Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Abridged Update.

Hey. I've not updated this in ages. Giant apologies. I guess sometimes I just get so into living life, that I forget to sit down and share what that's lookin' like for me?

Anyways. The abridged version of the last 6 1/2 months is as follows:

Philly rocks, I love it a lot. I got crazy busy being on various committees at the shelter. It was fantastic. I hosted a few groups, all of them were wonderful and I really enjoyed my time with them and learned a lot. Yay for being the "ninth member" instead of the rando city host. The weather was absolutely beautiful, so I walked a lot. Took lots of pictures. I got a second roomie, she was supa sweet. Both my roomies moved out. Last week in Philly people tried breaking into my house one night. But God is good and everything worked out just fine. I moved back to KY. Which was nice, but hard at the same time. I missed the city a lot, but it was good to have time with some of my fam and friends. I got to go spend some time at camp, and even work there for a week which was so so wonderful. AND. As I said a few sentences ago, God is good. He opened a door for me to come back to Philly. I took it. I ran right on through that door. There was a bit of hesitation, but not too much. Sometimes it's just hard to be 900 miles away from people who mean a whole whole lot to you. And by sometimes, I mean always. But I moved back here three weeks ago. A new chapter. So that's where I'm at now. I'm not sure what this chapter will hold, but I'm not the author thankfully.

I guess that's all I really have to say for now. I need to get my reading done for life group tonight, and I'm going to write a few letters. I just thought I'd finally update this, just in case anyone still checks it from time to time. I might try to get back into blogging, but I can't say I've ever been very consistent with it.

I hope everyone is well!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beautiful things.

I think a lot about beautiful things. About things I'm thankful for. Here is a list of some things that have brought joy to my life recently. That I am thankful for. Some aren't so much joy-filling as they are thought-inducing...thoughts that led to joy in some way or another.They're in no particular order and I'm no doubt going to leave a bajillion things out. But here is a very short glimpse into my mind....or...my heart, rather.

Being given a honeydew by one of the guests at OBP.
Broken windows in abandoned buildings.
Old railroad bridge.
The view of the Schuylkill on the walk to Target.
Sunshine reflecting off tall office buildings.
The sound of a small stream of water trickling beneath my feet.
People praising God openly. Honestly. Being real.
Slumber parties with Martha
Being greeted on the street by a guest. His story. His optimism despite a bump in the road.
Streets with trash being transformed into streets without trash!
Neighborhood kids.
The trolley.
The 43.
Red bell peppers.
Coffee rings forming as a drink my morning cup o' joe.
The Lowe Trail
42nd Street karaoke.
Working like a well oiled machine.
New websites!
Mod Podge
Mama T book study
Encouraging words
Ordinary people being extraordinary heroes
Improv biscuit bread
The sanctuary at Broad Street
Murals, murals, more murals!
Spring Garden bridge
Warm blankets.
Sweet facebook messages
People passionate about their music.
Fairmount Park
Being productive
Thankfulness..."Gratitude Attitude"
South Philly-isms.
People who overcome odds.
Thoughtful, giving people.
Sticky notes
Pictures that kids color for you.
My boys--X, C & M
The "munchkins"
Efficient packing
Aldi's trips
Roomie Bible Study.
Coffee dates
Trader Joe's!!
Elbow patched things.
U.S. 70 scenery
Mango Passionfruit Juice
"The fruit of the spirit is not a...."
Sister time
Waking up before the alarm.
The stars
Coffee/Monster/Mt. Dew.....caffeine.
Common Prayer
The smell of books.
UPenn's campus
My backpack
Funny faces
Freddy and Tony's
The Ben Frank
Unfailing love.

Here's hoping you're experiencing lots of beautiful things, too


Friday, December 2, 2011

Hidden Alleys.

[Imagine it's the weekend of Nov 4-6]

This weekend Nicole and I hosted a youth group. It was weird hosting after two months, but it was wonderful as well.

We were in two separate serving groups, and my serving group headed out to Ray of Hope on Saturday morning. Ray of Hope does a lot of neighborhood clean-up…restoration, even. Ray of Hope also does home repairs for those who can’t afford the high cost of structural home damage, but whenever groups go, we are typically helping clean up a neighborhood or making an abandoned lot look like an actual lot instead of a jungle.  Ray goes all over Philadelphia, cleaning the dirtiest places, the places people have given up on and just feel too overwhelmed to even consider cleaning.

Our project that morning? Tackling an alley.

If I had just been walking around this neighborhood, I never would have thought that what we cleaned up was an alley. It was about 3 feet wide and houses lined each side of it. Dogs barked at us as we walked back and removed thrash, fallen tree limbs, and several random objects. (Window pane, old fence posts, a shoe…)
I’ve done Ray of Hope in all sorts of weather…very cold, very rainy, very hot…been there, done it. It adds an extra amount of challenge to the work, just sticking with it and being positive sometimes. At the end of the morning or afternoon though, it is always wonderful to look back and see all the work you’ve done…the difference you’ve made in this neighborhood or this lot or this alley.

The weather we had that day was PERFECT alley cleaning weather. It was fab.

We finished that morning and the alley actually looked like an alley! It was incredible. As we collected all the tools and circled up to pray together, I thought about myself and those around me. Did we have “hidden alleys” within us, waiting to be cleaned up…restored? Maybe that’s silly of me, but I often find myself thinking of things like this, whether it’s a filthy alley or a shop-vac that makes me think of it. I thought about how I knew I definitely had hidden alleys at one point or another…places within me that I had given up on and just felt too overwhelmed with, and I remembered how God worked in me, cleaning out the lies and the insecurities and the doubt. How I’d even gone back behind Him and made the alleys dirty again. But He keeps coming back, cleaning it out. Restoring me.

He’s restoring you, too. May this be perfect “alley cleaning weather” for you, and for me.

With love,

Poconos: Footprints

[Imagine it's the weekend of Halloween!]

This weekend I was off adventuring in The Pocono Mountains with Kels, Nicole, and Nicole’s friend (and now my friend too!), Jane. We arrived Friday night and quickly got ourselves settled in by the fireplace, enjoying hot tea and playing Scrabble. We went to bed to the sound of the fireplace crackling and popping, snuggled in to our blankets and sleeping bags.
Saturday morning we awoke to a light dusting of snow across the mountains. It was a beautiful sight, to see the colors of fall and the first signs of winter colliding together. We ate breakfast and eventually bundled up to go on a hike to some of the falls. Snow had started falling steadily by then, and it just became more and more beautiful as the snow clung to the pines and to the ground beneath our feet.

As we got closer to the falls, the trail got a bit trickier. Large slick rocks replaced small rocks covered in snow, and flat ground turned into a hill here or there. At one particular point, we had to go down a small hill to get to the falls. This hill had a lot of those large slick rocks. Now, let me just tell you…I am not the most coordinated person and I just don’t trust my balance in general. So, I took my sweet time going down this decline, putting great thought into where I made my next step, for fear of falling and sliding down the rest of the way. I suppose that could have been an adventure in itself, but I didn’t want to try it. I was behind everyone else, which I found helpful because I could look to see where the other three had stepped to get down. I got to the bottom and continued to follow the footsteps left behind by my friends. I joined Nicole again, who had stopped to wait for me, and we continued walking, the sound of the falls filling the woods around us. We got to a part where you could tell there was mud, due to the fact that either Kels or Jane had come close to stepping in it themselves. We followed the path they took on the side of the trail, and it was mud free. At one point I thought I needed to cross to the other side, and as I started to do that I quickly found my foot sunk in cold wet mud. It wasn’t too bad, though.

We got to the falls and it was beautiful. We took pictures, and just really admired everything around us. The snow had picked up and by then we were all pretty cold, so we turned and headed back to Aircastle.
Once again, I was at the back. Nicole and I walked together and just ahead of us were Kels and Jane. The snow had covered a majority of our footsteps from our way down to the falls. The hill I had hesitantly descended was a lot easier to walk up, and it seemed odd that this was the same hill I had taken so long to walk down.

As we continued walking, the snow became so thick that we could no longer see Kelsey and Jane ahead of us, nor could we see their footprints. And it made me think.
Sometimes, the path is laid out for us…footprints have been left behind by those gone before us, footprints to help us find our way. But other times, the footprints have been covered or they just don’t exist and we have to find our own way. Not necessarily by ourselves, but we can’t look down and say “Hey, so and so went this way, I think I’ll follow!” It’s a time for us to make our own footprints, instead of putting our feet in other people’s footprints.
I think there are a variety of emotions that you can feel about something like that. You can feel alone or you can feel frustrated or confused. Your confidence can waiver… wondering if you can make the right steps along the way.
On the other hand, you can also feel excitement for something new, something fresh. You can take it as an opportunity to just get yourself out there. You can run with it and just see where it takes you.
I think for me right now, I’m finding myself on both types of paths…those with steps laid out and those without. And maybe that’s everyone. I mean…we are all on our own personal journey that is unique to us. Even if it’s our own journey, we still have help along the way. I think that’s beautiful. More beautiful than the snow on the pines, and the fireplace glowing.
Anywho. That is my Pocono ramble. I hope you’re doing well, whatever type of path you are on right now.

With love,

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Created with purpose: lessons through observation.

Last night, on our walk back to the car and on our drive home, I spent a lot of time observing those around me. As I listened to the conversation happening among the people I was with, I watched people. Kids, couples, young, old. I watched. And I listened. What did I see? What did I hear?


I saw Him in the little girl sitting in her stroller shouting "Clouds, clouds go away!" over and over again.
In the two girls entering their dorm room, laughing together.
In the woman sitting by herself at a crowded cafe.
In the man leaning against the wall, headphones on, singing. Not to mention the super fly jacket he had on.
In the couple walking by the Convention Center, arms wrapped around each other's shoulders, smiling.
In the older gentleman who stood, leaning against a newspaper box, whistling a tune and swinging his cane along to the tune. Smiling as he tried to open the trash can with the bottom of his cane.
In the little boy who exclaimed "HEY GUYS!" as his mother pushed him down the street in his stroller.
These and countless others. They were on my mind last night.

I've always been a fan of observing others. Call me a creeper, that's okay. I think there's a lot to learn from those around me. A lot to be reminded of. And looking at those people last night, I was reminded of God's amazing love for us. A love that no other love can compare to. A perfect, pure, genuine, truly unconditional love. It made me think about all the work God poured into creating each and every one of us, unique and with purpose. I imagined His hands. Forming us from the dirt, putting thought into each and every detail. Breathing life into us. And guiding us, as no one else can. From the very beginning, always being by our sides.

A few years back, I was in a place where I thought I'd run from God. Someone wise and lovely reminded me that you can't run from God...God isn't in one place. He is everywhere. I find comfort in that. And last night, I found comfort in the fact that God has created each and everyone of us with a purpose. That we are all His children, and so no matter what sort of journey we are on, whether it be one of joy or sorrow, an uphill climb or a downward spiral, God is with us, and we are all connected through His unending love.

I hope this finds you well tonight, and I hope that you know that you are dearly loved.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Neighborhood kids, CCDA, Board Retreat, oh my! [An overdue entry]


So, where do I begin? The last three weeks have been awesome. Man do I love Philadelphia. And my job. And my roomie. And my other worker friend folks. And Trader Joe's. And CCDA. And the neighborhood kids. And coffee. Alright, alright. I could go on all night long.
But fo real.

I'll start from right now and just kind of work my way backwards, methinks.
Sooo, this weekend the Board was here, rockin out for their Board Retreat. It was awesome. They were awesome. It was so cool to sit down and talk with these people (one of them being the founder of CSM) and to just hear their stories...to hear their hearts. I feel blessed to have met them. I ate way too much food this weekend, which seems to be a common occurrence at CSM gatherings. I'm still trying to recover. We're talking super yummy breakfast, artery-clotting roast beef sandwiches, Malian, yummy breakfast leftovers, and fancy Italian...aka, the most I've ever eaten at one meal. (The Italian, not all of that food at once, just in case you were wondering.)

In preparation for the Board's arrival, we did A LOT of cleaning around the housing site. It was a fun time, but quickly grew tired of the smell of cleaning products. I also did a lot of laundry. I actually really enjoy laundry, though. So I really didn't mind that. I mean, I really didn't mind cleaning in general. It can be refreshing to see the results of a lot of hard work. Compared to a lot of the work I do here in Philly, it's a nice change. Being able to see results.

Thursday of last week I met with someone at the ministry site I will hopefully be working for over the next year.(During my apprenticeship I will work 3 days a week for a ministry in the city and the other two days I'll work for CSM.) We talked about some logistics, and then tossed around some ideas for what I could possibly do while working there. I think we decided it might be fun if I planned and lead activities for the guys staying there. Like game days or a chess tournament...things like that. I've been trying to do some brainstorming, because I feel like that is pretty new stuff to me, but I think it will be fun. There are still a few things we need to get worked out before it is decided that I am working there, but I am excited at the possibility of it!

I also met up with a friend on Thursday and went to the Penn Museum. I was rather impressed with it. They had an exhibit about 9/11 that I found rather powerful. There was a wall where you could post what you remember about that, where you were and all that. I happened to look at one and it said "My 10th grade teacher answering her phone, dropping to her knees crying. It was her son: he had survived." It was just...really powerful. My favorite exhibit was one we found near the end of our time wandering around. It was about homelessness and addiction. Righteous Dopefiend was the title of the exhibit. It told the stories of four or five people living on the streets, about their addictions or the way they witnessed the addictions of others. Again, powerful.

Thursday evening, when I got home, I saw that the neighborhood kids were hanging out outside. My roommate, Nicole, was just coming outside to hang out with them as I walked onto our block. We stayed out there all evening, and it was wonderful. The kids taught me how to throw a football and they continued to coach me each time I threw it. "Put more power into it." "Nah, ya gotta do it like this." "There ya go! She did it!" After that came trying to catch the ball. That wasn't so successful. But I am working on it! The kids also had a blast playing with our phones. They laughed and whispered to each other as they used my phone to text Nicole's phone and then they decided they'd call her. They got quite a kick out of it, and I got quite a kick out of watching them. One of my favorite things about living here is getting to hang out with the neighborhood kids. They keep life bright and full of energy. They're a lot of fun to hang out with. We had decided we were headed in to make dinner and warm up for the night (it was one of the chillest nights we'd had at that point!) The kids protested, but we told them goodnight and headed inside. After closing the door, the continued to bang on the door and ring the doorbell asking us to come back out. I peaked out the kitchen window and a girl who hadn't been outside while we were out there was trying to tell me something. I couldn't understand her very well, so I went to the door to peak out and see what she was saying. When I opened the door, there she was waiting for me. "I was hoping you'd come stand right there! I need to tell you something, come closer!" As I ducked down closer to her, she whispered her secrets in my ear and eventually pulled me out the door to hang out with her. She lives on our block with her mom, brother, and sister. She definitely has plenty of sass, but she is such a sweet girl. Her and her brother both are! I haven't gotten to know her sister very well yet, but I hope to! I stood out there for quite a while talking to her. Her brother eventually came down to join us, after he had a bit of an incident with one of the other girls in the neighborhood. As he told me what happened, his sister ran off to go stick up for him. Cute, right?! She quickly came back to join us, and as he was telling me about his father and how he had recently moved to Atlanta, she would add tidbits here and there. He talked about how he missed his dad. By this point, he had given me a long detailed story about how his dad ended up in Atlanta...starting all the way back to when he was a little boy. I smiled as he asked me if I had ever been to Atlanta. When I told him I had just been there recently, but I had only been in the airport for a layover, he grinned real big and asked "Did you see my dad?! Did you see him? He's a tall black bald man. The next time you go back, will you tell him hi for me? I really miss him." Shortly after that, the first board member to arrive at the housing site stepped out the door. The kids instantly started asking him questions and quickly had their hands on his cell phone, calling Nicole. She joined us in the doorway and we continued to hear about Atlanta and a trip they were taking to Texas with their grandma, and how they would soon get to see their dad...and he had a MANSION in Atlanta. Again they asked if we had been there and if we had seen a tall bald black man. They asked us to let him know that they missed him a lot and to call them if we ever were to see them. Sigh. I really adore those kids. Oh! I can't forget the quote of that evening! When telling us about their trip to Texas with their grandma, the boy asked "Are there houses in Texas?!" Don't you just love kids? They're great.

Before the adventure of cleaning started last week, Nicole and I had been in Indianapolis with the other CSM Apprentices for the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) Conference for the week. Um...can I say AMAZING? Two weeks later, I am still trying to process all the stories and different things I heard and learned while I was there. I had never been to a conference, but I quickly found out how much I would enjoy it. All of the speakers, the workshops, the exhibits, the worships...WOW. Not to mention getting to hang out with all of the apprentices and a number of other CSM full-time staff. It was great to meet all of them and kind of start this journey of the apprenticeship together. It was sad to part ways with them at the end of the conference, but I am excited for the ways God is using them in their cities. I know they blessed my life the few days we were together, so I can only imagine the impact they are making in their cities and ministry sites. I hope to write a blog on some other things that happened at CCDA, but like I said...I think I'm still trying to process it. Hopefully soon!

Since being back in Philly, I have also joined a small group at one of the churches I am attending. I've only been able to attend the first meeting, but I really enjoyed it! Since then, I've been keeping up with the reading and man, I'm lovin' it. For the small group, we are reading The Divine Mentor. It's all about letting God and His word mentor you while you nourish your spiritual roots. Or at least, that's what I've gathered in the first few chapters. I hope I get to get back to small group soon, but until I do, I am being blessed by the book.

I think I'm going to close this entry up for now. My hands are starting to hurt, and I bet your eyes are! haha.
I hope this finds you having a blessed week.

With love,

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Return to Philly!

Well folks, I am back in good ole' West Philadelphia. [feel free to bust out in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.]
We have dove right in to lots of reading, writing, list-making, rearranging, cleaning, fellowshipping, eating, etc.
It is so good to be back, and I'm so looking forward to what God has in store over the next several months that I will be here and just trying to be a light in this city as I learn more about myself, those around me, the city of Philadelphia, and how God is intertwined in all of it.
I was looking through some old journal entries/prayers when I found one from almost exactly a year ago. It really got me thinking, so I thought I might share it with you and some of the thoughts that followed after rediscovering it.

October 1, 2010
I find out today if I get the position in Chicago. I'm really nervous and I really hope that I get it. If I'm being honest, I'm scared I'm not going to...and God, I want it so bad. I know that if I don't get it that it just means that's not where You need me right now...I just really hope that is where You want me, ya know? I'm trying really hard to be patient because I know You have a plan for me. It's just hard not knowing what it is and relying on You and completely walking by faith. So, I'm praying that when they call that they ask me to come work with them in Chicago, but I'm also praying that if they don't, that I will be at peace with it and that I will continue my search...OUR search. I love you God. Talk to You soon.

It's so insane to me that it was only a year ago that I got a call from Chicago letting me know that they had hired someone else for the fall host position. I'm not sure if it seems like it's been longer or shorter than that. But I remember so clearly how nice Tim was on the phone. How confused I was after and how my emotions were all over the place. I remember going to my sister's that afternoon and going to a corn maze with her and my older nephew that night. Winding through paths on a dark chilly night, finding the way through that maze felt like everything in my head. I didn't know where God was leading me, where He was calling me to, but I knew I had to keep walking. Searching. Praying. Loving. And just letting Him guide me. I knew it wasn't easy, but I also knew that the harder things often taught me the most. Maybe God didn't want me to go off somewhere to do mission work after all. Maybe He was calling me to do something in my own backyard. I had absolutely no idea. But I kept searching.

It wasn't too long after that that I went up to Chicago for a site visit while reapplying for a spring host position up there. Then Philly contacted me, and well...here we are! I've lived up here six months and God just keeps on presenting amazing, life-changing experiences. I honestly don't know how to thank God enough for how much of a blessing all of this has been in my life. Even that day just over a year ago, when I received what felt like my 1000th "no." God was saying "yes" all along. He was loving me and guiding me. And looking back, that all seems so clear. It's encouraging. It's encouraging because there are a lot of times when living a life faithful to God just seems so hard, when I have no idea what is going on and I'm just like "Uh....so what am I doing?" But really, it's not me doing much of anything at all. It's God doing things through me. And man, am I glad He is using me.
It's encouraging to see how far I've come. To see the fruits of God's labor in myself. Does that make sense? I don't know. I'm not quite sure how to describe it.

Today was a beautiful day. A day where I saw God many places in this city that I now call home. In people giving us their parking meter ticket thing to put in our car when it still had an hour left on it, in playing tag with neighborhood kids, in Malian food, in conversation, in arranging things, in the faces of strangers, in the moon, in the busy-ness.
Tomorrow will be beautiful, too.

Much love from West Philly.
Good night.