Thursday, August 1, 2013

Move out day

 I can't even begin to explain how much living and nannying with the Church family has changed me for the better. The past 20 months has been like summer camp; just so many care-free days, freedom, and silliness. Also exhausting and trying days, but those times I value so much as well. These boys have opened my heart up all the more and were used to reveal so much about myself. They make me so happy and I will love them forever.

Not the mention I got to live with some amazing people! Ryan and Julie were such fun friends and roommates; I truly believe that living with a family is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. So many places to learn and grow in your perspective. Also my neighbors were all that you could hope for: engaging, hilarious, caring, and an intentionality for living life together. The people around you, in your everyday, are so important! An open door, a welcoming porch, and a smile--you never know what kind of joys will come from the smallest, but intentional steps to bring people into your daily life.

And what a gift to have so many people to walk alongside in University Park... relationships being blessed by proximity! My sister and Mary (for a time), the Eernissee's, my boyfriend who I learned lived 4 blocks away from me on our blind date (divine intervention or WHAT), my core group girls, the Cottage, neighbor moms, and Tosti's & Co. Such a special time.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Most people have a future dream home that they like to fantasize about, down to every detail. At this stage of life I find no point in spending time towards thinking about it; however I have arrived at one non-negotiable....a front porch.

The reason for this is two-fold.

1) In my mind it is the perfect space--exposure to the outside elements with the comforts of your home. The front porch at the Church's is my happy place. No matter the season, I'm out there. Curled up in a blanket reading a book. On the phone as the rain hits the roof. Sipping wine with a dear friend as the summer sun fades into the horizon. People watching. It's a breath of fresh air, it's your watch tower, and it's a piece of the neighborhood entirely yours.

2) It may seem obvious, but a porch is a extension of your home that anyone can enter. It is that middle ground, that neutral space, that suddenly makes you interact with the neighborhood and people who inhabit it. Want to feel connected to where you live? Just sit out there and wait. There have been so many moments this year of seeing people I wouldn't normally because they are walking by. It may seem trivial, but to unexpectedly see and wave to a friend or  acquaintance or even share a smile with a stranger makes you feel like you're a part of something bigger.

A porch, when used properly, is the biggest outreach tool you may ever have with the people around you--physically in your environment. To sit on a porch and be present means you are welcoming others into your life. Whether it's eating a meal together or sharing stories over beer and cigarettes, it's such a special way to bring neighbors--often the most overlooked but impactful relationships of your daily life--together, with a practice most of us have long forgotten.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Unknown, Revisited

Last Friday I went to a dinner celebrating the 60th anniversary of Deputation, the mission trip I went on two years ago to Kenya. Through people's testimonies I was reminded why this program at UPC is so unique--mainly because you don't know where you'll be going for a summer, what you'll be doing, or whom you'll be living with. It's the ultimate step into the unknown. And that's what I loved most about my dep experience. I went into it having so little control; all I knew was that God would use me. And therein-lies the biggest lesson I learned that summer --when we are following God and trusting Him to lead us through the unknown, He blesses us more than we could've imagined.

I am leaving my job this summer. And part of me wants to slap myself across the face and stay. I love the kids, the family, my neighbors, the benefits, the easy-going pace, and just the freedom of my days. Such a luxurious job, truly. But I feel like it's time to move on. To challenge myself. To go on a new path. I have some idea of what I'd like the next step to look like, but in the end I am in the same spot I was two years ago--stepping out into the unknown. Not knowing where I'm going but trusting the One who is leading me. That's all we can do, right? But this time, I feel richer. I have experienced so much love, community, and growth these past two years. The future is hazy, with so many unanswered questions... but this time around I'm less scared, and more eager to see where God will take me.

One month from now...

...I get to join this guy
 driving this ride
 through the Santa Barbara hills.

Lawd help me.

(photo by CharBeck)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Scar Tissue

Hard week. Good week. Let me explain...

Two weeks ago I came out of a wisdom teeth operation feeling right as rain--wasn't a big deal at all. I was even sunbathing on my first post-op day. Then my face proceeded to puff up, but one side became increasingly swollen. It was hard to talk, my smile was lopsided, and my right cheek looked like I had a goiter. By Monday morning I was in tears back in the doctor's office, finding out I had an infection on one side of my face.

The hard part wasn't that I got the infection--complications like that happen frequently. The pain was bothersome too, for sure (oxycodone, about knocking you out). It was the waiting game. Watching the mirror throughout the day, hoping to see deflation but instead only seeing small changes day-by-day. I did everything in my power to help the process presses, saline solutions, even propping myself up to sleep and staying in bed to rest during all my free-time. But after a week of all that care, frustration, and worry of if it would ever go away (and one painful mouth incision later that week which swelled me up once again) I felt completely helpless. It was so hard to be patient for things to heal on their own when I didn't look or feel like myself.  I prayed to God for complete healing and asked others to as well. I wanted to trust that things would work out, that God would answer my prayers--but in my head I knew that I lacked the faith that God truly was in control. Impatience and insecurity heightened my fear that this ailment would not be resolved....that I would look like this forever. 

Let me take this moment to say that I had a lot of great support that week. My parents, the Churches, Ross, and many friend's concern and compassion. But after a week or two of praying, trying, caring, doing... I broke down in my room and cried, hard. The hardest I have in a while. I was frustrated, tired, and so so scared that I would not be healed. 

Exactly one month ago Richard from Bethany preached on trials (James 1), and how they will inevitably happen, no matter who you are or what you've done. He reminded us that God uses them to refine us, because it is through trials that our character (and subsequent flaws) are truly shown and we realize our deep, deep need for Him.

I'm going to be completely honest with you--I have lived a beyond privileged life. So many people I know have endured SUCH BIGGER THINGS than I have, and experienced trials I can't even imagine. But in a season of life where things have relatively peachy, this was my trial.

And I realized--out of all the ugly sides this trial was revealing about me (my pride, concern with outer appearances, impatience, and wavering faith) he was showing me that I am not in control. EVER. Ever breath I take, every hour of every day, my body, my possessions, MY LIFE--it's all His. A voice in my head whispered, "Stop trying to control every part of your life, and lean into the present moment. Embrace uncertainty and altered plans and days not going your way. God is making you new in those moments if you'll only let go and choose to walk joyfully into the circumstances he has put before you."

In the midst of this crying session I opened up a book my mom gave me called "One Thousand Gifts" in which the author wrote down all the things (big, but mainly small) she was thankful for everyday. Despite whatever she was going through that day, this woman chose joy. 

Whether I would heal up or look lopsided forever was now irrelevant--for what I looked like in the mirror that day, and everyday forward, was (is) the reality of life.  You cannot control it. The question now was "In this trial, and in every trial that comes your way (and they will come)... are you going to choose discouragement and fear and empty grabs for control, or chose joy, peace, and thankfulness?"

I chose the latter that day. I gave up control, and resolved to carry on with my normal life, this time with thanksgiving and trust written on my arm to remind me to embrace my circumstances. I left the house that night, attended to a party with some good friends, and danced--hard--with a joyful heart.

That's when the real healing began, both outside and in. 

A week later and I am pleased to say I am much improved; only minimal swollenness from scar tissue remains. They say it should heal completely in the next few weeks to months. For now the scar tissue serves as a reminder of all God taught me that week. And for that, I am very, very thankful.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Dance like a Dervish

This past week has been huge for me.

Easter, and being struck so strongly by what a wonderful Savior Christ is to us.

Dinner and concert with my dear friend Erin celebrating our long friendship and the crazy, unexpected, and brilliant season of life we are both in.

Attending a longtime friend's wedding and feeling so genuinely happy for him, and for myself.  Four years ago I would've been heartbroken if it were anyone else than me up at that alter with him; now I could smile with him on his happy day and just celebrate how far we each have come, and how God has brought us better things.

Which leads us to this past Sunday.... in which I got to celebrate the gift that is Ross Martin Beck. If you're a little late on the hot gossip, Ross has been rocking my world since our first date back in late November and has been such a positive, joyful, awesome presence in my life since. And when I say awesome, I do mean that I am in awe of just how special a person he is and what a wonderful, unexpected blessing he has been to me. My mind is being blow daily.

And to top it off, we were able to have some amazing, deeply healing conversations this week that can only be explained by the work of the Holy Spirit. I suddenly feel so aware of God's hand in my life, both past and present, and man does it feel good. The fire in my soul has been set aflame again... where I just want to share with everyone the love and redemption Christ continually offers me and us all, day in and day out.

I am changed and am being changed. I love it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"During the penitential season of Lent (six weeks of self-denial, fasting and intense prayer in preparation for the celebration of Easter), remember that Jesus says do these things in such a way that only your Abba knows what you are up to. This is the season of hidden secret acts of loving-kindness. Lent is a frontal assault on the false self, a time of dying daily to self in order to rise to newness of life with Christ."   -Brennan Manning