11.30.2015

Home (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 30 

I'm grateful for the homes I have.

Pasadena.

San Luis Obispo.

Fresno.

Northridge.

Yosemite.

I'm grateful for the places and spaces that feel like home to me. The people who I can be myself with. The towns, streets, houses, rivers, and mountains that feel like my own. That feel like they have always been mine. I'm grateful for the people I've been able to share them with, for a moment for a long time.

For the roads I've traveled to be in the places that I love and cherish. The cars that have gotten me there and the music I've listened to along the way. I'm never very far from home then.

11.29.2015

Unexpected (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 29 

Today is the first day of Advent. Advent is a season of hope, of waiting, of leaning into Jesus as he draws us to the unexpected places. At church today the pastor asked us: "How open are we to the unexpected messages God sends to us?"

Unexpected. The Kingdom of God is unexpected.

I was reminded of some powerful words from my college Bridget. "You may be like me, and nothing in life is what you expect it to be right now. What I've found though, is that the Kingdom of God is exactly like that! Unexpected. Hidden. Unseen. And all the while, God is in control and he is still good. I lose sight of that when I feel like life isn't what I want it to be. I get all bratty and entitled."

The advent seasons invites us to go to those unexpected places, to receive unexpected messages, and to dwell in the hidden and unseen mystery of God. It was not expected that Zachariah would have a child so late in life, it was not expected that the savior of the world would be born in a manger, it was not expected that Jesus' ministry would be about bringing peace and hope to the chaos and the hopeless.

But it's really hard to feel grateful when life isn't what we expect it to be. More often I  feel resentful. Resentful that I had a plan, and what felt like a perfectly good one, that no longer has any use. I feel bitter because I had hoped for something and now it's not happening. I feel frustrated because I had worked hard for something and it seems to have failed. I'm disappointed because what should have come to be, is fading away. But if we turn to our bitterness and resentment then we miss what Jesus is doing. If we turn toward the light - even in places we would not expect - then we can see the Kingdom of God at hand. 

11.28.2015

Small Business Saturday (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 28

One of my favorite traditions of the crazy holiday season is Small Business Saturday. It's a great time to invest in local business and communities and to hear first hand the dreams of business owners. For many of them this is their dream becoming a reality and it's great to partake in their dreams alongside them, even when I'm not local to a place.

And we even made it into the Fresno Bee! You can check out the article here.

So thank you to all the the local business who dream big and invite us to share in that with you. For your commitment to your community and to your customers, and for hope you inspire in us to also dream big.

Here are the places Sol and I visited during the day:

1) Raizana Tea

2) Misc.

3) Dear Danger

4) HIVE Clovis

5) On the Edge


6) Pho 75 # 2


7) Goldsteins Mortuary & Delicatessen 

11.27.2015

#OptOutside (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 27

Instead of going shopping for Black Friday, we got to spend the day outside for REI's new thing called #OptOutside. Even though we were a little too tired to go hiking, Sol and I spent the day being outside - both reading in the Park, walking through Downtown Kingsburg (for their Julgransfest and Christmas Tree lighting). It was a great joy to spend the day not engaging in consumerism and being outside in the fresh (albeit exceptionally cold) air.

(November in Fresno)

(resting while at Oso de Oro Park)

(enjoying the Christmas tree lighting in Kingsburg. Included a Swedish Queen, Christmas carols, and dancing around the tree).

11.26.2015

Happy Thanksgiving! (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 26

Happy Thanksgiving! Here are some things I am thankful for on this day:
  • Being able to wake up early (even though it's not my favorite)
  • Awesome mugs 
  • Running on a beautiful day
  • Being outside 
  • New socks! 
  • Warm jackets 
  • Delicious and plentiful food 
  • Time with the best friend 
  • Pie
  • Dr. Pepper 
  • Hilarious conversations and inside jokes 
  • Watching movies 
  • Star Wars! 
  • Hot water 
  • Being able to sit down 
  • Texts from friends 
  • Sleeping




11.25.2015

Harry Potter (30 Days of Gratitude

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 25

I grew up in the Harry Potter generation. I have loved those books since the sixth grade when I picked up Book 1 and read it in about a day. I haved watched all the movies, re-read all the books probably 4-5 times (each), thought about what house I’d be sorted into (Gryffindor or Ravenclaw), what my patronus would be (a bear or a dog) and what my favorite class would be (charms).

On my way to Fresno I spent a good amount of time listening to audiobook of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I came across this quote while reading:


I’m grateful for how this series has brought people together and has proved to be relevant into today’s society. Good literature can do that – whether written for children or adults. I’m grateful for all the lessons Harry Potter has taught us – to treat others with respect, that friendship is so valuable and important, that we can both brave, loyal, intelligent, and cunning, that our choices say much about who we are at what we value, and we have the choice to do for what is right, not what is easy.

11.24.2015

Music (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 24

As an early birthday present I got the new iPhone 6s. I do enjoy using technology quite a lot – especially when it comes to my music. While there are many amazing things about the new iPhone, this one enables me to hold ALL of my music. In the ages of Spotify and Apple Music, there are a lot of people who don’t own much music. But after years of purchasing albums and songs before those things existed I have somewhere around 10,000 songs.

Why is it a big deal to be able to hold all my music? Well I used to have this iPod that allowed me to hold all my music and not keep much on my phone – saving space. But during my summer trip to Montana, the iPod mysteriously disappeared. But now I have a phone that allows me to hold all the music. This is especially good while making long treks to see my best friend and I’m not sure what music mood I’ll be in. But it's been a wonderful thing to have all my music in one place and I'm grateful.

11.23.2015

InterVarsity CSUN (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 23

This is my fourth year on staff with InterVarsity CSUN. After four years of working with college students I can say I really do love my job. There are many days when things are really hard but there are many more days when things are great. And this year there is something uniquely great about the students and student leaders. We've always described InterVarsity CSUN as a family and I think this group of students really embodies this.

We gathered together to give thanks, to eat together, and to be in community with each other. Normally with any potluck or gathering event we prefer to have some planned activities but this year it just slipped us by. But as I looked around throughout the night ever person was engaged in conversation - meeting new people, laughing, telling stories, sharing their lives, and even having arm wrestling contests (yes that did happen).

I'm impressed and amazed by these students - their desire to see more of Jesus in their lives, their hope to see real change on campus, their longing for justice in the world, their hopefulness, their growing desire to commit, and their hospitality to welcome anyone into our family. They make every part of my job totally worth it and I love being a part of the family with you all.

11.22.2015

Musicals (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 22

I love musicals. I think my first musical as a kid was The Lion King. I was a little terrified hen the giant elephants came walking down the aisle for the opening number but as a kid I had an immediate connection with the way musicals told stories through songs and dance. I loved Disney movies as the more accessible musicals I could see. I loved going to the theater and seeing a live show - seeing the music, the costumes, the lightening, the sets, and the actors portraying these amazing characters.

I love the way they bond people together. Seeing a show together is an amazing experience that is hard to rival. It's greater than seeing a movie because there's something about what you see at this particular show you can only see once. No show is ever really the same because small things are different each night.

Musicals have a way of taking me out of the world today and into a new imaginative world. I can fly on a magic carpet in Agrabah, I can fight in the French Revolution, I can sing of love won and love lost, I can dance at the Ozfest or alongside forks, plates, and napkins. I can be transported into new worlds and new lives. Whether in the theater or in my car, they take me to new places.

11.21.2015

Friendships Renewed (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 21

Lauren and I knew each other in college but briefly. The only time we really met in significance was my junior of college when we were in the same manuscript study of I Corinthians. We went to "sister" InterVarsity chapters (myself, Cal Poly SLO, her UCSB). We had many mutual friends and could recognize each other in a crowd.

But we didn't become friends until I started staff with CSUN. The first year I knew she was around the general area and it wasn't until my best friend went a wedding she was at and said - "you two NEED to hang out" and we got boba did we really become friends. I knew we'd be friends when our "boba" meet up turned into a 3 hour hang out or so.

I'm grateful for her understanding of InterVarsity staff life. We took "opposite" paths. She did staff first and then teaching. I did teaching first and then staff. She understands my world, my acronyms, my love of Myers-Briggs, my love of boba, my love of beer, and my love of working with college students. I'm so grateful for your friendship.

11.20.2015

Game Nights (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 20

Tonight a friend from my small group at church hosted a game night at her house with a join group of church friends and class friends. I'm glad to have the space in church to be with each other outside of small group. As an InterVarsity student, I mark this is a trait of healthy small group - how much you spend time with each other outside of small group time. Many church groups I've been a part of are not quite like that, but it's great to see there are others who value spending time together outside of the group enough to be intentional. This week alone I was able to meet with multiple church friends outside of official church time. It's growing my sense that these are "my people." So I'm grateful for the times to play Zombie Dice and Dominion (which I love by the way) and even eat cookie dough.

11.19.2015

Intentionality (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 19

At Urbana 15 I get to help plan for and host the MENA (Middle Eastern North African Lounge). It's brand new and while I'm learning about my own identity as a Lebanese German Italian (sort of) Irish woman it feels a little intimidating to be on the planning team for an Urbana Lounge. But I'm immensely grateful for Layla, who reached out to me personally in addition to a group mass email (shows the power of individual emails). I'm excited to be hosting MENA students but also to be diving deeper into my identity as a multiracial person and a Lebanese person. I'm grateful for the intentional spaces InterVarsity provides for students to connect to their ethnic background and heritage. I'm grateful they are giving more spaces to more types of students to feel at home and welcome in a conference that may feel overwhelmingly white culture. But to have people in all aspects of the conference be thinking about how to celebrate and welcome all nations and all people feels so great to me. And what a picture of the gospel.

11.18.2015

Mom (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 18

Here are some reasons I love my mother:

- She always finds me the best dresses. I don't know how she does it because it looks awful on the hanger but then put it on me and it looks great.
- She doesn't mind my ramble talking. I can talk fast - especially when excited - and she can totally keep up.
- She instilled both a love of camping and a love of reading in me at a young age.
- She will invite me to random adventures like planning out a photo scavenger hunt for students at a museum.
- She makes me dinner. Even as an adult.
- She treats me like an adult. She talks to me in a different way now that I'm almost 28. She treats me with respect but also is fully willing and able to tell me if I'm talking too loud in a public place.
- She cares about what I do, asks about me and about particular students. She has gotten to know them a little and cares about them in a unique way.
- She supports me, lets me call her and cry on the phone, and lets me talk when I'm trying to fill time while driving, or to ask where in Target I could find that thing I need.

11.17.2015

Supervision (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 17

Here is why I'm grateful for my supervisor Sam:
  • He is intentional. 
  • He asks really good questions. 
  • He wants to know about my personal life as well as my ministry life. He sees that they are deeply connected and he helps guide me in both aspects. 
  • He speaks words of wisdom. 
  • He lets me dream and vision for the future. 
  • He is detailed oriented (of which I am not) and helps me see details I may have overlooked or missed. 
  • He values structures and relationships and how they can fit together. 
  • He is willing to travel to Northridge to meet with me. 
  • He his hospitable and welcoming all the time. 
  • He pays attention to the small things that really matter. Like when my birthday is. 
  • He is an exceptional listener. 
  • He teaches me how to be better a coach, a better supervisor, and a better staff worker. I'm immensely grateful. 

11.16.2015

Conversations About Race (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 16

Racial Reconciliation is a difficult topic to talk about. Having been introduced to the hard realities of race and racial inequality in our country as a freshmen in college, I realized how late into the game I was as a white person. I've written a few posts about my own journey through ethnic identity which are worth checking out.

But today I'm grateful for the good and hard and messy and kingdom centered conversations about race and ethnicity. It started with watching a sermon on Ephesians 2 and then we just dived into hard conversations. Sitting a room of black students I heard stories of pain. How they fear they can't share their grief about the things happening in the country because they'll be seen as just another angry black person. How so many people rush to show their support of Paris and grieve the terror but where was that concern when Ebola was raging through Africa? To be in a room where these black students let me into their struggle was a beautiful thing - to be let into their messiness and their frustrations and their fears and their hopes for more - that is the beginnings of racial reconciliation. To get to know each other stories.

So thank you to the many men and women of color who have let me into your world - into your hurt and pain - into your stories and see into your culture because I am forever grateful.

11.15.2015

Hope (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 15

I admit, today is hard to feel grateful. It's hard to feel any sense of hope when it feels like every week there is a new tragedy unfolding in our world. When shootings and bombings and killings tear at our world, it feels like there is no hope. The hopelessness rages on, the hurt digs deep, and sometimes I feel paralyzed with fear or depression because our world is tearing each other apart.

Suicide bombings in Beirut. Earthquakes in Japan. Terrorist bombings in Pairs. Hurricanes in Mexico. Suicide bombings in Baghdad. Racial threats in Mizzou.

Since the Fall of Man, our world is falling apart. We kill our brothers and sisters, we attack our neighbors, our tongues and hearts are fill with hatred, our world is hurting and people are dying. Death hurts so much for those still living and to see people being killed for senseless reasons - it's hard to watch and it's hard to have hope. It's hard to see the hope.

When Jesus came to dwell among us over 2,000 years ago, the world was also walking in great darkness. Isaiah the prophet recognized that this was coming and spoke these words to the people of Israel:

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."

Jesus we need you now just as much then. We need your light to shine in the darkness, a light so powerful that it cannot be overcome. We need you to bring comfort to those who are mourning. We need you to bring peace into a world of chaos. We need you to bring justice into a world where injustice ravages. We need you to bring mercy when we seek revenge. We need your hope when we feel hopeless and overwhelmed. We need your power and your compassion to flow through us, your people, and flow through this world. Jesus we need your light in this pervading darkness.

11.14.2015

13 Years (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 14

There are a few friends I've had for the long haul. When you have a dear friend for more than ten years, that says something. Christina has been my friend since high school. We've braved theater together, church together, going to different colleges together, and all the while we've remained dear in each other's lives.

Thank you for the random adventure days - where going to a late lunch turns into a several hour adventure. For the deep conversations and singing loudly to musicals in the car. For laughter and even tears. We've been friends for 13 years now and I look forward to the many more years of friendship and adventures ahead. I am grateful for you.

11.13.2015

Salsa Dancing (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 13 

For the last two years we have done an annual salsa dancing event with our LaFe group. This is one of my favorite events we do and I have been there every single time. Even the time I was super sick I managed to still come. I love dancing - I love the freedom it brings. One student commented that I looked really happy while dancing. It's one of the things my twin and I share in common is our love of dancing.

So thanks for the wonderful and bountiful food, the good friendship, the beautiful dancing and music and time where we can all feel free and alive for a moment.

11.12.2015

Artists (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 12

We had our first Arts Ministry worship night tonight. Our Arts Ministry was started very much on a whim - I asked a student leader if she wanted to lead in that capacity, its as something we had talked about briefly over the past year. I could not have imagined what would have come from it. This arts small group has met constantly throughout the year, visioning and creating together, and asking how does God celebrate our art and how do we celebrate our God?

Our first Arts Worship night was a beautiful display of dance, poetry, and song. I never could have pictured tap dancers coming up or even the artists that were in our community sharing their heart in front of all us. Even those who wouldn't call themselves "artists" got to paint and sing together. We were invited as a whole community to worship God through the arts and I am forever grateful.

(students where invited to draw, write, and create together)

video
(we had tap dancers join us)

11.11.2015

Puppies (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 11 

I don't know what it is about dogs and puppies that make you feel instantly calm and relaxed. It could be their unassuming and unconditional love for you, their excitement, their fuzziness, or their willingness to cuddle. Perhaps they just don't demand as much from you as people sometimes do - just that you scratch their butt and throw them a ball sometimes. But sometimes the best therapy comes from spending quality time with a dog and letting them love you and loving them in return.

Thank you to the dogs I've gotten to be with over the past several days, maybe someday soon I'll get one of my own.

11.10.2015

Growth Cohort (30 Days of Thankfulness)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 10 

This year I am able to be a part of a "Growth Cohort" with several of my InterVarsity Staff colleagues. Together we are discussing, visioning, and receiving training on how to grow our chapters. The is some of the best training I have received as a staff to date. I love working with these people and hearing their stories, their visions, their ideas, and their disappointments. I am grateful for the technology that allows us to talk with each other while we live in different places.

11.09.2015

Bookstores (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 9

"A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe." - Madeline L'Engle

A bookstore is a magical place. Each book is a portal to a new world. Characters we may never have had the opportunity to meet, wait patiently for us to open the pages to their lives. Typed words share their hopes and dreams, their fears and anxiety. They share their lives with the reader. In our reach are far off kingdoms, neighborhood coffee shops, small villages and big cities, romance and friendship, heartache and joy. In their pages is access to a new reality where unimaginable is possible.

We meet God in places like this. With God the unimaginable is possible. And the stories inside these books - whether intending to or not - can reveal the greatness of our God ins his creation.

We can meet God in many places. It is easy to find God in the woods - in nature and the mountains. Romantic literature spoke deeply of connection to God through the outdoors. Just go to Yosemite and see for yourself. It's hard to look at the expanse of creation and not see God. Many find God in churches. His people are there, his word is taught there. We worship him there.

But I find God in a bookstore. God is a beautiful story teller. The Old Testament is a collection of different stories about how a creator God loves his creation, his people made in his image so deeply even when they let him down. In a bookstore are stories, stories of human suffering and joy, stories of new cultures and people, stories of hope and fear. And here I can see how God is weaving himself through the stories of mankind - both real and fictional - and that is a beautiful thing.

11.08.2015

Psalm 40 (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 8

I have been trying to read through all the bible in a year. It won't be a year by the time I finish but currently I'm reading through the psalms. In many ways this season has felt tiring and exhausting, and I find comfort in the psalmists ability to both cry out to Jesus and praise Jesus in one breath. Today's reading, Psalm 40 came up and it's my all time favorite psalm.


I waited patiently for the Lord; 
he turned to me and heard my cry. 
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.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
Blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many declare.
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire -
but my ears you have opened -
burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, "Here I am, I have come -
it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart."
I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, Lord,
as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly.
Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
Be pleased to save me, Lord;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.
May all who want to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.
May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!"
be appalled their own shame.
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
"The Lord is great!"
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are me help and my deliverer;
you are my God, do not delay."

11.07.2015

Psalm 23 (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 7

I retreated to Riverside this weekend to spend time with my dear friend Claire. Today was the most restful day I've had in a while. I'm reminded of Psalm 23 and how David finds his rest in the Lord. Here is how I found rest today.


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 
I rest quiet coffee shops with affogados and coloring books. 
He leads me to deep conversations with dear friends and restores my soul. 
He guides me when life is sticky and messy for his greater glory. 
Even though depression and anxiety may cover me, darkness encompass me, I will not be afraid. 
For you are Immanuel, you are with me.
You Word and musical worship comfort me. 
You prepare me for rough situations and give more Chinese food that I could ever need. 
Surely the desires of my heart - good conversations, local businesses, wonderful food, cool weather, silence, music, and rest will be present. 
And in the midst of messy life I will dwell with you as you dwell with me. 

11.06.2015

Worship (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 6

"Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through Music." - Martin Luther. 

Tonight I sat in on the Urbana 15 worship open rehearsal. We were invited to participate in the stories of worship - the stories of different cultures, different histories, different perspectives. We were invited to step into these stories; stories that crossed borders and languages.

Worship, musical worship, is a beautiful way to connect to the spirit moving within us. Sometimes the noises of life are so loud it's hard to focus ourselves on the movements of Jesus in the world. Even as we engage in scripture, theological conversations, or what not, our minds are so overwhelmed with thought that we often miss the supernatural spirit moving within us. I'm all for intellectual pursuits, especially through scripture. I studied English literature in college and so I greatly value the study of scripture. But it's not the only way to experience God.

Musical worship allows me to transcend my own experiences and tap into something greater. I can transcend into stories of people and cultures I many never know. I am given an opportunity to connect with the persecuted church as we sing songs that ask Jesus for strength to follow him through the terror, the death, and the torture. I am given an opportunity to connect with the Black American church who is experiencing a reality different from the White American church today. I am given an opportunity to connect with the story of slavery, the story of #blacklivesmatter, the story of reconciliation and a cry for justice. I am given an opportunity to connect with the immigrant experience in a foreign land. I am given a chance to connect with people who are not my own and cultures not my own but that are so dearly precious to Jesus.

It's also a way for me to connect with the greater story of God and the Spirit moving inside me. When I step into worship I can let myself go for a moment. I can step into a place of hope when I may feel there is none, I can cry out to God from a depth in my soul that I may not be able to reach with my intellect. I can be a truer version of myself when I'm free to worship the Lord.

Because in worship - that's what I find - freedom. Freedom to laugh without fear of the future, freedom to cry out for God to save his people, freedom to be hopeful, freedom to cry for justice, and freedom to be.

11.05.2015

Fall (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 5

In Southern California, fall comes around extremely late. While some states and cities experience Fall weather - leaves changing, a drop in temperature, scarves and sweaters, and the like around mid to late September, it's usually not until November does the fall season hit SoCal. The fact that we are still in 90 degree weather up through October is a large frustration since department stores and coffee shops are taunting us with plaid and pumpkin spice lattes.

But as to what I am grateful for (I could go on about my frustration with October in California) - I am grateful that the weather has finally changed, it is cold outside - cold enough to wear sweaters and scarves and pants.

Fall I'm glad you've arrived.

11.04.2015

Three (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day Four 

It was the unexpected hang out with the old roommate. The planned conversation with the pastor. The random phone call from a dear friend. Three friends to bring life, to sit with, to be alongside, to receive encouragement, to process life, and to eat food or drink coffee. 

Thank you Jesus for the friendship these women gave, the love I received from them, and the unexpected grace you gave through them.

11.03.2015

WOC Mentors (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 3

I would like to just celebrate the women of color who have been an influence on my life. I have a huge advantage of working with InterVarsity, in Southern California that I get to be around many women of color who are passionate about justice, Jesus, ministry, family, relationships, boba, reading, and the like. Their influence both near and far has had a profound impact on how I do ministry and why I do ministry. You all have taught me important things like how to be a better leader, how to be a better friend, how to listen, how to hear the stories of women and men of color, how to be an advocate, and so much else. Without your leadership and partnership in my life, I am convinced I would not be the leader I am today.

Sol - I thank you for your stories. Thank you for being vulnerable with me and bringing me into your life, your emotions, your fears, your joys, and excitements. Thank you for being my best friend and being alongside me in some of the messiest things in our lives. You inspire me to be kind, to listen, to be generous with my time and myself.

Robyn - I thank you for your consistent presence in my life. You have been a steady friend for me in some very turbulent times. I am so grateful you constantly encouraged me and frequently challenged me to get outside of my own comfort zone. You were the first one to really teach me how to study scripture. I am grateful for everything you did for me as my staff worker and as my friend.

Brandi and Noemi - I thank you for your patience and your willingness to be alongside me in some really rough realizations about race and ethnicity. You taught me how to look past my own self and see others. You also taught me how to dive deep into the ethnic identity journey Jesus was calling me into. You have made a profound impact on my life in my ethnic development, in my understanding of race and ethnicity in this world, how to lament and weep, and how to be present in Jesus. Thank you for your patience with me as I have processed some difficult stuff (and said some stupid stuff) and for not giving up on me.

Tracey - I thank you for your supervision. You taught me how to both seek Jesus in my own life while I invite students to seek Jesus. Thank you for showing me how to be a leader who grows in my own spiritual life while encouraging students to do the same. You gave me the space in supervision meetings to reflect where Jesus was working in my own life and leadership and I am grateful.

Erna - I thank you for your boldness. You speak truth. You call for me to love people deeper and to hear the pain of the world around us. You teach me how to love a people that are not necessarily my own people. You invite me into worship and leading.

Kathy and Brenda - I thank you for your writing. Your books and blog posts have brought me into profound truths about Jesus, justice, and our world. You are also both pretty badass. Thank you for friending me on Facebook and allowing me to have a peak into your worlds - your thoughts, your frustrations, and your joys.

Larissa - I thank your vulnerability and willingness to see Jesus in everything. Thank you for teaching me how to bring my MPD to Jesus and allowing myself to see his presence in the midst of it. I love your stories of your family and how you've braved crazy transition. You teach me how to keep seeking Jesus in the midst of change and difficulty.

Alex, Michelle, and Laura - I thank you for your preserverance, your love, and your willingness to accept me into the Latina family. I am honored to be an honorary Latina. You have invited me into your family and taught me what family does look like. You love so deeply and so invested in relationships that you teach me how to be a better friend, a better sister, and a better daughter. I'm grateful for your modeling that you may not know you do.

This of course isn't the end all list. There are many other women of color who have had an impact on my life. This is just a small picture of the power and impact that women of color have - their unique stories, their gifts in leadership, and their general awesomeness. I am grateful for you.

11.02.2015

With Me (30 Days of Gratitude)

30 Days of Gratitude Day 2

When I ran my first half marathon there were many points along the way I didn't think I could do it. Truth be told, I never thought I would actually run a half marathon. I'm not really in the best of shape and I only really started running like two years ago. I did a 5k once but 13.1 miles seemed out of reach. I signed up on a whim but in reality I was not sure if I was cut out to do this.

Since I had already committed to this crazy thing, I decided to run with the organization American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I chose this organization because I had a friend commit suicide a few years prior and I myself struggled with anxiety and depression. I knew that it was important to run along people who too felt the grief, felt the depression, and wanted to do something about it.

This brings me to Day 2 of 30 Days of Gratitude. Those who are with me. Those who have been alongside me during times of grief, during times of depression, during times of pain.

My half marathon was a good picture of this. I had friends who were supportive during the training. Friends who came to see me in the race. Friends who texted me encouragement the morning of. There were people along the route I didn't know encouraging me - other runners, volunteers and spectators. I didn't fully know how vital having a support time was to finishing strong.

While it started off well, I definitely wanted to give up at mile 10. My kneed starting hurting at mile 8 and I was tired, a bit dehydrated, and just ready to finish. But with 3 miles still to go it seemed like a giant hurdle I wasn't going to be able to overcome. I was in pain - both emotionally and physically and I just wanted it to all go away.

Even though I wanted to give up, I still ran/walked/jogged/crawled on. Other runners can see when you're in pain and they cheer you on. We are all in this crap hole together and we will all finish together. Running may feel like a solitary sport a times, but during a race, you are surrounded by people who want you to finish just as much as they want to to finish. I sat down at one point to adjust my shoe when a woman runs past me - "You can do this! Don't give up!" Others would run behind me, see my AFSP jersey and say (where it says running in memory of Rachelle) "Rachelle would be proud of you. Keep it up."

Both in half marathon running and struggling with depression, "Keep going, you can do this" seemed to be the chant of encouragement. Many days I didn't feel like I could. Some days are great - they feel like mile 2 and the running is simple, easy. You're actually impressed you made it this far. Some days feel like mile 7 when there seems to be so much longer still to go and the end is so far but you have a sprinkle of hope still left. Some days it feels like mile 10, where all you can feel is pain and it may feel easier to sit on the side of the road, take off our shoes, and give up. But someone comes alongside side you and says "Keep going! You can do this!"

But in the midst of all of it - al the pain and frustration, what I've always had is people to cheer with me. Friends who sent encouraging texts or woke up at 4am to cheer me on. Whether it was a half marathon or just life itself, I am grateful for the friends who have just been with me and along side me, during it all.

My encouragement to you - whether it be running or dealing with depression, that you can keep going, you can do this. People are there for you even when it doesn't feel like it. You have people who will wake up at 4am to cheer you on when you run a really hard race. You have friends who text encouraging pictures. You have friends who get you cookies when days are tough or who will sit on the porch with you and hold your hand while you cry at the one movie that brought up a lot of past emotional pain. There are times when you want to give up, but you don't have to. You may need to slow down but walking isn't giving up, it's moving forward. I am grateful for those who have been with me and those who have invited me to be with them in the midst of it all. 

11.01.2015

Life (30 Days of Gratitude)

November 1.

For the past three years I have done a 30 Days of Gratitude during the month of November. A student of mine got me onto to the idea back in 2012 and I've been doing it ever since.

Today is also Dia de los Muertos otherwise known as the Day of the Dead. This holiday predominately celebrated in Mexico and Latin America is a time where we gather to remember our friends and family who have passed on. I watched the movie the Book of Life (which you should watch if you have not yet) in celebration of this day.

While today may be the day of the dead, I have been reminded so much of life. Worship music songs spoke of God's power over death and promise of life.

"Sick are healed, and the dead are raised, at the sound of your great name." 

"Death could not hold you down. You are the risen king. Seated in majesty. You are the risen king!" 

In a world that has faced so much death lately - where in our country young black men and women are being killed what feels like on the daily, where immigrants and refuges are dying to just cross borders, where Christians in other parts of the world are being killed for their faith, where friends and family get cancer, where loved ones are struck by drunk drivers and killed in senseless accidents - it sometimes just feels like death rules our world. I'm reminded that Jesus promises abundant life.

I'm reminded Jesus is the conqueror of death. I'm reminded while Jesus invites us to die to ourselves, we are then given greater life in return. Even when we face so much death, I know it is not the end. So I'm grateful for a God who is bigger than death. We can have abundant life - both in the here and now and the life to come.

So today I do remember the loved ones that have gone - my grandfather, Rachelle, Senior Cuxil, and the many others. But I also remember that Jesus is the giver of true life and I am grateful.