Mission Trip

I slept for ten hours last night and am still not awake, but I really need to tell you about this incredible week that I just had.

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I was blessed to be a part of a mission trip to Cincinnati with 20 eighth graders. We went and worked at three different places; one called Master Provisions where we sorted through donated clothes and packed them to deliver around the world; one called Granny’s Garden School where we shoveled pounds of compost and woodchips to create new gardens; and one called The Giving Fields where the students worked in the fields picking green beans and other vegetables that supply food banks in Kentucky with fresh vegetables to give.

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So… when you were in 8th grade, what were you doing with your summers?

I ask because I did nothing like this. I didn’t fundraise and donate a week of my time to go help other people with manual labor. And these kids worked without complaint, for hours at a time. They talked to the people who run these organization, asking questions and learning their stories. They participated in small groups with people they didn’t know, encouraging each other and praying over each other. They built friendships with people who were new and left the trip as a family when they came as strangers.

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These kids shared their stories and their hopes and their love with each other. I saw them hold hands and pray without prompting. I saw them singing worship songs with their whole heart. I saw them covered in dirt and muck and smiling and asking for more.

People continually underestimate middle schoolers. Adults think they are too young to do important things; but how many adults do you know that would do this? These students are inspiring and absolutely incredible. They are funny and full of light and joy and wisdom.

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I really couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my vacation. I miss them already.

Summer Days

The days are absolutely flying by, even with the sun lingering until late. It’s already July, and August is already school time, and I’m already almost done with another of my classes and I’m avoiding homework and papers like THE PLAGUE. I’m looking forward to this busy season being done, and then it’s just one class I’m taking and a mission trip and summer days that I can fill with whatever I want.

I want to make ice cream and sew things and read lovely books. I want to watch movies and drink too much coffee and have good conversations. And in the next few weeks, if you want to do those things too, let’s do them together.

Shauna Niequist (my hero) is posting about how she is being intentional about slowing down. I’m guilty of this; I like to fill my life because I’m afraid of missing anything, when in reality being this busy makes it hard to be present at the things I’m choosing to do. It’s a constant lesson for me. Say no to things to say yes to better things. Be present in the moment and stop worrying.

Carpe diem, and all that. It’s like Dead Poet’s Society, Oh Captain My Captain; it’s like Ferris Bueller, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Let’s work on seizing the day.

Collide

This weekend the junior high ministry that I serve with went on its summer retreat; it was chaotic, overwhelming, and absolutely beautiful.

We got off the bus to this- a football field teeming with 900 students playing dodgeball with these giant beach balls threatening to flatten everyone.

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I’m taking adolescent psychology right now, and it’s made volunteering with these kids a lot more interesting. What I see is that when they came to the field, all these different kids came together. They were supportive, they mixed between ages and genders, the sheer novelty and craziness bonded people together in a way that we don’t see in school or daily life.

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But the coolest part of this whole weekend was spending time with my girls and seeing how far they’ve grown. When we first started together, they were 6th graders and trying to figure out who they were. They were inwardly focused. This time, I saw these girls reach out to each other. They heard vulnerabilities and stories and they offered encouragement and comfort. We ended the weekend by having the girls take turns sitting in a circle while everyone offered encouragement and affirmation. The things they said were incredible. They were specific and targeted and true. And after we encouraged, we prayed over the person in the middle. These 8th grade girls laid their hands on someone and prayed blessings and thanks for them. This was powerful.

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Adolescent psychology misses that. Schools miss that. There are some incredible moments to be had when we invest in the lives of these students, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to witness them.

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This week

has been filled, filled, filled.

Days stretch longer and fly by faster. Somehow my car is always out of gas and I’m stuck in traffic always but the windows are down and the music is loud and I can’t be that mad.

I’ve read three books, the kind that get under my skin and make me into a literature zombie, the kind of books that make me remember why I love reading so excessively much; books that make it impossible to fathom even going to sleep at night without finishing the next chapter.

I’ve gathered with friends and we’ve mapped out our stories onto timelines and shared with each other, these deep and powerful life events that make us who we are, and the mapping and the sharing make us vulnerable and open and strong and brave. There is power in speaking our stories out loud, power in sharing our history with others. Things are more real when we share them.

This week means Philosophy of Middle School is halfway over, and I’m a half step closer to doing what is increasingly becoming more clear that I want to do. I’m trying to be patient and listen to my experiences and listen to the wisdom of others and what this is looking like is a potential future of middle schoolers and books and I can’t think of anything I’d like more right now.

This week was full and sunny and beautiful and fleeting, and summer is just beginning.

 

 

Practice

When I started this blog originally, with writing a letter a day and celebrating that achievement, I realized at the end of the project that what I was really celebrating was gratitude and joy and people.

As time has gone on, I’ve allowed busyness to get in the way of letter writing. While that’s ok, really, it’s an indication of how I’ve let my life get in the way of what life should be.

I’ve had reminders lately from people doing 100 days of happy and from church and friendships to focus on gratitude. When I live life that way, I find myself looking for joy around me instead of things that bring me down, and life seems so much brighter and better in those moments.

I need to practice being grateful. I need to practice looking for joy.

It’s approaching the end of the year at school, and part of me is ready for summer but a greater part is sad. The fifth graders that I’ve gotten to know and love will be leaving for middle school and I will miss them- I haven’t gotten used to kids growing up yet. Today a group of them asked me to play soccer and then gave me high-fives and hugs in the hallway, and these little seconds make my job wonderful.
The best part about today though was receiving some thank yous for helping on a project. I’ve gotten quite a few notes through the years, but this one is probably my favorite.

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I’m thankful for kids that are willing to be pushed and see themselves get better. I’m thankful for bittersweet end of year hugs and for longer days and driving with windows down. I’m thankful that music is getting louder and that my neighborhood smells like charcoal grills and that it’s finally s’more season.

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I’m thankful for deep friendships that are incredible blessings and camping trips and a small group that loves well and pushes me to grow more and has a combination of humor and heart and wisdom and silliness.
Let’s go into a season of thankfulness and joy.

Routine

This has been a week of falling back into the routine of surrounding myself with things that I love.

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I love that there are people in the world that can make a weekend look like this. I love that life can be filled with these little, gorgeous moments that shine when you look back on things.

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The weather (which influences mood so much more than I realize) has stumbled into being warm, with breezes that smell like wet dirt and spring. Music now needs to stop being melancholy and start being bright, and mix tapes are being passed around to share the wealth.

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Letters are finally being written again. I don’t understand how easy it is for me to forget how much I love these, and how easy it is for me to replace this habit with other less fulfilling ones, and I don’t understand why things that are good for me are hard to remember to do at all.

We get off track without even realizing it, and life begins to feel itchy and ill-fitting. I’m thankful for people who help me feel grounded and make me do more, for routines that keep me feeling like me, and for the incredible blessing of spring that makes everything seem a little brighter.

People

People are funny things.

It’s technically spring now, but it’s grey and foggy and sharp, like the weather is deciding if it wants to slip into snow at any moment, and while this could be moody and oppressive, there are some really amazing people around me that make everything feel sunny.

As I get older, I understand more and more that the circumstances of life are not always in my control, but the people I choose to surround myself with are. I am learning to find people that smile as a rule instead of an exception, who intentionally encourage and bring joy to others, who see people as they are and celebrate them.

Today I want to celebrate a friend who is pretty spectacular. It was her birthday a couple of days ago, and every time I run into her, her presence lights up the room. She is kind, in the most genuine way, and encouraging, and refuses to let people be unseen. She makes me think of laughter and joy, and is one of the few people I am willing to show my vulnerabilities to. So to Bri, I’m thinking of you today, and I’m thankful for you, and you are one of the people in the world that makes gloomy days feel like spring.

Mayhem

After a long, bitter winter we’re finally getting to experience the kind of sun that warms you up and lets you drive with your windows down.

Every year the junior high ministry that I serve with has a huge event called Pineapple Mayhem. Thousands of kids come, and the church is transformed into a massive playground. It’s equal parts overwhelming, exhilarating, and chaotic and my kids look forward to it all year.

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Every kid I talked to in that place was filled up. Junior high is a tough age to be and sometimes a tough age to work with, but last night was more about being somewhere kind of magical.

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Ferris Bueller said it best: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

I get wrapped up in the day-to-day of my life, and the big changes, and the FUTURE, and sometimes forget to celebrate the NOW. Life is more than money troubles and searching for next steps. While all that is important, we only have today once, and we need to live it well.

Waves

Our family seems to get waves of hardships all at once.

Josh is finally on the right track, but last weekend we said goodbye to our dog.

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I really can’t even write about it here. Dogs are a part of your family, and you learn their personalities and quirks the same way you learn those of people, and when they are gone they leave a hole in your heart and in your house. It’s too quiet around here now, and empty, and we are incredibly sad.

While this is heartbreaking, things aren’t all awful. We seem to be through the worst of it and all on the road to recovery.

As much as I love winter and snow, the fluffiest kind that muffles everything, these grey days are taking their toll. Everything is the same color and frozen solid and even my car is rebelling. The “cold days” off school just make me cooped up and crazy. I’m ready to do something, complete something, check something off a list, go on an adventure, try something new.

Today I started mailing out mix tapes to friends across the country. While the cold is numbing and this winter seems to have lasted far too long, packages in the mail help me feel connected.

Change is coming again in my life I think, but I need to solidify things before I can post more about it.

Sending you warm hugs and well wishes.

Competition

When you have a chronic disease that’s hard to treat, you start to get competitive about health stuff (or maybe this is just me since I’m a naturally competitive person in strange areas). You tell me you had the stomach flu? Try having Crohn’s.
This weekend my brother officially beat me, with a ruptured bowel, infection, and partially collapsed lungs, and I don’t want to play this game anymore.

I think we compete with each other with triumphs but also with our tragedies. We think our pain doesn’t compare with someone else’s and therefore doesn’t deserve to be felt. But I’m taught over and over again that my life isn’t dependent on someone else’s experience. My tragedy is mine, and yours is yours, and both are awful.

Things are starting to get better for us. Josh is acting more like himself, but he still has a long way to go. And so many of you have gone out of your way to pray and extend encouragement and that makes a difference. We are not made to do this life on our own, and your support helps to make these experiences bearable.

I am reminded daily of the value of community and kindness and love. And even through terrible moments, I’m continually blessed by all of you.