You’ve Been on My Mind

Over the last couple of weeks I had a situation come up where I felt God calling me to share some things about my life that I haven’t thought about in a long time. I spent quite a bit of time thinking, remembering, and writing out what I would talk about… and it was hard.

As I was sifting through memories of bad decisions and experiences, I thought about people I spent time with and wondered how they might have turned out over the subsequent years. I considered how much my life has changed over the last 10, 15, 20 years and imagined… and hoped… that theirs had too.

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Nick, at my surprise 21st birthday party

I thought mostly about my friend Nick.

I met Nick my freshman year of high school when he was dating a friend of mine. They broke up but he and I stayed friends, going out on weekends and drinking and partying with friends. He was a couple of years ahead of me but we stayed friends when he went off to college out of state, going out and partying when he’d come into town on breaks. We stayed friends through getting married, having kids, getting jobs…. growing up! He was a troublemaker who always had a smile on his face and plan for a good time.

Some of my favorite memories involve Nick and some kind of ridiculous hijinks instigated by him over the course of our 20+ year friendship. I could tell him anything and know that I’d get the truth, without judgment (but possibly some teasing).

A few years ago, Nick got divorced and his life changed quite a bit. His wife and I never got along very well I’m afraid, but the divorce cut his free spirit free of any and all tethers to a stable life and Nick lost his footing. His drinking and partying, which had abated during the family years, stepped back up and he hooked back up with some old friends from past days. I was concerned, but I didn’t push the issue… he was Nick, and he was invincible. While I had moved on from that lifestyle, I wasn’t going to judge him for it. Then he moved in with a girl and saw his sons less and less, and I grew even more worried. The time between our visits grew longer, but he was still there for me.

And then he wasn’t. Almost 2 years ago he suddenly had a massive stroke one day at work and died instantly at 39 years old.

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Nick and I, Oct. 3, 2015

Now I wonder, did he regret the choices he was making? Did his choices lead to what happened? Was he happy?

The obvious message here is to treasure the people in our lives because they can be gone at any time. And that’s true. But something we were talking about in our class at church this morning was that we could be gone at any moment and that we should live as though that were the case.

“You don’t really know about tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears only for a short while before it vanishes.” James 4:14

I miss my friend. A lot. But he reminds me that I could be gone in an instant, and that I need to take care that I live my life intentionally and leave a legacy of love.

A Little Whimsy

So last week I took a little break from being boring and participated in a scavenger hunt called GISHWHES. Not a complete break… I still had school work and ministry stuff, but I made a commitment to being ridiculous with a friend of mine and it was awesome.

Here are few of the things we got up to!

Vacuuming my lawn, June Cleaver style!
Vacuuming my lawn, June Cleaver style!
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The Flushing Fairy
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On my way to a gala in my construction paper dress!
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A dress made of flowers in the city

We got lots of stares and laughs as we were out doing these and other silly pictures and videos, and it was amazing. We’ll definitely be doing this again next year, and inviting even more friends to participate! 🙂

Have a fun week!!

This Summer

I can’t believe July is almost over. I haven’t written in ages because I just haven’t stopped long enough to put anything into a cohesive post… probably still not there but I might as well get back to it!

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Monet exhibit at Chicago Art Institute

The summer kicked off with a trip to Chicago for the Justice Conference with one of my best friends, Cynthia. We’d never been to Chicago and had a great time visiting the Art Institute, riding the train and seeing the sights.

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The el

The conference was amazing, with speakers like Dr. Cornel West, Louie Giglio, Jonathan Merritt and Bob Goff (who I got to hug!!) There were panels on racial justice and reconciliation, as well as on poverty and social reform, gender issues and how to engage the church in justice. I was invited to a networking dinner for people involved in the anti-trafficking movement and  we stayed at the Plaza. Oh… and we saw Crowder and Rend Collective in concert.

Seriously. Awesome conference. Definitely want to go back next year.

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At the Aram Market

So a few days after I get back from Chicago, I head back to the airport; this time I’m on my way to Kenya! If you’ve read my blog before, you may know that I’d been planning this trip for months and was joining up with a mission team from Durango, Colorado. This was a totally new experience for me, going it alone with a group of strangers but it was a good trip. It was harder than a lot of other trips I’d been on before, in a lot of ways; while everyone on the team was great, it was lonely not having a friend to share the experience with. Also, this trip focused much more on physical work than trips I’d been on in the past. We built two mud houses, worked on a gardening project and ran a medical clinic, in addition to working with an amazing group of widows and their children.

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One of many beautiful smiles

It was a wonderful trip. Like I said, harder than most of the trips I’ve been on in the past. It made me question some things because I struggled so much, but that’s OK. I definitely want to go back. I made some friends there that I want to see again.

I flew back from Kenya on the first day of the summer quarter for school and since then I’ve been eyeball deep in reading and research… really hard reading and research.

I’m taking Ministry with Sexually Exploited Children and Christian Ethics this quarter so I’m immersed in child abuse and the injustices of the world and how as a Christian, I should respond to them. The reading is so heavy and it’s been weighing on me pretty heavily over the last few weeks.

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In the gardening shed with friends

 However, the summer is already more than half over and it’s been absolutely racing! We got back today from New Braunfels and taking the kids to see JAWS at an outdoor event where we floated on a lake in the dark during the show; it was awesome. So I’m trying to find time here and there to have some fun and not devote every single moment to hard stuff.

This weekend I’m working a Walk to Emmaus as a musician, which I’m really excited about. It’ll be a great chance to relax and reconnect to the Holy Spirit, to serve and to have a great time of fellowship with some great women.

So this has been a really long post, not really that cohesive, but just kind of a catch up of what’s been going on and where I’ve been the last couple of months! It’s been busy and crazy and at times overwhelming and stressful but it’s been really good too.

Hopefully will be back soon 🙂

Learning Experience

It’s funny how sometimes the thing you’ve been the most afraid of is the thing you end up being blessed the most by.

I said at the beginning of the fundraising endeavor that asking for money was the one thing I’ve always dreaded about being a missionary. I started this campaign with a limited time frame and a large monetary goal and at a time when I have been extremely busy. There’s a lot about this effort that could have gone very poorly.

I love that this came up during Lent.

IMG_4464The focus on prayer during this season has drawn me even closer to God and allowed me to maintain a peaceful attitude during a time when I might have otherwise been very anxious. I’ve kept calm and positive and in only 15 days, friends, relatives and acquaintances have stepped in and donated money and offered encouragement and prayers; I’m absolutely stunned!

It’s been so humbling to see so many people be willing to be a part of something I saw as mine. I started this two weeks ago feeling like I was asking for money so that could take this trip to Kenya but God has shown me that none of this is mine.

I’m not sure why I have to learn this over and over again!

This trip is not mine; it is not for me or about me. I am taking part in this trip, that was orchestrated by God, as a servant. I haven’t been asking for money to go on a trip, I have been giving people an opportunity to take part in God’s mission. Through these donations he will be building a house for a widow, he will be ministering with school children and women with AIDS and he will be providing medical care to those without access to a clinic.

None of this has anything to do with me. At all.

Thank you again so much to all of you who have contributed, who have prayed for me, who have given me kind words and shared in my excitement over this opportunity. I’m so grateful for all of you!

I’ll be ending the fundraiser tomorrow so this will be the last post I’ll make about it… I’m almost at my goal of $2500 🙂

Thank you.

http://www.gofundme.com/desiriegoestokenya

Inside

As part of my Practice of Mission class I’ll be writing a paper next week over a formal religious experience that is different than my own. This afternoon I went to a local mosque for a Jummah service because aside from my assignment, I really wanted to meet people of the Islamic faith. So many stereotypes exist regarding Islam and I want a more than a one dimensional picture.

Being completely ignorant I attempted to walk in the main door, and was fortunately corrected (in a very friendly, non-judgmental way) and shown the way to a side entrance into the women’s area. The front door leads into the large, main area which is where the men pray and listen to the service. I took off my shoes, entered the women’s room and sat down in the back. The service and just started so the other ladies were already seated and quiet, and I noticed immediately that they all had their heads covered. I got a little nervous, hoping I wasn’t being disrespectful by not following suit, but several turned around and greeted me with nods and smiles that were genuine and friendly.

As I sat and listened to the message given by the Imam I was struck by several things.

The first thing was that this message was something that could just as easily have been given at my church. The Imam spoke of serving the community, being a good neighbor and presenting a good witness of your faith. All of these ring familiar.

The next thing that stuck out to me was the call to fellowship. He spoke of blood drives, a team being put together for the MS150 this Spring and an upcoming family event taking place. No matter our faith or our ethnicity, these are the things that make up our lives!

I think what stood out to me the most, the thing that caused me to have to push back some tears, was the burden that the Muslim community here in Cypress, Texas is feeling for the terrorist images being portrayed of Islam in the media. As the Imam encouraged his people to come out from behind their walls and join in their community, he was urging them to fight the stereotypes being given to America by cable news. As he called to them to join in their homeowners associations and become registered voters, he was inviting them to act wisely and peacefully to counteract the single story we are presented with.

I can’t deny what’s going on in the world, and I can’t say that it isn’t heartbreaking, enraging and beyond comprehension. But I can say that there are individuals behind the stereotypes, that don’t fall under the label of “terrorist” or “extremist” or “murderer.”

As a Christian, I maintained a state of prayer to my God while I was in the mosque. Prayer for his people there and prayer for my understanding. I had a good experience. An enlightening one. And I’m grateful to the people there for allowing me to visit.

**This is one of the many awesome reasons I’m in seminary working on an Intercultural Studies degree… I want to learn more about other people and cultures! If you read my last post you know that I’m going to Kenya!!!! If you’d like to support me, please visit my fundraising page:

www.gofundme.com/desiriegoestokenya  🙂