Fresno (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am thankful for the city of Fresno and all that I have seen, heard, and learned from this city. It was here in 2007, when I attended the Fresno Urban Internship where I learned about God's heart for the poor, to fight injustice, his love for the city. It was in this city where God began a work in me to purse reconciliation on all levels. It was in this city where I learned so much of who I was, who God is, and how to love others. It was in this city in 2010 where I met my best friend and twin, Sol. It was through the things I learned here that propelled me to come on InterVarsity staff.

I owe much of who I have grown to be over the past six and half years because I first came to this city in a hot summer in 2007. And I will be eternally grateful.


Gratitude Snorkel #4 (30 Days of Gratitude)

Spending time in Fresno has been the best thing of my week. I'm so grateful to be here in my other home and with my best friend. Many of the other things I'm grateful for this week are:
  • Days off of work 
  • Lunch adventures with Coral and Jenel and plotting to sing karaoke at Islands 
  • CD's and music to drive to during traffic  
  • Pho, singing in the rain, beer, and the twin
  • Chicken instead of Turkey for Thanksgiving dinner
  • Successfully making our own Thanksgiving dinner for the first time
  • Eating Thanksgiving leftovers 
  • Relaxing to fun movies and TV shows 
  • Sleeping in 
  • Visiting my favorite places - Teazers, Peeve's, and more 
  • Photography, golden hour, and fallen leaves
  • "Lake Side Story" - seeing a goose turf war in action (and the hilarity that ensued) 
  • Spending lots of quality time with my best friend


Friendsgiving (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am thankful for a Friendsgiving - complete with early morning grocery store run, pan dulce, watching Friends, cooking a delicious chicken with mac and cheese, stuffing, and potatoes, spending time with the Twin, and enjoying one of my favorite cities.

Listening to 90's music while we cook, enjoying each other's company, enjoying the fruits of our labor and now watching Pitch Perfect after a post-food coma deliciousness.

I'm thankful for food, friendship, and fun.


Dad (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today is my dad's birthday so today I am thankful for my dad.

I'm thankful for a dad, who despite his mistakes, has always loved both me and my sister. I'm thankful for a dad who was around, who did want to be a part of my life, and who didn't leave us forever. I'm thankful for a dad who puts his daughters above everyone else and who would do anything for them.

I'm thankful for what my dad has taught me - how to open my home and my life to others, how to be devoted to a job and a passion, how to bring others together over food, and how to give of yourself to others around you.

I love you dad. Happy birthday.


Change (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am currently filling out InterVarsity's full time staff application. The thing is a beast but what I am finding as I fill it out is how much I have changed in just one year. I filled out the application a year ago and I was encouraged to fill it out all over again because a lot has happened in this past year.

As I look at last year's responses, it is evident that God has done amazing work in the past year of my life. Of course it has not been an easy one. There was a lot of hard conversations, a lot of challenges but all that was for healing of some very broken areas in my life. God was growing my faith, my trust in him, my intimacy with him through all the tears, the challenges, the encouragements, the laughter, and the thousands of other little things. I am a different person than I was a year ago - in a good way. I'm stepping more into myself but stepping more into who Jesus is. Jesus is still transforming me, the work he began years ago when I started college, and even before then. And he is faithful to carry that work until completion.

Left - 2012, Right - 2013
Look at how much better I look in 2013... running must have paid off or something. ;) 


Thanksgiving Potluck (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am thankful for a plethora of delicious food, eating with old friends, making new friends, playing insanely awesome games, laughter, fun, and insanity - as you can see from the pictures of our 3rd Annual InterVarsity Thanksgiving Potluck.


Breakthrough (30 Days of Gratitude)

There was a time in my life, years ago, when I thought I would never recover from the pain of quitting my teaching job. There was a time when I thought I would never shed the identity of a failure, of a quitter, of a mistake. There was a time when I thought I would never be good enough to do anything right again. Those times were seasons of incredible and overwhelming breakdown. It was a time filled with fear and pain and a struggle to find where was Jesus in the mess.

Jesus meets us always in the mess of our breakdowns. Always. In Mark 9 the disciples attempt to cast out a demon from a boy plagued by the spirit since he was a young child. They were unable to do so which caused the disciples to breakdown and fall apart. They argued with the crowd, they were afraid, they were confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed because something they were supposed to do - they couldn't. In short they felt like failures. Jesus heals the boy, restores him to his own self, and brings restoration to this family. But the disciples are left wondering - "why couldn't we cast it out?"

I identify with this disciples in this passage because I have often asked - "why couldn't I make it as a teacher?" I was a full time teacher for only 7 months before quitting and there are times when the remnants of shame remain. Immediately after quitting I sought prayer to be healed from the painful experiences during and the after effects of quitting. While I have not remained overpowered or overtaken by the shame, there are times when it returns. There are times when the shame of having quit something because I was not good enough to complete it sneaks its way into my vulnerable heart and mind. There are times when I let the enemy's lies about myself take root in my heart. 

And it happened yesterday when I returned to the city I used to teach in. I didn't even stop in the city, I merely drove through it but all the feelings of powerlessness, of shame, of fear, of pain, of judgement, of failures, of insecurities came flooding back so it was like feeling them in full all over again. It was like being hit by a truck of emotion and I had no idea it would be so powerful. I was afraid and ready to breakdown all over again. But Jesus began to meet me. As I felt the lies, I could hear Jesus affirming his truth in my heart at the same time. Jesus reminded me of the hope, of the the truth, of the promise that relying on him can bring. 

For the disciples Jesus wanted to meet them and do the same - bring breakthrough. Jesus said that kind of spirit could only be cast out through prayer - only through a consistent and intimate relationship with the father could that kind of demon be cast out. There is hope for a breakthrough of intimacy between Jesus and the disciples as they being to see that not through their own power and strength do they perform miracles, but through a reliance on the father. 

With Jesus there is hope. With Jesus there is not breakdown but breakthrough. There is hope for any who are weary and tired of the breakdowns that Jesus will rush to us and meet us with breakthrough.  When we let our old selves breakdown - our pride, our fears, our baggage, our pain, the stuff we are holding onto - when we empty ourselves of it all, Jesus will rush to fill it with himself, with his power, with his spirit so God can do an amazing work through us. 

I am thankful breakdowns lead us to Jesus. I am grateful Jesus is always waiting, always ready to embrace us and usher me into breakthrough, into peace, hope, power, community, and intimacy with him. I thankful painful situations are always used for God's glory - even if we have no idea how that will happen. I'm thankful that when I forget this, when I feel overwhelmed by the breakdown, that friends, pastors (Devon - I mean you), and scripture will remind me of the faithfulness of our God. Because as we let our selves breakdown, Jesus begins to breakthrough - like light bursting forth from the darkness and nothing can thus contain it. 


Clear Skies (30 Day of Gratitude)

Thankful for cooler weather, days that feel like fall, warm jackets and scarves, clear skies after rainy days, and beautiful sunsets.


Gratitude Snorkel #3 (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today was one of those rough days. Those kind of days that as soon as you wake up, you know they just aren't going to be easy. Started with my car not working and then a lot of discouragement and disappointment followed. Coupled with a hard few days previously and a night previous of poor sleep and the last thing I wanted to do was say what I was thankful for.

But gratitude is a choice. Being joyful is not a feeling or emotion, it's a choice to see the beauty in ugly, to see the whole in the broken. So today I share what I am grateful for, knowing it hasn't been easy but that's ok.

So this week I am also grateful for:
  • Yogurtland Adventures with Rachel and the laughter that always comes when are together
  • Running 3 miles at a new personal best (under 38 minutes)
  • Delicious pho, egg rolls, thai tea, and frozen yogurt. Yum! 
  • Listening to rain fall outside my window
  • Friends who let me borrow their cars when mine dies
  • Seeing the vast sunshine driving from one place to another
  • Heaters that use gas instead of electric (because we don't pay for gas at our apartment)
  • Dinner and a fun movie to relax to
  • Laughter and jokes
  • Anything pumpkin related (ice cream, cupcakes, muffins, cookies, etc.) 
  • Brainstorming ideas for photoshoots and books 
  • Will Smith - enough said 


Twenty Things We Should Say More Often (30 Days of Gratitude)

Thanks Kid President for sharing the things we should all say more. I whole heartedly agree with number 18.

20. Thank you
19. Excuse me
18. Here's a surprise corn dog I bought you because you're my friend
17. I'm sorry
16. I forgive you
15. You can do it!
14. I have barbecue sauce on my shirt too
13. Please
12. Everything is going to be ok
11. Aww.. you got me a corn dog too! You shouldn't have buddy 
10. I don't know
9. You're so awesome...
8. Hello person I've never met before. Here's a hi-five!
7. My sports team is not always the best sports team
6. *nothing*
5. .... (hehe I will let you watch this one)
4. I disagree with you but, I still like you as a person who is a human being and I will treat you like that because if I didn't it would make everything bad and that's what lots of people do and it is lame. 
3. *screams*
2. Life is tough but so are you
1. Something nice! 

Bonus: Let's DANCE! 

Dorm Small Group (30 Days of Gratitude)

When I planned bible study I did not expect what happened. We studied Luke 7, the passage where a sinful woman anoints Jesus with an alabaster jar of perfume. It's a powerful passage but we only looked at it for about 30 minutes. Conversation seemed to wrap up quickly and I didn't even really have a great application planned. But we decided to do listening prayer and then that turned into sharing some deep, personal, and painful stuff from our own lives. We went deep with each other tonight and I can say I was not expecting it but I was rejoicing afterwards.

In a weird way we saw the passage lived out. We came in expecting one thing - like Simon came in expecting to have a nice dinner with Jesus. We came in expecting to play a fun game, look at a nice passage, have a relatively easy application, and then head on back to our respective places. In and out. But Jesus had more for Simon and Jesus had more for us. We were met with a moment to be vulnerable before each other and be vulnerable before Jesus. We share honestly, even let our tears fall, and we held each other's past wounds for a moment.

I'm so grateful that I got to experience that moment with Devan, Danielle, Tyler, Jeremy, Perri, and Ryan tonight. I'm so thankful for their honestly, for the risk to be vulnerable, and for the weirdly awesome family that we are becoming. I cannot wait to see what more Jesus has in store for us when we are willing to go deep with each other.


Once Upon a Time and Women

I love the show Once Upon a Time for many reasons. I love it is a fantasy show that brings fairy tales to life. I love how it goes back and forth between worlds. I love the depth of story telling. But most of all I really love that the main leads in the show are women.

They are three very strong, capable, crafty, and wise women. Emma, Snow, and Regina are all passionate, loving, and fierce women who I think can serve as great cinematic role models for young girls. These three women (like all the characters in the show) aren't perfect. They have flaws and a lot of them. But I like that we get to seem them work out their flaws, face their fears, make mistakes and learn from them, and see them transform right in front of our eyes. I like how the character development focuses on facing your past, resolving conflict, building trust, healing wounds, and building relationships.

Emma is just plain bad ass. She can spot a liar a mile away, she is honest, brave, and wants what is best for others. It's why she gives up Henry in the first place - knowing it was better for Henry. As the series unfolds she discovers her true identity and gifts, letting go of the fears and doubts, letting walls break down and opening herself up to believing in people. I can so easily identify with Emma because like her, I have a difficult time trusting people when I feel I've been hurt. But seeing her open up on the screen to Henry, to her parents, and to other characters can be a form of inspiration for myself. Of course her style greatly appeals to me and has been the reason I wear my leather jacket just a little more often. Emma is a role model for those who have not had life easy but are asked to chose to forgive, to chose to be present, to chose to believe for a little more magic in their lives, and to chose to fight for those they love. Emma is a survivor.

Snow breaks the typical mold of a Snow White character. Growing up, Snow White was my least favorite Disney movie. For one the evil queen/witch was scary as hell and for another Snow White was plain annoying. But Snow in OUAT is brave, wise, crafty, and not afraid to follow her own heart. She fights for her family at all costs, even sacrificing her own happiness or her own safety in order to protect those she loves. Snow is a role model for those who are often seen as soft and weak but the truth is, their gentleness and compassion is their greatest strength. People like Snow are anything but weak. Girls can look to Snow to be both wise and friendly, compassionate and courageous, and gentle and fierce all at the same time. She is a protector.

Regina proves we should never judge a book by its cover. Yes, this woman has a lot of issues - a crazy mother, a broken heart, an obsession for revenge but underneath all of that is a woman dying to be loved. Regina speaks to the part of all women that do irrational things in order to earn the love of those around them. Regina is our model of often how not to be behave and act in tragedy. But what I respect most about her is her love for Henry. I don't ever doubt she cares about her son and would do anything for him (sometimes we wish she wouldn't). Regina isn't afraid to take action (and many times its the wrong choice of action) and she's not afraid to do what needs to be done. She also sacrifices, and will do the dirty job so others don't have to be in darkness. Regina is a leader.

OUAT creates strong female leads and I love it. I love that many of the supporting female characters are also developing their own sense of identity. Belle is learning how to be heroic, Wendy risked her life to save Bae, Aurora discovered how to take risks, and so on. In so many Disney movies (especially growing up) I felt the fairy tale characters revolved around a man and feeling incomplete without one. I feel the show is taking a twist on that and allowing their women to develop a healthy sense of their own identity - their own strength, their own wisdom, their own fears and frustrations, and their own personality to create dynamic characters. OUAT is showing that women are survivors, are protectors, and are leaders as well as compassionate, nurturing, and gentle.

On a related note, I do recognize the three main OUAT female leads are white and that as a white woman it is easier for me to identify with the characters on the show. Seeing how great it has been for me as an adult, and for younger girls to have these dynamic role models, I wish the creators would do the same for other women of color. Mulan's story has been forgotten about for a while, and the only black female character was killed off rather quickly, and we haven't even seen a Latina woman. Seeing how they do a good job of empowering women - it is necessary to give women of color role models they too can identify with, since since that is missing so much in our media today. But I shall expand on that in another post.


Community Group (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am grateful I found a place within the Encino community group with Reality LA. It has been a great place for me to connect with new friends, a lot of non-InterVarsity people, and build a new family of people around me. Tonight I was reminded of how amazing this has been for the past few weeks. I'm so grateful how our group is centered around building relationships with each other, about going deep into each others' lives, about being honest and open, about laughter and seriousness, and welcoming.

I'm grateful we feed each other constantly and that our group eats together every week. I'm grateful we are actively getting to know each other, asking each other silly questions and deep questions. I'm grateful we listen to each other's stories, hear experiences different from our own, and seek to learn from one another. I'm grateful that in one night we can talk about dressing up like the different Super Smash brothers (I get to be Link) and then go to healthy and biblical relationships between men and women.

I am grateful for all the friendship, the new family, and the food that this group has been for me in the past two months.


Mirrors of Jesus (30 Days of Gratitude)

There are a handful of people in my life who will always be in my corner no matter. Jim and Karen Covell are two of those people. Karen has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders, someone who has always supported me in whatever I wanted to do. She supported me going to Fresno for FUI, she supported me quitting teaching, she supported me in InterVarsity in more ways than one. I'm so glad my students get even a small taste of these awesome people.

I'm so grateful for this couple as people I can model my life after. They show me what a healthy and committed marriage looks like. They show me how to love Jesus passionately. They show me how to have joy in the midst of really crappy situations. They show me how to live intentionally and sacrificially. They, in truth, are some of the most clear mirrors of Jesus. And I'm grateful God has placed them in my life, and my students get to hear their wisdom, humor, and encouragement.


105 (30 Days of Gratitude)

I am so thankful for the miracles Jesus is doing at CSUN and in IVMCF this year. Our leadership team sat down today to complete a Fall Field Report (a fancy term for basically looking at the numbers in our fellowship). In May we set a goal to have 80 students involved at least 50% of the time. We knew back then how much work it was going to take to go from 65 active students to 80 active students (and we lost about 10 to graduations). I was scared to be honest we weren't going to meet that. I knew God had been doing amazing things but what if we didn't meet the numerical goal. What would that say about my leadership, our focus, our plans, our structures? God is sovereign over all of these numbers but old fears and worries definitely came slowly to the surface.

But I was blown away today. When we finally counted how many people are actively involved in our fellowship we saw that we had a 105 people involved. 105! Since InterVarsity was planted at CSUN, the numbers have never been that high. The closest was 70 people in the Fall of 2009. Last year at this time we only had 60 students and at the end of the school year we had 65. We have grown by 40 people in the course of one semester! First off, I'm so thankful for the 105 students at are a part of our fellowship, the 105 people who are willing to let Jesus speak into their lives and who are want to be a part of a movement to see a multi-ethnic community be built that shares the love of God with all 39,000 students at CSUN.

This is a miracle. Oh we put in the hard work but it is still a miracle. Our job is to obey and God's job is to get it done. I'm grateful for the faithfulness and willingness of each of my student leaders to obey where God called them this semester. We obeyed - we were faithful to put on events, to follow up with students, to reach out to the new students on campus, to sacrifice homework and sleep and even money to reach out to the people God put in front of us. And God was faithful to do his part in bringing students to us and keeping them there. It is nothing short of a miracle and is worthy to be praised. Praise the Lord for the work he is doing at CSUN and through InterVarsity and I can barely imagine what is in store for us next semester and the years to come.

I'm grateful that I was brought here to this campus and to this fellowship. It was a difficult road to get here and I certainly did not expect myself to be on staff, by myself, at CSUN of all places. It was a hard road that lead me to this campus but I wouldn't want it any other way because the work that God has done in my life over the past two years has I feel has brought a new level of trust of the Holy Spirit in my life and in the lives of the students I minister with. It is amazing the work that God does with a single staff worker and several willing leaders. I am grateful to be a part of it, I'm grateful to see this happen, I'm grateful our heard work of NSO (New Student Outreach) more than paid off, and I'm grateful that God is showing up in our fellowship, in our division, in our region, and in college campuses across the world and I'm grateful I get to be a part of this movement.


Women's Ministry

So I might be writing a book about women. Vague, I know, but I've recently been thinking and interacting about a lot of stuff that are women specific: women in ministry, women in leadership, women in relationships, and being single as a woman (that one hasn't been so recent - it's been a lifetime thing).

But if you wanted to read a book that would fall under the Women's Ministry category, what would be some things you would want to read about? I'm thinking of a title something like Women Who Kick Ass for Jesus.

Want to read a wonderful blog about women in ministry head on over to my friend Erna's blog: Feisty Thoughts.

For other women related things that I've been seeing and interacting with follow my Pinterest Board: This Is How We Do It. Of course the Pinterest board may be more of an expression of my love of things related to Tina Fey.

Feels like Home (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I'm thankful for being in one place for more than a year. I have lived in Northridge for a year a three months and I'm so grateful for the stability of being in one place for a while. When I graduated from college in 2010, I didn't spend more than six months in a single place and being in Northridge feels like home. I have a lot of places that feel like home and feel safe - Pasadena, San Luis Obispo, Fresno, and now Northridge feels like a place I could call home.

I'm grateful to know this city and be known in it. To go to restaurants where they know my face and also my food order, to have friends to eat breakfast with, grateful for days that feel like fall, cloudy days that are prefect for reading, playing Nerts (my favorite card game ever) with friends, and going running with friends (and enjoying it). It's good to be in a place that feels like home.


Gratitude Snorkel #2 (30 Days of Gratitude)

I like the idea of every Friday listing the things I am grateful for throughout the day or week that I didn't hit in the regular blog post. So here is this week's list:

- Smoothies and theorizing about Once Upon a Time with Danielle
- Having meetings moved around to get extra sleep time
- A schedule that allows sleeping in
- Visioning for planting new ministries and bible studies
- Helping students vision and plan for the new places God is calling them
- Seeing that the hard situations I've been in the past several months being used to speak into the lives of others around me
- Finding the perfect spot to take pictures of the sunset
- Listening to amazing live music thanks to Ryan W
- Visits from Lengyel, Brendan, and Nate who I haven't seen in a while
- Late night at Denny's with Jonathan, Jenel, Mark, Jaclyn, Brendan, Lengyel, Kenny, Nate, Ryan, Holli, and her family.
- Laughter, jokes, and free french fries


Walking (30 Days of Gratitude)

When I moved from SLO, I feared not having a community of friends around me. I also feared that no one would understand my experiences from IVSLO, from Cal Poly, and from my college experience. When I moved to Northridge, I had been out of school for what felt like two years but I was blessed to have a small community of IVSLO friends living in the valley.

I was reminded how important that is to my life as Claire and I went on a six mile walk this evening. We reminisced about the Cal Poly days (and about how awesome it was to be an English major), about the crazy things we did in SLO, what we missed about SLO, what we love about the valley, what we want to do with our lives five years down the road but don't know what we are eating for breakfast tomorrow, eating delicious cookies and ice cream, and just spending time together.

This is one of the great things about discipleship and mentoring relationships. No matter how far down the road we get in life, we will always have a tight bond with each other. When Claire and I met my sophomore, her freshmen of college and when I discipled her my junior, her sophomore year of college - I had no idea we'd end up living in the same town all these later. But Jesus has a way of preserving these deep friendships and I'm grateful. I'm grateful for someone who has walked along side me life (quite literally tonight) and who will continue to do so. I'm grateful she chose not to walk away after our first discipleship meeting where I made her cry, that she understands the power of the written word, and that she loves Harry Potter novels as much as I do.


Bible Study (30 Days of Gratitude)

I have not co-lead a bible study since 2009. The last consistent group I lead was with Eric Lebowtiz in the Poly Canyon Village Apartments my junior year. Through a strange series of events, I was asked to help co-lead a bible study in the dorms with one of our volunteer leaders, Ryan. I thought it was going to be a temporary gig, find him a new co-leader quickly and then move on to other things.

No so much. But I'm very grateful that I was placed into this leadership role as a co-leader for many reasons.
  • I've been able to co-lead with Ryan and get to know him, his leadership style, in a way I probably wouldn't if I wasn't leading with him every week. 
  • I get to experience leading bible study again, learning better how to teach others how to do it because I am "in the trenches" as it were.
  • I get to know students in my bible study on a deeper level, students I may never have met if I wasn't going every week. 
  • I get to spend more time in the dorms, knowing I will be there at least once a week (some weeks I'm at the dorms 3-4 times). 
  • I get to study scripture. 
So while it wasn't a part of my plan, I'm grateful that God sometimes knows me better and knows what I need. 


French Toast and Pumpkins (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am thankful that Mark initiated a meeting with me to vision for the future of IVMCF. As a staff worker, I often have to be the one to practically beg students to meet up with me. I don't mind, I love meeting with students, but it is always great when a students seeks me out to vision for the future. I love that my students are excited about where God is leading us and want to be an active part in the process. It fills my heart with joy bubbles (Literally).

I am thankful that I have a place that knows me. I go to Joyce's a lot. A LOT. They know my order there, that's how often I frequent there. I've wanted this for a long time, to feel known as a local at a restaurant, and finally it has happened. [I get the French toast, with scrambled eggs, and sausage - every single time by the way. Easy to know the order when it's the same thing.]

I am thankful that Anne and I got a random hangout. After my meeting with Mark, I ventured to campus to meet with the Monday Night Fellowship team - but two of them were sick - so Anne and I got a short one on one before her class. It was fun, restful, and I whined about being sick a lot but Anne was gracious.All before 11am too. I might have taken a mid-day nap out from the exhaustion of the morning but it was worth it.

Finally, I am thankful for Melissa Doyle who brought this sicky ice cream and a wonderful card. It was pumpkin ice cream (my favorite) and I was so grateful. I can already feel myself getting better. I think I know what heals my sickness...


Fast Cars and the Scorpion King (30 Days of Gratitude)

I had to finally admit that I am sick. At least now that I admit it, maybe I can start getting healthier. I am very grateful for the mostly day off. For being able to sleep in, to go to work and not have to rush home to Monday Night Fellowship, for being able to watch the Fast and the Furious with Jenel and comment on Vin Diesel's tight fitting shirts, and the Rock's massive muscles. Thanks for the witty comments and entertaining jokes. I'm grateful for the space to laugh and rest and be after a very full weekend.

Yes now The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) will forever ben either Samoan Thor or the Scorpion King. And you don't mess with the Scorpion King. Ever. So excited for the sixth one to come out on DVD.

I feel it is also worth noting that for the FIRST TIME I finished my meal before Jenel did. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is, since she always comments how slow I eat.


The Twin (30 Days of Gratitude)

Sol is my best friend. God wanted us to be in each other lives and I often have to revisit the story of how we met to know that is true. We shouldn't have met, it was clearly orchestrated by Jesus. We met at the Fresno Urban Internship back in 2010 - neither of us planning to go to FUI a second time, both of us wanting to be in other places, both having faced some hard rejection and trying to figure out our lives. We became deep friends during the six weeks there.

And since then we haven't lived in the same space since. That is hard. It is hard to have my best friend live 300 miles away from me. I was in SLO when she was still at UCLA. Then I moved to LA and she moved to Fresno. And our lives just get more full instead of less. And this is when the ugly beautiful returns - something that is so hard and difficult but that brings me closer to Jesus. It's hard to be joyful and thankful when seasons aren't easy but that's why it's a discipline to be thankful. Emotions are like the wind, they come and go in gusts and in breezes but thankfulness shouldn't be dependent on emotions.

I ramble. Probably unwise to post so late when I should be asleep. But as I'm in a season that feels full and my best friend lives far away - I want to remind myself why I'm so grateful for our friendship.

She gets me. She understands that when I need a cupcake that my world feels upside down and I really want to cry in a corner. She understands that I get easily excited over little things and joins me when I squeal over sloth socks or inappropriate magnets. She understands that I verbal vomit and talk in circles before I get to what I'm really feeling. She understands that birthdays are super important to me, because they are super important to her. She understands that when I don't speak, I'm not checking out but I'm too emotional for words. She knows what it means to be an InterVarsity staff work and knows what NSO, Myers-Briggs, GIG's, one on ones, MPD, Follow-Up, and all those IV lingo terms mean.

She challenges me. She reminds that the world does not revolve around me. She challenges me to continue to have grace for people, to forgive others and forgive myself. She brings me into her stories and her life so I may learn from another culture, from another perspective. She challenges me to see things outside of my persecutive, to never settle for less than my best, and to open myself to the ways Jesus is continuing to transform me.

She encourages me. She sees when I am hurting and sits with me. She grieves with me and laughs with me. She will talk on the phone about the things we are both looking at on Pinterest or will not hesitate to quote an entire episode of friends. She sees other people. She asks for their stories. She says hi to everyone, whether she knows them or not, if she doesn't know them - she gets to. She teaches me how to see the people around me that I would normally pass by.

She is my inspiration - risking a lot, putting herself out there, sharing her voice with others, and opening herself up to be transformed and used by Jesus in this season of her life. I'm so glad that Jesus brought us together that summer three and a half years ago. You are amazing. I love you girl.


Exponential (30 Days of Gratitude)

Last year when I attended Exponential I wanted to be just about anywhere else. I had no students attending, I was exhausted and burnt out from ministry, and I was just not in a good place. I tried to get out of it but I was encouraged to press into the difficulty and be present. I learned a little and Jesus still met me as he always does when we are willing but it didn't leave a lasting impression.

It's amazing how much a year a can change a person. This has been one of the best weekends I've had in a long time. Last year, not a single CSUN student came. This year we brought 17. I bonded with my intern cohort - made silly jokes, had real conversations, prayed vulnerably and honestly, and ate too much food tougher. I met new students from other campuses, and began to see where God was leading students in our division to witness to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

I'm so thankful that my CSUN students are willing to be challenged to mission - they are willing to be challenged to love and influence their friends at a deeper level, that they are willing to develop others to become missional disciples, that they are willing to allow their lives to be transformed by Jesus. For God has a promise for them - that he will fill them with power and they will be his witnesses in places they do not expect. I get to be a part of that journey for them and I am eternally grateful to see where God will take some of the most amazing people I've ever met and doing even more amazing things with their lives. If they are willing.

I am grateful I chose to come on staff, that I chose to come to CSUN and have been able to be a part of the crazy transformation on this campus and in the lives of my students. I'm excited to see what else God has in store for CSUN, for the San Fernando Valley, and for the places beyond our scope or imagination. I'm excited to see the places that God calls my students and the lives they will soon impact that they haven't even dreamed of yet. I am grateful for the promise of the Holy Spirit's power to guide us, to give us boldness, and to be with us always.


Gratitude Snorkel (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today was difficult to just pick one so I decided to list the many things I was thankful for in today alone:
  • Waking up refreshed even though I had to get up early
  • Being able to run (or walk) outside with Katie, Sarena, and Jenel
  • Great conversation over great pizza with Katie 
  • Challenges that come from many different sources
  • Phone conversations with the twin
  • New music from Pentatonix and drives to listen to them on 
  • Dad's laundry machine to do 4 loads of laundry for free
  • Chili cheese fries at The Hat
  • Spending time in my hometown and sharing with others
  • Stories and learning how to be a better story teller from Jen Ball 
  • Spending time with my GLA intern friends 
  • Reflecting on where God has been present this year
  • Feeling seen, feeling known, feeling a part of something 
  • Having 17 students getting ready to attend a conference where last year we sent none
  • A queen sized bed for the night
  • A hotel that has free wi-fi (which after our constant struggle in PNW trip, I'm unbelievably grateful for). 
It was a full day of joy and I'm exhausted but in a good way. 


Sexy Ladies Club (30 Days of Gratitude)

When I was a sophomore in college, I attend my first InterVarsity Ignite Conference where I saw Erna up front either leading worship, speaking, or emceeing - or all three. It was a long time ago, I do remember she was up front and I also remember I was terrified of this woman. She spoke with such passion and conviction and she made me quiver in my seat because she was not letting anyone off easy. I remember thinking - how great would it be to get to know her.

Fast forward six years and now this woman is my supervisor and I am so incredibly grateful. I've had some poor supervisor at past jobs and Erna is redeeming many of those painful experiences. I'm grateful of for her leadership, for her direction, for her challenges, invitations, and encouragements. I'm so grateful to have another woman to lead me through this season of my staff life - who cares deeply for student ministry, for justice, and for my own soul's health. I'm grateful that she sees people, that she sees, that she comes and sees CSUN's campus, that she speaks at a last minute notice, that she sings during our Skype sessions, that she feeds me, and invites me to a deeper intimacy with Jesus.

Erna you rock. And we are both a part of the sexy ladies club. That's a true story.


Ugly Beautiful (30 Days of Gratitude)

I don't like being sick. I am a terrible sick person to be around - ask my mother. I get really whiny, complain a lot, and I hate taking medicine so I usually prolong the sick time period. Being sick is an ugly thing - it feels gross, it looks gross, and I would rather stay away from it at all cost.

I think I'm getting sick. I am not happy with that. Yesterday I was freezing at work, my body ached, and I thought I had a fever coming on. So instead of plowing through with the busy evening I had planned and the busy following morning, I basically stayed in bed.

What good can come from being sick?

While I felt pretty crappy, I had was forced to rest, forced to sit, forced to just be instead of running around all the time.

So many times I complain that I'm not getting enough of something - enough rest, enough time with Jesus, enough sleep, enough time to eat at home but I don't do anything about it. And Jesus being the loving God he is, sometimes has to force me to sit still. And sometimes that happens by being sick. So what seems like an annoyance, an ugly interruption to my planned day - turns out to be something beautiful. The answer to something my soul longed for. So I am thankful for the ugly-beautiful, for the ways God provides when I resist, the ways I am forced to be still, and for the unexpected ways God gets my attention.

And I'm grateful that I could watch the Fast and the Furious. I now own the first 5. Yes that happened last night too.


Spiritual Direction (30 Days of Gratitude)

Once a month I meet with an InterVarsity Spiritual Director and it just may be my favorite day of the month. I have been to counseling before and while it is a great resource - it focuses more on fixing problems, giving you ways to cope, or healing pain. And I've needed that in the past and I will continue to need that in the future. But right now I want someone to just help me see where is Jesus in all the chaos of my current life, what is Jesus doing each month, and how are these things connected.

Enter my spiritual director. It is still a trial phase but I really enjoy it. He listens, he affirms when situations are difficult, and he asks all the time - where do you see Jesus in this? What he said to me today is that Jesus and I writing a story together, and he (my spiritual director) is there to help figure out the themes, the plot, the points of connection. And it's in these times that I see how much Jesus is there for me, how is standing right beside me as I enter into seasons of chaos or frustration or busyness.

I am so grateful for these times, for the space to listen and to share, and for the time to see the story of my life being woven together and it makes me joyful for the future.


Unexpected Teachers (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am grateful for books. I love reading, I have loved it since I was a child and ever since my mom would read out loud to me or my grandmother would gives us money reading books over the summer. I love people's stories and the words they use to create them.

Mostly I am grateful for all the books that I have for spiritual direction, for learning and teaching, for all the things I have learned from powerful ministers or even non-Christians God has used to speak truth into my life. I'm very grateful for those far away, those I've never met, those unexpected teachers who have have a profound influence on my life. For Brenda Salter McNiel, Henri Nouwen, Rick Richardson, James Choung, John Perkins, Andrew Marin, Alex Gee, Joan Bauer, Kathy Khang, Donald Miller, Robert Lupton, Fransico Jimenez, C.S. Lewis, Ann Voskamp, Francis Chan, Shane Claiborne, Sherman Alexie, Anne Lamot, Chaim Potok, and the many other authors who took a risk and put words to page - I am thankful for for your stories, for your words, and for sharing your life with me.


"Welcome Home" (30 Days of Gratitude)

I've been trying to my place in a church since I moved to Northridge. I was attending H.O.P.E.'s House since January and recently made a switch to Reality LA. Both are so different from each other and I went back to H.O.P.E.'s House this week. I'll admit I was nervous about returning because I didn't let anyone know that I was visiting another church.

And I will admit I thought that when I came back, I feared would be a stranger again or be judged for not being around. And God is teaching me a lot about how to be involved in a church (which is another blog post for another day). But I made it in the door for all of two seconds when Uncle Kelvin spotted me and and gave me a huge hug, grateful to see me again. And Miss Iris's eyes lit up when she saw me after not seeing me for so long.

So I'm grateful they really mean it when they say "Welcome Home" when people arrive at H.O.P.E.'s House and I'm grateful for their hugs, for the people I met and know my name, for the things the church has taught me, and for always being a place I can come to and feel at home.


Mom (30 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am thankful for my mom. She surprises me sometimes with hiking adventures, lunches, books, and extra gifts I don't ever ask for. She's probably the strongest most capable woman I know who can both gently pull a child's loose tooth and fix most broken things around our house. She's so patient because she has a classroom full of 10 years olds and had me as a daughter and I most definitely a handful. She still comforts me when I'm upset or sick, will still read out loud to me if I ask her to, and will always cook me dinner when I need it.

I am inspired by her willingness to sacrifice for her friends and family, her passion for her work and faith, and for desire to stand up for herself and for others. She is tenacious and I hope to be like her when I am a mother. Thank you for encouraging me, for challenging me, for pushing me to always to do my best, and for telling me to follow my dreams. I love you mom.


Los Angeles at Night (30 Days of Thankfulness)

Last year I did 30 Days of Gratitude to develop the discipline of gratitude. Especially after reading One Thousand Gifts, I see how import this is to develop the consistent discipline of gratitude and joyfulness.

I am grateful for the city I live in - I am grateful to call LA my home. Not many people enjoy living here or want to move here but God has something beautiful planned for this city. I love that people in LA are artist, we are loyal - to our friends, to our sports teams, to our city, we are dependable, we are challenging and sometimes difficult, we are proud of where we come from, we find beautiful things in the ordinary or in the ugly, and we may not love a lot of things but those that we do, we love deeply.

Thanks to Mark, Jenel, Jonathan, Luke, and Sean for helping me see how beautiful my city really is. And how glad I am to live here even when traffic sucks, parking is awful, and there feels like God is not moving at all. But God is moving here.

"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress."  Psalm 46:4-7