankles ($95).
  3. Convince myself to actually leave the house...
  4. Determine route and set playlist and stopwatch on iPod
I have been surprisingly disciplined with running so far and am hoping I can keep it up until the race on April 10th.  I started running November 15th and have put in 21 runs so far.
  • Total distance run: 59.25 miles
  • Total calories burned: 6,878
  • Longest distance run without stopping: 4 miles
  • Fastest time: 2.6 miles with a 9:30 pace
Am I fast?  No.
Am I determined?  Yes.