Sunday, March 30, 2014

We've got nothing but time #sbadventure

One of our other reasons for wanting to come to Hope Spoken was because we knew Libby Ryder would be in attendance. Sar and I discovered Libby's blog Don't Waste Your Cancer back in 2010 and read it religiously. Libby started writing after diagnosis with cancer and chronicled her whole story. It was a story of hope and healing and vulnerability and community. Libby's husband worked for YL and her daughter Ava was adorable. We thought Libby was awesome and just knew we'd be friends with her if we ever met.

A couple years later I randomly met Libby's friend Jen at a Work Crew Training Weekend in KY. I actually told Jen she looked like a blogger I followed named Libby and I was surprised when she told me they were actually really great friends. This upcoming summer Sar and her husband Ben will be on YL assignment at Timber Wolf Lake with Libby and Justin. 

Libby and Jen were both here at Hope Spoken with their best friends Cory and Rachel. We introduced ourselves on Friday night and all of our connections didn't come off as too stalkery or weird. We got to talk and hang out with these four through out the weekend and they're all just as sweet and awesome as we thought they would be. 

We also befriended this funny duo, Rebecca and Katy. These 26 year old friends are from Texas and were incredibly outgoing and friendly. They gave us some ideas of where to explore in Dallas and Rebecca gave us the most awkward ice breaker questions ever, "What's your favorite sin? What's your second favorite religion?"

Who knows when we'll see all of these people again, but we all follow each other on Instagram now so you know the friendships are legit.

When Sar and I booked our flights months ago we thought it would be a brilliant idea to stay an extra day in TX. If we were flying all the way out here we ought to at least explore Dallas before heading back home to the Midwest. Unfortunately we failed to realize that the only thing close to our hotel would be a Denny's, the whole city is incredibly spread out and you have to take a taxi to get anywhere. We decided to make the best of our TX adventure and take a cab to an area called Uptown.

1. Based off of Rebecca's recommendation we ate pizza at Union Bear for lunch.

2. We found the free trolley and rode downtown.

3. We got off at Klyde Warren Park which was bursting with people. They had these cool carts full of books and newspapers and games just to borrow.

There was a playground swarming with children and a row of food trucks offering everything from sushi to snow cones.

We people watched everywhere but dog watching at the park was one of the most entertaining parts.

4. We visited the Dallas Museum of Art because it was free... and because art is cool. I think I need to get a pair of those heels for when I go back to school next week.

The "Creative Connections" part of the museum was easily the coolest spot. I got to make quilt patterns with felt pieces, kids were drawing their own art on clipboards, there were several displays where people added their own responses and a whole art exchange wall.

5. We accidentally road the trolley on it's entire loop and ended up pack at the park again.

6. These people were too awesome to not take a picture with them. I wish I could borrow their outfits for an opening campfire at Tecumseh or to a Young Life Club.

7. We got snacks at one of the food trucks, ice cream cookie sandwiches. Chocolate chocolate chip cookies with vanilla bean for Sar and oatmeal cookies with strawberry for me.

8. Back in Uptown the only store still open was the Gap and they happened to be having a 40% off everything sale. One of the most magical moments of the day, we both found a few things we just had to have at unbelievable prices.

9. We found a cool restaurant for dinner and sat out on the patio with our sandwiches, fries and Diet Coke. Perfect end to our exploring day.

10. Back at the hotel I got to watch Nashville and Sar blog stalked before we went to bed. We didn't know what we would do all day long but we think we filled it pretty well.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"I want to invite you to be the kind of person who will throw candy." Shauna Niequist

After breakfast and worship, Saturday started with Shauna Niequist aka our main reason for coming to Hope Spoken. I've loved her book "Cold Tangerines" since I first discovered it in 2007. The pages of that book are highlighted, yellowed and well worn. It's the book I read from at Young Life camp and Tecumseh, the book I tell all of my girls to read, the chapters that I go back to over and over again. I'm also such a fan of Bittersweet and Bread & Wine. I was lucky enough to meet Shauna once before and hear her speak at Hope College years ago when she signed my books and encouraged me to keep blogging. 

I spotted her in the hallway at the end of breakfast and ran back to get Sar. "Can we please go be fan girls and get our picture with her?!" I asked. Shauna was wonderful and happily obliged to taking a picture with each of us. We love her.

I love listening to Shauna speak--she delivers her stories just like when you're reading her books. She's equally funny and wise, tells personal stories and bible verses, and even though she's famous in our eyes still feels like someone we could be best friends with. I attempted to write down every word while she spoke this morning because she's just that wonderful.

I'm going to tell you a love story. Because all the best stories are love stories. 1 Corinthians 13, "If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love."

God help us to be courageous and brave and wise. Help us to be gutsy and honest. Help us to live a love story.

I think I've been in a hurry for the past 7 years. They say being a writer is like having homework every day for the rest of your life. Along the way I signed up for a super fun schedule but didn't take into account that kind of pace would have on me. I gulped down so much life that I couldn't even take it anymore. Efficiency and multi-tasking went off the rails. 

Many of us are really tired. The only next thing is to find a a new way. To go back to love. These words are guiding me this year, "More love, less hustle." I'm silencing the voice in my head that says, "Go, go go." The voice that tells me, "I can do 76 things in the next 10 minutes."

The good news is this new way, this way of love, is making me a better person. I'm starting to dance in the kitchen again. I love this season in our lives. I'm thankful to be in it more. I thought if I walked away from so many things I would rediscover myself. And it's working. 

Now what's required is love. Time. Laughter. Presence. Connection. The answer to everything these days is, "More love, less hustle." It's changing everything. 

Sometimes you have to trust that life is long for most of us. There will be more opportunities. My house can be messy for awhile. I want love to be the best thing I offer people, not my efficiency. The first step for Moses and me is realizing I am not the only one God can use. 

I gauge myself too often by what everyone else is doing and what they can handle. I had to give up my need to be known as an extremely capable person. How much can I really do? It doesn't matter what someone else can do. I don't care. I don't care if it makes me look weak or frail or not special in someone else's eyes. 

I went back to the beginning and started with prayer. "Here I am. What do you want to occupy my days and my time?" Then rest and self-care. I hate that term "self-care" but it's something only I can do. 

When you talk about "being capable" that's kind of a warning sign. "Should" is a warning sign. I think I might not be alone. I think other people might feel the way I did. I want to tell you happiness is possible. Contentment is possible. Peace is possible.

I have limitations. I'm not strong. I wanted a way of living that felt more like living. "What good is it to gain the whole world but lose your soul?" Mark 38:6 At the end of the day, the soul is what powers everything else.

When I told my small group all of this one of the men looked at me and said, "We're not impressed with you. We love you. And that's a totally different thing." I think God surrounds us with people who will tell us the truth about our lives.

"Busy" for me is both a drug and a defense-- and I want to lay both of those things down. I'm addicted to feeling capable and not being bored. Busy keeps me numb and safe. And I don't want to aspire to being numb and safe. I don't want to wear exhaustion as a badge of honor. 

My least favorite parable of all time is the one of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Jesus tells Martha that she shouldn't worry about running around and making everything perfect, she should be present like Mary. What you want Jesus to say is, "Thank you for bustin it. You're so awesome and capable and I'm impressed by you. Blessed are those who are really busy." But Jesus is telling her, "You're missing it. The dreams and hopes I've placed in you, you're missing them."

I want to invite you to be the kind of person who can be irresponsible and warm and silly and whimsical and fun. The kind of person who will throw candy. 

I love it all. Every word. My schedule is packed and full of people and events and adventures. I've got to keep myself in check for the motivation behind all of that. I want to be doing it because I'm sharing love with people, because it's bringing me life and joy and it's good for my soul. I don't want to say "yes" to things just because people ask me to or because I think it'll make me look like a more accomplished teacher/leader/counselor/person. I don't want to miss what God's putting in front of me for right now. I want to keep being the kind of person who will throw candy and climb trees and dance and laugh.

The rest of our day was filled with mini session speakers, small group time, worship, meals with new friends and another key note speaker. So many great thoughts and moments.

Mandy Castro

A person who forgives is not someone who is weak but someone who is free. Forgiveness is a choice. Sometimes it's one you have to make several times a day. It's a way of life. God gave me peace about the past and hope for the future.

Wynne Elder

Isaiah 55, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." 

We might never see the big picture. He just asks us to trust Him one step at a time. You never know who is going to speak truth into your life. God totally wrecked my plans and what I wanted for my life. God is good and he is for us.

"God is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine." Ephesians

Jami Nato

Who am I? Who is God? He says, "I see what you love and what you're chasing after. And I still love you and I'll still chase you."

The bible is a story of robbers and screw ups and murderers all having a place at the table with Jesus. It's a story of redemption. Our stories must be pointing to something greater than ourselves. It's not about us because our identity is in him.

Right now everyone's house has all of those cute signs with "Our Family Rules." Here's the truth, we cannot follow all of those rules. The only one that never did is Jesus. We need to speak that truth. God did all the work so we don't have to work for his love. We need to point people to the cross.

The good news of the gospel is that it interacts with every single part of your story.

Shannan Martin 

God didn't bring Robert into our life when we were ready and when it would've been easy. God brought it all together when we were barely making it.

Both Matthew and Mark tell the story of feeding the 4,000, I think that's important. They had just a little bit of fish and bread. God joined with them and made it more than enough. God wants us to walk towards the brokenness. These are our neighbors.

The world says it's foolish to do what God is calling us to. Ephesians 4:1 "Therefore I beg you to live a life worthy of your calling because you have been called by God." We are not all so different from one another. 

Your best in life might mean you never do anything great or special. You can do this. Be courageously foolish. Let him use the little you have for His glory. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

"These cake pops are so good I want to say a cuss word."

About a year ago my friend Sarah invited me on an adventure. Through a couple blogs she reads she had found out about an event called Hope Spoken that would be happening in March of 2014. It was the first year for the event and it was going to be a gathering of all these Christian women writers and bloggers. I agreed that it sounded like a great idea. Then we just had to wait a year.

This morning Ben dropped Sar and I off at the airport to catch our flight. We saw a woman reading Cold Tangerines and when we sat just one row back from her I had to ask, "Are you going to Hope Spoken by chance?" Not only did she say yes but the woman across the aisle from her was going too.

We made it to the Lone Star State, got on a shuttle and checked into our hotel. We were starving by this point and in desperate need of some Diet Coke. Our hotel seems to be in an... interesting part of Dallas and the only food options we could see were Denny's and Buck's Buckin Good BBQ. Neither seemed like a great option so we took a little walk and eventually found the Taco Stop.

We tried out different specialty tacos, chips and salsa and finally found our Diet Coke. After living in the midst of an Indiana winter for the past forever, it was incredible to be in shorts and a t-shirt sitting outside at a picnic table. Sunshine is fantastic.

Hope Spoken began late this afternoon and we headed downstairs to check in. We were greeted with "Swag Bags" full of goodies, became fast friends with Annie and Sylvia who were eating cake pops and walked through the Handmade Market.

We love the look of all the flower poms, Christmas lights everywhere, cake pops galore and jars of candy. There are balloons and sequins and just so much whimsy all over the place.

We all started with worship together and were greeted by Casey, Danielle and Emily, the hosts of the weekend. These three met through blogs and just felt called to plan this weekend for all of these women. I love their vision and their hearts in all of this.

The best part of this weekend is just getting to spend time with my friend Sar. We led Young Life together in Carmel and were roommates for a year before Sar graduated and moved to Chicago to go on YL staff. I love Sar for so many different reasons and love the kind of friends that we are. I'm glad that we can have fun doing anything, sometimes feel awkward in settings but it's ok because we're together, stalk #hopespoken and all of these women's blogs, and just be content to be here.

It's a large group of women here this weekend, about 250, so they've created small groups to help facilitate and initiate relationships. Thankfully Sar and I get to be together. Our small group leader Kara is awesome and we're with about 8 other ladies. Tonight we all just shared a little bit about ourselves and what we're hoping to get out of the weekend.

The last thing of the night was a concert from Tim Halperin. I've been listening to him on YouTube the past couple of days while my students have been working in the computer lab. I'd call myself a fan at this point and was happy to recognize some of my favorites of his tonight like The Last Song, Dear Sophie, I Wanna Fall In Love and Memories On The Ground. He's worth checking out. 

Casey's husband Chris has been working on a documentary for the last year called American Blogger. He traveled around the country interviewing different women about their blogs and this writing culture and community. Tonight they debuted the trailer for the film. Sar and I decided we'll definitely go see it when it's released.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Here we go- Spring Break 2k14

We made it through the week ladies and gentlemen. The teachers survived and the kids didn't go completely insane. I think they may have been watching movies in half their classes today but I'm sure they were all educational. It was Spring Break day and the halls were filled with Hawaiian shirts, flower necklaces and tie dye shirts. By 7th period we were counting down the minutes until our adventures would begin.

I've been reading "Sure Signs of Crazy" this week which I feel okay about but I loved a couple of quotes from it,

Before I know it, I'm asking her, "If you had a daughter, what would you tell her?" Mrs. Dupree smiles. "Oh, let me think," she says. "Well I would say that every time you buy a new blouse or some wrinkle cream to make you look good, go and buy a book right away. It's just as important to keep your mind beautiful, don't you think?"

"There's my best friend, right there," she said, "Every day when he left the house, he'd shout to me, "Thanks for saying yes, hon."

I collect bits of conversation about Mr. Dupree. If I add everything together, it all amounts to one thing: When you hear how people talk about a man after he's dead, you want to live an interesting life, give them a reason to say, "I miss that person."

This afternoon I drove up to Chicago to meet up with my friends Sarah and Ben. We went to dinner at Giordanos for pizza because it's our mutual love. I was just with them at Mary Ellen's last weekend and am pumped that we're back together again so soon. Tomorrow morning Sar and I depart on our grand Texan Adventure and we can't wait to see how this trip will play out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Mr. Couch just gave him his hat!"

I've found that there is a pretty reliable formula for my outfits during spirit week here at HSJH: ridiculous outfit + anxiety of looking like a fool = compliments. The greater the craziness, the greater the positive response.

It's "Formal Day" here but I do No Pants Wednesday every week with a skirt or dress. This week I wanted to just wear leggings but still participate in the theme. Hmmm... what to do. I plotted a Wolf Shirt Wednesday Revolution and threw in my tutu to support the formal wear of the day.

My wolf pack is pretty solid. The girls howled in the hall all day and rocked those shirts even if some of them were 2 XL. I don't know if this tradition will continue, but if it does I'm sure we'll invite more people to join the pack.

Tonight I picked up Julia for one of our Disciple 2 meetings. We talked about Jesus praying in the garden, Spring Break plans, prayer requests, friendship-bracelet-ology and copying handwriting strategies. I will certainly miss seeing Julia and the rest of the YL girls while we're all away next week.

Do you know the songs, "Your Love Never Fails" by Jesus Culture and "One Thing Remains" by Passion? Today is a day I wish that I could gather up all my friends, my Young Life girls, my campers and co-counselors and sing those songs loud together. Sometimes we need that. We need to be reminded, "I know I still make mistakes, but you have new mercies for me everyday. Your love never fails." We need to say those words together, sing them out over and over again so they're rooted deep down inside.

 Even when we screw up or do things we regret God's love for us will not change. His words and promises are true and we can confidently sing, "Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me." God's forgiveness never runs out. Thank the Lord because we will continue to sin and make mistakes. But our God sticks with us, loving us no matter what, and sees us through. I pray that all of my people will know deep down in their soul that they are more than enough and they are not defined by their past. Their identity is found in the God who created all of us and loves us more than we will ever know. His love will never fail and never run out. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"I've been practicing people's handwriting because I want to make writing in different fonts one of my strengths. I think I have got yours down. Almost. It's a work in progress."

You never know what's going to happen in 7th grade. Today we watched Street Compliments in class and then wrote compliments that we would later deliver secretly. I guess Gavin was just so moved with gratitude that he proposed to Andrew. The rest of the class wasn't even phased as these too planned their future wedding--Andrew said yes by the way.
It's a Riley Hospital Spirit Week at HSJH so we're dressing up each day to raise money. We put on college sweatshirts yesterday and mix-matched our outfits today. I got to wear my cat shirt again for the first time since the CILT reunion. Taylor and I love making school more fun.

More Highs of the Day
1. Talking to my parents at Epcot
2. Rachel Ardery's birthday!
3. Wrote a letter to Erin
4. Started Spring Break friendship bracelets
5. I love the show Parenthood--so, so great
6. Listening to Tim Halperin before Sar and I see him in TX

Monday, March 24, 2014

YL Spring Break Club

In just three days we'll be packing our bags and getting out of Fishers. It's time for Spring Break. The grand exodus of Indiana when the schools empty and most families head South to Marco Island, Siesta Key, Panama City Beach, Orlando, Destin and maybe even Cabo. We're craving warm weather and sunshine and a break from our regular routine. Young Life started Spring Break early at Club tonight.

My spirit immediately leaps a bit when I put on Nike shorts, tie dye, a snap back and tall socks with my Sperrys--it's like my uniform for happiness and joy. But seriously. When I combine that with a room full of Young Life friends I just can't help but be excited. Brookie surprised me and showed up, KCraig screeched when Karl the cool dragon walked in and BGrad showed up ready to YL party.

It felt like summer and Spring Break in the gym tonight with sunglasses, beach towels and bright beach balls. Three days left of school doesn't feel like too much and we know we can make it through.

Side note, how phenomenal would it be to go on a Young Life Spring Break trip with a bus full of Young Life friends? That would be an adventure. In my parents early days at Tecumseh, they used to lead Spring Break trips for campers. They'd pick everyone up in the bus on the way down to Florida, camp in tents and go to the Disney parks every day. Can you imagine how much fun that would be?

We know that people have been going to the tanning beds but we hear the UVA rays in Indiana are just as strong as the ones in the South. We're getting our base layer here. It doesn't have to be warm to get a sun tan right?

Winter sports have finished and Spring sports are just beginning so some of our girls can start coming back on Monday nights again. I was thrilled to see Haley and Libby and loved getting to be in a small group with them.

There was a huge group of friends and leaders at Club tonight and there energy was explosive. This is one of the nights I'll think back on and say, "YES, that Spring Break Club was SO fun."

Ryan led all of us in Roar and Best Day of My Life to start things off. We belted out the words and danced around with our friends.

We had to get ready for Beach Volleyball so we played our own Young Life version. You have to hit the ball over the rope to get it to the other side. You can't let the ball hit the ground. There are 5 balls in play the whole time. Jackie and Abby kept score for the two teams and they went crazy slamming and smacking the balls around the room.

After last week's Memory Loss Prevention game at Wyld Life Old People Club, we set up Spring Break 101 for the Young Life kids tonight. It was the same type of matching game, but this time with SB themed pictures.

They had to beat the Wyld Life time of 11 minutes and the leader time of 4:20. Watching them scream and dive across the floor to match bottles of sunscreen or two surfboards was pretty incredible. They ended up finding the last pair at 4:16.

Nothing tastes like Spring Break quite like a giant cherry and blue raspberry slushie. We called up Team 1 (Mark, Drew, Kaelyn and Cierra) and Team 2 (Mark, Devon, Haley and Nick) to see how fast they could finish the slushie despite the inevitable brain freeze.

They all started off strong but soon they had to take turns stepping away for a break from the brain freeze. Mark ended up taking care of the last little bit for his team and leading them to victory.

Spring Break is all about fun and spontaneity and music so it seemed only fitting to have a spontaneous (nope, we didn't really  plan it) dance party. We started with "Die Young" and then got requests for High School Musical's "All For One" and Backstreet Boy's "Everybody." Our kids have the best taste in music.

Ryan told his best/worst Spring Break story that included a land yacht, a last minute trip to Florida, 27 girls and sleeping with a washcloth. Then he continued to share with us about rest, about laying our burdens down and living in the freedom of Christ. In our small groups we talked about God's promise when he said, "Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest."

Later tonight I got to talk to my friend Allison, an old YL girl who is now a Senior leading YL at IU, about life. She said that she's "amazed at the amount of energy and joy and excitement" I have all the time about Young Life. I agreed that I do love Young Life and feel like it's what I'm called to invest in right now, but you don't always get to see the whole picture.

I post pictures on Instagram and blog about all the highlights, there are a lot of them. It's good to focus on the positive. But the truth is that everything isn't always perfect. I don't post about when Young Life girls don't text me back or if I get ignored at a basketball game. I don't tweet about when I find out one of my girls lied to me or made the same mistake for the tenth time. Those things definitely happen. Sometimes Young Life is messy and hard and frustrating and I get annoyed. But I'm learning in those moments when things don't work out the way I plan and when girls don't respond the way I want them to, that maybe this is a little bit how God feels sometimes. I'm reminded that even when I'm too busy for God and don't give him the time of day that he still loves me. He doesn't get frustrated or subtweet about me or say that he'll ignore me for awhile. God just keeps on loving me unconditionally. I want to love like that.

*Allison, Matt, Sean, Robert and Nick represented the IU chapter of FBC down in Orlando on Spring Break. #fbcrevolution