Hello from Urbana 12. There are so many things to say and I will get to them when I come home.

But for now I want to talk about rest. Did you ever notice how difficult to rest it is? Especially in ministry. We are always going, doing, loving, taking care of constant flow of demands, needs, and problems. With so many people around us that are in great need of our love, resources, and to hear the news of the kingdom how can we ever justify sleeping let alone resting. We can almost never say "no" to things for the mission is too great.

But if we do not take care of our own souls we will burn out, become bitter, and resent the very passion God implanted in us to begin with. For even Jesus rested. Multiple times in scripture it said Jesus went to a quiet place to pray. But what about the hungry, the poor, the sick, the lame, the hurting, and those who need you Jesus? How will your resting help them?

I believe Jesus knew that he needed space to rest and be with his father otherwise his ministry would suffer. Otherwise he would burn out. Rest is crucial to ministry for it is crucial to our soul. And that often means we must say no to something.

Tonight at Urbana they were doing amazing join-in session - building 32,000 AIDS caregiver kits for Swaziland. What a way to practically serve others at this conference. But an hour before it started, I was exhausted - tired and impatient. My soul was being stretched to its limit but how could I say to no to helping those in greater need than my own. Wasn't this just my own weakness I needed to overcome? Power through? Ignore it?

No. Not this time. God called me to pull away, to retreat, to say no. "Let someone else build a kit - there are 16,000 people who can do it too you know. You need rest for you soul or your ministry will suffer." So perhaps I missed a great opportunity to be a part of something amazing. But perhaps by resting in God's presence alone, I was given the strength to keep pressing on - to see with new eyes and have a continual soft heart.

Because sometimes it is just as important to pull away and rest as it is to jump up and act.


Hot Tub in Snow

Today I met an older couple on the metro from the St. Louis Airport to my hotel downtown. Sadly I did not catch their names but I did have quite the long conversation with them so together they count as one of 25 new people I'm supposed to meet.

Unfortunately they were just returning from LA to see the husband's sister who was in the UCLA hospital. She was given about two weeks to live and they went out for a quick visit to see her. They were very glad to be on their way home though (and did spend some time arguing about whether or not to see the wife's son and baby grandchild for dinner - which included prime rib, so naturally I wanted to continue to hang out with them).

They did leave with me one suggestion for an adventure to try. After enjoying a nice time in a hot tub, jump into the snow and make snow angels. Then back to the hot tub. They have been doing that for years and said I wasn't fully living life until I have done so. Thoughts? It could be my fear I face (fear of dying from hypothermia I suppose). But I'm missing the snow. And the hot tub. I guess this would be an adventure just to even accomplish.


Goals for Year 25

(updated as of December 12)
When I turned 25 I decided to try and do some things I never have done before or just really wanted to get done this year. I created a list a 25 goals to accomplish by the end of the year. Some were big some where small, some were serious some felt silly and all, but together they made amazing memories.

Look through the blog posts over the past year with the 25 in 25 tag or just peruse through the list to see what I've accomplished in one year alone.

Here we go!
  1. Read 25 new books
    1. Liesel and Po by Lauren Oliver
    2. Healing for Damaged Emotions by David Seamands
    3. God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant
    4. Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen
    5. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kailing
    6. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
    7. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
    8. Helen of Pasadena by Lian Dolan
    9. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
    10. Legal: the First 21 Years by Jonathan Walton
    11. The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
    12. Out of Solitude by Henri Nouwen
    13. Your Mind's Mission by Greg Jao
    14. Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal
    15. Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller
    16. Who Pooped in the Park by Gary D. Robsen
    17. Real Life by James Choung
    18. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie 
    19. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz
    20. Penguins Hate Stuff by Greg Stones
    21. Zombies Hate Stuff by Greg Stones
    22. Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin
    23. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
    24. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
    25. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
  2. Visit 25 new places
    1. Snarf's Sandwiches in St. Louis, MO
    2. St. Charles, MO
    3. Dune Point State Beach in Malibu, CA
    4. Old Los Angeles Zoo
    5. Saladang in Pasadena, CA
    6. Solstice Canyon in Malibu, CA
    7. Eurekea Burger in San Luis Obispo, CA
    8. Raku Sushi in San Luis Obispo, CA
    9. Firestone Walker Brewery in Paso Robles, CA
    10. Barrelhouse Brewery in Paso Robles, CA
    11. Road to Seoul BBQ in Korea Town, Los Angeles, CA
    12. Menchie's Frozen Yogurt in Granada Hills, CA
    13. Freddie's Frozen Custard in Bakersfield, CA
    14. Zuma Beach in Malibu, CA
    15. Neptune's Net in Malibu, CA
    16. Salsa and Beer, Van Nuys, CA
    17. Runyon Canyon, Hollywood, CA
    18. Good Pho You, Granda Hills, CA
    19. Zaika Indian Cuisine, Bakersfield, CA
    20. Tea Bar, Bakersfield, CA
    21. Pike Brewing, Seattle, WA
    22. Space Needle/Seattle Center, Seattle, WA
    23. Olympia Roasting Coffee Co, Olympia, WA
    24. Kalama Burger Bar Inc., Kalama, WA
    25. Stumptown Coffee, Portland, OR
    26. Golden Road Bewing, Glendale, CA
    27. New Delhi Palace, Pasadena CA
    28. Saigon Deli, Fresno CA
    29. Pizza Factory, Bishop, CA
    30. Fraizer Park, CA
    31. Forest Home, Ojai, CA
    32. Seoul Sausage Company, Santa Monica, CA
    33. Blockheads Shavery, Santa Monica, CA
    34. Sweet Snow, Northridge, CA
    35. Reality LA Church
    36. Flour + Tea, Pasadena CA
  3. Meet 25 new people that are not work related: I need to know their name, where they are from, and where they are going.
    1. Older couple on metro (great story)
    2. Norrette from H.O.P.E.'s House
    3. Pastor Chuck and Pastor Dre from H.O.P.E.'s House
    4. Carol - my racing friend from Downtown Dash
    5. Toro, my roommate's guitar playing friend
    6. Angela, a woman who lives in our apartment complex
    7. Monica, from H.O.P.E.'s House (lots of new church friends)
    8. Damon from the 168 Film Contest I helped out at
    9. Kristina from the 168 Film Contest I helped out at 
    10. Kokeb Shi, Sol's Friend
    11. Randi, Jenel's Friend
    12. Marshall and Alexander - the bagpipe players at the warf
    13. Anna, the waitress at Marche in Seattle who got us onto the hotel rooftop
    14. Lisa, the woman from the doughnut shop in Seattle (it was her birthday)
    15. Austin from Tennessee - attending the WDS conference/Voodoo Doughnuts 
    16. Nate also from Tennessee - attending the WDS conference/Voodoo Doughnuts 
    17. Jonathan too from Tennessee - attending the WDS conference/Voodoo Doughnuts 
    18. Katie at Chris and Jane's wedding
    19. Beth at Chris and Jane's wedding
    20. Mike from A Night of Scenes at H.O.P.E.'s House
    21. Brandon from A Night of Scenes at H.O.P.E.'s House
    22. Shannon, family friend, Jacob's, girlfriend
    23. Mac, family friend, Jessica's, boyfriend
    24. James from Texas, serving the Global Intern Trek food
    25. Beth from The Toloumne Lodge 
    26. Reality LA - Encino Community Group
  4. Lose 25 lbs 
    1. Finished on April 1st
  5. Get rid of 25 things that I don't need
    1. 12 items of clothing
    2. The four boxes donated to the Girl's House Garage sale that probably had 50 items in it
  6. Actually try 25 things on my Pintrest boards
    1. Pencil Poles
    2. Chipotle Pesto Pasta
    3. Alphabet Pilates
    4. Valentine's Day Cake Cookies
    5. Standing Abs workout 
    6. Chalkboard mirror 
    7. Couch to 5k
    8. Instagram Bookmarks
    9. Mini corn dog muffins
    10. Must-Have Apps for Writers
    11. Rolo Stuff Ritz Crackers
    12. Modern Wall Art
    13. The Pizzadilla
    14. At Home Speakers
    15. Coffee ice cubs
    16. How to Tie a Long Scarf
    17. Top 10 Songs for Running
    18. 200 Running Songs
    19. Easy Mac and Cheese
    20. Pitch Perfect Drinking Game
    21. Fitness at Home
    22. Sharpie Mugs 1 (I did 18 of these so I'd count them as 4 items) 
    23. Sharpie Mugs 2 
    24. Sharpie Mugs 3
    25. 30 Day Push Up Challenge
  7. Write 25 handwritten letters
  8. Learn to cook 15 new dishes
    1. Brownies from scratch
    2. Chipotle Pesto Pasta
    3. Valentine's Day Cake Cookies
    4. Mom's Dump Chili
    5. Mini Corn Dog Muffins
    6. Rolo Stuffed Ritz Crackers
    7. The Pizzadilla
    8. Turkey Sliders
    9. Chicken Salad Sandwiches
    10. Corn and Black Bean Salad
    11. Cofee Ice Cubes
    12. Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese
  9. Get coffee/tea/ice cream/etc. with 15 old friends
    1. Frozen yogurt with Maise 
    2. Coffee with Noemi
    3. LA Adventure with Melody
    4. Burgers with Meghan
    5. Sushi with Nene
    6. Smoothies and Beach with Nicole
    7. Twinship Adventure Time with Sol
    8. CSUN Tour with Yi-ki
    9. Hike with Sarah A
    10. Pizza with Meg
    11. Get Shaved with Justin
    12. Corner Bakery with Peter
    13. Lunch with Kathy
    14. Lunch and laundry with Christina
    15. Denny's with Lengyel, Brendan, and Nate (and many others)
  10. Physically record 10 family stories
    1. No Pants
    2. Mom
    3. Dad
  11. Memorize 10 passages of scripture
    1. Proverbs 3:5-6
    2. Philippians 4:4-7 
    3. 1 John 1:9
    4. Luke 4:18-19
    5. Isaiah 61:1-3
    6. Psalm 103:1-5
    7. Psalm 40:1-3
    8. 1 Peter 1:3-7
    9. Philippians 4:12-13
    10. Ezekiel 11:19-20
  12. Find 10 new musical artists (or new albums) and recommend them to someone else 
    1. JJ Heller - Loved 
    2. Pentatonix - Radioactive (Imagine Dragons Cover)
    3. Lindsey Sterling
    4. Sara Bareilles - Brave
    5. ├ôlafur Arnalds - Old Skin
    6. Todderick Hall - Wizard of Ahhhs 
    7. Birdy - Skinny Love and The District Sleeps
    8. Ylvis - What Does the Fox Say and What's the Meaning of Stonehedge
    9. The Head and the Heart
    10. Beta Radio
  13. Watch 10 movies I can't believe I haven't seen yet
    1. Jumanji
    2. The Hobbit
    3. Butter (after watching it, I can't believe I hadn't seen - so good!)
    4. Family Weekend (same deal as Butter)
    5. 50/50
    6. The Breakfast Club
    7. The Amazing Spiderman
    8. Fast and Furious: Toyoko Drift
    9. Fast Five 
    10. Fast and Furious Six
  14. Give up 4 bad habits - turns out I focused more on developing new habits 
    1. Gained - gratitude 
    2. Gained - writing consistently 
    3. Gained - consistant prayer times 
    4. Gained - taking space for myself 
  15. Run 2 5K's 
    1. Glendale Downtown Dash
    2. No official 5k but have run 3.2 miles several times since 
  16. Blog once a week
    1. January - success!
    2. February - finished!
    3. March - almost didn't make but pulled through at the end
    4. April - completed!
    5. May - done with!
    6. June - accomplished!
    7. July - win!
    8. August - literally once a week and that's it
    9. September - a struggle (NSO got the best of me)
    10. October - not totally
    11. November - thankfully yes :) 
    12. December - will be done
  17. Blog in another language (probably Spanish, maybe Italian)
    1. Espanol 
  18. Learn to drive a stick shift
  19. Create a piece of art to frame
    1. Modern Wall Art
  20. Learn a new skill
    1. Really wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument, but I learned how to do push-ups better and I'd say that's a pretty sweet new skill. 
  21. Begin to learn another language (Spanish, Italian, and ASL are my top 3 to choose from now)
    1. Practicing my ASL while at work. I have half of the alphabet down and a few words. It's a work in progress. 
  22. Write something and send it to be published
    1. Working on the poetry skills
    2. Working on a book idea... possible portion here
  23. Go out dancing
    1. Had a dance party at Exponential and I busted a move or two
  24. Write a song
    1. Green Christmas
  25. Face a fear
    1. Heights Part 1: Standing on a cliff's ledge
    2. Heights Part 2: Going up the Space Needle


Just Dance

Sometimes you have friends who just get it. Who understand, who act, and keep you in positive spirits.

Darin, Austin, and Nick, thank you for indulging me in my adventurous side. Thank you for allowing me to talk and ramble and just be in company of great friends.

Amanda, Ryan, Darci, Brendan, and Erin, thank you for dinner, for the company, for the laughter and food, and for the wonderful memories that I have of you all so far.

Sarena and Jenel, you are amazing, wonderful and I'm so glad you understood what I needed from people tonight. Thanks for making me dance with you, for encouraging me, and just being present.

Sol, thanks for the text messages and for calling at the right time and just being there to understand.

All of you helped make the day special and a wonderful way to usher in year number 25. I will work on my just dance moves from now. No more one star only business. Probably need to ask for that for Christmas so I can give my sister back her copy.



Yes it is 12/12/12 today. No I did not post it at 12:12. But did you know I can change the time on my blog to do that?

What you said? You can change time.

Oh yes I have the power. But I don't want to abuse it. I will save that for when I actually need to use it. Posting on my blog doesn't qualify.

Here's a picture of a frog sporting western wear to commemorate the epic occasion of the day.



Dear my last job,

I am done with you. I have been done with you physically for a long time since I no longer work there, but I am done with you totally. I am done letting my failure with you control and dictate my life. I am done believing lies about myself that aren't true - that I'm not good enough, that I'm not dedicated enough, that I'm not talented enough, that I'm not passionate enough. That I'm just not enough. I am going to call them for what they are - lies. Lies meant to tear me down and I will not be believing them any more.

The point is I'm done with letting that one major failure run my life. Time to move on. Oh no, I won't be forgetting what happened any time soon, I'm sure that will stick with me forever, but time to move from the nightmares, from the depression, from the lies, and from crippling effect I wish you still didn't have on me. You can just pack your things and leave.

You may try to bring me down now but I know I'm good enough. I know I'm worthy. I have a God who tells me that when I don't want to listen. I have friends who tell me that when I don't believe. I have family who stands by when I'm surrounded by your arrows. Trust me, your power over me is over. It's time to start living again, and living the way God created me. Living like the person who God created me to be.

Watch out world. A new Melissa is coming. The 25th year is going to be awesome.

And I'm totally going to need reminding of this later and that's why I wrote it down. 


Heart Language

"Sometimes the best thing you can do is just sit with someone who's hurting; you don't have to say anything or offer advice, you just sit there."

- Almost Home by Joan Bauer

Joan Bauer you speak my heart language and know my soul.

Almost Home

"It's not fair, but sometimes a kid has to act older than their age. You just pray hard enough to know what to do."

- Almost Home by Joan Bauer


Lies Are Shot at Me Like Bullets

(written during FUI in July 2010

Lies are shot at me like bullets,
Leaving their holes inside my soul,
Leaving their scars behind, even when the shells are gone
Screaming – I AM A FAILURE!

I wonder, when the disappointment will end?
I hear only hurtful words, replaying on a stuck loop in my mind.
I see the hidden tears masked with shouts.
I want to escape to my own world where the shouts are silenced.

A world with mountains that point to the heavens
And clouds that cool the air.
I am exhausted from the city that never sleeps.
I do not sleep well.

Awaken by heat and sirens
That blaze throughout the night and day.
Those words still blare like sirens in the dark night.
They scream with a child’s pain, who is now screaming at me.

I pretend to have it all together for I must keep up appearances.
Inside I feel frustrated and finished.
The wounds are too deep to hide,
Telling me I should have known what to say.

If I touch something, will it fail?
Why am I not better?
I worry that I have ruined everything.
Hiding in back bedrooms, I cry only in secret.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I understand that I was right.
I was right to set a standard,
To take a stand.
And I say these seemingly meaningless words to make myself feel better.

I dream of cooler weather and tempers,
A life outside this city, a life in the mountains of my mind.
For I need a rest, a shelter from the shooting shells.
I lie still, bleeding, waiting for rescue.

Lies are shot at me like bullets.
Easily believed, easily received,
Leaving gaping wounds behind
Whispering – I am a failure.

I wear a mask too disgusting to wear any longer.
The tears will no longer stay hidden in back bedrooms.
I cannot hide the bullet holes with glitter any more
Can the world see right through me?

When the outside world returns, the tears do not disappear.
They return to their secret places, in dark shadows,
Waiting to pounce on their prey, once the threat has retreated,
Once I am alone.

That is when the lies come and invade.
Like a thief in the night,
Ready to steal what is left of my truth.
What is left of my security.

I lift my eyes up to the hills.
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The maker of heaven and earth.

Will the Lord come and rescue one who is buried
Beneath broken shells of words?
Covered in dark ash,
Cowering in a pit of despair.

For when the lies are shot at me like bullets
I run into a foxhole, a pit of hell,
Praying for protection from the screams and whispers of
I am a failure.

But I waited patiently for the Lord.
What else was I to do?
The Lord turned to me and he heard my cry.
He came to my rescue.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
Out of the mud and mire.
He set my feet on a rock
And gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God.
Now many will see and fear
And put their trust in the Lord.


Pegasus (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am very thankful today for my car, Pegasus*. I have had my car since 2008 and it has been so many places with me. I am grateful I have transportation (especially in today's rainy weather), I am thankful I can travel to places when I just need to get up and go, I am thankful for a stereo that can blast my favorite music (usually a musical) and I can sing along without annoying the neighbors.

*I also name everything I own, so my car's name is Pegasus because I got the nickname Hercules from one of my students. One of my old bible study leader's affectionally called my car "The Beast" because it was so big (although I've been in larger).


Be Still (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am thankful for God's promises in his words. For his comfort, his encouragement, and his covenants that he is who he says he is. I am thankful I can be still (even though it is hard for me to sit still) and know that he is God and that I am not. I am for poetry and words to express what can often feel inexpressible. I am grateful someone else, like David, chose to share his fears, doubts, his worries, his anxieties, his frustrations but always remembered that God is sovereign and God is good.

Psalm 46
God is our refuse and strength, 
a very present help in trouble. 
therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, 
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 
though its waters roar and foam, 
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, 
the holy habitation of the Most High. 
God is in the midst of her, she call not be moved; 
God will help where morning dawns. 
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter, 
he utters his voice, the earth melts. 
The Lord of hosts is with us; 
the God of Jacob is our fortress. 
Come, behold the works of the Lord, 
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; 
he burns the chariots with fire. 
"Be still, and know that I am God. 
I will be exalted among the nations, 
I will be exalted in the earth!" 
The lord of hosts is with us; 
the God of Jacob is our fortress. 


Running (30 Days of Gratitude)

I never thought I would actually say that. I hated running all my life before this year. I had to run a cross country race in both 7th and 8th grade as a part of being on the basketball team and each time I wanted to just fall over and die. Apparently I've moved beyond that and maybe I just miss playing sports, being active. But I've been really grateful for the chance to run in my neighbor and on campus (although I feel like I get the weird looks of why I'm not at the SRC running and I want to have a giant sign that says I'm not a student, ask me more about when I don't run past you and when I'm not out of breath - but that's another story).

I am really thankful that I am actually having motivation to run because it is healthy, obviously, but it helps me feel like I'm doing something. I'm in a season of extreme processing - that means a lot of journaling, thinking, talking, and writing - what it doesn't mean (just yet) is a lot of action. Running helps me feel like I'm going somewhere and that I am doing something. I feel focused and energized and it gives me new spirit and vision when I could easily be bogged down by everything that could be going wrong.

And then I think I should run like Phoebe. "Did you ever run so fast you though your legs were going to fall off, like when you are running to the swings, or running away from Satan... the neighbor's dog."


Burritos and Boats (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am just thankful for an evening of really good conversation over delicious Freebirds burritos with Brendan. It was an amazing conversation that just gave me a lot of faith and hope for the future.

And really funny text messages from Sarena as you can see next to me. I appreciate the Finding Nemo reference.

And Darin beginning to open up and be real with his struggles and the state of life he is in right now. I appreciate his honesty and his willing to begin letting God dig into the deeper parts of his life.

It could have been an exhausting day since I didn't sleep well the past two nights but it was a good day, that was extremely productive personally and ministry wise. It reminded me of why I love doing ministry - to make an impact and influence in student's lives. And I was very much reminded of that today.


Being Sent (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am thankful today for the powerful words that Ben Vail shared with our CSUN students. I am grateful that our students were challenged to live life on campus as one who is sent there rather than one who has been exiled. I am thankful people were challenged to prayer, a vision we have had since the start of the semester - now confirmed. I am grateful because I see a room full of students who are able to make a difference on this campus and are beginning to see themselves as I have always seen them - as world changers and campus changers - people who can make a difference, whose radical love for CSUN, the people and the campus begin to radically bring revival here to the campus.

I am grateful for hope and a future of this campus, for these people, for this fellowship. For a promise to prosper rather than to harm.


Nachitas (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am thankful today for random adventures, goofy antics, laughter, and unexpected superhero ideas. I am grateful for the opportunistic to take what could have been a very difficult day and enjoy it with unexpected friendship moments from Laura and Erin. I am thankful for good food and drink and even new ideas of combining nachos and fajitas (copyright pending). I am thankful for made up words and catch phrases and inside jokes.

Because as I learned in the book, Stand Tall, sometimes we just need to laugh or else we'll cry.


Musicals (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am thankful for musicals. Today has been at home day, which meant a lot of listening to music on my computer. Recently, I've been listening to a lot of musicals. I love them - I love how the writers find a way to express a range of emotions through songs and stories. It puts two of my favorite things together - music and stories into a seamless portal of a particular aspect of life.

My love for musicals may seem silly unless you are one of those people, and I count myself among them, who find musicals as a great way to express emotions and life. I love the variety that I have come to know - Sound of Music to Spring Awakening to Les Miserables to The Scarlet Pimpernel. I am grateful for an empty house and an empty car to sing along loudly without bothering anyone and I grateful that I have really nice headphones to listen to them as well.

It makes me miss the old Cake and Frank days where my sister, Emily, Jane, and I would make delicious desserts and watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers or Kiss Me Kate.

So I am thankful that in a musical anything seems possible. There is singing, for dancing, and for being able to do it an alleyway - even if it seems weird.


Dad and Daughter Dates (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am thankful for the adventures my dad and I took today. We just spend the day hanging out without much thought for where to do go or what to do.

I am thankful for a dad who teaches me the things he knows, whether it be how to properly shoot a gun or how to love people deeply or how to communicate effectively with people.

I am thankful for a dad who blesses me with gifts whether it be a new pair of running shoes or an extra $20 for gas.

I am thankful for a dad who is patient, especially as we sit through dead stop traffic just to go a super late lunch and we know we are both hungry.

I am thankful for a dad who encourages me, whether it be to run that 5K, to follow my heart's desires, to chase after my dreams, or to get the banana split that sounds really delicious.


Family Stories (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am grateful today for family stories. I am grateful we can sit around a table and laugh for hours upon end at the same stories we heard last time we were all together, and a hundred times before that. I am grateful that we are all such good story tellers and love to share our embarrassing moments with each other. I am grateful for the craziness, the laughter, the joy, and the tall tales my family has been telling over the years.

Whether it be the time my mom lit her sweater on fire by reaching over the candle one Thanksgiving, the time I hid in a clothing rack in a store and freaked my mom out, the time my great grandmother pulled off some guy's ear while in a car accident, the time a bear got in the back of my uncle's truck, how my great grandmother changed her name when she was four years old, who later called her husband Bill even though his real name was Owen, how my grandmother was told by her grandmother to move a pile of rocks if ever she said was she was bored (and how my grandma threatened the same to me and my sister), how my uncles had their own file cabinets in the hospital, about the naked man with red shoes that haunted the orange groves near my mother's house, the time I slid through gravel and my mom had to pull the rocks out of my hand, or when I fell face first onto the mall floor and chipped my two front teeth, or even that time I put a bead up my noise and I never found it.

I love my family's stories, they prove we are really crazy and talk way too much.


Days Off (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am thankful for days off of work that allow me to sleep in a little more and spend more time on campus. Usually Fridays I chill in the USU Freudian Sip (they even know who I am now in there and know which table I like), but since this Friday campus is closed for the holiday, I was bummed to miss out on that. This week, they let my office out early so I didn't even have to go in and I got spend all day on campus.

I am even grateful for the chance to hangout in the dorms again and just watch movies. It's been a while since I just chilled in the dorms - brought me back six years. (And I was even mistaken for an actual resident who lived there - of course it was dark in the room so they could only really see my plaid shirt).


Breaking Down Walls (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am thankful that I am in a season where I am letting God tear down some walls in my life. I am thankful for the safe spaces to wrestle with hard questions, for safe people to be around, and that hopefully I will be able to do some swinging.


Minons (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am thankful for my student leaders today. They have joked that they are my "minions" from Despicable Me. They do what I ask but kind of drive me crazy and I don't always understand what they are saying (look up clips on you tube if you've never seen the movie). But they are so much more than that. They are an amazing group of 12 people who are letting Jesus work in their lives in radical ways this year. I don't think I would have asked for any other group this year. They have blessed me in ways I can't describe and have been instrumental in my healing from my brokenness with students in the past. They have helped return to me my confidence in my ability to lead others, they have both encouraged and challenged me, they have made fun of me, they have laughed with me, cried with me, screamed with me, and even go on random adventures with. They are some of my favorite people who I will treasure for ever and keep in my life for a long time.

I am grateful for Amanda who quite literally saves my life when it comes to organizing details and who is willing to give the difficult things in life a second chance.
I am grateful for Anne who came in last minute and immediately jumped into leadership and our vision, who is letting Jesus give her strength and confidence.
I am grateful for Brendan who never wants to settle, never wants anyone else to settle, and is letting his heart heal from the things of the past.
I am grateful for Darci who is open, honest, and vulnerable even in the hardest of times, who seeks after justice and the gospel for all those she knows and those she's never met.
I am grateful for Darin who is willing to step outside of his comfort zone, take risks, and is willing to go where Jesus has called him.
I am grateful for Jenel who is opening herself up to transformation by Jesus, even if that means letting him into the hard places in life and who is seeing God's kingdom with new eyes.
I am grateful for Mark who is open to God changing his world view and who is sensitive those that others may be ignoring.
I am grateful for Miriam who doesn't want people to stay where they are at and who vulnerably shares in order to bring people into her own life and struggles so they may do the same.
I am grateful for Monique who's sensitivity to the Holy Spirit teaches us how to listen and for her desire to see others experience the Lord's grace as well.
I am grateful for Ryan whose musical talent blesses anyone with ears to hear, his laughter is contagious and his heart longs loves all he comes into contact with even those that are different than him.
I am grateful for Sabrena who takes care of those in her midst, providing food or comfort or even challenge to those around her, and for taking risks in new areas.
I am grateful for Sarena who sees all those around her and longs for them to be seen for who they are, and that she is discovering how to use the unique gifts God has given her.


Generosity and Faithfulness (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am thankful that God provides in fundraising. This is an Urbana year, where students from all over the country will be head to St. Louis to learn about God's heart for the cities, the poor, the world, and for mission. We have 15 CSUN students going, which is pretty amazing.

But fundraising has been difficult. I come from Cal Poly, a large fellowship, where we have a specific way of doing fundraising - we rely on big events such as dance parties, potluck dinners, t-shirt fundraisers, etc. Since we have such a large base to get people to participate this, and a wealthier community they all work very well. Let's face it, they have not been working well at CSUN. I attempted to do a t-shirt fundraiser and it was like pulling teeth to get people to participate. A lot of work for not a lot of money.

So I felt God asking me to keep it simple, just ask for the funds. I took two students with me, Mark and Jenel, to my home church Lake Ave to ask a one small group to support us as we head to Urbana in about a month. I didn't give either Mark or Jenel much explanation but they remained faithful, sharing why they wanted to go. I don't think people in the small group were moved by their stories as much as they were moved by the spirit to give.

After making a 10 minute or less announcements, and staying afterwards to talk, we raised $650. I was amazed and blown away by God's provision, in what seemed like no effort. But it wasn't me, or even my students who somehow convinced people to give to us, it was the Lord, who worked in the hearts of people to give so that 15 students may learn more God's heart for the world.


Scones and Wisdom (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am thankful for scones. Carrie Minturn seriously makes the best scones. With her recipe and her natural talent for baking that I have yet to posses (I think I may get when I become a mother), and that every time I've had one I'm about ready to have an emotional break down, they are seriously the best things in the known universe. These are probably my favorite food of all time, the banana chocolate chip ones being my all time favorites. She is a genius.

But not only does she make the best scones on the planet, I am so blessed by her wisdom and her truth. Carrie is a straight shooter but a gracious one at that. She is always imparting on me the wisdom of her years and experience and I hope I can possess some of that as I grow older. She is a wonderful role model to me of what it looks like to be a godly woman, mother, and wife - who not only seeks to love Jesus but to love the city and to strive for justice. I am so thankful I did FUI in 2010 and I got to know her (and benefit from her cooking) and that I can come over to her house and she welcomes me home. Because of her hospitality and love, I have always felt like that house was another place I could call home and feel safe.

And her scones are the best. THE BEST. I am still thinking about them and that says something about how good they are.


People, Places, and Things (30 Days of Gratitude)

Ok, I'm not really thankful for all nouns today, but I just had so much this weekend I need a laundry list of them all:
  • A car to take me to my homes away from home
  • Fresno and it's hidden beauty 
  • Local flavor of Fresno Brewing Company, Estrella Bakery, and Pho 75#2
  • Pho and egg rolls 
  • Pan Dulce and cute four year olds who flirt with you
  • Delicious beer and the glasses they come in 
  • Sitting with children while they tell you how to color
  • Being buried in pillows 
  • Friendships both new and old
  • Wisdom of those older than me 
  • Hard hitting truths 
  • Late night conversations and many Friends references
  • The purple room and my other bed 
  • Twinship 


Be There

I was sent this blog post, Journeying Together, by a dear friend of mine.

Silence isn't awkward all the time. Sometimes you just want to sit with a friend and not talk about the things that are bothering you. Sometimes all you need is for them to be with you in the pain, in the frustration, in the confusion, and in the messiness, knowing that there has to be no words. No scripture, no quick thought, no problem solving, no questions, because there are no easy answers. Because sometimes, "I know, all that is required of me is to be there."

Rest (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am thankful for the chance to rest, to relax. I had a meeting cancelled today and it meant that I got to spend the day at home. It was the perfect day to rest at home, cloudy and overcast, allowing me to curl up in my pajamas and catch up on missed tv shows. It's the kind of day you listen to Norah Jones while drinking hot tea and reading a good book or journal. The kind of day where even though you are in sweats the whole day, you feel surprisingly productive. I love those days.


Questions (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am known to ask a lot of questions - you know those hard questions that you don't want to answer but you have been thinking about for a while. I picked up the skill from my old InterVarsity staff workers who would often do this to me. Then add in the two summer projects and I learned how to pull all these out of my hat for any situation.

But today I am thankful for them being used on me. There aren't that many people I have found who are brave enough to ask those tough questions - that get at the heart of what you really feel or what you are really wrestling with Jesus. I am thankful for the bravery of my friends and even my students to look me in the eye, call me out or ask me the hard truths I'm avoiding dealing with. It is needed in discipleship and friendship - for both to be vulnerable and for both to take risks.

I wish I could say I came to good answers by the end of the day but all I came away with is that there is a lot I need to wrestle and bring to Jesus and that will take some time. Answers come later I suppose.


Unexpected Dinners Part 2 (30 Days of Gratitude)

To keep with the food theme here from yesterday - had another day where I was unexpectedly fed. I was actually home this evening and my roommate told me she was making quesadillas. That was a blessing because I wasn't sure what I was going to be making tonight and I wasn't in the mood to cook anyway.

Clearly the way to my heart is through my stomach.


Unexpected Dinners (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today is simple. I was hungry and I was surprisingly fed. I am very grateful that the girl's house had extra chili for me to eat tonight. I didn't have to make dinner or buy it and that was a victory for the day.


"Senior Buddies" (30 Days of Gratitude)

When I did theater my freshman year of high school, I never would have imagined I would still be still be friends with the seniors I met then. As a young freshman I counted it as a privilege to be accepted by seniors but I never thought I would still be friends with them long past high school and even college.

It was some of those seniors who took me out my 21st birthday for my first drink (although they insisted it was not possible for me to be 21). It was those seniors who have supported me financially in InterVarsity. And now it is those seniors who I consider to be my dear friends, older and wiser and such a wonderful influence on my life. I have been blessed to know them for almost ten years now, and that we are still friends to this day.

Meg and Kathy - you are amazing and wonderful women of God whom I am blessed to have in my life. Thank you for the advice, the support, and your friendship over the years.


Prayers (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am simply thankful for prayer today. After a long, stressful, and tiring week, I was approaching burn out but an entire conference lay before me. It was not one to simply complete, but to remain present and active for. I simply did not feel I had the energy to finish it out well.

But I am thankful for the people in my new InterVarsity family being willing to listen. I turned to Enrique, one of our older staff, and just expressed I didn't want to be here. He looked at me and simply offered to pray for me and for the day. I know the reason I made it through the day without crying or checking out or falling asleep is Enrique's morning prayer.

Thank you.


Happiness (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today was the second time in a few weeks I've been told how much happier I look. This is a big deal for people to say this to me. One year ago I was a teacher at a middle school and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I quit back in February for a multitude of reasons and it has been a long and ongoing journey to recover from what I went through there.

But I am thankful that job is over. I am thankful to be free from the disfunction and the torment. I am thankful I have a job I love, even though it is far from easy. I am thankful I can wake up every morning and the biggest success of the day was not getting out of bed. I am thankful for having the life back in me and for the joy returning to my soul. And I am thankful people are noticing how much happier I do look.

Yes, working for InterVarsity as intern staff is not an easy job by far, but it is a challenge I look forward to and I know I can grow from. I am thankful I have been given a chance to not just be redeemed from the brokenness of the year but to heal and thrive into something better.


Beer and Wax Seals (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am pulling double duty on the thankfulness.

First off, I am so thankful that I got to spend time with my old college roommate, Nicole. I lived with her for most of college and we first met way back in the day during our freshman bible study. She is a friend I will treasure forever, who has been there for me through a lot rough times, and has really seen me grow from the stubborn little butt headed freshman, to a less stubborn, and slightly less butt headed adult (ok, I have seriously grown up, I promise). I enjoyed so much that she was in town for a presentation and we got to enjoy a beer together, reminding of the good days in SLO where we'd talk over a pint at Spike's.

Secondly, I was sincerely blessed by a wonderful surprise present from two of my students, Amanda and Jenel. I have been in a letter writing mood for the past month and I made a brief comment of how I wished for a wax seal to seal my envelopes with. Several days later, Amanda brings me a present of a my very one wax seal, with the letter "M" on it, for no reason other than to bless me with a gift. I am so thankful for their thoughtfulness and listening to me when I suppose I ramble. It not only touched me to receive a gift out of the blue, but one so personal and unique to me, it only made me feel more seen by my students.

At this point, I can no longer admit I am not seen by my own students (sense a theme here). I have no evidence to back that up anymore. And when I forget, I am thankful I have written this down to remember. And I can mail myself a letter and seal it with my stamp! (To say I'm excited to have this gift is an understatement - I'm completely nerding out about it, it's like an English major's dream come true).


Challenge (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am thankful for Sarena. I thought long and hard about this post because I know Sarena doesn't like to be in the spotlight a lot. But I am very, very grateful that she is on my leadership team. She is a leader who is taking a lot of risks this year, from leading a bible study to opening herself up and being vulnerable with new people, to showing people her emotional side. She is dedicated at everything she does. But more than that, Sarena challenged me last night while we were talking in two specific ways.

One, Sarena challenged me with seeing people. As you might have figured out by now, I struggle with feeling seen by others but I can easily fall into the trap of focusing all on myself (not that hard of a trap to fall into if I am completely honest). But Sarena, unknowingly challenged me to see the others in our leadership team, in our fellowship, or even right in front of me. I had, in fact, not been seeing a lot of people because I was so focused on making sure I got seen. I don't feel guilty but challenged to take steps outside of the lie that life is a story about me.

Secondly, Sarena challenged me in giving praise to others. I always saw myself as one who gives praise well because I have a way with words. As I spoke my standard praises (that I'll admit I have recycled over time) she told it was great to hear but it didn't mean much if she didn't know to what it applied. So I had to make sure I meant what I said when I told her of her value and worth by giving examples. She challenged me to be honest and genuine and not just give praise to make people feel better or stop crying to but to build and encourage.

It is difficult to be challenged and called out by the people you lead, but all together necessary. I am so grateful it was done with grace and forgiveness.


Upside Down Kingdom (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am thankful I have a right to vote. I am thankful I my voice is not silenced. I am thankful, as a woman, my voice can be heard. But I live in a broken world, with broken rulers and kings, leading broken people. I am thankful I serve someone greater than any president.

I am thankful that I am more than just an American citizen, a part of a country and a state but a part of an upside down kingdom. I am thankful, no matter who the future president is - a good one, a bad one, one I agree with or not, republican or democrat or neither, man or woman, ultimately they are not the one I serve. I serve a peasant king, a carpenter who was homeless during his ministry, who challenged us with a new way of thinking and living, who did what he preached, and who died on a cross so that others might be saved.

I am grateful to be a part of a kingdom that seeks to serve rather than to gain, seeks to feed rather than to take, and longs to see revival, even if it comes at personal cost. I am thankful I serve a God who is perfect and good, who's love and mercy will outlast any ruler here on earth. I am thankful to this God who knows my name and my inmost being. I am thankful that with him, I am never alone. I am grateful there is grace and whomever our countries leader is, I know they will fail us sometimes. They will succeed at others, but the King I serve never fails, he always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always preservers.


Wombats (30 Days of Gratitude)

I didn't think I would be saying this but today I am most thankful for Ryan Whyman. (Don't let it get to your head man) but let me tell you what I appreciate it most about him.

Ryan has a unique ability to see people in the small ways, especially women. I have seen him compliment women about the smallest things - their clothing, new hair styles, any the other small things that women especially want people to notice. And somehow he does it in a way you know he is saying it as your brother and friend and not anything more. It is rare and unique gift that he doesn't realize how amazing it is. During a difficult day today Ryan just gave me a hug and told me he liked my scarf. Sometimes that's all I need is a hug and a compliment with no questions. So I appreciate his sincerity in compliments and care.

Even though I've never called him such, one of his nicknames is Wombat. I prefer Rhianna Whywoman but that is a whole other story for another time.


Seen (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am very thankful for my students. It was a difficult week, and Saturday was the hardest day to come. Today, the exhaustion hit me and I was burned out and done. I cancelled our leadership meeting and just invited students over to dinner, for when I don't know else to during chaotic times, I stay busy. As we ate, my leaders shared vulnerably about their difficult weeks and I sat there, wanting to stay silent. This was my burden, my struggle, and I didn't want them to have to bear any of my burdens - they didn't need to shoulder that responsibility. I cared for them too much to add any more burdens to their own.

But one student told me we were meant to share our burdens with each other, so I shared my stories. I shared the deep wounds from the past when it came to supervisors and how that invaded my present, I shared the overwhelming loneliness I feel being the only staff here, and I shared how I didn't feel safe to fall apart anywhere. I was afraid to share because I didn't know how this would be received. Many times when I share personally, people just don't know what to do with it, especially when I share with those I have authority over. I feared what I shared, however personal, would be left hanging in the room still when everyone left.

But my students chose to stay with me. They stayed two hours past when they had anticipated leaving. They cleaned my dishes and put away the food, despite my insistence I could do it. For I knew they had homework and the like to do at home I didn't want to keep them there. I also don't handle being taken care of well since it implies I cannot do something on my own.

When I said they could just go home and I would finish the clean up one student, Jenel, looked at me and said, "Melissa this is how you are being seen. I know it may not be the best way or the way you want it, but let us see you and accept that." I was overwhelmed by her maturity and challenge. She not only voiced that my students did in fact see me but I was not letting myself realize it. She recognized my past hurt of feeling ignored and my present pride to be independent. By the end of the night my heart was full and I felt seen and acknowledged by my leaders in a way I had never felt before. It was a great moment to see the growing depth of my leaders and their willingness to sacrifice for others, and for myself to let myself be taken care of and poured into by those I serve.


Redemption (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am thankful for Tom Allen, our regional direction (essentially my boss's boss). After my time in teaching I have a really hard time receiving written (and even sometimes verbal) feedback. I know how important it is but since I was so used to receiving negative reviews that almost cut to the core of who I was, every time I receive an "evaluation" I start to panic. I am thankful for Tom Allen's gracious words of wisdom, where there were no negatives, only areas of improvement, and he began by finding serious positives in the talk I gave. I am grateful even God is beginning to redeem every aspect of my life - from giving me students who actually listen when I talk and what to engage with what I have for them, with supervisors who care about my own personal well being, and with evaluators who look what what I actually do well and give suggestions in order to help me improve, knowing I am already faithful to do a good job.


Adventures (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am thankful for adventures. I am grateful I get to share part of my history and life with my students, something I never got to do with my friends at Cal Poly. I am thankful for their adventuring spirit and reminding me to embrace life and enjoy the light hearted moments.


Gemela (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am thankful for my twin, Sol. I miss her like crazy and it hurts sometimes that we are in cities so far apart. But I am thankful she knows me so well. I am thankful she understands when I don't speak it's because my emotions are so deep no words are appropriate, I can slip in and out of our fake accent and it never phases her, and sometimes it is good enough to quote endless lines from Friends on the phone. I'm thankful we wrestle with the hard issues most people won't touch. I'm thankful she is not white and brings me into her culture gracefully and gently. I am grateful she is finding herself and bringing me along the journey.

Her trust and her friendship are something I never thought I would have growing up and I never expected to get. It was a pure gift from God and shows even spending six weeks with a friend can be enough to solidify your friendship for a lifetime. I am excited for the adventures to come in our friendship.

30 Days of Gratitude

Back in January I did a blog series about Joy Dare from the book One Thousand Gifts (which I still need to read, Mom, and you have the book). It was an interesting experience because the month itself was one of the hardest months I've been through and it was a challenge every day to find Joy in a lot of pain and suffering  I was ultimately rewarded by the experience because Joy is more than a feeling, it's a choice to have joy during the hardest of times.

I believe thankfulness is the same way. I've never been fond of the holiday that appears every November because I really don't like Turkey and we never seemed to be very thankful, except for perhaps the couple of hours before dinner. 

As I learn about myself in the recent years, I find I am a not a very positive person. I won't ever be super bubbly, and I am ok with that, but I want to grow in my genuine thankfulness at the wonderful things my life has. I find it a challenge to be thankful because I find I come off insincere and fake sometimes. But this month, I am going to blog every day, about what I am thankful, even if the day was hard and difficult, even if I don't want to, and even if I have to say I'm thankful I got out of bed, I still will be faithful to be thankful. 


Dear Friend

Dear friend,

I thank you for your honesty, vulnerability, and willingness to put pen to paper. I wish sometimes I had your bravery and your positivity to live life to it's fullest - to take risks, jump straight into the deep end, and laugh the whole way there. I am forever inspired by you and I don't tell you enough. I feel lame writing this in my blog rather than to you in person but it feels more raw to share this with whoever is listening. May I continued not to be stuck in my past but rejoice in my present.

I miss you and I love you.


Reasons Why I Love My Job

  • My typical work attire is jeans, t-shirt, and converse. 
  • I get to have late conversations in the middle of a parking lot outside of Boba Loca
  • I get the opportunity to bake for my students without fear of allergies, health restrictions, and school policies 
  • I am called Monte again. No more of this Ms. Montecuollo. 
  • I get to see students stretched out of their comfort zones and take risks. 
  • I get to see Jesus and the Holy Spirit move on campus. 
  • I get to be at the forefront of change and transition (the good kind). 
  • I wake up at 8 am. Believe me, this is a blessing when my previous job had me up at 5:30 am. 
  • I get to ride a scooter onto campus. 
  • Did I mention the part about the scooter, oh yes - it's awesome. 



My love for Northridge, for CSUN, and even for ministry is growing exponentially. All the difficult things that can seem overwhelming just melt when I remember how much I actually love my job. I never thought I would say that. After a year of pain, struggle, frustration, and exhaustion I never thought I would come to a place where I actually love what I do. After a year of feeling unseen, unheard, forgotten, left out, alone, betrayed, a failure - now I feel that no matter what I feel, Jesus actually is in the hardship with me. Because let's face it, I still feel those things sometimes but they no longer over take me.

In short, I just love my job, my city, and my students.

I love that the people I work with have a passion for Jesus. 
I love that the students want to be bold and take risks, even when it makes them feel uncomfortable. 
I love that my students are no longer satisfied with a "cardboard Jesus" faith, and want more. 
I love that my students engage with the Holy Spirit. And even when they don't, they ask themselves "why not" and they sit in the tension of that. 
I love that my students care for the needs of their friends around, even putting others before themselves. 
I love that my students listen - not just to me, but to each other, to their friends, to the Holy Spirit. 
I love that my students speak out against injustice and it breaks their hearts to see others in pain. 

I must be eating my words when I said I would never do InterVarsity Staff. I won't say I will never do stuff again, because it can be just the thing that is the most life giving. 



One of the disadvantages of our globalized community is that your best friend may life almost 300 miles away.

Why Jesus would you draw us so closely to cities that are so far apart?



"According to Madam Pomfrey, thoughts could leave deeper scaring than than almost anything else..."

- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


Asking for More

"I think the fear of God failing us leads us to 'cover for God.' This means we ask for less, expect less, and are satisfied with less because we are afraid to ask for or expect more." - Francis Chan

I decided to read the book Forgotten God by Francis Chan. I am always a small bit hesitant to read Francis Chan because he writes particularly to an audience who needs to be challenged out of their upper/middle class luxury faith bubble, one I've already been broken out of (mostly) from InterVarsity. In a nutshell he writes a lot of stuff I already know.

But this book held a lot of surprises. Including the quote above. I've been thinking about it for a while, especially since the InterVarsity Fellowship at CSUN decided to create the goals of tripling our fellowship by the end of the year. When I told people about this I got mixed feedback. Many suggested I was reaching too high, shouldn't I set a lower goal, what if it didn't happen, we can't be thinking about just numbers, this isn't Cal Poly anymore... etc. etc. 

Our original goals were make small steps - going from a 50 person average fellowship to 75. That gives God very, very little room to work. In fact I bet anyone I can get 25 more people to come to our fellowship on our own without much help from the Holy Spirit. I don't really need to pray a lot, and I don't need to expect a lot from God. And that was the problem with our goal. It didn't have any expectation God would come through, so I decided to settle for less.

And now I'm challenged to expect more. It's tough because ringing my mind are the questions: What if God doesn't come through with this? What if we never get to 150 people in our fellowship? It is ultimately scary to ask for more. It is terrifying because I have no control now if this works or not. I can be faithful, step up and pray. Invite people. Help make our large group more welcoming. Train our leaders. But at the end of the day that won't give us 100 more committed members. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

I'm getting tired of "covering for God." He is a pretty bad ass dude so why did I ever think I needed to cover for him the first place. I'm a pretty weak person as it is and I feel like my life has been a lot of settling for less because I'm too scared to ask God for more. My prayer is as we step up in faith for the big dreams and big goals, the Holy Spirit will meet them. We will be transformed because we pray a lot and learn to listen to the Holy Spirit. And if our numbers aren't what we expected at the end of the year, we will praise the Lord for the people he brought into our lives and the transformation in our own selves through this experience. 

And Jesus please remind me of this when I groan and complain this is too hard, I'm not seeing enough growth, and I'm when I'm generally just being a pain in the ass and willing to settle for less. 


25 in 25: Draft 2

So when I turn 25 in - what is it - 3 months or so, I will have one year to do 25 different challenges. Here is the sort of final list.
  1. Read 30 new books (I did 25 this year, or well I'm working on it, so I'm upping the goal
  2. Visit 25 new places (Need new ideas for road trips)
  3. Meet 25 new people that are not work related (I need to know their name, where they are from and where they are going. Bonus if I get a picture with them. Double bonus if I stay in contact with them) 
  4. Lose 25 lbs (or more, but we'll start with that)
  5. Get rid of 25 things that I don't need (yeah like the 25 lbs... ok 25 other things)
  6. Actually try 25 things on pintrest (seriously, I still haven't done one yet?) 
  7. Write 25 handwritten letters (not cursive though - still printed
  8. Learn to cook 25 new dishes 
  9. Give 25 gifts that are each under $1 
  10. Physically record 25 family stories (we will see if I can get some truthful ones out of may family)
  11. Give up 4 bad habits  
  12. Blog once a week (and not like a sentence, a good decent blog post here)
  13. Learn to drive a stick shift (So I can participate in a future Fast and the Furious movie)
  14. Get coffee/tea/ice cream with 25 old friends 
  15. Make 5 things from scratch (clothing, furniture, a cake, etc.)  
  16. Create a piece of art to frame (not writing or photography
  17. Learn a new skill (maybe more than one)
  18. Begin to learn another language 
  19. Write something to be published
  20. Spend 25 hours volunteering (InterVarsity does not count)
  21. Write a song (like Shannon is a Hip Trendy Ninja... ok maybe a serious song?)
  22. Watch 10 classic movies I can't believe I haven't seen yet
  23. Go out dancing at least once (I may need company on that one
  24. Memorize 25 passages of scripture (how long? well more than "Jesus wept")
  25. Go hiking once a month (or at least really long walking
Thoughts? I'm still thinking through them but by the time December rolls around, I will have a pretty good list created.


Who Are You

"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."

- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


In the Neighborhood

Three years ago at Urbana 09 we talked about how Jesus "dwelled among us." He lived incarnationaly on earth to dwell among his people he ministered to. He lived with them, as them, and lived, breathed, and felt their struggles and pain.

I claim that's what I want to do. I claim I want to live "incarnationaly." But until I follow through with that, I am just throwing out fancy, hip Christian words to seem relevant. My claims and beliefs get put to the test very quickly.

Living intentionally "in the neighbored" is not easy. Living intentionally in a place of lower income to be with those you want to serve and learn from isn't glamorous. It can mean having to deal with shitty parking situations. It can mean having air conditioning in only room. It can mean having bugs in the apartment. It isn't the prettiest or easiest thing to.

My initial reaction to get out when things get hard. To return to my safe bubble, to return to what is easy.

But life wasn't easy for Jesus. He was fully God and fully man. He endured pain, hunger, thirst, loneliness, suffering just like any human when he didn't have to. When he was on the cross, he could have just as easily come down and said "ENOUGH! It's not worth this."

But he didn't. To Jesus, it was TOTALLY worth it. It was worth enduring all the pain, the fear, the suffering to be with his people again. It gives me hope that living this counter-cultural lifestyle of living among the least of these will be and currently is totally worth it. It gives me hope to keep pushing through the things which are difficult, the heat, the bugs, and the people who don't understand. It gives me hope I can sacrifice some comfortability so that someone could hear the gospel. I mean isn't that what Jesus did?


The 12 of London 12

Currently I am deep within experiencing Olympics withdrawals. I wish the Olympics were more than every two years. I love the Olympics, I mean love them (we are talking borderline obsessed in a good way). I do enjoy the Winter Games but I think I love the summer games more. It could be that it is the time of year, or I understand more sports (seriously what is up the ski and then shoot sport?)

What I love most are the stories. I love the stories of the human heart and spirit. I love the passion, the hard work, overcoming the odds and the joys of seeing your life's work rewarded often in a single moment. It brings humanity just a little bit closer to each other. For just a moment we set aside our arguments and our fights and cheer on our athletes - some from our country, some from our homeland, some we've never been to but inspire us nonetheless. And these were my 12 favorite stories of the London 2012 games.

12.  Dannell Leyva (Gymnastics USA) wins the bronze in the all around men's competition. Sometimes earning the bronze medal is just as amazing as winning the gold.

11. Claressa Shields and Marlen Esparza (Boxing USA) winning a gold and a bronze medal (respectively) in woman's boxing. She is one of two USA women to medal in boxing, and both have become the first to earn any medal for the US woman's team. This Latina woman had to make it in a clearly defined man's sport to succeed.

10. Kirani James (Track Grenada) He is the first person to winy ANY medal for his country. And he does it with a gold. He will be just as famous if not more famous in Grenada as Michael Phelps is in the USA.

9. Missy Franklin (Swimming USA). Winner of four gold medals. Humble throughout but still kicking serious butt. And the girl is only 17. I think we will be chanting her name in Rio 2016.

8.  Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani (Tack and Field Saudi Arabia and Wrestling Saudi Arabia) The first women to ever compete for the country of Saudi Arabia. These women are breaking barriers for their country and as a woman I am proud. Their presence at these games brings us closer towards equality and recognition of women. Because of them, and many other women, every country present at the games had a female athlete representing them.

7. Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh (Beach Volleyball USA) They weren't going to come back this year. They faced injuries and having babies, and other things but in the end they decided to give it one last go. They lost one match in all the Olympic games and won their third gold medal. It feels like the end of an era but they were huge in making beach volleyball a name sport along the limes of track and field, swimming, and gymnastics.

6. McKayla Maroney (Gymnastics USA) silver medal in vault final. Vault routine elevates her to extreme badass. For the team final she completely stuck the landing on one of the hardest female vaults done on the game. In the vault final she landed on her ass in the second vault and she still won a silver medal. Not only did that start the hilarious (and she finds it funny just as well) "McKayla Maroney is not impressed" Internet sensation, but worked her way up into the bad-assess of the Olympics.

5. Usain Bolt (Track and Field Jamaica) The fastest man alive. Possibly the fastest man ever. He defended is title in the 100m race and won the 200m race. This guy is a legend.

4. Gabby Douglas (Gymnastics USA) She is the second American to win both the All Around and the Team Gold. She is the third American in a row to win the All Around gold. And she is the first African American to do it all. And she did it practically smiling the whole time.

3. Oscar Pistorius (Track South Africa) The first amputee to be allowed to compete in the standard Olympics. Even though he didn't medal at his events in these Olympics, he made history just as much as Michael Phelps.

2. Michael Phelps (Swimming USA) Most decorated Olympian ever. What else should I say about the world's greatest Olympic Athlete. Probably ever. (He is even mentioned twice in this blog post alone). 22 medals. 3 Olympics. Epic man. Legendary man. He and Usain Bolt should start a club of awesomeness.

1. Kayla Harrison (Judo USA) I don't think you can not hear her story and be reduced to a puddle of tears. She almost quit after being abused by her coach. In the midst of the trust issue, the pain, the brokenness, and the shame - she came back and fought back. And it was she who won America's first ever Olympic gold medal in Judo. I think I am the most proud to see her be an Olympic champion.



"A child's voice, however honest and true, is meaningless to those who've forgotten how to listen."

- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 


Being Small in a Big World

Up until the Olympics I felt like I was a pretty big deal in life. I mean, I'm awesome right? I tweet, I use instragram, I have almost 800 friends on Facebook. I blog and even have my own Photography website (which has their own Facebook page). People know me, and (as far as I can tell) they really like me.

Then I watched the Olympics. I saw athlete after athlete compete, their faces plastered on television. Gabby Douglas has become an instant star in the US. Michael Phelps will probably get his own statue any day now. These stars have thousands of twitter followers and fans, parsing and loving them and it hits me.

I am not a big deal. I have no gold medal. I am not an Olympic athlete. I quit basketball in the 11th grade. I don't even have a championship trophy for any sport. I was no pulitzer prize, no professional academic awards, not even a published piece of work out there for people to see. My Facebook friends don't fawn over my status updates and I don't get praise from them. And I am pretty sure only like five people read this blog anyway (my mom being one of them). Unlike Ron Burgundy, I am not a big deal.

This doesn't mean I sit around and feel bad for myself. I don't feel bad about myself at all. I give 100% to all I do whether it be participating in the office Olympics or cleaning my bedroom. It doesn't mean I can't make different in our big world. (Yes, even one person can make a huge difference in our world).

But with that said, I till am a very small deal in the scheme of things. I am just one person, who lives in a regular city in one part of our earth. I live in just a small section of our very giant world and universe. And that is ok. It is more than ok - it is great. The biggest lie I often content with is life is a story about me. While I may let myself believe the world revolves around me and my problems and my issues and my frustrations and my joys, that is so far from the truth. I am just one part of the grander narrative of life.

I think that is why I like the Olympics. It reminds me I am just a small part of the story. Doesn't mean I am not insignificant to where I am at but I am not the end all, greatest, captain awesome, person every to exist. There are so many people who are doing amazing things - bringing pride to their countries, breaking barriers and walls down, pushing through misconceptions and misunderstandings, and bringing joy to people even as small as I am.


The Nor Cal Adventure

This summer has been the summer of travel. Here are the Instragram Photos from the Nor Cal portion of this summer adventures.

Red Rock Canyons in the 395.

Mammouth Mountains in the distance.

Walker Burger. I went there when I was 6 or 7 and it was amazing to return.

Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe.

The best find of the weekend: The Blue Angel Cafe in South Lake Tahoe.

My mom and I - practice travelers. 

Frozen hot cholocate or Sierradipenity.

Nicole and Chris's Beach wedding.

True Love.

The "bridge" on Emerald Bay

Visiting friends from what feels long ago. 

The Bay Bridge of terror. 

Golden Gate in sun for once. 

The view of San Francisco. 

Our drive home on the 5. Bleh.