Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Dad

Yesterday, I had the privilege of going to the Investiture Ceremony for Chesterfield County. My dad, Richard A. Cordle, was being sworn in for another four year term as Treasurer of Chesterfield County. It was a beautiful service. Before you even entered the building, the twinkling lights and greenery that masked the grounds were breathtaking. The luminaries that lit the path were festive, and the participants dressed in full costumes presenting the living history of Chesterfield County were intriguing (even for those of us who are not history buffs). As you entered the public meeting room you were greeted with warms smiles, fancy suits and a beautiful wreathe that encompassed the smell of the holidays. Smiling faces filled the room. Family and friends poured in the aisles. And honored guest took their places in the front.

Arlene McGuire, the former Treasure of Chesterfield County received a life time achievement award. As my dad proudly introduced this amazing woman, who has dedicated over 42 years of her life to the betterment of the county, and who has not only been my father's mentor, but one of his most dedicated and faithful friends, there was not a dry eye to be found. In his introduction he shared this quote: "Good parents give their children roots and wings" by Jonas Salk. Arlene has been just that for my dad, a parent, professional and personally. She has helped him grow deep roots, yet encouraged him to soar on his own wings. They have a very special bond, and she will forever hold dear place in his heart, and for that matter, mine too.

Last night I had the honor to stand beside my dad and hold the Bible upon which he took his oath. I was proud! A little boy who grew up in the sticks of Victoria, VA, who dreamed what seemed like the impossible dream. The path before him: refrigeration school. The path he chose: hard work, sweat and tears. He worked full time, took evening classes at VCU and managed to juggle a family simultaneously. It was not easy, and there were countless sacrifices, but in 1991 I was standing where I stood last night, by his side as he took his oath.

At the reception, I was greeted with folks eager to share praises about my dad. Even though they shared nothing that I didn't already know, I was more than happy to listen. One gentleman came up and said that of all the public officials, he has never heard one negative thing about my dad. My response was a joking invitation to dinner to hear my stories. I know my dad's not perfect, actually he will be the first one to admit he hasn't always done things right, but it does not change the fact that I could not be more proud to be his daughter, more proud to be his friend, or more proud to stand by his side.

I believe roots and wings come from sharing our lives. Arlene has shared and continues to share her wisdom, her successes, her failures, her disappointments, her joys, her dreams. She continues to cultivate roots and inspire flight among many people. She has taught my dad to do the same. Professionally, he has filled some big shoes, and he has done an outstanding job in doing so. I look at his staff and marvel at the passion, joy, and comradely that overflows from that office. And personally, he has had a hand in my growth. And with his encouragement I've been able to soar on my own wings.

I have been truly blessed with several folks who rightfully so could have a page written on them and their influence over my life. But today, this one is for my dad.

Thank you dad! Thank you for all the unseen tears, unheard prayers and unknown support. Your unwavering stance in my life has never gone unnoticed. You have taught me never to settle, to reach for the stars and have given me the confidence to make a difference in this world. You have provided countless memories filled with laughter. You encourage me to step outside of my comfort zone and to let loose. You have taught me to strive for excellence in all I do. You have proven that no matter what, you will always be there. You have given space when it has been needed, and have always come to find me if I even got lost. You've always had an opened door, a place at your table, and a hand to hold. You have always pointed me to look above, to keep my focus on Christ. You've taught me its okay to fall, and have helped me up several times. You have taught me to be independent and at time strong willed, yet to ask for help and lean on others when needed. Thank you for pouring into my life. I could not be more proud of you, your growth, and your accomplishments. I appreciate all you have done and for all the sacrifices you have made. I love you more than you know!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Every 7 years something unique happens. Christmas Day falls on a Sunday

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Pictures of Christmas trees are posted on Facebook, mail boxes are getting filled with Christmas cards, the stores are packed with shoppers looking for the perfect gift, and at night the streets glow with twinkling lights. It's that time of year, along with the hustle and bustle, we remember the greatest gift ever given. The gift of life.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

What love! I am not sure we will ever comprehend this love that God has for us. God loves us. Because He loves, He gives.

He saw us . . . people. People who get lost.

We get lost because we stop looking up. We get lost because we start following the wrong people. We get lost because we make choices that we think will make us happy, but in reality digs the ditches we can't seem to get out of. We get lost because we go through rainy emotional traumas that hinder us from seeing the path He laid out and we end up on a dead end street. We get lost . . . and yet, He still loves. He saw us, He sees us, and yet He still desires to give us life.

God is life. He is the source and the sustainer of life. And He saw us, and continues to see that we need life, life that is impossible to have apart from Him.

Because He loves, He gives.

And He gave His life, His one and only son, so that we might live.

So, here we are. It's Christmas. The Season of giving. And I am humbly reminded this morning that because God gives because God loves, I am to give because I love.

Every 7 years something unique happens. Christmas day falls on a Sunday.

Here we are December 2011. Christmas day again, falls on a Sunday. Several churches will be closing their doors that morning, and to me that is a beautiful thing.

Very few churches have a balance between being an attractional church and a missional church. Unfortunately, I find most churches lean to the side of being an attractional church. It's not a bad thing, Christ calls us to "Come and see" and it should be an important element of the church. But I fear it can lead to spiritual obesity. It becomes comfortable for us to come and get fed, and to come back and get fed, and to come again and get fed and so forth. But every 7 years most churches, whether it is in their make-up or not have the opportunity to step up and be a missional church-- to "Go and Tell."

The church building doors will be closed for many this Christmas morning. And it's okay, because the building is just a tool that in the hands of God can do miraculous things. But it is the people who make up the church, and the church will NOT be sleeping or taking the day off this Christmas morning. Jesus didn't invite people to a church service but into a life of service. And this Christmas, we get the chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus outside the 4 walls. This Christmas we can leave the 99 who we would sit beside inside the building and go find the 1 who would not be there yet.

This Christmas I am challenged and share that challenge with you to be the church. To be the hands and feet of Christ.

There are countless things we can do . . . take balloons to the patients who can't leave the hospital for Christmas this year, make brownies and pass them out to the foreign students stuck on campus spending the holidays alone, when you get your $5 coffee at Starbucks on the way out of town to visit your family, leave a $20 tip because someone had to work Christmas day just to put food in their children's belly, grab the extra coat in the back of your closet and give it to the homeless man on the street corner, when you take back the tacky sweater that Aunt Ruth got you, purchase as many socks as you can verse another sweater you don't need and donate them to the sock drive, or go next door to the neighbor you know will be sitting alone Christmas day and bring them into your family's crazy . . . the options are endless.

And the awesome thing, when you give His love, you get His love in return.

So this Christmas let's Go and Tell, let's be missional, let's be the hands and feet, and let's love on the people of Powhatan, the people of Chesterfield, the people of Richmond like they have never been loved on before.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Christmas tree is up . . .

Thursday is December 1. Christmas lights and trees went up early this year for some. I really contemplated whether or not to put up a tree at all this year. There were several reasons not to, I live alone and am rarely home long enough to do more than a quick wardrobe change just to fly out the door again, my ceilings upstairs are slanted so finding a place to set up the tree would require some clever maneuvering, I associate a decorated house for the holidays filled with people--lots of people, mine rarely has anyone in it, I walked away from my move with very little decorations to adequately decorate a full tree, it's A LOT of work, and honestly, to get to the core of it, Christmas just isn't what it use to be.

Thanksgiving encompasses all of that childhood excitement and magic for me now as an adult. The joy of reuniting with distant family, the thrill of meeting new folks who end up around our table because there is no place for them to go, the laughter, the memories shared, the memories created, the time to stop and reflect on all the blessings we've been given, a time to enjoy the family crazies and take pride in the fact that they are mine. Thanksgiving sparks this excitement in me, nothing is lacking, perhaps time is short, but not much else.

Christmas feels completely different. Part of my Christmas season is taking time to mourn all that's been lost. Some days I don't want to look at a Christmas tree, I don't want to hear the jolly voices singing Christmas carols, I don't want to be in the hustle and bustle of the shopping crowd. Some days I just want to shed some tears and to be alone. And I think that's OK. Because I am learning, for me, it is in the mourning, in the remembering of what was that I gain a more genuine understanding of Christmas. It is this time of year, where I realize how broken life can be, and how badly I needed this baby, this Savior to come and save my life. It's in the loss; that I understand the great hope found in the birth of Jesus Christ.

So even, though I protested, there is a Christmas tree up in my home. The decorating process might take some time, I am not buying ornaments but making them this year, nevertheless, the tree is up. I know as I enter this season with a heavy heart, as I process what was, and reminisce on the memories, He will be showing me that He's been working, He's been healing and mending, and He's been making the brokenness into a beautiful master piece that declares His love and glory. The past will never be my present again, and even though that still stirs some sadness in my heart, there is a peace and a joy that overcomes it because He works all things for good to those who love and trust Him.

For tonight, I look forward to unplugging, going home, sitting in the dark with my 1/2 lit Christmas tree, remembering my childhood Christmas', the Christmas' of the past few years, shedding some tears, and praising Him for all the good He has brought out of what was, and all the good that will come from where He is leading.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

As we head into the holiday season, it's easy (for me anyway) to get lost in the hustle and bustle. Planning all the travels and the logistics of when and where can easily become the focus. With that in mind, I have intentionally carved out some time to remember this past year . . . to remember God's faithfulness, the blessings, the laughter, the tears, the heartache, the growth--and to be thankful for it all.

I am thankful for the opportunities that have stretched my faith, that have brought me to my knees and that have broken me. I am thankful for the people in my life, the ones who listen, offer wisdom, the ones to laugh with, and cry with. The ones to hug tightly and kiss good night. I am thankful for the chance to love those who have forgotten what love feels like, for the chance to fill an empty belly, and for the chance to point people to the hope found in Jesus Christ. I am thankful for life, an abundant life. I am thankful for lonely nights that have deepened my relationship with the one who never leaves my side. I am thankful for a great job, insurance test, a home on the lake, a dependable car, a church that doesn't pretend to be perfect, and a family whose humor and sarcasm cannot be matched (it is how we roll!) I am thankful for friends who can cook a mean spaghetti dinner and invite me over to break bread. I am thankful for impromptu cards of appreciation, cups of coffee, photo booth fun in the middle of a busy store and you tube videos posted on FB.

The list is endless.

Sunday's message inspired the picture below. I am grateful for a year that started in the midst of uncertainty, filled with anxiety and covered in fear that has become a beautiful place of overwhelming peace, unspeakable joy and an unshakeable faith.
My year in a very small nutshell:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Gut is Communitas

God’s work is hard. Ministry is messy. And sometimes I find myself in the boat with doubting Thomas.  I am not by nature that kid who just jumps in and runs with it. I am proactive. I plan. I examine the big picture and work out every last detail. I like clear motives and a well executed purpose. But . . . it hasn’t worked that way.
Back in July, a small group of friends and I felt the urge to blindly jump into this local outreach ministry. We wanted to be used to change our community, we wanted to be the hands and feet of Christ and we wanted to love in a radical way. There was no plan, no motives other than the fact of being obedient to where God was leading.
I was asked yesterday, “What is the end result of the homeless ministry?” and “what does the path look like to get there.”
I could ramble off several ideas to what I think the “right” answer to that question is or what people want to hear. Honestly, it is a great question to ponder, and it’s wise to have such a “mission statement” in place.
I mean obviously, the number one reason we do what we do is for the glory of God to be revealed, to help prepare the way for folks to encounter Him, and nurture His changing power in people’s lives. But as far as the path to get there and what that looks like . . . I don’t know. All I know is that I am burdened for the path to be different.
This morning, I went searching for this article: Go with Your Gut (or Else . . .)  I don’t really remember the details to why I was sent the link, but the article’s message has stuck with me since.  /
When we seek God . . . He leads. Three months ago He led us to Monroe Park. And the ‘gut’ behind it wasn’t completely about providing physical needs. When I think of the homeless (or really people in general) my gut screams communitas.
We get the word community from communitas. Community is defined as a group of interacting people who share common interest, values, beliefs, geographical location . . . and so on. But communitas is so much more than that. Where community is built of common haves, communitas is built on the lack of. It takes community to the next level; it brings everyone onto an equal plane.
Vince Anntonucci has several word pictures describing the differences between Community and Communitas in his book Guerrilla Lovers: Changing the World with Revolutionary Compassion (recommend this read!) He describes community as some of the small groups we’ve been a part of. You know, the ones that look like this: “eating jello with fruit hiding in the middle, discussing what the unpardonable sin might be and that dress the pastor’s wife was wearing that other day, playing charades, talking about whether we should do the bake sale again this year, and praying for Aunt Iris’s arthritis.”
Where Communitas looks more like the firefighters and police men during 9-11 or Jesus’ calling to the 12 disciples “I want you to follow me, but understand this: if you follow me, it’s gonna require everything you have. It will be a life of self-sacrifice. You’ll have to put the needs of this group above your own, whether you like it or not. And the mission is paramount. We are starting a revolution to try to convince everyone that a life of loving God and loving people is the best way to live, and the mission must come first in your life. Engaging in this mission is going to get me killed, and it very well may get you killed. So you want to be a part of this group or not?”
Community is good. It is safe. And it has its place. But Communitas is where I believe God is calling us to camp—calling me. It’s untidy.  It’s dangerous. It’s what Jesus lived when he walked the earth.
I want to learn to be in communitas with the widows, the homeless, the sick, the lonely, the man driving his BMW beside me on Broad, the lady riding her John Deer on the farm in Powhatan, the starving baby in the African safari, my family, the young girl crying on the floor of a brothel, the dad who just got laid off, the single mother who regrets her life choices, my co-workers, the Godly woman who is crumbling behind her mask, my PCC family, the young boy who struggles with porn, the father who hides behind the bottle, and the list can go on.
I don’t really have answers for all of the questions I’ve been getting or even a concrete plan. For the first time in my life, I am really ok with that. Because I know He does, and I know I can’t go wrong if I follow where He leads. So for now, I’m going to keep on seeking, keep on following, keep on serving, going with my gut of living in communtias rather than community, and linking arms with those who are jumping with me.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Psalm 51:15 “O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise.”

My heart is overflowing with thanksgiving. A few things I am thankful this week for:

A job I love
Distant friends that you can always pick up where you left off
Starry nights on the dock
Restoration
Birthdays and birthday parties
Sunrises
Silly songs and crazy pictures
My family
Text Messages
Grace
Brand new babies
Honest conversations
Belly laughs
Second  . . . third . . . fourth . . . chances
New friendships
Prayer
Friends who make time –even when they don’t have time to give
Emails of encouragement
Cool Temperatures
Forgiveness
Musical Theatre
Hugs
Long beautiful drives, sunroofs and great music
Choices
Adoptive Families
Unconditional Love
Unique callings

Monday, October 3, 2011

Love the Poor and Serve the Needy from Grace every Day

My thoughts from Beth's post Love the Poor and Serve the needy


"If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it."
 ---Stephen Colbert

Wow!

I read this last night before I went to bed and just can not stop thinking about these words.

It stirs so many thoughts, so many emotions, so many questions.

There are so many arguments, so many excuses to why we don't or do, why we should or shouldn't help those in need.

To be honest, at first I wanted to stand on my soap box, share the stories of men and woman who I've met in Monroe Park, down on Hull Street, or the widow who lives on Libbie Ave.

But I can't.

I can't because I remember too many times where I just didn't want to do it. I remember too many times when my life seemed more important than someone else's. I remember the times where it was inconvenient or would require too much energy to do it. I remember too many times where I said no thank you to His calling.

I understand that part of that is being human, we aren't Superman or Shera, we can't do it all---and we are not asked to do it all. But we are asked to follow the convictions of our hearts, to give generously, love unconditionally, and to put other's needs above our own. I don't always do this well.

I am humbled by a Savior who was able to do it perfectly. He set the example of how to love. He led the way for us to follow. He provides the strength to reach beyond ourselves. He offers the grace when we don't. He allows us, broken, screwed up people, to be a part of His beautiful plan.  He provides the blessings he wants us to bless others with. And He is the joy and peace that overflows us when we follow Him.

May we strive for boldness.
May we learn to be brave.

May we love God.
May we love people.
And may we do something about it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A new map

A year ago to the day, I took a step of obedience that has completely remapped my life.

Let me quickly backtrack.

The previous life map, was a good map. It wasn't like this treasure map that everyone sought after, nor did it lead to any buried treasure. To be honest, the world had jaded me so that I was not on a journey to find a fairy tell life, I didn't believe it existed. I just wanted to follow a map that lead to happiness. I learned to draw paths that wrapped around fun, excitement, and companionship. Even though I didn't believe in the happily ever after map, I was convinced that I was uniquely charting it out. I worked hard on my life map, it had it's own challenges, but I was ok with it.

At some point I learned that happiness fades out just as quickly as it appears. My map was filled with excursions and adventures that brought a lot of happiness to my life, but there was something missing.

It was in a parking lot off Broad street last year, that I took the step of letting go and creating my own paths, and chose to start following the map that had already been designed for me.

This new map has offered quite a voyage. There have been times where I question every turn that I am being asked to make. Sometimes I haven't always been able to clearly read the new map. There have been times when I am just plan stubborn-- I don't want to go back, but I am not ready to move forward. Parts of this voyage I have been able to pick up some folks along the way. While other times, I can search all I want, but there is nobody around. This new map has taken me through some dark tunnels that have brought healing and self discovery. And there have been day trips in areas that I have no words that describes the beauty or the peace that exudes.

This new map is a great map. It is not immune to challenges, struggles, and difficult times. There is fun, excitement, and laughter. There is happiness, and sorrow too. What makes is a great map is the fact that there is this constant peace and lasting joy. Everyday of travel isn’t a perfect day, but every day on this map provides purpose and life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A few thoughts from Monroe Park's Birthday Party

For the last two months we have been planning this Birthday Party for the homeless. It’s not your typical brown bag lunch, I give you. I was sure nobody would go for it, or truly get the intent behind it. I was mistaken. Folks jumped all over it and on this side of everything I can honestly say it was a huge success. Okay, so we were a little over zealous with amount the cupcakes needed, but the party was lacking absolutely nothing.

Until today the party idea was just that . . .an out of the box idea. But as I sit here reflecting, it now has a face . . .it has names. Anna. Al. Wesley. Armando. Chris. Allison. Evan. William. It has stories. You would not believe time and time again how many people told us that they did not get to celebrate their birthday, or that no one had remembered it. I wish I could have captured that faces when some realized it wasn’t an event for the VCU students, rather a birthday party for them.

Today, I understand why Jesus talks so much about taking care of the sick, the needy, and the widows. I think so easily they have their sense of worth, of meaning, of humanity robbed from them. They are often overlooked, and treated as so much less than what God created them to be. We all need to be reminded of who God created us to be. We all need to be encouraged to settle for nothing less than His plan for our lives. As I reflect on my own life, yes, times can get very lonely and situations can seem pretty bleak, but I am constantly reminded of my worth and my value, and the special plans God has for me by my family, my friends, and my PCC brothers and sisters.

We live at a pace of life that honestly is ridiculous. I recently heard, if the Devil can’t convince you to do wrong, he will just make you busy. And too often, we buy into that lifestyle. We get so hectic with our lives, with our situations that sadly, we often forget to encourage and lift up those who desperately need it. It’s challenging to get outside of our own boxes. To be honest, I’ve struggled with this the past two weeks, but as I lay my head down tonight, I am thankful for the reminder of all the blessings I have and the call to be a blessing to those who desperately need it.

In closing, I encourage you to stop, take a look outside of what is going on in your own life. Look around, for those on the edge, to those who are lonely, to those who are feeling hopeless . . ..and do something. I can attest, it doesn’t have to be much to remind someone of their value, of their worth. Take the blessings that have been poured over your life (they are there if you look) and use them to show Christ’s love and care. Whether it be a small act of kindness (balloons on a mailbox, posters around town, or a simple hand written card) or an act of generous giving (paying for a tank of gas, a cart of groceries, a family’s dinner) you---we have been given the opportunity to speak value, significance, and hope into people’s lives. I have no words to explain how our unfathomable God can use our giving to change lives---those receiving and our own. He uses it to fill us, to satisfy our longings and to change us to become more like Him.

I cannot wait to download the videos and pictures to share with you just how God is moving through His faithful servants who serve in Monroe Park. He is building lasting friendships, building trust and creating an environment where people are opening up and sharing the burden life can sometimes bring. I covet prayers as we continue to seek His leading and as we continue to provide a loving community for Richmond’s homeless.

My heart is full of gratitude tonight.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A few thoughts running through my head . . .

Is it possible to regret good decisions?
I haven’t spent quality time with my dad in what feels like forever; I am excited not only to get a week of vacation, but a week spent of laughter, fun and lasting memories.
I miss my car. Yes, I am still driving the least sexy car you will ever see in your life. It does not scream fun by any means of the word.
Matthew 7:13-14 is currently what I am wrestling with.
I have read The Naked Soul by Tim Alan Gardner and am currently finishing Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working by Craig Groschel. Great reads. I can totally get on board with their philosophy on community and vulnerability . . . I can even be passionate about it, yet, recently I doubt that in our culture it even can exists. I think we have gotten so complacent and happy with meritocracy, we often fail to push the envelope--fail to truly live set apart . . . unfortunately myself included. It bothers me. For now, I’m setting this aside to dissect another day.
It’s September which means fall is coming—Fall colors, apple cider, sweaters and scarves. This makes me happy.
I miss my kayak. No car, no boat rack. I was looking forward to an awesome kayaking trip while on vaca. But it’s not looking like my car will be ready by Saturday (which creates a whole dilemma in itself getting the rental back when I am out of state). However, when this chic does get her car back—the water is where you will be able to find me.
I have been in a weird music mood lately. Today’s song of choice, I’m only happy when it rains by Garbage. I know, I know it is dark, but the rain in pounding on the roof here and I can’t get the song out of my head, so instead of fighting it . . . I am just going with it.
I couldn’t be more excited about this weekend. It’s been a lot of work, and still have two days of pulling all the last minute details together, but once Saturday comes and I get in the park—it’s just about loving on my friends . . .and those guys are a joy to love on!!
For now . . .that’s all I’ve got. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Roots Matter

This morning, Colossians 2:7 found its way into my lap. “Having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him. . .”
Roots really matter.
Hurricane Irene blew through this past weekend. It was wild. Huge gusts of wind, falling branches, and gigantic trees swaying. Luckily, there was no real harm where I was staying. But driving home Sunday, the trees that had shallow or dead roots, really caused some damage.
I have tried to be intentional about deepening the roots in my life. And I’ve tried to plant myself by life giving water. It’s a task that has been accompanied by many challenges, hard work and failures. There have been choices that have been difficult to make, opportunities that I have unsuccessfully capitalize on, and moments where borrowed faith got me through.
Last week was I faced my own personal Irene. The winds blew hard, the cold rain poured, and I even lost some limbs. There were times, I question if I was planted as firmly as I thought.
Last night, I sat on the dock, under an indescribable star filled sky, and in the silence of the night. It was the calm after the storm. The time to process, to reflect and to give thanks was restorative. I was reminded that He is relentless in pouring out the love, grace and support needed to transform lives. He longs for us to plant ourselves close so that our roots can deepen. Like Colossians says, once those roots get deeper, that’s when the building starts!
As I confessed to Him last night, I have no idea what He is up to in my life, where He is leading, or who I am becoming . . . but I know with Him; it’s going to be greater than anything I can foresee. I know I am still fairly young, and at times na├»ve. Every now and then emotions and irrational thinking can get the best of me; there is a lot of room for growth and maturity. But I know that choosing to plant myself beside the Life Giver is worth it. Walking side by side with Him is worth it. The trails and obstacles that come along with growth are worth it.
The winds will come, Irene will resurface, and the rains will sting, but may we seek to deepen our roots. Because Roots really do matter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do you ever think the little hiccups along life's road are God's way of getting our attention?

It's been a whirlwind of an adventure for me these past few weeks.

A ministry that I am passionate about is off the ground and running. It's awesome. It's fun. I am meeting new people weekly. They are changing me and in return I hope I am doing the same. It's fulfilling. Yet, I did not anticipate how much work it would truly entail, how tiresome it would be, or how overwhelming it has been at times.

There's been a lot of conflict recently. Most of it is healthy--learning how to be a leader and leading different types of folks. Learning about my weakness and hearing constructive criticism. There's been inner conflict too. Between continuing to let go of the old and to keep moving with the new. And recently, I've had my dose of relational conflict.

I have started battling migraines. Watching my mom suffer from them as a child, I was thankful I never had the burden. But they've kicked my butt this past month or so and I am still learning how to manage them. Lately, I have become aware of just how out of shape I am. I really need to shed some a lot of pounds and change some patterns.Weight is something I have always struggled with. It's hard for me to admit. But it's true and there it is.

And then life just happens. Last week my car would not start. And this morning a deer wanted to give me an up close and personal snap shot. (I am the only one who made it out of that encounter unscathed).

Really in the scheme of things, nothing listed above is life altering. But, today, it has slowed me down. Perhaps I am missing something? There is no rental car available until tomorrow morning, so … for today, a lot of thinking, a lot of praying, and a lot of seeking!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sometimes all you can do is laugh! And today . . . I am laughing.

Sometimes all you can do is laugh! And today . . . I am laughing.


It’s been a rough week, to be honest. I have tried my darnedest to make lemonade out of all the lemons, but there just does not seem to be enough sugar, and the sour is starting to settle in. I am embarrassed to admit that the little things in life that get me off centered are nothing in comparison to the giants others have faced; nonetheless, I am off kilter.


I knew today would come, that’s the humorous part. You see, about a month ago, I started preparing the way for when life would seem just too overwhelming. From my past, I knew that I would most like lean on the “numbing” agents that now seem only to hurl me further into a funk. So, yes, I could make a few phone calls and rearrange what has previously been set up. But, I would have to have some difficult conversations and receive some tough love from those I have asked to help. This would not be an easy way out, and it is not something I have in me tonight. Another option would be just hop in the car, crank up the tunes and drowned it all out, but my car is still in the shop. So tonight, it looks like it will just be me facing the things I would rather stuff. Working through what needs to be worked through. And seeking the Big Man Upstairs for guidance and healing. And that is exactly what I need to do doing with weeks like this one. J


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

He is faithful


August 22, 2010. Almost a whole year since I started this new quest. Hank Brooks was speaking, there was a casket on stage at PCC, and Matthew West’s lyrics “I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking, What if I had given everything . . .?” made me internally start working through the reality of where I knew my life needed to head.


It’s been a journey to say the least (I won’t bore you with the struggles--you can re-read my last year’s worth of blogs if needed). But here I am, firmly planted on the other side. I am completely overwhelmed at the transformation my life has taken in just one year’s time. It’s not perfect, and there are constant struggles, questions and set backs, but there is also unspeakable joy and an undeniable purpose that succeeds my wildest dreams.


For so long, I wrestled with why I am here? What is my purpose? At times, I got tired of looking for an answer and carved out my own path. Sometimes I was just lazy, and didn’t want to put forth the effort. Life just passed by and I went with it. At other times, I was fearfully of rejection and being left out, so I ran with the crowd. And sometimes, I didn’t want to let down the projected image of who I thought others wanted me to be, so I adopted their purpose for my life. And then, since non of the above options were working, I started taking baby steps toward God. Learning to let go and follow. It is there that I have found life. There that I have found purpose.


A year ago, as I squirmed in my seat, felt my lungs tighten, as I thought of every reason not to let go and envisioned the hell that would come if I did, I never thought I’d be sitting here tonight thankful for the wounds and scars that I have from my past. Each wound representing my need for a Savior, and each scar reminding me that He is faithful.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I can’t stop smiling! Here are some reasons why

- A family cookout with an adorable 6 (almost) month old beauty in 11 days

- Bread, Apples, Jars of peanut butter and jelly and over 200 bottles of water

- Psalm 46:10

- Silence

- Andrew Peterson

- 1000 Ways to Die

- The example of selfless faith (Jeanette Brannan, Jackie Heberle, Tony Tomandl, Sandy Blackwell and many many others)

- Kayaking trips

- Mandy James and the beautiful words she shared on Sunday. She could not have painted a clearer picture of what God was doing in the lives of not only the Roma people, but those who went and served. Powerful.

- Having the time tonight to tackle another letter or two on my overzealous wall decor project

- The words of a gorgerous song that could not have come at a more perfect time in my life . . .

My hands, they rise
To praise You and the truth You say is mine
That I am claimed, made whole in the name of Your sacrifice

And You love me, You love me
No matter how far I run
I can always find You
You're with me
No matter how hard I try to fight You
You say that You heal broken things
But what if i can still feel my heart breaking

- Philippians 2:12-13

- Getting to visit Elevation Church in NC in 2 weeks

- One extremely overfilled grateful heart!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Our Life's Mark

As I sit here, in a comfortable office, trying to get focused and tackle the tasks laid out before me, I find myself distracted. I am utterly thankful for my job. I am not sure there is a better corporate company out there to work for, I am sure that we house the most kind and professional folks, and I know there is no greater position that suits the math geek side of me. I feel as excited and happy to be a part of this team as I did on day one as I do on day three hundred and seventy two. I’m grateful.


Tonight, I will lay my head on a warm cozy bed; in an absolutely perfect home that I feel was made just for me. I will be surrounded by amazing neighbors, a sense of safety and the peaceful sounds of soothing water. I’m thankful.


This week, I have had the privilege of carving out time to spend with family and with friends. Family that has overcome challenges yet are able to celebrate and laugh over a much too short of a visit. Friends that I have lost touched with for several months, yet are able pick back up as if no time had passed. Family that just knows how to pack full a day of new adventures and lasting memories. Friends that give of themselves honestly and challenge me to become better. I ‘m blessed.


The people I work with, the neighbors I live by, the family and friends I share my life with have changed me. They have left lasting impressions on my life. Good or bad, they have had a role in my transformation.


This morning I’ve been inundated with playbacks of the last year, and am attentive to the impressions my life has left. I’ve been reminded of conversations and random acts of kindness that bring smiles. I’ve been weighted down with regrets and sadness for poor choices. I’ve been overwhelmed how the worst of me, is often, overcome by the best of who my God is!


Today, I am sitting with the weight of forgiveness, of grace, of being human, of a God who loves unconditional, and who desires to use me for His good, if I am willing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I am anxious to carve out a decent chunk of time to do some writing. There is a lot to say and some cool things to share. Unfortunately, today is not the day. But in hopes of finding a place of focus and productivity here is a list of some random Tuesday thoughts.

I am still beaming from last night’s small group. It’s always neat when new people show up and check out the group, and last night’s visitors were no exception. It was a great night!!! Conversation was rich, ideas shared were thought provoking, and authenticity was present. Looking back, it is amazing to see the growth that has happened not only on an individual level, but as a whole on these Monday nights. I am blown away by this group, by the individuals that are constantly teaching me and showing me what it is like to be part of a loving, giving and authentic community.

I could not be more excited about the new series at PCC, IMPROV: Life Unscripted. We kicked it off last week, and I was completely floored at how God used Beth Stoddard to share such a powerful word. It was creative, captivating, and challenging. Beth delivered the message with such passion, heart and soul. And God’s been using her words to stir in my heart this week. If you missed it, check it out—you won’t be disappointed! http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/15634694.





I know I have said it already, and perhaps I am just swept away, but how much I love it, or maybe it is the overwhelming joy of knowing you are exactly where God intended you to be, but I LOVE POWHATAN! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore the city, the culture, the business, the diversity, and that will always be a part of me. I had huge doubts and fears when Powhatan came up on the radar, but now, there is something unexplainable every time that I drive home. I am able to stop, able to rest and able to reconnect. There is an all consuming peace. It’s new, it’s life giving, and once again all I can do is stand in awe of God’s love and provision.


I adore being an aunt. With moving, the past two months have been consumed with packing, painting, cleaning, unpacking, painting, organizing, cleaning, decorating, etc. and I’ve missed TOO MUCH time in this little girl’s life. It doesn’t help that she lives about 5 hours away. I could not be more excited to head down to NC to visit next weekend. I hear she LOVES the pool and already has her first tooth. I may be bias, but I think she is stinking cute, and you better believe more pictures to come!



4th of July is coming up, and who knew that Powhatan had so much going on? J Being the new kid in town, I need help. Where is the best place in Powhatan to celebrate the 4th?


Have a Happy Tuesday Folks!!!


And for all of you who prayed for me last week, thank you, thank you, thank you! Hope to share my experience soon.


Philippians 2:13 For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If at first you don't succeed--try again.

Day 11


It is day 11 of this “retreat.” I wish I could write about the amazing time I have had unplugging from distractions and plugging right into the heart of God. I wish I could write about my disciplines of being still and quiet before our God and how I have heard Him speak His truth and wisdom over me. I wish I could write more about understanding this new me that I am called to be or of the power that His Word has spoken into my life. But I can’t. Disconnecting has proven to be a challenge.


I have learned in these 11 days that staying busy, and filling my time, is easy and comfortable. Silence and being still is intimidating. It is in the stillness and silence that I am left with hard questions and doubts that continually play over and over in my head. Perhaps it is in those times of questions, doubts and confrontation that real relationships are built, where trust is found and where authenticity exudes. I feel Him nudging, calling and challenging me to pursue Him in silence, to really disconnect, to seek Him out, to work out my faith, to ask my questions and share my doubts and to rest in Him.


I have been given the choice. I can continue to disconnect half heartedly as I have been doing, or even forget it all and just reenter into life as I know it. But I am haunted by the question . . . what if I gave it all? What if I set aside all my fears and my apprehensions and dived in, do it how He is asking, to really discover what Psalm 46:10 means? What if I work through the uncomfortably of silence and I see Him like I never have?


Being a part of this “twitter” generation, is leaving me empty. I have adopted the concept that life summed up in 140 characters is enough, but I am starved for more. And that’s part of the quest . . .to find it. I am not sure I even know exactly what “it” is, but I do know that He is the only one who has the answers. He is the only one who can fill me and leave me satisfied.


So, game plan #2! By Monday, the 20th the last 6 boxes should be unpacked and I should be completely settled into my new place. My calendar will be clear for the following 5 days. I will have read The Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Haley Barton, in hopes to find some concrete tools to help navigate me. And my cell phone, TV, home computer will be turned off, unplugged, or thrown out the window. Whatever it takes! J


I covet your prayers through this week. I am sure I will be face with many challenges and obstacles, but I am anxious to encounter, to wrestle and to rest in our Almighty God.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Hiatus

Moving day is almost here. The end of weekends spent packing is in sight. The blinders are on and the focus—get it done! Soon I will reenter a life that has been unfamiliar for 5+ years. A journey I have been venturing towards for almost 8 months now. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride to say the least, a ride of rediscovering myself, redirecting my life, and refocusing my attention. At times the ride has caused me to throw up my arms and enjoy the freedom of the wind in my hair. Other times, my knuckles have been snowy white, clinching to the safety bar as I close my eyes and scream to get off. But I have yet to ride completely alone. There have been some of the most genuine, amazing and godly friends and family who have willingly climbed on board and buckled in. I will never find the words to express the gratitude I have for their friendship, loyalty and love.


But it’s time.


It’s time to ask them to unbuckle, to step out of the ride just for a moment and let me ride it once, alone, before they hop back on. It’s time for me to unplug a little, to take a mini hiatus, a sabbatical if you will. Now this unplugging will not be from work or from things I have previously committed myself to like small group cook out (holla), community outreach activities, Father’s Day, or graduation lunches, but rather break from all my “spare” time in order to reconnect ,refresh, and redefine my relationship with God.


It’s now a time to clean house inside. It’s time to pack up flawed theology, selfish ambitions, lies, and blemished character. I will be tangibly putting together a new home in Powhatan, but more importantly, making the time for Him to create a new home inside me.


Please don’t misunderstand. Community is something I value to the core of who I am. And for 8 months I have sought wisdom, advice, prayers and truth. But it’s time to step back, and listen to Him, time to let God define what that wisdom and truth looks like in the everyday steps of my life.


Now, the logistics . . . I will NOT be falling off the face of the earth. I will disappear from Facebook , from blogging, and e-mail. And for all my “moms” out there, I will let someone know where I am when I take day and overnight trips. For those who have tentative coffee dates/lunch dates—we’re still on. So, if you don’t see me around—say, until July-ish . . . no worries, I’m not withdrawing but just taking a much need retreat with Him.


James 4:8a “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

A little bit of this, a little bit of that . . .

It’s Friday!! Not only is it Friday, but it is Friday the 13th. I am not superstitious by any means, but I did grow up in a house of boys—boys that loved their scary/thriller movies. So, naturally I have a love for them as well. I wish I could spend my night with some friends watching scary movies, but a) a majority of my friends do not care for scary movies at all and b) . . .


This weekend (including tonight) will be another weekend filled with packing up the house. On the agenda (insert scary movie noise here) . . . the kitchen! This does not sound very fun to me . . . so that means there must be loud music blaring, silliness and laughter happening, and perhaps even a delicious bottle of red wine on the agenda as well!


In just a matter of a week, the plan of where I will be moving has unraveled. I can’t say that it isn’t disappointing, but I’m not freaking out. There is a bigger plan here and the timing just isn’t right for me to know it yet. I have a feeling by the end of this process I will look back, with my mouth wide open, gasping WOW! God’s timing and His glory is what it is all about . . . I am just trying to stay out of the way so it can be seen.


I’m missing some people today. People that I’ve shared life with, but in the past few years, months, even weeks life has been in the way of reconnecting/staying connected. I need to get better about weeding out some distractions, so I can love on them better.


I have picked back up David Platt’s book Radical from a short hiatus. It has been a very thought provoking and challenging read. I’m wrestling with a lot of those challenges, ideas, and . . . well, EVERYTHING! I had some great study and reflection time carved out the past two days. My mind is nonstop from thoughts about discipleship, church, and working out my salvation (Phil 2:12). I want to learn how to better sustain effort and diligence in cultivating what’s been planted. I want to learn to share my faith more. I want to learn to die to myself, my wants and my desires more than I do. I want to love people better. I want to serve more with my best than with my leftovers. Thank goodness that He’s still working on me . . . because this chickadee has a lot of work that still needs to be done!


I am going to need a new book to read soon . . . the last three I have read have really been amazing books. I need some suggestions. Read any good books lately or ones you consider are must reads?


I encountered 3 folks that I feel are some”must meet” kind of people, this week. They just exude love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You know the kind of folks that Christ just overflows out of? Ha ha it’s been a while since I’ve gone up to a stranger and asked if they wanted to grab a cup of coffee . . . perhaps it’s time!


I get to have lunch at the Bass Pro Shop this weekend (a family gathering). To some, this is not a big deal, for this city kid—it makes me chuckle! I hear it is a great time, and with my family no doubt that it won’t be; however, just writing this little ditty about the upcoming experience makes me laugh. If Powhatan is a living option, and yes, it’s on the list, perhaps I should embrace just a wee bit of country. Ya reckon’?


Happy Friday! J

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Conflict

I hate conflict. I avoid it at all cost. I tend to think I am strong enough to carry the feelings of hurt, disappointment, and anger on my own, without letting it affect me or my relationships. But, it doesn’t work like that. Unresolved conflict changes everything. I don’t like who I become with it and I don’t like the distance it creates. So, if I hate what conflict does, why do I avoid resolving it?


Fear? Rejection? The truth? All the above?


I do fear. I fear that the outcome of starting these conversations will end with rejection. I fear the dynamics of the friendship changing for the worse. I fear hearing the truth—that I am being irrational and silly. I fear having to own up to mistakes that my pride is keeping me from admitting. I fear hearing that my feelings aren’t valid or are wrong. I fear that I care more about the relationship than the recipient or learning the opposite.


Conflict can be very good. I know this. It is where growth happens, where relationships can deepen and where people get real. It bothers me that my natural instinct is to avoid that . . . growth, deeper relationship and becoming real. It’s not easy walking against instinct and into conflict. But I know those are the steps I am being nudged to take. Instinctively I want to dig my heels in, cross my arms, puff up my chest and say, I got this. But the reality is, I don’t have it, it is affecting me—and not in a positive way.


So, now is the tough part . . . I’ve processed the emotions. I’ve analyzed the knowledge . . . now it is time to choose. I can choose to do nothing, to let the gap widen, to try and avoid the bitterness and the withdrawal and deal with it on my own—that would be the path of least resistance, the ”easy” path if you will. Or I can choose to set aside my pride, set aside my fear and open up. I can choose not to play it safe. Good or bad to throw it all on the table and be real, to be honest, and to give all I have. I desire the latter choice, I do . . .

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Things change . . . yet stay the same

Today, was a special birthday of a specail kid. It was different this year . . .I wasn't there to see the expression of excitement from a room filled with decorations and presents. I wasn't there for the morning birthday breakfast. But I did catch up around noon to induldge in some birthday shopping, some birthday laughter and some birthday grub. It was in those moments I still felt attached, still felt like an important part, still felt like family. I am learning that even though situations change, boundaries change and mailing addresses change . . .family doesn't.

It was great! To see this 7 year old grow into an amazing 14 year old has been such a blessing. Even though there is very little credit that I can take, He has turned into an amazing teen. And today, I realized just how blessed I will be to continue to watch him grow into the man God has called him to be.And I've been blessed to learn first hand of parenting done well, done Godly, done admirably.

It was hard parting ways tonight. I lay my head in a seperate place now, and things are different. Stories have changed, but one thing will remain . . .we are family. We will still share special days, occassions, and memories. We will share the joy, the sorrow, the laughs and tears. We are family, and not matter what situations may change . . .that will always remain.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I should be sleeping . . .


I run. I run when life gets uncomfortable. I run when I get hurt. I run when things don’t go as I think they should. I shut down, I pick up and I run. It’s easy that way. I really don’t have to feel. I don’t have to think. I don’t have to come face to face with the reality that things get messy. That life is hard. All I have wanted to do in the last few weeks is to run, to pick up and to leave this chapter behind me. To go where no one knows me and start fresh. But no matter how hard I have tried to convince myself to move on and run away, I know it would just lead to more running.


Just cruising along has been my M.O. for a while now. But today was different. I was actually running behind my normal morning routine. Thirty minutes off of my schedule would normally put me in the middle of the chaotic morning commute, would have me arriving at work with everyone and their mother, and would have me waiting with 10 other folks in the break room all anticipating the first cup of coffee . . .but it wasn’t like that. My commute was quiet. There wasn’t a soul in the parking lot when I arrived and once I got to my desk there was an eerie silence. The difference in what should have been caught me off guard enough to stop the cruise control and for the first time in weeks to think and reflect.


I don’t want to run.


I don’t want to be apart from Him and what He is doing. I know that I am where I need to be, in this unsettled, insecure, vulnerable place where I am learning just how much I need Him. But I struggle with not knowing how to stand firm in this place of transformation. I’ve never stayed put long enough. So many questions, so many doubts. But tonight as I lay my head down, I have the desire. The desire to see what He is doing. Perhaps acting on that desire will offer some answers. All I know tonight, is He’s here, He found me today. As for tomorrow . . . . ?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Just keep moving . . .


The last three weeks I feel my life has been taken, shaken and turned upside down, . . . and not necessarily all in a bad way. During this craziness some friendships have really deepened. There have been some loved ones who have really stuck their necks out on a line to love on me and offer their support. I know that I will look back on this time period and see that is was what saved one of the dearest friendships I have ever had in my life. It is now, here in this season of life that I know I am growing, that my faith is deepening and that life is moving forward. I am striving and walking toward the life He created for me. The abundant one. The radical one. And even though there is overwhelming peace and even some excitement on this journey, I have to be honest with myself and admit that I am scared.


I think about Peter and wonder if he was scared when he stepped out of the boat? Perhaps Abraham was scared the morning he loaded up his donkey with Isaac. And what about Mary and Joseph, were they afraid of the lives they were being called to? And I want to think that Ananias was showing fear when he questioned God’s directions to go to Saul?


I feel foolish to say that I am scared. I feel weak in admitting that . . . But maybe that is just it. Maybe part of fear is the realization that I can’t do it on my own. That I need Him, more than ever. Maybe it is that even if Peter was scared, he still got out of the boat. Even if Abraham was scared, he still tied Isaac to the alter. And Mary and Joseph still chose to walk the journey together in the midst of their fears. And Ananias despite what he may have been feeling, went to Saul. Maybe it’s learning not to let fear be paralyzing, but instead remaining in motion towards obedience. So, maybe I can find comfort in the fact that it’s okay to be scared, and it’s okay to shed a tear or two . . .or five, as long as my feet keep moving toward Him and where He is calling.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

With God and Starbucks all things are possible :)


I mentioned not too long ago that I am an all or nothing kid. I am not always good at balance and I can tend to stretch myself thin. I would like to say that I am learning, but if that were true, than I would have to be honest and say that I am an extremely slow learner. This week is one of those weeks, I am laying it all out there. And today . . .I’m tired. I’m hoping that this 45 minute break between jobs (and some Starbucks) will reenergize me, give me the “umph” to give the last 110% I have for 3 more working hours. I’m finding rest in Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.” I know He is just waiting to breath that burst of “go get ‘em” into me---He always does, and that makes me smile.


This weekend will be a rather busy one as well---but maybe sleep is not the only thing that energizes! Friday, after work, I will be heading out to Powhatan with some of my favorite people, to support, to be entertained and to be well fed by what I know will be an amazing Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre. I’m excited to see fruits of the folks who have poured out time, resources and energy to help make their trip to Macedonia this summer happen. Saturday, will be filled with family--family, that sadly I don’t get to see as often as I would like. I know that without a doubt there will be tons of laughter, tons of love and tons of life. I can’t wait. Sunday, I will be back “home” at Westchester. I will be back with my family, to stop our busy lives for a little bit, come before the our Living God and worship.


Life is busy, I get tired, and there is a lot of uncertainty to come, but my heart is filled, I am content, my God is in control and He is all I need. . .and that makes me smile--AND gives me engery! J

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Random Thoughts

My mind is filled to capacity . . . here’s hoping a list of random thoughts will help de-clutter!

· This cup of coffee is the best I have had at work in a VERY long time. I wonder what is different.

· I’ve slept in the past two days—it isn’t working for me. I’m getting back on my early morning routine tomorrow.

· I wish my older brother didn’t live so far away. I could use his humor on a daily basis, and seeing his beautiful daughter everyday wouldn’t be a bad gig either.

· I am not sure how people in cube world don’t think that we can hear EVERY word of the conversation. Maybe they just don’t care; sometimes I wish I didn’t care as much.

· I HATE cancer and everything associated with it! The Schardt family you are in my thoughts and prayers, as well as others.

· After 8 months with BMAG, I still absolutely LOVE my job!

· My baby brother is turning 27 In a few days. Wow! When did that happen? I’m proud of him!! And can’t imagine my life without him. Love you Jerms.

· I’m feeling a bit vulnerable today.

· I am thinking this is my last year in Midlothian. I am ready for something new. Where to go? Where to go?

· Gas prices are killing me!

· I wish I had to words to express the call to and need for a certain step I feel passionate to take.

· I have a huge crush on Blaine Hogan!

· I absolutely adore the people at Powhatan Community Church!

· I met some AWESOME folks in the last month. They continue to make me smile when I think about them.

· I am striving to have more balance in my life. Sometimes being an all or nothing kid, is not good.

· Shin splints stink!

· Resting on Psalm 37:3-5 today.

· I am thinking it’s a Starbucks kind of night.

· Can’t wait for the weekend!!!