Monday, November 1, 2010

Wrapping Up October

I got to spend a whole weekend with this little princess!
This weekend I drove down to New Braunfels, TX to spend a day and a half with my good friends Kelley, Shannon, Keith and S&K's sweet little one Lily. Kelley and I worked together at camp in North Carolina and it is ALWAYS fun to reminisce about those days with her. We usually end up laughing. The hysterical, ribs hurt, need to pee your pants kind of laughing. And Shannon and Keith go on about their business like everything is totally normal.
But things that are "normal" in this family aren't necessarily normal for everyone else in the world. That's why I love them so much. Way back in the day I shared on this blog that I was living with 2 opera singers when I first moved to Austin. Well these are the two opera singers. And this is a "normal" car ride...
video


And this is Lily already learning how to do some major jamming out. She pretty much parties like a rockstar. (Sorry it's sideways)

video

And with a trip to the pumpkin patch I got to play with the camera a little bit! SO much fun. :)


Like I said...jamming. That's just what she does.

Pumpkin Carving

Seriously? What is there to NOT love about middle schoolers? They're totally normal. I mean c'mon...who doesn't love a good laughing contest?

video

And who else could you count on to love a pumpkin with a face like this and even name it Jeffery? Oh and that little slice on the side of his head was because he got dropped. But no worries. He survived. (On a side note...this pumpkin had a serious case of the runs. Has anyone else ever cut open a pumpkin and found it literally half full of like, juice? In all my pumpkin carving years I have never quite seen what came out of poor Jeffery. And after we dumped him out, he continued to produce juice as he was being carved. So weird.)

Seriously I just love these girls and I loved the opportunity to help them carve their pumpkins! Also loved that our lesson was about how we are like pumpkins. Full of junk and sin. Then a holy and gracious God comes along and gets that out of us, makes us a new creation and places His light in us to shine so that all can see our new selves!

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Moment

Brought to you by: these things don't happen to normal people

Yesterday I was covering the front desk at work. The phone rang. I answered it.

Me: Thank you for calling the Carver. This is Jennifer.
Dude: Hi, uh, do y'all sell carved pumpkins?
Me: I'm sorry what?
Dude: Do y'all sell carved pumpkins or have any that like, uh, I could pick up.
Me: Sir this is a museum.
Dude: Yeah. Okay but like you don't have any pumpkins?
Me: No, sir. We don't.
Dude: Well didn't y'all have like a pumpkin carving thing or something?
Me: Yes sir. Last weekend we had a one day pumpkin carving event.
Dude: So can I come get one of the pumpkins?
Me: We don't have them here any longer. The people who carve the pumpkins get to take them home.
Dude: Oh. All of them?
Me: Yes sir.
Dude: You don't have any that were leftover?
Me: No sir and if we had we would have disposed of them that day.
Dude: Oh. So like if I come up there is there someone that would carve it for me?
Me: No sir. I'm sorry.
Dude: So like, do you know where I could buy something like that?
Me: Buy...a carved pumpkin?
Dude: Yeah.
Me: No sir I'm afraid you are going to be hard pressed to find someone that sells pre-carved pumpkins. They rot relatively quickly after you carve them.

::at this point I start wondering if I'm being punk'd::

Dude: Well I just need a carved pumpkin because I have to take one to work tomorrow.
Me: Well, I know that HEB sells pumpkins. You can get one there and carve it.
Dude: I don't have time for that!
Me: Well, I suppose I won't be of much help then. The only other thing I can think of is to find a friend who has already carved one and jack it from his front porch.
Dude: Oh. Okay. Well, bye.

Stunning.

I have no words.

...except that I reserve the right to wear no bra and Chucks when I'm 107.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy Feet

The happiest of happy feet? I has them. :) Thanks to a super crafty buddy of mine.

Enchanted Rock

Last weekend my precious friend Char and I went to a magical place west of Austin called Enchanted Rock. It was beautiful! We hiked. A lot. For like 5 hours. I left with a sunburn and woke up really sore the next morning. But it was absolutely worth it.

This little guy got hot I guess so he decided this would be a good spot to lay down... Okay really? Doesn't get anymore beautiful than this...
And my favorite part. Finding a great climbing tree and hopping up there to eat lunch. Okay and by "hopping up" I mean sweating, grunting, falling, rolling around, stretching in unnatural ways and getting a few bruises in a few strange places. Oh and laughing hysterically which in fact makes it harder to accomplish the task at hand. Anyone lucky enough to witness that got a show. Oh and second best part? The barefoot kid who climbed about as high as he could in the tree behind me, got scared at the top and decided he was stuck. He yelled down to his dad, "Dad I'm stuck. Help me." Dad, without missing a beat said, "Well I guess this will be a great time for you to enjoy nature." The kid says, "No Dad I'm not kidding. I'm really stuck." And Dad says, "I'm not either. Enjoy the view." And he really did leave him up there. Mom eventually came to the rescue.


I gotta find a man like that to marry...

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Fall: Part Two

Look who has enjoyed a few little fall pleasures lately...

Pumpkin madness and small towns last weekend, surprise mellowcreme pumpkins showing up on my coffee table and hiking this weekend. Be still my heart.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jen in 50 Years



If you don't make it through the whole thing, you HAVE to at least skip to 4:30. I promise it's worth it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Before the Morning

This song has been a great encouragement to me lately. Praying it can be an encouragement to you as well...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Morning Rant

I have to take a moment to just rant for a second...

One of my favorite parts of my mornings is tearing a page off my friendship quotes calendar that my best friend gave me last Christmas. The calendar sits on my bathroom sink and I truly look forward to walking over to it every morning and reading a little bit of encouragement to start off the day. I love that calendar.

This morning though, well, not so much. This morning's quote said this:

"If you want to take an accounting of your worth, count your friends."

What!? I will spare you from knowing who made this quote famous on the off chance that the legal department at the calendar company didn't do their job very well and attributed to it the wrong person, or to the person who made it famous but didn't actually say it first.

It made me so angry and I quickly prayed that nobody who comes across that quote ever takes it to heart.

Because here is the thing about life. Some seasons you will go through and quite possibly not have any friends. Literally. And some seasons you will have made some new friends but they don't REALLY know you and while you enjoy their company, you don't have that soul connection with anybody. Then there will be times when you do have that with one or many people and all seems right in the world.

But there are middle times too. Times when there are people who know you but they're somehow all busy at the same time. Times when you need help but you're too weary to ask for it and even your closest friends can't read your mind. Times when you think you have a friendship with someone but may suddenly discover that it wasn't what you thought. Times when it feels like people are saying what they'll do over and over but aren't really showing up when it comes down to it. Times when you aren't showing up when it comes down to it. Times when people move or drift away from you. Times when everyone is struggling at the same time and no one is really strong enough to carry the other. Times when your friends expect more from you than you can give them and you let them down. Times when you have said the wrong thing and people need time to cool off. Times when you somehow end up at home by yourself every night doing the dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning the house and feeling generally without purpose and everyone seems to have disappeared.

If you look around during those times it would be easy to believe that you don't have any friends. And for heaven's sake if that makes you without worth than what the heck are we all doing here.

But it's not true. Your worth is in NO way wrapped up in how many people surround you on any given day, how many hugs you get or don't get, how many people call to check on you or how many dates with friends you have in your planner.

Because it is simply part of life that friends come and they go. Things change. Others move forward or they stay where they are while you move forward. Time passing allows some friendships to grow colder and some to deepen. Those middle times will pass and people will come back around, or you'll come back around. New friendships will be built.

But there is an everlasting, always stable, constant friend available to all of us and His name is Jesus. He remains and His love for us, His ability to help when we need it, His comfort is ALWAYS present. And that is where you can find an accounting of your worth. Your worth should never be based on something that will change as the wind blows. Instead find it in something that for the rest of your life you can trust. He is true to His word.

I went ahead and tore that page off this morning so that I wouldn't accidentally read it again. And quite thankfully tomorrow's quote was something fantastic about hugs and rainbows and unicorns and puppies and the general beauty of good friends in our lives. And everything felt better again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Fall

Being down here in the South there's a phrase that always makes me laugh.

"Yay it's starting to feel like fall!"

And I have to laugh because my fall feels so different from their fall.

Fall is an incredibly special season that seems to connect with most people's hearts and I think it's because the general environment starts speaking to that somewhat melancholy and peaceful part of our souls. This is especially true for me. While I love all the seasons for various reasons, this one, if I had to pick a favorite, would be it. For me it's where everything seems to slow down a bit, where the world calms down a bit and where I find a certain coziness, a certain connection with Home.

I'm having to relearn that a bit though. The past couple of years fall has seemed a little distant and only gets worse every time I say to my sweet Southern friends, "Y'all don't even know what fall is."

But they do...it carries the same comfort and joys for them. It just looks really different. Most people here are loving their football and bbq and city life as the stifling heat seems to drift away for a time.

My fall though...oh it was special.

My fall is the cold in the air every morning that stays in the breeze throughout the day.

The leaves turning brilliant shades of orange and yellow and red. And crunching under your feet on cold sidewalks when winter starts knocking on the door and they die and drift away.

The frost on the ground every morning that scares away all the little gremlins that ignite my highly sensitive allergies. I love that frost.

Caramel and candy apples. Candy corn. And those mellowcreme pumpkins. Enough said.

Pumpkin everything. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin muffins. Grammy's pumpkin pie. Pumpkin bars.

And the most important of the pumpkin list. The pumpkin patch. Oh those are the best!

Hot potato soup and hazelnut mochas at St. Louis Bread Co. on chilly Saturdays.

Hot chocolate, a hooded sweatshirt and a good book in the evenings.

Camping and campfires. Hiking, smores, campfire food, sleeping in a tent combined with that cold air and those crunchy leaves. Oh my heart. Forget it. I'm toast just thinking about it.

Folk music and small-town festivals. I don't know why small towns love them some fall festivals, but they are the best of hometown comfort.

Thanksgiving with my family. Watching the Macy's Day parade and drinking hot chocolate first thing in the morning. Running to shower during a commercial break so I don't miss any of the performing acts. Eating brunch together. Talking and laughing, sometimes yelling and scolding. :) Watching movies during the day. Eating leftovers for dinner. And coffee and pumpkin pie for dessert.

I miss my fall a lot this year. Maybe next year I'll try to find a new Southern version for myself or conform to everyone else's...but this year I'm just remembering mine.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Cost of Discipleship

Raise your hand if you're stupid enough to not take into consideration the serious gut-wrenching, heart-checkin' you're gonna get when opening and ingesting a book with the title The Cost of Discipleship.

Hands. Raised. Both of them.

Call me a moron. I will agree with you. But it's one of those things that when it hit me around around the 5th word on page 2, I thought, no stoppin' now. Just hunker down and get on with it. Today I made it to page 78 and when I put the book down felt like I needed a drink...and I don't drink.

Okay, it's not really that bad. But I'm just sayin'...it's no walk in the park.

Today's little nugget of a chapter was about the story of the rich, young ruler who according to Matthew 19 rolled up to Jesus and said, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" Jesus tells him to obey the commandments. So the man asks, "Which ones?" Jesus responds by essentially listing the commandments and I can't help but think he might have been rolling his eyes right about now. Then the man says, "All these I have kept. What do I still lack?" And Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

And this part is killer...

"When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth."

This would be the point in which I start screaming at my Bible, "What the heck are you doing you crazy foo'!?! That's Jesus you just walked away from!! Helloooooo! Go back! He's worth it!!"

And then this thought crosses my mind. What if I went to work today and at lunch I walk outside and there's Jesus and He says, "C'mon, follow me." And He just starts walking. In that moment I would have to quite literally walk away from my job, my apartment, my paycheck, my friends, my family, my cell phone to let them know where I'm going, the cat that I take care of who has surely eaten all the food I left for him this morning, the kid across the street that I've been trying to help out lately, my summer camp...all of it. Just quite literally start walking away from it. One foot in front of the other.

Yeah, nope. If I'm being blunt, I don't know if I would do it. I hope that I would. I can trust what the scriptures say, that I would recognize Jesus' voice, and if my heart was assured of who He was and I fell back on the faith that I have that everything He says is true, well then there's a slight chance that I could get my feet moving. But it's so hard to think about it that I really have never sat on it for long enough to trust myself with that.

This is where this book comes in. Where Mr. Bonhoeffer points out how often we frequently just waste time skirting the issue when we know the call on our lives.

"The young man knows the commandments. But such is his situation that he cannot be satisfied with them but wants to go beyond them...Why does he pretend that he has for long been ignorant of the answer? Why does he accuse God of leaving him so long in ignorance of this fundamental problem of life?"

That's what we do all the time right? We wrestle with things we aren't sure about in Scripture. We wait to hear a "call" for a specific mission. We wait for our heart to change, our desire to serve to grow, our joy to come back. We wait for the church to provide us with opportunity, the weekend to be over or our cookies to finish baking. We come up with all kinds of excuses when the Word has already been given. Our call was spoken thousands of years ago.

And then, Bonhoeffer says this, "He [the young man] neglects the unmistakable command of God for the very interesting, but purely human concern of his own moral difficulties. His mistake lies not so much in his awareness of those difficulties as in his attempt to play them off against the commandments of God."

"The only answer to his difficulties is the very commandment of God, which challenges him to have done with academic discussion and to get on with the task of obedience...The one thing that matters is practical obedience. That will solve his difficulties and make him (and all of us) free to become the child of God."

Get on with the task of obedience. Ah sigh...groanmumblewhinegroancomplain.

It's a pretty clear message. Jen, stop sleeping in and get on with the task of obedience. Jen, stop waiting to be held accountable and get on with the task of obedience. Jen, stop waiting until you "feel" like doing it and get on with the task of obedience. Jen, stop waiting for sympathy and empathy and get on with the task of obedience. Jen, stop looking around and get on with the task of obedience. Jen, stop thinking about what is "wrong" in life right now and get on with the task of obedience.

That is my answer to my difficulties. To obey the command of God.

Bonhoeffer goes on to say, "[Jesus] refuses to take those difficulties as seriously as the young man does."

What? That can't be right.

But my heart knows that it is. All these grumblings and questions and doubts are merely stalling on my part and while God loves me immensely, He sees it for what it is. Wasting time pretending to decipher a call that's already been laid out for me in black and white.

None of this means that Jesus' love is any less than it has ever been and in fact quite the opposite. Mark 10:21 says, "And Jesus looking upon him loved him." Jesus desires to help us follow that call because He loves us. And He will be our help when we turn to Him for it.

This alone can be our motivation for taking the first steps of obedience.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Prayer for a friend


This is Ro. Short for Rogenishia. Sargeant Rogenishia actually. :)

She is a very dear friend and one of the most fun people I've ever met in my life. This girl can put a smile on anybody's face and she has blessed my life in amazing ways in the almost two years I've known her.
Ro is in the Army and left this morning for Iraq. Well, not quite. She left for 3 months of training in the US and then will head to Iraq. Today I ask that you would keep Ro on your heart and in your prayers.
She's got an awesome heart for the Lord and I pray above all things that God would be glorified as she fulfills His call on her life.

We decided that her verse for this trip would be Joshua 1:9. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

I ask that you would pray that over her today and any day that God puts her on your heart!

We love you Ro! Stay strong girl.

video

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Weird...

One of my favorite blogs had an amazing post today, using the same Scripture I just used in my post, in a completely different context. Exhibit A of why I love, love, love Scripture.

Grace- An Action Word


Last night I babysat for some precious little ones, one of whom was 5-year-old Jack. Jack has the deepest dimples and the sweetest smile I have ever seen in my life and in no time he'll be charming himself out of all kinds of trouble.

Jack is 5 which means you have to say, "Jack put on your jammies" about 4 times before he stops finding new toys to play with. And reading a story before bed turns into reading 3 stories. And brushing his teeth somehow transforms into showing me his mad mini-guitar playing skillz. It wasn't Jack being disobedient or defiant. It was Jack being 5 years old. That's what they do. They play. Sleep is far from topping their priority list which will be hilarious in 10 years when teenage narcolepsy hits and no one can't get him out of bed.

It's easy with a child that age to say over and over again, "Jack, I asked you to _____ and I need you to do it." It's easy to say, "Jack, I'm not going to ask you once more." It's easy to say, "Jack, I'm going to have to tell your parents if you don't _____."

Last night about 20 minutes after I had left Jack in his bed to fall asleep I heard little shuffling sounds on the ceiling above me. A very quiet trip up the steps, poking my head into his room and saying, "Jack...what are you doing buddy?" was responded to with near paralysis in his tiny body and eyes as big as Ihop pancakes. "I...uh...well, I just wanted to do this puzzle."

Grace. Short word with BIG implications. An idea that many days seems impossible to execute. An idea that makes sense in our heads, but in application is very confusing. I have figured this out though. Grace, for me, is usually doing the opposite of what fear, frustation and bitterness would have me do.

In the big picture it's serving those who have hurt you. It's forgiving when it's easier to be bitter. It's loving those that make you angry.

In the smaller day to day picture it's saying I love you when you'd rather yell I'm angry with you. It's being calm when you want to rage. It's walking back to someone when you'd rather keep walking away.

It's a choice. An action. And if I've figured out nothing else about it, I know this...sitting around and waiting for God to fill you with grace is simply an excuse for not giving it out. Sit and wait to be filled up all you want and while God is certainly capable of supernaturally bestowing it on you, He's probably waiting on you to get up and get your two feet walking toward whoever you need to show it to.

Here's what I know in my life. Every small step I take toward grace, every minor move I've made in that direction, has made BIG changes in my heart and usually in the situation I'm in.
It doesn't mean ignoring what needs dealt with or allowing yourself to get walked on. But it changes how we feel about the situation. It changes how those around us responds to us. And it changes the outcome in major ways.

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us."
~1 John 4:18

Grace removes the fear. It removes the threat of punishment. Grace just loves.

Which is why last night when I looked down at Jack, realized I had an important choice to make, and said, "Would it be okay if I helped you with your puzzle?" his body relaxed, he smiled his big dimply smile and said, "Sure!" Those 10 minutes of him showing me his puzzle completing strategy were the sweetest we'd had together all night.

God gave me the good sense in that moment not to scold or correct one more time. But to love.

And after his puzzle was finished, he was ready to go to sleep. He curled up in his bed, I turned off his light and I never heard anymore little feet shuffling across the floor.

Grace changes things.

Update

I was going to blog about some other things but realized there might be a few fidgety people wanting to know the "end" of my previous story.

And the end is this: God did not take away my struggle. But He alleviated it through many other provisions and undeserved blessings.

Blessings like this:
1. Car repairs that only cost $670, a great conversation with the mechanic who worked on it and a peace in my heart that he actually cared about me having a safe car without draining my bank account, and a coupon for 20% off my next repairs.
2. A whole uninterrupted day at the coffee shop. So much so that my butt was numb by the end of it. I'm sure that was a little sarcastic humor from the Big Guy. "You sure you want a whole day? You got it, kid."
3. Cards, emails and text messages loaded with encouragement and offers to help if needed. That alone...the blessing of being reminded I'm not alone...was more than enough.
4. And actual, tangible help from the people God has put in my life to do that sort of thing.

Like I said, I didn't have any miraculous, supernatural answer to my prayer. But, a few more little glimpes at the big forest and the beauty that it holds.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Forest

Yeah, long time no see from me. I know. I could tell you I've been super busy. And that would be mildly true. But mostly I've been apathetic. Just keepin' it real. Apathetic to certain disciplines in my life that I generally try to keep up such as writing. But I don't feel bad about it.

That being said, there's a lot that's been begging to be blogged about in life and hopefully one day I will succeed. Until then, something has been on my heart this morning.

A few days ago I was trying to remember that proverbial saying...something about seeing a forest and trees...dangit how's it go?

Oh, I can't see the forest for the trees.

Thank you google.

Yes it's true that I, like so many others, tend to lose sight of the beauty of the forest because I'm all hung up in the dang trees.

The first thing that's important to say is that for a long, long time I have been craving time to just sit and read and journal and listen to music outside at a coffee shop. Just uninterrupted time to simply be. That's all I've wanted for months and somehow, I always miss my chance. We'll get back to that later.

Moving on, to be very real and transparent, one of my greatest struggles and sources of pride is about money. I don't crave it. I don't long to be rich. I don't "need" lots of things to be happy. I don't even need to make more than I need to eat and have shelter to be happy.

BUT.

My struggles come in other ways. Getting frustrated that I'm at a job where I don't get paid what other people in my field would get. Getting frustrated that I haven't gotten a raise because the economy is bad. Getting frustrated that I acquired debt in college that I now feel chained to. Getting fearful when unexpected expenses came up. Getting anxious when even the possibility of unexpected expenses come up.

I don't seek material things but I do seek financial security.

Yes, my independent streak ignites when it comes to financial situations and I want to be able to take care of myself.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

About a month ago I came up with a very clear budget and plan that would take me through December and would help me pay off some of that aformentioned debt. And at that time I prayed a very specific prayer, "God please. I beg you. No surprises. Nothing unexpected. Please." It was bold and maybe even selfish, but I asked anyway.

That's why when a few days ago the emergency brake in my car exploded, no really, and a dashboard light started flashing and the brakes started squealing my stomach sank.

Here it comes...the unexpected expense that always happens when I think I have a plan.

So, at 7:00 a.m. this morning I showed up at the car shop I most recently took my car to and asked them to fix a couple of specific things. They called 30 minutes later to tell me that I had about $800 worth of brake work I needed to get done fairly immediately in order for my car to be safe.

There it was. And I did it. I thought, "God, why?" No answer.

I sat in the coffeeshop I was in and let a few tears out, made a phone call for some much needed reassurance and went on figuring out how to make this work. After walking back to the car shop I told them I needed to go home and get my credit card and I'd be back.

On my drive I thought better of not getting a second opinion. I remembered another shop in town that has been great to me and usually gives me a discount. What could it hurt to make sure I'm not being jipped. So I drove on over to them.

The guy took one look at the quote I'd been given and said, "This is outrageous. I can't believe they get away with charging people like this. Let's take a look at it. I think we can do a lot better."

I walked over to a different coffee shop. Thank you Austin for having one of those on every corner and on my way, again I thought, "God, why." And in true Job fashion was responded to with a, "Who are you to ask Me that? Where were you when I created the earth?"

Indeed. Who am I to ask why? To question the great decisions of the One who has never left me in need.

I took a seat at a table outside and started getting fidgety and teary-eyed. I looked at the clock over and over again. Checked credit card limits. Wondered why it was taking them so long. Wondered how long it would be before I could get home. Wondered how long I'd have to sit here before I could just move on with my day.

And while I was busy banging my head against the couple of trees in front of me (a surprise expense and being "stuck" at a coffee shop) I missed the beauty of the forest.

In this current struggle, a previous prayer was answered. The prayer for uninterrupted, unhibited time. Time to journal and write, to read and be. Here I was not only given that gift, I was stuck with it. God made sure that I would utilize it.

My forest.

I don't know how long I'll be sitting here. I don't know how much my final repairs will cost. But I know that in this, a prayer has been answered and somewhere down the road, my other prayers will be answered as well as seen fit by my wise and wonderful Lord. My job is to simply recognize my forest of blessing in the trees of struggle.

With that, I'm going to wander down the road in search of food. And on my way I might beam up a few thank you's that I owe to somebody upstairs.

"I'll sing it when the sun is shining, I will scream it in the dark. You are faithful...when You give and when You take away, You are faithful." {Steven Curtis Chapman}

Friday, August 27, 2010

I love Relevant magazine.

This is another really challenging gem that I ran across this morning...giving validity to things I've been thinking for awhile and forcing me to look at my own technology habits and start holding myself more accountable.

"To truly understand the purpose and power of a technology we must identify its innate bias. All technologies come with biases that cause users to naturally prefer certain things. The basic bias of facebook updates and Twitter is that it encourages everyone to share whatever is on your mind in real time; it begs for your thoughts at all times. It's a constant reminder to externalize our thoughts. These updates may be profound, but more often they are mostly a twitch of the brain- a mental fidget adding to the static of the universe.

This inadvertently reinforces the narcissism of the digital age. Twitter helps me believe even my most mundane thoughts are now somehow important and need to be shared. It begs me to step out of the stream of experience long enough to record it. The effect is that we are no longer present in any of our experiences. We are living as unpaid journalists who chronicle life as it passes by.

This may seem insignificant. But our presence matters. Our brief but increasingly frequent moments of absence add up. Imagine a father who flickers in and out of a child's life every time he checks his iPhone. He might be there physically, but he may as well be at the office or on a business trip. People can feel our absence. And it is usually a loss. We become digital nomads glancing around the globe, never fully present. It is a ghost-like condition. It diminishes one of God's greatest gifts to us-a body. There is a reason God made us with bodies. There is a reason God became a body in Jesus. The incarnation is about becoming a body to bless the world through physical presence in the lives of others. To hold the hand of those who grieve, to feed and clothe those who are poor, to love those who are alone by being 'with' them. Many of these technologies create a condition of absence in a world desperate for our presence."
~Shane Hipps
Relevant Magazine

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Repeating on iTunes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DY1yL9C94Mc

Run Forward~ Audrey Assad
Oh won't you show what you're feeling?
Is it too much to ask that your heart be revealing?
Just a little bit oh just a little bit just a little

I don't think I've ever informed you
I love you desperately even though I only know you
Just a little bit oh just a little bit just a little

Oh how'd we get so disconnected?
My heart is shutting down I just can't let it

So I'll run forward and pray you fall back
Grace will come and clear your path
Yeah I'll run forward and you fall back
Come back

Oh you treat your time like you own it
It's slipping fast away and you're not getting younger
Not even a bit no not even a bit no not at all

This love is a battle we're fighting
You've laid your armor down oh and now I can't find it
Not even a bit no not even a bit no not at all

Oh you took your love for granted

But oh it never left you for a second

So I'll run forward and pray you fall back
Grace will come and clear your path
Yeah I'll run forward and you fall back
Oh I'll run forward and you fall back

You make me afraid
Thank you I've got to thank you
'cause now I know His strength
Thank you I've gotta thank you
So please don't run away oh
Don't run don't run

So I'll run forward and pray you run back
Grace will come and clear my path
Yeah I'll run forward and if you run back
Oh I'll run forward and if you run back
Oh I'll run forward and you fall back

Come back i pray you'll come back my love
Come back and grace will come to clear your path
Oh i'll run forward if you fall back
You come back my love come back

Stirring my affections...

This was really encouraging and at the same time really challenging to me today. It's from an article in a magazine where Pastor Matt Chandler was asked, "What does warring against sin look like?"

Sanctification here at The Village begins by answering two questions. What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ? And what robs you of those affections? Many of the things that stifle growth are morally neutral. They're not bad things. Facebook is not bad. Television and movies are not bad. I enjoy TV, but it doesn't take long for me to begin to find humorous on TV what the Lord finds heartbreaking.

The same goes for following sports. It's not wrong, but if I start watching sports, I begin to care too much. I get stupid. If 19-year-old boys are ruining your day because of what they do with a ball, that's a problem. These things rob my affections for Christ. I want to fill my life with things that stir my affections for him. After a funeral I walked around the cemetery and found a grave of a guy who died when he was my age. I felt my mortality in that moment and it made me love the Lord. It really did. Some types of epic films do that for me, and so does angst-filled music.

We want our people to think beyond simply what's right and wrong. We want them to fill their lives with things that stir their affections for Jesus Christ and, as best as they can, to walk away from things that rob those affections—even when they're not immoral.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Just so you know...

Starting tomorrow this is how I will be starting my mornings:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sweet Video

So, this is one of those things that I saw on one blog and never watched it. Well then it popped up on another blog and I didn't watch it. Then I saw it on a third blog, unrelated to the first two and was just bored enough that I did. I was quite surprised at how precious it is!

This summer...or even the past couple of years for me...have been like going 90 miles an hour on the highway and now slamming on my brakes. There are times when my heart longs for quiet and solitude and I seek it. There are other times when I don't have much choice. Circumstances are such that alone is a decision I had no part in and I struggle to embrace it.

But either way, it is a gift. A tremendous gift.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Best start to a Friday

Conversation with this little guy:
Amar: Miss Jen! Miss Jen! Can I have a hug?
Me: Always!
Amar: Where were you?
Me: When?
Amar: When you weren't here.
Me: You mean this morning?
Amar: Yeah.
Me: Well buddy I was at home.
Amar: Don't you work here?
Me: Yes. But I have to go home sometimes.
Amar: *Insert confused look* Oh...Did you see the performance last night?
Me: I did see part of it. Just not the whole thing.
Amar: Why not?
Me: I had plans to have dinner with a friend.
Amar: Oh...I'm going to a party tonight! It's at 6.
Me: Really? What kind of party?
Amar: A birthday party. It's a party for my best friend. It's at 8.
Me: Oh at 8?
Amar: Yep.
Me: What are you going to do?
Amar: Hmm...I don't really know.

Amar is the type of kid that is our shining glory after camp. When he came to us he was just, well, little. He cried often. Got in trouble often. Had difficulty staying engaged. But only in the ways that little kids have those kinds of troubles and you have to teach them something different. He was incredibly difficult to discipline...look at that face and tell me that it would be easy to yell at him. :)

But over the course of camp his incidents became fewer. He smiled much more frequently and he started having fun.

One day he was sitting by a wall crying and I asked him what was up. He told me he didn't have any friends. I said, "Well that's silly. I'm your friend."

"You are?"

I said, "Well sure. And I'm in charge of this shindig right?"

"Yes."
And I said, "Well then I guess you're pretty lucky to have me for a friend." His eyes got all sparkly and I think he actually believed that I was someone important, therefore making him important, for half a second. And that was how he stole my heart. He was one of few kids that we see anymore that is a kid. He's innocent and flaky. He's gullible and imaginative. Most of the kids we see aren't like that anymore.

By the end of our time with him he was a very different kid than who we had started with. He still had his troubles. Like the day I found him in the corner with tears rolling down his eyes and we had this conversation.

Me: Amar, why are you in the corner?
Amar: Because I was singing.
Me: You got in trouble for singing? (Those of you that know me from the way back days will find this statement coming from me quite hilarious and understand why Amar and I get along so well.)
Amar: Yes. The teacher told me to stop but I didn't stop singing.
Me: And why didn't you stop when the teacher asked you?
Amar: ...because I really like singing.

But he was obviously different, more confident and comfortable here. He continued into another camp that we were offering here right after ours was over and it has truly been a JOY to watch him in this camp. The other day during their art class he went to go to the restroom and when he came back through the door of the classroom announced, "So what'd I miss!"

It's those kids who make it really fun. Not because he's going to be on Broadway someday. Although, if he doesn't stop singing all the time his career choices are going to be limited. But because I actually got to witness a change in who he was in a very short period of time. I got to see up close how God used this camp to help him mature and grow. And those are the sweetest memories I could hope for.

On that note, one of our counselors literally just came in and said, "Amar's on a roll again."

:) They just don't know him like I do.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Really interesting article

This article just seriously frustrated me. Quite luckily one person in there redeemed it. I have added my own commentary as needed. :-P

(CNN) -- Legs covered in skin-toned stockings, her skirt crisp to the knee, Patty Davis slips on the black heels she has shined for the day.

"Got to look good in the Lord's house," she says as she spritzes her neck with White Diamonds perfume and exits her black Lincoln Town Car.

Davis, 46, of Union City, Georgia, has attended African Methodist Episcopal churches since before she could crawl. She sits proudly in the pew every Sunday for service and is among the first to arrive for bible study each Wednesday.

She moves swiftly, with confidence, a weathered Bible clutched in her right hand, the day's passages dog-eared and highlighted. She's the type of woman who can recite scriptures with ease, her love of faith evident in her speech.

"Every day is a blessed day for me," she says. "Jesus is the No. 1 man in my life and any man who wants me must seek me through Him."

The unmarried Georgia native is a committed follower of the Christian faith, striving to live and breathe the gospel in her daily life. Yet, according to relationship advice columnist Deborrah Cooper, it is this devout style of belief and attachment to the black church that is keeping black women like Davis -- single and lonely.

Clinging to the gospel

Cooper, a writer for the San Francisco Examiner, recently made claims on her blog SurvivingDating.com that predominantly black protestant churches, such as African Methodists, Pentecostal, and certain denominations of Evangelical and Baptist churches are the main reason black women are single. Cooper, who is black and says she is not strictly religious, argues that rigid beliefs constructed by the black church are blinding black women in their search for love.

In raising the issue, Cooper ignited a public conversation about a topic that is increasingly getting attention in the black community and beyond. Oprah Winfrey, among others, recently hosted a show about single black women and relationships after a Yale University study found that 42 percent of African-American women in the United States were unmarried.

Big Miller Grove Missionary Baptist Church, a predominately African-American Baptist church in Atlanta, is holding a seminar on the question of faith's role in marital status on August 20.

"Black women are interpreting the scriptures too literally. They want a man to which they are 'equally yoked' -- a man that goes to church five times a week and every Sunday just like they do," Cooper said in a recent interview.

"If they meet a black man that is not in church, they are automatically eliminated as a potential suitor. This is just limiting their dating pool."

The traditional structure and dynamics of black churches, mostly led by black men, convey submissive attitudes to women, Cooper says, encouraging them to be patient -- instead of getting up and going after what they want.

Nearly ninety percent of African-Americans express "certain belief in God" and 55 percent say they "interpret scripture literally," according to the 2009 Pew Research Center study "A Religious Portrait of African-Americans."

Dr. Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse University and advocate for African-American issues, responded to Cooper's article online. Though he applauded Cooper's courage to voice her opinion , he agreed -- and disagreed -- with her.

"I don't think the church keeps black women single," Watkins says. "But I do agree that some black churches teach women that they must only date a man that goes to church regularly."

Watkins, who is African-American and whose father is a Southern Baptist minister, described his interactions with southern women who are devout churchgoers. "I am a male and I know that I will treat a woman well, but I have been rejected many times because I don't thump a bible with me everywhere that I go."

All in the numbers

One of biggest reasons black women are single, Cooper says, is because of a lack of black men in the church. According to the PEW study, "African-American men are significantly more likely than women to be unaffiliated with any religion (16 percent vs. 9 percent). Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation."

Watkins believes the social structure of the church keeps black men from attending. "Those appealing, high-testosterone guys have a hard time getting into the 'Follow the leader, give me your money, and listen to what I have to say' attitude."

"Many of us have a difficult time submitting to the pastor who is just another man."

The male pastor, Cooper says, is the "alpha male" for many black women. Over-reverence for the pastor - or any religious figure for that matter - creates barriers for the black man, she says, because he feels like he must compete for the No. 1 spot in a black woman's heart.

"It doesn't make you more attractive if your life is filled with these 'other' men," Cooper says. "If they feel like they have to compete, you are not going to be interesting because you're not feeding his ego in the way it needs to be fed." [OMG. That's all I'm sayin'.]

Mark K. Forston, son of a black preacher in Forest Park, Georgia, says some black women "put their pastor on this pedestal and have a large amount of faith in him because he is a living source of salvation."

Sometimes women even focus their romantic feelings on the pastor, says Forston. "Regardless if he's married or not, sometimes human desires will transcend beyond certain parameters and that's dangerous territory. Pastors are humans just like anybody else."

The Rev. Renita J. Weems, a bible scholar who holds a degree in theology from Princeton, strongly disagrees with Cooper about why many black women remain single and says she is reinforcing one message: "It's the black woman's fault."

"To claim that women are sitting in their chair getting heated about watching their preacher strut across the pulpit is illogical," Weems says. "The black church is not a Sunday morning sex drama."

Weems, who is African-American and has written several books on women's spirituality, has her own criticisms of the black church. The literal interpretation of certain scriptures can lead to subjugating women, Weems says. However, positive scripture messages, about love and justice, do exist and can be used to empower women rather than keep them "single and lonely."

Weems says Cooper fails to examine deeper threads. "What the black church does and what religion does is helps you create core values for your life and allows you to see what you appreciate in others.

"The reason why black women who go to black churches are not married is because they are looking for certain values in a man," Weems says. "It is not the church that keeps them single, but the simple fact that good values are lacking in some of our men."
[I dont' know who this lady is, but I'm no her side.]

Choose or lose the church

Cooper says her goal is to empower black women. If their strategy for meeting men is failing, Cooper offers two suggestions: Find another church or leave-and go where the boys go: tailgates, bars and clubs.

"Black women need to open their eyes. You want to know the reason why the black man isn't in church? Because he left church to go to the Sunday football game," Cooper says. "Going to these sites is discouraged in the black church because these places are seen as places where 'sin dwells.' But if women are compassionate, as the bible preaches they should be, then they need to be more open about the men they choose to date and where they might meet them." [This is one of the most tragic manipulations of the truth I have ever read.]

"I'm not against religion, or against the church, I'm against women limiting their choices and putting themselves in a box because they do what their church tells them to do," Cooper says.

Weems disagrees. "Telling black women that they should spend their two hours on Sunday elsewhere and drive them away to go to the bar to find a date is not helpful to our communities."

"Black women are the backbones of their community and without them a lot of charitable work would not get done, social justice on the ground would be diminished and outreach to poor people would be severed."
[Preach it Sister.]

Patty Davis, the long time churchgoer in Georgia, says all the arguments over what the church preaches miss the point. What truly matters, she says, are women's motives.

"The real question is: What are you coming to church for?" she says. "To feed your spirit? Or your carnal desires?"

The church's effect on the romantic lives of black women cannot be gleaned from a mathematical equation or a select bible passage, Davis says.

"It is a woman's own actions and decisions that will determine the outcome of her love life, not the church's," Davis says. "Because the last time I checked, the church ain't no dating service."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bubbles of Thought Are Above My Head

and the bubbles are about blogging.

Like I said in my last post, certain things in life have just seemed a bit...cluttered. Like there's just a lot of stuff. My blogroll has over 1,000 unread posts. I haven't read a facebook newsfeed in days. My email has 7,709 messages in the inbox. The inbox on my phone for texts is full every day.

In the past couple years of life I have made it a goal to live a decently simple life. I drive a simple car that is simply about to die a slow painful death. I live in a simple studio apartment that is simply...tiny. In order to live in a tiny space I am required to never acquire more than a tiny amount of stuff. This all helps keep life, well, simple. It keeps major decisions to a minimum. It keeps me from spending money on unnecessary items. (Well, in theory.) It keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. It helps keep me focused on the more important things.

I've realized that in my return from 6 weeks of being relatively detached from life, my brain has whirred and stirred and felt in complete overdrive and I realized it has much to do with the fact that my online life is anything but simple. It's messy. And now that I'm back in front of a computer for a better portion of the day, I can't ignore it.

So today I started simplifying, beginning with cleaning up the blog reader.

In doing so, I had to check my motivations for reading certain blogs. I couldn't help but wonder on numerous occasions, why was that ever there in the first place? I realized that often I was reading blogs of people that I know only from a distance and reading about their day to day life gave me a false sense of connection to them that doesn't really exist. And sometimes in conversation I would refer to them as if I know them...as if the things I had read on their blog, they had told me personally.

Weird.

So all those kind of blogs had to go. The next thing I realized that much of my blog reading was followed by judgment...I would read things others had posted and assuming their tone of voice, or purity of heart, would have decided that whatever they were thinking or feeling or had written was wrong. Or they were wrong for having published it for the whole world to see.

So any blogs that allowed my heart to feel that way, clouding what I know about (or don't know about) the actual person had to go.

Next on the list were mindless blogs...things that really serve no value other than a good way to waste time.

To be honest, I'm still working on whittling away at the list...still determining which of those that I read will be of value to my heart...which ones will serve to only encourage or edify, or which will help me to keep in touch with or interact with true friends. Friends that I may not see often, or maybe that I do see often. But people that I know and who know me and that I am confident actually want me to know what is going on in their lives.

All of that being said, in my hunt today, I rediscovered two blogs that truly are the example of which I compared all others to. One has an author that I know (but would not say that I am good friends with), the other has an author that I don't know. But what I so love about both of them is that both writers have a way of crafting all their words in such a way that they tell stories about their own lives, but the focus is never on them. The focus is always on glorifying and exalting the Lord. They use their lives as every day examples for what the Lord is showing and teaching them and there's not a post on either one that I've ever read that doesn't teach me something, or make me think about something differently.

I wish mine was like that...it's not. I know that. But I wish it was. Too often this is about me. It's about my stories. My pictures. My ridiculous experiences. And not enough is it about God and His story. But these two ladies have completely changed how I view and think about blogging and I wanted to share theirs with you...they are worth every minute of your time.

Cupcakes, Sprinkles, and other Happy Things
This blog belongs to the lead singer of AddisonRoad and it ALWAYS makes me laugh. And it ALWAYS makes me cry. And everything in between. But most importantly, it helps me fall more in love with the Lord and reminds me of the things that He is doing and the ways that He is working all over this country.

Thoughts From Fabs
This girl works at church and has a wisdom that I have literally never encountered in another female. I was lucky enough to be in one of her classes one time and she blew me away then with the Truth that she speaks and does it every single time she writes a new blog entry. She has a complete and total gift and I sincerely get excited every time I see she has updated...and then I cringe because I know whatever she wrote is going to wreck me out completely.

Happy reading!

Back...with a little bit of randomness

A few thoughts...

Wow...it's been an awful long time since I've been on here. And most of you who read this know why...

The past 6 weeks of directing Seussical have been some of the most challenging, most exhausting and most blessed that I've had. There's a lot that I've learned but hopefully I'll be able to re-enter blogging land with a bang and get into all that later.

I've discovered yet again how much I really don't like facebook so my sincere hope is that I will invest more time in my blog and little to no time elsewhere. I really don't want to be all wrapped up in other people's lives. Although it is a glorious distraction from my own, I would do better to stick to what's in front of me. That being said, blogs are also a great way to be all wrapped up in someone's life and think that you actually have a relationship with them just because you read what they do every day. This is false. And for that reason I will also be cleaning out my blog reader. =D

It's time to simplify. Things are feeling a little cluttered.

So, to tide you over until I have an opportunity to get to the goods (hint: I'm waiting on really good production photos) here's a little bit of sweetness for your day...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Common Invisible Barrier

A precious friend wrote this on her blog a few days ago and it was words that my heart had been feeling for so long and I'd never been able to put together or articulate. I added the italics myself for things that really spoke to me.

I've never been one to be bad about keeping in touch, but I've never been one to be the best at it either. I have learned from moving around a lot that the friendships I don't actually have to "keep up with" are the ones that are meant to stay. The people that I don't have to facebook every now and then in order to keep our friendships going are my community. The people who I can call after 6 months and nothing has changed are the people I can count on. It's the people who call me and say, "Hey, you're on my heart" that are for a lifetime.

That is not to say that the others aren't important...they are. But to chase after keeping up with them quickly becomes a detriment to myself and those that God has put in front of me. I guess I feel like lately I've seen that a lot. And I have to fight feeling the need to keep up with that...I have to not believe the lie that I'm going to get lost in the shuffle if I don't fight for people's time. I have to trust God to keep me where I need to be and give me the community I need most.

Thursday, June 17, 2010
a common invisble barrier...
one of the greatest barriers to community is actually great people. how can i possibly say this? well i have experienced it. i am blessed to work at a church with tons of incredible people who passionately love jesus, live on mission, serve the least of these, care for the orphan and the widow, encourage one another, exhort one another, etc. all that you could want in community. the problem is that there are so many of them. you want to know all of them. you find yourself doing something each night with different awesome people. you may hang out over a meal, or perhaps you are digging into deep conversation, maybe even praying for each other. but it is not consistent enough to really say that you are living life together. and you are not together enough to really live on mission. the danger is that it can feel like community and you can even be encouraged, but it is not true biblical community.

having tons of great people around can be an invisible barrier to community for a couple of reasons. you feel like you have it but you are actually completely missing it. it is not inherently sinful to spend time with people so you do not even see it as a problem. but when you are busy spending time with all of these great people, it is hard for them to know you well enough to know what is going on in your life, much less your heart. they don't really get to know you or get down into the junk of your life with you. until you spend enough time together or experience some stressful situations or conflict, the real you does not often come out. just the well put together you, that most people like.

secondly, if you are spending all of your time, running from place to place being with all these great people, you suddenly don't have the time and energy to live on mission. spending time with all these people may not appear to be bad thing, but it may in fact be the very thing that is keeping you from living out the mission god has called you to. it is deceptive because you are not doing anything bad and you may even experience some growth and encouragement from it. it is an invisible barrier i think many people in our church encounter without even knowing it.

third, when we are busy chasing after the people we really like, we often miss out on the exact people the lord has for our community. sometimes the ones who god will use to grow us the most, sharpen us the most and even encourage us the most, are not always the people we would chose, but they are the people the lord has place around us. if we are always busy hanging out with new people, we will bail on the very ones we are called to be in community with. we will inadvertently become that person who is always looking for something better and is never satisfied.

and one more thing, community changes with the ebb and flow of life (i am currently wrestling with this). sometimes you do not have to move cities for the lord to change your community. life goes in seasons and sometimes, your community goes with it. you have to let go and move forward. not because you do not love those people, but because in order to follow christ, this is what must happen. it will become a hindrance if you still try to keep up with everyone and move forward. you can't put your hand to the plow and look back.

so take a look around you, who has the lord placed in your life for community now? who do you need to be intentional with? who really knows you? who are you not only doing bible study with, but also serving with? who knows you well enough to speak into your life on a regular basis? if you have 50 million friends that you see a couple times a month, i am not so sure you have community

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

To my dad and favorite sled partner...
And to my VERY favorite coach. The one who got kicked out of a soccer game for standing up for his girls to a bad ref. That kind of coach. The kind every girl needs.

To my Grandpa, my friend...the smartest person I've ever known. And to this guy, who is dancin' with the angels today. To his trucker hats, crazy overalls, amazing cookin' and his belly laugh. We miss you Grandpa.
Happy Father's Day to the amazing men in my life. Thinking of you all today.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Once upon a time...

there was a fuzzy caterpillar. But he has nothing to do with the story.
Once upon a time there was a horse named Big Joe.Big Joe had a best friend named Walter.

Big Joe just showed up at a house in Uhland one day and decided that he was never going to leave. Walter just showed up at a house in Uhland down the street's from Big Joe's one day and he decided he was never going to leave either. So Big Joe and Walter became neighbors.
Every day Walter would journey up the road from the house he stays at to visit Big Joe. They would play and frolick and have the best of times. Then every night Walter would meander back down the road to his house.

One day though, two girls took Big Joe for a walk to the other side of Uhland. Walter went to Big Joe's house but Big Joe wasn't there. Walter was very sad but he sat down at the end of his BFF's driveway and waited patiently.

Then, all of a sudden, he saw Big Joe coming over the hill with his two girls! Walter ran and ran and ran and when he got to Big Joe he jumped all over him with excitement! Then they ran away and played in Big Joe's yard until the sun went down. It was the best day ever.
The End.

This is seriously a true story.

The Newest Addition

A chicken coop out back. And a lot of little chickens.

That rooster there on the other side of the fence just paces back and forth. I guess he's nervous. The one all the way on the right is Roberta and the little black one to the left of Roberta is Aretha. No...really.
Then that thar is a Texas Nekkid Necker y'all...
's called a nekkid necker cuz his neck is all nekkid see? Eww.

These here little ladies are the Golden Girls.
This one is probably Dorothy. I snapped this right before I turned around running and screaming like a tiny girl.
And right here y'all we have what we farm folk call a dingleberry. Look it up.

Oh this is Screech. Because he looks like an owl. No, really.

And this here would be the chicken playground cuz you can't just have chickens runnin' all around without a playground to keep 'em outta trouble y'all.
And so long as ya got a chicken playground you is gonna have happy sunshiney chickens.
(Not pictured are 3 little fellas who were in chicken prison for stirrin' up trouble with the Misses. Also not pictured are a few little other hussies who were set free to go be "Uhland Chickens" with the other delinquents who are always gettin' kicked outta the dance hall. Goin' to be with the "Uhland Chickens" is the worst of all punishments.)