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For Paula

My sister left me with a book, Bittersweet by Shuana Niequist, when she came to visit briefly before heading off to Korea for a year to teach English with her husband. I am sad. I will miss her so. Also I am slightly jealous of her life situation and opportunity to go gallivanting off to explore a foreign country for a year.

Anyway, she specifically asked me to blog my favorite parts of the book. We mainly communicate and keep up on each other’s lives through our blogs. That may seem weird, but it isn’t and it works quite nicely for us most of the time especially now that we will be in entirely different time zones. And we acknowledge that sometimes this isn’t nearly sufficient and a several hours long phone call or FaceTime is necessary.

The book is highly relatable if you are a Christian in your mid- to late-twenties as it deals with life circumstances that age bracket faces.

The first few chapters flow really well together. Then it seems a bit disjointed to me and it took me several more chapters to figure out that it was a collection of separate essays which I would have figured out had I read the back cover. I got used to the format though and plundered on through the whole book in just one day.

Niequist wrote the book after a couple years of drastic changes in her life, including she and her husband no longer being on staff at Mars Hill church.

This last season in my life has been characterized, more than anything else, by change. Hard, swirling, one-after-another changes, so many that I can’t quite regain my footing before the next one comes, very much like being tumbled by waves. It began three years ago, in January in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I got pregnant, lost a job I loved, had a baby, wrote a book. A year after I lost my job, my husband, Aaron, left his job in a really painful way, and then for the next year and a half we traveled together and separately almost every week, doing all the freelance work we could find, looking for a new home and trying to pay the bills. Leaving our jobs at the church meant leaving the church community, the heart of our world in Grand Rapids, and that loss left a hole in our lives that was as tender and palpable as a bruise. The day after our son Henry’s first birthday, my brother Todd left on a two-year sailing trip around the world, taking my husband’s best friend Joe with Him. My best friend, Annette, left Grand Rapids and moved back to California. I got pregnant again, our kitchen and basement flooded, and on the Fourth of July I lost the baby. My first thought, there in the doctor’s office, was, “Everything in my life is dying. I can’t keep anything alive.” At some point in all that, we put our house up for sale, which meant lots and lots of showings but no offers. After several months, my husband and our son and I left our house still for sale and moved back to Chicago, to a little house on the same street I lived on as a child, exhausted and battered, out of breath and shaken up.

I guess that was the part most relatable to me because I’ve felt so in limbo since quitting my job, finding out I was pregnant, having a baby, moving to Thousand Oaks, leaving our ministry and church, finding out I was pregnant again, trying to find a church and become part of a new community, having another baby, moving again, etc.

Here’s the part where I learned something though. Because I have pretty much responded to these changes in the same way that she did. A child throwing a temper tantrum. You’ve all seen if here with terrible posts railing on motherhood and feeling stuck in this life and whining about how very awful my life is.

I know that to another person my difficult season would have been a walk in the park, and that all over the world, people suffer in unimaginable ways and manage far worse than my own little list. I was miserable because I lost touch with the heart of the story, the part where life always comes from death. I love the life part, and I always try to skip over that pesky death part. You can’t do that, as much as I’ve tried. I believe that God is making all things new. I believe that Christ overcame death and that pattern is apparent all through life and history: life from death, water from a stone, redemption from failure, connection from alienation. I believe that suffering is part of the narrative, and that nothing really good gets built when everything’s easy. I believe that loss and emptiness and confusion often give way to new fullness and wisdom. But for a long season, I forgot all those things. I didn’t stop believing in God. It wasn’t a crisis of faith. I prayed and served and pursued a life of faith the way I had before that season and the way I still do now. But I realized all at once, sitting in church on a cold dark night, that the story I was telling was the wrong one–or at the very least, an incomplete one. I had been telling the story about how hard it was. That’s not the whole story. The rest of the story is that I failed to live with hope and courage and lived instead a long season of whining, self-indulgence, and fear. This is my confession… Looking back now I can see that it was more than anything a failure to believe in the story of who God is and what he is doing in this world. Instead of living that story–one of sacrifice and purpose and character–I began to live a much smaller story, and that story was only about me. I wanted an answer, a timeline, and a map. I didn’t want to have to trust God or anything I couldn’t see. I didn’t want to wait or follow. I wanted my old life back, and even while I read the mystics and the prophets, even while I prayed fervently, even while I sat in church and begged for God to direct my life, those things didn’t have a chance to transform me, because under those actions and intentions was a rocky layer of faithlessness, fear, and selfishness… If I’m honest I prayed the way you order breakfast from a short-order cook: this is what I want. Period. This is what I want. Aren’t you getting this? I didn’t pray for God’s will to be done in my life, or, at any rate, I didn’t mean it. I prayed to be rescued, not redeemed. I prayed for it to get easier, not that I would be shaped in significant ways. I prayed for the waiting to be over, instead of trying to learn anything about patience or anything else for that matter… Every wave presents us with a choice to make, and quite often, unfortunately, I have stood, both resolute and terrified, staring down a wave. I have been smacked straight on with the force of the water, tumbled, disoriented, gasping for breath and for my swimsuit bottoms, and spit onto shore, embarrassed and sand-burned, standing up only to get knocked down again, refusing to float on the surface and surrender to the sea.

So there it is. Now what do I do about it? Stop being angry and whining and face up to life, my life, just the way it is. That’s what. Because there is no use in complaining or saying I am not built for this or meant for that life circumstance. That this is not the way I planned things or what was supposed to happen. This is what happened. This is right where I am supposed to be learning and living in this situation just as it is.

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Crumbling walls…

Recently, I’ve done some research about the mainline churches of America. Having mainly attended non-denominational churches, there were some things that interested me about these more traditional churches:

• More tradition. While tradition doesn’t save us and tradition for the sake of tradition is just vain repetition, it might be nice to go to a church that does have a bit of tradition. I really like old hymns and honestly don’t mind liturgy. Many churches try too hard to impress people with cool advertising, events, flashy media, etc. Sometimes simple is better. Give me old ladies and sewing circles any day.

• More separation between politics and the church. I tend to have a mix of views on politics. I can take any political ideology test and I usually fall pretty squarely in the middle. That is usually how I tend to vote. For me it really isn’t about voting the ticket. I don’t believe any of the current political parties in US politics have a right to claim to be the Christian or the more righteous of the two parties. Prior to Pat Robertson and the Moral Majority movement during the Regan election, Christians used to be split pretty evenly between the two parties. Carter is, afterall, a Christian too. I think both parties have their successes and shortcomings when it comes to issues the church should care about. So, I don’t understand why it is often implied or suggested that voting for one party or another is the more moral/right/Christian/etc. thing to do. And I really don’t understand when the church takes positions on issues that  don’t concern the church.

• Acknowledgement and accurate teaching of both church and US history. Newer denominations don’t tend to connect themselves with church history the way the mainline churches do and because of this, sometimes things seem out of context. Newer churches also don’t tend to find strong roots in US history. Since joining the church in high school, I’ve often been told by fellow Christians that the US was started as and always meant to be a Christian nation. When I explained what I learned all throughout elementary, junior high and high school is contrary to that position, I was told that my teachers and history books were wrong or biased to the liberal side of the political spectrum. However, when I read historical documents and find that the revolution was started by a bunch of rebels that got drunk together and torched English government officials’ houses, I have to question this position.  I understand that there were many devout Christians amongst our Founding Fathers, but we’ve never had a Christian state and I think the Constitution makes it very clear that we were never meant to have such a state in the First Amendment when it says that “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of a religion…” I think this is a good thing. Is there a single brand or denomination of Christianity that we can all agree on? Can you imagine living in a place like China where attending a non-government sanctioned church can get you thrown into prison?

• Valuing and not putting down education. Many non-denominational churches tend to place more of an emphasis on being called to served and tend to undervalue education. Whereas in mainline churches, education is emphasised as being very important. I’ve often heard the statement from mainline church friends that, “The world will still be there to save after you get your degree in divinity.”

• Preservation of church history, art, teachings, liturgy, music, etc. for centuries. To me, there is just something really deep about singing a song that perhaps millions of other Christians before me have sung for hundreds of years. Or looking at a beautiful sculpture, painting, piece of stained glass, etc. that was inspired by a great Biblical event and has been preserved for generations of people to marvel at and reconnect with that event.

• Positions on social issues easily accessible. It is difficult to find statements of belief on non-denominational church websites. In contrast, here is an example of a widely available position from the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) on capital punishment. Because there is no unified source of documentation, the views among the pastoral staff at a single church can vary greatly within a non-denominational sect.  So, you can go to one congregation and hear/experience one thing, and go to another of the same type and get something totally different depending on the views of the pastoral staff there (though most attendees will try to tell you this isn’t the case).

Unfortunately, many of these mainline churches seem to be in huge amounts of turmoil right now over the aforementioned social issues. Many have recently split (Episcopals), or are on the verge of/threatening a split (Lutherans, Presbyterians) as they consider legislation pertaining to social issues like openly homosexual clergy.

For example, this week the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is having their big conference to vote on a variety of things. One of the biggest and most controversial pieces of legislation they are voting on is whether to allow openly and practicing homosexual clergy to serve in the church. Yesterday they decided to repeal the 2/3 majority required for changing the rules on this issue in favor of a simple majority. They voted on this issue at their last conference and the vote was very, very close. I think the fact that they are changing the voting requirements is a huge compromise and one that will result in the legislation getting passed. I also think statements like these from Rev. Peter Strommen who chairs the ELCA’s Task Force for the ELCA Studies on Sexuality, give us a further glimpse as to where the ELCA is headed on this issue:

“When a great deal of traffic flows on a critical social issue, the church inevitably finds itself wrestling with how to best understand, teach and articulate the meeting of faith and life’s realities, which undergirds a response.”

“We can no longer assume that people in our society, or even many in the church for that matter, hold a shared understanding of Christianity’s core beliefs, let alone those of Lutheran ethics.”

Personally, I find it disheartening that these mainline churches have managed to be a fortress of faith preserving history, art, teachings, liturgy, music, etc. for centuries only to have their mighty walls crumble to the pervailing culture in the last 50 years or so. Many are seriously hemmoraging members and I think in part that is due to the flock of people to the post-modern appeal of many modern non-denominational churches. Choosing to ignore what Scripture says, they are compromising their long-standing positions in an effort to bring back the people and the culture to their buildings.

There are many things I find appealing about non-denominational churches too and I pray that they embrace some of the strengths of the mainline churches instead of tending to focus on the next big thing. Maybe there can be a happy medium between tradition and new movements.


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Back… for realz.

OK so we finally, finally have the real live, fast Internet set up in our apartment and it is awesome. No more driving to Whole Foods, Panera or Ruth’s house. No more mooching off some neighbor’s wireless network that is really slow and patchy. The Internet is ours!

Last night as I was laying in bed and trying to fall asleep knowing that the Internet would be back this morning I kept thinking of this huge list of things I wanted to write about and do. I’m not sure if this post will live up to everything I dreamed up, but here goes anyway.

Bean is six months old today!

She is so, so close to crawling. Mostly she just rolls around, does the fish out of water swimmer/army man scoot, and bounces on her bottom while sitting to get where she wants to go. She is pushing up and pulling up and man she wants to go, go, go. Sometimes she gets really, really frustrated that she can’t quite figure it out which leads to a meltdown and is not fun for Mama. But mostly she is her smiley cute little self.

You may have noticed that I dropped off on the measurement pictures. I sort of forgot to do the five month one and I’m probably not going to get around to doing the one for this month. Bean had a well baby check the Friday before we moved though and these were her stats: 16lbs 10oz, 25 inches long, and I can’t remember her head circ.

Not allergic!
At that appointment I found out that miraculously I am no longer allergic to nuts. My doctor said that a combination of avoidance and pregnancy are probably the culprit for my recovery. I am so, so happy to not be allergic anymore. Last night I enjoyed ice cream with a heath bar in it and some of Stephen’s with Reese’s. I also had a cookie yesterday that had some kind of nut in it. In both instances I had absolutely no allergic reaction and I definitely didn’t die. 🙂

Where my day goes
In an effort to be able to account for my time a little better so that I don’t always have to say at the end of they day, “I did nothing today.” I am starting to keep a log of what goes on.

I am also doing this so that I can kind of figure out what Bean’s schedule is during the day. I know she has one, just wanting to know what it is so I can plan my day out a little better.

So are you curious as to where my day goes? Well I hope you are because this is it:

Monday, March 23
5:20am – Bean up, fed and diapered then put back to sleep.
8am – Both of us up. Went downstairs, did dishes. Ate blueberry muffin. Tried to give Bean some solids, but she wasn’t in the mood and was just making a mess so I put it away.
8:45am – diaper change, clean up, got Bean dressed
8:50-9:15am – fed Bean. Tried to put her down for a nap, but she cried and woke back up as soon as I set her in the crib.
9:15-9:45am – checked e-mail/Facebook/blog (which was really slow going and I just got frustrated) while Bean played on the floor.
9:45-10:05am – switched out laundry, folded dry stuff. Unpacked and put away two boxes of linens while Bean played in her walker.
10:05-10:20am – put away dishes and started a new load while Bean played on the floor. She was starting to get fussy so I gave her some teething tabs. I played with her a bit, but she was obviously very tired and needing a nap.
10:35-10:45am -nursed Bean until she fell asleep.
10:45am – Bean took a nap and I took a shower.
11:20am – done showering and getting dressed/put together. Started to make a sandwich, but Bean woke up. Changed her diaper. Went back to sandwich making. Phone rang and had to answer it. Finally got to eat my sandwich at around 12:15pm.
12:35am – fed Bean some carrots mixed with breastmilk and mashed up brown rice.
1pm – Bean done eating. Cleaned her up and changed her diaper.
1:20pm – put away dishes, switched out laundry and folded dry stuff.
1:30pm – sewed a few quilt squares together, but Bean was getting fussy and needing another nap.
1:50-2pm – nursed Bean until she fell asleep
2-3:15pm – Bean took a nap and I planned our menu to try and incorporate all the veggies we got from Abundant Harvest.
3:15pm – Bean up, changed her diaper. Folded laundry and started some more.
3:30-4:30pm – walked to Whole Food to get a few groceries and a snack
4:30pm – played with Bean for 15 minutes
4:45-5:05pm – Bean nursed until she fell asleep
5:05-5:50pm – made dinner, when it was done I checked on Bean and she was still asleep.
6:10pm – finished with dinner, checked on Bean and she was still asleep. Worked on my knitting project.
6:45pm – Stephen home from work. Bean up. Changed her diaper then fixed Stephen’s plate for dinner.
7-7:05pm – Bean fussy so I gave her some teething tabs and nursed her a bit. Then she played on the floor with her toys.
8:30pm – we drove to Coldstone and used our buy one get one free coupon.
9:15pm – Got home, changed Bean’s diaper and nursed her until she fell asleep at 9:53pm
9:53pm – worked on my knitting project some more. I am almost done with the first sleeve!
10:45pm – Went to bed.

Yeah. So see, I do get stuff done and that is where the day goes.

Another apartment peak

We bought this desk and filing cabinet on Saturday. The desk was delivered on Sunday. I love having a space for all of our office stuff and my computer. There is so much storage in this desk, it is great. I’m glad we didn’t go with the IKEA one because this one is much, much nicer. I also love that it all folds up and the stuff can be hidden away. I love that this piece has a classic feel to it, but also kind of modern and not too fancy looking. I love that the printer we got for Christmas is finally set up and working. Now I can print out all my recipes and menus!

Sunday morning we woke up bright at early at 6:30am and drove to Carpinteria so we could attend church at Reality.

I love this church. We had been once before while we were still living in Bakersfield. It is quite a trek to get there (45 minutes each way), but with amazing ocean views, that really isn’t a burden…

I seriously could not stop looking out the window for the whole drive. There were light showers, the sun peaking through the clouds and streaming down and even a few rainbows along the way. Not to mention the gorgeous ocean crashing along the shoreline below. Plus, it is actually only about 10 minutes longer to go there than it was to go to Westbrook from our house in Bakersfield.

It only took that one visit for us to be sold. The teaching was great and the worship amazing. Not because the band was particularly talented, but because the congregation really wanted to be there and was very into it.

This is also the church where our former youth pastor is going and getting ready to be sent out to plant a church in San Francisco. So it was really cool to reconnect with him a little bit on Sunday. Plus another thing was that Stephen ran in to like 3 different people he knew from back when he lived in Santa Paula. So it feels familiar to him in a lot of ways.

Our plan is to continue attending there for now and then when they start up the new site in Ventura to switch to start getting involved there. We’re also just kind of taking a break from over-involvement at this point. It is tempting to want to throw ourselves head first into home groups, prayer for the Ventura site, playing music etc, but we know we just really need to have some time to get adjusted and get to know the place where we live. It has been sooo nice to just be able to be home and relax and not be rushing off to various activities lately.

Nighttime/Sleep Parenting
There have been many things going on in the world of sleep (or lack thereof) with us lately.

First up I’ll talk about nap time. Bean has started this new thing where when I put her down in the crib, the floor, etc. for a nap she immediately starts crying or fussing. Most of the time it lasts a couple seconds until she adjusts her comfort position, usually by rolling onto her side, and then she stops and goes on with her normal nap. Sometimes though she just completely cries herself awake and thrashes around and I pick her up and she doesn’t go back to sleep. Then she’s totally grumpy and fussy until she’s finally hungry again and I can nurse her to sleep again. I’m not quite sure how to handle this.

She also has become quite the mover during sleep. I find her in some of the strangest positions when I go to check on her or when I go to get her after she wakes up. It is hilarious. This is not the best example, but the only time I’ve taken a picture is right now:

So I put her to sleep on her back near the corner of the blanket. During the course of writing this post she has managed to move to the middle and wind up on her stomach. Which brings me to another quandry. The whole “back to sleep” campaign. She almost always turns onto her side or stomach while she is sleeping now. Am I really supposed to stir her and turn her back on her back? Really? Because nap/sleep time is going to be a whole heck of a lot more difficult if that is the case.

Finally, on the subject of sleep, Stephen and I are trying to work on “night weaning” Bean. I know this probably doesn’t sit well with the “on demand” crowd, but I really need my sleep. I just seriously can’t handle much more. I am so, so much more grumpy when I don’t get enough sleep. I have been snapping at Stephen a lot lately for completely dumb stuff. I notice that I’ve had trouble constructing sentences properly, I am way less alert especially when doing mundane things like driving (I’ve nearly run several red lights because I just was having a hard time paying attention), and I have no motivation or energy to get stuff done. I just really, really need a good night sleep to be a better person in general. So what we’ve been doing is that when Bean wakes up Stephen goes in and tries to comfort her, distract her, etc for at least a little while to stretch her a bit every night.

When we started this over the weekend she was waking up between 1 and 4am almost every night and then every 1-2 hours after that. I’m the type of person that once I’ve been awakened it is really hard for me to go back to sleep. I’m a really light sleeper. I also don’t do well with alarms or knowing that something is going to happen. So basically when she would wake up that first time I wouldn’t go back to sleep after that because I would lay in bed thinking about how she was going to be waking up again in 1-2 hours and also I would have a hard time falling back asleep because of various sounds (Stephen breathing mostly). So I was pretty much surving on on 3-5 hours of sleep every night. I also have a hard time napping or sleeping in past my internal clock wake up time of 8am unless I’m really, really exhausted (as in didn’t sleep at all the night before).

Also I should note that we know it is possible for Bean to sleep through the night. She was doing a great job of it early on, but teething and a couple of colds really messed up her sleeping/eating patterns. So she just mostly got into the habit of eating and waking up several times a night. I noticed that when I began feeding her throughout the night she would not nurse as many times during the day and she wasn’t that into it or serious about it. She was more interested in what was going on around her, constantly popping off, playing with my shirt/hair, etc.

Anyway, it seems to be working out pretty well. Yesterday she didn’t wake up until 5:20am and this morning she didn’t wake up until 5:40am. And both times she went back to sleep until when I would normally get up for the day (this morning she slept in until 9am!). I’ve also noticed that she’s quite a bit more serious about nursing during the day. It’s pretty much, “don’t bother me I’m eating”-you’d-think-she-was-starving-because-she’s-so-desperate-for-food kind of nursing, not goofing off at all. Since she knows I’m the one that nurses her and has the milk, it really works out better for Stephen to be the one to wake up and try to stretch her. If I do it she goes into a total meltdown and thrashes and screams until I give in and nurse her. I think she feels rejected if I don’t nurse her right away. I know you’re all probably thinking, “Oh no way. That cute little baby is never upset.” Let me tell you, she can get pretty pissed when she doesn’t get her way!

If you thought I was “crunchy” before
So yes, not only am I getting all of our produce through Abundant Harvest, I am also going to start a garden and I am even composting! We are really blessed in that this apartment has a pretty big backyard/patio-ish thing with plenty of room for a garden. I’m planning on starting it this weekend after a trip to the nursery.

This is my compost bin…

And this is my “transfer” bin that I keep on the kitchen counter…

Though I am going to have to come up with something else for that because this is actually my “barf bucket” from when I was pregnant and since Stephen was the one to clean it out all the time he finds its presence on our kitchen counter “disturbing”.

Menu Plan Monday
Except it is on Tuesday. So this is my planned menu that will hopefully use up all of our veggies for the next two weeks…

Last night
Chicken Tacos

Salmon cakes with creamy ginger sesame sauce
Carrot and leek recipe from Ruth (hint hint sister, you should post that one!).

Chicken pot pie

Pasta primavera using TJ’s frozen fettuccini alfredo, AH carrots and asparagus, and garlic chicken recipe

Grilled Steaks marinated in garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil
Red Chard with Carmelized Onion

Leftover pasta from freezer

Turkey burgers, sweet potato fries and roasted citrus drenched asparagus

Roasted Winter Vegetables with Roasted Garlic Sauce using sweet potatoes, carrot and rutabaga
Garlic Chicken

Some dish I am going to come up with using chicken, rice, carrots and garlic

Chili, corn bread and salad

Leftover pasta from the freezer

Leftover split pea soup from the freezer

Carrot Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting

Anyway, that about does it for everything I think I wanted to say. Sorry if this post is a bit long and rambling and overwhelming. I just had been bottling things up for way, way too long! I’m so glad to be back!


Filed under Faith, Family, Homemade, Menu Plan Monday, Natural Living, Parenting, Ramblings

Oldies but goodies…

So this last Sunday was our last Sunday in Bakersfield before the move. Ack! I can’t believe we are moving in four days! Our pastor wanted to put together a slideshow/video sharing memories from the over 11 years for Stephen and 8 years for me that we have been at Westbrook. Well, things didn’t wind up working out quite right as far as technology was concerned. So all that was shown was a short clip from the high school ministry’s old video announcements with Stephen hanging from the playground equipment a la Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible for the evangelism series, “Mission Possible.” Well, I thought I’d share some of the old memories with you all just for fun.

OK, this one isn’t that old. 2004 to be exact. This is Stephen and then junior high pastor, Paul Prelle working on the Westbrook birthed favorite, “Louder than the Rocks” at Hartland winter camp.

This is my friend Chelsey and an orphan girl at Colina De Luz, an orphanage in Mexico that our high school group used to go to on spring break every year to serve.

This is Stephen and I at a different year’s Mexico missions trip. Don’t you just love my butch haircut? Oh and notice the cheesey matching grey sweater and tan cords outfit. Sweet!

This is Stephen and our friend Sam, now a guitarist in Dizmas, on the beach after some baptisms during summer camp.

Some of us in the high school ministry took a trip to Hollywood to see Lord of the Rings at the Mann. Some of us had fun and other people were quite bored (*cough* Megan *cough*). In the back we have Megan, Stephen and Trent. In the front there is Heather, my sister Paula (if memory serves we fought on this trip, like every other youth trip we went on together), Amanda, Me, and Taylor.

Stephen and I during worship in the bunk house at Colina de Luz.

In addition to summer camp, our youth group used to have a “leadership” retreat. This year was camping on the beach. Stephen’s hair loved that adventure.

Stephen and our friend Aaron jamming in the chapel at the very first Kineo summer camp.

This would be me attempting to eat some form of baby food for a camp game. You can tell how much I am enjoying it. This was a big spur in my decision to make my own food!

Both “Steves” at a different year’s leadership retreat. I think this was the retreat we took where we stayed in the beach house. I remember it was during the whole church split thing. There was a lot of drama, tears and this was the last time some of the kids did stuff with our church because their families wound up leaving.

A bunch of the guys on the same trip being goofy: Bryan, Stephen, Dave, Steve, and Jared.

This is me with my co-leader Gigi and our cabin girls at winter camp one year. I believe this may have been the year when the bus got stuck a mile from camp and we had to walk uphill in the snow the rest of the way (I always wanted to have a story like that, haha).

Stephen and I playing on the teeter-totter at Colina de Luz.

This is during chapel at Colina de Luz. Sarah, Jacqueline, and I.

Another winter camp. This is just after I started crocheting again. Love the matching hat and scarf. This is one of the high school students with me.

Stephen and I at winter camp.

One Way! This was the band Stephen was in during high school. From left to right: Holly, Caleb, Stephen, “Popeye” as he’s known on the Internet, and Nathan.

Stephen’s baptism at a “poolside unplugged” event.

Stephen and Jeremy at a Holy Grounds event (precursor to Solomon’s Porch) where their band, Eleventh Hour was playing.

A different Holy Grounds, Stephen, Jeremy and John Border.

There were a lot more pictures, but I didn’t have time to get them all onto the computer. So hope you enjoyed this little glimpse down memory lane.


Filed under Faith, Photography, Ramblings

Messy just about sums things up perfectly

I just finished reading Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli.

Now I’m not sure what is being said about Yaconelli these days (probably not much seeing as how he’s been dead a few years). I remember hearing a few things a couple years ago about the organization he co-founded, Youth Specialties, and the role it was playing in the “emergent church”. Whatever. I just remember reading his other book, Dangerous Wonder in college and getting a lot out of it. This other book has been sitting on our bookshelf for four years, so I figured it was about time I picked it up.

As far as I can tell in my limited understanding of doctrine and theology, there really isn’t much in it that screams, “This is crap, you should definitely not be reading this!”

I actually got a lot out of it. So much of it spoke to where I am at right now. While it wasn’t overly complicated and wordy, it didn’t really have to be to get the point(s) across.

Something our pastor likes to say a lot is that there are over 400 churches in Bakersfield. It seems like most of the poeple I come across and know are going to at least one of them. But in some ways going to church and being a Christian seems like this elite club to belong to. One where there are lots of rules and regulations and commitments to be made.

Sometimes I think this really turns off the people who need Jesus the most. People like the person I was before I became a Christian. You want to talk about messed up life? Well I had it. I hated Christians. Thought they were so perfect, had their lives together and were too good for normal people. I committed plenty of immoral actions and basically I was just a mess. The thing is, I knew I was a mess. I thought myself unlovable and unworthy of anything better. It’s something I still struggle with today.

I even hated coming to church at first after I became a Christian. I was in high school at the time. It was the worst thing ever for me to watch about 90 percent of the kids in our youth group walk across the campus after service and meet up with their perfect families and drive off together for lunch. I felt like an outcast for a several years because I hadn’t grown up there. I didn’t know all the other kids and their families.

But I don’t know, I’m hard-headed and persistant. I didn’t care. I knew that the church was where I needed to be. That Jesus had more to offer me than where I was headed before. I’d been somewhat of an loner prior to becoming a Christian and I figured I could endure it now too. I flung myself into ministries so that I could become involved, included and have something in common with those around me.

I just wonder if other people aren’t as persistant as me. If they get turned off by the “Kingdom Monitors” (like hall monitors) as Yaconelli puts it. Maybe they come in, try it out and feel like they don’t fit in, but aren’t persistent enough to keep trying and going. Keep trying to get to know people and become a part of the church. I think this book addresses those concerns really well.

I also think it addresses some of the pressure from the church to be involved in everything. That you can’t be at church too much or serve too much, because you know the early church met daily from house to house or whatever. Too often we’re told that we’re not doing enough, that we need to give more of ourselves, we need to pray more, read our Bibles more, volunteer for more ministries, etc. But maybe the elaborateness of our modern church ought to be thrown out the window. Maybe we don’t need a 5+ piece worship band for every church service. Maybe it is OK to not have a billion different ministries going. Maybe we could all just get more out of church if we simplified things down and took some time for everyone to rest and be still before the Lord.

So anyway, here are some of my favorite gems from the book:

Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives.

Nothing in the church makes people in the church more angry than grace. It’s ironic: we stumble into a party we weren’t invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in. Then a strange phenomenon occurs: as soon as we are included in the party because of Jesus’ irresponsible love, we decide to make grace “more responsible” by becoming self-appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the kingdom of God, keeping the riffraff out (which, as I understand it, are who the kingdom of God is supposed to include).

Religious people love to hide behind religion. They love the rules of religion more than they love Jesus. With practice, Condemners let rules become more important than the spiritual life.

The religious leaders of the day had written the script for the Messiah. When Jesus announced he was the Messiah, the Pharisees and others screamed at him, “There is no Jesus in the Messiah script. Messiahs do not hang out with losers. Our Messiah does not break all the rules, Our Messiah does not question our leadership or threaten our religion or act so irresponsibly. Our Messiah does not disregard his reputation, befriend riffraff, or frequent the haunts of questionable people.” Jesus’ reply? “This Messiah does”! Do you see why Christianity is called “good news”? Christianity proclaims that it is an equal-opportunity faith, open to all, in spite of the abundance of playwrights in the church who are more than anxious to announce, “There is no place for you in Christianity if you [wear an earring/have a tattoo/drink wine/have too many questions/look weird/smoke/dance/haven’t been filled with the Spirit/aren’t baptized/swear/have pink hair/are in the wrong ethnic group/have a nose ring/have had an abortion/are gay or lesbian/are too conservative or too liberal].”

Think about how many of us have wondered why we don’t fit, why our faith doesn’t stabilize us, why we seem so out of sync with most of the world. Genuine faith is the isolating force in our lives that creates tension wherever we go. To put it another way, faith is the unbalancing force in our lives that is the fruit of God’s disturbing presence.

We are going as fast as we can, living life at a dizzying speed, and God is nowhere to be found. We’re not rejecting God; we just don’t have time for him. We’ve lost him in the blurred landscape as we rush to church. We don’t struggle with the Bible, but with the clock. It’s not that we’re too decadent; we’re too busy. We don’t feel guilty because of sin, but because we have no time for our spouses, our children, or our God. It’s not sinning too much that’s killing our souls, it’s our schedule that’s annihilating us. Most of us don’t come home at night staggering drunk. Instead, we come home staggering tired, worn out, exhausted and drained because we live too fast.

Speed is not neutral. Fast living used to mean a life of debauchery; now it just means fast, but the consequences are even more serious. Speeding through life endangers our relationships and our souls.

Voices surround us, always telling us to move faster. It may be our boss, our pastor, our parents, our wives, our husbands, our politicians, or, sadly, even ourselves. So we comply. We increase the speed. We live life in the fast lane because we have no slow lanes anymore. Every lane is fast, and the only comfort our culture can offer is more lanes and increased speed limits. The result? Too many of us are running as fast as we can, and an alarming number of us are running much faster than we can sustain.

Speed damages our souls because living fast consumes every ounce of our energy. Speed has a deafening roar that drowns out the whispering voices of our souls and leaves Jesus as a diminishing speck in the rearview mirror.

Spiritual growth is not running faster, as in more meetings, more Bible studies, and more prayer meetings. Spiritual growth happens when we slow our activity down. If we want to meet Jesus, we can’t do it on the run. If we want to stay on the road of faith, we have to hit the brakes, pull over to a rest area, and stop. Christianity is not about inviting Jesus to speed through life with us; it’s about noticing Jesus sitting at the rest stop. While the church earnestly warns Christians to watch for the devil, the devil is sitting in the congregation encouraging everyone to keep busy doing “good things.”

Sin does not always drive us to drink; more often it drives us to exhaustion. Tiredness is equally as debilitating as drunkenness. Burnout is slang for an inner tiredness, a fatigue of our souls. Jesus came to forgive us all of our sins, including the sin of busyness. The problem with growth in the modern church is not the slowness of growth but the rushing of growth.

Rest is a decision we make. Rest is choosing to do nothing when we have too much to do, slowing down when we feel pressure to go faster, stopping instead of starting. Rest is listening to our weariness and responding to our tiredness, not to what is making us tired. Rest is what happens when we say one simple word: “No!” Rest is the ultimate humiliation because in order to rest, we must admit we are not necessary, that the world can get along without us, that God’s work does not depend on us. Once we understand how unnecessary we are, only then might we find the right reasons to say yes. Only then might we find the right reasons to decide to be with Jesus instead of working for him. Only then might we have the courage to take a nap with Jesus.

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