Saturday, December 25, 2010

.blessed are the flexible.

“blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.” this was the mantra of a training i did for a bunch of missionaries last summer. what I’m learning is that it’s a good life rule to live by. you see, i’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed this, but women tend to like to control things. you’ll be shocked to know this is true of me and that I like order. gasp. who knew?

well, the main man in my life turned 29 this week and we had great celebration plans for the day of his birth which began with a weekend in northern california attending a few pro sports games and loving doing life with great friends.
i returned home and went straight to bed - exhausted from the bliss that was our weekend. the next morning i walked into the kitchen only to experience what may have been one of my saddest moments. i had planned ahead and saved some good steaks from my dad and a piece of recently-caught salmon from a friend and was intending on making the “perfect” surf and turf dinner for my guy’s birthday. it was gonna be awesome. i had bought a few things i’d need and was beyond excited to be able to celebrate him with our motley crew of friends on his actual birthday.

i walked into the kitchen and audibly gagged. the smell resembled a meat market in a third world country and the sight was tragic - salmon juice and meat blood on the tile floor. i was close to tears. i opened the freezer and by the pungent smell and the looks of things, the fridge had gone out about friday... it was now monday morning. what’s the first thing you do in the kitchen when you’re uncertain about something? call your mom of course. the worst was confirmed... surf and turf birthday dinner was doomed for the trash can. i plugged my nose and begrudgingly threw away the most beautiful slab of salmon and a few prime steaks. i texted the birthday guy and told him the sad news. It was then that my friend charlie’s mantra began to play in my head... and i remembered to be flexible. i told him that we would certainly celebrate him, even if it meant ordering pizza and it would be a good night.

it’s been almost 2 weeks since the incident and i’m finally not too traumatized to write about it. turns out his roommate came to the rescue and bbqued some ribs and everything else on the menu was do-able, even without a fridge. i was so grateful for lots of helping hands and friends to bail me out. but bigger than that, i think something happened in me. i was given permission to cry and to be sad and to grieve the loss of my “oh-so-perfect-birthday-dinner-for-my-guy.” okay, maybe that's a little dramatic, but... i remembered the mantra and didn’t break down. instead i was flexible and i was not broken. for certain there are times when brokenness is appropriate and healthy, but this was once of those situations where I had a choice. so I chose flexibility over control. and we celebrated and he felt loved and we all went home with full tummies and overflowing hearts.
i’m grateful for charlie and his wisdom. it turns out that when I am flexible and willing to surrender control, i am not broken and i’m way more fun to be around. lesson one of many I’m sure.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

.#24, 25, 26, 27, 28 - the five that got away.

now here is where you say, "you are lame, bree." you committed to 30 before 30 and you only did 25. and here is where i say, "i don't receive your criticism. i've done more than my share of self-criticizing and have landed on 25 before 30 as being 1) pretty darned good and 2) fine with me because it's really how old i feel anyways, so i think it all evens out." yes? yes.

so here they are, in no particular order - the 5 that got away...

#24 - climb halfdome at yosemite. the dealio with this is that i was scheduled to go up there in may. i learned a day or two prior to departure that in order to climb halfdome, you now have to make a reservation. are you kidding? it's not like we're going out for a fancy dinner, we're just trying to beat our out-of-climbing-shape bodies to a pulp, that's all, and you want me to make a reservation? well, naturally that put a damper on the entire trip and so i bailed. or shall i say postponed...

#25 - go to joshua tree - well, there's really not a brilliant excuse for this one besides that i moved two hours FURTHER from joshua tree than i had been living and it's a tough thing to do when you're over 4 hours away. so i just didn't make it a priority. this one also, postponed...

#26 - go to oregon & idaho - clearly i call an epic fail on the travel adventures i had planned for the year, yikes! i never got to these places, they are still on my list, i'd still love to see them both, there just seems to be no way to get it all done with the few weekends i have nothing planned... priorities, priorities. guess what? postponed.

#27 - see george strait in concert - i had one opportunity to do this. in san antonio. may 1. a sweet friend of mine was trying to use his backstage connections to get me tickets and guess what? turns out i couldn't go. bust! i am uber lame, but i had to work that day, it was probably in my 4 top most important days of the year for work. can't back out of that one and if you recall, when i started this 30 before 30 idea, i was jobless, so i'm truly grateful for having to miss this one.

#28 - learn to surf - sore subject. turns out santa barbara never got a summer. it was cold and kinda wet and the water was FRIGID for the entire summer and still is. turns out surfing didn't happen. turns out i got a boyfriend who's an avid surfer and is bummed i didn't learn. turns out i'm not sure i'd like it if i did learn. turns out there's been a few shark attacks lately & that freaks me out. turns out i'm going to new zealand in april & should probably have some basic knowledge by then. turns out i'm not sure when that's gonna happen. hmmm... this one's interesting. stay tuned, you may or may not hear more.

so, here's my public apology. i'm sorry i've failed you and not followed through with 5 of the 30. accept this and let's remain friends.

stay tuned for the last 2... including the epic birthday bash.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

.#23 - dinner party.

you could just throw a dinner party for the sake of throwing a dinner party, sure. who wouldn’t love that? oh wait, me. i’ve got to have a good reason to turn my house upside down, spend a boat load of money on groceries & special treats and stress myself out to the max. so this is one of the ones on my list that i put off as long as possible.

don’t get me wrong, i totes love a good hang out sesh at my house and the party people know they are welcome anytime, but those are night and day different from having a dinner party. well, my reason came. and i wish i could have blogged about it before my birthday, but considering it was a surprise, i couldn’t exactly tell the whole internet, especially since the guest of honor reads my blog.

one of my very best friends was about to get engaged. she had NO CLUE, but a selected few of us did. more like 20 of us that were scheduled to come to my house for a surprise engagement party right after the proposal. jon, the plan man clued me in in september - september people, for a december engagement. my poor boyfriend was doing all he could to not let the cat out of the bag the times he saw her in those 2 months and the rest of us spent at least a month lying through our teeth to the poor girl. but we pulled it off.

on december 4, jon thiele asked my girl erin schoenwald to spend the rest of her life with him. he liked it, he put a ring on it, she said yes. and that was the first shock of the day. imagine what was going through her mind when she pulled up to my house and found 20 of her closest friends & her parents from minnesota standing in the driveway, eager to celebrate. priceless team, this day was priceless. so worth every penny and every second of stress. at one point in the process, my sweet boyfriend called me, “a level 3 hurricane” which is my family’s nickname for my mom because she is absolutely out of control when it comes to entertaining and having things just right. but he was right, i’ll admit it. and he was a patient, selfless champ who did without being asked and let me check out when the day was done.

and it was beautiful. it wasn’t really “dinner” per se because our meal was at about 3pm, but we had a full meal, cheesecake, a champagne toast, decorations, borrowed tables and chairs and the whole shebang. it was great. you can ask my guy how often he’d prefer that i throw those kind of parties, my guess would be about once a year ;) but it was amazing. they are so worth celebrating. our great God answered a ridiculous amount of prayers in uniting their lives and he has great things in store for them. great things. so we celebrated. and we’ll do so again in august, on the day they become husband and wife... thankfully that one’s up to the parents.

Monday, November 22, 2010

.His kingdom or mine.

i feel like God is "calling me out" these days and calling me into something much bigger than me. He's been asking the question: "Whose kingdom are you investing in, mine or yours?"

Psalm 82:3 "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
4Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

God is continuing to push me forward and not letting me sit still or quiet, which 1) totally moves me out of my comfort zone and 2) gets me really pumped for how he's changing my life and breaking my heart for the things that break His. So I'm presenting you with 2 next steps in my life and the opportunity to get involved in 2 bigger stories in His kingdom across the globe.

1) Surgery for the baby in Romania

I wrote this email about 10 days ago from Romania. It was about a little girl, whose name I've since learned is Maria. Here was the post I wrote from Romania:

"just this morning, a 6 month old baby girl was brought in with fluid on her brain. her parents left her at the hospital because they can't do anything with her. she needs a shunt put it in, a simple 40 minute procedure but they can't get the medical care for her so she likely will die soon unless they do. i put my hand on her little chest and she just sobbed and grabbed my hand tightly with her little fingers. i left the room in tears knowing there was literally nothing i could do to help this innocent baby who, in the states would have gotten surgery long ago. it doesn't seem fair.

so today i have been sweetly broken by these kids. their stories, their smiles, their tears, their lives have made their mark on my heart and i won't ever be the same. feeding a baby her bottle knowing that most of the time she feeds herself lying in a crib because there aren't enough hands to hold her. holding the tiny fingers of a little girl whose life might be taken from her because she can't get surgery. praying for Jesus to take a couple of these kids home because the way they're living is truly not living at all. my heart is broken for these beautiful little people. and i'm humbled by the work that Nann and her team are doing and the time they're putting in to find homes for these kids and caring for the ones who don't have homes. it is truly the heart of God."

I wrote in that email that "there was literally nothing I could do to help this innocent baby." It turns out God is still changing me. I've thought about sweet Maria daily since I got home. I've prayed for her and her little hands gripping mine and her innocent tears have made me no longer able to turn a blind eye. Her parents want her back. They brought her to the hospital because they were at their wit's end and knew it was better for her to either get help or die there than in their home. I want to get her back home. She needs a 40 minute procedure on her brain to drain the fluid and put a shunt in. It's a simple deal and she can go home. So we are going to get her surgery. That's what I feel called to do. God is changing me and teaching me that helping this one precious little girl is something I CAN do. It is tangible and it will save a life - a life that matters to him.

Because Maria has been on my heart since I got back and God is asking me to not sit here and "do nothing" about this, I am raising money to get her surgery. There is an urgency because her condition will ultimately kill her. The surgery is only $1000 and $300 was raised this weekend through one of our churches in the Presbytery!

2) My trip to Haiti in January

I have been presented with the opportunity to go and help lead a trip in Haiti with Operation HOPE! There will be about 30 on the team and we will be going to work with an American doctor there who is loving on the broken people of Montrouis, Haiti. I will be helping with this trip in order to see if we can bring a crew from this area later in the year on an IMPACT trip. So it's a scouting trip with an opportunity to serve the least of these in a country of broken people who I believe are close to the heart of our God. Haiti has been on my heart since the earthquake and I haven't known how to move forward in getting an IMPACT team on the ground or helping however we can... until I was presented with this opportunity. We will have a medical team working with earthquake victims as well as a community team working with orphans. I know this will change me as well - to see the extremely dire needs of those in Haiti and to be able to love them because that's what Christ would do. How do you come back the same? I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and feel like I can't pass it up. Because IMPACT paid for my Europe scouting trip, there is not money in the budget to this trip, but I feel called to go and feel like it's worth the investment, both for myself and for the future of IMPACT.

The cost for the entire Haiti trip is $1200. Again, if you want to write a tax-free donation, those checks can be made out to Operation HOPE. The money for this trip is also due in the next 2 weeks.

Here are the two ways which I feel like God is calling me out of my own kingdom and deeper into His and I'm simply inviting you into the story. I know many of you give to many other things, so don't feel obligated, just let me know if these are things you feel called to participate in. I'd love to include you!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

.being changed.

Thank you all SO much for praying for my trip. It truly was amazing in so many ways and I am in the process of being profoundly changed by it. I had a great time in Holland at the end of my trip and got to spend a significant amount of time hanging out with family that I don't often get to see. It was fun to share my experiences with them as they are not regular church attenders. They were so excited and receptive to what I was doing for work and how God was changing my life. We had some amazing conversations. Holland gave me a renewed appreciation for my culture and my heritage but more than anything made me realize what exactly it was my grandpa walked away from at 20 years old to come to the states to create a life and start a business for himself here. That was a really really big deal and I think this is the first time I realized how hard that must have been and exactly what he was sacrificing. I'm grateful. Here's a couple of pictures :)

I've not totally processed my experiences yet and I'm sure will continue to do so for quite some time, but I did get my first chance to share this morning at a church and to invite people into the bigger story of IMPACT. It's a story that belongs to our great God, that he's writing and we just get to be characters in His story, should we choose to listen and to obey. It was hard to re-hash the reality of what I saw in the orphanage that day and encouraging to get to ask people to come and build a church in Albania. I'm speaking from a different place having been there myself and there were about 7 moms/grandmas who signed up for more information on the "rocking babies" trip! Due to popular demand I may have to find more ministries that rock babies so that all who want to go can go!

From the imam, the Albanian pastors, the Romanian orphans & missionaries, I learned that what we do matters - for us, for them, for the kingdom. And I'm overwhelmingly grateful for the ways I'm being changed.

Next stop... Haiti in January!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

.sweetly broken.

today i'm in romania. and i've been broken by what i've seen. i'm staying with a new friend, Nannette who has been a missionary here for the last 17 years. the work she does is truly amazing. it's been a gift and such a God thing to have my friend Phil here as well. he's been my cousin's best friend since they were kids and recently moved here to do ministry for a season, it's been fun to have some americans to stay with and chat with and so fun to be hanging out with phil in romania, something we never could have dreamt up! God is good.

i spent the afternoon yesterday hearing all about ROCK ministry and the projects they do here in romania, so i was beyond excited today to get to see their work firsthand and experience what God is doing in this little hospital in bucharest. basically Nann has taken on the task of providing care and trying to find foster homes for abandoned kids. she is living out the gospel in an amazing way. the hospital allows ROCK to use 2 of their extra rooms free of charge to keep their kids. Nann has 12 staff total, 4 of which work at the hospital. what you see there is unbelievable. lily was the only one working today and she was caring for THIRTEEN kids BY HERSELF. she is an absolute saint.

in the upstairs room were six babies all between 1-10 months. oh my precious. and they have ONE caretaker today. for all six of them and the other 7 downstairs. unreal. these kids have all been abandoned by their parents, some of whom "say" they will come back for them. i heard stories today that alot of their parents are gypsy beggars and leave their kids to be fed/cared for until they're old enough to eat solid food and then they come back for them and use them to beg. it's absolutely devastating because these are the most lovable babies in the world.

this little guy, florin is seriously SO precious. he just laughs and smiles and wants to be held. he particularly likes men, they think because it's pretty rare that he sees men. when phil put him down to leave, he sobbed. when there's no one to hold them or play with them, they crawl around in the cribs and try to keep themselves entertained. it's so tragic because they truly just want to be held and given attention.

this little one, isabella wanted me to hold her for the better part of an hour, she just laid on my lap, content to just be held. we spent an hour or so with these babies today just loving on them and giving them much needed attention and affection.

the downstairs room is a WHOLE different ball game. it is a room with 6 special needs kids who have been dropped off by their parents because either they don't want them or can't care for them. it is seriously the saddest thing you'll ever see. Nann said there's some of these kids that they often pray will just be taken home to Jesus because the way they're living is seriously no way to live. it was traumatizing to see these kids and humbling to watch lily feed, bathe and change all 13 of them by herself until we arrived to help.

just this morning, a 6 month old baby girl was brought in with fluid on her brain. her parents left her at the hospital because they can't do anything with her. she needs a shunt put it in, a simple 40 minute procedure but they can't get the medical care for her so she likely will die soon unless they do. i put my hand on her little chest and she just sobbed and grabbed my hand tightly with her little fingers. i left the room in tears knowing there was literally nothing i could do to help this innocent baby who, in the states would have gotten surgery long ago. it doesn't seem fair.

so today i have been sweetly broken by these kids. their stories, their smiles, their tears, their lives have made their mark on my heart and i won't ever be the same. feeding a baby her bottle knowing that most of the time she feeds herself lying in a crib because there aren't enough hands to hold her. holding the tiny fingers of a little girl whose life might be taken from her because she can't get surgery. praying for Jesus to take a couple of these kids home because the way they're living is truly not living at all. my heart is broken for these beautiful little people. and i'm humbled by the work that Nann and her team are doing and the time they're putting in to find homes for these kids and caring for the ones who don't have homes. it is truly the heart of God.

he continues to teach me daily what he's about and i'm seeing him the faces of these precious ones, in the vision and dreams of an Albanian pastor, in the sweat and tears of these missionaries who've given everything so that the name of Jesus might be proclaimed. grateful to be on this journey with these kingdom-minded saints.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

.how the imam changed me.

It’s 5am. I’m in Albania. I should be asleep. Instead I’m being awakened by the unfamiliar sound of the imam and his call to prayer. I jump up in my little hotel bed and forget where I am for a moment. Someone is chanting, it’s dark, I’m by myself (a creepy feeling, I can assure you). I then look around and remember that I’m here in Albania and that there is a Muslim call to prayer every morning at 5. It’s something I’ve always known happens, but something I’ve never experienced myself.

At first I think it’s kind of cool, to experience something this foreign to me. And then I think it’s kind of annoying, to be woken up at 5 am by someone chanting for what seems like an awfully long time, especially when you can’t understand the words. And then I’m reminded of how important it is that my friend Zef is pastoring an evangelical church down the street. I am reminded of how much a country like this desperately needs the love of Jesus and the hope that he has to offer. And I know it’s important that I’m here, to bring life and encouragement and find out how we can serve. And then... then I’m struck with the notion that these people, 5 times a day, like clockwork are reminded to pray. And they do. They pray to a god who I don’t believe can redeem souls and bring peace.

Here I am. Laying in bed annoyed that I’ve been awakened by a call to prayer to Allah and it’s not until then that I’m truly awakened to the fact that these people have something I don’t. They are dedicated to praying to their God, 5 times per day, without fail and they call others to it and remind them to do it because they believe it matters. And me? Most of the time pray when I feel like it, when I’m afraid, when I need something, when someone else needs something. I don’t pray continuously nor to do I very often call others in my life to prayer.

So the second morning in Albania, something different happened. I was awakened by the imam’s call to prayer and I welcomed it. I laid in bed and I prayed, to a God I believe can change everything and answers prayers. I prayed for the Young Life banquet that happened to be going on at home at that exact moment. I prayed for the people God has put in my life. I prayed for the church here in Albania and the groundwork that Zef and Altin are trying to set. I prayed for people’s lives in Albania to be changed because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I prayed for the imam and others, that they might know Christ. I prayed for things I haven’t been reminded to pray for in years. And at that moment I was very grateful for 5am and for the imam calling me to prayer because prayer matters, especially when it’s prayer to a God who hears, receives and answers prayers. God is changing me, in ways I’d least expect. I’m humbled and thankful for this journey.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

.an adventure with Jesus.

i am here in Amsterdam. and STOKED about it. i'm just at the airport but i can't WAIT to come back here next week and hang out with my family for a few days before returning to the states. the smell of Dutch pancakes (pannekoeken) cooking, the Dutch cow art exhibit and the tulips planted all around is making my heart happy. it feels like home. you're right mom, i am so Dutch (and i blame you... and dad).

before i continue i must let you know that i DO plan on blogging about the remainder of my 30 before 30 list including last week's epic celebration, just give me a little time.

now back to this adventure. i am here for only 8 days in europe. it seems to short, but i know it's as long as i could get away this time of year & just as long as God wants me here. i left yesterday in a pile of tears (thank you boyfriend for your prayers and kindness through it) and was just feeling really unsettled and somewhat anxious about the whole thing. while i know in my heart that God's got me in the palm of his hand and that this is really no big deal, i couldn't convince my head of that. partly because it's my first overseas solo adventure and also partly because i hadn't taken the time to spiritually or mentally prepare for this trip (possibly due to an epic celebration consuming my time last weekend).

but we're cool now. me and Jesus. by the time i got to LAX & got checked in i'd changed my tone. me and Jesus are on a european adventure this week. i got to spend some time on the first flight praying for each of the people i'll be meeting with and the ministries i'll be seeing. He's invited me in to see what's going on in his kingdom in Albania and Romania and my job is just to show up and to love people and hear their stories and offer what we can as IMPACT to help them further their piece of the kingdom. when you put it that way, it's a pretty sweet gig. packing/preparing/flying the first leg was the hardest part. home free from here!

i'll be trying to email updates/post blogs as often as possible, and my parents & my guy will be getting texts from me, so if you want to know the text updates, contact my mom (barb) via facebook & she'll gladly add you to the "update me" text messages. but i should get wireless just about everywhere i am so this might be the easiest way to keep up with me & Jesus in europe this week. feel free to send texts as receiving them is free on this end. just can't send them for free from here.

continue to pray for safe travel & for rest. i'm exhausted, but excited. i'll have been traveling over 24 hours by the time i get to albania tonight. yikes! next stop... Rome.

i can't wait to make new Albanian and Romanian friends and i'm VERY excited to see where Jesus takes me on this adventure. thanks for your prayers!

dewey (Dutch for goodbye!)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

.#22 - give away 10% more.

"give" - to entrust to another, usually for a specified reason

this is the definition of "give" that most lines up with and inspires why i chose this one. the Bible calls us to give, to share the resources we've been given, to walk in the knowledge that NOTHING we have is ours. all of it is a gift. we've done nothing to deserve the gifts we have; therefore, they should be abundantly shared and given away. it is NOT AN OPTION in the kingdom. so my goal in this was to live in such a way that the kingdom of God would more and more be manifested in and through my life - that i might be changed by the giving of my resources to others and that the kingdom might be advanced as a result.

the extra percentage was so that i might learn what it's like to "sacrificially give." by this i mean, not just give out of the excess but give up something that i myself would like to have in order that someone else might be blessed. God is working in me. i won't lie. he has called me to save money for some things i cannot yet see. he's called me to give to some causes i really believe in and to give to some places i've never heard of. he's called me to help friends in need and to go to other countries and love on people in his name. he has called me out. out of comfortable, out of myself, out of where i'd like to remain. at some points in this last year's journey, i've wondered why the heck this was on my list and why it was something i was learning in this season. this week - the week that i turn 30, i've just started to learn some of those reasons.

some of my best friends, the goodfellows, are taking their 4 little kids and moving their lives to Peru for a cause called krochet kids which essentially brings life and a future to many women without hope. they are giving up their ENTIRE LIVES for this cause, that they may be the hands and feet of Christ in Lima. i love them and can't wait to join them in their journey.

some other friends, the fox's, are jumping into a church plant that i absolutely can get behind and are needing to partially raise their own salary. this is huge kingdom stuff, effecting the lives of thousands of college students and young adults. i believe in it.

some other friends are adopting from ghana and others from uganda and can't carry the weight of adoption fees on their own. i am blown away to get the chance to invest in bringing their boy home and caring for an orphan who would otherwise have no home and no parents.

i am seeing how God is taking my idea of what i want to do with my resources and turning it upside down and saying, "no, these resources weren't yours to begin with, they're mine. the needs are great. follow me, you'll be amazed what i'll show you and how i'll change you through giving." so i'm on a journey with this. i'm learning what it means to sacrificially give. i'm not great at it yet, but i'm workin' on it. i told my boyfriend the other night, "i spend SO much of my time on money on building my kingdom and forgetting about God's because mine (the vacations, pedicures, dinners out, etc) seems so much more appealing and tangible than something I can't see." but you know what, it's empty, pale and poor compared to investing in God's kingdom and getting to see the amazing things he'll do in and through me.

as richard stearns puts it in his book "The Hole in Our Gospel":

"The point is He wants us to embrace a kingdom view of our money, possessions, and abilities, recognizing that all we have comes from Him. He wants us to hold them lightly and be willing to use them on His behalf. Three clear principles, then, differentiate the scriptural view of our money from the "American Dream" view:

1) It's not our money - it all comes from God.
2) We are not "entitled to" it but "entrusted with" it.
3) Got expects us to use it in the interest of His kingdom."

so in this next season, i will take the needs of those around me - those i know and love and those who are strangers and i will do my best to "feed the hungry and stand beside the broken and to fight for the orphan" because those are things close to the heart of my God. i would, without a doubt say that this was my most life-changing 30 before 30 commitment and the one that will bring HIM the most glory. i am a work in progress and will keep you updated on how our good God continues to call me forward in this.

Friday, October 22, 2010

.#21 - purchase a really great dress.

while this is a sad story, it's also not so sad. i mean how could really great dresses be sad?!?! oh right, when you can't find one for your 30th birthday cruise. that's when they can be sad. right...

so i've been saving up this one for right before the cruise because my plan was to get a stinkin' cute yellow dress for the cruise and be able to wear it on my birthday and it be awesome. epic fail. i started looking last week and guess what? there is NO YELLOW TO BE FOUND in october. none. unless i'm a size 0 or a size 16 and it's all that's left on the clearance rack. therefore, this changes 2 things:
1) this blog post b/c there's no cute picture of a really great dress on the cruise (which was the goal)
2) my bitterness toward dress shopping & my new knowledge to not wait till the last minute to look

redeeming factor?

i did find a G-R-E-A-T dress earlier in the summer, not yellow, but awesome... and awesome with yellow accessories. i wore it to my boyfriend's sister's wedding in september, but i can prove it's greatness and i do believe it qualifies as "purchasing a really great dress" in the last year. you can't argue with that one.

so here it is, the really great dress.... far away and then close up (a.k.a. - lovely & then more like it). i <3 it.

thank you francesca's in la jolla. you've helped me complete number 21.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

.#20 - ravish me red.

oh the red lipstick weekend. i knew it would be epic, but i had no idea just how epic it would be. you see, i got a brilliant idea a few weeks ago... one of my best friends in the whole world is a red-head (actually 2 of them are, i'm so lucky). but the one that lives close to me happened to have her golden birthday last weekend and was planning on visiting. so my brilliant idea? to do "red lipstick weekend" on the weekend of her red-headed golden birthday. epic? i think so.

so erin arrived in santa barbara friday evening and i was armed with red lipstick in hand. it was called "ravish me red"

here are the weekend highlights:
- we were hardcore. and by hardcore i mean the only time we weren't wearing red lipstick was when we were sleeping. we wore it out to eat, sitting around the fire pit, on the beach, while we ate, even in the car.

- my awesome friend rachel even decided she wanted to participate in the fun... and yes, this picture did get sent to our boyfriends, i mean who wouldn't wanna kiss those red lips?

- speaking of kissing red lips, my boyfriend didn't so much want to participate in the wearing of red lipstick... at least not on his lips... sneak attack? duh...

- we discovered that there are people who wear red lipstick on a daily basis, so we might have been the only ones who thought we looked totally weird and out of place. i mean, we spent the weekend laughing at what is a normal daily event for some women. mind-boggling!

- by the end of the weekend we were quite comfortable with our red-lipstick wearing and decided it wouldn't be a huge deal to wear it again. in fact, by day 3, my boyfriend complimented me on my dress coordinating well with my red lipstick. epic, i tell you, epic.

and something i've always wanted to do... for the birthday brunch of my red-headed friend, we got mimosas and let me tell you, you knew which girls in the restaurant were drinking those mimosas... the ones with the red lipstick, duh... we left our mark.

so here's to red lipstick birthday weekend for my red-headed friend... (and my boyfriend for putting up with us all weekend and her boyfriend for probably being all the wiser and leaving the state for the weekend), and to many more epic weekends.

erin, your friendship has been an absolute gift in my life. my faith, my life and my love for all things red have been eternally impacted by you. thanks for participating in an epic weekend and for loving me well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

.i wanna.

lately i've been more inspired to do the things i've always wanted to do. to go after stuff i haven't wanted to go after for a long time. i think part of that is a change of pace - a new place to live, new friendships, new goals, etc. i think part of that is reading books like "bittersweet"

by a writer named shauna niequist who i feel like i'm friends with, even though at best, she's a friend of a friend. it's inspiring me in ways i haven't been inspired in years as did her first book (cold tangerines). i think part of it is seeing how my sort of friend kristen is inspiring and growing the students she teaches. i think the other part of it is being in a relationship with someone who asks hard questions like, "what would you do if no one stopped you?" or "have you ever thought about writing?" or "start praying about God opening up those doors again." i think the biggest part of it is my Creator, who made me with the gifts he made me with is helping me find out the best way to use those gifts to expand HIS kingdom, not mine. so here's my little list of "i wanna's" that's been finding it's way from the recesses of my brain to the forefront and causing me to think, to dream, to remember, to get scared and excited all at the same time. so Father, i invite you into my "i wanna's" and i tell you do do what YOU wanna do with them. use them to glorify your name.

i wanna...

- start writing more (which inevitably means less people time, yikes! have you met me?)
- start reading more (which is essential when you want to write more and also means less people time)
- learn the guitar and do it well so that i can use the gifts i don't use very often & learn to speak through music
- teach again (did i just say that?!?!? that's a whole other blog post that i'm not ready to verbalize yet)
- work with high school and college students again (shocker! ha.)
- get better at loving those in my life really really well (i feel like i've slacked at this lately)
- have people over for meals more often and ask how life is and really listen

so God, little by little would you grow those things in me and make me more like you by doing them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

.#13b - nate date...

i remember putting this challenge before myself this year to go on 2 dates and i remember thinking, "this one is gonna be hard for me" and "i really pray that both dates are with the same guy" well, both of those things are true. it was hard for me to actually be vulnerable enough to let nathan know that i was interested. and hard to get on an airplane to seattle not totally knowing what was coming. and hard to trust God with something i so often like to control. but so worth it...

back in march, i went on a snowboarding retreat with my new church in santa barbara and met this crew of awesome peeps. we became friends. we did really fun things - like magic mountain & game nights & went out to eat & went camping and just did life together and did it well. in fact we still do. it's a good crew and they've been an absolute gift to get to know these last 7 months or so. getting to know this crew has also meant finding this unexpected connection and genuine friendship with nathan. and since i'm someone who values staying on topic, i'll skip a bit of the middle and go to our first date. after 4 months of hanging out and a couple weeks of realizing we liked each other, he put the offer out there to join him on a "companion pass"to seattle for the weekend, i said i'd love to be the one that goes as his "companion".

"companion" (in case you didn't know) is another word for "soon-to-be-girlfriend"

so in the only restaurant at the sacramento airport, nathan and i had our first date...
followed by a conversation that led to me becoming his girlfriend...
followed by dates, dates (including both our siblings' weddings!) and more dates to come...

these dates, and this man have been nothing short of God giving good gifts to his kids. He loves us enough that he orchestrated all this, because he's that good. in a season of spoiling me rotten (a great job, living in the most awesome place ever, a solid Jesus lovin' community of people...) i'd have to say nathan is on the top of that list. he is a man who loves Jesus with his whole being. he's humble and patient, tender and loyal, athletic and hilarious, brilliant and grounded. he's someone i respect and admire, someone with whom i share a passion first for Jesus and then for things like the beach, the mountains, high school ministry, traveling, family, good food and wine, i could go on and on...

i would say that's a successful date, my nate date.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

.#19 - international adventure.

one of my 30 before 30 was to have my next international adventure booked. well, i've booked not 1, not 2, but THREE international adventures in the last few months. looks like i undershot that one :) brace yourself for the itinerary de Bree for the next 8 months of my life. drumroll please...

late october (a.k.a. my birthday) - about 30 of us are going on a 3 night CRUISE TO MEXICO. i realize it's not all that international but i do believe it qualifies because you need a passport, right? i will blog more about this later because it serves a dual purpose in also being my epic 30th birthday celebration.

early november (a.k.a. the week after the cruise) - my awesome job is sending me to ALBANIA and ROMANIA. really? who am i? sometimes i wonder :) mostly i wonder because if i'm honest, i likely couldn't pick out those places on a map - so for your benefit and mine, a little geography refresher...

i get to go connect with some pastors in albania about sending a team this summer and i get to go meet with 2 new ministries in romania to talk about partnering with them this summer (one that rocks babies who've not had any physical touch and another that works with romanian street teenagers - amazing stuff). this trip is such an unknown for me, but i can't tell you how excited i am about it, it gets me pumped just typing this right now. i can't wait to tell the tales of HIS work there. and as an added bonus, i get to go to HOLLAND to visit my family on the way home - pure bliss!!!

early april (a.k.a. too far away) - 4 other friends and i found an offer we couldn't turn down - cheap flights to NEW ZEALAND with a 2 day teaser stop over in AUSTRALIA!!!!! this is kind of a dream for me and has been for a while, so we're pretty dog gone excited about this one. it'll be a 2 week trip over all and from what we've decided should involve alot of surfing (for the guys) and beach hangin' (for the girls), hiking, boating, sight seeing and making connections with some friends of friends over there. i am BEYOND EXCITED about this adventure.

one more thing (in 3 parts) off the list :) i'm bummed to tell you that i don't think yosemite, oregon/idaho or surfing are gonna happen, but i'm still determined to try my best. stay tuned...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

.on loss.

this week we lost a dear friend. a friend who was both sweet and sassy. a friend who fought a more than 10-year classy fight with a brain tumor. Claire Carey is with Jesus and while there's clearly a part of me that's saddened over the loss of a friend, there's part of me that's envious of where she is right now - the songs she's singing that have been sung for thousands of years, the dancing she's doing without needing any help, the talking she's doing without delay and without the struggle it's been to tell her brain to tell her mouth what to speak, but mostly the sweet interaction she's having with our gracious God who gave her to us, but now has called her home to Himself.

there is a sense of loss for those of us left behind. those of us who knew her only peripherally, those of us who got to spend time with her weekly at home group and those of us who were in her daily, even hourly life. it's for those that my heart hurts most. for her husband, her best friends, her family, her caretakers the last few years. there's no worse pain.

but there's something that happens when we lose someone.

we give ourselves permission to grieve - to cry, to pray, to talk about things we wouldn't normally, to drop everything else to be community for each other.
and there's something about this that i think is so healthy, so right.

after our home group spending time together last night doing just those things, i went home feeling somewhat relieved, feeling more peaceful, feeling more raw but simultaneously more put together than i did when i got there. why? because we need that. and we need that more often than just when there is loss. we need that regularly. we were meant to be known. so why do we only use tragedy as an excuse to cry, be honest, drop all other things to be family? my resolve is to do this more often... to be family for those He's put in my life and to be real and give others permission to do the same whether times are good or bad.

Claire Carey, thanks for trusting that God is good despite your inability to understand your circumstances and thanks for using your life as a testimony of that. and thanks for making us family this week. we will miss you here, but will see you there when He calls us home.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

.a heart spilling out.

Tears are how the heart speaks. I know that when tears come to the surface and I get the lump in my throat that I used to get when I would get dropped off at summer camp for 2 weeks – something’s happening in my heart, it's spilling out in the best way it knows how.

And at that juncture, I have 2 choices – 1) embrace it or 2) fight it.

Depending on where I am and who I’m with is usually how I make that choice, but there are those times when fighting it is not an option, which leaves one with only the option to embrace.

So today… I embrace them.

I embrace them because they today they are for a couple in my home group who is going on ten years of battling her brain tumor and the road is way too long. I embrace them because they today they are for a local pastor and his family who just got the very disheartening news that his 6-year-old daughter’s cancer is back and appears to be attacking organs and inoperable. I embrace them because today they are for injustice happening in Africa to a people who have some of the purest hearts I’ve seen. I embrace them because today they are for one of my dearest friends and her husband who have been in a wilderness of miscarriages and heartache for entirely too long. I embrace them because today they represent questions in my own life that don’t seem to have answers.

I embrace them and I give them back to my Father because while His kingdom is here now, it is also not here yet – in its fullness at least. Man, I can’t wait for that day.

But until then, I will try to embrace them when they come – because they are my heart spilling out and because those tender moments are when my Abba draws nearest to me. So Lord, be near.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

.#18 - U2.

now this, my friends is a sad, sad story. probably the saddest of all 30 before 30's.

so there's this guy named bono, he kinda "is" U2. once upon a time he was doing a rehearsal in germany and he slipped a disc in his back - bad enough that he needed surgery almost immediately. this was about a week before the US tour. this meant, our concert (and all others on the US tour) was cancelled. We were told we'd get a new date for the concert. The end.

TRAGIC!!!! i honestly almost cried. this has probably been one of the things i've looked forward to the most on that list - no lie.

so this is the email i received today:
Attention ticket holder!

We just learned that your event has now been rescheduled:

Angel Stadium of Anaheim
Sunday, June 6th, 2010 New date: Friday, June 17th, 2011 at 7:00PM!

Your original tickets are still good – we hope you can make it and enjoy the show!

we hope you can make it to the show - really U2, OVER a year later? i mean, this girl's not givin up her seat for anything, but this now will not happen before i turn 30 and it technically can't be crossed off my list. but i still will mark it as done because it was beyond my control. something i learned while training teams to do overseas missions is this: "blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken." so flexible i am and broken i'm not.

so erin & casey, june 17th it is. bono, how about no more shannanigans at rehearsal okay?

at least not after next march.

Monday, July 12, 2010

.#17 - monterey.

and in the same weekend... my epic adventure buddy (casey) and i decided we'd watch the world cup finals in none other than...

monterey, california!!!!

we spend a few hours there on the pier at this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called the "sandbar" that was home of the best omelette this girl's ever eaten. no lie. artichoke, sundried tomato, provolone, ham & avocado. holy smokes.

sad part of the day? my Dutch people lost the world cup to spain (my fake people with whom i spent a semester). now, i never once felt that my loyalties were split because i wasn't about to disown my biological people for my study abroad people, but i'm glad that if someone had to beat my people, at least it was still my people. you with me?

either way, monterey - you're somewhere i'd love to visit again soon. don't be a stranger and i promise the next time i'm there i won't spend hours in a little restaurant bar watching a soccer game. you're entirely too beautiful for that.

and casey - you're a rockstar. thanks for being my epic traveling buddy this weekend - for soaking in the sights & sounds of the bay area & monterey, for being a phenomenal wedding date and road trip buddy. you've been missed. glad we got a chance to play :)

and 101 freeway - thank you for your beautiful scenery that got us all the way home to santa barbara.

yes, you heard me. i said "home" to santa barbara. i gladly claim this place as home these days. i'm settling in and happy bout it :)

.#16 - visit a friend who lives somewhere i've never been.

i'll be honest. i thought this one would be easier. incase you haven't met me, i travel... alot. so i figured hangin' with a friend in a new location wouldn't be all that difficult. i'm honestly shocked it just happened and it's already july.

needless to say, i had a great weekend visiting the now

mr. and mrs. alan & margie gutierrez!!!!

casey (with whom i always have epic adventures) and i drove from orange county up to palo alto and had yet one more epic adventure at a fun wedding in a gorgeous spot, tucked in the redwood trees of northern california.

so margie-formerly-carter-now gutierrez, thanks for being the friend i visited somewhere i've never been. and thanks for introducing me to your beloved bay area. you were an exquisite bride :) and we were very sad when the night was over.

thanks for getting married so i could knock of #16 :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

.#15 - 10K (dirty).

i put a 10k or half marathon on the list because i thought it'd probably be something that would be good for me to do before i turned 30 thinking that it might be the last time something like that is a priority to me. i say this mostly because: 1) i'm not getting any younger and 2) my slipped disc and ouchie knee don't tend to have any vast improvements after i train for and do something competitive. and i keep thinking that i'd rather save those joints for things like playing beach volleyball and jumping on trampolines with my kids some day instead of wasting them on "one more 10k or half-marathon" just because i like the mental and physical challenge.

so to challenge myself this year, i did the mud run at camp pendleton.

my friend alyssa asked me in january just before i moved and i signed up not knowing what my life would look like at this point. and something tony (my p90x boyfriend) forgot to tell me is that p90x absolutely ruins your running endurance. man, sure maybe i'm stronger, but my endurance is shot. it is a sad, sad story. needless to say - we went through lakes, over climbing walls, army crawled in mud pits and ran more than 2 miles uphill just to say we did it. and we were dirty... nasty dirty - like the kind of dirty where i'm still cleaning my ears with a q-tip and dirt comes out - 5 days later. but it was worth it.

5 of us women... and hour and a half of running in the mud... some new friendships... and one more thing off my list.

i'm glad i did it and (gasp!) i'd do it again, maybe even in october! i kinda feel like now i have the itch and i can't shake it. uh oh. knees and back, you can thank me later.