Monday, December 24, 2007

.asses and worship.

christmas eve service. that's where we were tonight - seven of us, sitting in clumps wherever there were empty chairs, attending a christmas eve service in the tiny chapel. elderly . music . truth . tears . worship . asses. family. these were the components of tonight's service.

sandwiched between my dad and my brother's girlfriend, i found myself laughing, crying, bored and entertained all in a little over an hour's time at the service. without fail, when i sit in a christmas eve candlelight service and sing songs about the Savior, about his peace, about his coming to save mankind - when i do this with my family all sitting in a row next to me, i tear up. i tear up because it's sweet music to my ears to see my brothers singing about Jesus, to see them in church - now whether they're there out of obligation to my parents, there because it's tradition or there because they want to be, they're there nonetheless. and i think i tear up because another year is over, it's the end of 2007 and my life is still the same as it was last year, the same as it was in 2002, 2003, 2004... for the most part. it's a struggle.

i laugh at the pastor, cliff, who hates to deliver christmas eve sermons because he's too practical and real for the same sermon every year - for trying to be unique, creative, do something different with the story, so this year he talked about being an ass. yes, it's true. he mentioned the instances in Jesus' life where there were asses in the picture. in these instances (the triumphal entry in specific) the ass had a very important job - to carry Jesus. in his "doggy bag" was the idea that we are not asked to be Jesus, we are just asked to carry Jesus - to take on the important job of being the best ass we can be.

so i guess that's my goal - to take my job as an ass seriously, to love my brothers and rejoice in the victory that they sat next to me in church tonight, to be able to weep when it's necessary and to look at 2008 as promising, to do my best to be in a different place at next year's christmas eve service so my tears of disappointment and heartache may then be tears of joy, tears of relief. we'll see if we're capable - Jesus and his ass...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

.His babies.

i sit today thinking and praying about my cousin and his wife who just miscarried their child - today. i think of their pain, their questions, their fear, their loss. i think of the hope, excitement and joy that existed just days ago, and the opposite emotions that exist today. I think of how she broke the news, "Today we made a deposit in heaven." how now, that little one is with Jesus. i think of the absolute joy that exists in their 4 year old and how she can daily be a catalyst to heal the pain and i'm grateful for her. i think of Jesus, holding that unborn baby, loving that baby and I think of how jealous i am that baby de graaf gets to be held by Jesus right now... i think of blake and sarah's little deposit in heaven and how maybe, just maybe, the two are friends. i think of life and how it throws us for a loop, how it so easily gets us tangled in its traps, in its monotony. and then i remember that He's got the whole world in His hands and that baby was never my cousin's nor was the other one my best friend's - from before they were born, they belonged to Jesus and He is their father and they are HIS babies. thank you abba for loving.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

.perfect love casts out fear.

... the Bible tells me so. i have never been one of those people who lives in fear - it's just a miserable place to live. but yesterday, on my birthday, of all days, i spent much of my day in fear. fear of what? who even knows! fear of whatever i could conjure up in my mind to be afraid about. maybe it was more anxiety than fear. there just seem to be natural disasters everywhere and i put myself in their path - i jump from scorching fires to deadly tropical storms in a matter of days.

it was a ridiculous turn of events yesterday and the birthday celebration tended to be postponed because of my fear. but, nonetheless, i got on an airplane at 10:30pm and flew the redeye into a tropical storm - welcome to the caribbean during hurricane season. as soon as i boarded my flight, took a tylenol pm and started milling over my day, i realized that i am the one who led myself to being anxious, i was the one who chose to be afraid instead of trusting the One who knows all.

as i sat on that airplane, i realized that i will be just stinkin' fine and if i won't be fine, then i'll be with Jesus and what could be better than that. His perfect love casts out all fear - now i just wish it would cast out the tropical storm! nonetheless, puerto rico, here we come! my heart and fear are taking a vacation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

.beautiful chaos.

this is my life today - beautiful chaos. as the fires rage on here in our home, the aftermath of what's burned continues to affect our lives. we think we are exempt from it if our homes did not burn and that we barely escaped it, but not so... i sat in classroom of crying girls this afternoon when they found out that because of the poor air quality and smoke, we are unable to finish our volleyball season. i found out that my last volleyball game with my girls was yesterday and i wasn't even aware at the time. i found out that i will never get to coach my seniors again when i thought i had 2 more games with them. utter chaos! there were girls crying, parents calling, me attempting to calm the storm.

i hate that i have no answers for them, i hate that this is one of those things for which i cannot provide a solution, something i can't fix. it sums up to this response - "yes girls, because someone deliberately set a fire in our home town and the air we breathe is now toxic, we no longer get to finish our volleyball season. it's been great, you guys fought hard, game over." what a devastating way to end a season - i'd much rather have gone out losing 25-2 than not be given a chance to fight...

but the beautiful redemption in that is that they make they best out of everything. because we don't have a game, all 15 girls decided that as a team they'd go to an outreach event at a local church which a girl on the team attends (where God is given an open doorway into their hearts even without their knowledge!) and the we'll have a "family sleepover". so the chaos that was today becomes the beauty that is tomorrow. praise God for hope, for unity, for who these girls have been in my life the last 3 months!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

.the ash.

so we are in the midst of the worst fires california's ever seen. and i realized today about 4pm that i am by human nature, a selfish person. it's hazy, brownish-orange, ashy, dusty everywhere here. as i'm driving home from coaching volleyball, i am stopped at a light where some ash gathered itself in a little clot on my windshield. i was so annoyed because what happens in this process is: the ash gathers in the "ash clot", it needs to be wiped away with the windshield wipers but when you do that, the ash smears across the entirety of your windshield and i have been doing this numerous times the last few days and just was sick of it this afternoon.

this time it struck me differently. first of all, i was irritated by it and then i became bothered that i was irritated. i had a very rational moment where i thought, "why are you irritated by the ash?" as i stared at it. as i continued to look at the "ash clot", i thought of what those ashes represent - likely the bedroom of a 6 year old child whose toys, memories, games, bunk beds and teddy bears are now burned and turned into an ash clot on my car. and then i realized just how selfish i am. wow. i have a home that's safe and comfortable and standing, why am i complaining about the ash?

so, i chose to change that and instead of playing goofy games and doing ridiculous skits at young life tonight, we chose to be Jesus' hands and feet and bring food to 3 of the local fire stations. it was great for the kids, it was great for my soul and it blesses those who are risking their lives to save homes all over southern california. i most definitely learned a lesson today.

Monday, October 22, 2007

.ask (persistently) and you shall receive.

so... my niece (at the bottom of my blog) is almost 2 1/2. she's precious, she's a chatter box, she's so much joy and she's most definitely got her grandma wrapped around her little pudgy finger.

today, amidst one of the busiest days her grandma has seen in a long, long time, my precious cameron got it in her mind that she needed ice cream. during a hospital visit to my sick uncle, she quit asking, that is...until they trekked down to the cafeteria, where she asked again and her dear "ya ya" a.k.a. grandma, told her "no ice cream." well, the little girl, with the persistence of her auntie, finally drove "ya ya" crazy enough that she stopped for ice cream. hoping for a small portion of soft serve, my mom was saddened to find her only option was a pint. so... she gave in. in the back of the car, in her carseat, there sat cameron, happy as a clam with a pint of ice cream in her lap. life doesn't get much better than that at 2 years old.

the lesson i learned from my niece today is this: sometimes there are things worth persistently asking for. for her, in her little world, it was ice cream (a pint of it), but maybe for me it's something like direction in my future, peace in the homes of my high school girls or unanswered prayers from years ago that will cause me to go back and open the old prayer journals. but i'm grateful for the lesson cameron taught me today and i will not cease to ask my heavenly "abba" for the good gifts he wants to give.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

.be near.

parenting is something i know about only through observing and studying, not through experience. there are a few things i do know - children need love, children need discipline, children need to be cared about for who they are, children need to know that at the end of the day, their parents are their biggest fans.

but what happens? what happens when you're 16 and your mom tells you your relationship with her is over and she no longer wants to talk to you? what happens when your mom yells at you almost daily until you're pushed to the limit, forced back into your corner, or into the corner of the room while you're being screamed at? what happens when you don't feel loved, cared for, accepted or valued?

you lose hope. that's what happens. you lose hope in the person whose job it is to take care of you. you lose faith that everything's going to be okay because isn't that a parent's job to tell you that? what if your parent is the one causing your pain? you start do doubt everything you've ever believed in your core. and even though you know Jesus is the only constant, your only hope, the only way you'll make it through the night, you start to doubt him too. you start to wonder if he cares, if he's listening, if you can even seek and find him because all seems hopeless.

to this sweet little girl and her precious little sister - Abba, be near. be near to them in their brokenness, in their weakness, in their pain, doubt and disappointment. when they seek, let them find you, be their everything. Abba, be near.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

.the fine line between good and excellent.

as i sat last night, in the home of some dear friends, absorbing words of wisdom that go far beyond my years, i took a few nuggets home to chew on today. one of them goes something like this: "if you're always striving for the excellent, you have great potential to miss the good that's sitting right in front of you." i let that sink into my brain last night, slept on it and woke this morning with it in the forefront of my mind. is that my problem? am i always striving for the "right" thing, the "best" thing, the "most excellent" thing when all i really need to do is take the good that's in front of me and run with it - make it right, make it excellent? is it really that easy and i make it that hard?

in the marination of that today, i stepped back to see how much truth that bore on my daily life. usually i would pass up grabbing lunch with friends to "get my work done the best i can" when no one even checks my work. i would push my volleyball team to absolute perfection and intensity instead of letting them stop in the moment and laugh at a funny situation. i would work my tail off to make sure everything was perfectly prepared for work tonight - cookies baked, games planned, kids called, all my ducks in a row, instead of stopping and having a conversation with my roommate's visiting mother.

so today, instead of striving for perfection, i took the good. i had lunch with friends and laughed harder than i have in a long time - i let my girls stop in the middle of practice and have some much needed comic relief - i played guitar hero and chatted with my roommate's mom instead of making sure my life was perfectly in line.

so maybe that's the next step. maybe i strive to make this next transition in my life one of simply taking the good that's in front of me and running with it instead of looking for the perfect, right job that will fit every single one of my needs. abba, help me become that person that i naturally wouldn't choose to be.

Monday, October 15, 2007

.how do i...

live on in His love? it seems that too many days i have a mental relapse on how to do that. my life seems so monotonous and mundane - each day i wake up and want to know what God has for me that day, yet i don't seek it. i seek what will make me happy.

today it seems a cinnamon dolce latte and a little lunch at chipotle are the joys of choice. weak in comparison to what he could offer me in exchange.

so, after choosing ridiculous things this morning - i'm choosing to love on high school girls while coaching them - to be intentional about understanding who each of them is on and off the court. - i'm choosing to attend a prayer meeting for uganda in hopes that somehow, someway, my meager prayers can bring something of worth to children who live their lives in fear, who have no parents, who have little hope. - i'm choosing to have a hard conversation with some older friends of mine that will make me search my soul, bring out my insecurities and begin to seek some long-awaited answers.

i can hope and pray that i'm making better choices this afternoon than i did this morning to "live on in His love".