A Glimpse of Mi Vida...

It started with a missions trip to Camden, where my life and perspective were changed and where this blog began. Life has been a roller coaster filled with its ups and downs and I'm excited for the adventure and discovering what God has in store, even though I really dislike roller coasters... I am a Lady in Waiting...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Way I See It: The Life of A Soccer Mom

A week ago, a dear family friend left on a plane to Texas with her husband for his birthday and left me with her three little boys (ages 6, 8, and 10). Instant family and my weekend as a soccer mom began on Thursday night.

The morning began on Friday, as I got the kids up and fed them breakfast. As they ate I prepared food for my work potluck, I got them to get dressed and allowed them to watch a bit of TV while I got ready. I prepared their lunches, as it was time to send them, one kid went missing. I called out for him outside and inside as his little brother told me that sometimes he just leaves for school without his backpack or lunch. Finally I found him... at the far end/back of the house... using the bathroom and not responding to my calls, which I learned throughout the weekend that he does that when he's pooping in the back bathroom.

I sent the eldest walking off to school down the street. As I loaded the other two into my car (after clearing the back seat, since I'm used to traveling for one and having everything, everywhere). As they were buckling their seat belts, I asked "little one" where his backpack was and sent him back into the house to get it, after waiting almost five minutes, I came to find him waiting at the gate, but he couldn't reach the latch to get out to the car. Off we went, I dropped them off and off I went to work.

Arriving home from work I came home to find the boys watching TV and soon got the kids ready for the eldest to go to soccer practice. As I packed them into the mini van, off we went to practice. As the eldest debated with me where his practice was, I had specific instructions and directions. Yet again I was right, although I did debate internally. One thing I learned is that kids have no sense of direction.

As I dropped off eldest one, I took the other two to the Farmer's Market. They told me they didn't want to go, but I knew better that they would enjoy it. As we walked up to the beginning of the market, tiny one told me that they hadn't been to the market in 25 years or so. I just laughed because I'm not even 25 years old yet.

We walked through the market, with one holding my hand with the other one in sight. We stopped as they got to play with little African instruments, then we walked and bought their mom two pairs of earrings that the boys picked out. Then they helped me pick out two flower headbands. As we left the market, I let the boys pick out dessert for dinner, one picked a caramel white chocolate oreo apple, while the other picked out two cookies.

We picked up the eldest from soccer and made the trek home. I prepared them dinner and then fed them dessert and sent them off to bed after one episode is TV.

Saturday started with getting the kids breakfast while they all got their soccer clothes on. Finding soccer shoes and socks is another story. Off we went to the first game for middle one. I sat on the playground so that way I could watch the little and eldest playing, while middle one played in his game. My allergies were going crazy standing on that soccer field at 9am. I was questioned by a little Asian boy, who was so stinking cute as he asked me why? about five different things.

Game one finished and we ran home to get water bottles and snacks, Then off to game two where we dropped eldest one and then stayed for pre-practice and I took little two to lunch. Then we came back for eldest and then got him lunch and then had about a 45 minute break. Then off to little ones game we went, I kept them entertained with my phone as they played games.

After the game is was swim time for the boys. They lasted about 30 minutes before they were tired and then I made all of them take a shower/bathe now to save time at night. I tried to teach them, while they waited for me to clean, they could get clean and then wouldn't have to shower later. Off to In N Out we went and I showed the eldest (a vegetarian) the beauty in animal style fries. Those three little boys have complicated orders: 1) grilled cheese, 2) a cheeseburger with no tomatoes and ketchup only, 3) a protein style burger with spread only.

We watched kid-friendly tv and then the boys brushed their teeth and then got ready for bed and then off they went to bed. I read the two little ones a bed time story and then fast asleep they went. It wasn't even an hour later I was so exhausted and was in bed and asleep by 10pm.

Sunday morning started with making pancakes for the boys and then they got ready for church. Off we went to church and it was a beautiful old church. It reminded me of the old churches I would see every weekend on the East Coast. We dropped eldest off in the acolyte room and then we were escorted to the third row of the church. It was a traditional Presbyterian church and was very traditional. As the eldest walked in at the front and attempted to light the candle, he had two much of the wick hanging out and little bits of flames began to fall from the traditional candle lighter, I almost though he might set this beautiful church on fire. The service started and the boys went off to Sunday School after the children's sermon. The service was good and more amusing was the cute guy in the choir nodding off asleep. Afterwards, the boys grabbed a donut and off we went back home, followed by a quick trip to the grocery store.

My favorite about the grocery store, was that middle one said he needed cough drops because he had been coughing. I told him he had coughed over the past three days and then he proceeded to let out a cough and everyone in our aisle began to laugh. We then walked out and I prepared miso soup for lunch then the boys got dressed to go swimming. The boys had a play date while I got to tan and read. Eldest got a time out as he was bullying middle and I sent him inside to shower. The boys then got Wii time and then we made dinner and then went to pick up their mom from the airport...

To make this long story short, the things I learned this weekend:
1) Being a soccer mom is hard.
2) I greatly respect single mother so much more, as I played a single soccer mom.
3) Six year olds, need to learn to list the seat when they pee, I cleaned pee at least 4 times.
4) Little boys throw their clothes everyone, and leave towels all over the bathroom floor.
5) Being a mom is exhausting.
6) Kids say the darnest things and have no real estimate of time.
7) Their hugs and love are the best, and holding their little hands warms my heart.
8) I've never done so many dishes.
9) Kids are expensive, from soccer teams, karate practices, tutoring, babysitters, food, and more.
10) Boys will eat you out of house and home, especially a 10 year old. He is always hungry or trying to sneak food.

While I love those little tykes, I was happy to give them back at the end of the weekend and while I think it definitely prepared me for motherhood, I want to really relish in enjoy time with my husband when were married before having children, God-willing.

In Search of Beauty: Within.

This week I truly found beauty within myself and through my story...

A few weeks ago on a leadership retreat, we discussed doing cardboard confessionals. Cardboard confessionals is where on one side of the cardboard you put a sin or struggle that you face or have faced, then on the other side you list what God has brought through your struggle or how you have overcome it.

I received an email this week asking if I would be interested in  participating, I said yes. This was my opportunity to share my story and what God ha s done in my life. I gave my leader three different options, of different struggles/sins that I had faced. One of them scared me to death to share because it was so personal and I had never shared it with anyone other than my best friends. So the possibility of sharing it in front of 200 college students scared me to death, but I knew that this would bring freedom for myself and for those around me.

The leader chose a lesser "scary" confession in my opinion, but in the last minute I was asked to share the one I was afraid. I remember praying through work that day, asking God for strength. I prayed to not be anxious or nervous, and I prayed for protection from spiritual attack in sharing my confession.

We went through rehearsals before the service and I was nervous. Then as we were back stage getting ready to go on stage after the sermon was almost complete, there I was holding my cardboard awaiting to walk out... I was shaking and my heartbeat racing.

I walked out and held up my sign...
"Imprisonment to addiction to pornography"
I stood there for five long seconds the flipped by cardboard that read,
"Found purity, true love, and FREEDOM through God"

I walked off stage to stand with my fellow leaders.
There it was my sin and struggle was out there.

As the leaders stood alongside the room during worship, people were allowed to come up to be prayed with. A friend came up for prayer and was so thankful to have someone they trusted to prayed with. They were shocked about my confession, but proud of me for sharing something that often times is so hidden behind closed doors. They spoke of their struggle of the past and the temptations they faced. We prayed together.
For the first time, in a long time, I didn't regret my struggle, but rather saw it as a letter to the people. A letter of showing what I had overcome because of God. I haven't faced struggles with pornography in about 8 years and it is something that God has completely removed from my life. I talked about accountability and just saturating my life with God-honoring things and removing any thing of temptation in my life from the show I watch, the movies I see, to the music I listen to.

After service, I was surprised to find many young men come up to me to thank me for my confession but to also confess to me. As glad as I was for their vulnerability, I also felt extremely awkward because their struggle as a man was different from mine as a woman in that sin, so I attempted to find them someone to talk to and referred them to all the right resources.

So this week, as I was in search of beauty... I found it within myself through the things that God has done in my life.

This week, I found Beauty and Freedom through God once again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Always on My Heart: An Urban Promise Success Story

I had the privlidge of working with Urban Promise for three summers (and 4 years) and have been supporting and sponsoring them ever since my journey began with them in 2007. They are one of the reasons that I have become the person today. Their ministry and children of the city of the Camden broke down every barrier and wall that I was raised with and that was built around me. I love and cherish this ministry for reasons of the story below.
Greg and I were the parents of the team!  Us on the Rocky Steps of Philly.

I had the privilidge of working with Greg my first summer in Camden and then seeing him again the following summer and then was so blessed to spend time with him during his journey at APU (my alma mater). We were  fortunate enough to lead a team together of college students back to Camden on mission. I have watched him grow, stretch, and develop into the man he is today. We have certainly had our adventures and good times and God-moments. Greg's story is just another one of the reasons I love Urban Promise and the work that they are doing. I hope you're heart is touched by his story, as it has touched mine...
It was graduation night in May 2011 at Azusa Pacific University, Southern California! The excitement was electric.

My wife, Pam, and I stood at the side of the stage, straining to see over the crowds of families and friends who waited for the name of their son or daughter to be announced. As each graduate's name was called, shouts of joy reverberated throughout the stadium. If you've had a graduate, you know it was a very happy moment for everyone.

It was a particularly special event for me. As an alumnus of APU, I was there to witness Greg Collins, the first UrbanPromise youth to graduate from my alma mater. Starting in the 3rd grade as a camper, Greg had attended all of the UrbanPromise programs. He became an Afterschool Program participant and then a StreetLeader--where his obvious leadership skills were recognized and honed.
Because of a generous “Presidential Scholarship” from Azusa Pacific's President, Jon Wallace, Greg was awarded the opportunity to attain a Bachelor of Arts in Education. He studied hard, enjoyed the southern California lifestyle and became a leader on campus. Greg, with his proudly awarded degree, truly embodies the potential of our youth.

DONATE NOW: http://upusa.servicenetwork.com/Display.asp?Page=24years&adcode=A911
But Greg never forgot his hometown and the young people of Camden. Greg resisted what social scientists call "the brain drain."

In a landmark book called Hollowing Out the Middle, two Philadelphia-based scholars looked at the devastating impact on cities and rural towns when the brightest and best young people leave for college - and never return. They called this trend “civic suicide.” All too often intelligent young people like Greg obtain university degrees and don’t come back to inner city communities because the job market is so bleak. Consequently, our cities lose the smartest and most dynamic young leaders.

However, at UrbanPromise we’re continuing our trend to foster an environment where the best and brightest want to be part of our mission. Three weeks ago Greg was hired as our new 3rd grade teacher at UrbanPromise.

“These kids need role models,” Greg said this summer. “Role models who have grown up in Camden and yet have been able to do something positive with their lives--and for their country.”

“He is remarkably talented with children,” affirms Principal Denise Baker. “Even as a college student I wanted to hire him. Our young people need positive male leadership.”

After 24 years of ministry in Camden, Pam and I are seeing some remarkable fruit—young people like Greg, coming back to Camden as teachers, social workers and counselors. It’s very gratifying.

Now, of course, you can help us celebrate our 24 Years of Promise!

With a gift of $24—that's a dollar for each year—you can help UrbanPromise celebrate this milestone.
Or, how about $240? That's just $10 a year—I can enroll the next Greg Collins in an AfterSchool Program this fall.

DONATE NOW: http://upusa.servicenetwork.com/Display.asp?Page=24years&adcode=A911

Your gift will affirm our vision of keeping this ministry vibrant, forward-looking and creative.
God bless you,
Dr. Bruce Main

Bruce and the Malawian Interns and past UrbanPromise interns/missionaries at a benefit this year in Claremont.

P.S. Consider sending Greg a note of encouragment as he begins his first year of teaching. Greg's email is gcollins@urbanpromiseusa.org.

Linking up with Shanda and On Your Heart Tuesdays.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

In Search of Beauty: My Week

The sunset on Wednesday, as I walked into leading a new women's life group. I hope to unveil the beauty of the girls, as God unveiled His love in the beauty of the sunset.

There is nothing more beautiful then seeing people come and worship one Holy GOD together. Shift Thursday.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Sticks and Stones- Part Three: Answered Prayers

Sticks and Stones: Part Three- Answered Prayers

I definitely never intended to write a part three of this “series” of Sticks and Stones, but God really moved in a mighty way this past weekend. I spent this past weekend in Big Bear with my leadership team for one of my ministries.

I’ve heard it said, where a pastor asks if you would be willing to change the world one person at a time, most in an audience nod their head in agreement, but then the pastor says what if the change had to start with you? You are that one person who starts the change! Would you then be willing to make the difference if the change started with you, not someone else?
It’s like Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

The change has to start with us and that is what the leadership weekend in Big Bear was all about, it would be a time to come together with the ministries’ leadership and realign ourselves with the mission and vision. If we wanted to see change and movement and growth in our ministry it had to start with us. We had to be poured into and begin change within ourselves in order for it to trickle and eventually pour and reign (His love, mercy, and grace) into our ministry.

Honestly, I was extremely reluctant about going because of my last two blogs have affected me greatly and I thought this would be make or break it time for ministry. This weekend would be the determining factor on friendships as well as ministry and leadership in the church.

I was blown away by the way that God provided. Amidst the fun and games, it was reiterated throughout the entire weekend to spend time with people you didn’t know. We spent time writing each other encouraging notes through the weekend and learning about each other. We had the privilege of one of our pastor’s speaking and I could not believe what he spoke about because it was so God-divine and appointed.

I had wondered how my voice could make a difference, my opinion, ideas, and questions about leadership and the things I was witnessing within the church. But God spoke, in huge volumes. Our pastor on the first night spoke about how we must love each other and be inclusive. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to truly love other people those within leadership and those not. We are called to love the people within the church walls and well as those outside of those walls, that every there are hurting and broken people.
We read through Matthew 9: 9-12 and discussed how Jesus was willing to break bread and had an outward focus. He discussed how our ministry has the potential to be the city on the hill if we stay outward focused. We need to be the light in the darkness. We have the ability to be the arms to embrace those who are broken, to be the mouth to speak God’s love.

The biggest question he posed was, do we live within the walls we build up? Do we miss His’ still small voice? We are called to be the literal body of Christ.

The second day, one of our interns spoke of repentance. He talked about how few will fit through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13). We must have genuine heart change when we accept Christ. We must make people (everyone) our neighbor and love them; we cannot live life by being a stay-at-home Christian.  We need to refocus, FOCUS on GOD, and we need to step out of our comfort zone and step out of the walls that we tend to build around ourselves and our cliques and truly and sincerely step out in love and love our neighbors… love each other.

The second night, our pastor spoke of our words, about the damage they can cause. We can be filled, but it can take one sarcastic comment, one joke, one thing we say that can bring someone down and tear them apart. We need to lift each other up always because we don’t know who is listening or who is watching.
He was my voice; God whispered my heart to him. God spoke so clearly of what was on my heart and what I had been struggling with, I was in awe. So moved by the power of prayer, by the power of how God used one of our pastors to speak to our leadership. I pray that they were listening. I know for me God revealed some big and mighty things that I will share later. I pray that our cups can be overflowing and pour down upon the people of our ministry.

As a recent tweet read, “The greatest resemblance of a Christian, is one that doesn’t need to say anything. Action speak louder. Be the change.”

I hope and pray that we can begin being the change.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sticks and Stones- Part Two: Actions

Three weeks ago, I left you with part one of my Sticks and Stones Series, I discussed the damaging effects that words can have on each other. Our words, not only harm us when we mindless say them, but they also can hurt and damage those around us. Do you remember being teased as a kid or being called names, didn’t that stick with you more than one or two days, some of the words that have stuck with us have lasted years and some, even a lifetime.
Part two, I would like to explore our actions (Which has taken me about three weeks to write, in hopes of getting it right). Another sticks and stones is our actions. Our actions can cause harm to others and often times we don’t even realize it. Our whispered words are one thing, but our actions can bring harm to a whole new level.
We cannot love just by our words. How many times have we been told we were loved, only to have that love never fulfilled or broken? How many times have we had promises broken, whether as a child or as an adult? Didn’t that hurt?
One of my life verses is: “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (1 John 3:18 NLT).
Our actions must back up our love, our actions exemplify the words or promises that we may say or leave behind.
I really also love The Message’s translation:
“My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love.”
Practicing is all action. As Christians, we are called to love each other… everyone. The people within the church walls and the people outside the church walls, but sometimes I think we fall short of shining and showing God’s glory and love.

Before I want to dig deeper in the topic of showing God’s love, I want to put a DISCLAIMER.
My disclaimer that this subject of our actions and the effect of them in the church as well as the transition of cliques, is in no way to point fingers at any specific group, person, or the like. I simply hope to raise questions, answer questions for myself, and even get some responses from readers.

I think as Christians, we often fall into the stereotype of hypocrites because we say one thing, preach one thing, speak of love but then lack the actions to back that up. It is sad when I think of that and for me, even sadder that I have to write this blog…
We are all guilty of it, we all fall short of being and living God’s best, but I want to question a few things…
I love my church; I would not be where I am if it weren’t for the faithful, God-fearing leaders in my church. I have become a better person, better Christian, and more faithful follower because of my church, but there are people who do not like my church. Some say my church is acting out being the hands and feet of Christ, they say we are the church that truly loves people. But then others find it too big or not intimate, or more times than not they accuse my church of having too many cliques.
After speaking and consulting many friends and mentors on this topic, they all confirmed that cliques do exist. But how can we fix them? How are they formed?

Read this blog of a friend of their experience of a clique…

We talk of going out and serving those outside of our church walls, of loving the orphan and the widow. We deliver turkeys on Thanksgiving, presents at Christmas, and we walk across the room and the world to preach the good news. I think sometimes that we get so wrapped up in serving those outside of the church walls, that we fail to look within. We fail to see the hurting and broken people within our church walls. We fail to see that person who is sitting alone. We fail to see the person that doesn’t have friends they sit with or friends that they make plans with after church to go out. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own group of friends, that we fail to be inviting to others. We speak of love, but then we are exclusive when we spend time together. We need to look inwards, within the wall of the church and within ourselves and begin to be Inclusive.
We are called to be uncomfortable. How can we say we love people and we can go out and be in Peru, or Africa, or India and our walls are broken down and we are made uncomfortable, but sometimes, for some there still resides that fear of meeting someone new. In those far distant countries, we can never see them again and sometimes they don’t know who Jesus is and so if we fail to “bring Him” there, then no harm no fowl?! I don’t think so. Are we scared? Are we afraid to include others, to make new friends? What is it?

To quote a friend, I asked them about community in the church. I asked, “Are we too cliquey or do we honestly include others and build deep and sincere relationships? Are we representing God in those circles by our actions and conversations and including others?”
Their response was shattering, “Yes, we are too cliquey and we don’t include others enough or build deep relationship because some leaders don’t have a genuine love for others and it comes down to the whole ‘comfortable’ issue. People don’t want to establish a relationship unless they know the person better. It doesn’t make sense, but its what people do.”

The response makes me sad because we see the cliques, we see it take place but we ignore it because we haven't learned our lesson in it or because if we're in the clique then everything is fine and dandy. I don't know about you, but I'm confused. Do you move on and find new friends because you're not being accepted?

I'm not even going to bat the issue of insecurities, but I want to just honestly talk about how can we be more inclusive. How can our actions truly back up the words that we preach? We cannot take parts or pieces of the gospel that we agree with, God is all or nothing.
Do these friendships and cliques need to be broken by me or you reaching out more and voicing the desire to be apart of something? Can we meet in the middle?

As I continue to write this, I feel as if  I'm raising more questions? As I have been praying and fasting through this, I hope that there can be a resolution. I am not saying that we have to be best friends and buddies with everyone around, but when becoming close with two people turns into ten and then you're not inviting or including, you have formed a clique. Do we realize it, can we let down our blinders to open up our perspective, vision, and view? Let's love all people, inside and outside of the church. Just because we're in church doesn't mean that we aren't still hurting or broken or in need of love.

I know the feeling of being not only left out, but the sense of being lonely. I'm not talking about finding validation in Christ because I have that and had that in my experience. But I remember the days of attending a worship night week in and out and feeling ignored, meeting the same people who could never remember my name and the people I did know would barely acknowledge my existence. I remember sitting there wondering how could I know God wanted me to be there, but having no one reach out. I didn't get to experience because I would come right as it started and leave as soon as the band finished the last song because I hated the feeling of wondering around aimlessly trying to start conversation with people I didn't know or hoping someone would just acknowledge me. Obviously now involved and in leadership, I have a passion for this to change and I can still sense and feel this at times. But is anyone willing to listen to make a change, or will they be like the friend I quoted in that they aren't willing to fight the battle, they don't want to be left out...

My last point...
Are we in our own little world of population YOU.
There is a song by Matthew West, entitled My Own Little World. His song best describes these emotions and the questions that I have...

Matthew West
In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry or always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket
shoes on my feet
In m own little world
Population me
I try to stay awake through the Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate but I never give ’til it hurts
and I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see
it’s easy to do when it’s population me
What if there’s a bigger picture
what if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world
Stopped at the red light, looked out my window
Outside the car, saw a sign, said “Help this homeless widow”
Just above this sign was the face of a human
i thought to myself, “God, what have I been doing?”
So I rolled down my window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by
I gave her some money then I drove on through
in my own little world there’s Population two
What if there’s a bigger picture
what if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world
whoa yeah
whoa yeah
Start breaking my heart for what breaks Yours
give me open hands and open doors
put Your light in my eyes and let me see
that my own little world is not about me
What if there’s a bigger picture
what if I’m missing out
Show me there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world
My own little world yeah
My own little world woo

I hope that this change can start with me, one person. You, one person. That we can slowly began to change the view of the church and to change others' perspective. It starts with one person!!! I pray we can all become family, a family that doesn't always click, but a family the loves each other at the end of the day... even that crazy aunt Debbie.
Our own little world starts with us, so what are we going to do? Like he asked, is there a greater purpose that we are missing on? Let's begin to live outside of our own little world!